Friday, February 15, 2013

Moderate Drinking Increases Cancer Risk

New research shows that even a single alcoholic drink per day can increase your risk of developing certain types of cancer, including breast cancer in women.

Though people have long believed that a glass or two of wine can be good for your heart, the new study, conducted in conjunction with researchers in the U.S., Canada, and France, shows that the cancer risks far outweigh any heart-healthy benefits.

"Alcohol has long been known and recognized as a human carcinogen, so even some alcohol consumption raises your risks," Dr. Timothy Naimi, an alcohol researcher at Boston University's School of Public Health and a physician at the Boston University Medical Center who helped design and direct the study, stated. "On the balance of all people who begin drinking, many more people are killed by alcohol than helped by it."

"No public health body or clinical body recommends that people start drinking to improve their health," he added.

The research, published Friday in the American Journal of Public Health, relied on existing data about cancer deaths, alcohol consumption, and risk estimates from other scientific studies. It marks the first time that researchers have examined alcohol-related cancer rates in 30 years.

They found that alcohol could be blamed for about 20,000 cancer deaths each year, or 1 out of every 30 cancer deaths in the United States, which was about what they expected. But while heavy drinkers faced the highest risks, about a third of those deaths were among people who drank only small amounts of alcohol—1.5 alcoholic drinks or fewer per day. And it didn't matter what type of drink was consumed; standard servings of beer (12 ounces), wine (5 ounces), and hard liquor (1.5 ounces) all contain the same amount of alcohol.

While more men die from alcohol-related cancers than women (men do tend to drink more), women have more adverse consequences from drinking, not only because they tend to have less body mass than men, but because they also metabolize alcohol less efficiently. The study found that about 6,000 female breast cancer deaths each year—or 15 percent—could be attributed to alcohol consumption; for men, cancers of the mouth, throat, and esophagus were the most common types of alcohol-related cancer. Alcohol is also linked to cancer of the liver, colon, and rectum.

The study also eliminated the common misconception that Europeans, especially in France and Germany, are healthier than Americans even though they drink plenty of alcohol. If Europeans are healthier, Naimi said, it's not likely because of their drinking habits: The number of cancer deaths attributable to alcohol in Europe was higher than in the United States.

Researcher acknowledge that people are unlikely to give up alcohol altogether. "In general, drinking less is better than drinking more, and for people who drink excessively it's something to think about," Naimi said. "Alcohol is a big preventable cancer risk factor that has been hiding in plain sight."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Proton Therapy

A staggering 99 percent of prostate cancer patients treated with proton therapy believe they made the best treatment decisions for themselves, according to a new report released today at the National Proton Conference in Washington, D.C. The report analyzed outcomes and satisfaction of approximately 6,400 prostate cancer patients, more than 80 percent of whom received treatment at Loma Linda University Medical Center's (LLUMC) James M. Slater Proton Treatment and Research Center.
"This report reaffirms the results we've seen from our patients for the past 22 years and supports the mountain of evidence regarding the efficacy of proton therapy," said Jerry D. Slater, M.D., chairman of the LLUMC center. Dr. Slater and Dr. David A. Bush, vice-chairman of the department of radiation at LLUMC, recently co-authored a similar study entitled "Multi-Institutional Patient-Reported Quality of Life After Proton Therapy for Prostate Cancer Compared to Non-Treated Men."
The just-released report was commissioned by the National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT) and conducted by Dobson DaVanzo & Associates, LLC, an independent health economics and policy consulting firm. It looked at patient-based outcomes analysis and included personal questions that provided meaningful data that helps physicians make treatment decisions.
Not only did approximately 99 percent of the patients surveyed believe they made the best treatment decision for themselves, but an almost equal number - almost 98 percent - reported that they had recommended proton therapy to others.
Additional key findings of the report included:
-- Approximately 96 percent of patients were satisfied or extremely satisfied with proton therapy.
-- Ninety-two percent of patients reported that their quality of life was better or the same today than it was before their treatment. Only 8 percent stated that their quality of life was worse.
-- Ninety-two percent of respondents reported that physical health or emotional problems did not interfere, or interfered very little, with their social activities.
-- Those who completed proton therapy for the treatment of prostate cancer had similar urinary, bowel and hormonal health-related quality-of-life (HRQOL) measures compared to healthy individuals. For patients who received hormone therapy in addition to proton therapy, lower sexual HRQOL measures were reported. However, when looking at patients who received only proton therapy for the treatment of prostate cancer and who did not receive hormone or photon therapy, proton therapy patients reported lower HRQOL than healthy individuals in only one category, "sexual bother," which refers to annoyance related to their sexual symptoms.

