How yoga helps prevent cancer

November 17, 2010 by  
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Once again, when the going gets really tough, we turn to age-old therapies. And most of them work, too. Take yoga, for example. The physical and mental benefits of yoga have been demonstrated time and again. According to a report in the November issue of Focused on Health, the web newsletter of the MD Anderson Cancer Center, yoga’s benefits include improving sleep, mood and quality of life – and cancer prevention.

Physical exercise and keeping a healthy weight helps prevent cancer, according American Institute for Cancer Research. For those whose body cannot withstand strenuous physical (e.g. cancer and surgical patients), yoga may be a more effective alternative. Yet, even those deemed to be healthy can benefit from yoga. Here are just a few benefits of yoga:

There is a misconception that practicing yoga is tantamount to being immobile or sedentary. A high-intensity yoga that keeps the heart pumping may actually be equivalent to the recommended 30-minute physical exercise. In fact, according to Carla Warneke, a yoga instructor for the Place of wellness at M. D. Anderson:

“All types of yoga can have benefits because they get you breathing deeply and get your body moving.”

You may ask. Which style of yoga is the best? According to Warneke, no one style is better than the other. What is important is that the yoga style fits the person. There are different yoga styles for every personality. One of the most popular branches of yoga is the hatha yoga which comes in several styles as described below:

Most of all, it is important to remember yoga is not a competitive sport. You can adjust your position according to your physical condition and limits. It’s not about winning. It’s about finding the balance.

Walnuts may help prevent breast cancer

April 22, 2009 by  
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walnutWalnuts have been though of as “brain food”, probably because the nut’s structure considerably resembles that of the human brain. Whether this is true or not is not clear. What is well-known is that walnuts are heart-friendly food. They are rich in  essential “good” fatty acids omega-3, and phytosterols and antixodants. They have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels and can help prevent heart disease and stroke.

This recent study suggests that walnuts may also prevent breast cancer.

The researchers tested a walnut diet on laboratory mice. The mice were fed a diet that is approximately the human equivalent of two ounces of walnuts a day. They were then compared to a control group not fed with walnuts.

The group fed with walnuts had significantly reduced incidence of breast cancer. The number of glands with a tumor and the size of the tumor were also significantly reduced.

According to Dr. Elaine Hardman, associate professor of medicine at Marshall University School of Medicine

These laboratory mice typically have 100 percent tumor incidence at five months; walnut consumption delayed those tumors by at least three weeks.”

Laboratory analysis indicated that omega-3 fatty acids played a major role in the anti-cancer properties. However, other parts of the nuts contributed as well.

Aside from omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts also contain:

  • omega-6 fatty acids
  • vitamin B1 and B6
  • folate
  • vitamin E.

Web MD adds:

Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid similar to those found in heart-smart fish, such as salmon. Alpha-linolenic acid has a number of heart-healthy effects, independent of its cholesterol-lowering effects. It has been shown in previous studies to reduce the risk of sudden death from dangerous abnormal heart rhythms.

When it comes to snacks, walnuts are highly recommended. One ounce of walnuts (about 14 shelled walnut halves) is all that is needed to meet the 2002 dietary recommendation of the Food Nutrition Board of the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine for omega-3 fatty acids. An ounce of walnuts, which is approximately 25 g has an equivalent of 170 calories. Here are some ways to incorporate walnuts in your diet:

  • Walnuts are best eaten fresh so that no nutrients are lost.
  • Packed walnuts are also available in supermarkets, shelled or unshelled.
  • Walnut oil can be used in preparing salads.
  • Chopped walnuts go very well with morning cereals.
  • Chopped walnuts can also be added to green salads.
  • Chopped or ground walnuts can be used in baking cookies, muffins and cakes.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

News from the cancer side, January 30

January 30, 2009 by  
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Good morning, everyone. Here is our latest news roundup for this weekend. Happy reading.

News from the experts

February Is National Cancer Prevention Awareness Month
Oncologists and researchers at University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center are encouraging people to participate in cancer prevention studies to help researchers learn more about the causes of cancer and how to prevent the disease. Prevention studies offer participants the best options for individual care, improving one’s overall health and well-being,” says Ernest T. Hawk, M.D., M.P.H, vice president of M. D. Anderson’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences. “These studies also offer the best chance for reducing the number of future cancer cases.”

News from health care

Medicare Widens Drugs It Accepts for Cancer
Some good news from Medicare. It has expanded its coverage of cancer drugs and treatments, even beyond those approved by the US FDA. It is especially good to know that off-label uses may now be covered. Off-label drugs are those “prescribed for uses other than those for which they have been specifically approved.” While many doctors and patients are happy about this decision, there are others who express concerns about abuse of this ruling resulting in overspending, and worse, using patients as guinea pigs for treatments not approved for their conditions.

News from the pharma industry

In Wyeth, Pfizer Sees a Drug Pipeline
The biggest merger/acquisition news of the month. Pfizer buys Wyeth, and in doing so, it might become a major player in biologics and other biotech products.

