Integrative Oncology is an important part of patient care at Radiotherapy Centers of Georgia.
Abiraterone, 4th New Drug for Prostate Cancer is Approved in 12 Months
In the past few months I have often said there is no better time to be a prostate cancer patient than now. In my position here at the Prostate Cancer Foundation, I have uttered this statement with enthusiasm and a bit of pride. As a patient, I have said it with a healthy portion of relief and a prayer of thanksgiving for progress. Not that I want to ever need any of these new drugs, but, as I grapple with my disease and the ever present possibility of recurrence, I am reassured that these new treatments will be ready and waiting for me and my medical team if and when I need them.
To recap, the four new drugs are: Provenge (the first ever immunotherapy for the disease); Cabazitaxel, an advanced chemotherapy agent also known as Jevtana; Denusomab, marketed as Xgeva for bone health during androgen dperivatrion tehrapy; and now, Abiraterone (Zytiga). Approved just yesterday by the FDA, Abiraterone has been in development since the 1990s and will be utilized for the treatment of castration-resistant, metastatic prostate cancer following docetaxel chemotherapy. It’s a clinical break-through for patients who previously had few good clinical therapies available to them.
During Phase III clinical studies, patient response was so encouraging that those patients who were taking the placebo were given the option of switching to the drug. Good news indeed for so many.
You can read more about Abiraterone here.
Here’s to progress. Here’s to better outcomes.
Look around any crowded event and you can spot them. The fashion balds. Years ago, we had Sinead O’Connor. Today you can spot dozens of men who opt to shave their heads and be fashion forward rather than admit to thinning hair or a bald spot. Others find it macho to look like they just jumped off a bottle of Mr. Clean at the local grocery store. On a sunny day it can sometimes be downright blinding if you don’t have a pair of shades to protect yourself from all those reflections. They may indeed be in fashion, but they are not the beautiful balds I am writing about.
The balds I am talking about are the ones who didn’t have a choice. Those whose chemo and/or radiation therapies have not only extracted a heavy physical toll, but took a swing at their outward appearances as well. There is one such patient who I see every afternoon while waiting for my daily radiation. This woman sometimes wears a small scarf but she is clearly not intending to hide anything. She walks from the waiting area into the treatment room freely, sans any attempt to hide her reality. I don’t know her well, but to me she is absolutely stunning inside and out.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not in the least berating those who choose to wear a wig or baseball cap. I couldn’t put up with all of those averted eyes or stares from those who do not know how to react. Of course, as a man, baldness is much easier to get away with these days. Whenever I see a woman or young child without hair, I might wonder what cancer or other disease they are dealing with in their life, but I always see their eyes, their smile, and their face. Instantly their true inner and outer beauty is spoken. More often than not, they reveal a character, confidence, bravery and grace that is enviable.
I always meet their eyes. It’s not a there but for the grace of God moment. (When it comes to cancer, I no longer qualify for such moments, anyway…) It’s pure admiration. I want them to know that I see them and appreciate their battles.
This Friday, there is a campaign, Be Bold, Be Bald. For one day, participants will be wearing bald caps and raising funds to support cancer research and outreach. At first, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about the bald caps. Was it mockery? Insensitive? No. The more I think about it, the more I like it. It sends a strong message that cancer patients everywhere should not feel isolated. They are not alone. They are beautiful in their openness and determination.
By Rebecca Webber
Mary McGuire-Wien and her husband, Charles Wildbank, had been searching for a new home on Long Island for more than a year, but every place they’d seen was either unsuitable or unaffordable. After one long Sunday of unsuccessful house-hunting with their agent, the couple was anxious to get back home, but got stuck at a traffic light right next to an old barn that was under renovation. “A guy in a hard hat looked over at us and said, ‘Are you looking for a house?’” says Mary.
Though the barn didn’t look like a house—it didn’t even have any visible windows—Mary and her husband got out to take a look. The building turned out to be loftlike, with beautiful historical details (including back-facing windows). “A normal family probably wouldn’t want it,” says Mary. “But it was absolutely perfect for us because we needed a space where I could have a yoga retreat, and where Charles could paint.” They agreed to buy the place from the construction worker, who turned out to be the barn’s owner.
