Recently by Katrina Burton

With a steady decline in traditional cigarettes, tobacco companies are looking for new ways to get people addicted to smoking. 

Now, with the third largest U.S. tobacco company launching a massive campaign to promote electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, smoking may be on rise again. In fact, about 6% of adults have tried e-cigarettes, a number that has nearly doubled since 2010, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The e-cigarette is a smokeless electronic device that allows the user to inhale a vapor of liquid nicotine in order to imitate traditional smoking methods. The new gadget is touted as safe and harmless by tobacco companies, but our tobacco prevention and cessation experts tell a different story.

Claims that e-cigarettes are 'safe' are misleading
"We've been telling society for the past 30 years that they shouldn't smoke, and that tobacco is bad," says Paul Cinciripini, Ph.D., director of MD Anderson's Tobacco Treatment Program. "But tobacco companies are smart and have a good marketing strategy when it comes to promoting new products."

Tobacco-Free Teens.jpg
Remember playing arcade and video games as a kid? Now, researchers are playing on kids' love for video games by creating interactive games and apps for mobile devices. And, they're doing this to collect research data from patients and to deliver educational information to keep people better informed about their health. 

Here at MD Anderson, Alexander Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Behavioral Science, has been using the gaming concept to help people quit smoking. Prohorov's mission is to develop tobacco prevention programs targeted towards children and teens. 

His latest invention is not only timely, but industry appropriate. Prokhorov has developed a quit smoking app - available for download at no cost on the Apple iTunes Store -- called Tobacco-Free Teens. The app, designed to help prevent tobacco use and help teens stop smoking, is an animated educational experience created with the teen in mind. 

"Our app combines education and entertainment with comics and interactive games," Prokhorov says. "It motivates teens to stay away from tobacco and teaches behavioral skills to help them resist pro-tobacco pressures. Such an approach is much more appealing to youth than text-based instructional tools."

Katrina Burton, MD Anderson Staff Writer

Breannacheer.jpgWith nearly one in five teens smoking cigarettes, there is no better advocate for smoking-cessation than Breanna Jordan, a senior at Stone Mountain High, a school nestled in DeKalb County in Georgia.

As a member of the National Honor Society, varsity cheerleader squad and active participant of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) - a student-run program that discourages students from drinking, smoking and engaging in destructive behaviors - Jordan is no stranger to peer pressure and what's popular among teens.

"Smoking is the in thing to do for those going through the cool phase," says Jordan. "There is a lot of stress that comes with being a teenager, and some think that smoking among other things helps relieve that stress."

Jordan says it is not only the hygiene problems - bad breath, bad teeth and body odor - that have made her say no to smoking, but diseases like cancer that concern her. Jordan, like most people, has either had a personal experience with cancer or knows someone whose life has been touched by the disease. Just last year her aunt died of a non-smoking related cancer - ovarian cancer.

iMove and So Should You

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imove icon.jpgBy Katrina Burton, MD Anderson Staff Writer

Whether it's riding your bike to the local grocery store, mowing your lawn or taking a brisk walk around the park, being physically active is necessary to being healthy and can prolong your life.

Lorna McNeill, Ph.D, M.P.H., assistant professor in MD Anderson's Department of Health Disparities Research, has discovered in her many years as a researcher that sedentary behavior can lead to multiple health issues and diseases, including cancer.

Her latest clinical trial, iMove, is focused on understanding the various social and environmental influences on physical activity in sedentary minority adults, particularly targeting Latinos and African-Americans.

Research shows that only one-third of adults in the United States get the recommended amount of physical activity. The problem is even greater among some ethnic minority groups. In fact, African-Americans and Latinos have the lowest rates of physical activity and the highest rates of inactivity.

"Lack of physical activity can contribute to a number of health issues including diabetes, heart disease and obesity," McNeill says. "Physical activity can have a profound improvement on a person's quality of life. Our research is designed to help these specific target groups engage and maintain moderate-intensity activity."

Going where no one else has gone

Aptly named, iMove examines the influences that affect a person's ability to initiate and maintain physical activity, and identifies changes that occur during the course of physical activity. Some changes that are being monitored include reducing perceived environmental barriers and psychosocial stressors.

loveyourbody.jpgBy Katrina Burton, MD Anderson Staff Writer

Are you unhappy with your weight? Do you strongly dislike some other aspect of your appearance? Are recent changes to your body negatively affecting that way you feel and think about yourself?

Whether you've had body image issues most of your life or these problems are more recent, almost everyone at some point and time has concerns about their body. How we cope with these issues is what matters most. Negative body image can lead to low self-esteem, depression and a host of other psychological and social issues.

