Posts Tagged ‘cancer awareness’

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.

Take-Aways from Breast Cancer Chat with Heather Pinkerton, BSN

Breast Cancer Awareness MonthWe recently held a live web chat with Heather Pinkerton, RN, BSN, OCN and Nurse Navigator for the Emory Breast Center. During the discussion Heather Pinkerton answered questions about Breast Cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship. Below you’ll find heather’s main highlights from the chat discussion.

The American Cancer Society estimated that for 2012, a total of 229,060 new cases of breast cancer would be diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. In honor of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, participants joined Heather Pinkerton for a live web chat on the topic of breast cancer.

Heather recommended that the general population of women begin screening mammograms at age 40. It should also be noted that if a person has a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, screening mammograms can and should start sooner. Potentially high-risk patients are advised to speak with their personal physician about what age is right for them to begin screening. For those concerned about being a potential high risk patient, The Emory Breast Center at the Winship Cancer Institute has a High Risk Assessment Clinic available. The clinic provides a comprehensive consultation that will include visits with a genetic counselor and breast surgical oncologist. At the end of each consultation, an individual care plan will be provided to each patient including recommendations for regular screenings and follow-up appointments.

Genetic tests are available to identify individual breast and ovarian cancer risk levels. These genetic mutation tests are known as BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. Anyone interested in undergoing these tests should speak with a genetic counselor regarding cost and specifics on coverage.

We also learned from Heather’s discussion in the chat that studies have shown that the relationship between taking birth control pills and developing breast cancer is insufficient to establish a cause-effect link between the two.

If you or someone you know is in need of support through their cancer journey, the Winship Cancer Institute has a several support groups pertaining to breast cancer, monthly at various locations. You can check out the event calendar here.

If you would like more information about breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and support contact 404-778-PINK (7465) or visit the Emory Breast Center at the Winship Cancer Institute.

You may also review the web chat transcript here with Heather Pinkerton, RN, BSN, OCN.

Related Resources

An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part II: Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment

Colon Cancer Chat Sign UpMarch is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. A few weeks ago, we gave you an intro to Colorectal Cancer, including statistics, information on the risk factors and symptoms of colorectal cancer, and information on the most popularly recommended diagnostic test, the colonoscopy. This week, we’re following up with information on preventing and treating cancer of the colon or rectum (also known as colorectal cancer), and providing more information on other methods for diagnosing.

Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Receiving regular screenings is going to be the best way to prevent colorectal cancer. Catching cancer early while it is still curable and/or removing polyps before they turn cancerous are keys to survival. According to the American Cancer Society, “people who have no identified risk factors (other than age) should begin regular screening at age 50.” If you have a strong family history of colon polyps or cancer, getting screened prior to age 50 is highly recommended. Other advice you’ll see for cancer prevention is similar across cancers. A few things you can do to help improve your health and fight off cancer, including colorectal cancer, include: quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Diagnosing Colorectal Cancer

While a colonoscopy is the most common method of diagnosing and staging colorectal cancer and/or other gastrointestinal disorders, there are several other procedures used including:

  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: This test uses a flexible, lighted tube with a small video camera on the end. It can travel the full length of the rectum and half of the colon.
  • Colonoscopy: This test allows the doctor to look at the entire length of the colon and rectum with a colonoscope, which is a longer version of a sigmoidoscope.
  • Double Contrast Barium Enema: A type of x-ray test using barium sulfate, which is a chalky liquid, and air to outline the inner part of the colon and rectum, highlighting abnormal areas on x-rays.
  • CT Colonography (Virtual Colonoscopy): This is an advanced type of computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan of the colon and rectum. It is non-invasive, can be done fairly quickly, and does not require sedation.

For more information on each of these procedures, please visit the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

Treating Colorectal Cancer

After cancer is diagnosed and staged, your multidisciplinary colorectal cancer care team will create a treatment plan using one, or a combination, of these main treatment methods:

  1. Surgery – Surgery is the main treatment method for colorectal cancer. This procedure involves removing the cancer, a section of normal tissue on either side of the cancer, and any local lymph nodes.
  2. Radiation Therapy – A type of cancer treatment that uses ionizing radiation energy to kill cancer cells and shrink cancerous tumors. Colorectal cancer may be treated using external beam radiation before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
  3. Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is medication delivered to the body to eliminate cancer cells or greatly reduce their effect. It targets cells that divide rapidly, a characteristic of most cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used to support and enhance other cancer treatment modalities.

If you are interested in learning more about colorectal cancer, or have questions not covered in this blog,  make sure to sign up for Dr. Bassel El-Rayes and Dr. Roberd Bostick’s colon cancer chat  tomorrow, March 20th (UPDATE – CHAT TRANSCRIPT). It’s bound to be a great discussion!

Contact us for more information about our colorectal cancer treatment programs: 404-778-1900 or request an appointment online.

Related Resources:

An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part I: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Diagnosis

Colorectal Cancer Awareness MonthMarch is colorectal cancer month, and an article in the New York Times highlights the important role colonoscopies have played in reducing deaths from colorectal cancer. The study included patients tracked over 20 years after receiving a colonoscopy, which lead to the detection and removal of precancerous polyps, known as adenomatous polyps. Findings from the study show that the combination of a colonoscopy and polyp(s) removal lowered the colorectal death rate by 53 percent. While not all polyps turn into cancer, evidence shows that early detection and intervention are keys to survival. In the spirit of helping raise awareness around Colon Cancer and the importance of colonoscopies as a diagnostic and preventive tool, below you’ll find some helpful resources and important information about colorectal cancer.

