Cancer Mortality Progress Report: Past Success and Future Challenges

ACS 2015 Challenge Goal Progress Chart

By American Cancer Society Chief Medical Officer Otis W. Brawley, MD, FACP and Chief Cancer Control Officer Richard Wender, MD

As leaders of the American Cancer Society, one of our jobs is to look at the big picture; to step back from our day-to-day work and review our nation’s collective progress toward ending the cancer problem.

Analyzing the cancer landscape allows us to figure out what’s working and what isn’t — and to determine what else can be done. Back in the mid-1990s, the American Cancer Society Board of Directors took a hard look at the state of cancer in the United States. Based on what they learned, they challenged the U.S. to cut the cancer mortality rate in half by the year 2015.1 They made the start year 1990.

They knew from the outset that achieving the goal would require the combined efforts of many sectors, and not any one organization.

Today, we are reporting on the nation’s progress toward achieving that goal. Here’s what we have all accomplished together: The cancer death rate declined 26% over the 25-year period of 1990 to 2015. Though the goal of a 50% reduction was only one-half achieved, we believe this progress should be viewed as a glass half full.… Continue reading →

Start Today: What Will You Do to Be More Physically Active?

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD

My husband and I once had a 101-year-old neighbor named Arlie. One day, after driving my husband to work, I arrived home – at 7:30 a.m. – and Arlie was out raking the leaves in our front yard.

On garbage day, after the garbage trucks had been up and down the street, Arlie used to wheel ours and all the other neighbors’ empty garbage cans back up to our houses.

If there was anyone who could ever convince me that being active could help you live long and well, it was Arlie.  My father is another one – but more on that in a bit.

Today, the American Cancer Society is part of an event to release the newly revised National Physical Activity Plan. The first National Plan was released in 2010, after the creation of the country’s first National Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans in 2008.

This plan is based on a vision: that one day, all Americans will be physically active, and they will live, work and play in environments that encourage and support regular physical activity.

This is important to the mission of the American Cancer Society, because physical activity reduces the risk of a variety of cancers, and may reduce the risk of recurrence and improve survival, as well.… Continue reading →

When Cancer Hits Home, Hit Back

By Mandi Battaglia Seiler

Having spent nearly 15 years working for the American Cancer Society’s free 24-hour cancer information service (NCIC), I have learned a lot about the challenges cancer patients face when it comes to navigating the health system. This knowledge helped me when it came time for me to care for 3 loved ones dealing with cancer.

Most of the issues I dealt with are the very same concerns patients call us about. Three of my personal experiences in particular provide insight into the important advice we give callers.

Explore all opportunities for treatment

My father-in-law, Ralph, was diagnosed in 1995. He inspired me with his incessant need for more information on how to beat his cancers. First getting diagnosed with prostate cancer and later, a second primary of bladder cancer, he never gave up – even requesting clinical trial information while on hospice care. I lost him in 2007, but not before seeing up close the determination that drives people like him to call our Clinical Trials Matching Service at any stage of their cancer journey.

Advocate for the right care – and be persistent

Before Ralph passed, my mother, Kaye, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Having helped many a patient with access-to-care issues navigate many systems as a member of the American Cancer Society’s Health Insurance Assistance Service team, I was fortunate to know persistence was key.… Continue reading →

You Ask, We Answer: Radiation Therapy Basics

By Jacqueline Brown, MSN, OCN, CBCN

Man Receiving Radiation Therapy for Cancer

As an oncology nurse information specialist at the American Cancer Society, part of my job is to help answer patients’ questions through our free 24-hour cancer information service. Many patients and caregivers call us with questions about treatment – including radiation therapy. When it comes to radiation, there are 4 questions in particular that seem to be the most common. As part of our new “You Ask, We Answer” series, I’ll give you answers to these 4 frequently asked questions about radiation treatment.

First, let’s go over a little background on radiation. When a doctor finds cancer, he or she may suggest several different treatments to get you healthy again. Many times, the first step may be to remove the cancer by surgery during an operation. But it is very common to use additional cancer treatments after surgery to improve the long- term success rate. These additional treatments are called “adjuvant,” meaning they are used after the primary treatment. They may be chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal, targeted or immune therapies.

Radiation is a common adjuvant therapy, so let’s dig into answering the most common questions patients and families ask our cancer team about this type of treatment.… Continue reading →

Remembering Ellen Stovall, Cancer Survivor Advocate

By Otis W. Brawley, MD, FACP

Ellen Stovall, a long-time cancer survivor advocate, died of heart failure last week.  She was 69 years old.  As is the case these days, word of her death spread through email.  We at the American Cancer Society were saddened to hear of her death, but for me and for many others this one was extremely personal.

I first met Ellen more than 25 years ago when I was a young oncologist at the National Cancer Institute. She would become a good friend.  Over the years, she would encourage me.  She often gave me emotional and intellectual support especially when I took unpopular stances on issues.

Shortly after I first met Ellen she founded the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship.  She and some other courageous survivors would demand that consumers be included in medical and scientific research decision-making and they would get a seat at the table.

In a world where people come and go, Ellen stayed pertinent for more than 25 years.  Ellen was disruptive.  She was quiet and polite, but effective. She was not a politician, but she was the consummate insider.

