Monthly Archives: April 2011

Busting Clinical Trials Myths

By Katherine Sharpe, MTS

“It might be time to consider a clinical trial.” I have heard this many times in my work with the American Cancer Society. Unfortunately, in most cases, people think of clinical trials as the option of last resort, so they consider one only when all other treatment options have failed.


But the truth is that clinical trials should always be considered as a treatment option. In fact, there are clinical trials for almost every type of cancer and stage of disease – there are even clinical trials for cancer prevention! Without clinical trials, we would see virtually no advances in cancer treatment. 


The good news is that more and more people are considering a cancer clinical trial when they are first diagnosed – and that helps speed up breakthroughs in cancer care. But there is clearly a need for more people to learn about and consider this option.


Take a look at pediatric cancer. When I was growing up in the 1970’s, there were several books that highlighted the stories of teenagers diagnosed with leukemia. Unfortunately, most of these stories didn’t end well. However, since the 1970’s, the cure rate of  acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) has gone from 30% to 80%, largely due to advances discovered during cancer clinical trials.… Continue reading →

Want to quit smoking? Here’s how.

By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD

“I think I can. I think I can. I know I can. I know I can.” These words are a familiar refrain to the millions of Americans who want to quit smoking. We promise ourselves that this is the year that we are going to get healthier, to save more money, or to be nicer to our friends and family. But there are so many challenges – it’s too cold or rainy to exercise, I need that dress or that app, and who could be nice to Uncle Jack?

Yet there is good news if you are among the 45 million American adults who is still a smoker. You can become healthier, save more money, and do something wonderful for your friends and family- you can stop smoking.


How can stopping smoking make you healthier? Short-term, the effects of stopping are immediate – your blood pressure drops, your blood begins to flow more smoothly, and your lungs begin to clear out. Long-term, your risk of 15 types of smoking-related cancers is reduced, and your risk of a variety of smoking-related heart and lung diseases begin to resemble those of a nonsmoker.

How can stopping smoking save you money?… Continue reading →

Lymph node surgery for breast cancer patients—Can I get by with less?

By Debbie Saslow, PhD


A recent study has shown that for some women diagnosed with breast cancer, extensive lymph node surgery isn’t needed. This is great news because removal of lymph nodes in the armpit area can have debilitating and life-long side effects.

Here is a little background: In the United States, about 210,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed this year. Of the invasive cancers, about 30% of cases, or 63,000 cancers, will be diagnosed at the “regional stage,” which means the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. The findings of this study are important for women in this group.


The women who participated in the study:

  • had breast cancer that had spread to the first 1 or 2 nearby lymph nodes,
  • had received treatment including lumpectomy and radiation therapy,
  • had tumors that were less than 5 cm-about 2 inches-across, and
  • did not have any lymph nodes in the armpit that could be felt during examination.

While not a requirement of the study, almost all of the women participating also had received chemotherapy after, but not before, their lumpectomy.


Nine hundred women participated in the study. Half had just 1 or 2 lymph nodes removed using a procedure called sentinel lymph node dissection.… Continue reading →