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10 cancer symptoms you should look out for & do not ignore them

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

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Most of us think we know the telltale signs of cancer: a lump in the breast, unexplainable tiredness, sudden weight loss… but experts are pointing to lesser known symptoms to watch out for that may lead to earlier detection of the disease.

Professor of medical oncology at Southampton University and lead clinician for Cancer Research UK, Peter Johnson says many early signals are “vague and non-specific”.

“It’s these that people need to be aware of and report to their doctors. But we’re not good at paying attention to our own bodies, to what’s normal for us, so we ignore minor symptoms which occasionally can be caused by early cancer,” he told The Telegraph.

Clinical oncologist Dr David Bloomfield says in most cases catching the disease in its early stages ensures a cure.

He says it’s important to not only be aware of the symptoms noted below, but if something else appears unusual and doesn’t go away in a couple of weeks, get it checked out.

Here are 10 symptoms to note that could lead to early cancer detection:
1. A hoarse or croaky voice

This can be a common component of a cold, but if it persists it should be checked out. The symptom can indicate “an early, curable head or neck cancer such as one of the vocal cords,” says Dr Bloomfield.

2. Heavy night sweats

While the summer heat or the onset of menopause in women could more than likely be the cause of night sweats, it’s a symptom that could also be a sign of lymphoma.

Dr Shankara Paneesha, consultant haematologist in Birmingham, told The Telegraph: “People with lymphoma have high metabolisms because lymphoma cells use a lot of energy, so they get severe, drenching night sweats where they need to change their pyjamas and sometimes the bedding.”

3. Persistent heartburn

For many, heartburn is a common issue following a particularly spicy or fatty meal. But if your heartburn lasts more than two to three weeks and requires regular antacid medication it could signal stomach or oesophageal cancer.

Occasionally it can be linked to ovarian or pancreatic cancer.

4. Middle back pain

For the vast majority, back pain is due to a musculoskeletal issue. But for some it can be a symptom of pancreatic cancer.

Pippa Corrie, consultant and associate lecturer in medical oncology at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust says there is a particular sign to note:

“The classic symptom is pain in the upper abdomen that spreads out across the back,” she says.

Situated at the back of the abdomen, as the pancreas grows, it begins to invade nerves which signal back pain.

“While most musculoskeletal back pain will occur in the lower back, that associated with pancreatic cancer is about a hand’s breadth above that and may also come with other symptoms, such as people being off their food, tiredness and weight loss.”

5. Post-menopausal bleeding

This can be a sign of endometrial cancer. Dr Bloomfield says any kind of post-menopausal bleeding should be checked with your GP.

Endometrial cancer is also associated with being overweight.

6. Trouble urinating

As men age, the prostate gland grows. This can increase the need to urinate, especially at night.

Difficulty passing urine or needing to go more frequently could indicate prostate cancer.

7. Finding it hard to swallow

Trouble swallowing can be an indication of a stroke or brain but occasionally it can be an early symptom of a head and neck cancer such as of the vocal cords, oesophagus, mouth or tongue.

Most commonly found in those who smoke and drink regularly, other symptoms can include pain at the back of the mouth.

8. Changes in stools

Blood in faeces is a commonly known indication of bowel cancer. But it’s also important to note any sudden changes in colour, frequency and pain.

In rare cases it can also be an indicator of ovarian or pancreatic cancer.

9. A persistent sore

Changes to moles including itching and bleeding are commonly known as symptoms of skin cancer. Other symptoms include small lumps on the skin that continue to grow, and some cases produce an ulcer that won’t heal.

10. Mouth ulcers

The majority of mouth ulcers are from a viral infection, will clear up in three to four days and are notably painful.

An ulcer in the mouth or on the tongue which lasts for three to four weeks and may or may not be painful could indicate cancer.

Also look for white marks on the tongue or thick, white patches. These need to be checked by your GP as they indicate changes to the mouth’s lining which could lead to cancer.

Henry Sapiecha

Antibiotics which kill useful bugs are giving cancer patients a kick in the guts

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Antibiotics may be impeding our ability to fight cancer, two new studies on gut bacteria suggest.

Bacteria-killing pills such as penicillin already get a bad rap for leading to the rise of the drug-resistant superbugs that create havoc in our hospitals.

Now, two studies suggest they also strip our gut of the healthy bacteria needed to help combat cancer.

The new research might soon lead to doctors prescribing probiotics – or even faecal transplants – before starting a dose of chemotherapy.

What remains unclear is which bacteria out of the millions living inside us are responsible for helping to fight cancer. Each study identified a different bug as being the most important.

Microbiota are the tiny bacterial organisms that live in our gut. The community of these bacteria is called the microbiome.

“This research may be applied by developing strategies to change the microbiome to enhance responses to cancer treatment,” says the University of Texas’ Dr Jennifer Wargo, a co-author of one of the papers.

“But we aren’t yet sure what the right formulations are, so we really need to use caution, as some approaches may not help and could potentially even adversely affect the microbiome.”

The two new studies, published on Friday in the journal Science, looked at the impact of microbiota on immunotherapy, a form of chemotherapy that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.

Immunotherapy is “one of the great hopes for cancer therapy”, says Professor Matthew Brown, director of genomics at the Queensland University of Technology.

