German scientists experimenting with sniffer dogs have found they can accurately detect lung cancer by smelling breath samples.
In a study carried out by researchers from Schillerhoehe Hospital in Germany, the dogs were able to correctly detect lung tumors in 71 percent of patients, suggesting a similar technique could be used for early detection in future.
“In the breath of patients with lung cancer, there are likely to be different chemicals to normal breath samples and the dogs’ keen sense of smell can detect this difference at an early stage of the disease,” said Thorsten Walles, who led the study and published its findings in the European Respiratory Journal on Thursday.
Lung cancer, mostly linked to smoking, is the second most common form of cancer in men and women across Europe and causes more than 340,000 deaths per year. It is also the most common cause of death from cancer worldwide.
The disease is notoriously hard to detect in its early stages and scientists have been working on using breath tests for possible future screening programs. The sniffing method relies on identifying so-called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are linked to the presence of cancer.
The researchers explained that although many different possible breath test techniques have been tried, they are very difficult develop for use in practice in clinics because patients are not allowed to smoke or eat before the test, sample analysis can take a long time and there is also a high risk of interference. Because of these reasons, no lung cancer-specific VOCs have yet been identified.
In this study the researchers worked specially-trained dogs and with 220 volunteers, including some lung cancer patients, some patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients and some with no lung health problems.
The results show the dogs successfully identified 71 samples with lung cancer out of a possible 100, and correctly detected 372 samples that did not have lung cancer out of a possible 400.
The animals were also able to detect lung cancer independently from COPD and tobacco smoke.
Walles said their results confirm that there is a reliable and stable “marker” for lung cancer in the breath, but there is still a lot of work to do to find out exactly what that is.
“This is a big step forward…but we still need to precisely identify the compounds observed in the exhaled breath of patients. It is unfortunate that dogs cannot communicate the biochemistry of the scent of cancer.”
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You’ve probably heard jokes or perhaps even told a few about getting a prostate test or going for a prostate cancer screening. But considering that one in six men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, getting a prostate test is no laughing matter.
Let’s face it: people poke fun at the prostate (pun intended). And while it’s okay to make a few jokes, prostate cancer, like a prostate cancer screening, is no laughing matter. One reason people make jokes about the prostate test is that one part of the process involves a less than dignified but very brief examination called a digital rectal examination (DRE). If you’re a guy who has not yet had a DRE, I explain it below. For now, just let me say that if getting a DRE is your reason for not getting your prostate checked, then it’s time you took a deep breath and just did it. Hey, every guy who goes into the military has had to cough or strain while a doctor felt his groin, so if they can do that, you can get a DRE is all I’m saying. Forget the jokes, learn all you can about prostate tests and prostate cancer, and then make an informed decision about getting screened.
Despite the fact that prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer among men in the United States and is estimated by the National Cancer Institute to kill more than 32,000 US men in 2010, prostate cancer screenings do not get the amount of press or respect–that breast cancer screenings do. Don’t get me wrong: screening for breast cancer is extremely important and every woman should discuss screening with their physician and heed his or her recommendations.
But prostate screening is critically important too. True, the prostate gland is not as glamorous or sexually appealing as breasts nor is it visible to remind us that it’s there, but it performs various important functions, including making some of the fluid for semen, keeping urine out of the semen, and enhancing pleasurable sensations of arousal and orgasm. You also want to keep the prostate healthy because if it become infected or enlarged, it can seriously impact urinary and sexual functioning. Therefore maintaining prostate health is of utmost importance, and undergoing prostate tests is one way to do it.
Doctors and other experts do not all offer the same recommendations for prostate cancer screening, although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of the PSA test along with the DRE to help detect prostate cancer in men 50 years and older. Some say men older than 50 should be screened every year, while others recommend men who are at higher risk for prostate cancer to begin screening at age 40 or 45. (Risk factors include age, a family history of prostate cancer – especially a brother or father, being African American, a high-fat diet, obesity, lifestyle and other factors such as exposure to chemicals and toxins.) Other experts say routine prostate tests are not necessary.
The point is, every man needs to have a prostate test at some point, and that point differs for each man. Therefore you should work with your physician and consider your unique state of health, along with the risk factors already mentioned, and the fact that age is the most common risk factor, with nearly 63 percent of cases occurring in men age 65 and older.
