Wellness Wednesday: Trimming down the trimmings for Thanksgiving

November 20, 2013 | by   

If the average recommended calorie intake is around 2,000 calories a day, Americans eat more than twice that amount on Thanksgiving.

Photo credit: Nathan Lyon.This curried butternut squash soup is packed with flavor, and includes superfoods cinnamon and pomegranate. A healthy alternative to fat and calorie-laden Thanksgiving appetizers.

This curried butternut squash soup is packed with flavor, and includes superfoods cinnamon and pomegranate. It’s a healthy alternative to fat and calorie-laden Thanksgiving appetizers. Photo credit: Nathan Lyon.

On one hand, bounty is certainly a reason for gratitude. But so is good health – and maintaining a healthy weight and exercising have been linked to a lower risk of cancer and diabetes.

According to the Calorie Council,  the average American eats 3,000 calories during the average holiday dinner – and on top of that, chews through 1,500 calories of appetizers, dips, chips, drinks and other nibbles before and after the main course.

Looking at the day’s calorie budget, those 1,500-appetizer calories seem like a good place to start. Consider a delicious alternative from Nathan Lyon, celebrity chef and author of “Great Food Starts Fresh.” His butternut squash soup is an excellent starter; it’s packed with vegetables, as well as a pair of superfoods: cinnamon and pomegranate.

City of Hope superfoods research has found that pomegranates appear to contain six potentially breast-cancer fighting compounds, in addition to being packed with antioxidants. Scientists here also are studying the potential for cinnamon extracts to be used to block tumors from creating blood vessels to feed themselves. So far, consuming the foods alone doesn’t seem to have specific cancer-fighting benefits, but these flavorful, healthy additions have shown promise in the laboratory to combat tumors – another reason to be grateful.

In addition to choosing a healthier start to your Thanksgiving festivities, consider capping off your meal with a walk.

Here’s Chef Lyon’s soup recipe from his acclaimed cookbook. » Continue Reading

Myth: Only smokers get lung cancer. Reality: Anyone can

November 19, 2013 | by   

Who’s at risk for lung cancer? Anyone who has lungs, essentially.

Lung cancer screening saves lives. Now the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says more people should be getting it.

Lung Cancer Awareness Month: Tweetchat calls attention to the fact that, although smoking may be the number one risk factor for lung cancer, the disease does not occur only in smokers.

To mark Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Karen Reckamp, M.D.,  co-director of the Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program at City of Hope, took to Twitter to bust some lung cancer misconceptions.

The biggest misconception is that lung cancer only happens to smokers. Although smoking contributes to a high percentage of lung cancer cases – and smoking is certainly a habit to give up (or never pick up) – smokers alone are not the only ones at risk for the disease.

Changing the stigma associated with lung cancer emerged as a concern from other participants on the chat. Smoker or non-, no one deserves lung cancer, Reckamp said. Further, a growing number of lung cancer patients are never-smokers or very light smokers who quit many years ago. These patients’ tumors tend to be molecularly different from their smoking counterparts, and researchers are still trying to understand the environmental and other potential causes.

“It’s not uncommon for patients to tell people they have lung cancer, and to hear ‘I didn’t know you smoked,’” Reckamp said before tweeting: “No one asks a breast cancer patient if she ate a high fat diet or didn’t exercise.” » Continue Reading

E-cigarettes: Potential gateway to tobacco-smoking?

November 19, 2013 | by   

Electronic cigarettes have been gaining attention and popularity worldwide — sales for these high-tech devices are well over a billion dollars and steadily increasing. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in just one year, from 2011 to 2012, e-cigarette use among middle and high school students nearly doubled, a fact that troubles many medical professionals because 90 percent of all smokers start when they’re teenagers.

The reputed benefits of e-cigarettes have been widely debated, with manufacturers and proponents saying the devices can help wean smokers from cigarettes and with medical experts warning that more research is needed before the products can be labeled as true smoking-cessation devices. City of Hope’s Brian Tiep, M.D., director of pulmonary rehabilitation and smoking cessation, and Rachel Dunham, M.S.N.,  nurse practitioner for smoking cessation and lung cancer screening, sat down to discuss the public health concerns regarding the devices and why the medical community is wary of e-cigarettes.

What are the components of an e-cigarette?

Tiep: E-cigarettes are high-tech devices that deliver nicotine and other chemicals. Components of an e-cigarette include an LED (light-emitting diode), microcomputer, battery, switch and a liquid cartridge. When the user breathes in while using the device, the liquid is heated and emits a vapor. This vapor is inhaled. The liquid cartridge contains a mixture of propylene glycol, flavorants and often nicotine in varying concentrations.

