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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Study Suggests Divorce Rates Are Higher for Women with Cancer

by: cancercompass

New research suggests women are more likely to end up separated or divorced after a brain cancer or multiple sclerosis diagnosis than men who have a similar diagnosis.

During the U.S. study, 515 patients were divided into three diagnostic groups: those with a malignant primary brain tumor, those with a solid brain tumor with no central nervous system involvement, and those with multiple sclerosis. Nearly half of the patients were women.

The study revealed that female gender was the strongest predictor of separation or divorce in each of the patient groups, with women patients nearly 7 times as likely to become separated or divorced as men. Divorce rates jumped to nearly 21% when the woman was sick, compared to about 3% when the man was the patient.

Men may have a harder time adapting to caregiver duties on top of looking after the home and family, which researchers say could explain why they leave their spouses.

The study was published in the journal Cancer.



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Brits Plan to Ban Kids from Using Sunbeds

by: cancercompass

The British government is reportedly moving forward with legislation to keep kids 18 years old and younger from using tanning beds, according to an article in

The article cites new research published in today's British Medical Journal, which shows that more than 250,000 English children aged 11-17 are thought to use sunbeds.

Medical researchers believe that frequent sunbed use can boost the risk of malignant melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer.

According to the Guardian article, the International Agency for Research on Cancer recently declared ultraviolet radiation exposure, including radiation from tanning beds, to be "carcinogenic to humans".

A 300% rise in malignant melanoma cases since the 1970s has been directly linked to a British tanning craze, according to The Sun.

Share your thoughts on our Skin Cancer Message Board.



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New Research Suggests Lower Prostate Cancer Risk for Active Men

by: cancercompass

Moderate exercise - the equivalent of three to six hours of walking per week - may help lower a man's prostate cancer risk, reports Reuters.

New research found that among 190 men who underwent biopsies for possible prostate cancer, those who exercised moderately were less likely to be diagnosed with the disease. In addition, these men were two-thirds less likely to have their biopsy return positive than men who remained sedentary.

The findings, which were reported in the Journal of Urology, do not prove that exercise helps prevent prostate cancer, reports Reuters. What they do provide is more incentive for men to become more active.

During this recent study, Dr. Stephen J. Freeland and his colleagues found that among the 111 sedentary men participating, half were diagnosed with cancer after biopsy. That compared with 27% of those men who got the equivalent of three to six hours of walking each week.

Among men diagnosed with prostate cancer, 51% of sedentary patients had more aggressive cancers, versus 22% of those who had been mildly active.

Exercise remained linked to lower risk of prostate cancer even after researchers accounted for a number of factors, including age, weight and race.

Visit our Prostate Cancer Information section for additional information about the disease.



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To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate: Should Cancer Patients Get the H1N1 Vaccine?

by Dana Demas

If you're a cancer patient or survivor, chances are you've wondered: Should I get the H1N1 flu vaccine? Anyone with a compromised immune system may be more susceptible to infections like the flu. But the information about the swine flu vaccine has been everything from reassuring to confusing, leaving many of us wringing our hands with worry.

The CDC recommends the H1N1 vaccine  for anyone between the ages of 25-64 with a compromised immune system. Donna Peach, a blogger and survivor with metastatic breast cancer, wrote that she went back and forth about whether or not to get the vaccine. She ultimately did and has experienced no side effects.

In an article from the MDS Beacon, Dr. Bart Scott, an MDS specialist at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, recommends that people with impaired immune systems get the H1N1 shot, but not the nasal spray, which contains a live version of the virus and can cause the flu. (Myelodysplastic syndromes [MDS] are a collection of blood and bone marrow disorders, and can be a side effect of chemo or radiation treatment.)

On the other side of the fence are the researchers and everyday folks who question the effectiveness of a flu vaccine of any kind—and wonder if the potential side effects are worth it, especially for immune-compromised people. Recent research in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine casts doubt on the commonly held assumption that the flu vaccine significantly reduces the number of deaths from flu-related pneumonia. Rather, it may be the "healthy-user effect"—meaning that people with healthier habits choose to get the vaccine in the first place and those habits, not the vaccine, are why they stay healthy.

In the end, the decision about whether or not to vaccinate is a personal one that people should discuss with their doctors and their families. What do you think? Is the H1N1 vaccine a do or a don't for cancer patients?

Tips to Prevent Swine Flu

American Cancer Society prevention tips
Centers for Disease Control vaccination recommendations



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Open Enrollment Season Is Here

by Dana Demas

It’s that time of year again for many of us – open enrollment is a great time for people with employer-sponsored insurance to review their current coverage and explore other benefit options that are available to them. If you or someone you love is struggling with cancer, open enrollment can provide a crucial opportunity to choose a health insurance plan that best meets your needs for next year.

Most employers offer managed care plans, which work with networks of providers and hospitals. Traditional health plans, also known as fee-for-service health insurance, generally allow you to visit any healthcare provider and any hospital you choose. You pay a deductible before coverage begins and for a percentage of care thereafter, which can be more costly than managed care plans.

There are two primary types of managed care health plans: preferred provider organizations (PPO) and health maintenance organizations (HMOs). Here are some key differences:

  • Primary care physician – With an HMO, you must choose a primary care physician that is in the plan’s network of member physicians. With a PPO, you are not required to choose an in-network primary care physician. This can be an important difference for people who have had the same primary care doctor for years.  
  • Specialists – With an HMO, a referral from your primary care physician is required to see a specialist, and he or she must also be in the plan's network. With a PPO, you can see any specialist you choose to, without visiting your family doctor first (though some specialists prefer a referral prior to the first visit).
  • Hospitals – Similar to choosing a specialist, an HMO restricts which hospitals you may be treated at while a PPO does not. However, coverage levels vary according to whether the hospital and the provider are in-network or out-of-network.

