African American women have higher rates of a type of breast cancer that isn’t dependent for growth on the hormones estrogen or progesterone. They also have a higher rate of childbearing than do white American women.
A new study finds there is likely a link between those two facts – that bearing a baby to term raises the risk for this type of cancer, called estrogen or progesterone receptor-negative breast cancer.
The study also finds that black women who breastfeed their babies can lower their odds of developing this cancer back down again.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, followed a group of 47,000 African American women from 1996 through 2009. Researchers had participants fill out, every two years, a detailed questionnaire assessing a wide range of factors that affect a woman’s risk for breast cancer — including weight, age at which they began menstruating, pregnancies and age of first childbearing, birth control or hormone-replacement use, physical activity and alcohol consumption.
What they found was that African American women who had given birth to more children were more likely to develop estrogen or progesterone-negative cancer than their peers who had not given birth or who had given birth to only one child. But when a woman with two or more childbirths breastfed her babies, that risk declined considerably.
The authors — epidemiologists from Boston University, Georgetown University and Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Rochester, N.Y. — surmised that given the prevalence of infectious diseases in Africa, women of African origins may respond to pregnancy with a particularly strong immune response, which in turn can allow cancers to gain a foothold in the body. Lactation, they noted, appears to blunt that effect.
Estrogen or progesterone receptor-negative breast cancers are less common than those that are fueled by those hormones, representing just one in four breast cancers. But they tend to be more aggressive and harder to treat.
Despite aggressive public health campaigns touting the benefits — to mother and child — of breastfeeding, the practice is less common among African American women than among white women. Future efforts to promote breastfeeding, wrote the authors, should let African American women know that moms who nurse their babies may also reduce their odds of developing a breast cancer that affects them disproportionately and is difficult to treat.
When facing a cancer diagnosis, whether for yourself or a loved one, you know that cooking healthful, delicious food is not always easy. The body goes through various changes from the side effects of cancer and treatment that can affect taste buds, including a diminished appetite, limited foods that are appealing and changes to your taste and smell. Although the goal of cancer treatment is to destroy the cancer cells, normal cells can be damaged in the process, affecting how you feel. When going through treatment, each hour, each day and each week you can feel differently. As a person experiences these side effects, it is important to know the foods that are better tolerated and help to ease the symptoms.
The most common side effect of chemotherapy is loss of appetite, or anorexia, which can be a result of radiation, stress, depression and the cancer itself. Taste changes may also be an issue caused by treatment, resulting in flavor changes and or no taste at all.
Neutropenia, or low white blood cell count, occurs after chemotherapy treatments for most patients. Neutropenia normally lasts for three to seven days. As soon as your counts have returned to normal, you can return to a regular diet.
To decrease your risk of infection, avoid fresh fruits, vegetables, raw meat or fish during the time your blood counts are low.
A dry or sore mouth, caused by chemotherapy or radiation, can get sore seven to 10 days following certain chemotherapy treatments. Precaution and care in choosing foods must be taken to sooth this sensitive side effect. Practicing good oral hygiene can help tremendously. Soft foods should be readily available, while avoiding rough textured, spicy, pain inducing foods.
The gastrointestinal tract is often affected by cancer treatments, which can bring nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation along with it. Healthy well-tolerated high fiber foods are important for alleviating constipation, while low fiber foods are helpful for vomiting and diarrhea relief.
Maintaining adequate calories and nutrition during this time can be a difficult task, however it is very important to keep nutrition a priority for optimal health and strength, while incorporating nutrition therapy to help ease the side effects of your treatment.
Integrative Oncology is an important part of patient care at Radiotherapy Centers of Georgia.
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
We Often Consider at What Age a Man Should Consider PSA Screening, But We Rarely Ask When Do Individuals Stop?
I just had an interesting conversation with an individual who asked me at what age do most men start thinking about NOT having an annual PSA test? To be honest, I didn’t have an immediate answer. It’s a complicated question and I am, to be honest, stumped. Age is certainly a factor as is the reality that there exist 24 types of prostate cancer that range from indolent to very aggressive.
We frequently read about suggested guildelines for PSA screening. I personally like the AUA recommendation that suggests a man should talk to to his doctor about a first screening to establish a baseline when he enters his 40s. From there, based on a man’s general state of health and family history, he can decide on a screening approach that is right for him. But in the almost twelve months that I have been writing this blog and the years that I have been meeting fellow patients, I can’t remember a discussion that addresses the other end of the spectrum. I would think that a vibrant, active 78-year-old man with a form that appears to be aggressive would be grateful to have the data and take some sort of action. Of course, a man of the same age could be pleased to live out his life with little or no intervention if his numbers indicated a slower growing form of cancer that he could quite possibly live with. But, how many give up, for whatever reason, wanting to know at all?
So, I have to ask four questions:
1.) Are there men out there in their 70s and 80s who choose to no longer have annual PSA screenings and why?
2.) Are there men out there in their 70s and 80s who insist on annual PSA screenings?
3.) Are there men in this age group who have been screened and diagnosed with cancer?
4.) If you were given a diagnosis of cancer in your 70s or 80s, what course of treatment did you decide upon?
Thank you to anyone and everyone who can provide some insight.
March is National Nutrition Month®, an annual campaign sponsored by the American Dietetic Association (ADA), focusing attention on healthy eating. This month, ADA is encouraging Americans to “Eat Right with Color.”
What exactly does this mean? The ADA, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, is encouraging consumers to “color” their plate with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, leanproteins and dairy. Fruits and vegtables with vibrant color are generally considered most beneficial. The recently released 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend an increased focus on a plant-based diet. This combined with lean meats, fish and poultry, and low-fat dairy products creates a base for a healthful eating plan.
