Cancer Blog

Here's our collection of cancer-related stories. We sift through a variety of stories and share the issues that we think matter to cancer patients, caregivers, healthcare providers and survivors. Learn about current events in the cancer community, human interest stories, and promising technology and treatment advances. Tell us what you think in the Comments section at the bottom of each post.

Note: The information contained in this service is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in the service is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment of any illness, condition or disease.

Nov

30

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Study Finds Link Between Testicular Cancer Chemo & Neurological Side Effects in Survivors

by: cancercompass

New research suggests that cisplatin-based chemotherapy treatments may cause neurological side effects for long-term testicular cancer survivors, according to U.S. News and World Report.

The study, published last week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, analyzed more than 1,400 Norwegian men who participated in a follow-up survey from 1998 to 2002 after receiving treatment for unilateral testicular cancer between 1980 and 1994.

What researchers found was that these men had a statistically higher risk for more severe side effects occurring between 4 and 21 years after the start of treatment than men who didn't receive chemotherapy. Some of those severe side effects include:

  • Sensory Neuropathy
  • Tinnitus
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Skin Discoloration When Exposed to Cold


To limit these side effects, study authors suggest a less toxic dose of cisplatin, one that includes only 20 milligrams per square meter per day.

Nov

25

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Genetic Research Suggests Chemical May Feed Brain Cancer

by: cancercompass

A new study suggests a gene mutation that increases levels of a specific chemical could feed some brain cancers, reports BBC News.

This new research, published this week in Nature, may help doctors develop a diagnostic tool that detects heightened levels of the chemical. Also, researchers speculate that blocking this chemical could possibly prevent some glioma brain tumors from growing.

Many people with lower-grade gliomas carry a mutated gene that controls the production of an enzyme called IDH1. Researchers have now discovered that these mutated genes change how IDH1 works, resulting in heightened levels of a chemical called 2-hydroxyglutarate (2HG) in the brain. Malignant glioma samples with mutated IDH1 levels actually had 100 times more 2HG than similar samples from patients without the mutation.

Researchers say that measuring 2HG levels may help identify patients with IDH1 mutant brain tumors. While the information is exciting, doctors say more research is necessary before any diagnostic tool can be developed.

Nov

25

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Sleep Is Powerful Medicine

by Dana Demas

A new study by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center finds that nearly 80% of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy reported problems with insomnia. Sleep troubles were more common in breast and lung cancer patients.

That rate is nearly three times higher than the general population. Sleep is powerful medicine for cancer patients, helping support the immune system and restore the body. Too little sleep can create a vicious cycle that interferes with health and healing.

The good news according to lead researcher, Oxana Palesh, PhD, MPH, is that “insomnia is a very treatable problem that can be addressed quickly so it doesn’t compound other symptoms.”

Here are some tips to help you get your zzz’s:

  • Go to bed at the same time every night, which will help your body and mind get on a routine.
  • Keep your bedroom free of clutter and distractions. Your to-do lists, important paperwork and even the laundry should be out of sight, so it’s also out of mind. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, cool and dark, too (try using ear plugs, a sound machine or an eye mask, if you need it).
  • Create an atmosphere of calm and relaxation an hour or two before bedtime. Read a book, lie on the couch, or talk with someone whose company you enjoy (on the phone or in person). While it may be difficult to resist doing chores, paying the bills or taking care of other household business, your mind will be calmer by the time you get into bed.
  • Take a bath or hot shower before bed. In addition to helping you relax, your body temperature will rise, then drop, which helps you fall asleep. 
  • Ask for help if you need it. Talk with your doctor if you are having problems falling asleep or staying asleep. There are many prescription options available, and whether you’re a cancer patient or a caregiver, you should reach out for help at the first sign of sleep issues.
Nov

24

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Pfizer to Pay $103 Million for Drug Linked to Breast Cancer

by: cancercompass

Drug manufacturer Pfizer has been ordered to pay $103 million in punitive damages in two separate court cases involving Prempro, a hormone-replacement drug.

Both cases involve women who were diagnosed with breast cancer after using Prempro. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, a jury awarded $28 million yesterday to a resident of Decatur, Illinois.  In the second case, a Philadelphia judge unsealed a verdict yesterday, which was reached earlier this year, awarding $75 million in punitive damages to another Illinois resident.

Pfizer recently acquired Prempro's manufacturer.  The New York Times reports that over 10,000 liability suits have been filed in the United States over the hormone drug.

Pfizer says the company will appeal yesterday's court rulings.

Nov

24

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The Great Mammogram Debate

by Dana Demas

If you’ve turned on the TV or read the news, chances are you’ve seen the bombshell for women’s health: a U.S. government task force has recommended that women wait until age 50 to begin routine mammograms. The U. S. Preventive Service Task Force, a panel of 16 physician experts, recommends against annual mammograms for women in their 40s who are not at high risk for the cancer, because of the “small” health benefit. 