Professor Brown is an expert on both the microbiome and immunotherapy, and was not involved in the study.

A large number of patients don’t respond to immunotherapy and researchers have been struggling to discover why.

For the first study, French researchers looked at 249 cancer patients receiving immunotherapy. Of those, 69 had been prescribed broad-spectrum antibiotics at the same time to treat other infections.

Cancer survival rates were significantly lower for patients who had been treated with antibiotics, the researchers found. Analysis of their gut microbiota showed they had a much lower diversity of gut bacteria, presumably caused by the antibiotics.

To cross-check the results, the researchers gave cancerous mice an antibiotic followed by a dose of immunotherapy. They too had failed to respond to the treatment.

The researchers then gave them microbiota transplants from the patients who did best on immunotherapy. The mice immediately began to respond strongly to the treatment.

“That’s something that should translate rapidly into changes in protocols to minimise antibiotic use before or after immunotherapy. That was really quite a strong finding,” said Professor Brown.

In the second study, a team of researchers in America and France reported on 112 melanoma patients undergoing immunotherapy.

The patients who responded the best to treatment tended to have a much higher diversity of microbes in their gut.

The microbiome of the group that performed well seemed to be building a lot of amino acids – known to promote immunity – while the microbiome of the other patients focussed more on breaking down compounds.

In fact, the researchers found, the abundance of a single bug, Faecalibacterium, in a patient’s gut was one of the strongest predictors of whether immunotherapy was successful or not.

However, the other study singled out Akkermansia muciniphila as the bug linked to immunotherapy success.

Dr Wargo said gut bacteria was likely influencing the immune system in a number of ways, including producing chemicals that interacted with and stimulated immune cells.

“But we don’t know all the answers yet and there is still a great deal to learn,” she said.

Henry Sapiecha

Pen-like instrument detects cancer in mere seconds

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

The instrument developed at UT Austin is claimed to be both much quicker and more accurate at detecting cancer than existing approaches(Credit: University of Texas at Austin)

Distinguishing cancerous tissue from healthy tissue is a chief concern when it comes to surgery, which is why medical scientists are continually looking at new technologies to help surgeons sort the good from the bad. Over the years, we’ve seen research advances in the form of glowing compounds that light up cancerous cells and smart scalpels that offer visual and audio guidance. Now researchers at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin have developed a pen-like device that identifies cancerous tissue during surgery, boosting the chances of a successful procedure.

“If you talk to cancer patients after surgery, one of the first things many will say is ‘I hope the surgeon got all the cancer out,'” says Livia Schiavinato Eberlin, an assistant professor of chemistry at UT Austin who led the team. “It’s just heartbreaking when that’s not the case. But our technology could vastly improve the odds that surgeons really do remove every last trace of cancer during surgery.”

Telling cancerous tissue apart from healthy tissue is key during surgery, and not just to ensure that all the tumor is removed. Taking too much healthy tissue can also be dangerous, raising the prospect of damage to muscle and nerve function, along with other painful side effects.

Currently, the state-of-the-art method surgeons use to differentiate cancer and healthy tissues is called Frozen Section Analysis. The downside to this approach is that it requires a sample to be prepared and assessed by a pathologist, which can take more than 30 minutes and leaves the patient exposed to increased risk of infection. Furthermore, it can prove unreliable in as many as 10 to 20 percent of cases.

The instrument developed at UT Austin is claimed to be both much quicker and more accurate than current approaches. Called the MasSpec Pen, it works by detecting the biomarkers of certain types of cancer, using software to check them against a catalog of 253 samples comprising both healthy and cancerous tissues of the breast, lung, thyroid and ovary.

“Cancer cells have dysregulated metabolism as they’re growing out of control,” says Eberlin. “Because the metabolites in cancer and normal cells are so different, we extract and analyze them with the MasSpec Pen to obtain a molecular fingerprint of the tissue. What is incredible is that through this simple and gentle chemical process, the MasSpec Pen rapidly provides diagnostic molecular information without causing tissue damage.”

The pen simply needs to be held against the tissue while a foot pedal is used to kick off the process. This sees a drop of water fall onto the tissue, allowing small molecules to be absorbed into the liquid. This water is then fed into a mass spectrometer, an instrument with the ability to detect thousands of molecules and interpret the molecular fingerprints of various cancers.

Once this analysis is completed, a connected computer screen will automatically display “Normal” or “Cancer” within about 10 seconds, and for certain cancers, will even name the subtype, such as “lung cancer,” for example. When testing the MasSpec Pen on 253 tissue samples taken from cancer patients, it proved more than 96 percent accurate and was also able to detect cancer in marginal areas between normal and cancerous tissue.

“Any time we can offer the patient a more precise surgery, a quicker surgery or a safer surgery, that’s something we want to do,” says James Suliburk, head of endocrine surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and a collaborator on the project. “This technology does all three. It allows us to be much more precise in what tissue we remove and what we leave behind.”

The team has filed patents for the technology, and expects to start testing it during oncologic surgeries in 2018. A paper describing the research was published in Science Translational Medicine, while the video below provides an overview of how it works.