In addition to prostate cancer, proton therapy is effectively used to treat many different types of cancer. The outcomes of the NAPT report can be attributed to the pinpoint accuracy of the highly targeted proton beams. According to Dr. Slater, "Proton therapy is extremely effective as a treatment for prostate cancer because the targeted proton beams spare surrounding healthy tissue and minimize the typical side effects from standard photon beam radiation including incontinence and impotence."
Since LLUMC introduced modern proton treatment for cancer into the mainstream in 1990, there have been countless studies and trials that have shown proton therapy to be the treatment of choice for many types of cancer. Over the years proton treatment has been refined and, coupled with leading-edge technology, has become one of the best treatment options for doctors and patients. While prostate cancer remains one of the primary uses for proton therapy, the pinpoint accuracy of the proton beam also makes it a highly effective form of treatment for many other types of tumors including those found in the head, neck, lung and breast.
About LLUMC's Proton Treatment and Research Center
Established in 1990 Loma Linda University Medical Center Proton Treatment and Research Center was the first hospital-based proton therapy center in the world. Today the center uses proton beam technology for many types of cancers and has treated more patients than any other proton treatment center in the world. The center is part of LLUMC's comprehensive health system, which is widely respected as a healthcare leader pioneering work in such areas as organ transplants, proton treatment for cancers, cardiac care, physical rehabilitation, and acute pediatric and adult care as well as treatments for chemical dependence and other behavioral disorders. The health system - which includes Loma Linda University Medical Center and Children's Hospital, LLUMC - East Campus, Behavioral Medicine Center, Heart and Surgical Hospital, LLUMC-Murrieta and physician clinics - collectively sees over 30,000 inpatients and about 750,000 outpatient visits a year. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I Fought Fears So My Wife Could Fight Cancer

Today's post is written by Cameron Von St. James.  He contacted me and offered to tell his story to our readers. We corresponded and he sent me his story. It is both compelling and informative. Here is his story of his personal battle with cancer as a caregiver.

I Fought Fears So My Wife Could Fight Cancer
by Cameron Von St. James 

The most terrifying day of my life was November 21, 2005. It was that day that my wife Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, just three months after giving birth to our first and only daughter, Lily. My life was never the same after receiving that news, but in the years that we battled cancer, I learned lessons that will last me a lifetime.

Heather's reaction to the news was pure shock. She looked like she wasn't there anymore. When we were confronted with questions about her treatment and care options, I took over and answered for her. I had to. She was too scared, shocked into silences, and I didn't blame her.  I knew she needed help, and I chose the best treatment option for us at the time, which was to travel to Boston to see Dr. David Sugarbaker, a renowned specialist in the treatment of mesothelioma. Travel was tough on us because we had a newborn daughter at the time, but it was just another obstacle for us to beat together.

During the first two months of our battle, our lives were utter chaos. I worked, took care of Lily at home, took care of the bills, and cared for Heather as she endured the hell of cancer. It was an emotionally draining time and I cried many nights, fearing that I wasn't doing enough, even though there were times when I knew I was doing too much. There was no choice. If we were going to beat this thing and raise Lily together, we had to do anything we could. Heather's energies were focused on getting well, mine were pulled in every other direction.

Medical bills soon piled up and financial pressures were at an all-time high. We had to travel to Boston for treatments and soon the bills were skyrocketing. For the first time in my life, I accepted financial help from family and friends when they offered it. In this war, anything went. We simply had to take every possible avenue of help that we could if we were going to make it. My strongest advice for any caregiver or cancer patient is to accept every offer of help that comes your way. There is no room for pride in a fight with cancer, and even the smallest offer of help, be it a meal, a shoulder to cry on or a kind word of encouragement, can be a weight lifted off your shoulders and at the very least will remind you that you’re not alone.

