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

07

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Happy Movember!

by: cancercompass

Have you noticed something different going on since the month of November began? Perhaps the men in your life have stopped shaving and have opted to grow something new above their lip? If so, it’s not laziness (well, for some it might be), it’s actually in honor of Movember.

During the month of November, men throughout the United States - and even throughout the world - have started growing moustaches in order to raise awareness and funds in honor of men’s health. Specifically, Movember brings attention to prostate and testicular cancer initiatives.

The idea is to register at www.movember.com and start off the month of November with a clean shave. Then, participating men can chuck their razors out the window and let the facial hair grow until December 1. At that point, the men can opt to keep their new ‘do or shave it all off.  As annoying as this may be for the women in their lives, it is important to stand by your prickly men for this important cause.

While some men raise funds and seek out sponsorships, you can certainly support Movember by just growing out those whiskers, or encouraging the men in your life to do the same. When someone asks if you lost your razor, just say: “Nope, I’m growing a moustache in honor of Men’s Health.” You can even take it a step further by providing some of these important facts below, courtesy of Movember.com:

  • 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime.
  • In 2012, 242,000 new cases of the disease will be diagnosed and more than 28,000 men will die of prostate cancer.
  • Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in American males between the ages of 15 and 35. In 2012, 8,590 men will be diagnosed with the disease and 360 will die.
  • While not as common, men can get breast cancer. About 2,140 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed among men and about 450 men will die from the disease in 2012.
  • More than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the US.
  • 24% of men are less likely to go to the doctor compared to women.

So if you see a man walking down the street rocking a killer moustache, take a moment to stop him and thank him for his efforts this Movember.

Oct

30

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Finding Financial Assistance for Treatment

by: cancercompass

When faced with a cancer diagnosis, there are a lot of thoughts and emotions that will may run through your mind. Unfortunately, one thing you may be concerned about is paying for treatment. Even if some aspects of your treatment are covered by insurance, there still might be out-of-pocket expenses that can make you nervous. As daunting as it may seem, money concerns do not have to stop you from seeking the treatment you need.

Financial assistance is available for cancer treatment and other services to people at various income levels and in many situations. First and foremost, let your doctor know if you’re worried about being able to afford treatment. He/she might have some suggestions as to what steps you can take immediately, and inform you of assistance available at your hospital or other nearby hospitals.

Here are a few other organizations that may be able to help:

Cancer Care: This organization has professional oncology social workers on staff that can provide free emotional and practical support for people with cancer and their caregivers. They also offer support groups, community programs and financial assistance. Financial assistance is only available to low-income individuals and families (view guidelines), but the other services are available to anyone.  

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society: This organization’s Patient Financial Aid Program provides a limited amount of financial assistance to help patients who have significant financial need and are under a doctor's care for a confirmed blood cancer diagnosis. The LLS's Co-Pay Assistance Program offers financial support toward the cost of insurance co-payments and/or insurance premium costs for prescription drugs. Patients must qualify both medically and financially for this program.

Veterans Administration:
If you served in the active military, naval or air service and are separated under any condition other than dishonorable, you may qualify for Veterans Administration health care benefits.

Assistance in Healthcare: This charitable organization was founded to assist patients and their families who have become financially distressed as a result of fighting cancer and other illnesses. Assistance in Healthcare provides funds to patients and their families to help defray their non-medical bills, including utilities, rent, transportation and living expenses for immediate family members.

Give Forward: GiveForward provides free online fundraising pages allowing friends and family to raise money directly for a loved one who is in need of financial assistance for cancer treatment, or any other serious illness. Users can easily set up their own page and share it with friends and instantly create a community of support.

To find more resources and support services, visit the National Cancer Institute for a list of organizations nationwide that provide emotional, practical and financial support services for people with cancer and their families.

Oct

23

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Get the Facts: Debunking Breast Cancer Myths

by: cancercompass

The Internet is a wonderful tool, but it can also lead to widespread (or just locally spread) panic. How many times have you taken to the Internet to investigate an ailment, or find out more information on a health-related topic? While online research can certainly help, the best bet is to listen to your doctor.

With so much dishonesty out there, cancer-related myths can run rampant, leaving people unsure of what’s true and what’s false.  In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Parade Magazine listed 10 breast cancer myths and the truth behind each.

