Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Thousands of rectal cancer patients might be spared the brutal effects of radiation, study says

Tens of thousands of patients annually might be able to rely not on radiation but only surgery and chemotherapy to treat their rectal cancer. 

According to a recent story by Gina Kolata in The New York Times that cites a large clinical trial initially reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, more than 10,000 people each year may therefore avoid potentially serious side effects.

Dr. Eric Winer
Dr. Eric Winer, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the organization to which the results of the test were revealed, was quoted as indicating that the study is part of a new direction for cancer researchers.

"Now that cancer treatments have  improved," Kolata reports him saying, "researchers are starting to ask different questions. Instead of asking how cancer therapy can be intensified, they are asking if there are elements of successful treatments that can be eliminated to provide patients with a better quality of life." 

Winer, who wasn't directly involved in the study, was asked to comment because of his expertise.

Rectal cancer annual affects 47,500 U.S. residents.

The study determined that radiation treatment didn't improve outcomes, despite the fact that, the Times piece indicates, for decades "it was typical to use pelvic radiation, [which] puts women into immediate menopause and damages sexual function in men and women. It also can  injure the bowel, causing issues like chronic diarrhea. Patients risk pelvic fractures, and the radiation can cause additional cancers." 

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

Friday, January 26, 2024

Valentine's Day is just around the corner; new MysteryDates® book can make it zing

Hey, have I got the perfect Valentine's Day gift, one that can make the holiday zing, for you or a loved one.

It's MysteryDates®, my brand new memoir/travel guide that offers hundreds of ways to help you retain, resuscitate, or refresh the sizzle and joy that flared when sparks first sparked between you and your partner.
The lighthearted 282-page book — now available in paperback and e-book editions (the hardcover will be coming soon) — provides countless tips on what to do, how to do it, and where to go (locally, nationally, globally). 
Its personal anecdotes were culled from 35 years of dates that either I or my wife have concocted; the other tips emerged from endless hours of research.
To buy a copy of MysteryDates, just visit https://woodyweingarten.com and push a button for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, or another of your favorite booksellers.
My latest book, sprinkled with humor, explains how you can surprise your partner with a spontaneous lunch or a flight to a weeklong visit to a best friend in another state, how to eliminate the expected spasms of Valentine's Day or other special occasions and substitute a non-stressful and loving event, and where to go in your own 'hood — or across the ocean — to easily find delight. 
It can delight you just to read about free food or a $30 million gown, about beer-bathing or the International Spy Museum, about the annual testicle festival or the time when Nancy Fox, my three decades-long partner, and I helped turn each other into San Francisco clowns.
As the old television food commercial suggests, "Try it — you'll like it."
Pre-publication readers agree with that idea.
For example, Toby Adelman, PhD, RN, from Mars Hill, Maine, says, "What a delight. This is a book that, using the exciting concepts of creativity, spontaneity, and trust, is destined to be one of the best ‘relationship' books a couple might receive for a wedding present. Not to mention the incredible overview of interesting activities and places available for MysteryDates close to home and around the world. In a category of its own. Love it!" 
And Roberta Bienenfeld, an editor and translator from Raat Beit Shemesh, Israel, writes that "Woody Weingarten’s new book, MysteryDates, offers hundreds of ideas — as well as personal anecdotes — to get you out of your house and into a world filled with possibilities. A MysteryDate can be almost anything, from something simple — taking out the time to watch a sunset in your own backyard garden — to boarding a plane to Hawaii to visit a volcano."
Remember, all you need to do is click on woodyweingarten.com and then push your favorite "buy" button. You can check out my three other books on that same website, by the way. In fact, for a limited time, Amazon is selling the handover edition of The Roving I, the collection of 70 of my newspaper columns, at a major discount ($5.44) and, similarly, Grampy and His Fairyzona Playmates, the children’s book I wrote with my granddaughter, is being discounted to $6.95.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Researchers identify possible new risk for breast cancer for aging women with dense tissue

"While breast density declines with age, a slower rate of decline in one breast often precedes a cancer diagnosis in that breast."

That conclusion is reported in a story published a while back by Roni Caryn Rabin in The New York Times that I just unearthed.