Because e-cigarettes are not FDA regulated, the manufacturer is not required to list the ingredients. There is no consistency from brand to brand. Furthermore, the nicotine content within the same brand may vary. Some people who never smoked tobacco cigarettes (including kids) are now smoking e-cigarettes, some of which contain nicotine.

» Continue Reading

Meet our doctors: Julie Wolfson on cancer in teens, young adults

November 16, 2013 | by   

Adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with cancer have different needs and treatment challenges than children or older adults. They’re a unique population because they don’t fit into a distinct group, often falling into a gap between cancer treatment programs designed for children and those designed for adults.

City of Hope pediatric oncologist Julie Wolfson, M.D., M.S.H.S.

City of Hope pediatric oncologist Julie Wolfson

Here, pediatric oncologist Julie Wolfson, M.D., M.S.H.S., discusses how the cancer experience differs for AYAs and how City of Hope’s multidisciplinary AYA team offers assistance and a network of professionals to support teens and young adults from the beginning of treatment through survivorship.

Who are AYAs and what are some of the cancers most often seen in this group?

The National Cancer Institute considers an AYA to be any patient who has been newly diagnosed with a malignancy between the ages of 15 and 39. Some of the more common cancers in AYAs are lymphomas, thyroid cancer, melanoma, testicular cancer, leukemia, brain and spinal cord tumors, cervical cancer and breast cancer. These patients have diagnoses similar to both young children and older adults, depending on what age group they fall into. For example, acute lymphoblastic leukemia is more common with younger AYAs, while older AYAs may see thyroid, breast and skin cancer more often.

What are some of the unique short-term and long-term health and psychosocial issues facing AYAs during and after cancer treatment?

Beyond feeling they’re invincible, AYAs are clearly at a unique developmental time in their life to be diagnosed with a devastating illness. Staying on schedule with their peers in school, work and keeping up with their family life are so important, and losing a (sometimes newfound) control over their lives while instead gaining a sense of social isolation can feel overwhelming. Issues such as sexuality and body image are important in a unique way in AYAs, as is fertility. Many cancer treatments can alter the ability to conceive a child – whether you’re a young man or woman. Communicating with your health-care team about whether or not there is a way to preserve fertility is a very important conversation for an AYA. » Continue Reading

Lung cancer: Kick the habit — and get screened

November 15, 2013 | by   

Year after year, lung cancer continues to be the No. 1 cause of cancer death in the U.S. and worldwide. This year, more than 228,190 people in the U.S. are expected to be diagnosed with lung cancer and approximately 160,000 people are expected to die from the disease — enough people to fill Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium and Chicago’s Soldier Field to overflowing.

Stop smoking

Stop smoking, and get screened for lung cancer, at City of Hope.

City of Hope is trying to change that.

The national cancer research hospital has established a program that combines lung cancer screening with tobacco cessation — to help smokers detect problems early and to help them live a smoke-free life.

Smoking is linked to most lung cancer deaths in the U.S. and remains the leading risk factor for lung cancer. (Lung cancer is rising among nonsmokers, however, especially women.)

The first and best step to help avoid smoking-related health problems, including lung cancer, is to give up cigarettes. That is, kick the habit — for good.

“We believe very strongly that one of our missions
 is to help eliminate the
 use of tobacco, which 
is probably the most important thing people can do to decrease 
their cancer risk,”
 Dan Raz, M.D., co-director of City of Hope’s Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program, said in a recent interview with City of Hope’s City News.

» Continue Reading

World Diabetes Day: New research, new treatments for the future

November 14, 2013 | by   

World Diabetes Day is today, Nov. 14. This year’s theme is “Protect the future,” and in the video above, Raynald Samoa, M.D., assistant professor at City of Hope’s Department of Clinical Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism, discusses current City of Hope research that could benefit future generations.

“We are working tirelessly to try to find new ways to treat diabetes as it reaches epidemic proportions,” Samoa said. According to the World Health Organization, more than 347 million people worldwide have diabetes, and that number — along with diabetes-related complications and deaths — is expected to grow.

Among the promising areas of research that could lead to prevention or better management of  the diabetes: » Continue Reading

Mantle cell lymphoma: FDA approves new drug

November 13, 2013 | by   

Imbruvica. Unless you or a loved one have mantle cell lymphoma, the word is likely unfamiliar. If you do have the disease, the news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday approved the drug for mantle cell lymphoma is significant.

FDA approves drug for mantle cell lymphoma.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug for mantle cell lymphoma, a rare and difficult-to-treat disease that accounts for about 6 percent of all non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases in the U.S.

Mantle cell lymphoma is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma – and it’s difficult to treat. Imbruvica, which inhibits the enzyme that the cancer needs to multiply and spread, is only the third drug approved specifically to treat mantle cell lymphoma.

