A Basic Introduction to Lung Cancer Facts
Lung cancer is one of the three most prevalent cancers in the U.S., along with breast and prostate cancer. Unfortunately, unlike breast cancer and prostate cancer, which affect similar numbers of people as lung cancer, lung cancer is much more deadly. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. and worldwide. This is true for both men and women. In 2012, lung cancer was responsible for 1.56 million deaths. The symptoms of lung cancer include weight loss, coughing, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, fever, chest pain and difficulty swallowing, but these symptoms are common to other respiratory illnesses, so their lack of distinctness delays medical attention to the cancer until it’s too late.
The single greatest risk factor for lung cancer, by far, is long-term exposure to tobacco smoke, including secondhand exposure. Tobacco exposure accounts for 80-90 percent of lung cancer cases. The other primary risk factors are exposure to asbestos, radon gas or certain other air pollutions as well as, unfortunately, genetics. However, these only accounts for about 10-15 percent of lung cancer cases. Radon gas is a direct result of the breakdown of radium which is a product of the breakdown of uranium. It’s considerably more common in some places than others due to the prevalence or absence of radium deposits in the soil. It’s believed that air pollution accounts for about 1.5 percent of lung cancer cases. Genetic causes of lung cancer are not entirely understood, as is the case with most gene-related health issues.
The five-year survival rate of lung cancer is 16.8 percent based on 2004 to 2010 statistics. Although this is truly tragic, it’s in large part because large majorities, more than 57 percent, of lung cancer cases that are discovered are in the late stages in which the cancer has metastasized. Of these cases, only 4 percent of people survive for five years. Therefore, 2.28 percent of lung cancer patients are diagnosed with late stage lung cancer and survive for five years or more.
The survival rate for individuals who are diagnosed with early stage lung cancer is 54 percent. Unfortunately, only 15 percent of cancer diagnoses are in the local stage. If we can convert even half of the late and middle stage diagnoses, which together account for a full 79 percent of all lung cancer cases, to early-stage diagnoses through regular checks and early detection, then the five-year survival rate of alllung cancer cases would rise to almost 32 percent. That is a big hypothetical completely dependent on the fact that relative survival for localized lung cancer remains static.
These statistics, 54 percent of lung cancer deaths, is an incredibly good reason for all long term smokers or secondhand smokers to get regular tests for lung cancer after the age of fifty. The average age of diagnosis is 70 while the average age at death is 72. If you or your partner has smoked for decades, get checked regularly.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that even after successful treatment of the original tumor, the cancer may have spread to inoperable areas, necessitating alternative and less invasive options like precision radiology. Treatment options are limited in most cancer cases. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are common treatments for the late stages of cancer. Early stage lung cancer can see surgery as effective depending on the health of the individual and the type of cancer. Ultimately, hope for survival depends on early detection, a good attitude and a capable cancer care team.
Kidney Cancer 101 – Risk Factors & Treatments
There are several different types of cancer which fall under the umbrella category of kidney cancer. Of these there are two predominant types, renal cell carcinomas (RCC) and urothelial cell carcinomas (UCC). The names describe which region they originated in. RCC originated in the kidney specifically and is responsible for 90-95 percent of all cases. UCC is a cancer that can occur in other organs in the urinary system and grows out of the transitional lining of the kidneys and other hollow organs like the bladder. What’s included in the following statistics is the specific form of UCC that can be considered kidney cancer, which is called renal pelvis cancer.
Factors that increase the risk of kidney cancer include smoking, obesity, family history, hepatitis C or kidney diseases which necessitate dialysis. Smoking can as much as double the risk for kidney cancer. Kidney and renal pelvis cancers combined account for approximately 3.8 percent of all new cancer diagnoses in the United States. The median age of diagnosis for kidney and renal pelvis cancer is 64 with 50 percent of diagnosed patients being between the ages of 55 and 74. Kidney and renal pelvis cancer is more common in men, and people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent are the least at-risk; other races are pretty evenly at risk.
About 72.4 percent of those diagnosed with kidney or renal pelvis cancer will survive for five years or more. This is largely because most diagnoses are still at the local stage, and the survival rate for the local stage is 91.8 percent. The five- year survival rate for regional kidney and renal pelvis cancers is 64.6 percent. Stage-3 has a 12.1 percent five-year survival rate. This cancer is responsible for approximately 14,000 deaths per year in the United States. The median age at death for kidney and renal pelvis cancer is 71. It should be noted that every case is different and each individual should discuss these survival rates with their doctor.