News from the innovators

OncoVue offers improved estimation of risk for breast cancer
This new predictive model – OncoVue® – seems to give a more accurate estimation of breast cancer than the one currently used – the Gail Model. OncoVue is a new genetic-based breast cancer risk test that uses a combination of a questionnaire and a saliva test in order to assess risk.

News from the critics

America’s Best Hospitals
This 2008 survey by the US News and World Report gives us the list America’s top medical facilities, in general as well as for specific specialty areas. The top five on overall rankings are:

  1. Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore
  2. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
  3. Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles
  4. Cleveland Clinic
  5. Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston

For the specialty field of cancer/oncology, the following institutions were ranked top 5:

  1. University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston
  2. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York
  3. Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore
  4. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
  5. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston

Photo credit: stock.xchng

News from the cancer side: Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research

November 21, 2008 by  
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This week, cancer experts gathered in National Harbor, Maryland for the Seventh Annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research of the American Association for Cancer Research (ACCR). The meeting runs from November 16 to 19.

In this news round up post, I’m featuring presentations on cancer prevention and lifestyle risk factors from the conference.

Three esophageal, stomach cancer subtypes linked to smoking; one associated with alcohol use

This large scale study tracked more than 120,000 Dutch residents for over 20 years. Their results show that “smoking is associated with two forms of esophageal cancer as well as a form of stomach cancer, and that drinking alcohol is strongly linked to one form of esophageal cancer.” The results confirm that cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are major risk factors for certain types of cancers.

Exercise and rest reduce cancer risk

Exercise and rest should go hand in hand in cancer prevention. This study indicates that regular exercise lowers a woman’s risk for cancer but only if complemented by the right amount of sleep. Otherwise, sleep deprivation may cancel out exercise’s beneficial effects. According to lead study author Dr. James McClain, “greaterparticipation in physical activity has consistently been associated with reduced risk of cancer incidence at several sites, including breast and colon cancers. Short duration sleep appears to have opposing effects of physical activity on several key hormonal and metabolic parameters…”

Saturated fat linked to cancer of the small intestine

Saturated fats are bad news to your cardiovascular medicine. It seems that they are also bad news to your small intestine. This study identified saturated fat intake as a possible risk factors for cancer of the small intestine. Furthermore, they also observed that diet rich in red and processed meat is a risk factor for cancer of the large intestine.

Why only some former smokers develop lung cancer

Some get it, some not. The question is, why? Apparently it has something to do genetics. This Canadian research studied “how DNA methylation contributes to lung cancer development in former smokers. Methylation is an important event regulating gene expression during normal development. As we age and in cancer, proper patterns of DNA methylation become deregulated throwing off the tight control of gene activity that normally exists.

Behavior/lifestyle factors influence cancer risk among the elderly

80% of all cancers occur in the elderly, according to researchers at Duke University. Most of the risk factors for these diseases are preventable. The study found that lifestyle, behavioural and demographic factors among the elderly have a significant contribution on the risk of cancers of the breast, lung, colon and prostate.

Allergies: blessings in disguise for cancer prevention?

November 17, 2008 by  
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Those of us who suffer from them know the symptoms – runny eyes and nose, coughing, and itching. I am talking about allergies. Some of us are allergic to food, some to particles in the air such as dust and pollen, some to certain chemicals.

Well, actually the miseries of allergies may be worthwhile trade offs to cancer prevention. Researchers at Cornell University reported in a recent study that allergic reactions can actually provide protection from certain types of cancer which “involve organs that interface directly with the external environment.” These include skin, colon, bladder, mouth, throat, uterus and cervix, lung and gastrointestinal tract cancers.

According to lead researcher Paul Sherman

The study revealed a strong relationship between allergies and cancer in environmentally exposed tissues…This relationship seldom exists between allergies and cancers of tissues that are not directly exposed to the environment, such as cancers of the breast and prostate, as well as myelocytic leukemia and myeloma.”

The study results are based on an analysis of a database of 646 studies on allergies and cancers which were published during the last 50 years,

Interestingly, certain allergies are more strongly linked to the above listed cancers than others. Environmental allergies such as eczema, hives, hay fever, and animal and food allergies are the ones most strongly associated with lower rates of the said cancers.

The mechanism behind the cancer preventive properties of allergies may be explained by the fact that allergies help block foreign particles from entering the body, particles which may be carcinogenic or may contain carcinogens and other toxic substances.

There are some exceptions to this allergy-cancer inverse association. Asthma, which is a form of respiratory allergy, is associated with higher rates of lung cancer. Glioma and pancreatic cancer are cancers of internal tissues but are still linked to certain allergies. However, asthma is an exception since unlike other allergies, it reduces the ability to get rid of mucus. Glia (a type of brain cells) and pancreatic cells do get in contact with the environmental indirectly through the olfactory and digestive tracts, respectively.

