Scan Size-Up I

Advances in medical technology are credited with early disease detection — which means higher survival rates and better prognoses. But are some diagnostic tools causing the illnesses they aim to expose? According to findings in the Archives of Internal Medicine, CT scans (also known as CAT or computer tomography) may encourage cancer development. Because the number of these tests performed between 1980 and 2007 soared, experts are concerned the electromagnetic snapshots could spawn 29,000 new cancer cases a year. Dial back your emission exposure with these reduction reminders:

  • Ban the scan if you can. If your doctor orders a CT scan, find out the clinical justifications and whether other screenings may be suitable alternatives.
  • Stay in the loop and give the scoop. Know your history — keep track of every test and imaging profile you receive over time to help you and your doctor assess your risk/benefit ratio.
  • Avoid the lure of a preventive cure. Some facilities promote the use of full–body CT scans as a proactive measure for mapping immature maladies. But the FDA, along with several medical associations, says the unverified benefits aren’t worth the risk.

Case for Cancer Concern

The list of carcinogenic risk factors grows yearly. From our own sun to the tiniest virus, it seems there’s no escaping cancer threat. While paranoia isn’t healthy, staying tuned to developing research is…

  • CT scans: The National Cancer Institute claims the screenings — which are ordered by docs 3 times more today than in 1993 — could be exposing patients to unnecessary radiation, fueling concern that it leads to as many as 29,000 cases/year of cancer. Always inquire about other diagnostic tools and discuss whether the treatment plan would be dictated by CT results (if not, why get it?).
  • Hepatitis viruses: The International Agency for Research on Cancer recently added to its Group I list of human carcinogens the hepatitis B and C viruses, which experts blame for the rise in liver cancer cases. Since both viruses are primarily transmitted through sexual contact or intravenous drug use, they are avoidable; if you’re considered high risk, there is a vaccine for hepatitis B.
  • Bisphenol A: An endocrine–disrupting chemical that lines many metal and plastic containers, BPA is becoming increasingly scrutinized for possible cancer–causing effects. Fetuses and women of childbearing age are particularly vulnerable. Avoid plastics with recycling codes 3 and 7, and cut back on canned goods — go with cartons for soups, juices, and sauces. Transfer food from plastic to glass before microwaving.

The New Face of Cancer

  Healthy, active and candid about their cancer diagnosis

 When first lady Betty Ford spoke out after her 1974 mastectomy, it was a turning point in the cultural   conversation about cancer. Thanks in part to Ford’s openness (and to many high-profile cancer survivors who followed her), cancer is no longer a private matter. It’s part of the public dialogue.

Today when public figures talk about their cancer diagnosis, they aren’t shattering taboos. Far from it. Testicular cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, breast cancer survivors Sheryl Crow and Christina Applegate and others have become visible, vocal reminders that one can live an active and healthy life after cancer.

When celebrities come out and say, “I’ve struggled with this”, it gives hope. It increases awareness, it removes stigma and it helps with confidence.

Decades ago there was a social stigma surrounding cancer that even influenced how doctors discussed the disease with their patients. Celebrities help make people more comfortable, but they also reflect how the culture in general is more comfortable.

But not everyone is Lance Armstrong. People think cancer is something you get and then you move on with your life and win bike races and have babies. Some of these higher profile folks who have lived really well and gone on to do great things make others feel that’s the expectation. Everyone thinks they hold the winning lottery ticket like Lance Armstrong.

Cancer Lessons

This year doctors will diagnose more than 1.6 million new cases of cancer. It remains the nation’s second biggest killer, but for most of those who are newly diagnosed, cancer will not be a death sentence. They will join the ranks of the 12 million or so Americans who live with the disease or who are now cancer-free. These survivors, their caregivers and advocates have valuable lessons to share on how to make treatment decisions, manage stress and balance family, work and the cost of care.

Picking Your Cancer Team

There are over 100 different types of cancer. It’s very important to find someone who specializes in yours. Be sure to pick a doctor who is part of a multidisciplinary team. Local hospitals are often well-equipped to treat common cancers, but for less common or harder to treat cancers seek out a comprehensive cancer and where the surgeons, radiation oncologists, social workers and pain and palliative care workers will work closely to coordinate your care.

Making Treatment Decisions

After they hear the words, “You have cancer”, most people take in only 10 percent of what they’re told. Record your doctor appointment or bringing a friend or relative along. Carefully evaluate your treatment options and the consequences each will have on your prognosis and quality of life. A man with prostate cancer, for example, may decide against surgery if he wants to become a father one day. Consider what’s most important to you.

Considering a Clinical Trial

There can be great benefits to participating in a clinical trial. People in clinical trials often get greater attention, greater follow-up care. Clinical trials look to develop new cancer treatments to increase the treatment options that are already available. Researchers, for example, might be testing whether breast cancer patients needing radiation would benefit from more radiation over a shorter period of time.

