April 30, 2012
By Angelina Esparza, MPH, RN
I frequently ask myself: "How can we reach the American Cancer Society goal of saving 1,000 lives per day, when so many people suffer and die from cancer due to disparities in health care?"
Cancer health disparities are complex and caused by persistent societal problems that result in greater suffering and more people dying from cancer.
We know issues of health equity are particularly pronounced among racial and ethnic populations, such as Latinos, African Americans, Asian Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. Though April is recognized as National Minority Health Month, and the third week in April is National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, our efforts to end health disparities and save more lives are happening year-round. More...
April 26, 2012
By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD
In my work at the American Cancer Society, when I talk with people who've been diagnosed with cancer, they tend to ask me 3 things: what can I do to reduce the chance that my cancer will come back? What can I do to help me not develop some other kind of cancer? How can I help my family members reduce their own risk for developing cancer?
For many years, answering questions 2 and 3 was a cinch.
We've known for years that for people who don't smoke, the most important ways to reduce their risk of cancer are to strive to be at a healthy weight, live a physically active lifestyle, eat a diet made up mostly of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and watch how much alcohol is consumed (if any, at all). As a matter of fact, a recent study published by ACS researchers showed that non-smokers who most closely followed those recommendations had a significantly lower risk of premature death from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all causes when compared to people who followed the guidelines least closely.
So giving advice about how to reduce their risk of developing another type of cancer and providing information to pass on to their own family members was pretty easy, because that data has been around for many years.
Answers about how to reduce the risk of recurrence were not as clear. But they've recently gotten clearer. More...
April 18, 2012
By James C. Salwitz, MD
What does personal medicine mean to you? A doctor who greets with your name and a smile? Caregivers who listen? Physicians who know all about your case and every treatment you have received? We all want doctors who truly understand us. In the near future, this personal understanding will go deeper than ever before.
The instructions for life lie in our chromosomes. Everything about the way our bodies are built is coded in our DNA. Every cell, muscle, nerve, and organ is constructed from genetic blueprints. Tall or short, brown eyes or blue, man or woman, it is all in our genes. Genes define much of who we are and what makes us different. We now understand that genes have a lot to say about the diseases from which we suffer.
Some genes make us resistant to illness. We all know families where everyone lives into their 90s. Other genes increase the risk of specific disease. How often have we met siblings with the same illness? DNA codes how our bodies fight disease or heal from injury. Hard wired in our chromosomes are instructions to make drugs work, fail, or produce side effects. The human genetic code is often the key to health and to disease. More...
April 09, 2012
By Terri Ades, DNP, FNP-BC, AOCN
Recently a colleague at work who had just returned from a getting a haircut mentioned to me that his hairdresser, who has lung cancer, was upset because her husband was very worried about her. The hairdresser explained that she had started having some memory problems - couldn't remember what she did yesterday or couldn't remember people's names. And she had started to tell her husband something and stopped in the middle of her story - not remembering what to say next. She too acknowledged being a little concerned and was seeing her doctor in 3 days, but she didn't know how to help her husband until then. I asked if she was receiving chemotherapy and was told yes, so I explained that she might have "chemo brain."
We've known for some time that radiation therapy to the brain can cause problems with thinking and memory. Now, we are learning that chemotherapy is linked to some of the same kinds of problems. Research has shown that some chemotherapy agents can cause certain kinds of changes in the brain. Though the brain usually recovers over time, the sometimes vague yet distressing mental changes cancer patients notice are real, not imagined. These changes can make people unable to go back to their school, work, or social activities, or make it so that it takes a lot of mental effort to do so. These changes affect everyday life for many people receiving cancer treatment. More...
March 21, 2012
By Durado Brooks, MD
How often do you think a family conversation about cancer occurs? The truth is, not nearly often enough.
Colorectal cancer (often called simply "colon cancer") is cancer that develops in the colon or the rectum, and it's the third most common cancer in the U.S. While most people diagnosed with colon cancer do not have a family history the disease, people who have this cancer in their family have a significantly higher chance of being diagnosed. The good news is that colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, and this prevention can work even for people who are at high risk of the disease. More...