Allergies have been erroneously thought of as disorders of the immune system. In fact, allergies are the front line of defence against certain invaders in the environment, be they parasites or carcinogens. So next time you feel the allergic reaction coming, maybe you should thank your lucky stars instead of complain.

The next question is, how do medications that we take in order to control allergies affect the cancer prevention strategy? I guess this would be the subject of future studies.

July is National Blueberry Month

July 2, 2008 by  
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What’s not to love about blueberries?

They are the number one antioxidant fruit and they’re delicious.

Need a refresher on antioxidants and cancer ? See the Battling Cancer archives here .

Basically an antioxidant is capable of counteracting the normal damaging effects of oxidation by neutralizing free radicals in the body. The balance of antioxidants to oxidants is disturbed by poor diet, smoking, disease, normal aging, x-rays and many other things. When an antioxidant neutralizes a free radical, the antioxidant becomes oxidized and the body needs to be resupplied with antioxidants.

Blueberries contain high levels of polyphenals which provide antioxidant activity.

blueberry-nutrition.jpg Blueberry Trivia:

  • 90% of the world’s blueberries are grown in North America, specifically 38 U.S. states and provinces of Canada
  • Blueberries were grown by American Colonists and were a staple during the Civil War.
  • Today’s blueberries are known as "cultivated" or "highbush" blueberries
  • Hammonton, New Jersey is the Blueberry Capital of the World.

Check out this short informational video on Blueberries from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council .

Blueberry Recipes from the Highbush Blueberry Council:

Blueberry Crumble

4 cups fresh or thawed, frozen blueberries
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
3 packages (1.5 ounces each instant oatmeal with maple and brown sugar)
3 tablespoons butter, softened

Preheat oven to 375º F. In a 9-inch pie plate, toss blueberries with sugar. In a small bowl, combine oatmeal and butter until mixture forms coarse crumbs; sprinkle over blueberries. Bake until mixture bubbles around the edge and topping is light brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

Yield: 6 portions
Per portion: 197 calories, 3 grams protein, 7 grams fat, 33 grams carbohydrate

Blueberry Lemon Muffins

2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup low-fat lemon yogurt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 egg white
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly spray 12 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well blended. In a small bowl, whisk yogurt, eggs, the egg white and melted butter until blended. Stir yogurt mixture into flour mixture just until combined. Stir in blueberries. Into each muffin cup, spoon about 1/4 cup batter; sprinkle each with about 1 teaspoon of granola, if desired. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove muffins from cups; cool on wire racks. Repeat with remaining batter, partially filling empty cups with water.

YIELD: 18 muffins

Per muffin: 131 calories, 3 g protein, 3.5 g fat, 22 g carbohydrate

Battling Books:

Very Blueberry by Jennifer Trainer Thompson

Check out a Blueberry Festival near you.

Cervical Cancer

May 1, 2008 by  
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Cervical cancer will be diagnosed in more than 11,000 women in the U.S. in 2008 and more than 3,000 women will die of the disease this year.

Worldwide it is third leading cause of cancer death in women.

What is the cervix?

The cervix is the lower portion of the uterus. It connects the uterus to the birth canal (vagina) and is the area of the uterus where a fetus will grow and develop.

There are two types of cervical cancer:

  • squamous cell carcinoma
  • adenocarcinoma

Per the American Cancer Society, 80 to 90 percent of all diagnosed cases of cervical cancer are squamous cell carcinoma.
A diagnosis of cervical ‘pre-cancerous tissue’ is treated the same as cancer, though these abnormal cells do not always become cancerous. This is because often the symptoms of cervical cancer are silent until the cancer is at advanced stages.

The HPV and Cervical Cancer Connection:

Human Pappillomavirus is connected to 90% of all diagnosed cervical cancer cases. Many people have this common virus which is passed to another person during sex. A healthy immune system generally protects the HPV virus from doing any harm. However in some women it can cause pre-cancerous cellular changes that may continue to slowly change the cells to cancerous tissue.

The HPV vaccine will protect women from 4 types of human papillomavirus. Per the CDC: “If you are 11–26 years old, you can help prevent cervical cancer by getting the HPV vaccine. It protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers, and is given in a series of three shots.”

For detailed information on the HPV virus see the Mayo Clinic site.

Risk Factors:

  • HPV infection (early sex, unprotected sex)
  • Smoking
  • Multiple full-term pregnancies
  • Immune suppression diseases
  • Birth control pills
  • Other sexually transmitted diseases
  • Family history
  • Diets low in fruits and vegetables
  • Socio-economic (no access to health care and regular PAP screenings)
  • Age-most often occurs in women over the age of 40

These risk factors are discussed in more detail at the American Cancer Institute site.


Cervical cancer begins on the cellular level which causes silent symptoms. Symptoms such as pelvic pain, bloody discharge or pain during intercourse may not appear until the cancer is no longer in the early stages.