Which is best for you? It all depends if the freedom to choose the cancer care that feels right for you is more important, or if knowing your healthcare costs upfront and limiting out-of-pocket expenses is a higher priority. Learn more about Health Insurance in our information section.



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Study Says Lighter Cigarettes Won't Help Smokers Quit

by: cancercompass

New research suggests that smokers looking to quit should avoid switching to low-tar, light or mild brand cigarettes, reports Reuters.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that smokers who switch to light cigarettes were 50% less likely to quit.

During the study of 31,000 smokers, researchers found that 12,000 (38%) had switched to a lighter brand. Of those, a quarter switched because of flavor. Nearly 20% claimed they switched for better flavor, less harmful cigarettes and as an effort to kick the habit.

People who switched brands were 58% more likely to have tried quitting than those who stuck with their brand. However, those who switched were 60% less likely to actually succeed in quitting.

Learn about the causes and risk factors of lung cancer.



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Vaccine Tested On Women With Pre-Cancerous Vulvar Growths

by: cancercompass

An experimental vaccine could help prevent cancerous vulvar growths in women, reports Reuters.

The new vaccine was recently tested in the Netherlands and is designed as a treatment for pre-cancerous growths known as vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia. The growths are commonly caused by the human papillomavirous virus (HPV).

The vulvar growths are known to turn cancerous in about 3,200 U.S. women each year, and approximately 800 women die of vulvar cancer annually.

Researchers recently tested the vaccine on 20 women. In 9 of the women, lesions disappeared completely. This included one woman whose growths were more than 10 years old. 6 other women saw their lesions shrink by 50% after one year.

However, the vaccine was unsuccessful for 2 women who developed cancer and another woman who relapsed after showing improvement. Another woman died of sudden heart failure prior to her 12-month evaluation.

Researchers are now working on a stronger effect from the vaccine with a lower dosage. They are also trying to avoid the large bumps that appear as side effects near the injection area, which have lasted up to two years in a few women.



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AICR Says Cancer Cases Increase with Obesity Rates

by: cancercompass

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), more than 100,000 cancer cases in the United States are likely caused by obesity and the numbers may rise as Americans continue to gain weight, reports Reuters.

Excess body fat is reportedly a contributor in nearly half the cases of endometrial cancer and a third of esophageal cancer cases, according to research from AICR.

Reuters reports that 26% of American are considered obese, which means they have a body mass index of 30 or higher. Nearly one-third of Americans are considered overweight, defined as having a BMI of 25 to 30.

The AICR provides additional estimates of cancer cases that could likely be prevented every year if Americans kept the weight off:

  • Esophageal - 35% of cases or 5,800 people
  • Pancreatic - 28% or 11,900 people
  • Gallbladder - 21% or 2,000 people
  • Colon - 9% or 13,200 people
  • Breast - 17% or 33,000 people
  • Endometrium - 49% or 20,700 people
  • Kidney - 24% or 13,900

According to additional research, it's estimated that obesity-related diseases account for nearly 10% of all medical spending in the U.S. annually, which adds up to approximately $147 billion.



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Patient Study Highlights Ways Oncologist Can Show Compassion

by: cancercompass

New research presented at the 51st annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) highlights patient opinion about ways to enhance compassionate care.

According to ASTRO, researchers randomly surveyed 508 patients who received radiation treatment for breast, prostate and lung cancer between June 2006 and March 2008. Questions centered around patient-doctor relationships and specific preferences patients have of their radiation oncologist. Patients were surveyed prior to the initial consultation, at the midpoint of radiation treatment, and at the end of radiation therapy.

Some of the more significant findings were:

Hold My Hand

More than one-third (37%) of women prefer having their hand held by their oncologist during important office visits, compared to 12% of men.

Use My First Name

Almost three-quarters (72%) of patients, including the elderly, prefer being called by their first name. There is a slightly greater preference for this among females than males, and Caucasian patients compared to African American patients.

Be Honest About My Chances

Almost every patient (95%) preferred their oncologist be honest about their chances for survival. Prostate cancer patients, however, were more adamant about wanting the truth than lung cancer patients.

Use Everyday Language

95% of high school graduates prefer having radiation treatment described in everyday language compared to 91% of college graduates and 84% of post-graduate patients.

What are some ways your oncologist shows compassion? Leave a comment or share your personal experiences at the CancerCompass Message Board.



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Drug Makers Agree to Develop Experimental Prostate Cancer Drug

by: cancercompass

Astellas Pharma Inc. of Japan will pay San Francisco-based drug maker Medivation $110 million as part of global agreement to develop and market the experimental prostate cancer drug MDV3100, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Medivation announced in September that patient enrollment began for the Phase 3 clinical trial for MDV3100. Called AFFIRM, the goal of the trial is to evaluate how MDV3100, an androgen receptor antagonist drug, works in men with castration-resistant prostate cancer who were previously treated with docetaxel-based chemotherapy.

In the Phase 1-2 clinical trial, MDV3100 reportedly reduced by 50% a biomarker of prostate cancer in 43% of the first 30 patients treated. Results of this trial were published in the May edition of Science. A synopsis is available at

Share your thoughts about new drug therapies at our Prostate Cancer Message Board.

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