Posts Tagged ‘prevention’

6 Ways to Reduce your Risk of Cancer in the New Year

Walter J. Curran Jr., MD

It’s that time of year when we resolve to start fresh and break old habits, but did you know that some of the most common New Year’s resolutions could also help reduce your risk of cancer? Nearly 1.7 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and many cases could be prevented by taking steps to decrease risk.

Here are six ways to cut your chances of developing cancer:

  1. Stop smoking or never start: cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung cancer and many other cancers. Doctors recommend you stay away from all tobacco products and byproducts, including second hand smoke. Winship Cancer Institute is offering a step-by-step program developed by the American Lung Association to help you quit. To register, click here.
  2. Watch what you eat and drink: obesity is increasingly proven to be a major risk factor for certain cancers. Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit red and processed meat consumption. Cut down on alcohol consumption; experts recommend no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
  3. Get physical: an active lifestyle is critical for your overall health and well-being, but studies show regular exercise can reduce the risk of a variety of cancers.
  4. Practice sun safety: protect yourself from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation by wearing sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Tanning beds and sunlamps are also associated with increased risk of skin cancer, so stay away.
  5. Get screened: early detection of certain cancers can make a difference in treatment and recovery. Women at average risk for breast cancer should have a clinical breast exam and mammogram every year starting at age 40. Cervical cancer screening is now recommended every five years for women at average risk between the ages of 30 and 65. Men and women 50 and older should begin screening for colorectal cancer with a colonoscopy or other early detection method approved by a physician.
  6. Know your family history: some cancers run in families, but before you ask for genetic testing, it’s important to know that most cancers are not linked to genes inherited from our parents. Your doctor can help you determine the right course of action.

When it comes to your health, being proactive about reducing cancer risk will help you not just in the New Year but for the rest of your life. What are some ways that you’ve resolved to get healthy this year?

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

About Dr. Walter Curran
Walter J. Curran, Jr. was appointed Executive Director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in September 2009. He joined Emory in January 2008, as the Lawrence W. Davis Professor and Chair of Radiation Oncology and Chief Medical Officer of the Winship Cancer Institute.

Dr. Curran, who is a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar, has been a principal investigator on several National Cancer Institute (NCI) 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. He serves as the Founding Secretary/Treasurer of the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups and a Board Member of the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Ga CORE). Dr. Curran is the only individual currently serving as director of an NCI-designated cancer center and as group chairman of an NCI-supported cancer cooperative group, the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group.

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. In 2006, he was named the leading radiation oncologist/cancer researcher in a peer survey by the journal Medical Imaging. Under Dr. Curran’s leadership Emory’s Radiation Oncology Department has been recently selected as a “Top Five Radiation Therapy Centers to Watch in 2009” by Imaging Technology News. Dr. Curran ranked among the top 10 principal investigators in terms of overall NCI funding in 2010 and among the top 20 principal investigators in overall NIH funding in 2010.

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Colon Cancer Prevention Begins with Education and Screenings!

Colon Cancer Online ChatScreening tests like the colonoscopy often find polyps in the colon that can be removed before they turn to cancer. Regular screening also helps find cancer in an early stage, when it is very treatable! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular colon cancer screenings for everyone over the age of 50 would prevent about 60% of deaths from the disease!

The CDC also states that of cancers affecting both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) is the second leading cancer killer in the United States. It affects men and women of all different ethnicities and races and is most often found after the age of 50. Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University highly recommends that men and women at average risk for developing colon cancer get regularly screened for the disease.

March is national awareness month for colorectal cancer. To learn more about how to prevent your risk of colon cancer join us on March 12, 2013 at 12 noon EST, for a live web chat with a Winship expert on colorectal cancer. Dr. El-Rayes will answer your questions about preventing colorectal cancer, and tell you about Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University’s approach to diagnosing and treating it. Some of the questions he can answer:

  • What is colon cancer?
  • How important is colon cancer screening?
  • What are the symptoms of colon cancer?
  • What are the risk factors of colon cancer?
  • Can inflammatory bowel disease cause colon cancer?
  • Do gender, ethnicity, race, obesity, environment and/or social status impact colon cancer risk?
  • Does exercise help prevent colon cancer?
  • Do polyps increase colon cancer risk?
  • Does a family history of colon cancer increase my risk?
  • What is Emory’s approach to colon cancer treatment and care?
  • What new colon cancer research is on the horizon?