  • Reduce risk factors as appropriate
  • Ask your physician if the HPV vaccine is right for you
  • Schedule regular PAP tests

What is a PAP test?

The name PAP comes from one of the inventors George Papanikolaou.

A PAP test is done during your routine gynecological pelvic exam. Cell scrapings of the cervix are put on slides which are then examined for cellular changes or abnormalities.

Detailed information on PAP screenings can be found in the National Cancer Institute fact sheet.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

Diagnosis begins with a physical exam and history. The level of diagnostic testing will be determined by the stage of your disease. 78% of all cervical cancer cases are diagnosed in the early stage.

If it is suspected that the cancer is not in the early stage, your physician may order detailed testing to check the lymph nodes, urinary system, rectal and vaginal areas for spread of the disease. Detailed testing information can be found at the The M.D. Anderson Cancer Center site.

Treatment may include, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Per The M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, treatment options also include the following:

  • The stage of the cancer
  • The size of the tumor
  • The patient’s desire to have children
  • The patient’s overall health and age

Terminology for diagnosis and/or treatment:

Cone biopsy: a surgical procedure where a cone shaped piece of tissue is removed from the cervix.

Cryosurgery: a surgical procedure that uses an instrument to freeze and destroy precancerous tissue.

LEEP : Loop Electrical Excision Procedure- treatment done under local anesthesia, an electrical current passed through a thin wire hook to remove abnormal tissue.

Laser surgery: a surgical procedure that uses a laser beam to remove surface lesions.


For more detailed information on cervical cancer, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) offers a downloadable pdf fact sheet and a cervical cancer podcast.

Eyes on the offers support and information for gynecological cancer.

Women’s Health Cancer Centres (Canada) is a huge network of resources.

Battling Books:

100 Questions & Answers About Cervical Cancer by Don S., M.D. Dizon (2008).

Women at risk: The HPV epidemic and Your Cervical Health by Gregory Henderson M.D. Ph.D and Batya Swift Yasgur (2002).

What’s an Antioxidant?

April 24, 2008 by  
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fork.jpgWhat exactly is an antioxidant and what does it have to do with cancer?

Per the American Dietetic Association: “Antioxidants are dietary substances including some nutrients such as beta carotene, vitamins C and E and selenium, that can prevent damage to your body cells or repair damage that has been done.”

Basically an antioxidant is capable of counteracting the normal damaging effects of oxidation by neutralizing free radicals in the body. The balance of antioxidants to oxidants is disturbed by poor diet, smoking, disease, normal aging, x-rays and many other things. When an antioxidant neutralizes a free radical, the antioxidant becomes oxidized and the body needs to be resupplied with antioxidants.

From the U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E, help protect healthy cells from damage by free radicals. Normal body functions such as breathing or physical activity, and other lifestyle habits, such as smoking, produce substances called free radicals that weaken healthy cells. Weakened cells are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.”

It’s important to remember that the consumption of exceptionally large amounts of antioxidants can be harmful to the body. Current studies in antioxidants are constantly reevaluating levels of antioxidants needed for optimal health and for healing. Antioxidants are found in foods we eat; however if you are interested in oral supplements consult your physician. As a report of the American Cancer Society points out, the effect of supplements on cancer tumors and interactions with medication leaves many still unanswered questions. Talk to your physician. The National Cancer Institute provides information on antioxidants under investigation in clinical trials.

Traditional antioxidants:

Vitamin C: Red pepper, yellow pepper, strawberries, oranges lemons, cantaloupes, cauliflower. Information on the connection to vitamin C and cancer is provided at the Linus Pauling Institute.

Vitamin E: Prevents the oxidation of fat and Vitamin A. It is thought to prevent prostrate and breast cancer. Sources of vitamin E include nuts, avocados, mangoes and sweet potatoes. See the National Cancer Institute site for information on the SELECT trial, (Selenium and Vitamin E trial) which studied the effect of these supplements on prostate cancer.

Beta carotene:Found naturally in foods such as cantaloupe, mangoes, papaya, pumpkin, peppers, spinach, kale, squash, sweet potatoes, and apricots. Note that the results of a clinical trial showed that beta carotene supplements should be avoided by smokers. See the National Cancer Institute for more information.

Selenium: Naturally found in seafood, beef, pork, chicken, Brazil nuts, brown rice, and whole wheat bread. Selenium studies show its importance in fighting prostate cancer, per a study by the University of Arizona Cancer Center.

Antioxidants Being Studied:

Flavonoids: Found in brewed tea. Flavonoids are also found in dark chocolate. An interesting clinical trial on dark chocolate is found on WebMD. Studies are now showing the impact on flavonoids in various types of cancer, such as prostrate and ovarian cancer as noted at ScienceDaily.

Lycopene: Found in tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit. For more information on lycopene and cancer see the Mayo Clinic site or Lycopene and Health.

