Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Heredity and Cancer

Heredity and Cancer

Cancer is such a common disease that it is no surprise that many families have at least a few members who have had cancer. Sometimes, certain types of cancer seem to run in some families. This can be caused by a number of factors. Often, family members have certain risk factors in common, such as smoking, which can cause many types of cancer.
But in some cases the cancer is caused by an abnormal gene that is being passed along from generation to generation. Although this is often referred to as inherited cancer, what is inherited is the abnormal gene that can lead to cancer, not the cancer itself. Only about 5% to 10% of all cancers are inherited. This document focuses on those cancers.

DNA, genes, and chromosomes

Cancer is a disease of abnormal gene function. Genes are pieces of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). They contain the instructions on how to make the proteins the body needs to function, when to destroy damaged cells, and how to keep the cells in balance. Your genes control things such as hair color, eye color, and height. They also can affect your chance of getting certain diseases, such as cancer.
An abnormal change in a gene is called a mutation. The 2 types of mutations are inherited and acquired (somatic).
  • Inherited gene mutations are passed from parent to child through the egg or sperm. These mutations are in every cell in the body.
  • Acquired (somatic) mutations are not present in the egg or sperm. These mutations are acquired at some point in the person's life, and are more common than inherited mutations. This type of mutation occurs in one cell, and then is passed on to any new cells that are the offspring of that cell.
Genes are found on long strands of DNA called chromosomes. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes in each cell. We inherit one set of chromosomes from each parent. Each chromosome can contain hundreds or thousands of genes that are passed from the parents to the child. Every cell in your body has all of the genes you were born with. Although all cells have the same genes and chromosomes, different cells (or types of cells) may use different genes. For example, muscle cells use a different set of genes than skin cells use. The genes that the cell doesn't need are turned off and not used. The genes that the cell is using are activated or turned on.

Genes and cancer
Genes seem to have 2 major roles in cancer. Some, called oncogenes, can cause cancer. Others, known as tumor suppressor genes, stop cancer from developing or growing. More information about oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes can be found in our document, Oncogenes, Tumor Suppressor Genes, and Cancer.
Oncogenes are mutated forms of certain normal genes of the cell called proto-oncogenes. Proto-oncogenes are often genes that normally control what kind of cell it is and how often it grows and divides. When a proto-oncogene mutates (changes) into an oncogene, it turns on or activates when it is not supposed to be. When this occurs, the cell can grow out of control, leading to cancer.
Tumor suppressor genes are normal genes that slow down cell division, repair DNA mistakes, or tell cells when to die (a process known as apoptosis or programmed cell death). When tumor suppressor genes don’t work properly, cells can grow out of control, which can lead to cancer.
A tumor suppressor gene is like the brake pedal on a car. It normally keeps the cell from dividing too quickly just as a brake keeps a car from going too fast. When something goes wrong with the gene, such as a mutation, cell division can get out of control.
An important difference between oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes is that oncogenes result from the activation(turning on) of proto-oncogenes, but tumor suppressor genes cause cancer when they are inactivated (turned off).
Even if you were born with healthy genes, some of them can become changed (mutated) over the course of your life. These mutations are known as sporadic or somatic, meaning they are not inherited. Sporadic mutations cause most cases of cancer. These mutations may be caused by things that we are exposed to in our environment, including cigarette smoke, radiation, hormones, and diet (although in many cases there is no obvious cause). More gene mutations build up as we get older, leading to a higher risk of cancer.
When someone has inherited an abnormal copy of a gene, their cells already start out with one mutation. This makes it all the easier (and quicker) for enough mutations to build up for a cell to become cancer. That is why cancers that are inherited tend to occur earlier in life than cancers of the same type that are not inherited.

When should I worry?

