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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Cancer-Detecting Furry Friends?

by: cancercompass

While the war against cancer is continuing full force, it is fascinating to see the latest technologies that are being introduced in an effort to win this battle. There is still a long way to go, but it is amazing to think of how far we have come in terms of both detecting and treating various forms of the disease.

A few months ago I wrote about a breast-cancer detecting sports bra, and now I’ve seen numerous reports that dogs are being trained to sniff out ovarian cancer, as well as other types of cancer. This is certainly a brilliant idea, if it works.

A dog trainer, Dina Zaphiris, is working with the Pine Street Foundation in San Anselmo, California, to teach rescue dogs how to detect ovarian cancer by sniffing it on a person’s breath. You can watch some of these dogs in action, here.

According to various news stories, cancer causes the body to release certain organic compounds that humans can’t detect, but dogs sure can smell.  In fact, it isn’t just ovarian cancer that dogs can detect, but breast cancer and colorectal cancer have also been sniffed out by specially trained dogs throughout the world (read the amazing stories here and here).

It will be very interesting to see how this research develops, and how accurate these doggie doctors can really be. Perhaps in 10 years a visit to the doctor will include a quick puff of air blown into the face of a trusty canine.



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Take it Easy

by: cancercompass

While some have believed for decades that addressing a patient’s emotional state is an important part of cancer care, others are just starting to get on board. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, starting in 2015, the Commission on Cancer will require cancer treatment providers to meet a new standard to evaluate patients for distress and find them help if necessary.

After a cancer diagnosis, it’s important to give yourself the space you need to relax, rejuvenate and heal. Preparing for everything that follows – from deciding on a treatment plan to adjusting schedules at home and at work – can feel overwhelming. While relaxing may be the last thing on your mind during this time in your life, finding a moment to unwind and alleviate stress benefits both your mind and body throughout your fight against cancer.

"During cancer treatment, relaxation is a tool that can reduce the side effects of treatment-related symptoms and pain,” says Diane Schaab, MS, LPC, a mind-body therapist with Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Newnan, GA. “Feeling relaxed can reduce the heart rate, lower blood pressure and lessen anxiety, providing a positively enhanced experience for both patients and caregivers.”

There are many ways to seek professional help when it comes to de-stressing, from guided imagery to laughter therapy to individual counseling, but there are also many ways to find relaxation on your own. Taking the time to relax can provide both physical and emotional benefits when it comes to your cancer treatment journey, and don’t forget it can also just feel great.

Here are nine ways to relieve stress on your own, which can help you remain strong and focused your during cancer treatment:

1. Take a Deep Breath
2. Exercise/Yoga
3. Meditate
4. Take a Bath
5. Read a Book
6. Keep a Journal
7. Listen to Music
8. Find a Hobby
9. Disconnect

For more on the healing powers of relaxation, visit this month's Cancer Center Newsletter on relaxation.



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The Education of Dee Dee Ricks

by Dana Demas

Tonight, a powerful documentary about breast cancer premieres on HBO. "The Education of Dee Dee Ricks" follows the journeys of two very different women who share a similar diagnosis.

One woman, Dee Dee Ricks, is a wealthy business owner living in Manhattan, with access to the best healthcare and the means to pay $26,000 in charges when her insurance company won't cover the full cost of her double mastectomy. The other woman, Cynthia Dodson, is an office temp worker with no benefits, who is diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer after years of inadequate healthcare.

Dee Dee and Cynthia form a close friendship, and the film chronicles Dee Dee's fight to raise awareness and money for women like Cynthia, who lack the resources to fight cancer the way she did.

Dee Dee began filming as a gift to her sons, in case she lost her battle to cancer. However, her journey soon led her to Dr. Harold Freeman, who runs the Patient Navigation Institute in Harlem, which guides uninsured women through screening and treatment. Through this institute, Dee Dee met Cynthia, and her life was forever changed by Cynthia's struggles to treat her breast cancer.

The moving documentary provides a powerful solution for helping people who don't have access to healthcare: patient navigators. Patient navigators are trained to save lives from cancer and chronic diseases, by providing services to poor and uninsured men and women, including:

  • Informing people about the need for certain recommended examinations and providing timely access to such examinations
  • Eliminating any barriers to timely care across the entire health care continuum
  • A critical function of navigation is to eliminate any and all barriers to timely diagnoses and treatment in patients who have abnormal or suspicious findings

Tune in to HBO tonight at 8:30pm or learn more about patient navigation and how you can get involved.



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A Household Remedy for Cervical Cancer?

by Dana Demas

A fascinating New York Times article reports on the use of vinegar to screen for cervical cancer. Vinegar detects precancerous cells with more accuracy than a Pap smear – and at a far lower cost. The inexpensive liquid turns precancerous cells white. The spots are then frozen off before they become cancerous. The simple procedure, first developed by experts at Johns Hopkins, is called VIA/cryo.

The procedure has been endorsed by the World Health Organization and nurses around the world are being trained to perform it. In Thailand, where VIA/cryo has been widely implemented, none of the 6,000 women recruited for the first trial 11 years ago have developed cervical cancer. 

After breast cancer, cervical cancer is the number two cancer killer of women worldwide. Each year, it claims more than 250,000 lives, mostly in developing countries.




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A New Way to Find and Treat Cancer

by Dana Demas

A team of researchers at MIT has designed particles that could help diagnose and treat cancer with greater precision.