Phytochemicals: Found in blueberries, strawberries and cranberries, phytochemicals are now linked to a positive impact on certain cancers such as colon cancer and liver cancer. The Daily Mail, shares a recent study at Rutgers University on blueberries. NutraUSA shares a similar study with promise for liver cancer.

Recommended daily amounts of vitamins, and minerals are available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture library. They include a series of reports “on the dietary reference values for the intake of nutrients by Americans and Canadians.”

Battling Books:

The Super Antioxidant Diet and Nutrition Guide: a Health Plan for the Body, Mind and Spirit by Robin Jeep, Richard B. Couey, and Sherie Ellington Pitman (February 2008)

Antioxidants Against Cancer by Ralph W. Moss (2000)

Additional information is available in our archives:

The Relationship Between Cancer and Antioxidants

The M Word

April 17, 2008 by  
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A type of cancer that forms in the melanocyte cells, which are the cells that form the melanin or pigment of the skin. Melanoma is less common than other skin cancers, but is the most serious type of skin cancer. Like other skin cancers, it is often curable in the early stages. It can occur anywhere on the skin, but most likely occurs in the trunk of men and the legs of women. The face and neck are also common sites. Melanoma can spread to other parts of the body.

Risk Factors May Include:

  • UV light exposure-natural and artificial and a history of severe sunburns
  • Moles-excessive number of normal moles (over 50) and large number of atypical moles (dysplastic nevi)
  • Fair Skin-occurs more often in people with fair skin, freckles and light hair
  • Family History-10% of all people diagnosed have a family history
  • Immune Suppression-a weakened immune system due to other factors
  • Age-the most common cancer in people younger than 30, but more likely to occur in older populations
  • Sex-Men have a higher incidence
  • History of Melanoma-people who have had melanoma are at greater risk for a second diagnosis
  • Xeroderma Pigmentosum-a rare inherited genetic condition that prevents the skin from repairing

For more information on risk factors see the American Cancer Society site.

Read more

Playing the Numbers

March 4, 2008 by  
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Battling Cancer isn’t just about the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. It’s also about education and prevention for everyone.


Because according to statistics provided by the American Cancer Society:

1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her life.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women in the United States.

1 man in 6 will get prostate cancer in his life.

Need more evidence?

The Cancer Facts and Figures 2008 report was released February 28, 2008, by the American Cancer Society.

Per the report “prostate, lung and colorectal cancers account for about half of all cancers diagnoses among men; in women, breast, lung and colorectal cancer make up 50%. Cancer incident rates have more or less steadied since the late 1990’s, but certain cancers do appear to be on the decline. Lung cancer incident rates are down in men and appear to be leveling off in women. There were fewer cases of colorectal cancer in both men and women from 1998 to 2004; female breast cancer incidence rates decreased 3.5% per year from 2001 to 2004.”

See the entire report in pdf format on the ACS webpage.

What’s your cancer risk?

Check out the following assessment tools.

The Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention, Disease Risk Assessment for the following cancers: bladder, breast, cervical, colon, kidney, lung, melanoma, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, stomach and uterine.

The National Cancer Institute, Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool. The tool has recently been updated for African American women based on the results of the CARE study.

 Sloan Kettering Lung Cancer Risk Assessment.

The Women’ Cancer Network provides a confidential risk assessment of the following cancers: breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, cervical cancer, vulvar cancer and vaginal cancer.

It’s easy to become immune to the numbers. But do yourself a favor this week. Look them over and then take a risk assessment, which by the way, also provides not only your personal results, but tips based on those results for reducing your risk factor.

Because Battling Cancer isn’t just about preaching to the choir.

Of Cancer and Colonoscopies

January 22, 2008 by  
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Recently, my good friend Amanda was inspired by her sister-in-law’s recent diagnosis with cancer diagnosis to get screened herself. Here, she shares her story:

I once again find myself laying flat on my back, staring at the ceiling with my naked legs spread wide with some man I just met 10 minutes ago between them. Now, get your mind out of the gutter, it is definitely not what you are thinking: It is time once again for my annual physical, and as I go to a health clinic, I always seem to get a different doctor.

This time is different for me, though. My sister-in-law was just diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, and will begin chemotherapy and radiation treatment within the month. What two different doctors diagnosed as hemorrhoids was in actuality skin cancer, and any type of surgery will result in the use of a colostomy bag for the rest of her life. Did I mention that she is only 46? Did I mention that she just had a colonoscopy 6 months ago, and she left the procedure with a clean bill of health? Did I tell you that they told her there was an 80% chance that the lesion was benign, but ended up being cancerous?

Her story is replete with the normal doctor visits, the correct diagnostic tests, and several missed diagnoses. Thankfully, the cancer has not spread, and the doctors are very optimistic about a good chemotherapeutic response. Not everyone is that lucky.

So that leaves me flat on my back, literally. I have never met anyone who actually enjoys getting an OB/GYN exam, or runs out of the room yelling, “That was awesome – let’s do it again!!!!” But the vaginal exam is just one of the things women have to do in the name of good health.