Being aware of the facts can be useful to help catch breast cancer early, which can improve the chances of treating before the disease can spread. For example, take a look at myth number 4: Most people who get diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of the disease. The article notes that only about 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are hereditary. Therefore, even if your family does not have a history of breast cancer, it is still important to get screened and perform self-exams.

Other myths that are debunked might make you feel a little more comfortable with your diagnosis, such as fact number 8: Only about 5 to 10 percent of mammogram results require biopsies for further testing, and of those biopsies only 15 percent turn out to be cancer. Therefore, if your doctor suggests additional testing after a mammogram, it does not mean that you definitely have cancer.

Of all the myths, number 3 is probably the best one to recognize. That myth is as follows: A breast cancer diagnosis means you’re going to die. This is far from the truth. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate for stage 1 breast cancer is nearly 90%. The number decreases as the stages get higher, but even stage IIIA is as high as 67%.

I think that myth is extremely important to note, because with breast cancer, this is always hope, no matter what stage you are at when diagnosed. Take a look at the rest of the 10 Myths, and make sure you understand the real facts about breast cancer.

Oct

16

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Sports Bra Could Detect Early Signs of Breast Cancer

by: cancercompass

What will they think of next? That’s the question I had to ask when I saw this article about a futuristic sports bra that could detect the early signs of breast cancer.

According to the report, the bra was actually designed in 2007 by Dr. Elias Siores of the University of Bolton in the UK. The bra has gone through testing for accuracy and put through a clinical trial test on 650 subjects. It’s not on the market yet, but it might arrive soon.

The company that is developing the bra, First Warning Systems, thinks that it could help remedy many issues with current screenings by detecting the tumors earlier and cutting down the number of false positives and negatives. The product may even be able to replace breast self-exams.

With breast cancer, early detection can be very important in terms of an overall prognosis. Also, finding the disease early can be helpful in terms of starting treatment before the cancer has a chance to spread. Find out more about breast cancer detection and diagnosis.

The details of how the bra works are a little confusing, but it has something to do with the science of “thermography,” where the bra can detect slight temperature changes that could signal the development of tumors. Watch this video to learn a little bit more about how the bra works.

The product could be on the market in Europe in 2013, but probably won’t be available in the U.S. until 2014. No word on how much this bra might cost.  But if it truly works, then I think that would make the product priceless!

Oct

09

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Seeing Pink

by: cancercompass

Everywhere you turn this month, people, businesses and communities are displaying their support for breast cancer by sporting pink. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and everyone from football players to garbage collectors are wearing pink with pride. 

These days, the pink ribbon is easily associated with breast cancer awareness, but that hasn’t always been the case. This got me thinking about the history of the ribbon and color, so I decided to do a little research.

According to Wikipedia, the first known use of the pink ribbon was in the fall of 1991, when the Susan G. Komen Foundation handed them out to participants in a New York City race for breast cancer survivors. The ribbon was inspired by the red ribbon for AIDS awareness, but the pink color was used because of its association with femininity.

In 1992, the ribbon was adopted as the official symbol of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Sometimes, a blue and pink ribbon is used to symbolize male breast cancer, which was designed in 1996.

This means the famous ribbon has been around for over 20 years, which makes sense as to why it’s such a familiar image these days. And, it seems like every year the pink extends to further reaching locations (such as the aforementioned garbage trucks), bringing awareness to the attention of more and more people every year.

Despite the positive message behind the pink ribbon, unfortunately some see it as a distraction, and say that it represents the commercialization of the disease. Most often, when corporations showcase the pink ribbon or color their products pink, they are not just bringing awareness to the cause, but actually donating money to research and support as well.

Those that highlight the pink color without actually fulfilling the promise of support are considered to be“pinkwashing,” a term derived from “whitewashing.”  If you see someone sporting the pink color, don’t be afraid to ask them how they are supporting the cause! While awareness is certainly a plus, it’s good to have an action behind the message as well, especially if that’s the claim.

Regardless, raising awareness and highlighting the cause is always a good thing. According to the American Cancer Society, the percentage of women getting annual breast mammograms and clinical breast exams has doubled over the last decade. So even if you’re just wearing pink to remind people of the cause or in memory of a loved one, kudos to you!