When many cases of cancer occur in a family, it is most often due to chance or because family members have been exposed to a common toxin, such as cigarette smoking. Less often, these cancers may be caused by an inherited gene mutation. (These are called family cancer syndromes.) Certain things make it more likely that an abnormal gene is causing cancers in a family, such as
  • Many cases of an uncommon or rare type of cancer (like kidney cancer)
  • Cancers occurring at younger ages than usual (like colon cancer in a 20 year old)
  • More than one type of cancer in a single person (like a woman with both breast and ovarian cancer)
  • Cancers occurring in both of a pair of organs (both eyes, both kidneys, both breasts)
  • More than one childhood cancer in a set of siblings (like sarcoma in both a brother and a sister)
Before you decide that cancer runs in your family, first gather some information. For each case of cancer, look at:
  • Who is affected? How are we related?
  • What type of cancer is it? Is it rare?
  • How old was this relative when they were diagnosed?
  • Did this person get more than one type of cancer?
  • Did they smoke or have other known risk factors?
Cancer in a close relative, like a parent or sibling (brother or sister), is more cause for concern than cancer in a more distant relative. Even if the cancer was from a gene mutation, the chance of it passing on to you gets lower with more distant relatives.
It is also important to look at each side of the family separately. Having 2 relatives with cancer is more concerning if the people are related to each other (meaning that they are both on the same side of the family). For example, if both relatives are your mother's brothers it means more than if one was your father's brother and the other was your mother's brother.
The type of cancer matters, too. More than one case of the same rare cancer is more worrisome than cases of a more common cancer. And having the same type of cancer in many relatives is more concerning than if it is several different kinds of cancer. Still, in some family cancer syndromes, a few types of cancer seem to go together. For example, breast cancer and ovarian cancer run together in families with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (HBOC). Colon and endometrial cancers tend to go together in a syndrome called hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome.
The age of the person when the cancer was diagnosed is also important. For example, colon cancer is rare in people under 30. Having 2 or more cases in close relatives under 30 could be a sign of an inherited cancer syndrome. On the other hand, prostate cancer is very common in elderly men, so if both your father and his brother were found to have prostate cancer when they were in their 80s, it is less likely to be due to an inherited gene change.
When many relatives have the same type of cancer it is important to notice if the cancer could be related to smoking. For example, lung cancer is commonly caused by smoking, so many cases of lung cancer in a family of heavy smokers is more likely to be due to smoking than to an inherited gene change.

Types of cancer

For many types of cancer, a portion of those cancers are linked to a family history. Breast, ovarian, prostate, and colon are some of these cancers. Some of these are discussed briefly here, but only to help explain heredity and cancer. Please refer to the American Cancer Society specific cancer site documents for more information about a particular type of cancer and its genetic components, diagnosis, and treatment.

Breast cancer

Many women are concerned that breast cancer seems to run in their family. A woman who has a first-degree relative (a mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer is about twice as likely to develop breast cancer as a woman without a family history of this cancer. Still, most cases of breast cancer, even those in close relatives, are not part of a family cancer syndrome caused by an inherited gene mutation.
The chance that someone has an inherited form of breast cancer is higher the younger they are when they get the cancer and the more relatives they have with the disease. Inherited breast cancer can be caused by several different genes, but the most common are BRCA1 and BRCA2. Inherited mutations in these genes cause hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (HBOC). Along with breast and ovarian cancer, this syndrome can also lead to male breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, as well as some others. This syndrome is more common in women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent than it is in the general US population.
Women with a strong family history of breast cancer may choose to undergo genetic counseling to estimate their risk for inherited breast cancer. They then can choose to be tested to find out if they have a breast cancer gene mutation. If a mutation is present, the woman has a high risk of developing breast cancer. She may start getting mammograms at an age younger than 40, have special breast cancer screening tests, or take other measures to try to reduce her risk of getting breast cancer.

Colon cancer

One cause of hereditary colon cancer is a disease called familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). People with this disease start getting colon polyps by their teen years, and over time may have hundreds of polyps in their colon. If left alone, at least one of these polyps will become cancer. The gene for this syndrome is called APC, and testing for mutations in this gene is available. If FAP is diagnosed early in life, surgery to remove the colon is often used to stop the cancer from developing.
The most common inherited syndrome that increases a person's risk for colon cancer is called hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), or Lynch syndrome. People with this syndrome have a high risk of colorectal cancer. Most of these cancers occur before age 50. People with HNPCC may also have polyps, but they only have a few, not hundreds as in FAP. HNPCC also leads to a high risk of endometrial cancer (cancer in the lining of the uterus) in women. Other cancers linked with HNPCC include cancer of the ovary, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, kidney, brain, ureters (tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder), and bile duct.
HNPCC is caused by mutations in one of the DNA repair enzyme genes MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS1, or PMS2. Mutations in these genes can be found through genetic testing. Another option for people with colorectal cancer is to have the tumor tissue tested for changes that can be caused when one of these genes is faulty. These changes are known as microsatellite instability (or MSI). Having normal findings (no MSI) implies that HNPCC is not present and that the genes that cause it are normal.
Someone who is known to carry an HNPCC gene mutation may start colonoscopy screening at an early age (such as during their early 20s) to find cancers and polyps early. Some people even have surgery to remove of most of the colon to try to prevent cancer from starting. Women with HNPCC may choose to be screened for endometrial cancer. Some even have their uterus removed after they have finished having children.

