January 23, 2013
By Charles (Karl) Saxe, PhD
Something patients do not want to hear and physicians do not want to say is "your cancer has metastasized."
Metastasis is the process whereby cancer cells spread from the site of the original tumor to one or more other places in the body. And with upwards of 90% of all cancer suffering and death associated with metastasis, it is the single most significant challenge to management of the disease.
It's no wonder, then, that a major goal of cancer research is to understand what causes metastasis and how it happens. More...
January 11, 2013
By Otis W. Brawley, MD, FACP
This week the American Cancer Society announces its lung cancer screening guidelines. In short, we recommend that health care professionals with access to high-quality lung cancer screening and treatment centers should discuss screening with healthy patients aged 55 years to 74 years who have at least a 30-year history of pack-a-day cigarette smoking and who currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. The health care professional and patient should discuss all the known benefits and known harms associated with lung cancer screening.
These guidelines were developed after a meticulous process in which a group of cancer screening and treatment experts reviewed all the major lung cancer screening studies that have been published over the past several decades. More...
January 02, 2013
By J. Lee Westmaas, PhD
Do you occasionally have a cigarette, maybe not even every day? Although people resolve to quit smoking in the new year, you might think only heavy smokers need to quit. But that isn't the case.
Light or intermittent smoking has become a very common pattern for people of any age. Many of these people do not feel addicted to tobacco and do not even call themselves "smokers." There are, however, some real risks associated with any level of smoking. Non-daily smoking, or smoking 1-5 cigarettes a day, was first noticed as far back as 1989 because it was a stark contrast to the more common pattern at that time -- 20 to 30 cigarettes a day. At that time, very light smokers were labeled "chippers" (a term that also referred to occasional users of opiates who appeared to not be addicted). Chippers didn't appear to smoke to relieve withdrawal, and sometimes didn't smoke for a day or more. More...
December 12, 2012
By Joleen Specht, CHP
The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming! For many the response may be an "Aaaah" (soft, warm sigh). For caregivers, however, "AAAAAHHHHH!"(loud, shrill scream) may more closely resemble the initial response. Caring for a loved one during the holidays can bring to the surface so many different emotions. Some people wear themselves out trying to do everything, and others wish to skip the holidays altogether.
It's okay to long for memories of holidays past, when things seemed easier. Although, if we are honest with ourselves, those warm, fuzzy memories are likely skewed. Let's face it; no matter your lot in life, the "perfect" holiday exists only in Norman Rockwell paintings. The warmth of a cozy fire in the fireplace and the smell of cinnamon apple cider may have been a reality in the past, but as a caregiver of a loved one with a serious illness, your holiday may exist in a new reality.
This doesn't mean all is lost. Holiday joy doesn't have to depend on doing everything the same way it has always been. It's okay to make some changes. Start small, start simple. Here are some ways to make this holiday one to remember: More...
December 03, 2012
By Michele Szafranski, MS, RD, CSO, LDN
We all have wonderful food memories associated with the holidays. Maybe it is a favorite dish made by a loved one or a special memory of decorating cookies with your grandchildren. But during cancer treatment, visions of sugar plums may bring anxiety. When you are having trouble eating or keeping food down, the thought of holiday gatherings and meals can fill you with dread. There are a few things to keep in mind that might be help you get through these occasions with reduced stress.
Celebrating doesn't have to be stressful
What can you do to make a holiday gathering less stressful? First, don't be afraid to tell people you aren't up to your usual celebration. Delegate if you are hosting the party. People always want to know what they can do, so give them specific dishes or tasks to take some of the pressure off. If you have a dish you are known for, focus your energy on that one dish and let others take care of the rest. If you aren't up to cooking, pass the beloved recipe to a friend or loved one for them to try. Offer to bring drinks, paper goods, or the centerpiece for the holiday table. To avoid the hassle of a big entrance, arrive early and find a quiet spot to sit if you need to escape from the hustle and bustle of the kitchen.
When it comes to the food, here are tips to help you find what and how much you can eat: More...
November 14, 2012
By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD
For those who have traveled London's Underground, or Tube, the term "Mind the Gap" will be familiar. It's the warning for riders to be aware that there is a gap of several inches between the station platform and the train cars. In the public health community, we also have a gap: the gap between the number of smokers who want to quit and those who actually succeed. The American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout, held this year on November 15, is an opportunity to remind us that we also need to "mind the gap."