Source: University of Texas at Austin


Henry Sapiecha

Men Shouldn’t Ignore these 10 Warning Signs Of Prostate Cancer

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

Cancer is a disease that can affect almost every major organ in the body – from our skin to our liver. However, prostate cancer affects more men than any other cancer type apart from skin cancer. Based on data between 2010 and 2012, the NIH estimates that an astonishing 14 percent of the male population will be diagnosed with some form of prostate cancer in their lifetime. An estimated 220,800 cases were reported in the USA in 2015, with deaths at 27,540. By 2012, there were almost 3 million men living with prostate cancer in the US. It’s important not to live in fear, but the statistics should concern you enough to be more vigilant regarding your health and the health of your loved ones. Remember, the biggest fight against cancer starts with prevention.

Getting To Know The Prostate

The prostate is part of the male reproductive system that is found just underneath the bladder. Roughly the size of a walnut, this gland produces fluid that supports the sperm used for sexual reproduction. The prostate grows naturally throughout the lifetime in two major “growth spurts”. The first obviously happens during puberty and the other during a man’s thirties. The weight of the gland grows from about 20 grams during adulthood to double its weight by time a man reaches his 70s. [2] However, the sudden growth of the prostate can put pressure on its surrounding organs and tissues and cause pain and problems with urination and bowel movement. Learn about these warning signs and symptoms of prostate cancer below.

#1: Painful Or Difficult Urination

Dysuria is a term that means painful or difficult urination. With this symptom, you may find it difficult to urinate even if your bladder feels full; or be able to urinate but with mild to severe pain in the pelvic or perineal area (but note that a burning sensation in the urinary tract is usually due to a urinary tract infection). Dysuria is a cause for concern because it can indicate that something may be pressing against your urinary tract (the tract that allows urine to flow out from the bladder) most likely an enlarged prostate, a symptom of prostate cancer.

#2: Frequent Urination

Frequent urination can also be a sign of prostate cancer. When the enlarged prostate or tumor compresses the bladder, it reduces its capacity to hold urine – ergo, more frequent trips to the bathroom to urinate. This can also lead to a feeling that your bladder isn’t fully empty even after repeated urination. [3]

#3: Very Weak Urine Flow

Slow or reduced urine flow usually accompanies the previous symptoms mentioned above. When something is blocking the urinary tract or bladder, the urine flow is greatly reduced, often to a mere dripping or dribbling. This also makes it hard to direct the stream of urine, even with a lot of force being made by the abdominal muscles during urination.

#4: Hematuria

Blood in the urine or hematuria is a cause for worry for anyone – male or female. In the case of prostate cancer, blood in the urine can indicate that the tumor has damaged the urethra or bladder – causing bleeding.

Bear in mind that severe problems with urination are late symptoms of prostate cancer – usually occurring when the prostate gland has already reached a large enough size to disrupt the normal function of the urinary system.

#5: Blood In Semen And Painful Ejaculation

As with hematuria, there should be concern if blood appears in semen. Vascularized tumors are prone to bleeding, which can be the reason why blood-tinged semen is considered a sign of prostate cancer. The tumor itself can be bleeding or damaging surrounding prostate tissue to cause bleeding and pain.

#6: Swelling Of The Legs And Feet

There are two ways wherein prostate cancer can affect the lymph nodes – the first by compressing them, affecting the flow of lymph fluid in and out of the nodes and the second by metastasis to the lymph system. When the ducts that lead to and from the lymph nodes near the pelvic area become blocked, it causes a build-up of fluid in the lower extremities. This can cause mild to severe edema in the ankles and feet, or even the entire leg. However, lower extremity lymphedema usually happens after surgery and therapy but there is still a risk of it occurring prior to the start of treatment, depending the stage of the tumor. [4]

#7: Pain In The Hips, Back, Or Chest

When prostate cancer has reached the last state (stage four), it has usually spread or metastasized to other parts of the body. The most common place where prostate cancer metastasizes is bone. This is why pain in the hips (pelvic bone), back (spine), and chest (ribs) are indicative of widespread bone metastasis in cases of prostate cancer. In a study on prostate cancer in 2000, 90 percent of autopsies done on people who died of prostate cancer revealed bone metastasis. [5]

#8: Urinary And Stool Incontinence

When metastasis has spread to the bones in the spinal column, it can start to affect spinal tissue as well. Because the spinal cord is a part of the nervous system and contributes to the control of the muscles of the bladder and the rectum, metastasis can lead to problems with urinary and stool control, manifesting as incontinence. This can start as feeling the urge to urinate and defecate but never making it to the bathroom on time, eventually leading to full incontinence. [6]

#9: Erectile Dysfunction

While many people believe that erectile dysfunction only occurs after treatment for prostate cancer has started, science begs to differ. In a 2015 study on baseline erectile dysfunction and diagnoses of prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction was present in more than half (53 percent) of the total number of subjects, with severe ED occurring in roughly half of that number (24 percent). This demonstrates that baseline erectile dysfunction is a prevalent warning symptom of prostate cancer. [7]

#10: Weight Loss And Fatigue

Unexplained weight loss and fatigue is common among all types of cancer. When any kind of tumor develops, the body basically “feeds” it which causes it to spread and grow. The nutrients sent to the cancer cells starve the healthy cells, leading to weight loss and easy fatiguability. This is actually one of the earliest signs of cancer, with affected people only noting weakness at the beginning stage of the disease to severe fatigue and weight loss as the staging of the cancer progresses. [8]

Your Number One Tactic: Prostate Cancer Screening

Here’s the truth: most of these signs and symptoms only occur when prostate cancer has already progressed to later stages. More often than not, men with the early stages of prostate cancer are asymptomatic – meaning they don’t feel any different or don’t manifest any signs and symptoms of the disease. This is where screening comes in. You may not know it but you maybe be at risk for prostate cancer.