Treatments for kidney cancer are dependent upon the stage of the disease but surgery is typically the fallback treatment. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are not usually used as kidney cancers do not often respond to such treatment. Sometimes in surgery the entire kidney is removed but most tumors are amenable to a partial removal, or removal of only the infected area. However, surgery isn’t always possible as the tumor may have spread or there may be preexisting conditions that prevent this. Kidney cancer sufferers should talk to their doctors about viable alternatives to surgery.
Kidney cancer, like other forms of cancer death rates, is dependent on the stage in which it’s discovered. The most common symptoms are blood in urine, flank pain and weight loss. Diagnosis often takes into account a range of biochemical tests that may use blood or urine to analyze any differences in electrolytes, renal and liver function and blood clotting patterns. Physical examination may reveal an unidentified mass or an enlarged organ. As with many other cancers active surveillance is often the first step in treatment.
How to Keep Your Strength Up During Cancer Treatment
The treatments administered for cancer, including radiation and chemotherapy, can cause fatigue and nausea. While these side effects can make it difficult to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, it’s important you continue to eat healthy foods as much as possible and get some exercise as often as you can. Practicing good nutrition and exercise habits during cancer treatment can help improve your quality of life, relieve treatment side effects and keep up your strength throughout treatment.
Nutrition for Cancer Care
Chemotherapy is well-known for causing nausea, but radiation treatment can cause upset stomach and vomiting as well. Radiation treatment for brain cancer, spine cancer and cancers of the abdomen and digestive tract are notoriously crucial in the treatments of these diseases, but the stomach-upsetting side effects can be distressing.
Though it might be hard to eat and keep down food during radiation treatment or chemotherapy, it’s important you do your best. Good nutrition during cancer care helps you maintain your physical strength and can help mitigate fatigue. It can help you maintain a healthy weight, prevent nutritional deficiency, lower your risk of infection and speed your overall recovery. Maintaining proper nutrition during cancer treatment helps you maintain a good quality of life and makes you better able to cope with other side effects.
If you’re getting radiation treatment, you should always try to eat within an hour of going to treatment. You’ll tolerate the treatment better with something in your stomach. If you have to travel to the treatment facility, bring snacks with you. Focus on eating calorie-dense, nutritious foods like nuts, avocados, beans, seeds, cooked cereals and puddings.
If your treatment side effects make it hard for you to eat properly, try eating smaller meals every two or three hours instead of three large meals per day. Some cancer patients find that there’s a specific time of day, such as breakfast time, at which it’s best to eat the bulk of their calories for that day. You can add protein powders or nutrition supplements to your food to increase their calorie content. When you’re feeling nauseated, eat foods that soothe the stomach, like saltines, ginger ale or toast.
Exercise During Cancer Treatment
No one’s expecting you to hit the gym every day while you’re going through cancer treatment, but for many cancer patients, regular physical activity can have multiple benefits. Regular exercise during cancer treatment keeps your body strong and can help prevent anxiety and depression. It can also relieve side effects like nausea and improve fatigue. Talk to your doctor and treatment team about whether you should exercise and how much exercise is appropriate. Start slow, and stick to gentle activities like walking, riding a bike slowly, walking a well-behaved dog, dancing or going to yoga. Plan your exercise program to include both aerobic activities, like walking, and strength-training exercises, like yoga or gentle weight lifting.
Good nutrition and regular gentle exercise can go a long way toward helping you maintain your physical strength and fight off fatigue during cancer treatment. The better you’re able to care for yourself, the more you’ll enjoy your life and less vulnerable you’ll be to the fear and uncertainty that a cancer diagnosis can bring.
Here’s What You Need to Know About Treating Head and Neck Cancer
The term “head and neck cancer” is typically used to describe cancers that occur in the larynx or voice box, throat, sinuses, mouth or nose. Cancers in other areas of the head and neck, such as brain cancer, parathyroid cancer, eye cancer and esophageal cancer, aren’t usually included in this category because their diagnosis and treatment can be very different than for cancers of the mouth, throat, nose, sinuses and larynx. Most head and neck cancers are squamous cell cancers, meaning they start in the flat or squamous cells that form the surface layer of tissues in the head and neck.
Facing a cancer diagnosis is never easy. If you’ve been diagnosed with head or neck cancer, there are three main treatment options available: surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Usually, some combination of surgery and radiation therapy is recommended as the primary treatment, while chemotherapy is administered as a complementary treatment. However, your specific treatment modalities will depend on the stage of your cancer and its location.
Will Your Cancer Require Surgery?
Not all head and neck cancers require surgery. If your cancer is in its early stages and has not yet spread, you may be able to avoid surgery. At this early stage, most doctors recommend choosing either radiation therapy or surgery to remove the cancerous tumor.
