Posts Tagged ‘American Cancer Society’

Conquering Childhood Cancer

September 15th, 2020

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is observed every September by cancer organizations around the globe. According to the American Cancer Society, just over 11,000 children under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2020, and about 1,190 children are expected to die from it. After accidents, cancer is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14.

The most common cancers in children are not the same as the cancers seen most often in adults. When adults get cancer, it often begins in the lungs, breast, colon, prostate or skin. But in children, cancer tends to affect their white blood cells, nervous system, brain, bones, lymphatic system, muscles or kidneys.

How cancer spreads, as well as how it’s treated is typically different for children than adults as well. That’s mostly due to children’s unique responses to treatment. Another difference between childhood cancers and adult cancers is that the recovery rate is higher in children. Most children with cancer can be cured.

Thanks to advances in diagnosis and treatment over the years, 84 percent of children that are diagnosed with cancer now survive five years or longer. In the 1970s, that figure stood at 58 percent, so we’ve come a long way.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common childhood cancer, accounting for approximately 34 percent of all cancers in children. Leukemia is a cancer that begins in the bone marrow and spreads to the blood. From there, it can travel to other parts of the body. Three out of four leukemia cases are ALL.

Tumors of the brain and nervous system are also common in children. In fact, they make up about 27 percent of childhood cancers. Central nervous system tumors are cancers of the brain and spinal cord. They are the most common solid tumors that occur in childhood, and they have the highest mortality rate of childhood cancers.

Lymphoma is a less common childhood cancer that affects special cells called lymphocytes that are part of the body’s immune system. Lymphomas target the lymphatic system, the network of vessels, organs and tissues that carry clear fluid called lymph, which contains disease-fighting white blood cells, through the body.

There are two main types of lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma, also called Hodgkin disease, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph nodes. It can start almost anywhere in the body and then spread to just about any organ or tissue. These often include the liver, bone marrow and spleen.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma affects the T and B lymphocytes, which are the immune system’s natural killer cells. These cells are produced in the bone marrow then travel to the body’s lymph glands, and to the thymus gland, intestinal tract, tonsils and spleen. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can start in any of those areas.

Fortunately, childhood lymphoma is rare. Only about 8 percent of childhood cancers are lymphomas: 5 percent of children with cancer will have non-Hodgkin lymphoma while 3 percent will have Hodgkin lymphoma.

Certain cancers in adults and children are hereditary. But in adults, many other factors can contribute to the development of cancer. These include lifestyle and environment influences such as exposure to cigarette smoke, asbestos and ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

But in children, cancer is most often the result of DNA mutations that occur very early in the child’s life or while the child is still developing in the womb. As such, lifestyle and environmental factors play only a minor role in the development of childhood cancers.

There are multiple treatment options for childhood cancer. The treatment options chosen for your child depend on the specific type of cancer and how advanced it is. Among the types of cancer treatment are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and stem cell transplants.

Each childhood cancer has its own specific signs and symptoms, but there are some general signs and symptoms. Possible signs and symptoms of cancer in children include the following.

  • An unusual lump or swelling
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Ongoing pain in one area of the body
  • Unexplained fever or illness that doesn’t go away
  • Frequent headaches, often with vomiting
  • Sudden unexplained weight loss

If your child displays any of these signs and symptoms, take him or her to a physician for an evaluation. Early detection helps ensure a positive outcome from childhood cancer.

Advances, Retreats in the Cancer Battle

September 25th, 2019

At the end of May, the latest Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer was released, and it offered some encouraging news. The report included cancer statistics from the years 1999 through 2016, the most recent year statistics are available. The report was created by a consortium of the country’s top cancer organizations.

The updated annual report noted that US cancer death rates continued to fall during those years. It stated that overall, cancer death rates decreased 1.8 percent per year in men and 1.4 percent per year in women. This decrease continued am an ongoing trend in declining cancer death rates.

The report also noted that the rate of new cancer cases among men consistently fell between 2011 and 2015, decreasing two percent per year. This is good news after the rate of new cases increased between 1999 and 2008. The rate of new cancer cases in women, however, remained stable from 2011 to 2015.

In addition, the Annual Report to the Nation described progress in the battle against two major cancers, lung cancer and melanoma. Lung cancer gains were attributed to increasing declines in smoking. The reason cited for the improved success against melanoma was the development of new and better treatments for it.

There was some negative news in that report, however. It stated that cancers related to obesity, such as colon cancer, breast cancer in older women and uterine cancer, are on the rise. This should strike a chord in those of us who are struggling with excess weight.

The report also found that the incidence of cancer in women ages 20 to 49 rose an average of 1.3 percent per year. And cancer deaths in this age group were higher for women than for men. Apparently, we’re failing to get the cancer prevention message to these women.  Fortunately, their cancer death rates declined by about 1.7 percent per year from 1999 to 2016.

