Prevention

Takeaways from Dr. Saba’s Head and Neck Cancer Chat

Thanks to everyone who joined us on Tuesday, June 24, for our live online chat on “Risk factors, symptoms and treatment options for head and neck cancer” led by Nabil Saba, MD, Chief of Head and Neck Oncology at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), head and neck cancers account for approximately three percent of all cancers in the U.S. During the chat, Dr. Saba addressed some of your questions relating to risk factors, symptoms and the latest research for head and neck cancer. See all of Dr. Saba’s answers by checking out the chat transcript! Here are just a few highlights from the chat:

Question: What are the symptoms of head and neck cancer? How do I know if I need to go get checked out?

Nabil Saba, MDDr. Saba: Symptoms include having a lump in the neck, persistent changes in your voice over time, difficulty swallowing, and unusual pain in the neck/throat area (pain that doesn’t seem to get better with time). These are some common symptoms, so if you’re experiencing any of these, it would probably be a good idea to talk to your physician.

 

Question: Are there particular factors or traits that may pre-dispose a person to head or neck cancers?

Nabil Saba, MDDr. Saba: There are certain well-defined risk factors for head and neck cancer, including a history of smoking or alcohol consumption. It has also been observed that HPV-related oropharynx cancer is increasing in Caucasian males, whereas oral tongue cancer seems to be increasing in Caucasian females. While there is an increased risk of head and neck cancer in these groups of people, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are at high risk if you fall into one of these groups.
 
If you missed out on this live chat, be sure to check out the full list of questions and answers on the web transcript. You can also visit www.emoryhealthcare.org/cancer for more information on cancer treatment at Winship at Emory.

Take Steps to Prevent Skin Cancer

Skin ExamI am a dermatologist in the Emory Clinic and my focus is medical dermatology with a monthly melanoma clinic. I see patients of all skin types but a large part of my practice is seeing patients for total body skin exams (TBSE). We recommend that patients with all skin types get a total body skin exam, but patients who have a family history of melanoma, atypical mole syndrome or non-melanoma skin cancer should be particularly proactive about scheduling their skin checks. As a broad rule, once a year skin checks should suffice. These checks become more frequent in patients who have a personal history of melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer.

A skin exam entails wearing a gown at the dermatologist’s office and getting all parts of your skin looked at for moles that may appear abnormal or growths that may be non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell skin cancer or squamous cell skin cancer. If we see anything suspicious, the spot is biopsied, which involves removing a small sample of skin tissue. It takes five minutes or less to perform a biopsy and the results are usually available in a few days.

During this visit, we educate patients to be good about self-examination. I recommend that patients pick the first of every month and put it on their calendar to examine their skin head to toe. They should look for any changing moles or any new bumps that may have come up. It can be difficult to know what to worry about or not, but in general a melanoma can show up as a new mole or a changing or bleeding mole. A basal or squamous cell generally presents as a new bump or flat lesion that can bleed, or hurt, or just be new and growing. If you are worried about something, you should make an appointment to be checked by your dermatologist right away.

Sun protection is a big part of preventing skin cancers. The AAD (American Academy of Dermatology) recommends everyone use sunscreen that is broad spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB), has a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater and is water resistant. And you need to apply an adequate amount of sunscreen for it to be effective: generally one ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) for the exposed parts of your body for each application. This needs to be repeated every 2 hours on continued sun exposure. Remember to apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outdoors.

You can use any type of sunscreen that works for you, such as lotions, creams, gels, sticks or even sprays. Sprays, though, have the disadvantage of accidental inhalation and it’s sometimes hard to know when using a spray if you have applied an adequate amount.

Tanning bed use has been proven to increase the risk of melanoma and also accelerate photo-aging. It should be avoided at all cost. Sunbathing and a history of blistering sunburns also increase your risk of skin cancer. It is very important to avoid the sun between 10 am and 2 pm, when the rays are the strongest, and to use additional protective clothing such as long sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

As you get ready for fun summer weekends, here’s a checklist to help you prevent skin cancer: avoid the sun when it’s at its strongest, use sunscreen and protective clothing any time you are out in the sun, never use a tanning bed, and when in doubt, check it out! Schedule an appointment with a dermatologist along with your annual physical visit, and for accurate information about safe sun practices, check the AAD website.

