Black History Month calls attention to disparity in cancer rates

February 1, 2014 | by   

This year, Black History Month converges with the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement, and the nation’s notable gains in equality give us much to celebrate. But equality in health and access to care continue to be areas of serious concern.

Half of African American men and a third of African American women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. Access to diagnostic screening and high quality care are among the measures necessary to address the high cancer burden on the black community, experts say.

Half of African-American men and a third of African-American women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. Access to diagnostic screening and high-quality care are among the measures needed to address the high cancer burden on the black community, experts say.

“Across most illnesses including cancer, African-Americans have the worst outcomes,” said Kimlin Tam Ashing, Ph.D., director of City of Hope’s Center of Community Alliance for Research & Education. “African-Americans get cancer at younger ages, have more aggressive cancers, have more treatment-resistant cancers and lower five-year survival than the general population.”

Half of African-American men and a third of African-American women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. The causes of cancer health disparities are complex, stemming from such factors as genetic susceptibility, stress and immune function, and family history.

In her research, Ashing has pinpointed several health care system factors that feed into the disparity, including limited access and use of preventive care, limited access to high-quality care, and delays in diagnosing and treating disease. Other studies point to a higher incidence of chronic conditions and illnesses among African-Americans with cancer. Lifestyle factors including smoking, diet and sedentary routines also play a role. » Continue Reading

This February, aka Heart Month, learn what smoking does to your heart

February 1, 2014 | by   

February may be popularly known as the month of love, but it also holds the title of American Heart Month, aiding as a reminder to take care of your heart. One way is to quit smoking.

Heart disease and cigarettes

Take care of your heart by giving up cigarettes. It will lower your risk of heart disease.

Not only do cigarettes cause 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States, they also contribute to America’s biggest killer: heart disease.

Nearly 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year, with almost 20 percent of those deaths directly related to cigarette smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Brian Tiep, M.D., director of pulmonary rehabilitation and smoking cessation at City of Hope, said smoking affects the heart by:

  • Increasing blood pressure and heart rate
  • Increasing blood clotting
  • Decreasing oxygen to the heart
  • Damaging cells that line coronary arteries and other blood vessels
  • Lowering HDL, the “good” cholesterol
  • Damaging heart muscle

All of these factors increase the risk of coronary heart disease, which over time, can lead to chest pain, heart failure, arrhythmias, heart attack and even death.

» Continue Reading

Cancer and cuisine: Tips for leading a healthier life

January 31, 2014 | by   

City of Hope recently hosted two free Ask the Experts events, titled “Cancer and Cuisine,” focusing on the benefits of healthy eating, physical activity and weight management, as well as easy-to-make healthy recipes.

Here are some quick tips from both programs:

  • Select a rainbow of fruits and vegetables for nutrient diversity.
  • Do not focus on single nutrients, because the nutrients in food work together to create health and fight off disease.
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables are the most nutrient-rich food on the planet.
  • Exercise regularly, and try to exercise three to four hours a week.
  • Watch your weight.

The first Ask the Experts event was held at the newly opened City of Hope | Antelope Valley practice. The video above features Vijay Trisal, M.D., medical director of community practices for the City of Hope Medical Foundation, and guest speaker, Katja Wargin, certified holistic health counselor.

Wargin prepared a healthy and easy-to-make green smoothie: » Continue Reading

On World Cancer Day, save a life – dispel a cancer myth

January 31, 2014 | by   

Cancer myths should be debunked at every chance possible, not just on World Cancer Day 2014. But with this year’s observance devoted specifically to dispelling misconceptions about the disease, it’s a fine place to start.

Cancer treatment

“There’s nothing I can do about cancer” is one of the most persistent cancer myths. In fact, the right treatment matters.

First, let’s dispense with four of the most-common cancer myths.

  • We don’t need to talk about cancer.
  • Cancer … There are no signs or symptoms.
  • There is nothing I can do about cancer.
  • I don’t have the right to cancer care.

These statements – all patently untrue – are firmly held beliefs for many people. They interfere with cancer detection and cancer treatment and, in doing so, shorten the duration and quality of life for those ultimately diagnosed with the disease. » Continue Reading

When a child has cancer: One family’s advice to other parents

January 30, 2014 | by   

Gavin Wolfrank was only 7 months old in 2006 when his mother noticed the “blueberry” bruises on his tiny hand. Her normally active, happy baby suddenly turned lethargic and inconsolable. Ultimately, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Wolfrank family

Ken and Diana Wolfrank, shown here with son Gavin and daughter Emma, have some advice for other parents whose child has been diagnosed with cancer.

That diagnosis was the start of a years-long ordeal, not just for Gavin, but for parents Ken and Diana, as well as sister Emma. Gavin soon began chemotherapy at a local hospital, ultimately going into remission. He stopped chemotherapy in June 2009, but by the following October, the disease was back.

For the fourth time, he underwent chemotherapy – this time to make him strong enough to endure his only chance at survival: a bone marrow transplant.

A donor was identified in February 2010 – a young woman from England named Catherine “Cat” Benson – and by the time Gavin walked into City of Hope in preparation for the bone marrow transplant in March 2010, he was as strong and healthy as he had ever been. But the family’s elation over finding a donor soon turned to fear, with Gavin forced to battle graft-versus-host disease. » Continue Reading

Meet our doctors: Surgeon Joseph Kim on stomach cancer

January 25, 2014 | by   

Stomach cancer (also called gastric cancer) can develop in any part of the stomach. If left undetected, it can penetrate the stomach wall, progress to adjacent lymph nodes and spread to nearby organs. The cause is unknown but has been associated with dietary factors, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, smoking and alcohol consumption.