My advice to women everywhere is to get your annual physical. Tell your doctor if you are having pain or swelling in any area in your body. Make the doctor take your suspicions and concerns seriously – no one knows your body better than you do, and you can always tell when something with your body is just not right. Finally, don’t put off seeing a doctor, just because you are afraid of what you might hear. If it does happen to be cancer, early detection is your best bet.

Over 90% of all cancer deaths are associated with metastasis – don’t become another statistic. So let the women all over the country band together, get naked, and get on our backs! Preferably in a doctor’s office, but you make your own decision on that front – who am I to judge?

Battling Cancer seeks to bring you the latest in cancer news, opinion, resources, and off-beat stories. Don’t miss out — subscribe to our RSS feed!

The Link Between Cancer, Insurance and Mortality Rates Revisited

January 16, 2008 by  
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As we previously reported, health care coverage is linked to cancer survival outcomes. Since the American Cancer Society released this groundbreaking report, Battling Cancer has been following recent developments on the link between cancer, insurance and mortality rates:

Clear Correlation Between Insurance Status and Mortality

Recently, the non-partisan economic and social policy research group, Urban Institute, released a report entitled, “Uninsured and Dying Because of It: Updating the Institute of Medicine Analysis on the Impact of Uninsurance on Mortality.” The complete report, available on their website as a .pdf, estimates that 137,000 people will die in the United States this year due to lack of insurance. This places it after heart disease and cancer as the third-leading general cause of death in the country.

If You’re Eligible for Insurance, Grab It!

According to a recent study, only 10 million of the 25 million United States veterans who were eligible took advantage of the free health care benefits due to them in the 2006 fiscal year. The Veteran’s Administration office reports that the leading reason behind this was because veterans are often unaware that they even had health care benefits.

Insured Cancer Patients: Pick Your Battles

A recent study in the January / February 2008 issue of Health Affairs entitled, “Is Spending More Always Wasteful? The Appropriateness of Care and Outcomes among Colorectal Cancer Patients” suggests that even high Medicare spending might not lead to lower cancer mortality rates. The authors suggest that health care spending should be better targeted to cancer patients who would benefit most from treatments.

Based on our current models of health care, it looks as if even if we found a silver bullet that cured cancer, we’d still have people who would be suffering. Looks like we should refocus more of our dollars in cancer screening and preventative education. In the meantime, check out our round-up of 25+ Financial Assistance Resources for Cancer Patients, Survivors, and Caregivers.

Living in a High-Risk Cancer Family

January 3, 2008 by  
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Because so many of members of my extended family have been diagnosed with cancer, I have always been keenly aware that I may have a stronger genetic predisposition for cancer than other individuals.

Growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of being vigilant when it came to proper screenings and making smart lifestyle choices that could help decrease my risk of major diseases.  One of my best friends, Carey Grayson, understood what I was going through.  In recent years, she’s had a staggering number of family members undergo their own battles with cancer.  Recently, I asked her to comment on her own thoughts about being in a high-risk cancer family.  Below is her reply:

There are so many questions that people have about cancer. The problem is that it never occurs to anyone to ask them until their lives are touched somehow by the disease. I know because I have been there six times now. Read more

Corporation Charges Employees $100 a Month for Smoking

December 19, 2007 by  
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Looks like a lot more people are going to be adding “Quit Smoking” to their New Year’s Resolution list for 2008.

According to Michael Miner at the Chicago Reader, employees at Chicago’s Tribune Company who smoke or have a family member who smokes will be charged an extra $100 a month unless they sign up for and complete the Free & Clear smoking cessation program.  The new policy, which will be implemented on January 1, serves the dual purpose of encouraging better health and offsetting the high cost of employee health care coverage.

When I signed up for health insurance at the university I used to work at, individuals were offered a discount if they were non-smokers.  While smoking status was self-reported and relied solely on honor, us non-smokers considered it a nice “perk” for staying healthy.  My smoking colleagues, however, didn’t find the discount large enough to motivate them to quit.  Perhaps the high financial cost of smoking will start to clue employees at the Tribune Company into the high health costs as well.

For more resources on how to quit smoking, check out Cancer Commentary’s coverage of the Quit Smoking Counter.

Do you think that the Tribune Company is infringing on smokers’ rights?  Let us know in the comments!

Battling Cancer seeks to bring you the latest in cancer news, opinion, resources, and off-beat stories. Don’t miss out — subscribe to our RSS feed!

Is Motorcycle Use Linked to Cancer? – Part II

November 30, 2007 by  
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Earlier this week, I talked about Randall Dale Chipkar’s awkwardly entitled book, “Are Motorcycles Killing Us With Cancers of the Prostate, Colon, Kidney, Bone, Etc?” which claims to link motorcycle use to cancer.