In recognition of Love Your Body Day, Wednesday, Oct. 19, MD Anderson is participating in the National Organization for Women (NOW) Foundation's Love Your Body Campaign. This campaign is part of a national program that encourages people to recognize the dangers of societial perceptions that promote unrealistic and unhealthy body images. The goal is to help people learn how to attain a more healthy and positive perspective about their bodies.

Today, Oct. 19, MD Anderson will offer interactive fitness demonstrations and free educational tips and materials about body image, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m, in the Main Building, Floor 1, near The Aquarium.

"Society has placed a great deal of pressure on how a person should look and feel, "says Michelle Cororve-Fingeret, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of Behavioral Science and director of the Body Image Research and Therapy Service at MD Anderson. "These expectations not only affect healthy individuals in the general public, but people suffering from medical conditions that can significantly change the way they look and how their bodies function."

By Katrina Burton, MD Anderson Staff Writer

A prostate cancer diagnosis has the ability to strike fear in the hearts of many men. The fear is a normal reaction as men diagnosed with the disease consider the potential side effects from treatment and how it may affect their sexual relationships.

Depression, negative body image and performance anxiety are some of the symptoms prostate cancer survivors face that can lead to a lack of intimacy and, ultimately, to sexual dysfunction.
The ability to have a satisfying sexual experience after treatment may vary, depending on the patient and treatment dynamics. The reality is that men are not the only ones affected by the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.

Positive future
Leslie Schover, Ph.D. a behavioral scientist at MD Anderson, was lead investigator on the CAREss (Counseling About Regaining Erections and Sexual Satisfaction) trial that focused on determining whether couples counseling after prostate cancer treatment had a positive effect on sexual outcomes.

By Katrina Burton, MD Anderson Staff Writer

Munden_Jun2011_022.jpgLung cancer is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, with more than 157,000 deaths reported last year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Most lung cancers are caused by tobacco smoke. The longer a person is exposed to the smoke the greater the risk for developing the disease.

For many years there have been no accepted screening tests for lung cancer. Today there's a new sense of hope on the horizon. It comes in the form of the spiral computed tomography (CT) screening.

According to the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), this spiral CT screening can reduce lung cancer mortality by 20%. The New England Journal of Medicine published the results of this national randomized clinical trial today

"On average, lung cancer is typically diagnosed in the later stages of the disease when it is extremely difficult to treat," says Reginald Munden, M.D., a professor in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology and MD Anderson's principal investigator on the clinical trial. In the NLST, the low-dose spiral CT scan identified more tumors at early stages, when they are more easily treated.

By Katrina Burton, MD Anderson Staff Writer

Preparing health scientists and clinicians for leadership roles as research investigators in cancer prevention and control is the number one priority of MD Anderson's Cancer Prevention Research Training Program.

Established almost 20 years ago, the training program follows a comprehensive educational module that captures the trainees' area of specialization and introduces them to other disciplines targeting cancer prevention. Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the program offers fellowship positions for graduate research assistants, predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees.

"The training program provides opportunities for fellows to launch their careers in externally funded, peer-reviewed research," says Carrie Cameron, Ph.D., instructor and associate director of the training program. "The curriculum offered expands the perspective of the trainees by moving them from their base of strength to training in additional disciplines focused on cancer prevention."

Last summer, with additional funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act       (ARRA), the training program offered new opportunities to undergraduates interested in research careers in cancer prevention.

The Student Research Experiences program allowed students to spend the summer working at MD Anderson. They had access to a research environment that offered extensive epidemiologic, laboratory and clinical facilities. Students were introduced to research in molecular and genetic epidemiology, behavioral science, clinical cancer prevention, health disparities and other prevention-related disciplines.

The additional funding from ARRA has provided opportunities to undergraduates majoring in a variety of disciplines to tailor their careers toward cancer prevention," Cameron says.

A key component of the training program is pairing trainees with mentors -- established faculty members who are considered experts in the trainees' fields of interest. "The relationship between trainees and their mentors is an invaluable and unique part of the program," says Denae King, Ph.D., adjunct associate professor in the Department of Health Disparities Research and mentor for the training program.

King served as mentor to Dee Jordan, an undergraduate selected for the Student Research Experience program. Jordan's research focus on medical geography -- the integration of hardware, software and data for capturing, managing, analyzing and displaying geographically referenced information -- helped her compile and analyze data for a community research project for Galena Park, Texas, residents at an increased cancer risk because of environmental toxins.

Ensuring the medical community is equipped with well-trained experts who can lead the efforts in cancer prevention and control requires continued funding and philanthropic support. The Student Research Experiences summer program is one example of how additional funding is paving the way for future prevention leaders.

Follow the link for more information about the Cancer Prevention Research Training Program or the Center for Research on Minority Health.

