Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Radiation time down from 2 months to 2 weeks

Newest prostate cancer therapy cuts length of treatments but adds intensity, NY Times says

A comparatively new — and popular — prostate cancer therapy can be shorter (and more intense) than standard treatments.

But it's efficacy is unproven.

And there's insufficient data so far to compare side effects.

According to an article by Gina Kolata in The New York Times today, the new treatment — called SBRT, or stereotactic body radiation therapy — usually involves five sessions within two weeks instead of 40 seasons spread over two months or 28 sessions over five or six weeks.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has just agreed to fund a clinic trial that will compare the SBRT and 28-session treatments, although it may be eight years before the results are finalized.

"Ideally," the Times quotes Dr. Rodney J. Ellis, a radiation oncologist at Case Comprehensive Cancer Center in Cleveland and the principal investigator for the trial, as saying, "we want to show five treatments is better."

The Times pieces says the number of men getting SBRT more than doubled between 2007 and 2013, according to the most recent Medicare data.

Prostate cancer strikes about 180,000 men annually, second only to lung cancer.

Some clinical trials, Kolata's story indicates, have provided "important information. For example, a recent one shows that hormone-blocking drugs can prolong life for men whose prostate cancer recurs after surgery to remove the prostate."

The article also indicates that a change in attitude seems to be occurring.

In favor of the shorter, more intense treatments.

Dr. Michael J. Zelefsky
Kolata's article quotes Dr. Michael J. Zelefsky, a Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center radiation oncologist, to the effect that "several years ago, 90 percent of his patients had the standard course of treatment. Now 90 percent choose the shorter course."

The newer treatment, he added, "is emerging as a very exciting form of therapy."

Why? Probably because more patients are considering "quality of life" issues and the shorter length of therapy may add to that.

Want an additional look at clinical trials and new treatments? "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten (a guy who's undergone regular radiation, brachytherapy and hormonal therapy for prostate cancer), aimed at male caregivers, provides it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

24% dip in the disease's recurrence is possible

Exercise can help breast cancer patients diminish risks and bolster their quality of life

Exercise is hardly a cure-all for breast cancer.

But it can help.

Stacy Simon
According to an American Cancer Society story by senior editor Stacy Simon that I just found on the cancer.org website, exercise "is not only safe and possible during and after breast cancer treatment, but it also can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life."

The ACS article states that studies have shown "certain kinds of exercise appear to help breast cancer survivors at high risk for arm, breast and chest swelling (lymphedema) avoid the condition."

The studies have also shown that "some types of exercise can improve symptoms" for those who already have breast cancer.

And, as might be expected, that regular exercise "significantly improves physical functioning and reduces fatigue."

Perhaps most important is that Simon's piece notes, too, that physical activity "has also been linked to a 24% decrease in breast cancer coming back, and a 34% decrease in breast cancer deaths."

Her story cautions, however, that women should first check with their doctors to determine the exercise best suited for them (and to ensure their safety) — and then, after surgery, to wait to heal properly before starting a physical regimen.

The ACS story also lists possible exercise benefits as strengthening of muscles (or, at least, lessening muscle deterioration), heightening self-esteem and lowering anxiety and depression risk, and, finally, helping to control weight — "itself a risk factor for breast cancer recurrence."

Details about the healing process can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at caregivers.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Lead author calls research results 'shocking'

New study says risk of Gen Xers and millennials getting colon and rectal cancer is rising

Americans under 55 — those known as Gen Xers and millennials — are at a greater risk today of colon and rectal cancer than any generation before.

According to American Cancer Society (ACS) and National Cancer Institute (NSI) researchers, those born in 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer than those born in 1950 had at the same age.

And most of those cancers would be in more advanced stages when discovered, a study published today in the Journal of the NSI indicates — probably because routine screening normally isn't recommended for those under 50.

Rebecca Siegel
The lead author of the study, Rebecca Siegel, an ACS epidemiologist, called the size of the increase "very shocking,'" most likely because the surge of younger diagnoses contrasts with the decades-long descent of colorectal cancer cases.

According to a Washington Post story by Laurie McKinley reprinted in the San Francisco Chronicle last week, Siegel noted that the drop has been driven by older adults who've gotten regular screenings, including colonoscopies, that detect growths before they become cancerous.

She also suggested that younger people are more apt to be uninsured, which might keep them from seeing a doctor until they can no longer ignore their symptoms.

"We had such great strides just in the past years in insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act," she said — hinting that the situation might change for the worse under the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans' desire to "repeal and replace" Obamacare.

The study looked at nearly half a million cases of colorectal cancer from 1974 to 2013. 

It found that colon cancer rates increased about 1 to 2 percent per year for people in their 20s and 30s, and that rates for middle-aged adults also rose, albeit at a slower pace.

"Rectal rates climbed even faster in recent decades," the story added, "at about 3 percent per year for people in their 20s and 30s and 2 percent annually for those 40 to 54."

Specific reasons for the increases, not incidentally, remain unclear.

The ACS, which predicts more than 95,000 new cases of colon cancer and almost 40,000 of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed this year, is reviewing colorectal cancer screening guidelines.

Research into the risks of diseases is an integral part of "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.