The three most common methods for prostate cancer screening are:

1) digital rectal exams (DREs)
2) prostate-specific antigen (PSA) detection in the blood and
3) checking for the presence of the protein Engrailed-2 (EN2) in the urine.

The first method allows the manual palpation of an enlarged prostate, raising the alarm for the performance of other screening tests to fully assess the condition. The second is also able to detect an enlarged prostate through PSA levels in the blood, which is useful if the prostate cannot be palpated through a DRE. While the ability of these tests to actually detect prostate cancer is not 100 percent, they are very valuable in detecting abnormalities with the prostate and have positive effects on mortality rates beyond 7 years. [9][10]

The EN2 test is based on relatively new research and reported to be not yet available. A laboratory test currently identifies EN2 in urine, and a simple home test kit is envisioned which will be similar to a home pregnancy test strip. [11]

But remember this: Not all enlarged prostates are cancerous.

An enlarged prostate is not always a cause for concern. In fact, this condition is very common in older men – occurring in about 90 percent of men in their 70s and 80s. Hyperplasia or the enlargement of the prostate naturally occurs as a man ages. When this growth doesn’t stop, it can develop into BPH – which stands for benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is not at all cancerous and is generally regarded as not requiring any form of treatment – unless there is great difficulty in urination. However the urinary symptoms of BPH are similar to prostate cancer, which makes adequate screening even more important. [11]

Note: As with the rest of this website, this article is not medical advice nor a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. We do not advise self-diagnosis or self treatment. If you believe you have the symptoms mentioned or are concerned about your health, please schedule an appointment with your doctor / healthcare advisor.

References:

[1] National Institutes of Health. SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Prostate Cancer. http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/prost.html

[2] Department of Health and Human Services (Victoria, Australia). Prostate gland and urinary problems. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/prostate-gland-and-urinary-problems

[3] National Institutes of Health. Prostate Cancer Prevention and Early Detection. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/moreinformation/prostatecancerearlydetection/prostate-cancer-early-detection-symptoms-of-prostate-cancer

[4] Rasmusson, E., et. al. (2013). Low rate of lymphedema after extended pelvic lymphadenectomy followed by pelvic irradiation of node-positive prostate cancer. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3842657/

[5] Bubendorf, L., et. al. (2000). Metastatic patterns of prostate cancer: An autopsy study of 1,589 patients. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0046817700800350

[6] Alizadeh, M. & Alizadeh, S. (2014). Survey of Clinical and Pathological Characteristics and Outcomes of Patients With Prostate Cancer. http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/gjhs/article/view/38296/22260

[7] Ong, W., McLachlan, H. & Millar, J. (2015). Prevalence of Baseline Erectile Dysfunction (ED) in an Australian Cohort of Men with Localized Prostate Cancer. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25847707

[8] Langer, C., Hoffman, J. & Ottery, F. (2001). Clinical significance of weight loss in cancer patients: Rationale for the use of anabolic agents in the treatment of cancer-related cachexia. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0899900701800010

[9] Mistry, K. & Cable, G. (2003). Meta-analysis of prostate-specific antigen and digital rectal examination as screening tests for prostate carcinoma. http://www.jabfm.org/content/16/2/95.short

[10] National Institutes of Health. Prostate Cancer Screening – for health professionals. http://www.cancer.gov/types/prostate/hp/prostate-screening-pdq

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostate

[12] Roehrborn, C. (2005). Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: An Overview. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1477638/

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Henry Sapiecha

Protein converts pancreatic cancer cells back into healthy cells

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Scientists working in the area of pancreatic cancer research have uncovered a technique that sees cancerous cells transform back into normal healthy cells. The method relies in the introduction of a protein called E47, which bonds with particular DNA sequences and reverts the cells back to their original state.

The study was a collaboration between researchers at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, University of California San Diego and Purdue University. The scientists are hopeful that it could help combat the deadly disease in humans.

“For the first time, we have shown that over-expression of a single gene can reduce the tumor-promoting potential of pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells and reprogram them toward their original cell type,” says Pamela Itkin-Ansari, adjunct professor at Sanford-Burnham and lead author of the study. “Thus, pancreatic cancer cells retain a genetic memory which we hope to exploit.”

For their research, the scientists developed pancreatic cancer cells with heightened levels of the E47 protein. They found that the protein then controlled genes responsible for growth and differentiation. It halted the cancer cells in the growth stage and caused them to revert back to acinar cells, the healthy cells that produce pancreatic juice.

