Thursday, March 15, 2018

Problems can pop up years after treatments

Warning: Breast cancer therapy such as chemo, radiation can hike risk of heart disease

Can lifesaving breast-cancer treatments raise your chances of dying from a heart disease?


A recent story in The Washington Post by Laurie McKinley cites an American Heart Association warning to women with breast cancer that "lifesaving therapies like chemotherapy and radiation can cause heart failure and other serious cardiac problems, sometimes years after treatment."

The AHA suggests, however, that rather than avoid the treatments patients should "take steps to prevent or minimize the cardiac risks" by exercising regularly and sticking to a healthy diet.

According to McKinley's dispatch, the caution, published in the journal Circulation, includes the conclusion that "breast cancer survivors who are 65 and older and were treated for their cancer are more likely to die of cardiovascular problems than breast cancer."

Nearly "48 million women in the United States have some kind of heart disease, compared to 3.3 million women with breast cancer," the Post piece asserts, adding that the AHA "said an unprecedented number of women are surviving the disease yet face a risk of developing heart problems, in part because of their cancer treatments."
Dr. Laxmi Mehta
Dr. Laxmi Mehta, who led the writing of the report and is a cardiologist at Ohio State University, is quoted as saying that "it's important for people to know that the heart needs to be taken care of before, during and after treatment."

And Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, is paraphrased as noting "it isn't unusual for a breast-cancer patient who underwent chemo years earlier to wake up one day with swollen ankles and shortness of breath, symptoms of congestive heart failure," but when such a patient ends up hospitalized, "doctors tend to look for signs of a heart attack or pulmonary embolism while overlooking breast cancer treatment as a possible culprit."

That's a problem, he indicates, "because heart failure caused by a chemo drug like doxorubicin [which once was called adriamycin] is treated differently than heart failure from a heart attack."

The report says some studies have shown that "dexrazoxane can reduce the risk of heart damage in patients getting high doses of doxorubicin for advanced breast cancer" and that some heart damage, including the kind cased by Herceptin, can sometimes be reversed.

The Post article also reveals that some doctors worry that the AHA report might discourage women with high-risk cancer — especially those with HER2-positve and triple negative breast cancer — from getting aggressive treatment.   

More details about the risks of radiation and chemotherapy can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at caregivers.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Earpieces, texting can quash disease fears

Anxieties about cellphones causing brain cancer are still unfounded, new studies show

Worried about getting cancer from cellphones?

New studies indicate there's no need to hang up — still.

According to a recent Associated Press story by Seth Borenstein and Lauren Neergaard, although "two government studies that bombarded rats and mice with cellphone radiation found a weak link to some heart tumors," federal regulars and some scientists continue to say it's safe to use your device.

Previous studies had shown little reason for anxiety.

"In particular, scientists could not find hard evidence for concern about brain tumors," the story says.

Dr. John Bucher
It goes on to assert that Dr. John Bucher of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the lead author of the research, isn't changing his cellphone use "or advising his family to," and that Dr. Otis Brawley, the American Cancer Society's chief medical officer, noted in an interview after reading the studies, "I am actually holding my cellphone up to my ear."

Even though the new studies that involved super-high doses of radiation showed a rare connection to some nerve-tissue tumors in male rats, Brawley's quoted as saying, "the evidence for an association between cellphones and cancer is weak. And so far we have not seen a higher chance risk in people."

If, however, you're still concerned, "wear an earpiece," he urges.

Bucher suggests, moreover, that the rat tumors "do not translate directly into  concern for humans."

According to the AP piece, Bucher's agency "conducted the $25 million study at the behest of the Food and Drug Administration, which quickly said cellphones are safe."

Dr. Jeffrey Shuren
The article also quoted a statement by FDA radiation health chief Dr. Jeffrey Shuren to the effect that the "current safety limits for cellphones are acceptable for protecting the public health."

