Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Breast Cancer Researcher - Dr. Roy Duhe

Dr. Roy Duhé spends every workday trying to cure cancer and teaching others how to become cancer researchers. His American Cancer Society-supported lab at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) is working on two projects related to breast cancer treatment. One involves an enzyme called JAK, and the other is a new, unexplored area in cancer therapy that involves fatty acid metabolism.

Dr. Duhé says even when effective drugs are available, researchers try to create better drugs that aren't so difficult to take, or have fewer side effects. “Once a person survives cancer, we want their lives to be full and productive.”

Duhé is the Associate Director for Cancer Education for the UMMC Cancer Institute and a 2011 winner of the American Cancer Society St. George National Award for outstanding volunteers. He says the stories of the women in his family have made him more dedicated to cancer research.

Duhé’s mother, Dazie, died of breast cancer in the 1970s when she was just 55. He says her experience with breast cancer pre-dated a lot of drugs available now. But even with so many advances in breast cancer treatment, his sister, Gwen, died of the disease about 30 years later at age 54. Duhé’s mother-in-law is a breast cancer survivor, which he credits to new drugs discovered through research. And as he says in his fundraising letter for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer: “My other sister has breasts, my wife has breasts, my daughter has breasts, and as a matter of fact, I have breasts too. I don’t want them, or you, or any of the other women and men that we love to go through the ordeal that Dazie and Gwen endured.”

Duhé says American Cancer Society events like Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and Relay For Life are a fantastic way for researchers to meet the community of cancer survivors and volunteers. “Meeting the people who benefit from research is an incredible motivator for people like me.”

Duhé was himself a Relay For Life team captain for about 6 years, but as his research began taking up more of his time, he began joining other teams, like the UMMC Cancer Care Breast Services team led by Debbie Simpson (see her story in this issue). Simpson calls Duhé “optimistic, enthusiastic and encouraging.”

Duhé says it’s very important for scientists to come out of their labs and go into the community and understand what the real problems are. “Every cancer survivor has a unique story and it’s a way for us to learn from them.” He encourages cancer patients and survivors to participate in clinical research, to let Congress know cancer research should be a priority, and to tell their personal stories.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eating Right during Treatment and Beyond

During cancer treatment, you may have a complicated relationship with food. Sometimes, your different treatments affect what and how much you can eat. Sometimes, eating is the very last thing you feel like doing, especially if you're suffering from side effects such as nausea and dry mouth. Throughout treatment, though, one of the best things you can do is to eat a balanced diet that gives your body all the nutrition it needs to help you get well. After treatment, the same holds true: Eating well can help you feel well, and it can even help you lower your risk of additional cancers in the future.

The good news is, whether you've just begun cancer treatment, have just finished, or are just looking for ways to improve your health, the basic principles for eating well are the same. Although you may need to adjust your diet to meet your specific needs, following the guidelines below can put you on the path to good nutrition.

Eat five or more servings of vegetables and fruits each day. These foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and many other substances that work together to help your body get the nutrients it needs — and potentially lower your risk of certain kinds of cancers. An easy way to fit in five servings is to eat a fruit or veggie at every meal, and then choose fruit or vegetables as a healthy snack. By simply making this change, you'll be well on your way to five a day.

Choose whole grains over processed and refined grains and sugars. Because whole grain foods aren't processed as much as other foods, they often retain more nutrients and are higher in fiber, both good things when it comes to getting the best nutrition. Aim to get at least three servings of whole grains a day, and limit your intake of refined carbohydrates and starches, such as candy, cakes, cookies, pastries, sweetened cereals, and other high-sugar foods.

Limit your intake of processed meats and red meats. Red meats and processed meats like hot dogs can both be high in saturated fat, and they may contain other substances that could increase your risk for prostate and colon cancers. If you eat meat, go for lean cuts and smaller portions, and choose meats such as chicken and fish instead of beef, pork, and lamb.

You may have to go to different sources to get this information, but you should get it soon after treatment ends. Some doctors and hospitals are now helping patients create survivor care plans as they reach the end of cancer treatment. If you're working with your health care team, your plan may also include:

Contact information for support groups

Other support resources

Tips for living a healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk of cancer recurrence or new cancers

A schedule for screening for recurrences or to look for new cancers

Information about your legal rights regarding employment and insurance

Following these guidelines is a good start, but every person is different, and your nutritional needs may change during and after treatment. If you want help determining how you can get the very best nutrition for you, talk with your doctor or a nutrition expert, such as a dietician. He or she can give you ideas for ways you can eat better, work with you to create a meal plan, and help address any side effects that might be impacting you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ovarian Cancer Risk

Are You At Risk For Ovarian Cancer Ovarian cancer is not the most common cancer in women, but it’s one of the most deadly. The reason ovarian cancer tops the list of most lethal cancers is because it’s usually not diagnosed until it has spread outside the ovaries where it can’t be easily treated. The key to conquering this form of cancer is for women to know their risk factors and see their gynecologist yearly for a check-up. What are the most common risk factors for ovarian cancer?

Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer

Some women are genetically predisposed to breast cancer, because they inherited one of two genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2. Having one of these two genes increases the risk of both breast and ovarian cancer in women. A woman with BRCA1 or BRCA2 has a lifetime risk for getting ovarian cancer as high as 40%. This is why women who have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, especially if the cancer occurred prior to menopause, should talk to their doctor about testing for these genes. If they test positive, some women may elect to remove their ovaries once they’ve finished childbearing.

Other Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

Genetics can certainly increase a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer, but other factors can too. Anything that increases the number of times a woman ovulates over a lifetime raises the risk of ovarian cancer. This is why using oral contraceptives, having multiple pregnancies and breastfeeding lowers ovarian cancer risk. Each month a woman breastfeeds after a pregnancy reduces the risk of ovarian cancer by as much as 2%.

As might be expected, women who don’t get pregnant or take birth control pills have a higher risk of ovarian cancer – and so do women with a history of endometriosis. Lifestyle factors play a role too. Women who use talc powder in their genital area are at greater risk, probably because the talc causes low-grade inflammation. There are other possible risk factors that are still unproven including vitamin D deficiency and eating a diet deficient in antioxidants like those found in fruits and vegetables.

Hormones also increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Women who use estrogen without progesterone after menopause for five or more years have a greater risk of ovarian cancer compared to women who don’t use hormonal therapy – and women who take fertility drugs for longer than a year, particularly those who don’t became pregnant while taking them are at higher risk according to some studies.

Reducing the Risk for Ovarian Cancer: What Can You Do?

Know your family history and talk to your doctor about BRCA gene testing if you have a family history of ovary and breast cancer. Breastfeed your children after pregnancy since this can reduce the risk of getting this deadly disease. Eat a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables – and make sure your vitamin D level is adequate. Don’t use hormonal therapy after menopause unless the benefits clearly outweigh the risks, and avoid using powder containing talc. Most importantly, get regular gynecologic exams, especially after menopause. It could save your life.