Rabin writes that a study published in JAMA Oncology says, "Scientists has long known that dense breast tissue is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in women" but these new findings apparently indicate another risk.

Sue (Joy) Jiang, PhD
Shu (Joy) Jiang, the study's lead author, a PhD and an associate professor of public health sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, says that "right now, everybody only looks at density at one point in time" but, since women have mammograms at regular intervals and the density of each breast is measured each time, "this information is actually already available but [is] not being utilized."

Jiang hopes the findings can be put "into clinical use as soon as possible — it will make a huge difference."

Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis, over a 10-year period, analyzed breast density changes in 10,000 women.

Dense breast cancer tissue, it's long been established, makes tumors harder to detect in imaging scans.

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

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Washington Post writer explains why our general fear of cancer is outdated — and is harmful

Has cancer-phobia become an outdated — and harmful — concept?

In an opinion piece by David Ropeik in editions of The Washington Post earlier this week, the writer maintains that "our cancer phobia [is] a fear that in some ways no longer matches the facts."

David Ropeik
His column explains that we now know "that tens of thousands of common breast, prostate, and thyroid cancers that are detected early never go on to do any harm." 

Still, he writes, people "'over-diagnosed' with these types of cancer are understandably frightened and usually choose more aggressive treatment than their clinical conditions require. Some 'fear-ectomies' cause great harm, leading to side effects that range from moderate to severe and include death itself."

The columnist goes on to say that "we spend an estimate $5.2 billion a year on…clinically unnecessary treatment, 3 percent of the total spent on all cancer care annually."

Ropeik, author of Curing Cancer-phobia: How Risk, Fear, and Worry Mislead Us, maintains that "a diagnosis of cancer is still thought to be a death sentence [despite the fact that] mortality in the United States is down 33 percent in the past three decades [and as] many as two-thirds of all cancers can now be treated as chronic conditions or cured outright."

There apparently are more than 200 types of cancer, which all told kill roughly 600,000 people each year.

Ropeik, a former environmental journalist and retired instructor in the environmental management program at Harvard University's School of Continuing Education, writes that we collectively "have feared cancer more than any other disease since it became the No. 2 cause of death in the United States in the 1920s (after heart disease)."

The writer's opinion piece asserts that although "a majority of people believe that most cancer is caused by environmental carcinogens…we now know that cancer is principally a natural disease of aging, which allows DNA mutations that cause uncontrolled cell growth to accumulate." 

Despite that information, he says, "governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year to reduce the risk from environmental carcinogens [and] we spend billions on organic foods, vitamins, and supplements, as well as many other products that promise to reduce our risk of cancer but don't." 

Ropeik concludes that even though "we cannot absolutely cure cancer, nor will we ever entirely erase our cancer-phobia…we need to understand and battle both the disease and our fear, because both are doing terrible harm."

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

Friday, December 29, 2023

Small clinical trial shows promise in pancreatic cancer vaccine, story in New York Times reports

Using a vaccine aimed at each patient's tumor may have delayed the return of pancreatic cancer in half of those who received it in a small clinical trial.

According to a story by Benjamin Mueller in editions of The New York Times from a while ago that I just came acrossa study in Nature, "was a landmark in the…movement to make cancer vaccines tailored to the tumors of individual patients."

Dr. Anirban Maitra
Dr. Anirban Maitra, specialist in the disease at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, who was not involved in the study, is quoted as saying, "This is the first demonstrable success — and I will call it a success despite the preliminary nature of the study — of an mRNA vaccine in pancreatic cancer. By that standard, it's a milestone."

The study only dealt with 16 White patients who were given the vaccine as part of a treatment that also "included chemotherapy and a drug intended to keep tumors from evading people's immune responses," Mueller's story indicated.

Five years ago, when researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Center in New York extracted tumors and shipped samples of them to Germany, the study started. In that country, scientists at BioNTech, the company that made a Covid vaccine with Pfizer, analyzed the genetic makeup of certain proteins on the surface of the cancer cells. BioNTech scientists then produced personalized vaccines "designed to teach each patient's immune system to attack the tumors," the Times story reported.

The piece also quoted Dr. Ira Mellman, vice president of cancer immunology at Genentech, which developed the pancreatic cancer vaccine with BioNTech, as saying, "Just establishing the proof of concept that vaccines in cancer can actually do something after, I don't know, 30 years of failure is probably not a bad thing. We'll start with that."