Colorectal Cancer Statistics

According to the American Cancer Society, “excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States.” That means in 2012, estimates for the number of colorectal cancer cases that will be diagnosed in the United States are:

  • 103,170 new cases of colon cancer
  • 40,290 new cases of rectal cancer

But, if detected early enough, colorectal cancer is curable. So, how is colorectal cancer detected?

Colorectal Cancer Diagnosis

According to the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, “colorectal cancer usually starts in the innermost layer of the lining and slowly progresses through the other layers.”  There are several ways of diagnosing colorectal cancer, but the most popular method is a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a special type of cancer screening because it allows doctors to screen and intervene at the same time.

During a colonoscopy, the doctor will use a colonoscope, which is a flexible, lighted tube with a small video camera on the end. They use this instrument to look at the entire length of the colon and rectum. If the doctor finds abnormalities such as polyps or growths, he or she can remove them right away while patients are under sedation. Special instruments can be passed through the colonoscope to remove the suspicious looking areas before they have the chance to turn into cancer.

Colon Cancer Web Chat

According to Roberd Bostick, MD, MPH and a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, “most of the time, a colonoscopy is the most effective means for diagnosing [colorectal cancer].Certainly, if a person were to have symptoms that would be suggestive of colon cancer, then those symptoms might precipitate them wanting to have a diagnostic test, like a colonoscopy.”

For a full list of symptoms and risk factors of colorectal cancer, please see below. Watch the full video discussion with Roberd Bostick, MD, MPH. Also, bring your additional questions to Dr. Bassel El-Reyes and Dr. Roberd Bostick’s colon cancer chat on March 20th (UPDATE – CHAT TRANSCRIPT).

Colorectal Cancer Symptoms

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your doctor to be properly diagnosed and treated. It’s important to note that these symptoms may not necessarily be a result of colorectal cancer. Other health problems can produce similar symptoms, which is why it is important to contact your physician if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed below:

  • Change in bowel habits:
    • Diarrhea or constipation
    • Feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
    • Finding blood (either bright red or very dark) in your stool
    • Finding your stools are narrower than usual
  • Frequent gas pains or cramps, or feeling full or bloated
  • Loss of weight for no apparent reason
  • Feeling very tired all the time
  • Nausea or vomiting

Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

The main risk factors for colorectal cancer are uncontrollable. They are heredity, family history and personal medical history. Other risk factors include:

  • Presence of an inflammatory bowel disease (i.e. Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, etc.)
  • Diabetes
  • Other controllable factors
    • Obesity
    • Red meat consumption
    • Processed meat consumption
    • Smoking
    • Alcohol consumption

Remember, early detection is the key to providing the best chance for a cure. It is important to contact your physician if you are experiencing symptoms or are at risk for colorectal cancer.  If your physician feels it’s appropriate, a screening test, such as a colonoscopy, will most likely be recommended to rule out the possibility of cancer.

With all this information, what can you do to stay healthy? Take action and make sure you are getting regularly screened! While a colonoscopy is bound to not be the most pleasant experience, it could potentially save your life by detecting colorectal cancer early when the disease is easier to cure.  If you are interested in learning more about colorectal cancer, make sure to check out the chat transcript the colorectal cancer chat.

Contact us for more information about our colorectal cancer treatment programs: 404-778-1900 or request an appointment online.

Related Resources:

2 Ways to Lower Your Lung Cancer Risk Today

Lung Cancer Awareness Month
More people in the U.S. die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. Lung cancer is responsible for approximately 30% of cancer deaths in the United States. In fact, it’s actually the cause of more deaths than breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer combined. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and we’d like to share with you some important information and tips for how you can lower your lung cancer risk.

Quit Smoking

Obviously, if you smoke, the most important step you can take to lower your risk for lung cancer is to quit smoking. Quitting smoking:

  • Lowers your blood pressure and your heart rate – Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate are reduced to almost normal.
  • Repairs damaged nerve endings – Within 48 hours of quitting, damaged nerve endings begin to repair themselves, and sense of taste and smell begin to return to normal as a result.
  • Lowers your risk for heart attack – Within 2-12 weeks of quitting, your heart attack risk is lowered.
  • Lowers your risk for lung cancer – According to a 2005 study by the National Institute of Health, within 10 years of quitting smoking, your risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer is between 30-50% of that for the smoker who didn’t quit.

Smoking accounts for ~90% of lung cancer cases. If you smoke, this is the critical first step in lowering your lung cancer risk. If you have a history of smoking and are between the ages of 55-75, you may be a candidate for a Lung CT Scan.

Eat a Wider Variety and More Fruits & Veggies

In November 2007,  the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund published Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, the most comprehensive report on diet and cancer ever completed. The study found evidence linking diets high in fruit and their ability to lower lung cancer risk to be probable. This is one of the core reasons that the AICR recommends consuming at least five portions a day of fruits and vegetables. After evaluating approximately 500,000 people in 10 countries in Europe, another study demonstrated intaking a variety of produce may also help lower lung cancer risk, so make sure to vary the color on your plate!

Chat Online with Dr. Suresh Ramalingam

Lung Cancer Web ChatIf you have specific questions about lung cancer, whether they’re related to prevention, risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, support, or otherwise, Dr. Ramalingam is hosting a free 1-hour online web chat about Lung Cancer on Thursday, November 17th. Dr. Ramalingam will also be fielding questions on the topic of Lung CT scanning, a lung cancer screening mechanism that studies have shown may help lower the risk of lung cancer mortality.

You can ask as many questions as you’d like in the chat, or feel free to sign up to check out Dr. Ramalingam’s answers to other participant questions. We hope to see you there! UPDATE: Lung Cancer Chat Transcript