New study urges earlier mammograms; some experts not convinced

September 9, 2013 | by   

Even as a new Cancer study reignites the debate over the ideal age at which to begin mammogram screenings for breast cancer, City of Hope experts are urging women not to settle for a one-size-fits-all approach.

As a new study prompts debate over the best age to begin regular mammogram screening, City of Hope experts say the best approach for women is one that considers their individual breast cancer risk.

Even as a new study prompts debate over the best age at which to begin regular mammogram screening, City of Hope experts say the best approach for women is one that considers their individual breast cancer risk.

The Harvard University study, published Monday, started with data on 7,301 women diagnosed with breast cancer at one Boston hospital. Of the 609 women who died, 65 percent either had never had a mammogram or had not had a mammogram within two years of their diagnosis, researchers found. Half of the deaths occurred in women under age 50.

The American Cancer Society maintains a recommendation that yearly mammograms should begin at age 40, but the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended that women receive mammograms from ages 50 to 74, and then only every two years. That recommendation was based on data showing that earlier tests do more harm than good, leading to many false-positives that often cause additional expense, unnecessary anxiety and needless follow-up procedures.

The authors of the new study said their findings suggest that screening guidelines should encourage earlier, regular mammograms for all women. Other experts, including those at City of Hope, aren’t so sure.

Joanne Mortimer, M.D., director of the Women’s Cancers Program at City of Hope, points out that the study was not a randomized clinical trial – a gold standard for research. Data from those trials does not support across-the-board screening for every woman beginning at age 40, she said.

Further, the key to preventing breast cancer deaths and catching the disease as early as possible, Mortimer said, is assessing women for their individual risk, then screening appropriately.

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Prostate cancer leads many to prostatectomy. Learn more (w/VIDEOS)

September 9, 2013 | by   

Prostate cancer facts, both good and bad, have already been summed up quite succinctly: “Cancer of the prostate gland is a serious health risk for men. In fact, this year nearly 240,000 American men will be diagnosed with it. The good news is that prostate cancer is survivable, especially if it is detected early, before it can spread.”

A diagram of the male urinary system includes a representation of the prostate gland. Removal of a cancerous gland is best done by those with much epxertise, as at City of Hope.

A diagram of the male urinary system includes a representation of the prostate gland. Removal of a cancerous gland is best done by those with much expertise, as at City of Hope.

Those facts will lead many men to undergo a prostatectomy, specifically a robotic-assisted prostatectomy. And, of course, they – and their loved ones – will have questions along the way. A new video series can answer many of those questions.

The series, “Your Guide to Robotic-assisted Laparoscopic Radical Prostatectomy,” introduced by Timothy G. Wilson, M.D., the Pauline & Martin Collins Family Chair in Urology at City of Hope, eliminates much of the confusion men and their partners may have about the operation, expected side effects, potential complications and long-term outcomes.

Of course, the proof is in the outcomes. And City of Hope has that proof. As the data on prostate cancer shows:  “Our survivorship exceeds the survival rate of patients treated at other cancer programs that report their data to the Commission on Cancer [a national database maintained jointly by the American Cancer Society and the American College of Surgeons].”   » Continue Reading

Breast cancer: Therapy cuts radiation treatment to 1 day, 1 dose

September 8, 2013 | by   

Although surgeons can remove most of a breast cancer tumor through surgery, microscopic amounts of cancer can remain. To ensure those cancer remnants don’t grow or spread, breast cancer patients often undergo follow-up radiation treatment for as long as seven weeks after their surgery.

A relatively new technique could make their post-surgery lives much easier. Called intraoperative radiation therapy, or IORT, this new form of radiation therapy replaces weeks of traditional radiation therapy. It’s administered in a single dose directly at the tumor site – and given at the same time as the surgery. “For most patients, they will not require the normal daily radiation treatments that normally require six to seven weeks,” said Laura Kruper, M.D., director of the Rita Cooper Finkel and J. William Finkel Women’s Health Center.  “It allows a woman to get her radiation and her surgery in one day.” » Continue Reading

Foothill Fitness Challenge: Controlling cancer risk with exercise

September 7, 2013 | by   


Exercise: We all know we should do it, not enough of us do. Many of us take steps in the right direction, purchasing gym memberships we never use or buying exercise equipment that collects dust.