Ellen would eventually define and get us all to accept that a person is a cancer survivor as soon as they are diagnosed with cancer.… Continue reading →

New Year, New You: Cancer.org Can Help

Hand on a Scale

It’s that time of year again. The time when many of us set new goals, start positive lifestyle changes, or seek to improve our lives in one way or another. Whether you choose to make a New Year’s resolution or not – now is a great time to take a look at your health and habits and think about what you could be doing better.

But sometimes it is hard to know where to start. Cancer.org offers a wealth of information to help you be healthy. Here’s a roundup of our 10 most popular health and wellness articles to get you going:

  1. If you’re trying to quit smoking: Kicking the habit is hard. But our guide to quitting smoking walks you through all you need to know about how to successfully stop.
  1. If you’re working on cutting calories: Eating the right amount of nutritious foods can help you get to and stay at a healthy weight – which is important to your overall health and can help prevent cancer. Use our calorie counter tool to get an estimate of how many calories you need.
  1. If you’re looking for motivation to lose weight: If you are trying to lose weight this year and need some extra motivation, review our information about how being overweight or obese can raise your risk for certain types of cancer.
Continue reading →

Smokers: Make the Choice to Improve Your Life Today

By Cliff Douglas, JD

Stopping smoking is hard. For many smokers, it may take multiple tries to break the addiction for good. And often, getting support from friends, family, and experts is what smokers need to make the life-saving choice to quit.

That’s why the American Cancer Society gives extra inspiration to smokers nationwide each year through its Great American Smokeout – a day when smokers are encouraged to quit for the day and make a plan to quit for good.

Quitting even for one day is an important step towards a smoke-free life, but even that can prove difficult.

As someone who has been in the fight against tobacco for more than 25 years, I have seen just how challenging it can be for smokers to quit. I have helped pass laws making airplanes smoke-free, worked to defend local smoke-free restaurant and workplace laws, and consulted to United States government leaders about what more we as a nation can do to put an end to the harms of tobacco use.

But even with all of the progress we have made, for those who smoke, quitting is still a hard-fought battle to win. Some people are able to quit on their own, without the help of others or the use of medicines.… Continue reading →

More on hot dogs and health

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD

Nearly five years ago, I wrote a blog about reports that rotisserie chicken was worse for you than hot dogs. It wasn’t strictly true then, and now there’s even more evidence that choosing that hot dog may not be the best choice.

Hot dogs are in the news again. You’ve probably seen the recent headlines: “Bad Day For Bacon: Processed Meats Cause Cancer, WHO Says.”  “Bacon, Hot Dogs as Bad as Cigarettes.”  Or Time Magazine’s cover:  “The War on Delicious.”

Consumer and industry reaction was fast (and furious in some cases, if the Twittersphere is any indication). What prompted all of this? The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), recently released a report classifying processed meat as a carcinogen (something that causes cancer) and red meat, a probable carcinogen.

Red meat (think beef, pork, lamb) and processed meats (think hot dogs, bacon, deli meats) have been linked with cancer, colorectal (commonly called colon cancer) particularly, for a number of years. And the American Cancer Society has recommended since the early 1990s that consumers limit consumption of these foods.

This new report was generated by 22 experts from 10 countries who reviewed more than 800 studies to reach their conclusions.… Continue reading →

Does hormone therapy for breast cancer affect the brain?

By Jeffrey D. Bbottle blurlaustein, PhD

 An important treatment for many breast cancer patients – called hormone therapy, or what I call anti-hormone therapy for reasons that will become clear  – may have side effects that impact brain function – an issue that often gets overlooked.

The vast majority of breast cancers (60-80%) contain estrogen receptors (ERs), so they are referred to as ER-positive. Treatment for ER-positive breast cancer aims to block estrogens in one way or another. These treatments are referred to as hormone therapy.

ER-positive breast cancer patients may get hormone therapy for different reasons. For post-menopausal women, they may be given this treatment after surgery to try to keep the cancer from coming back. In premenopausal women, treatment is typically an estrogen receptor blocker.

While hormone therapy can be effective, as with most drugs, it may also cause possible side effects that can affect quality of life, which you and your oncologist should consider when choosing (or not-choosing) treatment.

An often-overlooked, and also understudied, side effect of hormone therapy is its negative impact on the brain. Research has shown that estrogen-blocking treatments may have a variety of side effects on the brain including possibly increasing the likelihood of depression and anxiety and decreasing verbal memory and fluency.… Continue reading →

Do elephant genes hold the key to stopping cancer?

iStock_000042863646_Medium_single use

By Ted Gansler, MD, MBA, MPH

The DNA of every plant and animal contains the instructions for the chemical reactions that take place in its cells and is essentially the chemical blueprint of that organism. Some of those chemical reactions control how, when, and where cells grow.If those instructions are damaged or deleted, cells can grow and spread abnormally, leading to the diseases we know as cancer. Much of the recent progress in oncology is based on progress in understanding the changes to certain genes in our DNA that cause cancer.

A recent study by researchers from the University of Utah and their colleagues at several other institutions explains how genes in elephants’ DNA might reduce their risk of developing cancer. The elephant gene in question, TP53, is also present in humans, and is damaged or deleted in more than half of all human cancers.

Why elephants matter to cancer researchers

Every time a cell divides, it needs to copy its DNA so that both of the new cells have a full copy of the genetic instructions they need. Cells divide for 2 main reasons – to replace damaged or worn-out cells, and so the plant or animal can grow larger.… Continue reading →