About Dr. Bhandarkar

Sulochana Bhandarkar, MDSulochana Bhandarkar, MD, is an assistant professor of dermatology at the Emory School of Medicine. She completed her medical school education from her home country, India, at Kasturba Medical College in Mangalore, where she also did a three-year dermatology residency with a special interest in vitiligo, a condition affecting skin pigmentation. After moving to the U.S., she did a clinical research fellowship at the University of California San Francisco, as well as a melanoma research fellowship at Emory University. She did her residency in dermatology at Emory University and became a faculty member at Emory in 2011. Her clinical interests are vitiligo and melanoma.

Related Resources

 

Growing Hope Together!

Mary BrookhartI was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 33. A cancer diagnosis always comes as a shock, but it’s particularly unexpected at that age. Because my mother had breast cancer at a young age, a new provider sent me for my base line screening mammogram and that turned out to be my first and only mammogram. I can say without a doubt that a mammogram saved my life.

I was treated here at Winship, by Dr. Toncred Styblo and Dr. David Lawson. Twenty-five years later, all three of us are still here. I came back to Winship six years ago, but not as a patient. I took a job as supervisor of business operations for the Glenn Family Breast Center at Winship, and I am one of the organizers of the Celebration of Living event coming up this Sat., June 21.

That’s why the Celebration of Living event is so near and dear to my heart. This is a chance to get together with other survivors, and discover that part of being a survivor is learning that it’s ok to let fun and humor back into your life. Learn to let the fear go and not let it rule your life. Coming to the Celebration of Living event can be a first step toward getting back out into the world, or it can be a continuation of your on-going journey. We all know that battling cancer has very dark moments, but I hope we can bring some hope and lightness into your life.

So I invite all cancer survivors, their family members and friends to come share this special day. There will be workshops for the mind, body and soul, as well as music, food and companionship. It’s free and open to all. Detailed information is available on our website.

I see more and more people surviving cancer because of new and better treatments and earlier detection. In the time since I got my screening mammogram, the technology has greatly improved. Emory and Winship are now offering state-of-the-art 3D mammograms (also called tomosynthesis) at no additional charge above the cost of standard mammograms, so that all women can benefit from this more precise screening technology. For more information about this new service and where it’s available, check out this video about 3D mammography at Emory Healthcare.

For some, the idea of living a normal lifespan with cancer as a chronic disease is a reality.

My hope is that one day, all cancer patients will enjoy a lifetime of survivorship.

Mary Brookhart,
Cancer Survivor

About Mary Brookhart

Mary Brookhart grew up in Ohio before moving to Georgia to get away from the snow. There she enjoyed a 20+ year career in advertising and design. In 2008, looking for something more rewarding, Mary returned to Winship, this time, not as a patient, but as supervisor of business operations for the Emory Glenn Family Breast Center. Besides serving as an advocate for breast cancer patients, Mary coordinates screenings for mammograms and the Emory’s Breast Cancer Seminar for the Newly Diagnosed breast cancer patient. She currently lives in rural Conyers, with her husband of 37 years, and their three horses.

3D Mammography: More Detail in Imaging Can Reduce Call-Backs

According to the American Cancer Society, about 10 percent of women who have mammograms will be called back for additional testing. However, only 8-10 percent of those women will need a biopsy, and 80 percent of the biopsies will turn out to be benign.

While that sounds encouraging, the emotional toll of a call-back can increase a woman’s anxiety about having future mammograms. To help reduce call backs and false positives, three hospitals in the Emory Healthcare system now use an advanced breast imaging technology, called 3D mammography, which provides radiologists with a much more detailed view of a patient’s breast tissue.

Watch CNN’s segment about Ivory Poser’s experience and how Emory Healthcare is using 3D mammography at three of its hospitals to help reduce call-backs and false positives.

“Compared with 2D mammography, a 3D exam allows radiologists to view the breast in small slices providing more detailed pictures of specific areas,” says Michael A. Cohen, MD, director of Breast Imaging for Emory Healthcare. “The state of the art technology is proven to reduce call-backs by 20 to 40 percent and finds more cancers, particularly in women with dense breast tissue.”