I'm so proud of Heather for what she endured during this time and the beautiful person she remained during it. Today, over seven years after her mesothelioma diagnosis she is cancer-free and healthy.  Lily has her mother, something that I feared she wouldn't be able to experience.

Two years after Heather’s diagnosis, I returned to school to get my college degree, with the lessons I learned through my family’s fight against cancer.  I received my degree in Information Technology and graduated with high honors. I was able to share some of these experiences during my graduation speech, an honor that I readily accepted when it came my way. The lessons I learned during Heather's battle with cancer are the most valuable of my life, and I shared them with my fellow graduates that day, telling them that within each of us is the strength to accomplish impossible things.  Heather and Lily were in the audience to cheer me on, and that was the greatest reward of all.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cryoablation and Hope

As the webmaster of the Relay For Life of Polk County Arkansas Facebook page and blog, I am always looking for interesting and informative material to bring to the readers.  Until just a few weeks ago, cryoablation as a cancer treatment was something I had never heard of.  The situation that brought about my learning of cryoablation is personal.  Today my Mom goes in to the hospital for treatment on her kidney tumor. As you can see from the CT scan capture it is a large tumor. The procedure that the doctors are going to use is cryoablation.

Cryoablation uses hollow needles through which cooled, thermally conductive, fluids are circulated. Cryoprobes are inserted into the tumor. When the probes are in place, the cryogenic freezing unit removes heat ("cools") from the tip of the probe and by extension from the surrounding tissues.  The most common application of cryoablation is to ablate solid tumors found in the lung, liver, breast, kidney and prostate.

The concept of cryoablation is relatively new in cancer surgery for any disease.  Traditionally, surgeons have treated cancer by literally cutting it out. In contrast to this approach, cryoablation is a different concept in that cold energy is used to destroy the cancerous tissue at the exact site where it exists in the body. Cryoablation is particularly well suited to kidney cancer.

Cryoablation is a very promising new approach to kidney cancer. This kind of new treatment is why I am a strong supporter of cancer research.  I have spent the last six years doing all that I can to raise money for cancer research through the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life.  As I was researching this procedure I came across the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Library website.  I found these words about Renal Cryoablation that were written in 2008.  "Early results have demonstrated that it may offer an alternative for the treatment of renal masses with the advantages of minimal complications, spared renal function, decreased overall costs and equivalent oncologic efficacy. Long-term results are required in order to apply this minimally invasive technique to a broader spectrum of patients".  Just five years ago the procedure that will be used on my Mom tomorrow was a brand new technology.  It has only been available in Arkansas for two years.

Several large medical centers have produced data demonstrating that kidney cancer is cured in approximately 97 percent of patients who undergo cryoablation with a follow-up of three years. Because it is such a new procedure , 10 year follow-up information on patients having undergone cryoablation is not yet available.  Some of the data is showing 98 to 100 percent cure rates.

I know that at Relay For Life events we often hear that we are raising money to find a cure. Cancer is not just one disease, it is many many diseases. Sometimes when we see how many people are affected by cancer and how much misery suffering and sadness it causes it seems hopeless. In my work for the American Cancer Society people often tell me that there will never be a cure because cancer is a big business and the doctors and pharmaceutical companies would suppress a cure if it was found. What a sad way of life it is for these people who have no hope. One of the things that Relay For Life events around the world focus on is providing people with hope. Hope is why we Relay!


I like a statement that the American Cancer Society released recently.  "Together with our millions of supporters, we save lives and create more birthdays by helping you stay well, helping you get well, finding cures and fighting back against this disease. Thanks to research funded by the American Cancer Society, many cancers that were once considered a death sentence can now be cured and for many more people their cancer can now be treated effectively".  It is way to simplistic to be focusing on a cure.  The American Cancer Society is focusing on "cures".  The fact that many cancers that were once considered a death sentence can now be cured should give us hope.  The fact that six years ago when I got involved with Relay For Life the treatment that my Mom will undergo tomorrow would not have been available to her gives me hope.  The 97 to 100 percent cure rates that have been seen with renal cryoablation gives me hope.  Relay For Life gives me hope.