Childhood cancers

Like adult cancers, most childhood cancers are not inherited. They are caused by mutations acquired during the child's life. Some of these may even have occurred before the child was born (while still in the womb). A few types of childhood cancers are known to occur more often in some families. Some of these are due to hereditary cancer syndromes.
Retinoblastoma: This is a childhood cancer that starts in the eye. It can be caused by an inherited mutation in the tumor suppressor gene Rb. In about 1 out of 4 children with retinoblastoma, the abnormal gene is in every cell in the body. In most of these cases, this is due to a new mutation (gene change) in the sperm or egg. In some cases though, the abnormal copy of Rb was inherited from a parent.
Even though the child has a remaining normal copy of the Rb gene, he or she is likely to develop this cancer. This is because there is no backup to stop the mutated gene from making abnormal cells if the remaining healthy Rb gene stops working in even one cell.
Patients with the hereditary form of retinoblastoma are more likely to get tumors in both eyes. They also have an increased risk of developing other types of cancer, including cancers of the bone, brain, nasal cavities, and a type of skin cancer (melanoma).
Li-Fraumeni syndrome: This syndrome occurs when a person inherits a mutation in the gene for p53 (TP53, a tumor suppressor gene). A normal gene for p53 stops the growth of abnormal cells. People with a TP53 gene abnormality have a higher risk of childhood sarcoma, leukemia, and brain (central nervous system) cancers.
Li-Fraumeni syndrome also raises the risk of cancers of the breast and adrenal glands. One study showed that 15% of Li-Fraumeni patients who had cancer were diagnosed later with a second cancer, and some developed a third and fourth cancer later on.

Genetic counseling and testing

People with a strong family history of cancer may want to find out about their genetic makeup. This knowledge may help the person or other family members in planning health care for the future. Since inherited mutations affect all cells of a person's body, they can often be identified by genetic testing that is done on blood samples. Genetic counseling and testing may be recommended for some people with a strong family history of cancer. For more information on genetic testing, refer to our document, Genetic Testing: What You Need to Know.

Future directions

The Human Genome Project is an international program devoted to determining the complete DNA sequence in humans. Although all the genes have been listed, there is still a great deal to learn about what protein each gene makes. Researchers need to find out how each gene fits into the body’s activities at the cellular level and the effect that activity has on diseases such as cancer.
The hope is that the Human Genome Project will some day provide a single reference to all human genetic information, including cancer genes and markers. The impact this project will have on the future of cancer is profound. You can read more about the Human Genome Project on the Web at