Joseph Kim

Asian-Americans and Latinos are at greater risk for stomach cancer, or gastric cancer, says Joseph Kim. Screening, however, can save lives, he says.

Here Joseph Kim, M.D., a City of Hope surgical oncologist and head of upper gastrointestinal surgery, talks about how people can lower their risk for stomach cancer and why he, as a Korean-American, has a personal crusade in conquering this disease.

How common is stomach cancer?

Stomach cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death worldwide, with the highest incidence occurring in Asian and Latin American countries. Although less common here in the United States, there are still approximately 24,000 Americans who learn annually they have cancer of the stomach. Fortunately, for reasons not entirely known, U.S. incidence has been dropping steadily since the 1950s.

Who gets stomach cancer, and why?

Like most other forms of cancer, stomach cancer occurs more frequently in people age 55 or older. Researchers think the reasons for a higher incidence of stomach cancer in Asian and Latin American countries is because diets commonly consumed there include many foods preserved by drying, smoking, salting or pickling. Eating foods preserved in this way may raise someone’s risk for developing stomach cancer. Also, people who smoke cigarettes may be at higher risk of developing stomach cancer. » Continue Reading

Don’t wait for a doctor to suggest lung cancer screening

January 24, 2014 | by   

Nearly 160,000 Americans die of lung cancer each year.

New U.S. Preventive Service Task Force recommendations for lung cancer mean most insurance will begin covering the screening within a year.

New lung cancer screening recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force mean that most insurance plans will begin covering the screening within a year.

New lung cancer screening guidelines recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in the last month could make a considerable dent in that number. The panel, which determines what therapies and tests must be covered by insurers under the Affordable Care Act, made final its July recommendation that current and former smokers between 55 and 80 years old who have smoked the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years be screened with a low-dose CT scan.

Longtime smokers who are still smokers or who recently quit in the last 15 years should weigh their lung cancer  screening options now, says Dan Raz, M.D., co-director of the Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program at City of Hope.

“Even people who see their primary care doctor regularly need to be aware of this new screening,” Raz said. “Don’t wait for your doctor to suggest lung cancer screening. Ask yourself – or seek out a screening center that already screens for lung cancer.”

Raz said patients should seek these qualities in a lung cancer screening program: » Continue Reading

Asian community at greater risk from stomach cancer; H. pylori blamed

January 22, 2014 | by   

Stomach cancer is often considered a relatively rare cancer that affects predominantly older people.

H. pylori

Infection with Helicobacter pylori is a common precursor to gastric cancer, which disproportionately affects the Asian community.

However, what’s true for the majority of people in the United States is not true for the Asian population. Stomach cancer, or gastric cancer, is much more common among that community and tends to affect younger people. In fact, gastric cancer is twice as common among Asians and Pacific Islanders in Los Angeles County as it is among people nationwide.

“In most Asian countries, they have screening programs for gastric cancer,” said Joseph Kim, a surgical oncologist at City of Hope who specializes in gastrointestinal cancers.  “By age 40, most people are receiving regular endoscopies.” » Continue Reading

7 guidelines for people diagnosed with cancer

January 21, 2014 | by   

A cancer diagnosis can leave patients overwhelmed, not only afraid for themselves and their loved ones but also confused about what to do next.

Cy Stein, M.D., Ph.D., the Arthur & Rosalie Kaplan Chair in Medical Oncology at City of Hope, offers this advice to people confronting a cancer diagnosis:

What to do after a cancer diagnosis

A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. City of Hope’s Cy Stein offers some basic advice to those confronting cancer. The first rule: Don’t panic.

1. If you receive a cancer diagnosis, the first thing to remember is not to panic.

2. Do some research, but don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.

3. Remember that prognoses are actuarial; they apply to large numbers of patients but not to you as a single individual.

4. Find a doctor who knows your type of cancer well, and who is knowledgeable about recent developments – for some types of cancer, treatments have changed dramatically over the past very few years. » Continue Reading

50 years of tobacco control: Impact measured in lives saved

January 20, 2014 | by   

From warning labels to taxes to banning advertising, the U.S. has taken serious steps over the past 50 years to diminish the effects of tobacco on American health.

This month marks 50 years of tobacco control efforts, which have reaped rewards in lives saved.

This month marks 50 years of tobacco control efforts, which have reaped rewards in lives saved.

The surgeon general took the first step 50 years ago this month, issuing a report based on 7,000 scientific articles and concluding that smoking causes lung cancer and other lung disease. Between the powerfully addictive nature of cigarettes and other tobacco products and the economic forces promoting them, the battle against smoking has been a challenging one that continues today. However, the success of anti-smoking campaigns can be measured in lives saved.

Researchers at Yale University recently reported that the anti-smoking efforts have avoided 8 million smoking-related deaths.

“Lung cancer, which accounts for more deaths than breast, colon, prostate and pancreatic cancers combined, has the largest impact on these statistics,” said Dan Raz, M.D., co-director of the Lung and Thoracic Oncology Program at City of Hope. “The reason for the decline in lung cancer deaths is unequivocally related to tobacco control. We have the opportunity to further reduce deaths from lung cancer with even tighter tobacco control measures, such as increasing cigarette taxes, which have been shown to lead to increased quit rates.” » Continue Reading