Meanwhile, science proves again and again that exercise doesn’t just help us look better, it also helps control our risk of serious diseases, including cancer. Nearly half of all men and more than a third of all women will have cancer during their lifetimes, according to the American Cancer Society. One way that people of any size or fitness level can reduce their cancer risk is to exercise.

Sharing this message is one of the motivating factors behind City of Hope’s Foothill Fitness Challenge: a healthy competition between neighboring cities to encourage residents to set and achieve personal health goals that will reduce their risk of cancer, diabetes and other diseases – and lead to healthier lives.

“It has been established that regular exercise (about three to four hours per week) can lower the risk of colon cancer and, for women, the risk of breast cancer,” said Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., professor and director of the Division of Cancer Etiology at City of Hope, who published her first paper linking physical activity to lower cancer risk nearly 20 years ago. “By participating in the Foothill Fitness Challenge, and starting to walk for exercise every day, it is possible that you will lower your risk of cancer or extend the time before it develops.”

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Yoga: Harnessing the calm during cancer

September 7, 2013 | by   
Yoga for cancer patients

“Being able to see the change that can happen in one hour of conscious breathing and movement: watching anxiety transform to calm, worry to peace, fear to hope – this is why I do what I do.”
– Ana Delgado, yoga teacher at City of Hope (Photo courtesy Ana Delgado)

Yogis believe there is style of yoga for everyone. Hot yoga turns up the intensity. Vinyasa flow delivers an experience of constant movement. And then there is restorative yoga, the type of gentle yoga that cancer patients are increasingly turning to as a way to balance the mind and body.

Yoga has been shown to reduce stress and blood pressure, while improving flexibility, muscle stamina, lung capacity and a sense of well-being. It’s also been shown to benefit cancer survivors specifically.

Such benefits are why some doctors are recommending yoga as a complementary therapy during cancer treatment.

In yoga classes at City of Hope, cancer patients focus on meditation techniques and deep breathing. Perhaps there is no other group of people who could benefit more from being present in their body, learning to accept that body, developing ways to cope with the stress and anxiety of their disease, and exploring how they can work around their limitations. Yoga gives them that.

Further, the practice in its restorative form is considered light exercise, which is actually recommended during chemotherapy.

“It stimulates the body to release endorphins, which can lower inflammation and improve a patient’s overall sense of well-being,” says Laura Kruper, M.D., director of City of Hope’s Rita Cooper Finkel and J. William Finkel Women’s Health Center.

Some patients stop exercising during treatment, then find themselves weakened more than they otherwise would be, she says. Yoga has the potential to ameliorate that weakness. » Continue Reading

Where research on cancer and diabetes connects

September 6, 2013 | by   

If there’s a physical crossroads for cancer and diabetes at City of Hope, it’s in the laboratory of De-Fu Zeng, M.D., where researchers are finding that the two diseases have more in common than many imagine.

In fact, there may even be a common thread in their potential cures, with researchers now examining the possibility of using bone marrow transplantation – a procedure that City of Hope helped pioneer in cancer patients – to treat diabetes.

De-Fu Zeng and Jeremy Racine study treatments that have implications for cancer, diabetes and a range of autoimmune diseases.

De-Fu Zeng and Jeremy Racine study treatments that have implications for cancer, diabetes and a range of autoimmune diseases.

The leap is not such a big one. Already, the lab’s researchers are studying  graft-versus-host disease, the ability of transplants to repair broken immune systems, and a nontoxic method of preparing the immune system for transplantation.

Though most people may associate such work with cancer, their discoveries have the potential to also affect patients with diabetes and other autoimmune conditions.

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Prostate cancer: Twitter users have questions; we have answers

September 5, 2013 | by   

What are prostate cancer risk factors? What are the early symptoms? What are the latest treatment advances?  Twitter users had questions – and City of Hope physicians had answers during today’s TweetChat.

Offering their expertise were Cy Stein, M.D., Ph.D., City of Hope’s Arthur & Rosalie Kaplan Chair in Medical Oncology, and Mark Kawachi, M.D., associate clinical professor in City of Hope’s Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology. They discussed prostate cancer research, screening, treatment and much more under the hashtag #ProstateChat.