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

Sunday, December 10, 2023

All-time tennis great Chris Evert gets second cancer diagnosis, takes a break from ESPN

Chris Evert, one of the tennis world's greatest woman stars, just received a cancer diagnosis — her second.

The 68-year-old International Tennis Hall-of-Famer, according to a story by Glynn A. Hill in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post, is temporarily stepping down from her position as ESPN analyst and will miss the network's coverage of the Australian Open next month.

Chris Evert
Her public announcement, the article says, "came 11 months after Evert declared she was free of ovarian cancer, which she had discovered in January 2022."

The 18-time Gram Slam singles champion, who intends to return to ESPN for its coverage of the rest of the Grand Slam season, is undergoing chemotherapy following another robotic surgery to remove the malignant cells.

Her statement, made through the network, said, "Since I was first diagnosed with cancer…I've been very open about my experience. I wanted to give all of you an update. My cancer is back. While this is a diagnosis I never wanted to hear, I once again feel fortunate that it ws caught early."

She added that she encourages "everyone to know [their] family history and advocate for [themselves]. Early detection saves lives. Be thankful for your health this holiday season." 

Evert, one of the most accomplished players in tennis history, "was ranked first or second in the world from 1975 to 1986 and she became the first player of any gender to win 1,000 singles matches" Hill's story notes.

Evert's first diagnosis was made after a preventive hysterectomy, after which she underwent six cycles of chemo. That helped her bond with her friend, ex-rival Martina Navratilova, who at roughly the same time was diagnosed with early-stage throat and breast cancers. In March of this year, Navratilova declared she was cancer-free.

To learn more about recurring disease, check out Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

New treatment choices provide added hope for gastric cancer patients, Mayo Clinic doc says

An increase in recent treatment options has given new hope for patients of stomach cancer, aka gastric cancer.

A recent article by Jason Howland of the Mayo Clinic News Network quotes Dr. Mohamad Sonbol, an oncologist at the clinic as saying that "I tell patients who have recently been diagnosed with gastric cancer that there is definitely a hope because we've gotten significantly better in the last decade, and more specifically, really, in the last year or two."

Dr. Mohamad Sonbol
Options depend on the cancer's location in the stomach, its size and stage, Howland's story indicates, "but can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy."

If you're a man, the piece also says, you're at higher risk for stomach cancer than if you're a woman. 

Other risk factors include obesity, smoking, and drinking alcohol.

Still other risk factors, says Sonbol, "are some hereditary syndromes or things that we inherit from our parents."

Early signs of stomach cancer vary, the story notes, "and can include abdominal pain, blood in the stool or just feeling tired."

Stomach cancer, the piece maintains, is relative rare in the United States, so it's frequently diagnosed at later stage of the disease "when symptoms like nausea, heartburn and feeling bloated are more pronounced."

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

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Certain foods really can reduce your risk of cancer, American Cancer Society indicates

Many cancers potentially can be prevented by changing your diet, according to the American Cancer Society. 

A story by Nikki Campo in editions of The New York Times early this week indicates that "scientists have a good idea of what foods you should avoid to reduce your risk of cancer, such as red and processed meats, 'fast' or processed foods, alcohol, and sugary drinks."

Johanna Lampe
However, the piece says, "knowing what to at isn't always straightforward," according to Johanna Lampe, a cancer prevention researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle.

One problem, Lampe says, is that many nutrition studies rely on people to accurately remember what they consumed up to a year ago. Another is that it's tricky to understand how single foods may influence your health when they're part of a larger diet.

The Times story also quotes Nigel Brockton, vice president of research at the American Institute for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C., as saying that although no single food can prevent cancer on its own, following a healthy diet does seem to reduce the risk.

Campo's article lists foods "that experts say are worth adding to your plate." They include broccoli "and its cruciferous cousins" — such as brussels spouts, cauliflower, and cabbage; tomatoes and tomato-based products; black and kidney beans as well as other types of legumes such as chickpeas, dry peas, and lentils; nuts, especially walnuts; strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, pomegranates, and black raspberries; and garlic.

More information on disease prevention ideas can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.