By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD
In my work at the American Cancer Society, when I talk with people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer, they tend to ask me 3 things: what can I do to reduce the chance that my cancer will come back? What can I do to help me not develop some other kind of cancer? How can I help my family members reduce their own risk for developing cancer?
For many years, answering questions 2 and 3 was a cinch.
We’ve known for years that for people who don’t smoke, the most important ways to reduce their risk of cancer are to strive to be at a healthy weight, live a physically active lifestyle, eat a diet made up mostly of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and watch how much alcohol is consumed (if any, at all). As a matter of fact, a recent study published by ACS researchers showed that non-smokers who most closely followed those recommendations had a significantly lower risk of premature death from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all causes when compared to people who followed the guidelines least closely.
So giving advice about how to reduce their risk of developing another type of cancer and providing information to pass on to their own family members was pretty easy, because that data has been around for many years.… Continue reading →
By James C. Salwitz, MD
What does personal medicine mean to you? A doctor who greets with your name and a smile? Caregivers who listen? Physicians who know all about your case and every treatment you have received? We all want doctors who truly understand us. In the near future, this personal understanding will go deeper than ever before.
The instructions for life lie in our chromosomes. Everything about the way our bodies are built is coded in our DNA. Every cell, muscle, nerve, and organ is constructed from genetic blueprints. Tall or short, brown eyes or blue, man or woman, it is all in our genes. Genes define much of who we are and what makes us different. We now understand that genes have a lot to say about the diseases from which we suffer.
Some genes make us resistant to illness. We all know families where everyone lives into their 90s. Other genes increase the risk of specific disease. How often have we met siblings with the same illness? DNA codes how our bodies fight disease or heal from injury. Hard wired in our chromosomes are instructions to make drugs work, fail, or produce side effects. The human genetic code is often the key to health and to disease.… Continue reading →
By Terri Ades, DNP, FNP-BC, AOCN
Recently a colleague at work who had just returned from a getting a haircut mentioned to me that his hairdresser, who has lung cancer, was upset because her husband was very worried about her. The hairdresser explained that she had started having some memory problems – couldn’t remember what she did yesterday or couldn’t remember people’s names. And she had started to tell her husband something and stopped in the middle of her story – not remembering what to say next. She too acknowledged being a little concerned and was seeing her doctor in 3 days, but she didn’t know how to help her husband until then. I asked if she was receiving chemotherapy and was told yes, so I explained that she might have “chemo brain.”
We’ve known for some time that radiation therapy to the brain can cause problems with thinking and memory. Now, we are learning that chemotherapy is linked to some of the same kinds of problems. Research has shown that some chemotherapy agents can cause certain kinds of changes in the brain. Though the brain usually recovers over time, the sometimes vague yet distressing mental changes cancer patients notice are real, not imagined.… Continue reading →