Mary and Charles could be considered fortunate—what are the chances that the owner would stop them when they were most in need of a home? And yet, they were the ones who agreed to investigate an unlikely prospect. Their open-mindedness turned a strange moment into a lucky break.
People who spot and seize opportunity are different. They are more open to life’s forking paths, so they see possibilities others miss. And if things don’t work out the way they’d hoped, they brush off disappointment and launch themselves headlong toward the next fortunate circumstance. As a result, they’re happier and more likely to achieve their goals.
Psychologists are figuring out why some people always seem to juggle incredible opportunities. Their insights can help us all lead luckier lives.
To read about these insights and the rest of the article, click here.
Those who have been touched by cancer–patient or family member–are compelled to do a lot of thinking. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know I’ve done a fair share of my own during the past six months. Recently, while navigating to and from my daily radiation sessions, I have had time to make a mental inventory of what I have learned as a cancer patient.
Here are my personal lessons:
1. No matter where you stand in your diagnosis, Stage 4 or Stage 1, living with prostate cancer can sometimes suck…, but, it certainly beats the alternative. No one invited this unwanted guest to our party, but we’ll deal with it. I’d rather enjoy the celebration with a few challenges than to have missed the party.
2. I am not afraid of dying. I am afraid of missing those I love and being there for them. No, I am not being morbid. This is a simple realization and important distinction I plan to carry with me for the rest of my life. I suppose my faith and spiritual foundation are stronger than I might have guessed. If I am wrong on what might come next, the only downside I can see is a nice long sleep. However, it’s the idea of not being with those I know and love and sharing with them that gives me pause. The solution to this quandary is to at least try and do my best for them everyday of my life. Simple, yes. However, I would never have seen it with such clarity otherwise.
3. While cancer shouldn’t define me, it remains an undeniable part of who I have become. This disease has imparted an influence that will forever be a part of my existence. (Heck, some marriages don’t last six months…) I won’t annul myself from this part of my life. I will continue to acknowledge it and talk about it whenever I feel the need. I will also listen to any fellow patient or family member when they need an ear.
4. People aren’t comfortable with cancer until you are. They can’t offer compassion when you need it until you ask for it–if that’s what you need. If the “C” word paralyzes patients, I believe the effect on others can be ten-fold. Some stutter or stammer. Others fall into awkward silence. Worse yet, some may choose to deny there is anything wrong with you. As the central player in the film, a cancer patient needs to let others know what he or she is going through and how much or little discussion they need. To not do so risks isolation by default.
5. Women in menopause deserve a medal of honor. New to this whole man-o-pause thing, I don’t know how our sisters in humanity have dealt so admirably with this phenomenon throughout the ages. Add it to the whole “Super-mom” set of expectations that our generation has imposed on many women and it’s a mystery millions haven’t already combusted instantaneously–hot flashes or not.
6. Using the term “survivor” is a personal choice. I have met some former cancer patients who refuse to assume this distinction. It’s often applied to any patient who is currently battling the disease. That’s okay too. In my mind I do not yet qualify for the title. In five years, when I hear the words “cancer-free” applied to me, I will gladly accept it. I will have earned it. As I said, it’s a personal thing.
7. Silver linings and lemonade from lemons do exist. This might sound hackneyed, but I have certainly found my share of linings and enjoyed a great many glasses of refreshing lemonade along the way. I think having cancer just has a way of letting you see things differently and you can find these blessings more easily.
8. The world is a better place than the evening news leads you to believe. Working with compassionate care givers, feeling the love and hearing the concern of friends and family, and meeting so many others in the same position as me has reminded me that there are more good and wonderful people in this world than not. It’s easy to forget when we live life in status quo mode.
9. LST (Laughter Stimulation Therapy) should be standard for all patients regardless of their ailment. I love to laugh. I always knew this about myself, but the upside of hormone therapy is when the mood swing defaults to the hysterical. I have had several wonderfully out-of-control laughing jags in the past few weeks. I hope to never lose these and appreciate the endorphins they release.
10. Modesty and privacy are highly overrated. In the past six months I have had my private parts poked, prodded, tugged, removed, sliced, swabbed, injected, inserted with things–even clamped…YES, CLAMPED, all in view of numerous medical professionals. Yes, it takes some getting used to, but if giving up some privacy will allow me to grow old and someday share some golden retirement days with my wife and family, have at it. Groping for a cure–I’m all for it.