You can read the full chat below.

For more answers, attend our Ask the Experts session on Sept. 17 from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.  Titled “Prostate Cancer: What Every Man (and Woman) Should Know,” the session will sort through conflicting information about the detection and treatment of prostate cancer by providing the latest information and answers to your questions. It will also address state-of-the-art robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery.

Sign up online here or call 800-535-1390, ext. 65669. 
Above, Kawachi elaborates on the management of side effects. (Only so much can be explained in a Tweet.) Here, he discusses prostate cancer screening.

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Questions about fish oil: Study links Omega-3s to prostate cancer

September 3, 2013 | by   

The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have so many health benefits and so few side effects that a daily dose has seemed like a no-brainer. Until now.

Fish oil has now been linked to a significantly higher risk of prostate cancer. One expert calls the findings a "game-changer."

Fish oil has now been linked to a significantly higher risk of prostate cancer. One expert calls the findings a “game-changer.”

Long linked to heart health, Omega-3s have been shown to lower high triglycerides and, at the right dosages, to reduce the risk of heart disease. Though the evidence of their benefits is less conclusive for other health conditions, Omega-3s in the form of fish oil are sometimes used in attempts to reduce the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual pain, artherosclerosis, kidney problems and age-related eye disease, to name just a few.

Now a new study has linked the consumption of these Omega-3s to a significantly increased risk of prostate cancer. For men who take the supplements to protect their heart, this study could well be “a game changer,” says City of Hope’s Cy Stein, M.D., the Arthur & Rosalie Kaplan Chair in Medical Oncology.

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‘My cancer diagnosis: What I wish I’d known’ – JoAnn Corbin

September 3, 2013 | by   

JoAnn Corbin, 78, has adopted a firm policy that has twice saved her life: Be proactive with your health.

Former breast cancer and ovarian cancer patient JoAnn Corbin took charge of her own health -- and saved her own life. She advises others to do the same.

Former breast cancer and ovarian cancer patient JoAnn Corbin took charge of her own health – and saved her own life. She advises others to do the same. Photo courtesy of JoAnn Corbin

Earlier this year, Corbin kept her appointment for her annual mammogram, which turned up a suspicious spot. When a needle biopsy confirmed her physician’s suspicion of cancer, Corbin got in touch with City of Hope.

“Nobody likes to go and get a mammogram,” Corbin said. “That’s not the most fun thing to do. If I hadn’t done it, it probably would not have been a Stage 1 cancer. In a year’s time, it could have been a Stage 2 or 3 – then we’re dealing with something totally different.”

Like many cancer patients, Corbin was already a cancer survivor. In 2000, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and successfully treated at City of Hope. In both instances, Corbin’s commitment to protecting her health helped ensure an early diagnosis and a smooth course of treatment. » Continue Reading

Leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma: New treatments are on the horizon

September 1, 2013 | by   

Survival rates for blood cancers have climbed steadily in recent decades, to as high as 90 percent for some cancers. This is great progress, but even as Leukemia, Lymphoma and Myeloma Awareness Month in September brings treatment advances into focus, researchers are honing even further their ability to fight these cancers.

Breakthroughs in treatment of blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma have led to climbing survival rates in recent decades.

Breakthroughs in treatment of blood cancers such as leukemia (shown here), lymphoma and myeloma have led to climbing survival rates in recent decades.

More than a million people in the United States are living with, or are in remission from, a blood cancer, including leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

These diseases affect the bone marrow, the blood cells, the lymph nodes and other parts of the lymphatic system. They’re related in that many of them may result from mutations in the DNA of a single lymph- or blood-forming stem cell. In blood cancers, these abnormal cells multiply and survive, and when they accumulate in the blood or lymphatic tissue, they interfere with the production and functioning of red blood cells, white cells and platelets. This may lead to severe anemia, bleeding and the inability to fight infection, all of which can be life-threatening.

The treatments and understanding of these diseases are advancing every day. At City of Hope, researchers are assessing how best to harness the immune system to fight these cancers; evaluating the role of stem cells in cancer and what that means for therapies; and perfecting partially matched bone marrow transplants to improve survival. » Continue Reading