In the United States, this gap is very wide. Nearly 70% of the country's 43.8 million smokers say they would like to quit smoking; 52% report making at least one serious attempt to quit each year; but a disappointingly low 4% are actually successful in doing so. More...
November 06, 2012
By William C. Phelps, PhD
Back in May something amazing happened. A 15-year-old high school freshman from Crownsville, MD, Jack Andraka, won the National Intel Science Fair for creating a more sensitive and much less expensive device to detect pancreatic cancer. This is a remarkable achievement for a high school freshman and could be a game-changing discovery for a deadly cancer if it proves successful in future clinical testing, expected to be a number of years away. Only a few months before that, 17-year-old Angela Zhang from Cupertino, CA, won the Siemens Prize for creating laser-activated nanoparticles which kill cancer cells. Clearly, a bright light of innovation is growing in our next generation of young scientists.
Among the hundreds of different cancers that affect people today, perhaps none is more dreadful than pancreatic cancer. Doctors cannot easily detect it, nor are there effective treatments available for the majority of patients. We don't fully understand what causes pancreatic cancer and we know very little about how it can be prevented. The disease is frighteningly aggressive in its growth, with patients often living less than a year after they're diagnosed. Why has progress been so frustratingly slow for pancreatic cancer when compared with other forms of cancer? In general, cancer is considered a very complex collection of diseases, and among cancers, pancreatic cancer is one of the more complicated. It has been an unusually slow process to unravel the biological picture of pancreatic cancer. More...
October 29, 2012
By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD
As the official sponsor of birthdays, the American Cancer Society has every reason to be proud of a "toddler" celebrating its third birthday this year. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act - aka the Tobacco Control Act - was strongly supported by ACS and ACS CAN and signed into law by President Barack Obama on June 22, 2009.
For the first time and after nearly 2 decades of debate, this historic legislation gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products. In doing so, Congress enabled the FDA to establish the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), which is charged with regulating the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products in order to reduce tobacco use by children under 18 and protect public health.
More specifically, the Tobacco Control Act authorizes the FDA to act in a number of ways, including:
- Restricting tobacco sales, distribution, and marketing
- Requiring stronger health warnings on packaging and in advertisements
- Requiring disclosure of tobacco product ingredients
- Reducing (but not eliminating) the amount of nicotine in tobacco products
- Creating standards for tobacco products
- Regulating "modified risk" (i.e. potentially harm reducing) tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes, snus, dissolvables, etc.
So, with the authority to take these types of action, how is the Tobacco Control Act doing 3 years later? Is it having its intended effects? Are Americans - tobacco users and non-users alike - beginning to see its hoped-for health benefits? To best address these questions, it will help to take a small step back and consider the history of the Tobacco Control Act, take a brief look at the Act's accomplishments to date, and then look a bit into the future. More...
October 11, 2012
The Relationship between Weight and Breast Cancer
By Lauren Teras, PhD
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women today. More than 1 million women world-wide are diagnosed with this cancer each year, mostly in the 50 and older age group. Breast Cancer Awareness Month highlights this international public health problem, and it is a good time to consider ways in which we can reduce our risk of this cancer. While many factors beyond our control contribute to risk, like age and family history, we do know of a few ways we can lower the risk of breast cancer.
Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. Once considered a problem only in high income countries, being overweight and obese is now dramatically on the rise all over the world, particularly in urban areas. As of 2008, the World Health Organization estimated that 1.4 billion adults were overweight, including 300 million obese individuals. In the year 2000, for the first time in human history, the number of adults worldwide who were overweight was greater than the number of adults who were underweight. In fact, approximately 65% of the world's population lives in countries where being overweight and obese kills more people than being underweight. The U.S. is near the front of the pack as the country with the 4th highest rate of obesity; about 2/3 of people in America are overweight, including approximately 1/3 are obese. More...
September 27, 2012
By Tim Byers, MD, MPH
There are many definitions of health disparities, but my favorite is disparities are differences that should not exist. This definition reflects the social injustice in how some races and ethnicities suffer more from cancer than others.
I like this definition of disparities (or health inequity, as many people are calling it) because it can motivate us to fix the problem - the social, economic, cultural, and political barriers that keep some racial and ethnic minorities from getting cancer prevention, early detection, and state-of-the-art cancer treatment. This obviously can be harmful to racial and ethnic minorities.
But this definition is also a problem. It can cause us to focus so much on the differences that should not exist (the social and economic inequalities) that we ignore factors driving racial and ethnic differences that may actually have a positive influence on people's risk of developing or dying from cancer. Why is that important? More...