In addition, Emory offers this FDA-approved mammography technology, which is typically not covered by insurance, at no additional charge above the cost of a traditional 2D digital mammogram for patients getting their annual screening mammogram.

“Breast tomosynthesis is a real game changer in the early detection of breast cancer,” explains Leonel A. Vasquez, MD, director of Community Radiology and chief of service for Emory Johns Creek Hospital. “The fact that we are offering this advanced technology at no additional cost is both a real value and the best care for our patients.”

The advantages of 3D mammography are:

  • Greater chance for cancer detection
  • Reduction in false-positives
  • Reduction in call-backs (especially for women with dense breasts)
  • Better visualization and confidence for physicians
  • Less anxiety for patients

Mammogram screenings have been shown to detect breast cancer in earlier stages, which can lead to better chances for a cure. According to the American Cancer Society, deaths related to breast cancer have been declining since 1990, partly due to early detection through screenings and advanced treatments. Screening mammograms are recommended for all women at average risk for breast cancer starting at age 40.

3D mammography is currently available at Emory’s breast imaging centers at the Winship Cancer Institute on Emory’s Clifton Campus, Emory University Hospital Midtown and Emory Johns Creek Hospital.

Emory Breast Imaging Center located at
Emory University Hospital Midtown
550 Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30308

To make an appointment: 404-778-7465

Emory Breast Imaging Center located at
Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
1365 Clifton Road NE
Building C, 1st Floor
Atlanta, Georgia 30322

To make an appointment: 404-778-7465

Center for Breast Care located at
Emory Johns Creek Hospital
Emory Physicians Plaza
6335 Hospital Parkway, Suite 106
Johns Creek, GA 30097

To make an appointment: 678-474-7465

Related Resources

4 Ways Men Can Lower Their Risk of Cancer

Family ManOne out of every two men in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in our lives. It’s a sobering statistic to consider as we head into Father’s Day weekend. Beyond skin cancer, men are most frequently diagnosed with prostate, lung or colorectal cancer. Those are also the three malignancies responsible for the highest number of deaths in men.

Reducing your risk of cancer is more important than ever. Here are four ways to make an impact today.

  1. If you use any tobacco products, quit now. Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than a dozen types of cancer including those involving our lungs, bladder, and mouth. Chewing tobacco and snuff can also cause head and neck, esophageal, stomach or pancreatic cancer. Talk with your doctor about the best ways to help you kick the habit for good. Finding a support group can also make a big difference in whether you succeed.
  2. Cut back on alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking can cause health problems, but did you also know that alcohol can increase your risk for cancers of the mouth, throat, liver and colon? Even worse: drinking and smoking at the same time. It is recommended that men consume no more than two alcoholic drinks a day. In case you were wondering, one drink contains 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
  3. Listen to your wife or partner and get a checkup. Starting at the age of 50, men at average risk for colorectal cancer should have a colonoscopy. If no polyps are found, the test should be repeated every 10 years. Your doctor may recommend a fecal occult blood test at an earlier age. Also at 50, talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of getting a PSA test to screen for prostate cancer. If you are considered to be in a high-risk group, your doctor may recommend that you be tested earlier.
  4. Get off the couch and get some exercise. You’ve heard it before, but as a doctor, I can tell you that regular physical activity is one of the best ways to control your weight, reduce stress and lower your risk of cancer. Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week or 75 minutes of vigorous workouts.

As you get ready to celebrate Father’s Day, put down that cigarette and beer, get outside and grab a tennis racket, a soccer ball or even a Frisbee. Also don’t forget to wear sunscreen…at least with a SPF of 30! Have a great Father’s Day!!!

About Dr. Curran

Walter Curran, MDWalter J. Curran, Jr., MD was appointed Executive Director of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in 2009. He joined Emory in January 2008, as the Lawrence W. Davis Professor and Chairman of Emory’s Department of Radiation Oncology. He also serves as Group Chairman and Principal Investigator of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), a National Cancer Institute-funded cooperative group, a position he has held since 1997. Curran has been named a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Chair in Cancer Research as well as a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar.