By: Katrina Burton, MD Anderson Staff Writer

Bevers_undiagnosed breast.jpgFinding a breast lump can be an alarming experience, but what's most important is the steps taken to evaluate it. Prompt evaluation of any breast concern is critical to early detection of breast cancer. Early detection of breast cancer improves the odds of successful treatment.

The Undiagnosed Breast Clinic at MD Anderson's Cancer Prevention Center (CPC) offers an evaluation of breast concerns. Services include evaluation for:

  • a suspicious lump on the breast;
  • an abnormal mammogram or breast ultrasound; and
  • for those who seek a second opinion about a lump or other breast abnormality.

The process
For most women, the evaluation starts with an exam. After review of any outside imaging, a diagnostic workup is performed. "Roughly 85% of breast lumps found are noncancerous," says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director in the CPC. "Still, it's important to have any breast lump promptly evaluated."

The novelty of the Undiagnosed Breast Clinic is that most patients receive results by the end of the day of their initial visit. Although it may take a few additional days for some patients to receive results when biopsies are done, they can rest assured that it is an expert opinion about whether the lump is cancerous or benign.

Brenda Mcnaughton, an MD Anderson employee and recent patient in the clinic, was able to experience the clinic's personalized care and quick response to her concerns when she went in for an evaluation of a mass found on her breast.

After undergoing a mammogram, ultrasound and a fine needle aspiration, Mcnaughton received her results the same day she went in for tests. Her diagnosis turned out to be benign.

"It was a relief to find out the results so quickly and to be given follow-up suggestions even though the finding was benign," Mcnaughton says.

Getting an appointment
"Another benefit of the clinic is that no physician referral is needed," says Margaret Bell, clinical administrative director of the CPC. Bell leads the team, oversees the scheduling and business end of the CPC, and consults directly with Bevers on clinic operations.

Bevers explains that the clinic makes every accommodation to see patients as quickly as it can, based on the level of concern. "Our service goal is not only to accurately diagnose patients, but also give them peace of mind," Bevers says. Patients diagnosed with cancer are referred to the Breast Center for treatment recommendations.

Other services provided in the Cancer Prevention Center include:

  • breast cancer risk assessment, including a genetics evaluation when family history is a factor;
  • breast cancer screening;
  • counseling regarding healthy lifestyle choices to reduce cancer risk; and
  • prescription of medications to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer for women at increased risk of the disease.

Bevers points out the need for women not to wait until a breast abnormality is found, but to be proactive in following the recommended guidelines for screening. "Early detection is the key to preventing and surviving breast cancer."

Listen to Bevers talk about the Undiagnosed Breast Clinic

Patients can refer themselves to MD Anderson Cancer Center for cancer diagnosis, treatment, screening, or a second opinion about a lump or other abnormality. Visit the Contact Us site to use the online self-referral form.

By Katrina R. Burton, Staff Writer, MD Anderson

As tropical depressions form in vulnerable coastal waters, hurricanes hurtle towards thriving businesses and homes, residents scramble to safer places and "diehards" prepare for impact, Gulf Coast residents are reminded of past and present disasters closer to home.

Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and the BP oil spill, are just a few of the disasters that have wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast community's economic stability and even more important -- the community's health and well-being.

Helping communities prepare and recover more quickly from disasters such as these -- natural or man-made -- is the primary focus of a recent alliance between seven leading medical centers, universities and public health institutions including MD Anderson Cancer Center. Supported by funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the SECURE (Science, Education, Community United to Respond to Emergencies) consortium has plans under way.
"Our goal is for recovery centers such as SECURE to help health disparity communities plan, prepare and establish their capacity to respond to disasters of all kinds," says John Ruffin, Ph.D., director of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health, which allocated $4 million to fund this initiative.

Members of the consortium are combining their services and systems that are already in place to develop a systematic blueprint that will aid researchers and health care providers in addressing the many health concerns vulnerable communities face during and after a disaster.

"Currently, there is no unified system in place along the Gulf Coast that will enable vulnerable communities to keep moving forward and obtain the necessary health care needed when disasters occur," says  Lovell Jones, Ph.D., director of the Center for Research on Minority Health and lead principal investigator of SECURE. "This is an ongoing problem that contributes to health disparities."

Leading the efforts of the consortium, the Center for Research on Minority Health in the Department of Health Disparities Research at MD Anderson has developed a disaster preparedness education program designed to engage local youth through training modules, workshops and activities that focus on human health and the environment with an emphasis on disaster preparedness.

Other members of the consortium, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Baylor College of Medicine, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College and the Houston Department of Health and Human Services, have tools in place to help strengthen communities and organized rescue groups with programs that educate Gulf Coast residents on how to prepare for and handle disasters, thus reducing health disparities during catastrophic times. 



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