Friday, November 16, 2012

Regina Lawry - Hero of Hope

I’m Regina Lawry, from Mena, Arkansas.  I’m a caregiver and I’m 1 out of 7.
I’m the only one in my immediate family that has never had a cancer diagnosis.
When I was a little girl in the early 60’s I went out collecting money for ACS with my mother.  At that time the ACS would send out envelopes and ask people to take them around their neighborhoods.  I can remember asking her why we were doing it and she would tell me, “You never know who it might help.”
In 1975 she was diagnosed with leukemia.  In the 70’s leukemia was a death sentence.  There was no treatment. 
She would get so weak.  I remember her coming to my house one day and she was too weak to even open the screen door.  It was as if mom’s blood would just disappear.  
At that time the only thing they could do for her was to give her platelets or whole blood.  They were giving her several units of whole blood and or platelet every week. 
It was the ACS that developed apheresis (the technology to separate the platelets from the whole blood).  This technology is used in many other medical applications also.       
At that time the family was responsible for replacing the blood that was used for her.  We all donated and were always scrambling to find other donors.  The Local ACS office donated over 100 units in her name.  I’m not saying that this is a service that is provided by ACS.  It’s just how much they care.
The doctors decided to remove her spleen and hopefully stop the loss of blood.  While she was in the hospital they asked her to participate in a bone marrow study.  They were studying the progression of the disease.  She was told that it would not benefit her, but would hopefully help others later on. 
They told her that it was painful.  It was done with a local and they had to drill into the hip bone and remove the marrow.  We tried to talk her out of it, but she insisted that she would do it.  She said, “You never know who this might help.”
In December of 1976 she lost her battle with cancer.
In the summer of 1996 (20 years later) a bone marrow transplant saved my sister Lenora’s life.  In February of that year she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. 
I took care of her 6 weeks during her transplant.  It was the hardest thing I have ever done.  As a caregiver you are completely exhausted all of the time and you are watching some you love go through something so difficult. My brother Duane was her stem cell donor.
ACS is still funding platelet and stem cell research.  The ACS does NOT fund embryonic stem cell research.  I repeat the ACS does NOT fund embryonic stem cell research.  That was important to me.
A few years later my sister Roberta was diagnosed with bi-lateral breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy along with chemotherapy.  She is still cancer free. 
Not long afterwards my sister Bunny was diagnosed with breast cancer and chose to have a double mastectomy.  It was caught early and no further treatments were required. 
After Roberta’s treatments and recovery she became involved in Relay for Life in Enumclaw, Washington.  She invited all of us to come to Enumclaw and support her in the Relay.  We all went, because that’s the kind of family we are and we wanted to help her through her healing process.
I cannot tell you what it meant to me when I watched my siblings walk arm and arm around that track in the survivor lap.  Then when I saw my mother and my father’s luminary bags during the luminary ceremony I knew it was something that I had to be a part of. 
I returned to Enumclaw for a few years for Relay.  Then one day I got a luminary form in my bank statement.  They were having a Relay in Polk County.  I called the number on the form, signed up a team, raised $7000 and have been the chairman of the Polk County Relay for 5 years. 
Not too long ago on Facebook I saw that my cousin Michael was diagnosed with leukemia and was getting ready to undergo a bone marrow transplant.  I called him and we talked about my mother and what she had done.  We cried and we laughed.  36 years later bone marrow and stem cell research is still saving lives. 
The money that is raised helps long term.  We may not see the results today but ACS researchers save thousands and thousands of lives.  I know, because I’ve seen it first hand through things like Blood apheresis, bone marrow studies, stem cell research and various drugs and chemotherapies. 
So why do I Relay?  It’s my legacy.  I want my grand-children to know what my mother did for love.  She would have endured it all for a stranger, but ended up doing it for those she loved.  I want there to be treatments if they ever need them. 
I’m Regina Lawry and I Relay BIG in Polk County, Arkansas.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Great American Smokeout

Every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout. They may use the date to make a plan to quit, or plan in advance and then quit smoking that day. The event challenges people to stop using tobacco and helps people know about the many tools they can use to quit and stay quit.

In many towns and communities, local volunteers support quitters, publicize this anti-smoking event, and press for laws that control tobacco use and discourage teens from starting.

Research shows that smokers are most successful in kicking the habit when they have support, such as:

Telephone smoking-cessation hotlines
Stop-smoking groups
Online quit groups
Nicotine replacement products
Prescription medicine to lessen cravings
Guide books
Encouragement and support from friends and family members

Using 2 or more of these measures to help you quit smoking works better than using any one of them alone. For example, some people use a prescription medicine along with nicotine replacement. Other people may use as many as 3 or 4 of the methods listed above.

Telephone stop-smoking hotlines are an easy-to-use resource, and they are available in all 50 states. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 to find telephone counseling or other support in your area.

Support is out there, but the most recent information suggests that fewer than 1 in 3 smokers reports having tried any of the recommended therapies during their last quit attempt.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hope Floats


The Hope Floats - Wal-mart 67 Relay For Life team held a innovative and interesting fundraiser on October 20, 2012. When people made donations to the team their name was written on the bottom of a rubber duck. The ducks were then taken to the middle of the pond at Rich Mountain Community College and set adrift.