Clinical trials in general are designed to offer you at least the treatment you’d be offered anyway. They don’t use placebos in a clinical trial … and any research study that isn’t going well is stopped.

Managing the Financial Costs

Cancer treatment is expensive and that’s not just the co-pays. Then there are all the out-of-pocket costs for things like transportation, home care or child care. Ask friends who wish to help to donate money or gift cards for gas instead of a lasagna for dinner. While meals can be very helpful families often receive more food that they can eat. The cancer patients should appoint a “captain of kindnesses” to organize well-wishers.

American Cancer Society, CancerCare and other groups can steer patients to additional sources of financial assistance. Cancer centers also often maintain patient care funds.

Continuing to Work

Since most insurance is tied to employment, many people not only continue to work during their treatment, they often literally cannot afford not to. Others prefer to continue to work if only to avoid becoming a professional patient. There’s very much this piece of “Am I just going to be someone with cancer?”

The law does not require employees to disclose a cancer diagnosis and an employer cannot legally ask about it, but some people choose to tell their bosses anyway, particularly if treatment will impact their work schedule –for example, scheduling chemotherapy for Fridays so they can recover over the weekend.

The Family and Medical Leave Act allows workers in private companies with at least 50 employees to take 12 unpaid weeks of leave. (Public employees get 12 weeks, regardless of their employer’s size). Most people who continue to work benefit from having a script to help them respond to co-workers’ well-intentioned questions. This can be as simple as deflecting questions about your healthy by saying, “I’m doing well. I appreciate your concern and will keep you posted”.

Bringing Cancer Home

Family and friends want to help, so don’t be afraid to ask them. Assign a family member to open mail and take care of the hospital bills and insurance paperwork. It’s overwhelming. Delegate it.

But family shouldn’t be your sole source of emotional support. Cancer can take its toll on them as well. They’re watching what’s happening to you. They know when you feel awful and you look awful. It’s frightening for them to watch. Sometimes family members should just “shut up and listen”. You can give your opinions, but the patient is the one in charge.

Coping with Stress

Support groups – in-person or online – can be great outlets for patients and their family. So can talking to an oncology social worker or therapist. Health psychologists are not dealing with crazy people. They’re dealing with normal people in crazy situations. The health risks associated with cancer treatments are often themselves stressors. Survivors often worry that every little illness heralds a cancer recurrence. May Beth, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma 22 years ago, says she finds one thing each day to be grateful for. That’s not hard. When she was diagnosed, her doctors told her she wouldn’t have children, say says. Now she has two.

Article source: deltaskymag

How to Cancer-Proof Your Diet

Be a flexitarian. For starters, cut out the bacon, salami, hot dogs and other processed meats from your diet. (The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends no more than 28 ounces of red meat a week). Imitate the Japanese, who use meat as a “condiment” in their soup, says Hodgkin’s survivor and nutritionist Mary Beth.

Get nutrients from foods, not supplements. A few studies have indicated that supplements could do more harm than good, so use food as oru main nutrient delivery system. After all, one orange has more than 1,000 phytochemicals, says dietitian of MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Follow the lead of Harvard doctor and breast cancer survivor Julie Silver and teach your kids to double-down on fruits and veggies. Silver recalls her high school son’s school paper in which he wrote, “My mom sets the table with forks, knives, spoons and carrots”.

Don’t drink so much. Alcohol has been linked to increased risk of breast, liver and esophageal cancers. Doctors advise men to consume no more than two drinks a day and women no more than one. Even less than one daily drink has been shown to increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

Make monochromatic meals your enemy. Lycopene-rich watermelon, carrots, red peppers and tomatoes (especially cooked) appear to reduce the risk of some cancers, while antioxidants found in onions, apples, raspberries, red grapes and Brazil nuts protect against free radicals. The anti-inflammatory properties of garlic and turmeric could also offer protection. “We’re talking about tasty food that’s really flavorful, really colorful and so good for you it could prevent many different illnesses.

Can Computers Diagnose Cancer?

A Stanford study found that computers have some demonstrably serious advantages over human pathologists in diagnosing breast cancer.

Last year, researchers in Stanford University’s Computational Pathologist project trained computers to analyze tissue samples for breast cancer. When they compared the computers’ analysis against the readings of human doctors, they discovered something surprising. The computers provided significant additional information beyond what physicians could with a visual analysis and grading.

Daphne Koller, the Stanford computer science professor who wrote the paper published in November, says C-Path’s results strongly suggest that computers might be able to help improve doctors’ diagnostic decisions – for instance, by suggesting tailored treatment regimens.

“I personally foresee data-driven medicine, which is a step beyond evidence-based medicine”, Koller says. “Conclusions arise from the data directly, as opposed to having a human necessarily come in with a preformulated hypothesis”.

That may sound like a job killer, but doctors need not worry. “Computers are smart and very narrow in their thinking”, Koller says. “I don’t think this is going to end up replacing doctors in the foreseeable future” – K.F.