About Dr. El – Rayes:
Dr. El-Rayes, Colon Cancer SpecialistDr. El- Rayes is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, the Director of the GI Oncology Translational Research Program and the Medical Director of the Clinical Trials Office at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

Dr. El-Rayes completed his medical school at the American University of Beirut (AUB). He subsequently joined the internal medicine residency program at Wayne State University. After completion of the residency, he joined the hematology oncology fellowship program at the Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University. He then joined faculty as an Assistant Professor in the area of GI oncology. During this time, he was involved in translational research focused on pancreatic cancer. Dr. El-Rayes joined Emory University in September 2009 as the director of the GI Oncology program. He is designated as a Distinguished Cancer Scholar by the Georgia Cancer Coalition. Dr. El-Rayes is currently the medical director of the Clinical Trials Office.

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On November 15 – Commit to Quit

Great American Smokeout - Quit Smoking November 15You’ve heard the health tips a million times: exercise regularly, eat a healthy, balanced diet, and limit alcohol consumption. And the most frequently recommended tip to improve overall health and prevent disease? Don’t smoke.

Tobacco use continues to hold the top seat as the single greatest preventable cause of disease and premature death in America. It’s evidence like that which prompts Emory Healthcare, the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, and the American Cancer Society to take action towards improving awareness around the importance of quitting smoking for the 45 million Americans who still smoke cigarettes and the 15 million Americans who smoke cigars or pipes.

Each year, the American Cancer Society hosts its Great American Smokeout event to create a way to encourage current smokers to set a date, as a group, to quit. This year’s Great American Smokeout takes place on November 15, 2012, and we want to encourage those members of our community who smoke or use tobacco products to take an important step in owning their health by joining others who will choose to make November 15 their quit date.

Quitting is not easy and there’s no single approach that works for everyone, but there is help. If you are trying to quit smoking, know that you have the support of the Emory community and hundreds of individuals like you who have been through it. Carla Berg, PhD, assistant professor at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health and an expert on smoking behaviors, says most people make multiple attempts to quit before being successful, “but every time you try, you’re one step closer to actually quitting. And if you quit by age 30, research shows you’ll have the same life expectancy as someone who’s never smoked.”

And no matter what your age, your health improves every day you’re not smoking. It’s never too late to quit.

When it comes to tobacco-use, there are no hypotheticals. Smoking cigarettes causes cancer, heart disease, lung disease and stroke. As an academic medical center, we are constantly searching for treatments and cures for disease, and we are just as passionately committed to disease prevention. To that end, Emory has implemented our own tobacco-free policy to promote and support the health of our patients, families, staff and community. As of September 1, 2012, the Emory family—including the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and Emory Healthcare—is a tobacco-free organization.

We ask that on November 15, 2012, you join us. We ask that you commit to quitting; commit to your health; commit to a better life.

If you have suggestions to share with our readers that have helped you or a loved one quit, please share them in the comments below. For more information and support resources related to quitting and the Great American Smokeout, visit the American Cancer Society’s website.

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Top 8 FAQs: Nutrition’s Role in Fighting Cancer

Nutrition to Fight CancerWe had a great discussion on April 11th about nutrition with Tiffany Barrett, MS, RD, CSO, LD. She answered some great questions about the importance of maintaining a healthy diet to fight off cancer and enhance treatment. If you missed out on our live chat, the transcript is available here. Also, see below for highlights from the discussion.

Q: What are some good foods to eat during cancer treatment or to prevent cancer from reoccurring?

A: When it comes to reducing the likelihood of recurrence, reducing saturated fat intake is very important. This includes eliminating animal fat, butter, lard, etc. It is important to increase your intake of plant foods and grains while incorporating a variety of produce into your diet (i.e. leafy greens, berries, etc.).

Q: Is there a role that sugar plays in cancer?

A: First, it’s important to note there’s a difference between natural and refined/processed sugars. Unlike naturally occurring sugars found in fruit and dairy, processed sugars are significantly correlated with elevated bad cholesterol and triglycerides (fat in blood) and low good cholesterol. Eating too much added sugars can also result in excess body weight, which can increase the risk of cancer. It is best to limit your intake of sugar and sugary foods to protect your health, limit excess calories and make room for nutrient-dense foods that contain naturally occurring sugars (fruit, low-fat dairy).

Q: What is a good substitute for sugar?