At the time that I wrote that post, Chipkar’s promotional website (found here) didn’t seem to have much up other than a press release and a checkout cart to buy the book. However, I found that Chipkar’s been shilling a protective motorcycle shield for those who buy into the EMF theory:

From Strange New Products:

“EMF” stands for electromagnetic field. [Chipkar] claims that EMFs can cause cancer, and that motorcycles are emitting enough of these EMFs to put riders in danger. His EMF shield can be fitted inside a motorcycle seat to provide riders with “peace of mind”.


And, that’s how scare tactics work as a marketing technique, folks. Like I said earlier, I’ll believe the claims when I see the data.

Can this metal shield decrease bikers’ incidence of cancer? Leave us your opinion in the comment section! Also, don’t miss our upcoming content makeover, including regular features like Research Roundup, Living with Cancer, and Ask the Experts. Subscribe to our RSS feed!

Getting Something Off My Chest: A Mother and Daughter’s Opposing Outlooks on Mastectomy

November 29, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

I’m still stuck here on the couch sick, but I’ve got great news — because she had such a great time guest posting for me last week, Amanda is back to Battling Cancer for another essay.  Having worked directly across her benchtop space for years, I’ve always told her that she’s got way too much personality for her stodgy lab environment.  Maybe I can talk her into joining the ranks of bloggers who actually are encouraged to have a good time on the job!  At the very least, be expecting her and her unique views as a regular contributor for the new content makeover that we’ll be rolling out soon.

I am one of the lucky persons out there who absolutely adores her mother. She is not only my mother, she is my best friend and the one that I turn to when life is just crumbling around me. About 10 years ago, my mom had to have a hysterectomy to correct some problems associated with the birth of my sister (she was messing things up even way back then [Ed. note — just kidding!]). I didn’t really give it much thought until my grandmother developed breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy. To me, it is a no-brainer. Cancer in boob, get rid of boob. End of cancer = happy me.

The surgery was extremely upsetting to my mom, though. She swore to me that if she developed breast cancer, she would not get a mastectomy, no matter what the prognosis was. She said that if she were to lose her breasts, too, there would be no parts of her left that made her a woman. Naturally, I sat there in shock. How could my mom not opt to save her life? They are just breasts! You can survive without breasts! In this day and age, they can replace them, and make them perkier to boot. I even offered to go through the procedure with her. I would gladly give up both my breasts to save my mom. No matter how much I argued, she would not back down, and to this day maintains that in the event of cancer, she will proceed without the mastectomy, even if it means certain death. I cannot comprehend how anyone would take this kind of gamble with their life, but the ultimate choice is hers, and I have to respect that. Read more

Junk Food Loving Women, Beware: Study Links Weight Gain to Post-Menopausal Breast Cancer Risk

November 2, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

After finishing off an entire bag of tortilla chips and nacho cheese, I sat down at my computer to read through this week’s latest news in cancer. Coincidentally, the first article that I came across was about a recent study correlating weight gain and the increased risk of developing postmenopausal breast cancer.


In a report published in the October 22 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers have found a positive link between increased weight and the development of breast cancer in women who did not take hormone therapy after menopause. The conclusions were drawn from a pool of 99,039 postmenopausal women who participated in a joint study between the National Institutes of Health and the American Association of Retired Persons.  Participants in the study reported their current body weight and age, as well as their weights at their ages of 18, 35, and 50. All of this data was then used to make comparisons between age, weight, and the development of breast cancer.

At this point, I took away from this article two things:

Read more

The end of breast self-exams?

October 19, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

My smarty-pants husband is a graduate of a dual MD/PhD medical scientist training program. Students in his program (ie, gluttons for punishment) start out by completing their first two years of medical school, followed by three to five years of doctoral work in a life sciences laboratory, then complete their final two years of medical school doing clinical work.

During my husband’s first two years in medical school, he learned how to complete procedures like taking patient histories, blood draws, and educating patients in preventative medicine. After he successfully completed his doctoral degree in cancer research, he traded his mad scientist uniform of jeans and a somewhat clean shirt back in for his white coat. His first week doing clinical work was at our county’s women’s health care clinic, and his very first tasks were to educate women who came into the clinic on how to properly administer breast self-examinations.

As he demonstrated the small, rotating circle technique that he had learned back during his pre-clinical studies three years earlier, the health care provider watching him stopped and corrected him — apparently, that breast self-exam technique had been replaced by a new longer stroke technique sometime during his stint in graduate school. While the patient he was instructing ended up getting the most up-to-date education available, he was embarrassed by his lack of sharp technique and it shook his confidence considerably.

I was reminded of this story when reading a recent post by PJ over at the My Breast Cancer Network, who recently reported another huge change in the long-standing practice of self-exams in breast cancer prevention. Apparently, self-exams have now been downgraded in status by the Canadian Cancer Society from being recommended as a monthly routine to merely optional.