When surgeons remove a cancerous tumor, they usually remove a large amount of the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. This is done to prevent the recurrence of the cancer. However, when it comes to head and neck cancers, this type of surgical approach can mean losing a large portion of the oral and facial structure. You might need reconstructive surgery following your tumor excision, and even with reconstructive surgery, your appearance might be changed and you might suffer from some impairment of function.
Traditional radiation treatment for head and neck tumors is effective, but untargeted radiation therapy can cause damage to healthy tissues. Precision-targeted radiation therapy for head and neck tumors can kill the cancerous tissue, while minimizing damage to the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.
What Can You Expect During Radiation Treatment?
Before radiation therapy, you will need to visit with a radiation oncologist who will take your medical history and perform a physical exam. You’ll also consult with other members of your treatment team and at this time, including a pathologist, radiologist, dentist and head and neck surgeon.
Treatment planning will begin with a CT scan or X-ray to help your treatment team plan where to direct the radiation. You will usually begin radiation therapy one or two days later and will receive treatments up to twice a day, five days a week for five to seven weeks. Your first couple of treatments may take one to two hours, but subsequent treatments will probably take less than an hour.
Side effects of radiation treatment usually appear at least two weeks after you begin treatment. The most common side effect of radiation treatment for head and neck cancer is a sore throat. New targeted radiation technologies can help protect your healthy tissues from damage and prevent side effects. Nevertheless, you should mention any side effects, pain or discomfort to your treatment team so you can receive the appropriate palliative care.
Radiation treatment alone is often effective for head and neck cancers that have not spread. The newest treatment modalities allow doctors to target the cancerous cells, leaving healthy cells intact. Medication can provide relief from any side effects.
6 Signs You Need a Cancer Support Group & How to Choose One
As you undergo treatment for cancer, your family and friends will undoubtedly provide plenty of help and support. Sometimes, though, you need to connect with others who are going through the same thing. You want to talk with someone who understands what you’re feeling and can offer firsthand insight and support.
That’s where support groups come in. A support group is a collection of individuals drawn together to discuss living with their disease. Members offer each other support and encouragement, new information and ideas and provide comfort, information and validation for patients who want to feel less alone in their journey.
According to the American Cancer Society, scientific evidence indicates that support groups actually extend life expectancy and survival rates for cancer patients, while also improving quality of life; this makes support groups a valuable addition to your successful cancer treatment. The key, though, is knowing when you need a support group and choosing the right one.
Signs You Need a Support Group
When you’re diagnosed with cancer, your family will most likely form the backbone of your support network. But no matter how loving and concerned they are, they do not have the unique experience of being a cancer patient. In that case, a support group may be a good option for you.
More specifically, if any of the following sounds familiar, you might want to look into your group options:
- You’re experiencing emotions that you aren’t sure how to explain, or that your family cannot understand.
- You want a safe place to discuss your fears without worrying your family members.
- You have questions about coping that your family member or doctors cannot answer.
- You want to feel less “alone” in your battle against cancer.
- You want ideas on how to manage certain aspect of your disease and treatment that only another survivor or patient could understand.
- You sense that your family members are experiencing compassion fatigue, and want to ease their burden.
While a support group will never take the place of a licensed medical professional in terms of offering medical advice, other cancer patients and survivors can provide insights and advice from an insider’s perspective.
Choosing a Cancer Support Group
Some cancer patients resist joining support groups because they feel uncomfortable sharing their experiences with strangers. Others resist out of a belief that the group will be a “downer,” and they will leave more frustrated or depressed than when they arrived. These are valid concerns, but if you do your homework, you can find a group that works for you.
Start by asking your doctor about any local groups; most cancer treatment centers either host groups onsite or provide lists of local groups. Most patients find that support groups specifically related to their type of cancer are the most effective, as it is easier for a brain cancer patient to relate to others undergoing brain cancer treatment than with those who have breast or prostate cancer, or vice versa. The best group size depends on your needs; some people thrive in a large group where they can hang back and do more listening than talking, while others prefer smaller groups where the participants can form stronger bonds.
Above all, any group should have a clearly defined purpose, strict confidentiality rules and a leader or facilitator who is capable of managing the discussing and keeping it on track and relevant. You may need to attend several meetings or talk with several leaders before choosing a group, but do not give up if the first group isn’t a good fit.
Most doctors and cancer experts agree that support groups are a valuable part of any cancer treatment plan. If you have questions about groups, or any other aspect of your treatment plan, make an appointment to meet with one of the specialists here at Pasadena CyberKnife in Los Angeles.