The task force and other supporters of the new guidelines cite data that suggests mammograms put women in their 40s at undue risk, which far outweighs the benefits. These studies show a 50% increase in false-positives when breast detection begins at age 40. Rather than saving lives, the task force says, such screening leads to a domino effect of more x-rays, unnecessary biopsies and surgeries, as well as considerable stress and anxiety.

However, women who discovered their breast cancers early because of routine breast screening, and lived to tell about it, passionately counter that taking away a woman’s right to annual mammograms is what’s stressful—and downright dangerous—for women. They cite some data of their own: that routine mammograms for women ages 40-49 reduces the risk of breast cancer death by 15%. The American Cancer Society and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) agree, and have issued statements that they will continue to recommend mammograms beginning at age 40.

The worry is that insurance companies will take their cue from the panel’s recommendations and stop covering the procedure, leaving women to fend for themselves. One “worst-case scenario” estimate forecasts the number of annual mammograms could drop 58% from 37 million to 15 million, should the new recommendations be widely adopted.

While these recommendations are sure to spark debate for months, and perhaps years, to come, the task force provides some common sense advice that’s good medicine for all of us: Every woman should talk with her physician about when and how often to get mammograms, and decide what’s best for her.

Nov

23

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New Study Compares Smoking Cessation Methods

by: cancercompass

New research supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) claims nicotine lozenges combined with nicotine patches provide the greatest benefit for smokers looking to kick the habit.

To date, this three-year project supported by NCI and the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) is the largest study to compare smoking cessation therapies. The goal of the study was to compare smoking cessation methods to find which combination of these therapies is more effective.

Researchers compared the effects of various combinations of the nicotine patch, the nicotine lozenge and the oral medication bupropion on 1,500 smokers. The treatments lasted between 8 to 12 weeks. Study participants also received six one-on-one counseling sessions from trained case managers in addition to the medication.

Researchers found a nicotine lozenge paired with the nicotine patch was twice as effective for staying smoke-free six months after quitting.

Nov

20

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ACOG Issues New Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines

by: cancercompass

According to a press release today from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), women should wait until age 21 to have their first Pap test to screen for cervical cancer.

Previously, ACOG recommended that young women begin cervical cancer screenings three years after first sexual intercourse or by age 21, whichever occurred first. The change in recommendation is to "avoid unnecessary treatment of adolescents which can have economic, emotional, and future childbearing implications."

In addition, ACOG says women over the age of 21 should be screened for cervical cancer less often than previously recommended. The private, non-profit group of physicians now recommends that women who are 21 to 30 years old get screened every two years instead of annually.

Women over the age of 30 should be screened for cervical cancer once every three years, as long as they have had three consecutive normal test results. This is also a new recommendation from ACOG.

The new guidelines will be published in the December issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Nov

19

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Great American Smokeout 2009

by: cancercompass

Today marks the 34th annual American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout. The event happens every year on the third Thursday of November and challenges smokers to smoke less or even mark this day as the beginning to a new, cigarette-free lifestyle.

As we point out on our Causes of Cancer page, smoking tobacco, smokeless tobacco, and regular exposure to tobacco smoke are responsible for one-third of all cancer deaths in the United States each year.

According to the American Cancer Society, the Great American Smokeout evolved from the state of Minnesota's Don't Smoke Day, which was spearheaded by Lynn R. Smith in 1974.  Two years later, the California Division of the American Cancer Society was able to get almost 1 million smokers to quit for the day. The ACS expanded the event to the entire nation in 1977.

If you're a smoker looking to quit for the day (or longer), the Great American Smokeout website offers lots of tips and resources to help smokers learn how to successfully quit the habit.

Nov

18

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Study Shows Folic Acid May Increase Cancer Risk

by: cancercompass

A new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association takes a closer look at how folic acid and vitamin B12 affect cancer risks.

Researchers in Norway studied more than 6,800 people with ischemic heart disease who were treated with folic acid plus vitamins B12 and B6, folic acid plus vitamin B12, vitamin B6 alone, or a placebo.

The researchers determined that treatment with folic acid plus vitamin B12 led to higher cancer rates, in addition to deaths from cancer and other causes.

Unlike many countries, including the United States, Norway does not enrich its food supplies with folic acid. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Norwegian researchers also pointed out: "Although the folic acid doses in the study were higher than what the typical American would consume through fortification alone, they were below the limits set by our Institute of Medicine."

The researchers say the study's results need confirmation in other populations.

Nov

17

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Microsoft Co-Founder Diagnosed with Cancer

by: cancercompass

Billionaire investor Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft Corporation, has publicly announced he has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Employees of Vulcan Inc., Allen's Seattle-based investment firm, were notified of his diagnosis yesterday afternoon.

According to The New York Times Allen, 56, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in 1983. He left Microsoft to fight the disease and ultimately succeeded, but never returned to day-to-day Microsoft operations. Since then Allen has been a major investor in technology companies.

According to a family member, Allen has begun chemotherapy.

Learn about the difficulties of living with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

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