“The Canadian Cancer Society last week followed the lead of the American Cancer Society, which last March revised its official stance on BSEs. In the past, the ACS recommended m monthly BSEs following a particular method: “Lie down and place your right arm behind your head. Use the finger pads of the three middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps in the right breast. Use overlapping dime-sized circular motions of the finger pads to feel the breast tissue…” Now, the ACS Web site says, “It is acceptable for women to choose not to do BSE or to do BSE occasionally.” Why the change?”

Apparently, the practice of breast self-examinations bore no correlation to a decrease in mortality due to breast cancer. Women are advised, however, to remain vigilant in any changes in their breast tissue.

See PJ’s article, Breast Self-Exams: No Longer Necessary?, for more details.

Women: Will this affect how often you perform breast self-exams? How often do you perform them now?

Church-based health initiative leads to increase in mammograms

October 18, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

The Tepeyac Project was a faith-based health care initiative aimed at encouraging Latina women in Colorado to have breast cancer screenings. The results of the project, which ran from 1999 to 2005, has just been published in the October issue of the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Over two hundred Catholic churches received culturally-tailored information about breast health either via printed packets or through on-site educators during the participation in the Teypeyac Project.  The study’s investigators at the University of Colorado’s Health Science Center Division of Health Care Policy and Research found that that the use of peer-counselors delivering on-site breast-health education significantly increased the number of mammograms in insured Latinas after adjusting for age, income, disability and location.

While the authors of the study admit that the information received in printed packets did not make a significant difference in the number of parishioners who claimed to receive mammograms, it is hopeful that faith-based health care initiatives focusing on prevention and education will make an impact on increasing awareness of early warning signs of breast cancer.

This study follows on the heels of a 2006 study published in the journal Health Promotion Practice from the University of Illinois at Chicago that reported that African-American women attending churches enrolled in faith-based cancer education programs that actively participated in educational activities were four times more likely to report having an annual mammogram than women who did not actively participate.

Everyone Can Promote Cancer Prevention – It’s Easier Than You Think

May 4, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

By: Andi Michaels

Anyone can have a hand in cancer prevention. All you have to do is look for ways to make healthier decisions for you and your family. This could mean eating more servings of fruits and vegetables or steering clear of harmful second-hand smoke. Taking a step back and finding areas to change can be the most challenging part of fighting cancer. When you take the bait to become healthier, remember to tailor your program to fit specific needs for your body.

The first step in the fight against cancer is to take a look at your family history. The University of Texas’ MD Anderson’s Cancer Center web site reports that five to ten percent of cancer cases can come from a person’s genetic make-up. The flip side of this statistic is that ninety percent of cancer cases can be controlled by the individual.

If someone in your family has battled cancer, researchers are now able to perform specific tests to find out if you carry altered genes which can cause certain types of cancers. The responsibility of getting the necessary tests and screenings lies with the individual.

Part of cancer prevention comes with heeding this responsibility and not ignoring the warning signs cancer gives to its victims. Research like this will help you to know if you should focus your efforts on breast and cervical cancer prevention or arthritis cancer prevention.

Aside from genetics, the most important part of cancer prevention is eating a well-balanced diet. This means incorporating more fruits and vegetables, meats that are low in fat and plenty of heart-healthy whole grains into your diet.

Certain vegetables, such as tomatoes and broccoli, carry antioxidants that support cancer prevention. If you can’t eat all your servings at one sitting, try to snack on them throughout the day. And because today’s society is surrounded by processed foods, reading nutrition labels is important when going to the store. Avoid foods that tend to be high in saturated fats, high fructose corn syrups and hydrogenated oils of any kind.

Once you have figured out how to eat healthier, the next step you should take is finding time to exercise. Finding ways to exercise does not mean you have to join a gym and hire a personal trainer. Exercise can come in simple forms, like vacuuming, walking your dog or playing with your children.

Doctors just recommend that you get at least thirty minutes of physical activity 3 to 4 times a week. Find ways to make exercising fun for you and your family by going for walks together or buying everyone bicycles. Not only will this help you include exercising into your weekly routine, but you will also be teaching your loved ones how to live healthier.

Cancer prevention involves changing habits, especially the bad ones. The University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Research web site reports that 87 percent of lung cancer victims were smokers. More and more research comes out every year about the harmful affects of smoking, and stopping this degenerative habit is a crucial part in the fight against cancer.

The Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation’s fall 2006 newsletter conveyed that even second-hand smoke can increase a person’s risk of heart disease by twenty-five to thirty percent and can increase a person’s risk of developing lung cancer by twenty to thirty percent. Don’t give cancer to your children – stop smoking now.

Genetics can hinder a person’s efforts at cancer prevention. But asking your doctor for the proper screenings can assist in your efforts to live a healthy life. Prevention also means finding ways to improve your diet and incorporate more physical activity into your day.

Avoiding unhealthy habits that increase your risks of certain cancers should be first on your lists of to-dos. Cancer prevention does not have to be a hard task, but it could be one of the most important decisions you make in life.

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Andi Michaels has worked in healthcare and now runs health related websites on topics including cancer prevention as well as sites on asbestosis

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.