Tag: cancer

January 25, 2015

What is Cervical Cancer?

The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, and cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers that affect a woman’s reproductive organs. Cervical cancer is caused by various strains of a virus called human papilloma virus (HPV), some of which are also responsible for causing genital warts in both men and women.  HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, especially during sexual intercourse. Most women’s immune systems are able to fight the infection, but in a small group of women, the virus survives for years in the body and eventually changes some of the cervical cells into cancer cells.

 

Routine Screenings and Early Detection of Cervical Cancer:

Cervical cancer can usually be found early by routine Pap smears (or Pap tests). During a Pap smear, a small cell sample is collected through a quick swabbing or brushing on part of the cervix, and the sample is examined in a laboratory to look for abnormalities. In the precancerous stage, abnormal cells are found only in the outer layer of the cervix and have not invaded deeper tissues. If untreated, the abnormal cells may change into cancer cells, which may spread into the cervix and surrounding organs. Conditions caught early at the pre-invasive stage are rarely life threatening and typically require only treatment at the doctor’s office. Early detection greatly improves the chances of successful treatment and prevents early cell abnormalities from becoming cancerous. All women are recommended to receive routine Pap smears within three years after the first sexual intercourse, or no later than age 21.

 

Avoid Being Exposed to HPV:

Avoiding exposure to HPV can prevent most pre-cancer of the cervix.  HPV infection can have no symptoms for years in both men and women; someone can have the virus and pass it on without knowing. Similar to other STDs, abstaining from sex or practicing safe sex can help reduce a woman’s risk of getting infected:

  • Delay first intercourse until older
  • Limit the number of sexual partners
  • Always use condoms
  • Avoid having sex with someone who has had many other sexual partners

Vaccination Against HPV:

Various strains of HPV are responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. Gardasil is a vaccine designed to block HPV types 16 and18, which are currently the cause of about 70% of cervical cancer cases. The vaccine also blocks HPV types 6 and 11, which are not associated with cervical cancer but are responsible for 90% of genital wart cases.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Gardasil, and it is recommended for girls ages 11 and 12, as well as females ages 13 to 26 who have not received the vaccine. Vaccination includes a series of 3 injections over a 6-month period. To be most effective, the vaccine should be given before a person starts to have sex, because it only works to prevent HPV infection and will not treat an infection that is already there. It is also important to know that the vaccine does not protect against all cancer-causing types of HPV. Routine screenings, therefore, are still necessary.

Side effects caused by the vaccine are rare. The most common complaint is soreness at the injection site on the upper arm. Flu-like symptoms may also occur but are usually mild. Please consult with your doctor before deciding if the vaccine is right for you.

 

For more information on HPV vaccine:

http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/

January 21, 2015

SmokeWhat is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is the disease when cells in one or both of the lungs undergo abnormal changes and grow out of control. These abnormal cells cannot perform their regular function and reduce the lung’s ability to deliver oxygen to the blood. Tumors may also form as a result of the abnormal growth. In addition, similar to other cancers, lung cancer can spread to other parts of the body as the disease processes. According to 2008 statistics by the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the second most prevalent cancer type in men and women (after prostate cancer and breast cancer, respectively), and it is the number one killer among all the cancer types.

 

What causes lung cancer?

Cigarette smoking is found to be responsible for the majority of lung cancer cases. Similar to other cancer types, lung cancer takes time to develop. Therefore, although lung cancer is often diagnosed among older people, the cause of the disease usually originates from a much younger age. For this reason, young people who smoke may not immediately see the damages done to their lungs, but they may have to suffer severe consequences later in life.

 

Other risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • Secondhand smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Other lung diseases, such as tuberculosis
  • Genetic inheritance/ family history of lung cancer
  • Exposure to asbestos (a material used in the construction of older buildings)
  • Inhalation of radon gas (a gas released by soil that contains uranium)
  • Exposure to other harmful chemicals

 

Symptoms:

Symptoms may vary from person to person, but the common symptoms include:

  • Persistent coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Recurrent lung problems, such as inflammation and infection.
  • Increased amount of sputum (mucus)
  • Blood in coughing

Treatment:

Lung cancer is usually treated by surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these. The specific treatment plan depends on the type of lung cancer, stage of the disease, as well as the patient’s health condition.

 

Prevention:

  • Don’t smoke!! Current and former smokers have a much higher chance of developing lung cancer.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Avoid exposure to radon and asbestos. Have your home tested if needed.
  • Avoid exposure to other harmful chemicals
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise regularly

 

Resources:

January 21, 2015

What is liver cancer?