March 14, 2012
By Debbie Saslow, PhD
When it comes to screening for cancer, a common belief held by doctors as well as patients is "more is better." It seems only logical that more frequent screening with the newest technologies translates to more cancers detected at the earliest possible time and, ultimately, more lives saved.
Cervical cancer is an example of why this is not necessarily so. Dating back to the late 1940s, the Pap test has been detecting not only early cervical cancers, but changes in the cervix ("pre-cancers") that when treated or removed lead to actual prevention of cancer in addition to early detection. For decades, the majority of women in this country have scheduled their doctor appointments around their "annual Pap." As a result of widespread Pap testing, mortality rates dropped by 70% and the Pap test became the biggest success story for cancer screening in history.
In the late 1980s, it was discovered that cervical cancer is caused by HPV, the human papilloma virus. Studies of the natural history of HPV and cervical cancer showed that it takes, on average, 10-20 years from the time a woman is first infected with HPV until the time a cervical cancer might appear.
In 1987, the American Cancer Society, and several other national organizations, recommended that most women could safely be screened for cervical cancer with the Pap test every 3 years rather than every year. Twenty-five years later, studies show that the majority of health care providers still recommend annual screenings and that the majority of women expect annual screenings. More...
March 04, 2012
By William C. Phelps, PhD
How did you feel the last time someone sneezed in the elevator? Whether it is the common cold or the seasonal flu, we know some illnesses are caused by infections with viruses or bacteria. But what if cancer could be caused by an infection?
Some cancers caused by viruses and bacteria
Although it is not widely realized, 15%-20% of cancers around the world are caused by infectious agents - viruses or bacteria. Fortunately for all of us, the infectious agents linked to cancer are not easily spread from person to person like the common cold virus. It turns out, even when many of these viruses and bacteria infect people, only a small subset will go on to develop cancer. In most cases, we still do not understand why certain people develop cancer and others do not - even though they were also infected. More...
February 23, 2012
By Lewis Foxhall, MD
Every cancer patient wants to successfully complete active treatment . Thanks to improved treatments and use of cancer screening programs (which can find cancer early, when it's most treatable), this goal is being reached more frequently than ever.
But to get the most out of treatment there is more you can do. A proactive approach to care for cancer survivors has developed over the last few years. This includes traditional follow up looking for any signs the original cancer has come back. It also includes active management of any lingering side effects of treatment, testing for new cancers, and addressing psychological and social problems that may develop or persist after treatment. This approach is intended to give you the greatest benefit from your treatment so you can live longer, and better. More...
February 09, 2012
By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD
Love is in the air - and not just because Valentine's Day is right around the corner. It's also National Heart Month - a time to show our hearts a little love, and do what we can to reduce our risk heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
Fortunately, there are things we can put in our cereal bowls, lunch boxes and dinner plates every day that can help reduce our own risk for developing heart disease. Not only that, a lot of these things can also be part of a healthy diet that can also reduce your risk of developing a variety of types of cancer. A two-for-one! Now who wouldn't love that? More...
January 31, 2012
By Nathan Grey, MPH
For many years, global health has been associated with diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria. And rightly so. These diseases present significant threats to health around the world. But they aren't the only major killers. In fact, they're not even the leading killers anymore! Today, cancer claims more lives globally than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined, and the death toll from cancer is only going to grow.
How can this be? Well, there are two major factors that affect the growing impact of cancer around the world.
First, we've done a much better job of controlling diseases that used to kill people while they were still quite young. Vaccinations, new medications including antibiotics, and prevention programs (like providing bed nets to combat mosquitoes and malaria, and clean drinking water to curb a host of other water-borne illnesses) have led to people living longer. And as people live longer they are faced with the diseases more common to older age, such as cancer.
Second, when people live longer, there is a greater chance that they will be exposed to cancer-causing agents - like tobacco - at some point in their lives. Longer lives plus greater exposure to cancer-causing substances equals more cancer. More...