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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Are Supplements Good or Bad?

by Dana Demas

Many people wonder about how much to supplement their diets with vitamins and minerals. Recent studies are a mixed bag of results about the value of supplement-popping to prevent, or support health during, cancer.

A good example is folic acid. For women in their childbearing years, folic acid is especially important to help prevent birth defects. However, while it's been successful for that, a 2009 study found that folic acid may increase the risk of developing several types of cancer (in women and men).

One blogger is tracking a year without supplements, after a brush with cancer and gulping down a staggering 50,000 of them over the course of a decade.

What do you think? Are vitamin and mineral supplements a part of your healthy life? Or do you believe a healthy diet is the best approach?



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Eat Your Broccoli

by Dana Demas

Your mom probably told you to eat your veggies when you were young. Do you still try to get your five a day now?

It turns out that broccoli may be especially good at destroying breast cancer stem cells. Researchers at the University of Michigan have discovered that a compound found in broccoli, sulforaphane, prevented tumors from growing.

However, not everybody likes the stuff. This broccoli recipe comes from Anthony Todd at Chicagoist. It is hands-down the most fantastic way to prepare broccoli I’ve ever found. The magic is in the spicy-salty-sweet combination. Try it out tonight!

Spicy/Brown Sugar Broccoli

1 pound of broccoli, florets detached.
2 tbsp ginger, grated
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp cornstarch, mixed with 2 tbsp water
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Vodka (optional)

Combine the soy sauce, cornstarch, brown sugar and cayenne in a small bowl. Whisk thoroughly to dissolve the sugar. In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil. (Whenever you sauté broccoli, be sure to add enough oil - it absorbs it very quickly and will burn if there isn’t enough. Looking to make your broccoli go further? Try peeling and slicing the stems and adding them to the pan - they taste great!)

Fry the garlic and ginger in the oil for 1 minute. Add the broccoli and saute for 2 minutes. Add the sauce, tossing well with the broccoli. Cook for another 2 minutes - uncovered if you like crisp, covered if you prefer slightly softer. When you finish cooking, sprinkle with the vodka for an extra kick. Serve immediately!



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Patients Know Best

by Dana Demas

Do you know your body the best? Many cancer patients say they “just knew” something was wrong, before a diagnosis confirmed their fears. Once in treatment, many also experience side effects that become more distressing than the cancer itself, but are told by doctors not to worry about it.

An article in this week’s New York Times tackles these gut feelings many of us have about our health – and how the information may be getting lost in translation from patient to doctor. The reasons are many: There isn’t enough time during an office visit for an in-depth discussion of symptoms. A patient doesn’t want to complain about or doesn’t remember troubling treatment-related side effects once at the doctor. Or, some doctors simply listen to patients better than others.

With a disease like cancer, feeling in control matters. Ask yourself: Do you feel empowered to speak up about side effects to your doctor or do you keep it to yourself? Do you feel heard by healthcare providers or brushed off?



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Cancer Patients Need Options

by Dana Demas

A recent study out of Johns Hopkins found that surgery for people with cancer is riskier for those with Type 2 diabetes than for those without it.

We can all learn important lessons from a study like this, for two reasons:

  • A person’s health is defined by more than just cancer, or any serious illness. Cancer tends to consume the spotlight – for you, your loved ones and your doctor alike – but it’s still important to manage the other physical and mental health conditions you may face. Your health is bolstered or hindered by how you treat these seemingly less pressing issues.
  • A variety of cancer treatment options exist and, depending on the person, all are not created equal. You and your doctor should have an in-depth discussion about the range of cancer treatments available, and how they might relate to your health history – and you should seek a second opinion if you do not feel that options are presented to you.

The bottom line? We’re all complex people and we deserve the best care for our needs.



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To Forgive Is to Heal

by Dana Demas

Could forgiveness help you? Forgiving another person for hurtful actions or words is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do. It’s also one of the best. While you may feel that forgiveness lets the other person off the hook, it actually benefits you in powerful ways:

  • Helps reduce stress – and cortisol levels in your body, which has a cascade of effects on immune function, energy levels and your emotional well-being.
  • Lowers your blood pressure – yes, when you feel less angry your blood pressure goes down and your heart benefits.
  • Improves your mental health – you’ll feel more positive and more in control of your emotions.
  • Supports your relationships – you’ll bring more understanding and happiness to your relationships now, instead of revisiting the energy of the past.

Remember, to forgive does not mean to forget. It only means that you accept what happened, and then decide to put your health and happiness first. No one said it was easy, but life’s unfair moments offer potent opportunities for transformation – and healing.



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Just the Facts M’am: The Top 10 Cancer Myths (cont’d)

by Dana Demas

Part 2 of a two-part series to give you the facts about cancer prevention and wellness.
(See Part 1)

Myth #5 - Skin cancer only develops on areas of the body exposed to the sun.
Melanoma can develop on parts of the body that get minimal or no sun exposure, like in between the toes, so routine check-ups of your entire body are important.