From the blog “My New York Minute” – http://mynewyorkminute.org/?p=743
Loss of libido and difficulty having sex are common complaints among breast cancer survivors, new research confirms.
More than two-thirds of surveyed survivors reported that they were still having sexual function problems two years after diagnosis. Most described their sex lives as satisfying before breast cancer.
Women taking aromatase inhibitors as treatment for their breast cancer reported more sexual problems than women taking tamoxifen.
Body image issues and vaginal dryness related to aromatase inhibitor use were among the most frequently mentioned complaints.
“Sexual problems are among the most common and least talked about side effects of breast cancer treatment,” study co-author Susan R. Davis, MD, of Victoria, Australia’s Monash University Medical School tells WebMD.
“About 70% of the women in our study were experiencing a meaningful loss of desire and sexual function a full two years after diagnosis.”
By Salynn Boyles
WebMD Health News
African-American men are 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed and 2.4 times more likely to die from prostate cancer. With the stark reality that black men and their families are more more likely to be affected by prostate cancer than any other group of our population, two events provided a fitting end to last week’s Advance on Washington: The African-American Prostate Cancer Health Disparities meeting organized by the Prostate Health Education Network (PHEN) as part of the Congressional Black Caucus meeting, and the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program (BBHOP) that was held at select barbershops in the Washington and Baltimore metropolitan areas on Saturday. To read the entire article, click here.
Men with low PSA levels from a baseline blood test were less likely to develop prostate cancer compared to men whose baseline PSA levels were high, according to a new study.
The simple test may be a strong predictor of who will benefit from future screening and treatment for prostate cancer, according to the study published Monday in the journal Cancer.
More than 85,000 men, ages 55 to 74, with no previous prostate cancer history were the subjects of the study. The authors found that in order to save one life, they needed to investigate almost 25,000 men with low PSA levels but only 133 men with high ones. Similarly, they needed to treat 724 men who had low PSA levels to save one life but only 60 men whose levels were higher.
PSA, or prostate-specific antigen, is a protein found in prostate cancer tissue. When that tissue breaks down, the protein seeps into the bloodstream. The heavier the presence of PSA in the blood, the more likely prostate cancer will be dangerous and require some type of treatment, said Dr. Otis Brawley, Chief Medical Officer at American Cancer Society and a contributor to CNNHealth.com.
But aren’t all cancers bad, even if a man’s PSA level is low?
“There are a large number of prostate cancers that don’t need to be treated because they’re not a health threat to the man who has them,” explained Brawley. That makes guidelines for screenings more difficult to set.
The American Cancer Society encourages men to work with their doctors to learn about the test’s benefits and risks before making an informed personal decision around age 50. Research has not yet proven that the potential benefits of testing outweigh the harms of testing and treatment, explains the organization.
The American Urology Association recommends baseline screening for men at age 40 with future screenings determined in conjunction with the patient’s doctor.
“This can’t be done in a vacuum,” said Dr. J. Brantley Thrasher, spokesman for the American Urology Association and the William L. Balk Chair of the Department of Urology at the University of Kansas. “We need to let [patients] know this is an imperfect marker, but we’re getting data that may help us in the future.”
It’s difficult to accept the idea that you could have prostate cancer that doesn’t need to be treated and could be left alone with no harm, while other men have aggressive and deadly prostate cancers. Brawley, who chooses not to be screened, thinks this is why most men get PSA tests regularly, despite the many risks associated treatment.
“By choosing to get screened, there is a guaranteed increase in diagnosis… but there is only a potential decrease in death,” said Brawley.
Some of the risks of treatment include impotence, incontinence and bowel injury.
Still, Thrasher says the importance of the PSA blood test should not be diminished. He tells his patients to get regular screenings every other year or every three years after their initial test.
“I believe knowledge is power to some extent,” said Thrasher. “It’s risks versus benefits… and each decision point is a fork in the road where [me and patients] have to have a discussion.”
Treatment for certain cancers can affect your sexuality, causing a range of signs and symptoms that can make sex with your partner more difficult. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy sex life after cancer treatment. Knowing more about your cancer treatment and how it may affect sexual function can help you find a solution if problems develop.
For more information please visit: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cancer-treatment/SA00070
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