The new drug, with the generic name ibrutinib, was approved for patients who have already received at least one form of therapy.

Leslie L. Popplewell, M.D., an associate clinical professor at City of Hope and an expert in hematologic malignancies, believes that the drug could have a real impact.

“Mantle cell lymphoma is an uncommon lymphoma and well-known for poor prognosis,” she said. “Unlike other entities like diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, it is not curable with conventional chemotherapy approaches. Young patients who are newly diagnosed are treated with aggressive chemotherapy, and often with autologous transplant in first remission.”

The drug, which has the FDA’s breakthrough therapy designation, was approved under an accelerated approval program  based on a study of 111 people. That study showed that cancer shrunk or disappeared in 66 percent of participants.

“It is hard to know where ibrutinib will eventually fall in the treatment schema for MCL – it is not an option for newly diagnosed patients, for example, but it is an important new drug in our arsenal,” Popplewell said. “Being available in pill form makes it especially attractive as a treatment option for patients because it allows them to have fewer disruptions in their daily activities.”



Foothill Fitness: Participant shares tips for 80-lb. weight loss

November 13, 2013 | by   

Good Friday 2012 was the day Melissa Pierce decided to change her life.

In eight months, Melissa Pierce dropped 80 pounds through healthy lifestyle changes. She joined the Foothill Fitness Challenge to help motivate her to keep the weight off.

In eight months, Melissa Pierce dropped 80 pounds through healthy lifestyle changes. She joined the Foothill Fitness Challenge to help motivate her to keep the weight off.

The 36-year-old Duarte resident made a plan, hopped on a bike that was in her garage, signed up for Weight Watchers and began a weight-loss journey that left her, eight months later, 80 pounds lighter and feeling 100 percent better.

“To me, it’s a matter of life and death, and I want to live,” said the now-slender Pierce. “For me, the battle’s not over. It’s still a day-to-day process. I have to make a plan every day.”

That’s one reason Pierce signed up for the Foothill Fitness Challenge, City of Hope’s friendly competition between local cities to motivate our neighbors to be as healthy as they can be. The goal is for participants to make lifestyle changes – such as getting to a healthy weight and starting an exercise program – that can reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes and other diseases. For Pierce, the goal is maintenance.

After Pierce joined Weight Watchers, she began educating herself about the right foods to fuel her body. That first Sunday of her plan, she spent a portion of the day cooking and planning out her meals for the week.

The start of her exercise program didn’t require as much planning. “I picked up a bike in my garage that was in there, just sitting there,” she said. » Continue Reading

Even 30 minutes of exercise a week can lower your diabetes risk

November 13, 2013 | by   

World Diabetes Day 2013 is Thursday, Nov. 14, and in tune with this year’s theme, “Protect our future,” Americans and everyone else are being encouraged to engage in regular physical activity to lower their risk of developing diabetes later in life.

The amount of exercise needed to help ward off the disease might be less than you think. In the video above, Raynald Samoa, M.D., assistant professor at City of Hope’s Division of Molecular Diabetes Research, discusses recent research suggesting that even a few minutes of vigorous exercise a week can reduce the risk of diabetes. » Continue Reading

Colonoscopy: Bariatric surgery patients must get alternative prep

November 12, 2013 | by   

Weight-loss surgery means sacrificing sweets and making major lifestyle changes. It doesn’t mean having to skip colorectal cancer screenings.

Bariatric surgery is effective for weight loss because it restricts the amount of food or liquid a person can consume, often through banding or surgical alteration of  the stomach. But preparation for a colonoscopy usually requires drinking a large amount of liquid twice a day. Even though these preparations have become easier over time, and the amount of liquid is smaller, the quantities can be a lot for a weight-loss surgery patient to swallow.

In response to the news that one in three people recommended for potentially lifesaving colorectal cancer screening skip it, one City of Hope Facebook follower raised an excellent question, asking:  “What about people who have had bariatric surgery and drinking or consuming anything in large quantities is not doable?”

Donald David, M.D., chief of the Division of Gastroenterology at City of Hope, responded:

“Alternate preparations are available for bariatric surgery patients so that they may also receive colorectal cancer screenings, including colonoscopy. For example, it’s possible to drink the prep over a longer period of time. There are also ‘pill preps’ available, in which the patient takes 32 pills over a course of a day, usually taking four pills with a glass of water. Consult your doctor to address your specific needs related to your surgery, but colonoscopies are definitely possible – and encouraged – for bariatric surgery patients.”

So, even if you’ve had weight loss surgery, make an appointment for colorectal cancer screening if you’re age 50 or so.

Watch the recent news story above about the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.