Bucher, in a news conference, had insisted that the experiment with rats and mice, in which they were bombarded for one hours a day for up to two years, incorporated "a radiation level so high that humans would only experience it briefly, such as when a phone with a weak signal expends more energy searching for as stronger one."

A 2010 analysis in 13 countries had "found little or no risk of brain tumors," and an earlier Danish study that linked phone bills to a cancer registry had found no risk even from more than 13 years of cellphone use.

In December 2017, the state of California issued guidelines saying that if people were still worried, they should reduce exposure by using earphones or texting.

More information about potential links of technological devices to the disease can be extracted from "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Rare, aggressive, often-fatal cancers cured

Immunotherapy puts ovarian cancers in 4 countries into remission despite docs' qualms

Although physicians declared that immunotherapy couldn't cure their ovarian cancer, the docs were mistaken.

According to a recent story by Gina Kolata in The New York Times, four young women — living in different countries — "had an extremely rare, aggressive and fatal form of ovarian cancer" and weren't expected to live much longer.

All four managed to get immunotherapy and their cancers, in total contrast to conventional wisdom, went into remission.

Dr. Jedd Wolchok
Kolata quotes Dr. Jedd Wolchok, chief of the melanoma and immunotherapeutics service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, as saying, "What we are seeing here is that we have not yet learned the whole story of what it takes for tumors to be recognized by the immune system."

He contends that researchers and medical personnel "need to study the people who have a biology that goes against the conventional generalizations."
Dr. Drew Pardoll

Dr. Drew Pardoll, who directs the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, notes that although four women hardly constitutes a clinical trial, "it is the exceptions that give you the best insights."

The cancer that had struck all four was hypercalcemic small cell ovarian cancer, which, Kolata writes, "occurs in a woman's teens or 20s [and] is so rare that most oncologist never see a single patient with it."

Immunotherapy drugs have been successful in treating lung cancer, a genetic type of colorectal cancer and melanoma but cancers of the prostate, pancreas, breast and ovaries have rarely responded.

More details about cancer research and trials can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Carcinogenic chemical in java? Lawsuit may tell

Longstanding suit against possible cancer perils in coffee may be resolved by year's end

Will coffee labels in California soon warn about cancer risks?

Perhaps — at least if Long Beach attorney Raphael Metzger has his way.
Raphael Metzger

Metzger, according to a recent story by Hoa Quách on the Patch website, has "sued restaurants, stating that the warning is needed as coffee contains acrylamide, a carcinogen."

A judge finally is expected to rule before the end of the year on the lawsuit he filed way back in 2010 — against companies such as Starbucks and 7-Eleven, based on Proposition 65, a 1986 law that requires items containing the chemical to have warning labels.

That suit, not incidentally, followed another by the attorney and his Metzger Law Group, one that he filed against fast-food companies in 2002 "contending that french fries also contained the hazardous ingredient," the story notes.

The current suit, on behalf of the Council for Education and Research on Toxics, offers an alternative request to the java labels — have the manufacturers "reduce the acrylamide content of their coffee products to safe levels."

But the National Coffee Association offers this defense: "There is no evidence that coffee causes cancer."

On its website, it says coffee "is a complex beverage (both compositionally and culturally) — and it's much, much more than just one of its elements. Pretending otherwise does not serve public interest in any way."

Meanwhile, CNN writer Jen Christenen has reported that at least 13 of the defendants have settled and agreed to give a warning, most recently 7-Eleven.

Private mediation with some of the remaining retailers, she contends, has been slated.

At a bench trial last fall, Christenen writes, "the coffee companies argued that the level of acrylamide in coffee should be considered safe under the law and that the health benefits of coffee essentially outweigh the risk."

Her story quotes Metzger on a personal level: "I'm addicted to coffee, I confess, and I would like to be able to have mine without acrylamide."

Christenen also points out that "in addition to coffee, acrylamide can be found in potatoes and baked good like crackers, bread and cookies, breakfast cereal, canned black olives and prune juice, although its presence is not always labeled."