Prostate cancer screening typically involves two procedures. One is the digital rectal exam, during which a doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum. It takes about a minute or so for the doctor to feel the prostate through the wall of the rectum and to check for any suspicious lumps, as well as for any abnormalities in the glands shape or size. While it is not the most comfortable procedure you will ever experience, it usually is not painful and is over rather quickly. (By the way, women also have DREs to check for abnormalities in their reproductive organs. DREs are also used to check for colon polyps.)
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test involves taking a small blood sample and having it tested for the level of the antigen. PSA is a substance produced mostly by the prostate that may be present in elevated amounts in men who have prostate cancer. However, high PSA levels can also be an indication of noncancerous conditions, such as an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH) or prostatitis.
Prostate tests are not foolproof, however, so you should have a discussion with a trusted, knowledgeable healthcare provider to determine the best time for you to be screened. During that discussion your healthcare provider should inform you about the risks of prostate screening.
As with most tests, prostate tests run the risk of providing false-negative or false-positive results. If you receive a false-negative test results (one that shows you do not have cancer when you really do), then you may delay seeking treatment even if you have symptoms. A false-positive result means your test appears to be abnormal even though you don’t have cancer. Such results could send you on an unnecessary route of more tests, including a biopsy, and the risk of complications, which include fever, pain, blood in the semen or urine, and urinary tract infections.
A common risk associated with prostate tests is if your PSA test shows an elevated level, your doctor may recommend you have a biopsy of the prostate to help determine whether you have cancer. He or she may recommend a biopsy because a man’s PSA level alone does not provide enough information to distinguish between a noncancerous prostate condition and prostate cancer. A biopsy, however, is associated with complications, as I have already noted.
If the biopsy indicates that you do not have cancer, then that’s great news, and you can explore other reasons why your PSA levels are high, such as an infection, BPH, or prostatitis. But having had the biopsy, you still run the risk of experiencing the complications. If the biopsy indicates that you do have prostate cancer, then you and your healthcare provider will need to discuss whether you should undergo treatment. According to prostate cancer researcher Arul Chinnaiyan, MD, PhD, the SP Hicks Collegiate Professor of Pathology at the University of Michigan Medical School, the PSA test is responsible for hundreds if not thousands of unwarranted biopsies a year, and ultimately overtreatment of incidental [cancers]. (WebMD) This is all food for thought and discussion with your physician.
Another risk factor associated with prostate tests is that thus far, there is no scientific proof that undergoing these tests improves your health or will help you live longer if you do have cancer. In fact, a multicenter study that included more than 71,000 men found no evidence that screening with PSA and DRE is effective in reducing the risk of death from prostate cancer. (Concato et al)
If the tests indicate you do have prostate cancer, then the good news is that you have identified it and you can now take steps to deal with it. Some prostate cancers do not cause symptoms or become life-threatening, and so doing nothing”except monitoring the situation regularly with repeat PSA tests, a process known as watchful waiting”may be all that is necessary. Prostate cancer tends to be a slowly progressive disease, and very slow-growing tumors are unlikely to threaten a man’s life. Therefore treating these men with surgery, radiation, or hormone therapy, all of which may cause serious side effects, would unnecessarily disrupt their quality of life.
If you’re a guy, or if you’re a woman who has a man in her life who has not taken any steps toward having his prostate tested, then it’s time to consider a few factors:
- One in six men develop prostate cancer is that one you? Talk to your healthcare provider about when you should have your prostate tests. Now may not be the time to have your PSA and DRE, but it is time to plan ahead.
- If you get prostate cancer, your life will never be the same, no matter what you read or people tell you. Research suggests that a healthful diet that is rich in antioxidants such as lycopene, quercetin, catechins, and procyanidins, may help protect against prostate cancer. (Konijeti; Jung; Reagan-Shaw) This is a step men can start at any age! You are never too young to reduce your risk of cancer through positive modifications to lifestyle, diet, exercise, stress-management, weight loss and nutrition as well as hormone and inflammation management, consuming limited dairy products and avoiding foods, additives and supplements that may contribute to prostate cancer. And while there is nothing that can “prevent” prostate cancer, this does not mean you shouldn’t do all you can to reduce your risk, no matter what age you are.