The American Cancer Society has its own annual report called Cancer Facts & Figures 2019. This report is a companion piece to Cancer Statistics 2019, a scientific paper that was published in January in the American Cancer Society’s CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. In these publications, the Society estimates the numbers of new cancer cases and deaths in 2019.

According to Cancer Facts & Figures 2019, more than 1.7 million new cancer cases are predicted to be diagnosed in the United States in 2019, and approximately 606,880 Americans are expected to die of cancer this year. The number of new cases is the same as last year, but the number of deaths expected in 2019 is slightly lower, down from 609,640 estimated for 2018.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 14 years, second only to accidents. Cancer Facts & Figures 2019 estimates that 11,060 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in American children ages birth through 14 in 2019, and 1,190 deaths are predicted to occur. The report notes that childhood cancers have increased by 0.6 percent per year since 1975.

Tobacco use remains the most preventable cause of death in the US, despite declines in cigarette smoking. Cancer Facts & Figures 2019 reports that cigarette smoking among American adults ages 18 and older decreased from 42 percent in 1965  to 14 percent in 2017. Among high school students in the US, smoking decreased from 29 percent in 1999 to 8 percent in 2017.

Still, about 30 percent of all cancer deaths are caused by smoking. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of at least 12 types of cancer and may be a factor in two others. Secondhand smoke is also a risk factor for the development of some cancers. In 2014, 5,840 nonsmoking adults in the US were diagnosed with lung cancer as a result of inhaling secondhand smoke.

Most cancers have risk factors. Some are non-controllable, such as age, gender and family history. Other risk factors are controllable, such as smoking, being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle.

You can reduce your risk of many cancers by modifying your controllable risk factors. This includes stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight.

In addition, follow your doctor’s recommendations for getting routine tests and screenings for various cancers. In many cases, uncovering cancer in its early stages means catching it when it’s most treatable and, in some cases, curable.

Pondering Prostate Cancer

November 26th, 2018

In October, we got an education on breast cancer. Now, in November, it’s time to take a look at the second most common cancer affecting American men, behind skin cancer: prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates there’ll be close to 164,690 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in the US in 2018, and more than 29,000 deaths.

ACS also says about one man in nine will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, and about one in 41 will die from it. In fact, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death in American men, trailing only lung cancer. The good news is that more than 2.9 million men in the US who’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point are still alive today.

The prostate is part of the male reproductive system. It’s a gland that produces some of the fluid in semen that nourishes and transports sperm. It also contracts and forces this fluid out through the penis during orgasm.

The prostate sits below the urinary bladder and in front of the rectum. The urethra, the tube that carries urine and semen out of the body through the penis, runs through the middle of the prostate, so the prostate also plays a role in urine control in men.

Prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland start to grow out of control. If it’s diagnosed early, prostate cancer is very treatable. However, prostate cancer develops slowly, and there may be no symptoms in the early stages. Often, symptoms only become noticeable when your prostate has become large enough to affect function. Common symptoms include:

  • Frequent need to urinate, especially at night
  • Difficulty beginning or maintaining a urine stream
  • Painful urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection2

On the simplest level, prostate cancer is the result of changes in the DNA of normal prostate cells. These changes can be inherited or acquired during your lifetime. We don’t know exactly what causes the acquired DNA changes, but researchers have discovered some risk factors that may contribute.

Problems can happen anytime a prostate cell divides into two new cells because when it divides, it has to copy its DNA, and that’s an opportunity for errors to occur. The more often and quickly prostate cells divide and grow, the more chances for errors. Therefore, anything that speeds up the process of dividing cells increases the likelihood cancer will develop.

Androgens, or the male hormones such as testosterone, promote prostate cell growth. A higher level of androgens in your body might contribute to an increased risk for prostate cancer in some men. Other risk factors for prostate cancer include age, diet, race (it’s more common in African American men), geography (it’s more prevalent in developed nations) and chemical exposure.

Screening is a way to look for signs of a disease before symptoms appear. There are two common screening tests for prostate cancer, the digital rectal examination (DRE) and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. PSA is a protein excreted by the prostate that helps semen remain a fluid. An excess of this protein in the blood, however, is one of the initial signs of prostate cancer.

The ACS and other leading authorities recommend that men discus with their doctors the risks and benefits of these tests before choosing if, when and how often to have them done.

Your doctor will use these tests to help diagnose prostate cancer, along with a complete medical history and physical examination. If the test results are abnormal, your doctor may order other tests such as a biomarker test, a PCA3 test and a transrectal ultrasound. He or she may recommend a biopsy to take samples of prostate tissue to look for cancer cells under a microscope.

If your cancer is in an early stage and is only in your prostate gland, your doctor may suggest watchful waiting or active surveillance. This approach involves carefully monitoring this slow-growing cancer without beginning active treatment.

Treatment for prostate cancer may include one or a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and vaccine therapy. Surgery involves removing the entire prostate gland and, if necessary, some nearby lymph nodes. Surgery can be performed using an open or laparoscopic technique.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays or particles to kill prostate cancer cells. It can be accomplished by using an external machine with its beams aimed at your prostate gland or by placing radioactive seeds directly on your prostate.