You can learn even more about the internationally famous pink ribbon here.  In the meantime, show your support as often as possible this October!

Oct

03

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Don’t Ignore the Signs

by: cancercompass

Whether you choose to listen or not, your body is often talking to you. Sometimes it is letting you know that everything is working properly (like being in a great mood after a solid workout), while other times your body might be sending warning signals.

A recent study concluded that when it comes to gynecologic cancers, there are five symptoms women ignore that could be important. Early detection can help lead to a more positive prognosis for many types of cancer, and therefore, it is always a good idea to take note of anything strange going on in your body, especially if it persists for more than two weeks.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be nearly 90,000 cases of gynecological cancers diagnosed in the U.S. in 2012. There are five main types of genealogical cancers – ovarian, uterine, cervical, vaginal and vulvar. Screenings are recommended for cervical cancer, but detecting the others might come down to listening to your body and making an appointment if you notice certain symptoms, or anything out of the ordinary.

In this study, 132 women ages 40-60 in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York City were given a list of eight symptoms of gynecological cancers. The list was not identified, and the participants had to simply take note of which symptoms would concern them the most. There were five symptoms that most women did not identify as possibly being due to cancer: vaginal itching or burning, back or abdominal pain, being tired all the time, having to urinate very badly or more often than usual, and bloating.

Since these signs are common, the women didn’t think they were a big deal. And, in many instances, these symptoms could be caused by something other than cancer. However, if you’re noticing these symptoms more than two weeks, it is a good idea to get checked out. Even if the explanation isn’t cancer, there could be something else going on that needs a remedy.

Cynthia Gelb, a health communication specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, made one really excellent point: “One key to recognizing when a common symptom might actually indicate cancer is for women to know what is normal for them.”

If something is going on that is uncommon for your body, then pay attention to what your body is telling you! Don’t be afraid to make an appointment with your doctor if anything seems amiss. And, if your body is speaking to you for more than two weeks, it might be time to listen.

Sep

27

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September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

by: cancercompass

September is almost over, but there is still plenty of time to spread the word to the men in your life about the details of prostate cancer.

Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in American men. In fact, about one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Receiving any cancer diagnosis is very serious, but the great news is that most men diagnosed with prostate cancer make a full recovery and return to their normal lives after treatment.

According to the American Cancer Society, the 10-year survival rate for prostate cancer diagnosed at an early stage is 98 percent. Even for men with advanced-stage prostate cancers that haven’t spread to distant parts of the body, the five-year survival rate is still close to 100 percent.

Take note or share the risk factors and symptoms for prostate cancer listed below, so that you and your loved ones are aware of what to look for.

Risk Factors

Here are the main risk factors for prostate cancer:

  • Age: The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age.
  • Race: Studies show that African-American men are approximately 60 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer in their lifetime than Caucasian or Hispanic men.
  • Family History of Prostate Cancer: Men with an immediate blood relative, such as a father or brother, who has experienced prostate cancer are twice as likely to  develop the disease. If another family member is diagnosed with the disease, the chances of getting prostate cancer increase.
  • Diet: A diet high in saturated fat, as well as obesity, increases the risk of prostate cancer.
  • High Testosterone Levels: Men who use testosterone therapy are more likely to develop prostate cancer, as an increase in testosterone stimulates the growth of the prostate gland.

Symptoms

  • If you experience any of the symptoms below for more than two weeks, consult your doctor:
  • Burning or pain during urination
  • Difficulty urinating, or trouble starting and stopping while urinating
  • More frequent urges to urinate at night
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Decreased flow or velocity of urine stream
  • Blood in urine (hematuria) or in semen
  • Difficulty getting an erection (erectile dysfunction)
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Swelling in legs or pelvic area
  • Numbness or pain in the hips, legs or feet
  • Bone pain that doesn't go away, or leads to fractures

Reducing your Risk

In honor of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, take note of some of the suggestions below on how to reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer with the men in your life.