Dr. Curran has been a principal investigator on over thirty National Cancer Institute-supported grants and is considered an international expert in the management of patients with locally advanced lung cancer and malignant brain tumors. He has led several landmark clinical and translational trials in both areas and is responsible for defining a universally adopted staging system for patients with malignant glioma and for leading the randomized trial which defined the best therapeutic approach to patients with locally advanced lung cancer. He serves as the Founding Secretary/Treasurer of the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups and is a Board Member of the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Georgia CORE). Dr. Curran is the only radiation oncologist to have ever served as Director of a National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center.

Dr. Curran is a Fellow in the American College of Radiology and has been awarded honorary memberships in the European Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology and the Canadian Association of Radiation Oncology. According to the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, Dr. Curran ranked among the top ten principal investigators in terms of National Cancer Institute grant awards in 2013, and was first among investigators in Georgia, and first among cancer center directors.

Sun Damage Lasts a Lifetime

Sun ProtectionAfter a long, rough winter, it feels good to put away the jackets and get out the swim gear. As a melanoma oncologist, the summer is a double-edged sword as it also means that many people will be out in the sun doing irreversible damage to their skin. Not only can sun safety decrease your risk of skin cancer, it also can help protect you from the visible signs of aging. Who doesn’t want less cancer and to look younger at the same time? Unfortunately, some people believe they need a good burn or base tan to start the summer. Hopefully, I can change your mind about this with some basic information about skin cancer and a few tips on enjoying the summer without increasing your risk of developing skin cancer (or more wrinkles).

Skin cancer affects over three million people each year, making it by far, the most common cancer. The three most common skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal and squamous cell cancers are the most prevalent and originate from keratinocytes. These cancers are often referred to as “non-melanoma skin cancers.” They affect a little over two million Americans each year, with 80 percent of these being basal cell cancers. Most non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by repeated exposure of the skin to ultraviolet rays (primarily UVA and UVB) from sunlight or from artificial sources such as tanning beds. These rays damage the DNA in skin cells and cause them to grow and divide unregulated, thus producing a cancer. These types of skin cancers tend to stay in the skin, and therefore very few patients will die from basal or squamous cell cancers. It is estimated that approximately 2,000 people die each year from non-melanoma skin cancers.

In contrast, melanoma is a cancer that originates from melanocytes that normally make pigment to protect the other layers of the skin from sun damage. Melanocytes can also make non-cancerous growths like moles. The American Cancer Society estimates approximately 76,100 new melanomas will be diagnosed in 2014 with 9,710 deaths from this disease, making it the most deadly form of skin cancer. Lifetime risk of melanoma in the U.S. is about 1 in 50, and notably it is one of the most common cancers in those younger than 30. When diagnosed early, surgery alone has excellent survival rates. In the past there were few long-term survivors from advanced cases of melanoma. Fortunately, many novel therapeutic agents are being developed that have transformed the treatment of more advanced stages of melanoma with five new agents approved by the FDA since 2011. All of these new drugs are changing the landscape of melanoma treatment and patients are now not only living longer, but also with better quality of life.

Though melanoma development is more multi-factorial than basal or squamous cell cancer development, it is still linked to UV exposure through sunlight or tanning beds. The best way to decrease one’s risk of skin cancer development is to avoid long exposures to intense sunlight and practice sun safety measures. When outside, I recommend the use of broad spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher), use of sun protective clothing such as sun shirts and board brim hats, and avoid direct exposure between 10AM and 2PM when the intensity of the rays is the strongest. Sunscreen should be applied about 20-30 minutes prior to going outside and reapplied approximately every two hours. Because this is difficult to do, even for myself, I recommend barriers like sun shirts or umbrellas over sunscreen if possible.

Keep in mind the sun damage that occurs now will be with you for the rest of your life, so please don’t forget your sun protective gear on your way out to enjoy the beautiful weather.