- Even if you think you’re too young to be tested, think again: prostate cancer can affect men in their thirties. Statistics from 1998 to 2002 found that the median age at diagnosis was 68 years, yet 0.5 percent of men between 35 and 44 were diagnosed with the disease, and 8.3 percent were between 45 and 54 at the time of diagnosis. (emedtv) And more and more evidence is showing that the positive effects of antioxidants is only being seen when commenced in your 20?s and early 30?s so it’s important to start eating healthy and taking positive lifestyle steps no matter what age you are.
- Think about adding to your diet and nutritional program with supplements like lycopene, quercetin, omega 3, mushroom extract, curcumin (turmeric), vitamin D, resveratrol, pectin, green tea, cayenne (capsaicin) that all have tier 1 and tier 2 clinical (human and animal) trials supporting their effectiveness in boosting immunity and causing apoptosis (self destruction) of cancer cells. And be cautious about supplements that may contribute to prostate cancer such as calcium and excessive folic acid/folate intake from supplements (as opposed to diet). Note also that daily multivitamin use has been linked to a higher risk of prostate cancer.
The bottom line. Talk to your doctor today and if it’s the right decision for you then “Man Up” and get tested. The earlier the detection, the better your treatment options and overall post-treatment quality of life.
Ten years ago, Sally Scanlon, 55, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, was facing a breast cancer diagnosis. Today she is helping other women through the disease by motivating them to exercise.
In June 2001, Scanlon’s doctor found a lump during an annual exam. A mammogram and subsequent biopsy confirmed stage II breast cancer. After discussing options with her doctor, Scanlon decided to have chemotherapy and radiation.
She was 45 at the time.
She started her chemotherapy in July and finished in September, then began a 7-week course of radiation that November. During treatment, she experienced a lot of nausea and slept a lot. But over the course of her treatment, Scanlon says, she tried to stay positive.
“I didn’t want to hear about the worst-case scenarios,” she says.
Instead she leaned on her family and church family. Her daughter and grandson, who lived in Georgia, came to stay with her while she went through treatment. Her husband was unflappable throughout the process, as well.
“My husband, Rob, was so great through the whole experience. He even shaved my head when my hair started to fall out,” she recalls.
While in treatment, Scanlon attended an American Cancer Society Look Good, Feel Better class, which offers beauty tips to cancer patients to help them feel good about how they look during chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“I was so impressed with the class and the people I met there. So when I found out that the American Cancer Society was doing a walk in my area – the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event in Providence – I signed up.”
As part of getting ready for Strides, Scanlon joined a walking program with some of the other participants. They met every Saturday to walk.
“I discovered there were huge benefits to exercising,” Scanlon says, “I’ve since lost 50 pounds. But the mental benefit has been even more important. It is such a big stress release.”
Around the same time that Scanlon started walking, she found out about the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program, which matches specially-trained breast cancer survivors with newly diagnosed breast cancer patients to provide emotional support and guidance.
In 2004, Scanlon went through the training and became a Reach to Recovery volunteer. And through that work, she found out about a study called Moving Forward Together 2, a research program to boost exercise among Reach to Recovery participants.
Scanlon was a natural fit.
“I saw the woman I was counseling get a lot of the same stress relief from exercise,” she says. “Even though I was the one in the counselor role, it helped motivate me to stay on track with my own exercise.”
Her advice to women who are newly diagnosed: get out there, get online, and talk to people.
“I didn’t know anyone who had cancer when I was first diagnosed,” she says. “Now my friends call me the ‘cancer magnet’ – I meet and talk to people with cancer all the time. Get in touch with the American Cancer Society. Get online. Talk to people. It really helps.”
Drugs used to treat prostate cancer in men may also be useful for difficult-to-treat breast cancers in some women, a Cancer Research UK study suggests. Hormone treatments like tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors are ineffective against up to 30% of breast cancers. But laboratory research in Cambridge, reported in The EMBO Journal, suggests some of these tumours may respond to drugs for male cancers. Cancer Research UK said the findings were a “great surprise”. Hormones can switch on genes which lead to cells dividing uncontrollably and developing into tumours.
In women, breast cancers can be driven by the female sex hormone oestrogen. In men, prostate cancer can be driven by male sex hormones – androgens. Breakthroughs have been made in treatments for breast cancer by developing drugs which interfere with the oestrogen’s action, halting the tumour’s progress. However, tumours which are not driven by the hormone have been harder to treat.
Researchers at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute found that some of these oestrogen negative tumours were instead influenced by male hormones. The same genes which were switched on by female sex hormones in oestrogen responsive tumours were activated by the male sex hormones. It raises the prospect that drugs already developed for prostate cancer could help some women. While androgens, such as testosterone, are typically associated with male development, they are also present in women.