When the ducks were set adrift, Lady, a black lab, was sent into the water to retrieve a duck. The name on the first duck retrieved received a 40" flat screen HD TV, the second a Nook e-reader and the third a rocking chair.


It was a breezy day, and when all of the rubber ducks had been blown to shore, the kids present had a great time collecting the rubber ducks from the lake.

IMG_3714 IMG_3738

It was a great fundraiser and over 2200.00 was raised for Relay For Life.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Brandi Sachs - Volunteering to Find a Cure

Citizen of the Week by LeAnn Dilbeck - Published in the October 17, 2012 issue of The Polk County Pulse.

Family is an integral part of who so many of us are. But for many it goes much deeper and defines who we are. A statement that can be said for this week's Citizen, Brandi Myers Sachs. And family is who has inspired one of her greatest active outspoken champion of the Polk County Relay For Life. "It was devastating," says Myers through tears when she remembers getting the call that her Aunt Peggy had pancreatic cancer. Her aunt underwent treatments but lost her battle within only a few short months of diagnosis. Brandi had known of others with cancer but had never had the devastating illness strike so bitterly close to home and says she regrets now taking so long to become involved in helping to find a cure.

"When you become involved with Relay, you are helping to find a cure...97 cents of every dollar raised goes to research," says Sachs, and it is in that she finds great healing. "It's too late for my aunt but it's not too late for my mom or your aunt or your daughter...or on and on."  Through grief and loss, Brandi has discovered a passion that she chooses to champion a cause and make a profound difference...a difference that she may never actually see but finds inspiration and comfort in knowing she was part of a larger cause that worked to eradicate an illness that has devestated families across the globe.

Brandi moved to Mena with her parents Don and Judye Myers along with brothers Cotye and Justin when she was just two.  Don had been sent on "assignment" by his father to open a Sonic Drive-In.  And that he did.  The Myers Sonic Drive-In became a cornerstone business on the corner of Cherry and Hwy 71 as well as part of at least two generations of teenagers' memories that made the drive-in a regular weekend and after-school hangout spot.  In 2000, the family made a very tough decision to discontinue their Sonic franchise and the restaurant became Myers Cruizzers Drive-In.  "It was a really big decision for my Dad but he believed as long as we continued to give good service we'd be fine."  Brandi said the business barely experienced a hiccup and the customers continued to turn-in day after day.

Now the three siblings share the responsibility of running the same drive-in that was such a big part their own childhood.  Brandi graduated from Mena High School in 1991 and married her husband, David, in 1996.  The couple have two children, Ridge age 14, and Brickie, age 10.  "My life didn't begin untill I had them," sand Brandi.

She said the family enjoys camping, four-wheeling, and just spending time together.  Each of the Myers siblings have homes near their parents, Don and Judye.

Just as passionate as her advocacy for cancer, Brandi wants her children to have the same childhood she had where her parents instilled the values and beliefs she still carries today.  "You want to raise them right...raise them so they know how to make the right choices."

Brandi also enjoys photography but even in her hobby it is in her appreciation for family that she finds fulfillment.  When asked what she found the most fulffilling about her photography, she said immediately and simply, "preserving those memories for the families."

Quite satisfied raising her family in the same hometown where she was raised, Brandi enjoys working at the drive-in, being a wife and a mom.  When asked where she saw herself in ten years, she said, "well, I hope as happy and as blessed as I have been the last ten!"


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Newly Diagnosed? Top 5 Questions You Should Ask Your Care Team

Hearing the words “you have cancer” is enough to send any mind spinning. You may have a million questions running through your head, and you may not know where to start when it comes to asking for information about your diagnosis and treatment. However, opening up a dialogue with your care team is the best way to get the answers you need to make informed decisions about your health. The list below will help you ask the right questions as you start your cancer journey.

