Cancer Blog

Here's our collection of cancer-related stories. We sift through a variety of stories and share the issues that we think matter to cancer patients, caregivers, healthcare providers and survivors. Learn about current events in the cancer community, human interest stories, and promising technology and treatment advances. Tell us what you think in the Comments section at the bottom of each post.

Note: The information contained in this service is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in the service is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment of any illness, condition or disease.



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Decision Aid Reduces Genetic Testing Uncertainty for Men

by: cancercompass

Australian researchers have developed a decision aid that helps men reduce uncertainty about genetic testing for colorectal cancer.

The decision aid, or pamphlet, which was originally designed to help men and women make decisions about genetic testing, has proven more effective for men.

The decision aid was developed by Dr. Claire E. Wakefield of Macquarie University in New South Wales, Australia, and was published in a recent issue of Cancer.

Dr. Wakefield's team tested the aid's effectiveness on 153 people, some of which used a control pamphlet, while others used the actual decision aid. In all, 109 patients (71.2%) completed the first questionnaire within one week and 95 patients (62.5%) completed a 6-month follow-up questionnaire.

According to Wakefield's research, while the aid did not have an impact on the actual genetic testing decision or feelings of regret for having made the decision, it did reduce feelings of uncertainty and conflict regarding genetic testing. Those who used the decision aid felt they made a more informed decision than those who used the control pamphlet.

Researchers also found the decision aid was more helpful for men, who were found to have significantly higher knowledge levels for having used the decision aid than men who didn't. There was no such difference found in women. According to the researchers, differences between what men and women need to make decisions may play a role, but women may also need a decision aid with more extensive information since women have an increased risk of multiple cancers.




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Young Breast Cancer Patients Less Compliant in Taking Tamoxifen

by: cancercompass

More breast cancer patients don't comply with taking tamoxifen than any other adjuvant therapies, according to a recent study published in this month's The American Journal of Surgery.

Tamoxifen is the most common hormone therapy drug used in breast cancer treatment today.

The study found younger women were less compliant with taking tamoxifen, resulting in an increased risk of having their cancer return in five years. Old age was attributed to noncompliance with chemotherapy and radiation. However a noncompliance with radiation and chemotherapy didn't significantly affect 5-year diseases-free survival rates.

The study was conducted to supply more information on patient-driven non-compliance of adjuvant therapies and its consequences.  The study compared clinical, pathological features and outcomes of breast cancer patients who were compliant to recommended radiation, chemotherapy and hormonal therapies to those who were not.




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Study Suggests Soy Prevents Some Breast Cancers

by: cancercompass

Japanese researchers have found foods high in soy protein reduce the risk of estrogen receptor cancers, according to results published recently in the International Journal of Cancer.

Researchers at the Aichi Cancer Center Research Institute in Nagoya say soy consumption reduced the risk of estrogen receptor (ER)-positive and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative tumors.

During the case-control study, researchers observed 678 cancer cases and 3,390 controls matched by age and menopausal status with no history of cancer. According to the study a "significantly reduced risk" of breast cancer was found among women with the highest soy intake who were ER-positive, HER2-negative or both.

Overall, the study's findings concluded soybean products have potential benefit in preventing some breast cancers.




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Researchers Discover New Gene Mutation in Lung Cancer Tumors

by: cancercompass

Researchers this week discovered 26 genes leading to lung adenocarcinoma, the most common form of lung cancer.

The findings, published Oct. 23 in the journal Nature, double the number of genes linked to lung adenocarcinoma, and could play a role in future and existing treatments.

Adenocarcinoma constitutes 40% of all diagnosed lung cancers and is exceedingly difficult to treat.

Little is known about the nature of these genetic mutations that cause cancer growth. That's why researchers began a collaborative effort called the Tumor Sequencing Project. This recent study used 188 patient-donated lung cancer samples, which researchers used to sequence 623 suspect genes that were compared to the same genes in healthy tissue from the same patients.

More than 70% of the 188 tumors had one or more mutations affecting the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway, meaning the mutations play a major role lung cancer. This finding allowed researchers to suggest new treatment strategies for some subtypes of lung adenocarcinoma.

Findings also confirmed that non-smokers and smokers had different mutations triggering the disease. Lung adenocarcinoma mostly affects smokers, but 10% of those diagnosed have never smoked. Tumor samples taken from smokers revealed 49 different mutations, while tumors found in non-smokers had no more than five. Epidermal growth factor (EGFR) was more prevalent in the tumors of non-smokers, while mutations in the KRAS and Src tyrosin kinase 11 genes were common in tumors from smokers.

More research is necessary to determine the significance of these mutation differences. Doctors know, however, higher mutation levels often caused tumors to spread or be resistant to treatment.




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Childhood Cancer Survivor Study

by: cancercompass
Childhood cancer survivors are getting ongoing medical care that isn't addressing the risks associated with their prior cancer therapy, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

In the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, researchers conducted a cross-sectional survey with 8,522 participants being asked a series of questions about medical care received in the preceding two years.  

Questions about whether they had medical visits, whether those visits were related to prior cancer, how to reduce their risks, and whether tests were discussed or ordered were a part of the study.

Findings of the 2-year study were:
  • 11.2% of survivors said they didn't receive any medical care
  • 57.3% of survivors received general medical care
  • 13.7% received general survivor-focused care
  • 17.8% received recommended risk-based care
  • 14.6% received care at a cancer center

Older, male, black or uninsured survivors were more likely to receive general medical care only. Those receiving risk-based, survivor-focused care had moderate or extreme cancer-related pain or anxiety, poor physical health, or more serious morbidity.

