By Jeffrey D. Blaustein, 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 →
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 →
By Alpa Patel, PhD
I just got in from taking a walk with friends on a picture-perfect day with blue skies and the feel of autumn in the air. Let me start by telling you how rejuvenating it is to begin working on a blog after a dose of fresh air!
Last week, the U.S. Surgeon General published a Call to Action to specifically promote walking. I was pretty excited about this because my research largely focuses on physical activity and health, and well, because I personally love walking. But not everyone knows how beneficial physical activity is to your overall health so I wanted to share some of that evidence through this blog.
The notion of regular physical activity being good for us is not new information. In fact, more than 60 years of scientific evidence supports that engaging in regular moderate to vigorous physical activity has a wide range of health benefits, including lower risk of early death overall and prevention of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. As a result, our American Cancer Society Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.… Continue reading →
By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD
I wrote this blog in my head first, while I was on a walk. I was thinking about how fortunate I am to live in an area that I can walk – safely – for fitness and fun, for date nights and errands. But it wasn’t always that way.
My family and I used to live in a neighborhood where we could not walk to anything from our home. Besides having no stores, restaurants, schools, dry cleaners – you name it – within a reasonable walking distance, the road leading to our neighborhood was narrow, had no sidewalks, and people sped down that road with reckless abandon.
When we decided to move “in town,” we were ecstatic. I could walk or ride my bike to work, our kids could bike to school, and we could even walk to the gym to get our workouts in. We saved lots of money by not having to fill up our gas tanks so frequently. We felt less stress from not having to drive as often on traffic-packed highways and roads. Physical, financial and quality of life benefits — all from living in an area where we could get out and walk, safely, and for multiple purposes.
The Surgeon General’s Call to Action
All this has been on my mind because a new report is being released today: The Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Walking and Walkable Communities.… Continue reading →
By Louise Chang, MD
How does lung cancer reach other areas of my body? Why did breast cancer show up in my bones? What does it mean to have metastatic cancer?
It can be hard to understand how cancer starts in one place and also shows up in other places in the body that are far from where it started. The ability to spread, called metastasis, speaks to the aggressive nature of cancer and the challenge it poses.
Cancer starts from cells in our body that have gone rogue. The body has ways to monitor and dispose of abnormal cells that develop, but cancer cells are able to avoid the body’s defense system. They grow out of control and form into cancerous tumors.
As cancer cells multiply, they can get into the bloodstream and lymph system. This allows the cancer cells to travel and settle in other parts of the body. When cancer spreads like this, it is described as “metastatic” – because cancer cells have moved to a different location in the body. But metastatic tumors are still considered to be the same cancer type as where the cancer first started. This is why breast cancer that has spread to the bone or lungs is still breast cancer.… Continue reading →
By Marji McCullough, ScD, RD
You may be aware that Vitamin D is important for helping make strong bones. But vitamin D often appears in the media because of its potential role in a host of other health effects, from preventing cancer, diabetes, and heart disease to simply living longer. However, most of these “non-skeletal” (not having to do with your bones) roles of vitamin D are not clearly established and remain a topic of active investigation and debate. To add to the confusion, several recent scientific reviews of the vast data on vitamin D arrived at different conclusions about whether it helps prevent disease or not.
In this blog, I am going to focus on the evidence on vitamin D and cancer prevention, highlight some key unresolved questions, and give some advice to consider while we await more solid answers (which may take a while).
Where does vitamin D come from?
People can get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, from certain foods, and from supplements.
Current vitamin D recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the organization tasked with developing the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs), are 600 International Units (IU) per day for most adults, and 800 IU of vitamin D per day for those over age 70.… Continue reading →
By Jeffrey Drope, PhD
May 31 is World No Tobacco Day, an important annual event when we pause to reflect on how to move the world away from tobacco use and toward improved public health.
Tobacco is one of the leading risk factors for non-communicable diseases, including cancer – 32% of all cancer deaths in the United States, including a staggering 87% of lung cancer deaths, are attributable to tobacco use. Tobacco use is also one of the most preventable causes of cancer deaths.
This year’s World No Tobacco Day theme is illicit trade – tobacco products produced, exported, imported, purchased, sold, or possessed illegally. While illicit trade in tobacco products is undoubtedly troubling from a number of perspectives, including lost tax revenue for governments, increased revenue to tobacco companies, and links to organized crime and possibly terrorism, it’s important to look at the whole picture. The tobacco industry consistently tries to claim that strong tobacco control policies increase illicit trade. But, in fact, the single best way to fight the illicit trade in tobacco products is to redouble efforts to use what we already know works to drive down the use of all cigarettes, legal and illegal.… Continue reading →
By Fadlo R. Khuri, MD, FACP
2014 was another banner year for cancer research, particularly in the areas of treatment, prevention, and early detection. While there were several significant spheres of progress, we find the following five major advances particularly noteworthy.
First is the development of new targeted therapies for cancer. Targeted therapies specifically block key molecules that are crucial for cancer cell growth and survival.
The promise of such therapies was first established about 15 years ago by the development of imatinib (Gleevec), which blocks the oncogene (cancer-promoting gene) responsible for development of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), and led to dramatic responses in patients with this cancer. Many more targeted agents have since been developed. This development has been greatly helped in recent years by the sequencing of the human and the cancer genome, which has led to a more complete understanding of genes that drive cancer.
Targeted agents have transformed modern cancer care by keeping cancer under control for longer periods of time and reducing side effects. However, for all but a handful of patients, cancer is able to develop resistance to targeted therapy over time.
A number of newer, more potent targeted therapies were developed in 2014 that further reduce side effects and help overcome resistance, at least for some time.… Continue reading →
By Agnes Beasley, MSN, RN, OCN
A lot of us are planners. We plan work projects, celebrations, careers, family vacations, and retirements. However, the one area that most of us avoid thinking about, much less planning, is the end of our life. After all, we don’t plan on having a terminal illness. We don’t plan on dying any time soon. Decisions about end-of-life care are deeply personal, and are based on personal values and beliefs. No one wants to think about end-of-life issues when there are so many other happier activities to fill our calendars.
Still, at some point in time many of us will face making decisions about the dying process. How do you bring up the topic? When do you bring up the topic? Who do you talk to? Thinking about your end-of-life wishes, also known as advance care planning, can be hard and overwhelming. Most people expect their doctors to start the conversation about end-of-life planning – but only when it’s necessary and not a moment sooner! That’s especially true for people with cancer, especially when treatment may no longer be working. Many cancer patients and close family members may be thinking about discussing end-of-life issues with their doctor when the time comes, but where do they begin?… Continue reading →
By Richard Wender, MD
We have made amazing progress in reducing colon cancer death rates. This progress is a direct result of increasing screening for colon cancer and pre-cancerous polyps. We are actually preventing thousands of cancers by finding and removing pre-cancerous polyps. The nation has embraced the goal of increasing national screening rates to 80% by the end of 2018 – an achievement that will substantially reduce the terrible toll that colon cancer exacts every year. Everyone is at risk for colon cancer, whether or not someone in your family has ever had a colon polyp or colon cancer. For that reason, everyone has to start being screened for colon cancer at age 50, and people with inflammatory bowel disease or a family history of colon cancer or polyps have to start before they reach age 50. Colon cancer screening is one of the best opportunities to prevent cancer that we’ve ever discovered.
Despite this compelling reason to be screened, many people either have never had a colon cancer screening test or are not up-to-date with screening. Interestingly, nearly all of these unscreened people know that they should be screened, In fact, awareness about colon cancer screening recommendations approaches 100%.… Continue reading →