A: There always are options like stevia, honey and agave nectar, but all of these are a bit sweeter than real sugar, so using less of them is advised. It’s important to understand that using moderation in any sort of sweetener is key. If you are having sugar cravings, focus on natural sources of sugar.

Q: Is there a connection between soy products and cancer?

A: There is evidence that soy intake (whole soy foods, rather than processed) prior to cancer diagnosis can have preventive effects. This has been found specifically with breast, prostate, and colon cancers. Whole soy food includes tofu, soy milk, edamame, and soy beans, whereas processed soy is found in things like soy hot dogs, soy burgers, soy powders, etc.

Q: Is food the best source for receiving nutrients? What about supplements and vitamins?

A: Our body best digests and absorbs nutrients through food consumption. There’s actually no hard evidence to demonstrate benefit from a standard multivitamin or other supplement use. Consuming nutrients through food allows for a wider variety of vitamins.

Q: Are meal replacement drinks a feasible option to getting proper nutrition during cancer treatment?

A: Meal replacement drinks certainly can be and often are helpful in combating or overcoming some of the side effects of treatment, such as loss of appetite. There are a wide variety of meal replacement drinks that provide a full balance of necessary nutrition, and also ways that people can make their own protein and meal replacement drinks at home to suit their taste.

Q: Is there any connection between physical activity and cancer prevention?

A: Absolutely. Regular, moderate physical activity: 4-5 times per week for 30-45 minutes each time, has been shown to have preventive effects.

Q: How important is it to start early with good nutrition to receive preventive benefits?

A: Starting young as far as introducing good eating habits to children is imperative. It’s also important to educate at a young age about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. Good nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight are important in reducing not only your risk for cancer, but for a whole host of other conditions that are largely preventable.

For more information on diet and nutrition, please visit Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University.  To make an appointment, please call 404-778-7777.

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Join Us for the 32nd Annual Charles Harris Run for Leukemia

Charles Harris Run for LeukemiaThe annual Charles Harris Run for Leukemia, which benefits leukemia research at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, is scheduled for Saturday, February 25. The 10K run kicks off at 7:45 am at Tucker High School; the one-mile run/walk starts at Druid Hills Middle School.

The run honors the late Dr. Charles E. Harris — former teacher, coach and beloved principal of Shamrock High School. Dr. Harris passed away more than three decades ago from leukemia at the age of 49. Dr. Harris was an un-sung All-American football player at the University of Georgia and a Marine who volunteered for the Korean War. Playing on the Camp Pendleton football team, Pete Rozelle, father of the modern day NFL, attempted to draft Dr. Harris to the Los Angeles Rams football team before he graduated from UGA. He played one year with the New York Titans (now Jets) and made it to the last cut with the Cleveland Browns during the Jim Brown and Coach Paul Brown era. An avid runner, Dr. Harris ran in the inaugural Peachtree Road Race. He left behind a wife and three children.

Dr. Harris’ children, led by son Chuck Harris, began the Charles Harris Run for Leukemia 32 years ago this year, and they have dedicated all race proceeds to Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. In celebration of this special 32nd anniversary, please consider joining us this year as a walker, runner or race day volunteer.

If you would like register for the race please follow the registration link at www.charlesharrisrun.com.

Volunteers are also needed during the race to hand out t-shirts, pass out water at various water stations, cover intersecting points, help out in the finish shoot and help with bag check. Please go to http://charlesharrisrun.com/contactus.html to register to volunteer. All volunteers should report to Shamrock Middle School between 6:15 and 6:30 am. Volunteers will receive a free t-shirt, philanthropic points and the opportunity to watch world class runners compete!

Directions to Shamrock Middle School from Emory University:

  1. Head Southeast on OXFORD RD NE toward N. Decatur Rd.
  2. Stay on N. DECATUR RD for 2.1 miles
  3. Turn left on SCOTT BLVD (also called US29, US-78 E, and GA-8) Follow US-29 for 2.1 miles.
  4. Turn left on HARCOURT DR.
  5. HARCOURT dead ends on MT. OLIVE DR. – turn right
  6. SHAMROCK MIDDLE SCHOOL is on the left.

If you have questions about volunteer opportunities, please contact Melissa Harris at (770) 495-8557 or email Melissa_h@bellsouth.net.

Get the Real 4-1-1 on HPV

Cervical Cancer Awareness HPVWho could have imagined that a three-letter virus – HPV — could generate so much confusion and controversy?