Myth #4 - One or two drinks a day will help reduce my cancer risk.
While one drink may be good for your heart, a large-scale study found that any alcohol consumption increased a woman’s risk of developing several types of cancer, including breast and liver.

Myth #3 - Cancer cells should always be removed from the body.
According to breast cancer pioneer, Dr. Susan Love, and other experts, many people have cancer cells in their bodies that do no harm. Routine screening guidelines attempt to balance the benefits of early detection against the risks of unnecessary treatment.

Myth #2 - Breast cancer is the #1 cause of death in women. 
Women are similar to men in the health concerns that matter most. Heart disease is the number one killer of both sexes. And each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

Myth #1 - After 30 years of research, we’re still losing the war on cancer.
People are living longer, better quality lives after cancer now than they did in 1975, four years after President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act. Most of this is the result of new drugs and treatments developed through cancer research, as well as better prevention efforts.



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Just the Facts M’am - The Top 10 Cancer Myths

by Dana Demas

Part 1 of a two-part series to give you the facts about cancer prevention and wellness.
(See Part 2)

Myth #10 - Your love of BBQ has nothing to do with your cancer risk.
Cooking meat over an open flame on the backyard grill produces two chemicals that are considered carcinogens (namely, heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Consider other cooking methods when you can, then try these tips when the grill beckons, which most experts agree is safe in moderation.  

Myth #9 - Your family history is the most important risk factor for cancer.
The majority of people who develop cancer have no family members with a history of the disease. In fact, a recent study found that lifestyle choices – like eating healthy and getting more exercise – could prevent one-third of all cancers.

Myth #8 - You can’t get lung cancer unless you use tobacco.
While tobacco use is the leading cause of lung cancer, up to 20% of people who develop this disease never smoked or used chewing tobacco.

Myth #7 A woman’s cancer risk comes from her mother and a man’s from his father.
Your cancer risk comes from both sides of the family. Always ask about both parents and all of your aunts, uncles and grandparents when assessing your family health history.

Myth #6 You don’t need to worry about cervical cancer if you get the new vaccine.
Gardasil, the cervical cancer vaccine, protects against two types of HPV, which cause 70% of cervical cancers. Regular pap smears are still important to detect cancers not covered by the vaccine.



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Study Links Beer & Liquor Consumption With Increased Risk of Multiple Cancers

by: cancercompass

Drinking beer or liquor on a regular basis may increase the risk of several different cancers in men, reports Reuters.

Research published in Cancer Prevention and Detection analyzed the cancer risk of 3,600 Canadian men ages 35 to 70. Findings suggest the men who averaged at least one drink per day had higher risks for a variety of cancers than men who drank occasionally or not at all.

Specifically, beer and liquor consumption - not wine - heightened overall risks for being diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, stomach, colon, lungs, pancreas, liver and prostate.

Cancer risks only increased based on each man's lifetime alcohol consumption, according to the study.




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WCRF Suggests Parents Choose Processed Meat Alternatives

by: cancercompass

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) warns that parents should choose poultry, fish, low-fat cheeses and hummus over processed meats such as salami and ham in their children's lunch boxes, reports the Guardian UK. Not doing so could increase a child's risk of developing poor eating habits that could lead to a cancer diagnosis.

WCRF specifically states that if Britain residents were to eat no more than 70g of processed meats -- the equivalent of three servings of bacon -- a week, about 3,700 fewer people per year would receive a bowel cancer diagnosis in the country.

Scientific evidence that suggested processed meat consumption increased bowel cancer risk in adults led the WCRF to suggest that children should also avoid it.




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New Research Links Young Adult Obesity with Increased Risk & Early Onset Pancreatic Cancer

by: cancercompass

New research suggests obesity in early adulthood increases pancreatic cancer risk, while overweight patients of an older age with this difficult disease have lower survival rates, reports Reuters.

Being obese or overweight at young age had a "stronger association with pancreatic cancer risk than did subsequent weight gain at an older age," M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Researchers, Houston told Reuters Health. Another major study finding, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association for June 24, was people obese or overweight between the ages of 20 to 49 years had an earlier onset of pancreatic cancer by 2 to 6 years. Overall, the risk for overweight people began to level off at age 40 and became statistically irrelevant after age 50.

Obesity at an older age was, however, connected to reduced survival rates from pancreatic cancer. Specifically, a person with normal body weight a year before pancreatic diagnosis had an average survival of 18 months, while overweight and obese patients saw reduced survival times that averaged around 13 months.

Researchers analyzed 841 patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma and a control group of 754 healthy people without cancer who matched the age, race and gender of the cancer patients.


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