The researchers also conducted in vivo studies where the reprogrammed cells were introduced into mice. They found that the animal’s propensity to form tumors was substantially less than those with regular pancreatic cancer cells.

“Our next step is to test primary patient-derived tumor tissue to determine whether E47 can produce similar results, potentially providing a novel therapeutic approach to combating this highly lethal disease,” says Itkin-Ansari. “Additionally, we are screening for molecules and potential drugs, that can induce over-expression of E47.”

The research was published in the journal Pancreas.

Source: Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

Henry Sapiecha

Rare cancer diagnosis after teen’s complaint about leg pain

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

Few parents would assume it was cancer when a sporting 16-year-old boy complains of swelling and pain in his calf.

Paddy O’Brien had finished playing in an all-schools water polo championships in Sydney when he had a crippling cramp in his right calf like a huge knot.

He attributed the pain and swelling to growing pains – maybe even a pulled ligament – similar to one of the many injuries he had acquired playing rugby, cricket, swimming and hockey.

When his usual physiotherapist massaged his leg, it caused such excruciating pain that Paddy was referred for an X-ray which, in turn, raised enough alarm that he was referred for an MRI.

But he had to wait two months because of the lack of services in rural areas.

It was May 2013, and Paddy was in Year 11 in Tamworth. Great things were expected of him in the HSC, so he tried to concentrate on his studies, but the pain was constant.

“I was in agony, I couldn’t sleep, it was debilitating, I couldn’t run, I couldn’t walk. I told mum that my leg was in pain,” he said.

His mother called the doctor, asking for an urgent appoint to request an MRI as soon as possible.

As they arrived, she said, “This better be bloody serious”.

It was.

“I was in maths, fifth period, and the principal walked into class, and said he needed to see Paddy,” recalled Mr O’Brien of the next day when he was told he either had Ewing sarcoma or osteosarcoma (cancer of the bone).

A few days later, he was diagnosed with Ewing, and the lump in the head of the fibula of his right leg was a malignant tumour.

 

It is very rare: only about 50 children on average each year are diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in Australia, less than half of these diagnoses are in the 15 to 19 age group.

It is the same cancer that teenager Hannah Rye died from in August. Hannah’s school formal was moved forward so she could attend with date Trent Hodkinson, a Newcastle Knights NRL player.

Mr O’Brien was among the first patients in Australia to be treated using the approach that is now being trialled in “Ewing 2008” around the world, including Australia and New Zealand. It increased the amount of chemotherapy by 50 per cent, lifting the amount to 14 intensive cycles of three days each. Half of the chemotherapy occurred before surgery to remove his fibula and a nerve – and the balance of chemotherapy after.

Despite “massive chemo brain” – difficulty forming sentences resulting in “massive grammatical errors”, vomiting, lethargy – Mr O’Brien decided to continue at school, determined to finish the HSC with the friends who he had started school with 12 years earlier.

He had phantom pain and remembers that the chemo “massively screws up your bowels, your taste buds, your senses”. His fitness went out the window.

A “very small silver lining” was that some of the pressure of the HSC was reduced. Although he ended up missing 60 per cent of the next year of school, he did well in his HSC and is now 21, and studying at Macquarie University.

He lost his hair each cycle, only for it grow back in fluffy tufts, and then to disappear again during the next round of chemotherapy.

“It is quite cool and weird from that sense,” he said. “I lost all my hair – in my ears, eyebrows, underarms, eyelashes, everywhere. You wouldn’t think eyelashes are that important but they definitely are.”

Another silver lining, he added, was that he saved on shampoo.

“You have to have a humorous outlook on the whole situation, especially in hindsight. If you look back at it with resentment and a dark patch in your life that held you back you will never progress or move on.

“It is quite horrible, terrifying of course, but it dramatically shapes and changes you for the better. You discover new limits for your human body, specifically the interdependence of the body and mind. You also really get to discover who cares and who doesn’t,” he said.

While the survival rate for younger children with this cancer is about 70 per cent over five years, the rate is 60 per cent for young adults such as Mr O’Brien, said Vivek Bhadri, a medical oncologist at Lifehouse Cancer Hospital in Sydney, who treated him.

Nobody knows why the survival rate differs. And Dr Bhadri said the rate had not budged much since the 1980s, and experts hope the Ewing trial will improve outcomes for young people such as Mr O’Brien, who is cancer-free despite a few scares.

About a third of Ewing’s sarcoma occurs in the leg, and in other long bones like the arms, that are rapidly growing in teenagers, said Dr Bhadri.

“That’s when things can go wrong, and cancer can occur,” he said.

Dr Bhadri said another reason why these cancers are not diagnosed faster is that injuries and growing pains are so common in teenagers that very few parents or experts would think the pain and swelling was caused by a cancer.

Henry Sapiecha

Why Liver Cancer Numbers Continue to Increase

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

The five-year survival rate for people with liver cancer remains at only 20 percent. Diabetes, hepatitis C, smoking, and alcohol are all factors.

Between 2009 and 2013, doctors diagnosed liver cancer in 7.7 people out of every 100,000.

That number has been increasing since the mid-1970s.

In addition, the death rate is rising faster than for any other cancer — it is one of America’s leading causes of cancer death.