Chemotherapy uses powerful medications given by mouth or through a vein to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs pass through the entire body, so they’re a good option when your prostate cancer has spread beyond your prostate to other areas of your body.

The aim of hormonal therapy is to reduce the level of male hormones in your body or stop those hormones from affecting the prostate cancer cells. Male hormones stimulate these cancer cells to grow, so hormonal therapy uses surgery or medications to stop the testicles from making these hormones.

Unlike vaccines for viral infections, which boost your body’s immune system to fight the infection, the prostate cancer vaccine charges up the immune system to fight prostate cancer cells. The vaccine hasn’t been shown to stop prostate cancer from progressing, but it has been shown to help men with this cancer live a little longer.

There’s more good news from the American Cancer Society. Prostate cancer is very survivable. ACS put together the relative survival rates of men with prostate cancer according to the most recent data and including all stages of the cancer. The results: The five-year relative survival rate is 99 percent. The ten-year relative survival rate is 98 percent, and the 15-year relative survival rate is 96 percent.

Men, don’t wait till you’re experiencing symptoms. Talk with your doctor and see of prostate cancer screening is right for you. It might catch a cancer when it’s most treatable and survivable.

Oral Cancer Concerns

April 10th, 2018

Let’s discuss something we don’t usually think about and don’t often hear about: oral cancer, or more specifically oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer. Often grouped together, these cancers are not among the most hyped, but they’re disfiguring – and deadly – just the same.Stock photo from

Where are we talking about? The oral cavity, essentially the mouth, includes the lips, inside lining of the lips and cheeks, teeth, gums, front two-thirds of the tongue, floor of the mouth under the tongue, and bony roof of the mouth, or hard palate.

The oropharynx is the top part of the throat that starts in the back of the mouth. It begins where the oral cavity ends. The oropharynx generally includes the area behind the wisdom teeth, the last third of the tongue, the back part of the roof of the mouth (soft palate), the tonsils, and the side and back wall of the throat.

Anatomy of the pharynx (throat). The three parts of the pharynx are the nasopharynx, oropharynx, and hypopharynx.

There’s a lot we don’t know about what causes cancer, but we know it often occurs when mutations in certain genes cause certain cells to grow out of control, causing tumors to form. What researchers are trying to pin down in most cases is what causes the mutations in the first place. That’s a really simplistic explanation.

Here, I’m going to tell you about risk factors and symptoms, so maybe you can catch an oral cancer in its early stages. Then, I’ll give you a few strategies for prevention, but if you want the full scoop on oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer, read this information from the American Cancer Society.

One of the things you’ll read is that the American Cancer Society estimates 51,540 American will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer in 2018, and an estimated 10,030 of them will die from it. Fortunately, the death rate has actually been declining over the last ten years. These cancers are much more common in men than women.

Let’s start with risk factors. What traits and behaviors put you at greater risk for becoming one of those estimated 51,500 people to get one of these cancers. The top two risk factors are using tobacco and drinking alcohol. The tobacco risk increases the more you use it and the longer you’ve done so.

Also, about seven out of ten people with oral cancer are heavy drinkers. The risk is increased even more in people who use tobacco and drink heavily. Some studies suggest the combination leaves people as much as 100 times more at risk than people who don’t smoke or drink.

There are some genetic syndromes that can lead to oral cancer, and a weakened immune system can make a person more susceptible. Risk also increases with age and is affected by an unhealthy diet. Researchers are now finding that infection with the HPV virus is a rising risk factor for some forms of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer.

These cancers generally appear as a growth or sore in your mouth that doesn’t go away. It can be on anywhere in your mouth, including your lips, tongue and cheeks Here are a few other symptoms to watch out for:

  • White, red or speckled patches in your mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Loss of feeling
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Hoarseness or persistent sore throat
  • Lump in the neck

There are other signs and symptoms as well.

Oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer are generally treated with chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery, or a combination of these treatments. The choice of treatment depends on the patient’s age and how advanced the cancer is, it’s stage. Treatment can leave you disfigured or with problems speaking or eating. Additional treatment may be necessary.

Today, patients also have the benefit of biological and targeted therapies. These therapies kill cancer cells without damaging the surrounding healthy tissues.

Some of the risk factors can’t be controlled, but these are things you can do to reduce your risk or find oral cancer early. These include:

  •  Limit your tobacco use
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of vegetables
  • Protect yourself against HPV infection
  • Examine your mouth at least once a mouth and look for lumps or spots
  • See your dentist regularly. The dentist can often spot suspicious areas in your mouth before you do.

You don’t want to be one of the 51,500 who will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer this year, and you especially don’t want to be one of the 10,000 who don’t make it. Now that you know about these cancers, be aware of your risk factors and on the lookout for symptoms.

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