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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Healthy Eating Over the Holidays

by: cancercompass

The holidays have arrived! Sunday marked the last night of Hanukkah, and Christmas is right around the corner. Then, just a couple of weeks away it will be time to celebrate the New Year. One thing is for certain, winter holidays often revolve around friends, family and food.

If you’re currently going through cancer treatment, eating might not be the first thing on your mind. However, staying nourished during treatment is extremely important to your overall health, as the right foods food can give you the strength necessary to fight your cancer.

During this time, your body is going to need more fuel than normal, in order to repair rapidly from the effects of treatments such as surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy. Therefore, you’ll want to give your body a constant supply of nutrients, including calories, protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals.

Here are some tips about what to include – and what to avoid – in your diet over the holidays to help you stay strong and healthy.

Carbohydrates (carbs) provide fuel for your body and brain. Carbohydrates are found in dozens of holiday foods from mashed potatoes to apple pie. Load up more on complex carbs and limit the simple kind.

Simple carbs include processed flour and sugar products, like you’ll find in pies, holiday cookies and cakes.

Complex carbs can be found in whole grains, whole fruits, beans and vegetables. Add a fresh fruit salad for desert and a salad course to fit these complex carbs into your holiday plans. Also, serve brown rice instead of white rice, as it contains cancer-fighting properties and dietary fiber.

Fats are another vital part of your diet. There is a common misconception that all fats are bad, but unsaturated fats are actually good for you. Focus on limiting or avoiding saturated fats and trans fatty acids, but feel free to enjoy goodies that have unsaturated fats.

Saturated Fats – These can be found in animal products – such as beef and poultry with the skin – which might be the centerpiece of your festive meal. No need to cut out meat altogether, just serve lean cuts of beef, skinless poultry and reduced fat or fat-free dairy products.

Trans Fatty Acids – These are found in products that have been hydrogenated, such as shortening, some margarines and butter, baked goods and snack items. Your desert table is going to have a number of trans fatty culprits. Adding the aforementioned fruit salad option is one solution, and you can also try out some low-fat baking recipes.

Unsaturated Fats – This is what we call the “good fat.” Cook with olive oil and canola oil whenever possible, and also fill a bowl with almonds and nuts for a pre-meal snack. Adding an avocado to the salad can also add more good fats to your meal. Be careful not to go overboard, and make sure that you are still adhering to your recommended daily dose of fat and calories.

Protein is essential to your health, and is responsible for building your immune system, muscles, hormones and enzymes, and can also repair tissue. Work with a dietitian to estimate how much protein your body will need on a daily basis, especially if you are currently going through cancer treatment. Nuts, eggs, meat, fish, beans and legumes are all great sources of protein. Be sure to include some of these items in your holiday meal!

Happy holidays!



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Antioxidants: Cancer-Fighting Foods

by: cancercompass

For both cancer prevention and cancer treatment, what you eat is important to your health.  According to the National Cancer Institute, antioxidants are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. This damage can increase your risk for cancer, which is why experts sing the praises of antioxidants when it comes to preventing cancer.

As for fighting cancer, antioxidants are still thought to be important to your health. The evidence of cancer-fighting properties is less conclusive, but a recent study from Thomas Jefferson University suggests that antioxidants in your diet can actually be quite beneficial as you go through treatment.

In addition to cancer-fighting goodness, antioxidants can also boost your immune system, reduce cardiovascular disease, help with eyesight and more! While antioxidant supplements are available, researchers believe that it is more beneficial to simply incorporate antioxidant-rich foods into your diet.

So where you can you get these antioxidants? Try the foods below for that extra boost:

Legumes – All beans are good for you, but the more colorful beans are even better. Peanuts, pinto beans and soybeans are also high in antioxidants.

Berries – Whether you prefer blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or blackberries, scientists have determined that berries have some of the highest antioxidant levels of any fresh fruits.

Other Fresh Fruits – Other fresh fruits, such as pomegranates, grapes, oranges, plum, prunes, pineapples and grapefruits also contain antioxidants.

Dark, Leafy Greens – Dark greens such as kale and spinach are loaded with protein, as well as antioxidants like vitamin C, lutein (helps protect your eyes and skin from UV damage) and zeaxanthin (prevents free-radical damage to the retina and the lens of the eye).

Other Veggies – Leafy greens aren’t your only key to antioxidants, also try brussels sprouts, broccoli flowers, red bell peppers, eggplant, onions, beets and artichokes. 