Between 2010 and 2014, it stood at 6.3 people per 100,000.

The five-year survival rate is only about 20 percent.

Healthline spoke with Dr. Jack Jacoub, medical oncologist and director of thoracic oncology at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in California.

He stated that liver cancer is “the second most common cancer killer in the world.”

This month, researchers at the American Cancer Society (ACS) published a groundbreaking study in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

During the study, researchers uncovered trends in liver cancer incidence, survival, and mortality rates.

Researchers used Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program data obtained from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Read more: Get the facts on liver cancer »

Risk factors

The following risk factors contribute to liver cancer:

Dr. Anton Bilchik, professor of surgery and chief of gastrointestinal research at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California, also spoke with Healthline.

Bilchik said “the reason for the increase in primary liver cancer is largely related to the obesity epidemic that we have going on in this country.”

“Whereas hepatitis C used to be the most common cause of liver cancer, the most common cause now is related to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease,” he noted.

Jacoub, meanwhile, believes that hepatitis still poses the greatest risk.

“There is a very big spiking in hepatitis C infection over the past few decades. And that is the predominant risk factor in the United States for liver cancer,” he said.

Jacoub also suggested another risk factor. He cautioned that “anyone who has hereditary iron overload symptoms,” such as hemochromatosis, is at risk.

“[This] iron scenario causes iron overloading of the liver and [that] causes inflammation and scarring and then … cirrhosis,” he said.

“Whenever cirrhosis develops, you’re immediately at risk for liver cancer,” Jacoub explained.

Read more: Symptoms and warning signs of hepatitis C »

The influx of hepatitis C

“The incidence of hepatitis C in the baby boomer population [those born between 1945 and 1965] is as high as 2 to 3 percent,” reported Bilchik. “And it’s been recommended that all baby boomers should be at least checked for hepatitis C, particularly since recently we [now] have drugs that are very effective at curing patients of hepatitis C.”

Bilchik added, “The biggest breakthrough in this field has been the fact that relatively nontoxic antiviral medications are now FDA-approved that can eradicate hepatitis C.”

“The problem,” he said, “is that a very small percentage of baby boomers are being tested, or have been tested.”

Hepatitis B infection is also preventable. And there is an effective vaccine.

Starting in 1982, hepatitis B vaccinations became a part of routine childhood vaccinations.

As a result, in 2015 the vaccination rate among younger people varied from a low of 83 percent in Idaho, to a high of 98 percent in New Hampshire.

However, only 50 percent of older adults in the United States have been vaccinated.

Read more: Western diets are causing obesity in people around the world »

The risk associated with weight

Studies show that liver cancer risk increases by 26 percent for every five point increase in one’s Body Mass Index (BMI).

More men than women are overweight (BMI 25.0-29.9.) However, a greater number of women fall into the categories of obese (BMI 30-39.9), and class 3 obese (BMI 40+).

Bilchik noted, “Non-insulin dependent diabetes and lack of physical activity are often associated and linked to obesity.”

In the United States, 69 percent of adults over age 20 are overweight.

“It’s well known that up to 25 percent of kids, if not more, are overweight, if not obese,” stated Bilchik.

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Indications are that greater weight control intervention can help, especially among children.

Interventions might help reduce obesity levels, type 2 diabetes, and ultimately liver cancer rates.

Read more: Get the facts on alcohol addiction »

Alcohol, tobacco risk factors

Regardless of amount, drinking alcohol increases your risk of liver cancer.

“Not just in alcoholics,” Bilchik noted, “but also in those people that are considered binge drinkers.”

More effort put into alcohol abuse prevention programs may prove beneficial.

Smokers have a higher risk for liver cancer, too.

Tobacco users increase their risk of liver cancer by approximately 50 percent.

Read more: Poverty linked to poor health »

Race, ethnicity make a difference

There are now treatments for hepatitis C, vaccines for hepatitis B, and better public education about the risks of obesity.

As such, one might expect liver cancer rates to be falling.

But they’re not.

Until the publication of the ACS study, it was difficult to find information that explored total liver cancer mortality and survival rates in the United States.

This was also true for liver cancer mortality and survival rates with regard to race and ethnicity.

Regarding the study, Jacoub noted “liver cancer is one of the few cancers that really has extremely dramatic ethnic variations in population variations. And you’re seeing it in this report.”

The researchers found that the death rate for liver cancer in non-Hispanic whites was 5.5 per 100,000 people.

That compared with 8.4 per 100,000 for blacks, 11.9 per 100,000 for American Indians/Alaska Natives, 9.8 per 100,000 for Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 9.1 per 100,000 for Hispanics.

Digging deeper, the analysis showed that liver cancer incidence varies from state to state, and by race and ethnicity within each state.

Much of the disparity is due to a lack of public health education for certain at-risk groups.

Many of these same populations often also have limited access to quality healthcare.

Read more: Are there early signs of kidney cancer? »

Catching cancer early

The five-year survival rate after a diagnosis of liver cancer has been increasing ever since the early 1990s.

The increase, however, varies among racial and ethnic groups.

Generally, non-Hispanic whites have a lower death rate from liver cancer than blacks.

One of the reasons is that non-Hispanic whites are more likely to undergo surgery for their cancer.