Oh, wait, there is precedence for all the political posturing, fear and mis-information about HPV, the human papillomavirus, one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. We saw the same take place around HIV, a far more deadly virus and one that continues to wreak havoc and claims thousands of lives a year. And it took decades of advocacy, much of which is still ongoing, to bring attention to the need to stop HIV in its tracks, before it leads to AIDS. That same advocacy and public health campaigning is now underway to help consumers better understand HPV and what people can do about it, and how important it is for young people to receive vaccines that can protect them from infection with the virus.

Researchers have identified more than 40 types of HPV, a very common virus that the human body normally sheds on its own. Two types – HPV 16 and HPV 18 — are of special concern in the cancer community, though, because, undetected and untreated, they lead to most cases of cervical cancer. Now one of them, HPV16, is proving to be the cause of most new cases of throat cancers that develop at the base of the tongue and tonsils.

Routine pap tests and annual gynecological exams have lowered cervical cancer incidence in the United States, but cervical cancer is still one of the leading cancer killers of women worldwide. Thus, great research emphasis was placed on finding a vaccine to prevent infection with HPV 16 and 18 in the first place. Now there are two such HPV vaccines licensed by the FDA to prevent the spread of HPV and thus to prevent cervical cancer.

While screening with the Pap test has long proven an effective way to help prevent cervical cancer in developed countries, screening for HPV 16 infection for throat or other kinds of cancer would be fruitless. While 20 million Americans are estimated to be living with HPV 16 in their systems, 90% of those people will clear the virus on their own. A big concern with HPV 16 and throat cancer is that doctors do not yet understand why the virus becomes cancer in some.

Because the virus is so widespread yet causes cancer in a relatively small percentage of cases of infection, screening for it does not make sense, explains Dr. Shin, a leading head and neck cancer specialist at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. The most important unanswered question about HPV16 and throat cancer is why does it develop into cancer in some people but not in the majority of people.

“How does this virus get into a host cell and then go into carcinogenesis? This is what we would like to address,” explains Dr. Dong Moon Shin. Winship researchers such as Shin are aggressively looking for answers.

Much of the confusion and political hoopla about HPV have stemmed from misinformation about the vaccine, which is unfortunate. The vaccine is safe. It is effective. Because of the rising incidence of oropharyngeal cancer, it is now advised that both girls and boys also receive the vaccine, which is given in a series of three shots. To be effective, the shots must be given before a girl or boy becomes sexually active and is not administered to females after they hit age 26. Some of the concern about the vaccine is that parents don’t like the idea of giving children another round of vaccines, but the HPV vaccines have been approved by the FDA after rigorous clinical trials. They work.

HPV facts & stats:

  • More than 40 types of HPV have been identified by researchers.
  • More than 20 million adult Americans are believed to be living with the HPV 16 virus.
  • In 90 percent of cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV within two years.

Prognosis for cases of HPV16-caused throat cancer is good, so long as the patient is a non-smoker. Winship researchers and others are looking for ways to identify whether patients with HPV16-caused throat cancer need as much treatment as patients whose cancer is not caused by the virus.

Dr. Peter Rossi and Dr. Namita Khanna just hosted an online chat on the topic of HPV and cervical cancer. For their thoughts, check out the HPV / Cervical Cancer chat transcript.

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Cervical Cancer & HPV 101 – Part I

Cervical Cancer & HPV MD ChatJanuary is Cervical Health Awareness Month. To help raise awareness around cervical health and cervical cancer, this is the first of a two-part blog post series on the topic. Before we dig deeper into cervical cancer types and risk factors, here a few cervical health-related statistics you should be aware of:

  • Cervical cancer was previously the leading cancer-related cause of death for women in the U.S. In the last 40 years, however, the number of deaths from cervical cancer has dropped. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) & CDC, the decline is largely “the result of many women getting regular Pap tests, which can find cervical precancer before it turns into cancer.”
  • Approximately 10,800 new cases of HPV-related cervical cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
  • Greater than 70% of all cervical cancers (carcinomas) were squamous cell type, and nearly 20% were adenocarcinomas, between 1998-2003.

Cervical Cancer Types

Squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma are the two types of cervical cancer. Each type is distinguished based on its appearance under a microscope. Both squamous cell and adenocarcinoma begin in the cells that line hollow organs, but squamous cells have a thin, flat appearance while adenocarcinomas involve cells with secretory functions. As is noted in the statistic above, the squamous cell carcinoma type of cervical cancer is far more common and currently makes up approximately 90% of cervical carcinoma cases. Both types have similar risk factors, prognoses, and treatments.