About Dr. Kudchadkar

Ragini Kudchadkar, MDRagini R. Kudchadkar, MD is an assistant professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. She specializes in cutaneous oncology with an emphasis on the development of clinical trials for patients with metastatic melanoma. Dr. Kudchadkar previously worked as an assistant member of the Department of Cutaneous Oncology at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. In addition to her clinical practice, Kudchadkar is involved in research that focuses on signal transduction inhibitors for the treatment of metastatic melanoma with a secondary interest in rare cutaneous malignancies such as advanced merkel cell and basal cell carcinomas.

Kudchadkar graduated from the Emory School of Medicine in 2003 and completed her internal medicine residency at Emory in 2006. She pursued her hematology and medical oncology training at the University of Colorado in Denver, CO, where she also served as chief fellow.

Related Resources

Melanoma Chat TRANSCRIPT
Dermatologist #1 Skin Care Rule – Wear Sunscreen!
Skin Cancer Prevention: Which Sunscreen is Best?

Local Firefighter Stomps Out Head and Neck Cancer: Get Screened on April 25!

While the human papillomavirus (HPV) is most commonly known as a risk factor for cervical cancer in women, it is also a growing risk factor for head and neck cancers in men. According to the American Cancer Society, oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers (tongue, tonsils, oropharynx, gums and other parts of the mouth) occur more than twice as often among men as they do among women. Tobacco and alcohol use are still the most common risk factors for all head and neck cancers, but recent studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 60 to 70 percent of cancers in the throat and base on the tongue may be linked to HPV.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that head and neck cancers account for approximately three percent of all cancers in the U.S. Head and neck cancer includes cancers that occur in the head or neck region, ranging from the nasal cavity and sinuses, to the back of the throat, including the tonsils and base of the tongue.

In this FOX 5 video, meet Frank Summers, a local Atlanta-area firefighter who sought treatment at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, after his startling diagnosis of HPV-related head and neck cancer.

 

Free Head & Neck Cancer Screening

Want to get screened? Emory’s Department of Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat) will hold a FREE head and neck cancer screening tomorrow, Friday, April 25, 2014 at Emory University Hospital Midtown. The screening will be held from 8am to 12pm at the address below. Walk-ins are welcome!

Department of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery
Emory University Hospital Midtown
Medical Office Tower (MOT), 9th Floor, Suite 9400
550 Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30308

Related Resources

A Heart-Healthy Diet Also Helps Prevent Cancer

Heart Healthy Diet Helps Prevent CancerA good diet is about fueling your body, eating real food and limiting processed foods. Good nutrition plays a crucial role in our well-being by helping maintain a healthy weight, and improving our immune system to prevent disease. In fact, nutrition guidelines for cancer prevention are similar to those for preventing other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

What do I mean by “real food”? Although some people have a stricter definition of it, I think a realistic goal is to eat foods that are as close as possible to their natural state, such as whole grains instead of processed white flour. Avoid packaged foods with a long list of unfamiliar ingredients. As a registered dietitian, I recommend eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and legumes like beans. Select a variety of whole foods naturally rich in nutrients. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and brussel sprouts are particularly good to eat as are tomatoes, berries, beets, peppers, apples, squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes.

Strive for two thirds of your plate to consist of plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. The remaining one third of each plate should consist of lean high-protein foods such as fish, tofu, beans, or lean meats. No single food is the perfect one for cancer prevention, but a combination of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals can offer good protection according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).

Make better choices when including fat in your diet. Consume monounsaturated fats, avoid saturated and trans fats. Monounsaturated fats (plant based) include olives, olive oil, canola and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 fatty acids and have an anti-inflammatory and blood thinning effect. Good sources are salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, walnuts and flax.

Avoiding foods that are bad for your heart can also help reduce cancer risk. Stay away from foods that are salted, cured, processed or smoked. Instead, choose lean animal products including chicken, fish, turkey and red meat cuts such as sirloin or loin. Limit refined carbohydrates and sweetened drinks. Both increase chances of being overweight and offer little nutritional value. Most of the sodium in our diets comes from processed foods rather than salt we add as a seasoning. Read food labels to learn exactly how much sodium is in a product. Everyone should reduce their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (about 1 teaspoon of salt).