Blacks as a group are more likely to lack health insurance, which may cause people to delay testing.

The stage of liver cancer at the time of diagnosis influences the survival rate.

Between 2006 and 2012, people with localized cancers accounted for between 40 and 45 percent of all liver cancer diagnoses. These patients had a survival rate of 37 percent.

That rate dropped to 4 percent for distant stage cancer diagnoses.

When researchers factored race and ethnicity into their analysis of localized disease, they saw a marked difference in survival rates.

It is possible to narrow the gap in survival rates between ethnic and racial groups?

Researchers believe the key is in finding ways to diagnose more liver cancers when they are still in the early, more localized stages.

Read more: Baby boomers changing the healthcare landscape »

Over the hump by 2030?

Death rates are expected to continue rising through 2030, and then begin to fall. Bilchik and Jacoub suggested a few possible reasons for the decline.

Baby boomers are currently the most at-risk generation for hepatitis C. Their numbers will continue to shrink as time passes.

In the meantime, more effective public health education will increase the number of baby boomers who seek out testing for hepatitis C.

Also, public education efforts worldwide should increase the number of people receiving hepatitis B vaccinations.

In time, the costs of treating hepatitis C will decline.

Fast food restaurants will continue the current trend of offering foods that are more nutritious

The number of tobacco smokers should continue to decline.

Jacoub stressed, “It’s important to know your risk profile.”

And Bilchik pointed out, “If you think about it, primary liver cancer is largely preventable because most of the causes of liver cancer are related to lifestyle.”

Henry Sapiecha

AWESOME: Bees Trained To Detect Early Stage Cancer in just a few Minutes!

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

One of the most amazing discoveries we’ve ever come across: An experimental art/science project by Susana Soares has demonstrated the potential for honey bees to be used in early stage cancer detection – and more.

As if we didn’t already have enough to thank bees for….

Bees have an odor perception that is on a level of acuity many leagues beyond ours, with their being able to detect infinitesimal quantities of certain molecules. Their odor perception is even more acute than sniffer dogs and is reported to be in the parts per trillion range!

It has been discovered that the bees can be trained using a simple Pavlovian reward system to select and move towards specific odor sources.

This gives potential for them to be used to detect pregnancy and diseases including cancer – which can be indicated by specific odor markers in the breath: Bees can be trained to respond to the presence of various chemicals, including biomarkers associated with early stages of diseases such as tuberculosis and various types of cancer. [1]

Special glass devices (as pictured top) have been devised by Portuguese designer Susana Soares in order to facilitate such tests. The subject breathes into the curious glass apparatus, which at first glance seems somewhat reminiscent of a kind of strange hashish smoking contraption. The pre-trained bees make a “bee line” (couldn’t resist it) for the diagnosis chamber if the target odor is present.

Early detection is mission critical to saving lives from cancer as the chances of turning it around are often greater if it is discovered earlier. Regular health checks and screening are essential but could this become a new tool in the fight against the world’s worst disease? Let’s hope so.

Henry Sapiecha

Expected to die decades ago, Kate Vines is still living with cancer over 26 years later

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

An oncologist at the Royal North Shore Hospital told Kate Vines she should ensure her affairs were in order as her life was coming to an end. She was suffering from medullary thyroid cancer.

Auckland-born Vines was 33 years old, living in Sydney with her husband and their five-year-old son. She had been diagnosed 18 months earlier and had her thyroid removed, but the surgeon found the cancer had already metastasised into her lymph nodes and spread into her chest. Six weeks later, she had a thoracotomy – her breast bone was cut in half – and the doctors again sliced away as many of the tumours as they could find, but they knew there were others, unreachable and undiscovered, that would kill her.

Vines’ GP, the first person she had consulted, had never seen a patient with medullary thyroid cancer. In fact, he had never heard of the condition. He did not believe she could be cured.

“Basically, I was left with pretty much no treatment options whatsoever,” says Vines.

Twenty-six years after she was first diagnosed, Vines is sitting at an outdoor table at Georges Mediterranean Bar and Grill on a warm afternoon in Darling Harbour, smiling and chatting and acting considerably more alive than I generally feel before lunch.

But she still has cancer.

“I’ve never been in remission,” she says. “I’ve always had evidence of cancer. Once it’s metastasised, the molecular structure of the cancer changes, and that makes it much more difficult to treat. I have a lot of ‘secondaries’ in my bones. I have miliary disease in my lungs, which is a whole lot of tiny little tumours. I do have a couple in my liver. I’ve got one lesion in my brain, and a number of other soft-tissue tumours. It’s called ‘indolent’, it’s quite slow growing, and the doctors say that at some point it will take off again. Every now and then it raises its little hand and I have a little spurt and I have to look at treatment options. But it’s almost like my body’s learned to live with it.”

Today, Vines is the head of patient care at Rare Cancers Australia, a charity she founded after more than two decades of surviving her sickness. She describes herself back then as “a young, fairly fit, I thought fairly healthy mum, who had a great life and everything at my feet”. Her son, Paul, was her “absolute pride and joy”, and almost a miracle as Vines had suffered from endometriosis and been told she probably could not have children. Her then-husband, Ray, was her best friend. They worked together in a panel-beaters’ supply business, and travelled the world.