Liver cancer is the disease when cells in the liver become abnormal and grow out of control. A tumor or tumors may form as a result of abnormal cell growth. The disease can also lead to liver failure, the complete loss of liver function. Similar to the other cancer types, liver cancer can spread to and affect other organs in the body.

 

What causes liver cancer?

Liver cancer affects people of all ages and ethnic groups, but there are several factors that increase an individual’s risk of developing this disease:

  • Cirrhosis: Cirrhosis means scarring of the liver. Whenever the liver tries to heal itself from a disease or injury, scar tissue may form as a result and reduce the liver’s ability to perform its function. Cirrhosis is irreversible, and it is linked to the majority of liver cancer cases.
  • Hepatitis B or C: These are chronic infections of the liver and often lead to cirrhosis and loss of liver function. Over many years, these infections can cause liver cancer.
  • Family history of liver cancer
  • Other risk factors such as smoking, alcohol abuse, diabetes, obesity, and exposure to harmful chemicals.

 

Symptoms

Liver cancer usually does not show symptoms until the later stages, and this makes early detection difficult. When symptoms do occur, they commonly include:

  • Pain around the liver area (the right side of the upper abdomen)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

 

Treatment

Liver cancer is often treated by surgery (to remove the cancerous tissues), liver transplant, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these methods. Treatment plans usually depend on the stage of the disease and the health condition of the patient.

 

Prevention

You can significantly reduce your chance of developing liver cancer by taking these steps to protect yourself against hepatitis B and C, cirrhosis, and other liver illness.

  • Receive vaccination against hepatitis B
  • Because hepatitis B and C can be sexually transmitted, you can protect yourself by learning about the practice of safe sex, including the use of condom every time and to limit the number of sexual partners.
  • Hepatitis B and C are transmitted via blood. You should avoid sharing razor blades, toothbrushes, needles, and other blood contaminated items.
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Stop smoking
  • Lose weight if overweight
  • If you are taking medications, ask your doctor about any potential effects on your liver.

 

Resources

January 21, 2015

Kent1-449x560Overview

The term “cancer” describes a group of diseases in which cells in a part of the body grow out of control. Cancer can originate from anywhere in the body and can spread to other parts of the body. Some cancers form a solid tumor but others, like cancer of the blood, do not. Cancer affects people of all ages, including children and youth. Although cancer among children and teens is rare, cancer remains the leading cause of death from disease in children under 15.

Most cancers that occur in children are caused by changes in the genetic component within the body cell during early childhood.  You cannot “catch” cancer nor give it to someone else. Unlike many other diseases, there is no known way to prevent childhood cancer.

 

Leading Cancer Types in Children and Youth

  • Leukemia – Leukemia is the most common cancer type for this age group. It describes a group of cancers of the blood or bone marrow, caused by abnormal production of blood cells.
  • Brain and nervous system cancers – This is the second most common type of cancers for children and youth. It can lead to tumors in the cerebellum, brain stem, cerebral hemispheres, and other parts of the nervous system.
  • Neuroblastoma – This cancer affects immature nerve cells and usually occurs in infancy or early childhood.
  • Wilms tumor – This cancer arises in one or both kidneys and may spread to nearby organs. It usually occurs in early childhood.
  • Lymphoma – This is a diverse group of cancers originating from the lymph tissues, such as lymph nodes, lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell), and thymus.

Signs and Symptoms of Childhood Cancer

If you experience any of the following symptoms, be sure to tell your doctor right away so that the problem can be diagnosed and treated. Most of the time, these symptoms may be due to reasons other than cancer.

  • Persistent fever, vision problems, headaches, nausea, joint or bone pain
  • Chronic fatigue or infections
  • Swelling or lump in the abdomen, arm pit, neck, or groin
  • Night sweats
  • Easy bruising
  • Unexplained weight loss

Common Types of Cancer Treatment

  • Surgery: Surgery can serve many purposes, including the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. To detect or confirm the presence of cancer, a small tissue sample can be removed from a suspected area. If cancer is confirmed, the tissue sample can also help identify the stage of the disease, although additional examination may be necessary. Surgery can be done to remove part or all of a tumor.
  • Chemotherapy: This treatment uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy treats cancer by targeting fast-growing cells. However, this treatment may damage other healthy, fast-growing cells, such as those in the hair, intestine, and bone marrow. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, appetite changes, loss of hair, suppressed immunity, digestive problems and others. Chemotherapy can be given by mouth, or by injection into the vein.
  • Radiation Therapy: This treatment uses radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy works by destroying the genetic material of the cancer cells so they will not be able to grow. Radiation can be delivered from an external machine or from small radioactive materials implanted into the tissues near the cancer site. Similar to chemotherapy, this treatment may cause damage to healthy cells. Depending on the area being treated, side effects vary.
  • Bone Marrow or Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplant (BMT or PBSCT): These procedures involve the transplantation of blood-forming stem cells found in the bone marrow (the soft material inside the bones) or in the peripheral bloodstream. Stem cells divide and grow into mature blood cells, which serve important functions in the body. Blood-forming stem cells can be damaged by diseases as well as by chemotherapy and radiation. The purpose of BMT and PBSCT is to replace the damaged stem cells with healthy ones. Stem cell transplant is most commonly used in the treatment of leukemia and lymphoma.