The lead researcher Dr Ian Mills said: “This important discovery suggests that patients with a type of oestrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer may potentially benefit from therapies given to prostate cancer patients, which could transform treatment for this patient group in the future. ”But at the moment this laboratory research is still at an early stage.” Researchers said this could apply to up to 5% of all breast cancers. Dr Lesley Walker, from Cancer Research UK, said: “Prostate cancer depends on the androgen receptor for growth so it’s a great surprise that a type of breast cancer might also be fuelled by this protein.” Dr Caitlin Palframan, policy manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “This fascinating research opens the door to personalised treatment for a small group of breast cancer patients.
“Women with oestrogen receptor negative disease have fewer treatment options and new ways to tackle it are urgently needed.”
It’s a sunny summer day. You’re sitting by the pool, eating a non-organic apple, drinking bottled water and talking on your cell phone. Which of these is most likely to increase your risk of cancer?
Despite recent concerns about plastics, pesticides and cell phones, it turns out sitting may be the greatest risk factor, especially if you sit for long periods of time. Physical activity burns calories, and the more calories we expend, even by standing, the less likely we are to gain weight. According to the American Cancer Society, being overweight or obese is clearly linked with an increased risk of developing several types of cancer, including cancers of the breast, colon, uterus, esophagus and kidney.
If you are a cancer survivor who struggles with the very common fear of cancer recurrence, or you have a family history of cancer, where do you start?
Steer clear of the freebie pedometers given out at health fairs and invest in a quality device that syncs with your computer. You can find a good one for less than $40. Then wear it every single day. Track your daily steps for one week to find out your baseline, and then set a goal each week to increase your steps by 500 to 1000 per day until you reach 10,000 steps per day. If you are in the midst of cancer treatment, 10,000 steps may seem overwhelming, but there is substantial evidence that increasing physical activity during treatment helps reduce fatigue.
Not only will you raise money for a good cause, but the training program will also get you moving. If you have never done a race before, start with a 5K (3.1 miles). Running is not required – the goal is to get you moving.
Replace your TV watching habit with physical activity. Set the DVR for your favorite shows then spend your evening in your garden, playing with your children or your dog, or going for a long walk. When you must watch your favorite show, limit TV time to no more than 60 minutes and get up from the couch at each commercial break to walk around the house, do squats or do sit ups.
If you work at a desk job, get up from your desk every hour to take a break. Use your cell phone alarm, or set a reminder in Outlook as a reminder to move. Walk to a coworker’s office instead of emailing, step outside for some fresh air, or take a lap around the parking lot.
If you are currently in the midst of cancer treatment, this may be difficult, but if you are through treatment and work at a desk job all week, maximize your activity on the weekend. Go for walk at a local park, swim at the lake or pool, bike with your family, or work in your garden.
Katie and Kim Messer are mother and daughter, facing cancer together. Katie is a Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and breast cancer survivor. And, her daughter Kim is now facing stage IV breast cancer. Watch their moving story.
With the identification of more than 25 types of prostate cancer by PCF-funded scientists in the past 24 months, and the fact that it remains one of the least talked about cancers, it’s no wonder there remains a great deal of confusion surrounding this disease.
Ask any group of men about prostate cancer. If they don’t abruptly change the subject or take the opportunity to crack a few wise remarks, chances are you will get a wide variety of answers when it comes to what it is, how it should be treated and whether or not (and when) one should be screened for this disease. Against this reality, it is always a good idea to review some of the more popular myths and misconceptions about this disease that claims the lives of more than 32,000 men in the U.S. each year.
While it may be true that the older you are, the more likely you are to be diagnosed with prostate cancer (65% of cases are diagnosed in men who are 65 or older), the fact remains that 35% of those diagnosed, or more than 76,000 each year, are diagnosed at an earlier age. I was diagnosed at age 51 and I have met many men who were diagnosed in their early 40s. Although only 1 in 10,000 men under age 40 will be diagnosed, the rate skyrockets up to 1 in 38 for ages 40 to 59, and 1 in 15 for ages 60 to 69.
There are many risk factors to consider. Your race, family history, physical health and lifestyle—even geographic location—are all factors that can increase your likelihood of developing prostate cancer.