Cervical Cancer Risk Factors

HPV

According to the CDC, “almost all cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV),” which is why it is so important that parents and young women understand their options for getting vaccinated to protect themselves from typically symptomless HPV. Emory Healthcare will be hosting an online chat on the topic of cervical cancer and HPV. The chat will cover everything from cervical cancer prevention and diagnosis to treatment options, along with information on the relationship between HPV and cervical cancer.

Smoking

As is the case the with all cancers, smoking increases your risk. Take steps to quit smoking today.

Birth Control

Having given birth to three or more children or having been on birth control pills for over 5 years can increase your risk for cervical cancer.

In our next post on cervical cancer, we’ll cover its connection to the HPV virus, including more information on the HPV vaccine and its effectiveness and the relationship between various HPV strains and cervical cancer. In the meantime, if you have questions on the topic of cervical cancer, or something you want to see covered in our next post, let us know in the comments section below!

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

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

 

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Last week, we gave you an intro to Pancreatic Cancer, including statistics, information on the types of pancreatic cancer, and pancreatic cancer risk factors. As promised, this week, we’re following up with information on preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer of the pancreas.

Pancreatic Cancer Prevention

Much of the 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 pancreatic cancer, include: quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Diagnosing Cancer of the Pancreas

Diagnosing cancer of the pancreas can involve a variety of tests and assessments. As is true in any attempt to diagnose a medical condition, a thorough evaluation of a patient’s medical history, risk factors, and symptoms is conducted. Imaging tests, including CT, MRI, PET, ultrasound, and others may be used along with potential biopsies and blood tests.

Treating Cancer of the Pancreas

There are three main modes of treatment in combating pancreatic cancer:

  1. Surgery – Parts or the entire pancreas may be removed depending on the location and stage of the pancreatic cancer. The whipple procedure can be used when the cancer is in the head of the pancreas and involves the removal of the head of the pancreas and parts of the bile ducts, small intestine, and stomach; distal pancreatectomy removes the body and tail of the pancreas and the spleen; and total pancreatectomy removes the entire pancreas, part of the small intestine, a portion of the stomach, the common bile duct, the gallbladder, the spleen, and nearby lymph nodes.
  2. 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.
  3. Radiation Therapy – Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses ionizing radiation energy to kill cancer cells and shrink cancerous tumors. Radiation therapy serves to either destroy cancerous cells or damage these cells to impede the division and growth of the cancer.

Physicians at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University specialize in these treatments, while researchers at Winship are exploring new and novel treatments for pancreatic cancer, including a number of clinical trials for pancreatic cancer treatment.

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7+ Reasons to Quit Smoking on November 17th

Great American Smokeout American Cancer Society

Image source: American Cancer Society

More than 46 million Americans smoke cigarettes, despite the fact that tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of death in the U.S. To help lower this number and the heightened risk for disease caused by cigarette smoking, the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout is Thursday, November 17. The event is held each year to encourage smokers to set a quit date with a community of peers and support.

Along with the Great American Smokeout event, November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, meaning there are multiple opportunities to make a change and choose to quit smoking today. If the momentum and support created through these events and efforts aren’t enough, there is plenty of data to prove the benefits of quitting smoking today:

  • Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate are reduced to almost normal.
  • 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.
  • Within 2-12 weeks of quitting, your heart attack risk is lowered.
  • 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 can reduce your good cholesterol (HDL) and your lung capacity, making it difficult to get the physical activity you need to stay healthy.
  • If you smoke one pack of cigarettes per day, at roughly $5 per pack, you’ll save $1825 over the next year alone by quitting today.
  • Quitting smoking today will lower your risk for heart disease, aneurysms, blood clots, stroke and peripheral artery disease (PAD). More details.

According to the American Cancer Society, smoking cigarettes kills more Americans every year than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide and illegal drugs combined. It is also responsible for 9 out of 10 lung cancer deaths, a disease that is extremely hard to treat, but that could be prevented.

For more information on the Great American Smokeout, check out the American Cancer Society’s website on the event.

If you’re interested in discussing lung cancer, including diagnosis and treatment options, in more detail with us, we’re holding a lung cancer web chat this week on the same day as the Great American Smokeout, November 17th. This one-hour web chat is a free event for our community to get your lung cancer questions answered. If you want to participate, fill out this short form to receive your link to join Thursday’s chat.