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What You Need to Know About Liver Cancer

Liver Cancer 101: What You Need to Know

Liver Cancer InfoSimply put, cancer is tough; it takes grit to face the stark reality of it. Sometimes all you want is the facts, plain and simple: primary causes, treatment options, survival rates and the like. This information pertains specifically to individuals diagnosed with cancer that began in the liver, rather than cancer that started somewhere else and migrated to the liver.


The primary cause of liver cancer is combined from hepatitis B and hepatitis C, making up 60 percent of all primary liver cancers. Because of this, liver cancer is relatively uncommon in the U.S. and accounts for only 2 percent of new diagnoses annually. However, because of the prevalence of hepatitis in other parts of the world (developing nations especially) it’s the third leading cause of cancer death globally, which underscores its severity.

Other causes of liver cancer include cirrhosis, which is most likely caused by alcohol abuse in the U.S. Risk of infection increases with those who have histories of obesity, diabetes, smoking and several hereditary conditions including hemochromatosis and primary biliary cirrhosis

Survival Rates

This year, there will be an estimated 33,190 new diagnoses of liver cancer and an estimated 23,000 deaths. Only one in six patients will live for five years or more after a liver cancer diagnosis. As bleak as this is, medical professionals have managed to increase five year survival rates to where they are from one in 20 in 1991. Liver Cancer Explained

Liver cancer is most often diagnosed in people over the age of 55 with men being twice as likely as women to be diagnosed. Part of the reason that survival rates are so low is that only 42 percent of cases are localized when discovered. Almost one in five cases has already metastasized by the time they’re discovered, and one in four has spread to regional lymph nodes, which significantly lowers the patient’s likelihood of survival.

Treatment Options

The treatment of choice for tumors that haven’t spread is usually a surgery that will remove the tumor and some surrounding healthy tissue, with the hope that no cancerous tissue will remain. Five-year survival rates after surgery can be above 50 percent due to recent improvements; however, cancer recurrence after surgery still exceeds 70 percent. These are daunting numbers and require the patient to think long and hard about all options available. Some are unwilling to perform a surgery that might not work while others are looking for anything that might promise a few more years. However, some people are unable to pursue surgery which means they must look into other options, like often surprisingly effective radiation techniques.

Although liver cancer doesn’t affect many Americans, it continues to be a major weapon in cancer’s arsenal. If you have a persistent pain in your abdomen, just below and to the right of the end of the ribcage, you should seek medical attention. Of course, the highest-risk people are those with hepatitis who are probably already on the lookout for this and other types of liver damage.




New Hope for Pancreatic Cancer Patients

Targeted Therapy Could Bring New Hope to Pancreatic Cancer Patients

Pancreatic CancerResearchers at Rice University and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center are working on a treatment that will use short, pristine carbon nanotubes to deliver chemotherapy drugs to the interior of pancreatic cancer cells. Once inside the cells, doctors would be able to agitate the nanotubes using sound, in a process known as sonication. This process would trigger the release of the drugs, which would kill the pancreatic cancer cells from within.

A New Treatment Option for Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to treat, in part because it is so difficult to catch early and spreads so quickly. Many pancreatic tumors are inoperable, and it can be hard to target these cancer cells with chemotherapy drugs. Targeted radiation therapy is often one of the best treatment options for pancreatic cancer.

The nanotube research, led by Rice University chemist Andrew Barron and published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry B, may eventually offer another option for patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Unlike many existing chemotherapy treatments, the nanotubes are small enough to slip through gaps in blood vessel walls and infiltrate the nuclei of cancerous cells, so they can carry the drugs right to where they’re needed.

Previous work taught the researchers it was possible to modify nanotubes to carry chemotherapy agents and release them through the process of sonication. The researchers also knew that it would be possible to control the rate at which the nanotubes release their payload of drugs. Thanks to this new research, the scientists now have a deeper understanding of exactly how the nanotubes need to be modified to do their work.

Cut to Size

The Rice and University of Texas researchers made several discoveries that should make it possible to develop a targeted chemotherapy treatment using nanotube technology. First, Alvin Orbaek, Rice graduate student, alumnus and study co-author, purified the carbon nanotubes with chlorine. This process removes any iron particles left in the tubes during their growth. These iron particles could damage the tubes and make them hard to use for any targeted treatment procedure.Pancreatic Cancer Treatement

Next, postdoctoral research associate and lead author of the paper, Enrico Andreoli, cut the nanotubes down to an average length of 50 nanometers using a thermal procedure. It’s important that the nanotubes not be too long, since that could make them hard to work with, according to R&D Mag. Researchers in Barron’s laboratory coated the nanotubes’ surfaces with polyethyleneimine (PEI). Laboratory tests showed that the tubes can be dispersed in liquid easily and that they can easily infiltrate the nuclei of live cancer cells.