 

For More Information on Childhood Cancer:

January 20, 2015

smokingCigarette smoking is often portrayed as cool and hip. While it is illegal to advertise cigarettes on TV, tobacco companies are finding different ways to tempt young people to smoke. They have created cartoon characters and cigarette shaped bubble gum, both of which are now banned by the government. You can also see your favorite actor or actress smoke in the movies. These are just some of the ways tobacco companies use to get young people to light up for the first time.
Nicotine is one of the many chemicals that you inhale when you smoke. This chemical is highly addictive. Tobacco companies know that it is so addictive that once you start, it will be really hard for you to stop. Studies have shown that most adult smokers started smoking when they were preteens or teenagers.

October 22, 2014

WHAT IS LEUKEMIA?

Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood cells where an abnormally large amount of white blood cells are produced.  It is the most common cancer among children and adolescents, accounting for 1 out of 3 cancer cases.

 

HOW DOES LEUKEMIA DEVELOP?

When healthy, the bone marrow makes three types of blood cells:

  • Red Blood Cells – carry oxygen to all parts of the body
  • White Blood Cells – help fight off infections
  • Platelets – helps the blood clot when there is an open wound

The bone marrow of persons with leukemia makes many immature white blood cells called blasts. When a large number of blasts are produced, they crowd out the bone marrow from producing normal blood cells. This can lead to anemia, infection and easy bleeding.

 

CAN LEUKEMIA BE PREVENTED?

Currently, there are no known ways to prevent childhood leukemia. Leukemia is NOT linked to lifestyle risk factors such as diet and exercise

 

COMMON TYPES TYPE OF LEUKEMIA IN CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS

There are several types of leukemia, depending on how rapidly it develops and which type of white blood cell is affected. Acute leukemia progresses rapidly if untreated, while chronic leukemia is very slow and may take months or years to develop.

The two acute forms of leukemia most common in children are:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): Accounts for about 70% of leukemia cases. ALL is most common in early childhood, peaking at ages 2-4.
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML): Accounts for about 30% of leukemia cases. AML is more common among children under the age of 2 and teenagers.

 

RISK FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH LEUKEMIA

  • Exposure to high levels of radiation
  • Mother’s exposure to X-ray during pregnancy
  • Having a genetic disease, such as Down syndrome
  • Having a sibling with leukemia

 

COMMON SYMPTOMS OF LEUKEMIA

  • Fever and night sweats
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Coughing
  • Bruising or bleeding easily
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Swollen belly
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit, neck, or groin
  • Frequent infections
  • Extreme fatigue and weakness
  • Loss of appetite

 

DIAGNOSIS OF LEUKEMIA

Since symptoms of leukemia are similar to symptoms of other diseases, only your doctor can confirm if you have leukemia through medical tests, medical history and physical exam. Samples of your blood, spinal fluid, and bone marrow will be taken and checked for abnormalities. In addition to blood tests, imaging tests such as Chest X-Rays, Computed tomography (CT) scans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and Ultrasounds may also be ordered.

 

TREATMENT OF LEUKEMIA

The primary treatment for leukemia is CHEMOTHERAPY, where anticancer drugs are given to kill the cancer cells.  The drugs are usually injected into the vein, and/or fluid around the brain and spinal cord. The total length of chemotherapy and follow-up treatments can last between 2-3 years. Although chemotherapy kills leukemia cells, it also harms normal cells. Some possible side effects are:

  • hair loss
  • mouth sores
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • increased risk of infections (because of low white blood cell counts)
  • bruising and bleeding easily (from low platelet counts)
  • fatigue (caused by low red blood cell counts)

In addition to chemotherapy, sometimes RADIATION and STEM CELL TRANSPLANT may be used. Radiation uses high energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells.  In stem cell transplant, healthy stem cells from a matching donor are introduced into the body to make new healthy blood cells.

With recent advances in treatment, children with leukemia are living longer into adulthood. The remission and cure rates for childhood leukemia continue to rise and the outlook for children diagnosed with leukemia is better than ever.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON LEUKEMIA:

National Cancer Institute www.cancer.gov
American Cancer Society www.cancer.org