  1. Exactly what kind of cancer do I have? All cancers start with an uncontrolled growth of cells in the body, but different kinds of cancer behave very differently. They may grow at different rates and respond to different treatments – and not just because they affect different parts of the body. There can also be sub-types of breast cancer, for example, that behave differently from other sub-types of breast cancer. Learning your exact diagnosis and the l name of your cancer is the first step in understanding your diagnosis and helping others understand it, too.
  2. What stage is my cancer, and what does that mean?  Staging is a concise way to describe the size of a particular cancer growth and also how far the cancer may have spread beyond where it started. Cancers can range from stage I to stage IV, with stage I describing the smallest tumors located in only one area of the body and stage IV describing larger growths or cancer that has spread. The stage is very important in making decisions about the best treatment, for example a stage I breast cancer will be treated very differently from a stage IV breast cancer. Knowing the stage also can help your doctor talk to you about how likely you are to respond to treatment and survive the cancer. Ask your doctor to explain what stage cancer you have and why it was staged that way. You may need to have some additional tests or even surgery for doctors to fully stage your cancer.
  3. What are my treatment choices? There may be more than one way to treat your cancer. Learning about the effectiveness, potential side effects, and long-term outcomes of different cancer treatments can help you make the best decision about the next steps in your care. Ask what the goal of the treatment is: Are you working to get rid of the cancer, keep it from spreading, or simply relieve some symptoms? Also ask what the long-term effects of potential treatments might be. Some treatments can permanently affect your fertility or other bodily functions or increase your risk of a second cancer in the future.
  4. What will life be like during treatment? Knowing what to expect on a day-to-day basis during treatment can help you feel more calm and prepared as you move forward. Ask about the basics, such as where your treatment will take place, how long it will last, and how often you will need to go. Also ask how the treatment might impact your daily activities: Will you still be able to attend work or school? Drive a car? Travel? Get an idea of how the treatment might impact your body, too. Will it be painful or cause physical side effects such as hair loss or fatigue? If you get details in advance, you can make a plan for how you will cope with these factors if and when they happen.
  5. How much will it cost? Although money may be the last thing you want to talk about, cancer will likely impact your finances as well as your body. After talking with your doctor about treatment options, talk with your insurance company or the financial office of your hospital or clinic to get a clear idea of how much your care will cost. Ask about the costs of any treatment and about the costs of medicines or any home care services you may need. If you need help paying for your care, ask to talk with a social worker who may be able to guide you to resources to help you.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Most Effective Breast Cancer-Fighting Organization in the World

Written by W. Phil Evans, M.D., F.A.C.R., the director of the Center for Breast Care at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. 

As a radiologist specializing in breast imaging and an American Cancer Society volunteer for many years, I have a unique perspective on life-saving early detection with mammography and the extraordinary role of the Society in breast cancer care. Over the years, I have had to tell many women that they have breast cancer, and the Society has always been there for them. Today, one of every two women newly diagnosed with breast cancer reaches out to the Society for help and support. In every community, we provide free information and services–when and where it’s needed.

Doctors know that when found early rather than late, breast cancer is much easier to treat, and the chance of survival is significantly greater. The Society has helped translate this knowledge into action that has improved and saved many lives by increasing public awareness of breast cancer, developing screening guidelines, and providing clinician education programs. For years, the Society has recommended that women begin screening at age 40 with yearly mammography and clinical breast exam.  Largely due to screening and improved treatments, the breast cancer death rate has decreased by over 30% since 1990 and will approach a 40% reduction by 2015.

Although screening mammography is very effective in reducing breast cancer deaths, it does have limitations. Mammography detects most but not all breast cancers early.  A clinical examination and breast awareness are part of the screening process for women at average breast cancer risk.  If you have a strong family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer, genetic testing may be appropriate to determine if you have a gene mutation that places you and possibly a member of your family at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.  Additional imaging with ultrasound and/or MRI in addition to mammography may be recommended for those at high risk.

While we do not yet know how to prevent breast cancer, research supported by the Society suggests how a woman may reduce her breast cancer risk by:
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight throughout life,
  • Engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity, and
  • Reducing alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day.
For women diagnosed with breast cancer, the Society is ready to help around the clock in communities nationwide. The National Cancer Information Center (1-800-227-2345 or is staffed 24/7 with specialists who answer calls and e-mails and monitor chat room discussions.  They assist patients and caregivers with information requests and service referrals.  We provide emotional support for the newly diagnosed both in person and online, transportation assistance to and from treatment, free lodging if treatment is far from home, free wigs and help with treatment-related side effects, and tips, tools, and resources for nutritional needs during treatment, recovery, and survivorship.