The way in which you prepare your food can also make a difference in your overall health. Baking, broiling, microwaving, and poaching are preferable to grilling, frying, and charbroiling. If you enjoy the flavor of foods off the grill, try baking or broiling them first then put them on the grill briefly before serving.
Fueling your body with real food, limiting processed foods and beverages, and getting regular exercise will go a long way toward preventing cancer and heart disease, the top two causes of death in the United States.

Author: Tiffany Barrett, MS, RD, CSO, LD, Nutrition Specialist, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Tiffany Barrett, MS, RD, CSO, LDAbout Tiffany Barrett
Tiffany is a Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and completed a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management. At Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, her role is to provide nutrition assessments and education for oncology patients and families during and after treatment. Tiffany graduated from Florida State University with Bachelor of Science and completed a dietetic internship at the University of North Florida combined with a Master of Science.

 

Related Resources:

Tackling Cancer on World Cancer Day*

World Cancer DayWe experience the burden of cancer here in Georgia and throughout the U.S., but cancer is not just an American problem. It is the leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, cancer accounted for 7.6 million deaths (about 13% of all deaths) in 2008 and that number is projected to rise to 13.1 million deaths in 2030.

Every day, my Winship colleagues and I seek to identify better ways to prevent, treat, and ultimately cure cancer. Fortunately, we do not work in isolation. Our efforts are part of a global collaborative of cancer researchers and doctors, and one of the most rewarding aspects of this work is joining forces with scientists from all over the world who are committed to a shared goal of ending cancer.

Imagine a global community of scientists in continual conversation about the most up-to-date mindset for treating cancer. We are a vital part of that conversation.

I made two international trips late last year which captured the spirit of collaboration in cancer research. One trip was to Australia, stopping first at the World Conference on Lung Cancer in Sydney, and then on to Brisbane, where a unique partnership called the Queensland Emory Development Alliance (QED) is bringing together outstanding researchers from Emory, The University of Queensland (UQ) and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), to collaborate on new research projects primarily in the realm of cancer and infectious disease.

Several Winship faculty including William Dynan and Dennis Liotta are currently collaborating on cancer research projects with new colleagues at UQ and QIMR. My visit to Brisbane has resulted in early work towards furthering these and other collaborations. The World Conference on Lung Cancer in Sydney highlighted a number of important findings in our struggle against the leading cancer killer resulting from work conducted among my colleagues in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

In December, I flew to Chengdu, China, as a guest of the Chinese Society of Radiation Oncology (CSTRO) to deliver the keynote address at the annual CSTRO Symposium. As evidenced in this conference and in my subsequent visits to large cancer centers in Bejing and Jinan, there have been remarkable advances in cancer research and cancer care in China. There is also a tremendous level of collaboration between investigators at major Chinese universities and faculty at Winship and other major American cancer centers. Currently my colleagues and I are working each week on a clinical trial underway at eight Chinese cancer centers, comparing stereotactic radiation to surgery for patients with early stage lung cancer. I had a chance to meet with all of my colleagues conducting this research in China during my visit there and to celebrate this progress!

I’m extremely proud of the work performed here at Winship that contributes to advancing cancer research throughout the world. International conferences, as well as the many times we host scientists from other countries here on the Emory campus, enable us to share information and resources and benchmark our own contributions. But it’s when I return to Winship and see patients who are benefiting from discoveries made by my colleagues here and elsewhere, the value of collaboration truly hits home.

Seeing even one patient improve from the advances we make in cancer research and treatment is a reward worth sharing with the world.

*February 4th is World Cancer Day, when international health organizations support the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) in promoting ways to ease the global burden of cancer. This year’s theme, “Debunk the myths,” focuses on improving general knowledge about cancer in order to reduce stigma and dispel misconceptions about the disease. More information: http://www.worldcancerday.org

Author: Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD, executive director, Winship Cancer Institute

About Dr. Walter Curran
Walter J. Curran Jr., MDWalter J. Curran, M.D. was appointed Executive Director of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in 2009. He joined Emory in January 2008, as the Lawrence W. Davis Professor and Chairman of Emory’s Department of Radiation Oncology. He also serves as Group Chairman and Principal Investigator of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), a National Cancer Institute-funded cooperative group, a position he has held since 1997. Curran has been named a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Chair in Cancer Research as well as a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar.