Nuts – Walnuts have the most antioxidants of the bunch, but almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, cashews and pecans are also a great snack.

Spices – Some spices are rich with antioxidants, so reach for cloves, cinnamon and oregano when you’re cooking, but maybe not at the same time.



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Exercise, Without Exercising

by: cancercompass

There has been a lot of talk recently about how exercising and eating right are important for cancer survivors, as well as cancer patients who are currently going through treatment. While there are many ways to make eating right entertaining (fun recipes, new restaurants), the idea of exercise can be less than enticing to some.

Exercise doesn’t have to mean a 10-mile monotonous run or file miles back and forth in a lap pool. In fact, there are many ways to sneak in exercise, without even realizing that you are being active. The main goal is to get your heart rate going while getting your body moving. Working up a sweat is helpful, but not required.

Here are some fun ways to exercise, without actually exercising, that can work for cancer patients, survivors and anyone else: 

1. Take a walk – Grab a friend, pet or both and take a long stroll on a nice day. No need to speed walk, especially if you’re able to walk for a longer period of time. If you’re worried about feeling fatigued, drive to a nearby park and stroll around for a change of scenery with the safety of your car nearby. Always be sure to bring a phone and ID with you, especially if you are planning to go a long distance on your own.

2. Take the stairs – Avoid elevators and escalators and take the stairs as often as possible, but be reasonable, of course. An appointment on the 30th floor warrants an elevator, while the 3rd floor can be reached by stairs. 

3. Go shopping – Shopping is a great way to distract yourself while exercising. If you’re not in the market to buy anything right now, simply go window shopping and leave your credit cards at home. The mall is also a great spot for people watching, and an indoor option for rainy days.

4. Go dancing – Dancing is an excellent way to get your heart rate up while having a great time. Whether you’re line dancing, doing the fox trot or grooving to the latest tunes, you’ll forget that you’re getting exercise. If you don’t know how to dance, taking lessons is another way to get a great workout.

5. Play a video game – Not all video games fit into this category, but can count as exercise if you're playing games that make you sweat, such as Wii Fit, Dance Dance Revolution, EA Sports Active or Wii Sports Resort. This is a fun way to get moving on your own or with friends, without ever leaving your house. 

6. Try a group sport – Even if sports aren’t your thing, it’s never too late to try something new. Unlike solo sports - running, swimming and biking -  a group activity like softball or basketball will help motivate you to keep it up. Also, it can be a great social activity. Pick whichever sport you enjoy the most, taking note of whether it matches the level of activity that makes you feel comfortable.

7. Take a group fitness class – Many gyms offer group fitness classes throughout the day. You can try Zumba, pilates, yoga, kickboxing or anything else that is offered as a part of your membership. Find the workout method that you enjoy most and the teacher that makes you want to return for more.

8. Go rollerblading – Skates and rollerblades may not be as hip as they once were, but going for a “roll” is still a fun way to be active. You can bring a friend along for the ride, wear headphones or just enjoy your thoughts on a nice day.

The suggestions above are just the beginning! Exercise doesn’t have to be boring and tedious, as there are many ways to stay active while having a good time.

With any of the activities above, just be sure that you don’t push yourself too hard too soon. While exercise is important to the health of cancer survivors, always make sure that your body is ready for certain levels of activity before you get started.

If you’re concerned about starting a new activity, check with your doctor first. Otherwise, get out there and get moving!



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ACS Confirms Diet, Exercise, and Weight Control Important for Cancer Survivors

by: cancercompass

It’s becoming standard knowledge that diet and exercise are important when it comes to staying healthy. Though this is accepted among individuals who have never faced cancer, questions can arise among those who have been recently diagnosed, as well as people who have completed treatment years ago.

New information from the American Cancer Society (ACS) has confirmed our suspicions that diet and exercise are truly important for everyone!

According to a new study released by ACS published today, scientific evidence demonstrates that “healthy nutrition and physical activity behavior after a diagnosis can lower the chances of the cancer coming back, and can improve the chances of disease-free survival.”

Here are some of the key findings of the report:

-After treatment, it is important to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

-After being diagnosed, avoid inactivity and return to your normal daily activities as soon as possible.

-Aim to exercise at least 150 minutes per week.

-Be aware of food safety issues, which can be a bigger concern for cancer survivors who are susceptible to infections.

-Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  

These are just a few of the recommendations brought forth by ACS, and the study also includes answers to numerous recurring questions, such as “does sugar feed cancer?” By the way, the answer to that question is “no.”

If you have a moment, take the time to read the entire abstract. The report was written specifically for health care providers, but also includes short summaries and recommendations for survivors and caregivers.



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Lose Weight to Feel Great – And Fight Cancer

by: cancercompass

Even though obesity can lead to numerous health problems, the number of Americans who are obese continues to grow each year. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2010 more than 35.7 percent of U.S. adults were considered obese, up from 33.9 percent in 2008.

Most are aware that obesity can cause heart disease, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure, but did you know that it can also increase your risk of getting cancer? Not to mention that an unhealthy weight can have a negative effect on your condition if you already have cancer.

The most common way to measure obesity is by calculating your body max index or BMI. If your BMI is over 30, then you could be at risk for the health problems listed above. Click here to calculate your BMI.

In terms of cancer, obesity is associated with increased risks of cancers of the breast, gallbladder, uterus, colon, rectum, kidney, pancreas, gallbladder and thyroid – and possibly more. Also, obesity can make treatment more difficult. According to one study in breast cancer patients, obesity was linked to shorter time to recurrence, disease-free survival and overall survival.

These facts, figures and studies aren't meant to scare you, but demonstrates how important it is to get your weight under control as soon as possible, as it may save your life in more ways than one. Fighting obesity is an important step to take for those without a cancer diagnosis, but it is just as vital – if not more so – for those who have already begun treatment.

Losing weight is somewhat of a national obsession in America, and it is never easy. If your BMI is over 30 – or if you simply want to get into better shape - there is no time like the present to get started! Even if you’ve never felt sick a day in your life, losing those extra pounds can simply help you feel more alert and active on a daily basis.

Here are a few tips to help you get started!

1. Talk to Your Doctor – If you are serious about beginning a major weight loss program, speak with your doctor first! Not only can he/she provide advice and help you create a plan, but your doctor can also make sure that your body is ready for what’s coming and recommend experts, such as a nutritionist, who can help you along.

2. Join a Group – There is a reason Weight Watchers has been around since 1963 – they know what they’re doing. Fad diets rarely work, and if they do it’s not for long. Organizations like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig have easy-to-follow weight loss plans, and make the process easier with support groups to help motivate you along the way.

3. Set Realistic Goals – Weight loss takes time, and unreasonable goals will only make you frustrated. If your goal is to lose 30 pounds in a month, you are setting yourself up to fail. Create reasonable, attainable goals that take into account your personal fitness level, health concerns and available time. Achievable goals will also help you feel confident and successful along the way.

4. Get Moving – The basic keys to weight loss are simple: exercise and eating well. If you aren't active, take small steps to get moving. Park your car as far away from your destination as possible, or opt for the stairs instead of the elevator. These tiny steps add up to slowly increase your activity level. Start small with your activities, and slowly build them up.

5. Keep a Journal – This will help you keep track of your goals, as well as your thoughts and feelings during the process. Some weeks you’re going to lose a few pounds, and other weeks you’ll have setbacks. You can also keep track of your exercise and eating habits, and take note of what works and what does not.

6. Try to Enjoy the Process – Losing weight doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. Seek out ways to make the process more fun by getting others involved. Invite friends and family to try out a healthy recipe, or go on a long walk on a nice day. Also, remember that losing weight doesn’t mean that you have to stop eating all the foods you love and change your life completely, but you will need to adjust your habits and lifestyle. If you’re having some fun along the way, then the road to weight loss will be much smoother.




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Reading Beyond the Headlines

by: cancercompass

It seems like every day a new study has concluded that something previously considered unhealthy can now change your life. However, I’ve been noticing more and more that while the headline boasts something really exciting, when you actually read the full article there are often numerous stipulations and caveats.

One huge example that emerges often is whether alcohol causes, prevents or has nothing to do with cancer. Some people say that red wine can actually help ward off cancer, while others thing that even a drop of alcohol is bad news. Either way, when you read any article it is abundantly clear that no matter what, too much alcohol is bad for your system. This is one fact that has been proven time and time again, so proceed accordingly.

Then there is the other red alert that claims diet soda willmake you fat. While water is better than diet soda in any situation, these studies have found that it isn’t the soda that is making people fat, it is the behavior that diet soda can trigger (the aspartame can increase rather than decrease the appetite). On that same note, many are still trying to determine whether or not artificial sweeteners can increase the risk of cancer, so again moderation is the key term.

I was thinking about this topic because today I saw an interesting article that stated that popcorn can be really good for you. Popcorn has always been a food that is considered healthy when not slathered in salt or butter, but this article goes on to say it is on par with fruits and vegetables! The first paragraph of the article states: “popcorn contains more of the 'good for you' antioxidants called polyphenols than some fruits or vegetables.” As you continue to read the article, however, the expert consulted stresses that unless the popcorn is air popped without oil, salt or butter. Otherwise, you could have a “bucketful of trouble.” Also, the article states that popcorn should not replace your serving of fruits and veggies. While this article isn’t as bad at some in terms of drawing you in with an amazing headline and then adding in caveats throughout, it is a prime example of why you can’t just read a headline and follow what it says.

I’m sure you encounter these types of headlines every day, but if you need more examples, how about this one: Guiltless Coffee? The Drink May Actually Make Us Healthier. Coffee can make me healthy? Does that mean I can have countless cups every day! Nope. In fact, hidden way down the sixth paragraph is dedicated to pointing out the “caveats” with the results.

It is completely understandable that newspapers use an attention-grabbing headline. I just make sure to read the rest of the article as well. Also, no matter what you read in print, it is still always a good idea to ask your physician what he/she thinks about a certain topic or brand-new discovery. Chances this discovery is far from new, and your medical experts are the ones who will know which studies are reliable, and which were only printed to sell papers.

Stay healthy this Spring and don’t forget to read between the lines!



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Touting the Many Health Benefits of Turmeric

by Dana Demas

Are you looking for a wonder food? Or in this case – a wonder spice? Turmeric is a powerful seasoning that may double as medicine for a variety of physical and emotional ailments.  

Studies have found that turmeric inhibits the growth of some cancer cells, and makes them more susceptible to the effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The anti-inflammatory spice also may protect against Alzheimer’s and fight depression.

Turmeric is an easy, delicious spice to incorporate into your diet.

Eat Turmeric

Add turmeric to your favorite recipes to reap its health benefits, with little or no change in taste. Many of these are comforting foods that nourish body and soul – 

Drink Turmeric

To enjoy more of turmeric’s flavor, make a turmeric tea and drink it hot before bedtime. Or, brew and chill the tea in a covered pitcher to sip throughout the day. Some recipes are simply turmeric simmered in hot water, while others create a broth of cinnamon, ginger and honey.

To your health!




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Ask An Expert Your Nutrition Questions

by Dana Demas

Whether broccoli and sprouts, or grilled meat and fast food, making better choices about what we eat can boost our health.

Good nutrition can also fight the disease and manage side effects during cancer treatment.

A healthy diet is just one piece of the puzzle for cancer prevention and survival. But it’s something we can do today to take control of our lives.  Here are some quick tips for eating better, starting now:

Have more questions about nutrition and cancer? Ask gastroenterologist, Dr. Pankaj Vashi, and registered dietitian, Carolyn Lammersfeld, during a special webinar hosted by Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Submit a question and they will be back next week to answer them.

Visit the The Cancer Project for more information about nutrition and cancer.



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A "White Diet" to Combat Nausea

by Dana Demas

Chemotherapy can cause a variety of problems that interfere with a healthy appetite and – as a result – a healthy diet.

Nausea is a very common problem, especially the day of treatment. Many patients come to dread the treatment that is helping them, because it makes them feel so terrible. Some patients eat a “white meal” the day of chemotherapy. The soft, bland food can help reduce the risk of stomach discomfort and digestive upset.

Meals made of soft, white foods are also good to eat after chemotherapy – which can damage the fast-growing cells in the mouth and throat, leading to pain or increased sensitivity while eating.

Some white foods that are easy to eat include:

  • Cooked white rice
  • White bread or crackers
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes (mashed, baked, etc.)
  • Grits or other hot cereal
  • Yogurt (plain or vanilla)

And because it’s always good to have a well-rounded diet, when eating “non-white” foods, try incorporating real ginger at mealtime to ease digestion and combat nausea: track down some real ginger ale, brew some ginger tea, or freeze the tea into ginger ice cubes for a quick and soothing treat.



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Eat to Live

by Dana Demas

Do you live to eat? (I think I do.) How about eating to live?

Foods that taste great and add a certain flavor to our food can also heal our bodies and minds -

Just think – you could incorporate all of these delicious health-boosters into dinner tonight. Why not whip up an easy curry and finish it off with strawberry shortcake? If you don’t care for curry, sprinkle some turmeric in chicken soup or add it to rice. You’ll barely notice its mild flavor (though the yellow color will be unmistakable).

Our kitchen can be as healing as the doctor’s office sometimes, and a lot more fun!

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