  • Increase exercise
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat more fish
  • Eat more fruits and veggies
  • Perform prostate self-exams
  • Speak with your doctor about creating an appropriate screening schedule for your needs

 

Sep

20

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A New Year’s Attitude

by: cancercompass

Early this week, millions of Jews throughout the world celebrated Rosh Hashanah, one of the most sacred holidays in the Jewish religion. The holiday commemorates the Jewish New Year, and it is a festive occasion filled with prayer, good wishes and positive thoughts for the year that lies ahead. It also evokes a sense of community and gives observers a chance to look inside themselves and make sure that they are being the people that they want to be.

In the same way that those who celebrate Christmas adjust their frame of mind during the holiday season – which is often referred to as “getting into the Christmas spirit” – people who observe Rosh Hashanah have a similar mentality during the high holidays as well.

Even though not everyone celebrates the holiday, it is still a great excuse to take stock of how your year is looking so far, and think about where you are right now in whatever journey it is that you are taking. Going through cancer treatment can be an extremely stressful experience, so take the time to pause and note your surroundings and your own feelings at every moment that you can. Things have to be tough on your support system as well, so remind them to experience that important pause as well.

We don’t need an excuse to take a breather, but sometimes it is easier when you have one. So whether you celebrate Rosh Hashanah or not, try getting into the holiday spirit for a day or two, and see if that lifts your mood.

For those of you who do celebrate Rosh Hashanah, I want to wish you a happy and sweet new year.

Sep

13

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What Would You Do for a Great Cause?

by: cancercompass

Last week, singer Kellie Pickler shaved her head in honor of a dear friend who is battling breast cancer. If you don’t know the name, Pickler was a contestant on American Idol a few years back, and has gone on to have a successful country career of her own. She may not be a household name, but as a public figure her appearance (and by extension her hair) is a huge part of her career.

Hair loss is a common side effect from chemotherapy, which is often used as a part of a cancer treatment plan. Since Pickler knew her friend might lose her hair, the two both decided to proactively shave off their locks first.

Though hair will always grow back, it is still a brave decision to shave it all off and deal with the responses (or stares) you might receive from the public. This is true for anyone, but there is a new dimension added if you are someone that often performs in front of large crowds or makes many TV appearances. In addition to showing support for a loved one, the visual reminder allows Pickler to discuss her new ‘do, and raise more awareness. 

You can see from Ms. Pickler’s picture that a beautiful face like hers can certainly handle a severe hairstyle like this. Honestly, her friend looks pretty remarkable as well without hair. The fact that these women look gorgeous with or without hair doesn’t make their brave efforts any less admirable, they just got a little lucky.

Pickler’s actions really got me thinking about the wonderful things we do for others to show support. I enjoy running in races in the summer, and my husband has been present at every single race in which I’ve participated. Even if it means getting up at 5 in the morning on a Sunday and standing in the hot sun or cold rain for two hours, he’ll be there for me. These are very different situations, but it warms the heart to think about all the ways that people truly can love and support each other in their time of need.

What ways have you shown support for someone you love, or to highlight a great cause? Please let us know in the comments!

Sep

07

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Stand Up to Cancer Tonight!

by: cancercompass

Many of us stand up to cancer in our own ways every day, and tonight you'll have an opportunity to stand with others in this fight. All you need to do is turn on the TV.

Tonight, September 7th, at 8 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. CT, Stand Up To Cancer is hosting its third live televised event that will be seen on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, several cable outlets, and in countries around the world.

When you tune in, you'll see numerous actors, athletes, recording artists and even Olympians standing together to help raise money for cancer research. Taylor Swift will be debuting a new song in honor of a 3-year-old boy who lost his fight against cancer this year, and other performers include Coldplay and Alicia Keys.

Other attendees scheduled to appear are Justin Timberlake, Sofia Vergara, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Jessica Biel, Samuel L. Jackson, Emma Stone and Gwyneth Paltrow. You'll also see Olympic medalists Gabby Douglas and Missy Franklin. The show is being produced by Paltrow, in honor of her father, who also lost his battle with cancer just a few years ago.

The telethon will feature celebrity phone operators, and you might be able to speak with one of your favorite stars when you call in to donate. So be sure to support this important cause by watching an enterataining show tonight!

Stand Up to Cancer has raised more than $180 million for cancer research and awareness since the telethon was established in 2008. To learn more about Stand Up To Cancer or to get details about tonight’s live televised event, visit standup2cancer.org.

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