Vines’ diagnosis changed everything but, she says, Ray constantly reinforced to her that she had to be there for Paul’s 21st birthday – and that long-term goal perhaps helped to keep her alive. However, she was becoming sicker and sicker. She tried alternative therapies at the Gerson Clinic in Mexico – with lots of carrot juice, a vegan diet and coffee enemas – but says she would never recommend that to anyone. “I turned bright orange from all the carotene and I lost about 15 kilos in weight and I was so sick that I couldn’t get out of bed,” she says.

Next, she went to the Gawler Cancer Foundation in Victoria, which promotes a “holistic” approach to wellbeing, stressing diet, meditation and positive life changes. She says Gawler was really helpful but, “during this time, my marriage broke up. With all the pressure I was under with my health, I felt that I would do better if I was on my own with Paul. So Ray moved out.”

She lived with her son for a year, but when he was about eight years old she felt she was not coping with being a single mother while also having multiple surgeries to remove cancerous lymph nodes from her neck. So she asked Ray if he would take Paul, which he did.

“That was the most difficult decision I’ve had to make,” she says. “It was absolutely devastating. But I felt it was better for him to have a part-time mother than no mother at all. I knew that if I had time just for me, I could do the meditations and all the things that I thought were necessary for me to get well.”

Eventually, she left the city for a 25-acre farm in Kangaroo Valley, where she felt healthier than she had for years. She moved to Melbourne, where she was under the care of a Victorian oncologist who suggested cytotoxic chemotherapy for the secondary cancers in her bones.

She had been experiencing severe chest pains, but they disappeared with the first round of chemo – which was, she says, “quite an amazing thing; they didn’t expect it”. However, after three further rounds she’d lost all her hair and lots of weight, and was sick again. She said no more.

In Melbourne, she met her husband, Richard, who had worked for several non-profit organisations, and her oncologist suggested she and Richard should set up an organisation to advocate for rare-cancer patients. Although 42,000 Australians are diagnosed with a rare cancer every year, their conditions are difficult to research. Many rare cancers are very aggressive, so there are rarely large patient populations to study and it can be impossible to set up full-scale clinical trials for potentially helpful drugs.

Since drugs cannot be approved by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme without the necessary trials, there are few treatments for rare cancers available under the PBS. Therefore, rare-cancer patients might need to spend $10,000 a month on a new immunotherapy, for example, and be forced to sell their homes to stay alive.

Luckier patients might benefit from compassionate-access programs from pharmaceutical companies, but drugs manufacturers are not allowed to advertise these programs.

“It’s just a really unfair thing that if you happen to be unlucky enough to be diagnosed with a rare cancer, you’re almost penalised,” says Vines. “There are treatments out there that aren’t listed.”

She and Richard moved to Bowral and set up Rare Cancers Australia in June 2012. They have set up a crowd-funding platform on their website, a patient-treatment fund with an individual page for each patient, and they have raised almost $2 million and helped more than 50 patients since October 2014. Vines deals with patients every day, matching them with clinicians who know about particular rare cancers.

The charity helps them find cancer centres and clinical trials, and offers one-on-one support. Vines remembers how frightened and alone she felt when she was told to put her affairs in order, and says other rare-cancer patients are given the same advice every day.

So what does all this mean for our lunch? Well, since her diagnosis, Vines has been a vegan then a vegetarian, then she allowed herself to eat fish, now she eats “everything”.

At Georges, I order the satisfying mezze plate – which is literally everything – and Vines chooses the barramundi special – she judges it “beautiful, wonderful”. After some hesitation, she opts for vegetables over chips on the side, but she stresses that she does eat chips and she enjoys the occasional glass of wine.

After all, when you think about it, life’s too short.

Henry Sapiecha

The Signs & Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer here.

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

Pancreatic cancer is the ninth most common cancer death in women and the fourth in terms of both men and women. According to recent research the five year survival rate for those diagnosed early is only 8% and this drops to 3% for those diagnosed at an advanced stage. This is mainly due to the fact that this type of cancer is extremely difficult to diagnose and is usually discovered when it’s advanced to an almost incurable stage.

So what is pancreatic cancer? Pancreatic cancer is a disease where the healthy cells within the pancreas stop working as they should, and begin to grow at an uncontrollable rate. As the cancerous cells begin to build up, they form tumors that can begin spreading to other parts of the body. When pancreatic tumors advance to a large enough size, they begin to impact the function of other organs. This can result in digestive problems as the stomach begins to produce too much acid, as well as issues with the liver and bile production.

According to medical experts there are two types of pancreatic cancers: exocrine tumors and endocrine tumors. Exocrine are the most common and these tumors start by growing in the ducts of the pancreas. As for endocrine, these are also known as “islet cell tumors” and can still function despite the cancer. However, only 1% of pancreatic cancer patients suffer from endocrine tumors.

Due to the fact that pancreatic cancer is so difficult to diagnose, we thought it would be important to provide the most common signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer below. Remember, the key to maintaining a healthy body is not only exercise and nutrition, but making sure you pay attention to what your body is telling you on a day-to-day basis. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is best to consult with your primary care physician.

Henry Sapiecha