This month would be the perfect time to try something new. There are a multitude of colorful fruits and vegetables, but we often get into the habit of eating the same thing over and over again. Variety is the key. Each fruit and vegetable has its own vitamin/mineral profile – - so the more variety, the more you’ll benefit. Get your whole family involved and challenge them to help create colorful meals using the list provided below. Encourage them to incorporate one new fruit/ vegetable each week. By the end of National Nutrition Month, eating a variety of colors will become a habit and you and your family will be on the road to a lifetime of healthy eating.
Written by Lisa Eisele, RD, CSO, LD (Registered and Licensed Dietitian at RC Cancer Centers)
By David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D.
Michael Pollan’s recent little gem of a book “Food Rules” inspired me to compile my own “rules” about what I’d like every person to know about how they can help avoid cancer – or slow it down if they have it.
1. Go retro: Your main course should be 80 percent vegetables, 20 percent animal protein, like it was in the old days. Opt for the opposite of the quarter pounder topped with a token leaf of iceberg lettuce and an anemic tomato slice. Meat should be used sparingly for taste, as when it used to be scarce, and should not be the focus of the meal.
2. Mix and match your vegetables: Vary the vegetables you eat from one meal to the next, or mix them together — broccoli is an effective anticancer food, and is even more effective when combined with tomato sauce, onions or garlic. Get in the habit of adding onions, garlic or leeks to all your dishes as you cook.
3. Go organic: Choose organic foods whenever possible, but remember it’s always better to eat broccoli that’s been exposed to pesticide than to not eat broccoli at all (the same applies to any other anticancer vegetable).
4. Spice it up: Add turmeric (with black pepper) when cooking (delicious in salad dressings!). This yellow spice is the most powerful natural anti-inflammatory agent. Remember to add Mediterranean herbs to your food: thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, marjoram, mint, etc. They don’t just add flavor, they can also help reduce the growth of cancer cells.
5. Skip the potato: Potatoes raise blood sugar, which can feed inflammation and cancer growth. They also contain high levels of pesticide residue (to the point that most potato farmers I know don’t eat their own grown potatoes).
6. Go fish: Eat fish two or three times a week – sardines, mackerel, and anchovies have less mercury and PCBs than bigger fish like tuna. Avoid swordfish and shark, which the FDA says pregnant women should not eat because they contain a high concentration of contaminants.
7. Remember not all eggs are created equal: Choose only omega-3 eggs, or don’t eat the yolks. Hens are now fed on mostly corn and soybeans, and their eggs contain 20 times more pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids than cell-growth regulating omega-3s.
8. Change your oil: Use only olive and canola oil in cooking and salad dressings. Go through your kitchen cabinets and throw out your soybean, corn and sunflower oils. (And no, you can’t give them to your neighbors or your relatives… They’re much too rich in omega-6 fatty acids!)
9. Say “Brown is beautiful”: Eat your grains whole and mixed (wheat with oats, barley, spelt, flax, etc.) and favor organic whole grains when possible since pesticides tend to accumulate on whole grains. Avoid refined, white flour (used in bagels, muffins, sandwich bread, buns, etc.) whenever possible, and eat white pasta only al dente.
10. Keep sweets down to fruits: Cut down on sugar by avoiding sweetened sodas and fruit juices, and skipping dessert or replacing it with fruit (especially stone fruits and berries) after most meals. Read the labels carefully, and steer clear of products that list any type of sugar (including brown sugar, corn syrup, etc.) in the first three ingredients. If you have an incorrigible sweet tooth, try a few squares of dark chocolate containing more than 70% cocoa.
11. Go green: Instead of coffee or black tea, drink three cups of green tea per day. Use decaffeinated green tea if it gets you too wired. Regular consumption of green tea has been linked to a significant reduction in the risk for developing cancer.
12. Make room for exceptions. What matters is what you do on a daily basis, not the occasional treat.
NON FOOD RULES
1. Get physical: Make time to exercise, be it walking, dancing or running. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity at least 5 days a week. This can be as easy as just walking part of the way to the office, or the grocery store. A dog is often a better walking partner than an exercise buddy. Choose an activity you enjoy; if you’re having fun, you’re more likely to stick with it.
2. Let the sun shine in: Try to get at least 20 minutes of daily sun exposure (torso, arms and legs) without sunscreen, preferably at noon in the summer (but take care to avoid sunburns!). This will boost your body’s natural production of Vitamin D. As an alternative: discuss the option of taking a Vitamin D3 supplement with your doctor.
3. Banish bad chemicals: Avoid exposure to common household contaminants. You should air our your dry-cleaning for two hours before storing or wearing it; use organic cleaning products (or wear gloves); don’t heat liquids or food in hard plastics; avoid cosmetics with parabens and phthalates; don’t use chemical pesticides in your house or garden; replace your scratched Teflon pans; filter your tap water (or used bottled water) if you live in a contaminated area; don’t keep your cell phone close to you when it is turned on.
4. Reach out (and touch someone!): Reach out to at least two friends for support (logistical and emotional) during times of stress, even if it’s through the internet. But if they’re within arms reach, go ahead and hug them, often!
5. Remember to breathe: Learn a basic breathing relaxation technique to let out some steam whenever you start to feel stressed.
6. Get involved: Find out how you can best give something back to your local community, then give it.
7. Cultivate happiness like a garden: Make sure you do one thing you love for yourself on most days (it doesn’t have to take long!).
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.
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
©2013 Physician Oncology Services. All Rights Reserved.
Also known as RC Cancer Centers.