Wrong. Prostate cancer is one of the most asymptomatic cancers in oncology, meaning not all men experience symptoms. Many times symptoms can be mistaken or attributed to something else. Signs of prostate cancer are often first detected by a doctor during a routine check-up. Common symptoms include a need to urinate frequently, difficulty starting or stopping urination, weak or interrupted flow of urination, painful or burning urination, difficulty having an erection, painful ejaculation, blood in the urine or semen, or frequent pain and stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thighs. If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to tell your doctor.
The answer to this one is sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. With the 25 types of prostate cancer discovered by PCF-supported researchers, we can confirm that there are those prostate cancers a man may die with and not of, while others are very aggressive. Once a biopsy confirms the presence of cancer in the prostate, a physician uses the data contained in the pathologist’s report to characterize the potential aggressiveness of the cancer and make recommendations for treatment based on many factors, including a patient’s age and health status. There are many treatments available for patients and one approach does not fit all cases. Patients need to understand the complexity of this disease and make treatment decisions that are right for them in consultation with a trusted medical professional.
The good news is that we believe, with the accelerated pace of scientific discovery, we will soon be able to identify the specific cancer a patient has at time of their diagnosis and match the most effective treatments for their prostate cancer and their biological makeup. This will enable us to cure more and overtreat less.
Wrong. While a family history of prostate cancer doubles a man’s odds of being diagnosed to 1 in 3, the fact remains that 1 out of 6 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. This compares to 1 in 8 women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer. African-American men are 60% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 2.4 times more likely to die as a result.
Family history and genetics do, however, play a role in a man’s chances for developing prostate cancer. A man whose father or bother had prostate cancer is twice as likely to develop the disease. The risk is further increased if the cancer was diagnosed in a family member at a younger age (less than 55 years old), or if it affected three or more family members.
In 2010, approximately 218,000 new cases were diagnosed in the U.S. and more than 32,000 men died as a result of this cancer. The number of new U.S. cases could exceed 300,000 per year by 2015.
Incorrect. The PSA tests measures levels of prostate-specific antigen in the prostate, not cancer. PSA is produced by the prostate in response to a number of problems that could be present in the prostate including an inflammation or infection (prostatitis), enlargement of the prostate gland (benign prostatic hyperplasia) or, possibly, cancer. Think of it as a first alert smoke alarm, instead of a fire alarm. The PSA test is the first step in the diagnostic process for cancer. It has made detection of cancer in its early stages, when it is best treated, possible. Experts believe the PSA test saves the life of approximately 1 in 39 men who are tested. Personally, I believe the PSA test saved my life and will continue to save it as we track my response to treatment.
Although prostate cancer is a common cause of elevated PSA levels, some men with prostate cancer may even have low levels of PSA. PSA can also be diluted in men who are overweight or obese, due to a larger blood volume, and a biopsy should be considered at a relatively lower number (i.e. 3.5 instead of 4). Again, elevated levels can be an indication of other medical conditions.
Having a vasectomy was once thought to increase a man’s risk. This issue has since been carefully researched by epidemiologists. Vasectomy has not been linked to increasing a man’s chance of getting prostate cancer but has led to the prostate being checked by the urologist more often and prostate cancer consequently being detected in the clinic.
While erectile dysfunction (ED) and urinary incontinence are possibilities following surgery or radiation therapy for prostate cancer, it is not true that all men experience complications. These side effects can also be highly dependent on age and physical condition. Numerous therapies and aids can improve erectile function and limit incontinence following treatment and nerve sparing surgical procedures have improved outcomes for patients as well. When selecting a surgeon, patients should inquire about the surgeon’s outcomes for ED and incontinence as well as the number of surgical procedures (open or robotic) performed.
High levels of sexual activity or frequent ejaculation were once rumored to increase prostate cancer risk. In fact, some studies show that men who reported more frequent ejaculations had a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Ejaculation itself has not been linked to prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is not infectious or communicable. This means that there is no way for you to “pass it on” to someone else.
The first step in dealing effectively with prostate cancer is knowing the facts and eliminating confusion. Recent studies have shown that lifestyle decisions such as maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise, such as walking 30 minutes a day, may also play a pivotal role in reducing the risk of getting prostate cancer and surviving it if you get the disease. Talk to your family and friends about prostate cancer and, if you are over 40, talk to your physician to develop a prostate health and screening plan that is right for you.
By Dan Zenka
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Also known as RC Cancer Centers.