The Society passionately fights back against breast cancer through Making Strides Against Breast Cancer –the largest network of breast cancer events in the nation, uniting more than 270 communities to fund the fight. The walks are 3-5 miles and the walkers raised more than $60 million last year to find cures and save lives. In addition, through the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), our nonprofit, nonpartisan, advocacy affiliate, breast cancer remains a top priority for our nation’s lawmakers. Through ACS CAN, we support federal legislation that will increase access to treatment for breast cancer patients and quality of life for survivors. Moreover, ACS CAN has lobbied Congress for continued support the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP). This program helps low income, uninsured, and underinsured women obtain access to screening and treatment and has provided over 10 million screening exams to four million women, finding more than 52,000 breast cancers. Finally, ACS CAN urges Congress to robustly fund breast cancer research that will improve prevention, detection, treatment, and survivorship.

The American Cancer Society has played a role in nearly every major breast cancer breakthrough in recent history and will continue the work until the disease is defeated.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Local Relay Leaders Attend Leadership Summit

 Article published in the September 27, 2012 issue of The Mena Star

Relay Cheerleaders

The American Cancer Society held the Mid-South Division Relay For Life Leadership Summit September 21st and 22nd at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Arkansas.  Four members of the Relay For Life of Polk County committee attended the Summit; Richie and Regina Lawry, Crystal Mos, and Debbie Welch.  The purpose of the Summit was to inspire hope, courage, and determination in the fight to eliminate cancer. If there is one word that defines Relay For Life it is "hope".
The Relay For Life Leadership Summit welcomed over 1,200 volunteers from Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.  The theme of the Summit was Dream Big - Hope Big - Relay Big.  Cancer is a BIG foe.  To defeat it we are going to have to Dream BIG, Hope BIG and Relay BIG.  In 2011, Arkansas held 71 Relay For Life events with 1,534 teams and 2,990 cancer survivors participating. Arkansas Relayers are looking for bigger things in 2013. 
Relay For Life represents the hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten, that those who face cancer will be supported, and that one day cancer will be eliminated.  Relay For Life is more than just a fundraiser. It’s a life-changing experience. At Relay, every person in the community has a chance to celebrate, remember, and fight back. And every person who participates joins others around the globe as part of this worldwide movement to end cancer.
The Relay For Life of Polk County attendees came back determined to dream big, hope big and Relay big.  If you would like to be a part of something big, call Regina Lawry at 479-234-1608.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lawry Continues Commitment to Relay For Life

Lawry continues commitment to Relay For Life, receives recognition

By Scarlett Thompson 
American Cancer Society

Published in a supplement to The Mena Star - May 24,2012 

Regina Lawry of Arkansas started volunteering for the American Cancer Society at an early age, when her mother would go around their neighborhood collecting money for the organization. “She told me you just never know who it might help,” says Lawry.
Turns out, the money collected by Lawry and her mother may have helped their own family.  Regina’s mother would eventually battle leukemia and her father faced colon cancer.  Three of her sisters were diagnosed with breast cancer.  Her brother fought skin cancer.  Regina is the only one of her immediate family to not get a diagnosis.  “I feel like I live my life waiting for the other shoe to drop,” says Lawry, who manages a credit union in the town of Mena.
That’s why Lawry still volunteers for the American Cancer Society.  She says she knows first-hand that research is critical, by again, watching her mother. “During her treatments she participated in a bone marrow study.  At that time they told her it was very painful and would not help her but the research would help someone else down the line,” says Lawry.  “Twenty years later a bone marrow transplant saved my sister Lenora’s life.”

The American Cancer Society helped fund the development of the bone marrow transplant.  That procedure helped Lawry’s sister live 13 years more until the cancer returned.  Lawry cared for Lenora during that time, which included helping her get to sessions of the American Cancer Society’s Look Good…Feel Better program.  It helps women who are undergoing treatment deal with skin and hair changes, offering them free wigs and tips on how to apply makeup.  “Lenora put her face on every morning before we left the house for her bone marrow treatments.  She said she had to have a little dignity,” says Lawry.