A Bloomberg article indicates that the lawyer's initial complaint "grew to include about 90 coffee producers, distributors and retailers, from mom-and-pop roasters to multinationals such as Nestle."

That piece also stated his complaint had "alleged that a 12-ounce cup of coffee contains about 10 times more acrylamide than the state's 'no significant risk level.'"

Metzger's nine-attorney law group, according to its website, was founded in 1987 and "is a boutique firm whose practice is concentrated on the litigation of toxic tort and environmental exposure cases in the state of California."

A multitude of products has previously been linked to the disease. To check out many of these, pick up a copy of "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Half of cancer deaths may be preventable

Even small lifestyle changes can sharply cut your cancer risk, NY Times columnist claims

Dr. Aaron E. Carroll
Evidence, writes a medical columnist in The New York Times, "has increasingly accumulated that cancer may be preventable."

Especially if potential patients stop drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco, alter their diets, exercise and lose weight.

In a recent Aaron E. Carroll-bylined column under the rubric of The New Health Care received recently from The New York Times' online service, it's stated that "simple changes to people's behaviors have the potential to make sure many cancers never occur."

And they have "a side benefit of preventing health problems in many other areas, too," Dr. Carroll maintains.

The website headline indicates that "quite a bit is in your control" regarding the prevention of cancer, and the column, originally printed in 2016, cites a study published in Nature to the effect that "there is a lot we can do" to reduce our risk of cancer by changing our behavior.

That study contradicts research published in Science magazine in 2015 that many apparently took to mean that "cancer is much more because of 'bad luck' than because of other factors that people could control."

Carroll's piece contends that "many studies have shown that environmental risk factors and exposures contribute greatly to many cancers. Diet is related to colorectal cancer. Alcohol and tobacco are related to esophageal cancer. HPV is related to cervical cancer, and hepatitis C is related to liver cancer. And you'd have to be living under a rock not to know that smoking causes lung cancer and that too much sun can lead to skin cancer."

But, the professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine notes, "using sophisticated modeling techniques, the researchers argued that less than 30 percent of the lifetime risk of getting many common cancers was because of intrinsic risk factors, or the 'bad luck.' The rest were things you can change."

According to the study, "about 82 percent of women and 78 percent of men who got lung cancer might have prevented it through healthy behaviors. About 29 percent of women and 20 percent of meant might have prevented colon and rectal cancer. About 30 percent of both might have prevented pancreatic cancer."

Over all, it said, "about 25 percent of cancer in women and 33 percent in men was potentially preventable. Close to half of all cancer deaths might be prevented as well."

More information about how to cut down the risk of diseases can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Experiment could lead to blocking metastasis

Blood test that finds 8 cancers before they spread is showing progress, scientists ascertain

A new study shows an experimental test may provide information that might stop eight cancers from metastasizing.

In an attempt "to try to find cancer before it spreads, when chances of cure are best," many groups are working on "liquid biopsy tests that look for DNA and other things that tumors shed into blood," the Associated Press says.

Findings of the study by Johns Hopkins University scientists, reported recently in the journal Science, indicate that the non-invasive tests were able to locate some 70 percent of the common types of cancer in 1,005 patients. 

"The rates varied depending on the type," the AP dispatch by Marilynn Marchione says, "lower for breast tumors but high for ovarian, liver and pancreatic ones."

The CancerSEEK test, which "detects mutations in 16 genes tied to the cancer and measures eight proteins that often are elevated when cancer is present," the story continues, also honed in on colon, lung, stomach and esophageal cancers. 

Researchers did not include prostate cancer because the PSA blood test already is widely used — though its value for screening has been questioned. 

The eight cancers currently have no screening tests for people at average risk. 
Nickolas Papadopoulos
According to Nickolas Papadopoulos, Ph.D. professor of oncology and pathology at Hopkins and one of the study's leaders, "We're very, very excited and see this as a first step."

