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'Cancer Prevention & Screening' posts

Summer 2014 Cancer Community Walks & Runs

Each year, the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) partners with local and national organizations in an effort to help spread awareness of cancer, associated treatments, and resources available in our communities.
 
Summer 2014 is no different. We’ve signed on to take part in more events than ever before—and we want you to join us! As an active patient, survivor, family member, friend or advocate, your voice and participation matter.
 
American Cancer Society Relay for Life
These overnight community fundraising walks help raise money to fund cancer research, education, and support services like Hope Lodge®, Road to Recovery®, Look Good, Feel Better®, and Reach to Recovery®, all American Cancer Society-run programs. The Swedish Cancer Institute patients gain access to these programs throughout the Swedish network. There are several Relay for Life events going on in the Puget Sound. The Swedish Cancer Institute is taking part in:

Facts and myths about antioxidants and cancer

Some of the most popular misconceptions surrounding cancer, cancer prevention and cancer treatment are about the role of antioxidants. Like many of the popular myths about cancer, there are facts, half-facts and outright falsehoods.
 
Fact: Damage to genes, particularly those involved in the regulation of cell division and cell death, is the key event in the development of cancer. 
Fact: Oxidants are substances, most often generated by our own body, that cause damage to chemicals, including the DNA that makes up our genes, by oxidizing them. The oxidation reaction most familiar to us is when metal rusts. 
Fact: Our bodies’ oxidants can contribute to cancer.
 
Half-fact: Antioxidants are chemicals we ingest that then run around neutralizing oxidants, rendering them powerless to promote cancer. The so-called antioxidant vitamins, of which vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene are the most well known are more properly called redox agents. In a particular environment, they prevent or reverse oxidation, called reduction. But they may change the acidity or even just the concentrations of the components of the reaction, and they may facilitate just the opposite. For example ....

To Mammogram or Not to Mammogram? A note on recent studies

A Canadian medical research study has recently been published questioning the value of doing screening mammograms on women in their forties. The article has spurred controversy because the results contradict multiple other similar research studies which showed that women in that age group who get regular mammograms actually are spared death from breast cancer more often that women who are not invited to screening.

Some problems with the methods of Canadian study, published in the journal BMJ, were pointed out by a scientist at the University of Washington, Judith Malmgren, who has worked with Swedish Medical Center doctors to see how women in their forties have fared in our system. Click here to read Dr. Malmgren’s letter to the editor of BMJ.

There are two ironic features to the Canadian study. First, the authors say it is okay for women to not get screening starting in their forties “when adjuvant therapy for breast cancer is readily available.” This means that it is okay to diagnose breast cancer later because you can mop up bigger and more advanced cancers with treatment like chemotherapy, radiation and bigger surgery. But at Swedish, we do not think that many women prefer more severe therapy rather than earlier detection.

Secondly ...

Is it ok to laugh with cancer?

“Is it okay to laugh?”

The question caught me off guard for a moment, then its meaning sunk in.  She was really saying, “Cancer is serious stuff, my breast has been cut on and radiated, and you’ve given me cancer fighting poisons in my veins. My hair has fallen out, food tastes funny, and I’m on a first name basis with the muzak at my insurance company. I’ve done my crying, but is it appropriate to laugh at it all?”

I remembered back to an intimidating nurse critiquing a tape of my very first patient interview during my second month of medical school. Her eyes were sharp and piercing and her brow furrowed as she watched the tape. Half way through she stopped it, turned it off, and said, “You are flippant…. I don’t much care for it.” My heart sank, and then she continued without a smile, but with a twinkle in her eyes, “but it works for you, so don’t mind me and keep on doing it.”

I believe that humor is therapeutic. Of  course, that is not a new idea. The saying, “laughter is the best medicine” did not originate with Readers Digest. The biblical record states, “A merry heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit drieth bones” (Proverbs 17:22). I don’t know that a merry heart will add time to a cancer patient’s life, but I know that it will add life to the time that they have.  

We don’t know a lot about the physiological effects of humor. It does ....

When a mole is more than a mole

As a general surgeon, I am often asked to evaluate a patient with an abnormal mole (pigmented nevus) or one that has been biopsied, revealing a premalignant or malignant growth.  It is not uncommon for the patient to tell me they either were totally unaware of the lesion or dismissed changes in the lesion over time. 

All skin cancers are not alike, and melanoma, a malignant cancer of pigmented skin cells (melanocytes), is by far the most dangerous of the group, accounting for over 75% of skin cancer deaths in the United States.  This amounts to about 48,000 melanoma related deaths world wide per year. 

Found early, when the lesion is superficial and small, cure rates are high, but as the cancer progresses, it invades deeper into the skin, and becomes far more likely to spread far from where it started.  It is for this reason that  ...

5 things to know about cancer screenings

Cancer causes 580,000 deaths a year in the United States. One in eight women will develop breast cancer and one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetimes. However, many deaths can be prevented when cancer is detected at an early stage. Cancer screening and risk assessment tests are the tools we use to find cancers early.
 
How do we find early cancers?

Some cancer screenings can be done yourself at home at essentially no cost or risk. This includes regular self-examination of the breasts, testicles and skin. Home fecal occult blood testing can also be done to screen for colorectal cancer. Additional information on cancer screening and self-examinations can be found on websites such as www.cancer.org or www.webmd.com.

 
Other screening requires medical interventions. There is good evidence that well-targeted screening saves lives. However, screening tests such as mammography, colonoscopy and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) are  ...

What should I do about a thyroid nodule?

Thyroid nodules are extremely common and studies have shown that about half of us have at least one!

Fortunately, most of these nodules do not pose any health risks. Not all thyroid nodules are benign, however, and in a minority of cases (about 5-15%) may contain a cancer.  The challenge, of course, is figuring out which nodules are cause for concern and which ones are not.

With increased use of high-resolution imaging, more nodules are being identified today than ever before.  It is also not uncommon for someone to learn they have a nodule “incidentally” after a CT scan, MRI or ultrasound that was performed for some other medical reason.

If you think you may have a thyroid nodule, or if one has been found incidentally by medical imaging, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. Your doctor will likely take several steps, including:

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