Meantime, one of Lawry’s other sisters was battling breast cancer too.  It was her sister Roberta who introduced Lawry to the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, an event where participants form teams to raise money for patient programs, research and much more.  Survivors are celebrated, those lost to cancer are remembered and every one at the event gets a chance to fight back against the disease through Relay.  “When I watched my four siblings walk around the track arm in arm during the Survivor’s Lap and then saw my mother’s name and my father’s name on luminary bags, I knew this was something I had to get involved in,” says Lawry.
Since then, Lawry has been involved in her local Relay For Life event, and representing her community as a Hero of Hope.  It’s an opportunity for her to travel and share with others the impact of the American Cancer Society. “I know the American Cancer Society makes a difference.  I’ve seen it in my own family,” says Lawry.  “The American Cancer Society funded research that helped develop treatments for leukemia, Tamoxifen and many other drugs.”

Lawry says she’ll keep taking part in Relay, not only for the future but for someone in her past. “I show my mother’s luminary to my granddaughters and think how proud she would have been of us all and if only those ground breaking treatments for leukemia would have come just a few years earlier.  I relay for my granddaughters so that if they ever get cancer there is a treatment to save their life,” says Lawry.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Relay For Life makes a difference in community

Polk County Relay For Life makes a difference in community, for research
by Andy Philpot

Published in the May 24, 2012 issue of The Mena Star

As Relay For Life is now a well established tradition in Polk County, it serves many more purposes that meets the eye.  Co-chairs of the local Relay For Life, Regina and Richie Lawry, can tell you that while the event itself is one weekend of the year, the efforts are a year -round effort.  This year-round effort that the Lawrys have instilled into making Relay For Life as successful as possible in our communities, the same commitment is followed by a number of organizations, businesses, and individuals, who seek to raise as much money as possible for Relay For Life.  This money in turn goes toward cancer research, which in turn leads to more treatments of the many cancers our friends and family encounter, which in turn leads to many more birthdays and reasons to celebrate.

Last year Polk County Relay For Life raised 66,000, which combined with the rest of the Relay For life events that took place in Arkansas, a total of $4.5 million was raised by Relay For Life events across the state in 2011.  This total gets combined with all the other Relay For Life events that take place nation-wide, all of which are raised for the American Cancer Society to use toward cancer research.  With the ultimate goal of one day eliminating the words "You Have Cancer" being spoken by doctors, it takes a collective effort to reach this goal.

                                         Keisha Pittman

Helping to emphasize the significance of every dollar that is raised in community Relays, two different testimonies were shared at this year's Polk County Relay For Life.  Keisha Pittman, from Arkadelphia, shared her cancer battle testimony during the opening ceremonies of this year's Relay, and emphasized that every dollar amount is important toward the shared goal of defeating cancer.  She spoke how community Relay For Life events in both big cities and smaller towns are all invaluable because they all go toward the common goal.  The funds of Relay For Life are what helps make continued research and advancements in cancer treatments possible.

                                Deidra Porter

Deidra Porter, of Conway, shared her testimony just before the Luminaria ceremony, and how her cancer experience has her that much more an advocate for Relay For Life events throuought the devoted communities.  Porter was diagnosed with cancer, and moments before she was to begin her first treatment, she learned she was pregnant.  Like Pittman, Porter's testimony was both emotional and inspirational.  Porter not only endured cancer and now can share her story with others, but she also has a healthy son that has endured the treatments.  Sharing the exact sentiment of Pittman, Porter praised Relay For Life and how every dollar raised in important to the overall goal of seeking an end to cancer.

Pittman and Porter traveled to Mena to share their testimonies with the Polk County Relay For Life participants, and their stories are added to the always growing list of cancer survivors that do hear the words "You Have Cancer", but endure the battle and can proudly wear a purple shirt as they walk the Survivors Lap.

Relay For Life is held for the purpose of celebrating the survivors, remembering those we have lost, and giving hope that one day the world may be cancer free.  Through the celebrating and remembering, the success gets passed along to the American Cancer society through the fundraising that happens all year long.  With each Relay For life that takes place, it adds to the overall funding that can be used toward cancer research and treatments.

                                          Gordy Klatt

Relay For Life has been raising money for the American Cancer Society since 1985, when Gordy Klatt came up with a way to raise funds for his local American Cancer Society office in Tacoma, Washington, and show support of all his patients who had battled cancer.  He did this by spending 24 hours circling the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound.  He ran more than 83 miles and his efforts raised $27,000 to fight cancer.  It has only gotten bigger and better from there.