The tiny particles quickly detect a type of genetic material, called microRNA. These molecules turn genes on or off inside a cell

Each type of cancer has its own microRNA signature.

In the past, detecting RNA has been a time-consuming process. With the new, highly sensitive microarray, the particles are mixed with a blood sample. They bind to the microRNA and reveal  a pattern – what researchers call a chemical “barcode.”  

This “barcode” could help doctors screen for specific cancer risk and develop highly individualized treatment plans. MicroRNA also plays a role in diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, HIV and cardiovascular disease.

Lead researcher Patrick Doyle plans to develop the technology for commercial use.




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Researchers Discover Ovarian Cancer Gene

by Dana Demas

British scientists have made the most significant ovarian cancer discovery in over a decade. Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research in London identified a gene mutation, called RAD51D. Women with this gene mutation have nearly a 1 in 11 chance of developing ovarian cancer. Women in the general population have a 1 in 70 risk of developing the disease.

A promising new class of cancer drugs, PARP inhibitors, can target cells with the gene mutation – the same drugs are used to treat cancers related to BRCA1 and BRCA2.. PARP inhibitors interfere with DNA repair in cancer cells.

Identifying the gene could help women assess their cancer risk before they develop ovarian cancer, which is usually detected in advanced stages.

Tests to identify women at risk are expected to be available within a few years.

Read more about Ovarian Cancer and how a gynecologic oncologist may improve treatment outcomes.




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A Boost for Caregivers and Patients Alike

by Dana Demas

A new study finds that exercise offers protection against the emotional toll of daily stress. 

The animal study from the National Institute of Mental Health found that mice who exercised for several weeks were happy and relaxed after interacting with more aggressive mice. Those who had not been active became fearful and anxious, even when they were away from the aggressive mice.

What does this study mean for us? It suggests that regular physical activity prepares us be resilient in the face of stress, instead of vulnerable to it. Getting moving alters the biochemistry of the brain – almost immediately – and boosts levels of “happy” chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. 

So while you may not be able to control the stress in your life, regular activity helps you take charge of your response to it. Moderate walking on a daily basis is enough to do it. So is taking the stairs or cleaning the house or doing a lap around the office. 

Physical activity is a good prescription for caregivers and patients alike.




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Ask Peggy Kessler Your Questions

by Dana Demas

Do you have questions about cancer? Peggy Kessler was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Today, she is celebrating 10 years as a survivor. Peggy wants to share her journey and answer your questions. 

You may have seen Peggy Kessler on TV over the years. She sought a second opinion on the advice of her family. The hospital she treated at, Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), has followed her story online and in commercials for several years. Now, they are asking for your questions. Peggy will provide her responses in a new set of videos. 

Whether you’re a survivor or a caregiver, Peggy is a great resource for support and advice. Ask Peggy a question about her cancer journey, and she’ll be back to answer 10 questions in honor of 10 years.



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Life Lessons Re-Learned: Fighting Cancer with the Bobblehead Dad: CNCA Guest Blog

by Dana Demas

You may have seen them decorating the desks of sports-obsessed co-workers or mounted on the dashboards of restored automobiles at classic car shows. Whether it's old school baseball or football players or miniature animals with oversized wobbling heads, there's something unsettling about the bobblehead doll.

Is it the petrified smiles on their oversized faces? Can it be those eyes with stony gazes that never waver, and appear to look right through you?

Little did Chicagoan Jim Higley know the bobblehead collecting gene he "inherited" from his four older brothers as a young boy would become so ingrained thirtysomething years later. The quintessential worker bee, Jim was so completely immersed in a never-ending loop of commuting, work, single-parenting and, generally, too many responsibilities that, frankly, existing was all he knew.

Sound familiar?

Who knew a randomly checked box on a lab worksheet, perhaps by mistake, during an annual physical would lead to a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test that no one expected to be a problem until it was, and soon shatter Jim's bobbleheaded life forever.

It was during the summer of 2005 that Jim rediscovered his humanity and re-learned many of the lessons he shares in his debut book, Bobblehead Dad: 25 Life Lessons I Forgot I Knew, a wonderful memoir just published by Greenleaf Book Group Press.

Learn a little more about Jim and his life as a single parent of three kids and cancer survivor by watching this YouTube video and perusing this latest CNCA interview with our favorite Bobblehead Dad.

Continue reading>>




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Prostate Cancer: Which Treatment Option Is Right for You?

by Dana Demas

When is radiation therapy or surgery the right treatment option for prostate cancer? Both treatments provide benefits and risks that may make one a better choice than another. Age is the strongest risk factor for prostate cancer, and often plays a key role in choosing between surgery and radiation. See a quick round-up of the pros and cons below, then ask an expert your questions about prostate cancer treatment.

Radiation Therapy

  • Typically requires several weeks of treatment.
  • New technology delivers radiation to the prostate, with better accuracy, minimizing side effects and toxicity.
  • Common side effects may include: skin sensitivity in the area that is treated, diarrhea, and an increase in the frequency or urgency of urination.

Prostatectomy (Surgery)

  • Typically return home in one day.
  • Minimally invasive, but with slight risks of general surgery.
  • Significant risk of incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Most men take 6-12 months to recover erectile function, if a nerve-sparing prostatectomy was performed.

Have more questions about prostate cancer? Ask urologist, Dr. Larry Bans, and radiation oncologist, Dr. Lanceford Chong, during a special webinar hosted by Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Submit a question and they will be back next week to answer them.


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