It’s still unknown, however, whether the nanotube technology will work to treat human pancreatic cancer. Next, the researchers will test the technology on mice. The researchers will graft human tumor cells into the mice to create a situation that mimics human pancreatic cancer.

Researchers at Rice University and the University of Texas are working on a targeted treatment for pancreatic cancer that would deliver chemotherapy agents to cancer cells using nanotubes. The treatment would allow doctors to circumvent many of the physiological barriers that currently make chemotherapy difficult for pancreatic cancer. In the meantime, targeted radiation therapy can be used to shrink pancreatic cancer tumors while minimizing side effects and damage to healthy tissue.



Staying Healthy During Cancer 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.

Nutrition for Cancer CareThough 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 TreatmentStaying Healthy 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.


What to Know About Head/Neck Cancer

Here’s What You Need to Know About Treating Head and Neck Cancer

Head & Neck CancerThe 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.Treating Head & Neck Cancer

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.


What to Know About PSA Tests

What You Absolutely Must Know About PSA Tests

What to Know About PSA TestsMost men of a certain age know that elevated PSA, or Prostate-Specific Antigen, is one of the signs of prostate cancer. However, with all of the attention that PSA receives in the media and in doctor’s offices, many men incorrectly believe that having elevated PSA automatically means that they have cancer.

While it is true that the prostate will release more PSA cells into the bloodstream when cancer is present, that isn’t the only cause for fluctuations in the antigen level. Before your next doctor’s visit, understand these important facts about PSA testing.

PSA Levels Change Regularly

In many men, PSA levels fluctuate on a regular basis. Some days the readings can be higher than others — up to 36 percent different, according to Harvard research — usually without explanation. Doctors suspect that the inconsistent readings might be caused by infection or inflammation in some men, while in others, medication, a large prostate or advanced age is the culprit. In any case, if your doctor tells you your PSA is elevated, do not panic, especially if you don’t have any other symptoms. There is a good chance that you just happened to have a “high level” day on the day of your test, and subsequent screenings will show lower levels.

There Is No “Normal” PSA Level

Doctors have long considered PSA levels lower than 4 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) to be “normal,” and results above that marker to be cause for concern. However, because so many factors influence PSA levels, and because most of the research conducted to determine the PSA targets only used white men, some experts believe that the 4 ng/mL figure to be inaccurate. While in general, significantly higher levels of PSA do indicate cancer, again, a reading above 4 ng/mL is not a definitive diagnosis. What is normal for you might be high for someone else, and vice versa. Only your doctor can determine whether your PSA is cause for concern and if additional testing is necessary.

Changes Over Time Are Important

Because PSA levels are somewhat unpredictable, doctors don’t rely on a single reading to determine a course of action, especially in those patients who have been treated for prostate cancer. Many men have a significant increase in PSA within a year or two of radiation treatment, which is normal and not usually a cause for concern.

However, a significant and rapid rise in PSA outside of expected ranges is often a sign that the cancer has returned after treatment. In general, doctors consider an increase of 2 ng/mL over the lowest overall reading, or three consecutive rises over the last lowest reading, to be cause for concern. That is why men who have undergone treatment for prostate cancer are encouraged to have regular PSA tests to monitor their levels but are cautioned against taking a single elevated reading as evidence of unsuccessful treatment.Understanding PSA Tests

Still, while PSA tests are the best indicator of a potential prostate problem, it’s important to realize that PSA tests are not infallible. Most men who have elevated levels are retested to confirm the results, and only need a biopsy or other invasive test if subsequent tests confirm the results of the first. Biopsies are usually ordered only when other symptoms are present, such as suspicious lumps or difficulty urinating, or if tests indicate an increase in PSA over time. The good news is that of all of the men who undergo biopsies due to elevated PSA, only about 25 percent are actually diagnosed with cancer.

The even better news is that prostate cancer can be effectively treated. If you have received a cancer diagnosis, schedule a consultation with the kind and caring specialists at Pasadena CyberKnife to explore your options. You can make a complete recovery from prostate cancer, so don’t hesitate to follow your doctor’s advice when it comes to PSA screening.