Dr. Curran has been a principal investigator on over thirty National Cancer Institute-supported grants and is considered an international expert in the management of patients with locally advanced lung cancer and malignant brain tumors. He has led several landmark clinical and translational trials in both areas and is responsible for defining a universally adopted staging system for patients with malignant glioma and for leading the randomized trial which defined the best therapeutic approach to patients with locally advanced lung cancer. He serves as the Founding Secretary/Treasurer of the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups and is a Board Member of the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Georgia CORE). Dr. Curran is the only radiation oncologist to have ever served as Director of a National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center.

Dr. Curran is a Fellow in the American College of Radiology and has been awarded honorary memberships in the European Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology and the Canadian Association of Radiation Oncology. According to the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, Dr. Curran ranked among the top ten principal investigators in terms of National Cancer Institute grant awards in 2013, and was first among investigators in Georgia, and first among cancer center directors.

Preventing Cervical Cancer Through HPV & Pap Smear Screening

HPV Vaccine Cervical CancerIn the mid 20th century, Dr. George Papanicolaou published his initial research about abnormal cells in cervical scrapings and cervical cancer. The test that now bears his name, the “Pap” smear, is perhaps the most successful cancer screening test in modern medical history. Cervical cancer was the leading cause of cancer deaths in American women in the early 20th century; but since widespread screening began, cervical cancer rates have fallen by 70%. The Pap smear works by finding abnormal cells before symptoms of cervical cancer appear. Cervical cancer is prevented by treating pre-cancerous lesions of the cervix, known as cervical dysplasia. Gynecologists have a number of minor office surgeries to treat cervical dysplasia, such as freezing or removing the abnormal cells.

Despite this success, recommendations for cervical cancer screening and pap smears have changed dramatically in recent years. Many of these changes reflect a better understanding of the cause of cervical cancer. Almost all cervical cancers and cervical dysplasia are caused by a viral infection with human papillomavirus, or HPV. A majority of women have a HPV infection at some point in their adult lives. Most men and women infected with HPV will resolve the infections without any signs or symptoms. A small minority of women with an HPV infection will develop abnormal pap smears, cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer. HPV does the most damage when it is persistent. It will take years and maybe decades from initial HPV infection to develop cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer.

The American Cancer Society updated its cervical cancer screening guidelines in 2012. For women over 30 years of age, cervical cancer screening can include both an HPV test and a traditional Pap smear. More than 90 percent of women will have a negative HPV test and negative Pap smear. This is very reassuring news for these women. The combination of these two tests will detect nearly all cases of cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer. Furthermore, women who are negative for both tests are highly unlikely to develop cervical cancer in the next five years. The American Cancer Society and other professional organizations have recommended that women between the ages of 30 and 65 have a Pap smear and HPV test every five years to screen for cervical cancer.

HPV testing in women under 30 years old is not recommended. HPV infections are common in this age group, and cervical cancer is relatively rare in women under 30.

The “annual exam” is a time-honored tradition for gynecologists in the United States, based on Dr. Papanicolaou’s historic breakthrough in the 20th century. In this century, multiple new tests and screening strategies have been developed, as well as an HPV vaccine recommended for girls age 9 through 26, to protect against the two types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers (click here for more on the HPV vaccine).

These new guidelines reflect a better understanding of the cause of cervical cancer, and promise to further reduce the burden of cervical cancer in women worldwide.

Author: Kevin Ault, MD
Winship Cancer Institute member and Professor, Gynecology and Obstetrics, Emory University School of Medicine

Dr. Kevin AultAbout Dr. Kevin Ault
Dr. Ault is currently Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the Emory University School of Medicine and a Winship Cancer Institute member. Dr. Ault’s research interests are based in infectious diseases and women’s health. He is an investigator in vaccine trials for both herpes simplex virus and human papilloma virus. His multidisciplinary research in the pathogenesis of infections due to chlamydia and gonorrhea has been supported by the National Institutes of Health. Board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology since 1995, Dr. Ault came to Emory in 2005 from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.

 

 

Related Resources: