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...
October 05, 2011
EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog was originally published on June 29. Due to recent questions on this topic, it's been reposted. News reports say the United States Preventive Services Task Force will next week release new recommendations saying that healthy men should no longer receive a PSA blood test to screen for prostate cancer. Reports say the USPSTF will say the test does not save lives and often leads to more tests and treatments that needlessly cause pain, impotence and incontinence. Otis W. Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, says the Society cannot comment on the evidence review or on the recommendations until they are made public.
By Otis W. Brawley, MD, FACP
Prostate cancer is a major public health problem. The American Cancer Society estimates that 240,890 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011 and 33.720 will die of it. It is the second leading cause of cancer death among men, only surpassed by lung cancer.
Prostate cancer screening became common in the U.S. in the early 1990s and dramatically changed the demographic of cancer in the U.S. Prostate cancer quickly became the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer. Today an American male has a lifetime risk of prostate cancer diagnosis of about 1 in 6 and a lifetime risk of dying of only 1 in 36. In Western European countries where screening is not common, the lifetime risk of prostate cancer diagnosis is much lower, about 1 in 10, and the lifetime risk of death is the same.
Screening began without the completion of the scientific research to show that it saves lives. For most advocates of screening and aggressive treatment, there was and is a desire to do something that might be beneficial to the population of men at risk. Unfortunately, the history of medicine is filled with examples of physicians "jumping the gun" and using possible interventions before they are fully evaluated. More...
September 26, 2011
By Durado Brooks, MD
Has your doctor ever talked to you about collecting part of your bowel movement to be examined (referred to as a "stool test")? If you're anything like the patients I've treated, you recoiled in shock and horror! The idea just sounds disgusting, doesn't it? Without getting too technical, stool tests have what we doctors call a high YUCK factor. (No, it's not an acronym; it's what patients say when we ask them to do the test: "Are you kidding, doc? Yuck!")
But stool tests are one of the tried and true approaches to finding colorectal (colon) cancer early and saving lives. There are a number of different tests for colon cancer that are recommended by the American Cancer Society and other organizations, including colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and CT colonography (a special type of x-ray test, sometimes called "virtual colonoscopy"). But the fact is, out of all the tests that are recommended for colon cancer screening, stool tests actually have the strongest evidence that they save lives - a fact that most patients (and many doctors) don't appreciate. More...
September 01, 2011
By Debbie Saslow, PhD
For years, patients, doctors, and researchers have been trying to find a way to catch ovarian cancer early, when it's most treatable. For women, the chance of getting ovarian cancer is about 1 in 70. In most cases, the cancer is found at an advanced stage and survival is, sadly, quite low.
Most women get tested regularly for breast cancer and cervical cancer, and hopefully colorectal (colon) cancer. Why aren't they checked for ovarian cancer, too? Unfortunately we don't have tests like mammograms or Pap tests for the ovaries. Doctors often do a pelvic exam, which includes checking the ovaries, but this exam rarely finds ovarian tumors unless they have grown very large.
Some other tests, like the CA-125 blood test and transvaginal ultrasound, have been studied to see if they can be used to test for ovarian cancer, but none have proven to be accurate enough to consistently find cancer. More...
July 26, 2011
By Debbie Saslow, PhD
Many people ask me about whether or not their daughters should get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which can help prevent cervical cancer. As with all new vaccines, there has been some controversy. Some parents have been reluctant to get their daughters vaccinated before they are sexually active, yet this is precisely when the vaccine will be most effective. Others were concerned about safety; the HPV vaccines are extremely safe, based on tens of millions of doses distributed worldwide. There was also an initial push, generated by the manufacturer, to require HPV vaccination for middle school enrollment. To date only Virginia and Washington, D.C., have such a requirement.
To answer the question of whether to vaccinate, it helps to have some background:
In the United States, an estimated 12,200 cases of invasive cervical cancer were expected to be diagnosed in 2010, with an estimated 4,210 deaths. But there have been fewer deaths over the past several decades due to cancer screening tests. That's great news. But we can reduce the number of people even getting cervical cancer by doing what we know works. More...
March 22, 2011
By Ted Gansler, MD, MBA
There's been a lot of news lately about cancer-sniffing dogs after a new study by Japanese researcher Hideto Sonoda and his colleagues was published in the medical journal Gut. So we couldn't help but wonder, is that possible?
If you haven't heard about it, the recent study suggests that specially-trained dogs can identify the scent of volatile chemicals (those that evaporate into the air at room temperature) present in colon cancer. More...
March 09, 2011
By Durado Brooks, MD, MPH
Embarrassing! Painful! Disgusting!!
These are some of the words that come to mind for lots of folks when they think about getting tested for colorectal cancer. Let's face it - this involves a part of the body and bodily functions that people don't talk about in polite conversation. Hopefully I can convince you that they (and you) need to get past this attitude and get on with testing.
Cancers of the colon and the rectum (the last sections of the digestive system) are extremely common. In fact, they're the third most common cancer in US men and women. The good news is the rates of this disease have been falling steadily over the past 20 years, and a big part of the decrease is directly related to testing for colorectal cancer. You see, not only can testing help find the disease early, when it's highly treatable, but testing can actually help to prevent the disease! That's because most colorectal cancers start as a small, non-cancerous growth called a polyp. Finding and removing these polyps stops cancer before it starts.