However, he cautions, "we don't want people calling up" and asking for it.

That's because the new test "is nowhere near ready for use yet," the AP notes — "it needs to be validated in a larger study already underway in a general population, rather than cancer patients, to see if it truly works and helps save lives."

The Los Angeles Times also quoted Papadopoulos, to the effect that "the goal is to look for as many cancer types as possible in one test, and to identify cancer as early as possible. We know from the data that when you find cancer early, it is easier to kill it by surgery or chemotherapy."

Researchers say the test could cost around $500 based on current materials and methods. 

More information on research and clinical trials can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Has Julia Louis-Dreyfus' disease disappeared?

'Veep' star celebrates end of breast cancer chemo by posting humorous video of two sons

Julia Louis-Dreyfus as TV's "Veep"
Emmy-award winning actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus celebrated the end of her chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer by posting a hopeful, humorous video tribute created by her grown sons.

This week's oft out-of-focus Instagram post featured Henry, a 25-year-old singer-songwriter, and Charlie, 20, a college basketball player at Northwestern University — who the former star of "Seinfeld" calls "my beauty boys" — and drew more than half a million viewers and more than 5,000 comments within about 24 hours.

Louis-Dreyfus posted the light-hearted video in the same timeframe as her 57th birthday.

The tribute to her was titled "Mom's last day!!! BEAT IT!!!" and was a lip-synched version of Michael Jackson's song.

The former star of "Seinfeld" was diagnosed in September the day after she'd won an Emmy for "Veep," and has since "been sharing her journey and support from loved ones and fans on social media," according to the Associated Press.

Louis-Dreyfus has won a record-setting Emmy for the HBO series five years in a row for her role as Selina Meyer.

About the boys, her offspring with her since-1987 husband, comedian-actor Brad Hall, she noted in a caption, "Pretty swell, right? Ain't they sweet?"

After her second round of chemo in October, she'd shared a photo of herself with an over-the-top drawn-on mustache, and before starting her third round, a story in the Sydney Morning Herald validates, she "posted a skit her 'Veep' co-stars, Matt Walsh and Sam Richardson, filmed to help her get 'psyched,' featuring motivational quotes from a range of problematic historical figures like Joseph Stalin and Harvey Weinstein."

Has her breast cancer disappeared? No announcement about that has been forthcoming yet.

But a discussion of the myriad forms that loving reactions can take may be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Deaths from lung, breast, prostate cancer dip

United States cancer mortality rates have dropped 26% since 1991, new report indicates

The good news: U.S. cancer death rates have continued to fall.

The bad news: While the incidence has dropped for some cancers, it has risen for others.

Those conclusions, according to a story by Judy George on the MedPage Today website yesterday, are based on a statistical report from the American Cancer Society.

Cancer mortality in the U.S. fell 1.7% from 2015 to 2015 — a decline that "continued a long-running trend, with a 26% drop since 1991," George's piece indicates. 
Rebecca Siegel
Her story notes that "the reduction was fueled largely by fewer deaths from lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancer," and cites information from Rebecca Siegel of the ACS and colleagues in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 

"Steady reductions in smoking, plus better detection and treatment, accounted for a significant part of the decline," the MedPage Today article adds.

Dr. Otis W. Brawley
The article also quotes Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer of the ACS, from a statement: "A decline in consumption of cigarettes is credited with being the most important factor in the drop in cancer death rates."

Over the past decade of available data, the story continues, "the overall cancer incidence in men fell by about 2% per year, with the pace accelerating in recent years."

But in women, "declines in lung and colorectal cancers were offset by increasing or stable rates for breast, uterine corpus and thyroid cancers and for melanoma."

Liver cancer incidence has also continued to rise in women.

Siegel's piece also says that researchers have predicted "1,735,350 new cancer cases and 609,640 cancer deaths in the United States in 2018."

More information about mortality rates can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.