The study was published in the September 20th issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.




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Yoga May Help Breast Cancer Survivors Suffering from Hot Flashes

by: cancercompass

A recent Journal of Clinical Oncology editorial cited several studies suggesting yoga and other mind-body techniques are suitable alternatives to hormone therapies for treating hot flashes and night sweats experienced by many breast cancer survivors.

According to the editorial, hot flashes and night sweats are experienced by 65% of women following traditional breast cancer treatment. These symptoms occur more in women taking tamoxifen or having chemotherapy treatments. Often hot flashes are so severe, the editorial states that many women discontinue tamoxifen and other endocrine therapies.

The gold standard for treating hot flashes is an estrogen therapy, alone or combined with progesterone to regulate existing estrogen fluctuations that cause the symptoms. Estrogen, however, is not recommended for breast cancer survivors.

Instead of seeking herbal remedies that could have adverse effects, the editorial suggests mind-body interventions, such as: "paced respiration, biofeedback, relaxation, meditation, yoga, mindfulness-based stress reduction and hypnosis."

These low-cost, minimal risk techniques are attractive to breast cancer survivors, but according to the editorial, pose problems for researchers. Many of the studies report poor adherence to protocol and lack adequate control groups. In addition, participants may drop out of the studies because they are too time intensive and don't provide instantaneous results.

Despite the difficulty in producing solid evidentiary studies, the editorial views mind-body approaches as potentially safe, effective ways for breast cancer survivors to reduce hot flashes and night sweats.

Last month, researchers also identified acupuncture as an effective complementary therapy for reducing hot flashes caused by conventional breast cancer treatments.




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Exercise Linked to Decreased Uterine Cancer Risk in Overweight Women

by: cancercompass

Even two hours of moderate-paced walking per week can reduce endometrial cancer risk in obese and overweight women.

That's according to the American Cancer Society's prospective Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort study released last week. The study recommends exercise for all women, however overall findings suggest overweight or obese women see more risk reduction than non-overweight women by introducing moderate exercise.

Doctors at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta identified 466 cases of endometrial cancers between 1992 and 2003 among 43,000 postmenopausal women with uteri still intact. The women answered questions regarding their physical activity. Those with low-to-moderate activity levels, such as walking and biking, and were obese or overweight, saw more risk reduction than thinner, more active woman.

Doctors say physical activity, when introduced into a sedentary lifestyle of an overweight woman, reduces insulin sensitivity and the bioavailability of estrogen. Therefore, the risk reduction that obese women may experience with moderate physical activity is a biological reaction.




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Study: Coffee Doesn't Increase Breast Cancer Risk

by: cancercompass

Women who like their morning cup of coffee can enjoy it a little more knowing their cancer risk won't increase.

Caffeine doesn't increase an overall breast cancer risk, according to a study published this week by Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Tokyo Women's Medical University.

Making healthy lifestyle choices to decrease cancer risk has often been the best preventive medicine. The study addressed specific concerns that large amounts of coffee would increase breast cancer risk.

While overall coffee didn't increase risk, researchers plan further study on caffeine's effect on estrogen and progesterone receptor-negative cancers and benign breast disease in women consuming large amounts of coffee.

The current study monitored nearly 40,000 women, ages 45 and older, for 10 years, during which time 1,188 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.

Results showed women consuming caffeinated beverages and foods didn't have an overall higher breast cancer risk. Among the women who consumed the most caffeine, those with non-benign breast disease posed a slightly higher breast cancer risk.




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Fewer Women Getting Mammograms

by: cancercompass
The American Cancer Society reports a slight decrease in women getting mammograms, an early detection tool for breast cancer.

In 2000, 70.1% of women 40 years and older received a mammogram. That number decreased to 66.5% in 2005.  Experts think a 2002 study linking a common menopausal treatment - hormone replacement therapy - to breast cancer and heart disease might be to blame.  Women may have stopped seeking a doctor for both menopausal treatment and mammograms.

Rising health costs, genetic testing, and false mammogram reports may also be factors.

According to the ACS report, doctors are afraid that genetic testing is leaving women with a false sense of hope. Those who test negative for either breast cancer gene might be skipping their mammogram.

Another plausible cause is the nationwide shortage of mammography technicians and radiologists. This shortage has meant more wait time, yet another hindering factor.

American Cancer Society Nursing Forum Findings from April also suggest women tend to over-report what screenings they've had. Women over 40 were asked whether they had a mammography in their lifetime, 77% said yes, but records showed only 40% had the procedure.

For a more pleasant mammogram, the American Cancer Society suggests:
  • Ask for MammoPads attached to the compression plates
  • Take a Tylenol a few hours before
  • Don't schedule at a time breasts are most tender
  • Consider digital mammography for faster results
Learn more about early detection of breast cancer.



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New DNA Test Improves on Colon Cancer Detection

by: cancercompass

Using DNA to detect early signs of colon cancer has taken a step forward. Researchers say an improved DNA stool sample test has proven to be twice as effective as an older version of the test.

A recent study involving nearly 4,500 adults compared results of the new test against both standard blood fecal testing and an older DNA fecal test.

The new DNA test was able to detect 40% of cancer cases and serious polyp growth, while the standard blood fecal test and the older DNA fecal test detected 21% and 20% respectively.

While colonoscopy screening is still more effective at detecting colon cancer, authors of the study hope that advancements in DNA testing lead to less invasive colon cancer testing methods, which more people will be likely to undergo.

The study has been published in a recent issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. One of the study's authors says the new DNA stool sample test is already available.

Learn more about colon cancer symptoms and detection.


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