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Recently by Laura Nathan-Garner

quit_smoking_how_to_curb_the_urge.JPGThis Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, marks the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General's 1964 Report on Smoking and Health, the first major statement in the United States linking smoking to lung cancer.

With more than 200,000 people diagnosed with lung cancer each year in the United States and smoking contributing to 87% of lung cancer deaths and 30% of all cancer deaths, this landmark report and the 30 subsequent Surgeon General's Reports on smoking have greatly influenced what we do here at MD Anderson.

Here are four ways the Surgeon General's Report has impacted our work and -- and our cancer patients and their families.

1.    We've hired more researchers focused on smoking and cancer.
"The 1964 Surgeon General's Report set the stage for extraordinary increase in knowledge and research on tobacco and cancer that's occurred since then," says Ellen R. Gritz, Ph.D., chair of Behavioral Science at MD Anderson and an author and/or editor for nine Surgeon General's reports on smoking and tobacco.

DiNardo.jpgAt MD Anderson, we're constantly looking for innovative new ways to provide the best possible cancer treatment options for our patients as we work toward our mission of Making Cancer History®. To help with this, we've enlisted a cognitive computing system powered by IBM Watson.

This technology, known as Oncology Expert Advisor™ (OEA), will soon be used by our doctors and researchers as part of our Moon Shots Program, starting with our fight against leukemia. Ultimately, we hope to use the OEA in all of our clinics to help our patients regardless of their cancer type.

By pulling together and analyzing vast amounts of information from patient and research databases, the OEA is expected to help our care teams identify and fine-tune the best possible cancer treatments for our patients, while also alerting them to problems that arise during a patient's care. The OEA is also expected to help our researchers advance new discoveries in our fight against cancer.

We recently spoke with Courtney DiNardo, M.D., assistant professor in Leukemia, who's been testing the OEA before it debuts in our leukemia clinic. Here's what she had to say.

What are the benefits of using the OEA to organize and collect data about our patients?
The OEA can extract patient information from various data sources and synthesize all available medical records into a clear, concise and accurate synopsis. It can analyze clinical information, medical history, as well as leukemia-related information, such as specific genetic and molecular features, and look at all available information in the context of published evidence-based guidelines and available clinical trials.

Kenneth and Clara Woo.jpg
Eight years after undergoing treatment for a Hodgkin disease recurrence, Kenneth Woo was just about to graduate from his oncologist's care at MD Anderson.
 

Then, the unthinkable happened: he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) after suffering from fatigue and dizziness that he'd thought was anemia.

"I'll never forget the sad look on my doctor's face when he told me I probably had leukemia," Kenneth says. "At that point, going from Hodgkin disease to leukemia felt like getting a death sentence."

Doctors told Kenneth that AML was a common side effect of the type of radiation and chemotherapy he'd received as part of his Hodgkin disease treatment. "Because two of my chromosomes were mutated from previous cancer treatments, it didn't look promising," Kenneth recalls.

At that point, Kenneth and his wife Clara -- who were raising two young daughters -- agreed to ensure neither faced this AML diagnosis alone. They agreed to tell each other exactly what they were feeling, even on their worst days.

AML treatment: A clinical trial and chemotherapy
For his AML treatment, Kenneth immediately began chemotherapy and enrolled in a clinical trial that kept him in isolation for weeks. He couldn't see his daughters at all. And, when his blood cell count dropped to zero, Kenneth could only see Clara through a glass window.

BettyWhite.jpgBetty White helped doctors catch her ovarian cancer in its earliest stages by being her own best advocate.

She first went to her gynecologist after she'd been experiencing continual fatigue and lower abdominal pain in 1997. But the first tests the doctor ran didn't raise any red flags.

When Betty's symptoms were still bothering her three months later, she underwent a laparoscopy and then a complete hysterectomy. At that point, the lab results showed high-grade serous and clear cell ovarian cancer -- "a rather surprise diagnosis," Betty recalls.

"You know your body better than anyone else, so you need to pay attention to what it's telling you so that you can talk to your doctor," she advises others. "No one realized it was going to be cancer, not even my gynecologist."

Receiving ovarian cancer treatment at MD Anderson
Once her ovarian cancer diagnosis was made, Betty's doctor referred her to MD Anderson, a place she'd grown to love while working here as a computer programmer until her daughter's birth in 1982.

"I already knew MD Anderson was a special place, but I'd never realized I'd need their services as well," she says.

For her ovarian cancer treatment, Betty underwent six courses of chemotherapy. She's been cancer-free ever since then and "continues to knock on wood every day."

Throat Cancer.jpgThe number of throat cancer cases is on the rise, with about 12,000-15,000 people expected to be diagnosed with throat cancer in 2013.

The biggest reason for this increase is the human papillomavirus (HPV) -- the same sexually transmitted infection that causes cervical cancer. In fact, by 2020, HPV may cause more throat cancers than cervical cancers.

We recently spoke with Erich Sturgis, M.D., professor of Head and Neck Surgery, about HPV and throat cancer. Here's what he had to say.

What's the connection between HPV and cancer?
There are over 100 types of HPV, and they're all spread through contact. Some of the most dangerous types are especially spread through sexual contact, including oral sex. Many people will contract HPV at some point, but the body often clears the infection.

Suitcase

Whether you're traveling one mile or 1,000 miles to get here, packing for your first visit to MD Anderson can be a little daunting. After all, you've got a million other things on your mind, and you're not sure exactly what to expect when you get here.

So, we asked several veteran cancer patients and caregivers what's on their must-bring list. We hope their answers -- shared below -- will help making packing for your first visit a little easier.

1.  Patience and calming distractions
A lot of patience. Families are under a lot of stress when they come to MD Anderson, but it's important to understand that you may have to wait a while before seeing the doctor or getting your scans. Bring a book or headphones or something that will help calm you during the wait. 
-- Sandra Bishnoi, breast cancer patient

sunscreen.jpgFor many of us, summertime means time outdoors by the pool or at the beach. But while you probably already know to use sunscreen to help protect your family from skin cancer, including melanoma, it turns out that many of us aren't using sunscreen correctly.

That's the word from Dennis Hughes, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Pediatrics. Below, he shares nine things about sunscreen and skin cancer that may surprise you.

1. Your family probably isn't using enough sunscreen.
The biggest trouble people get into with sunscreen is not using enough and missing spots. You should be covering every part of your body exposed to the sun with sunscreen, including your ears, back of your neck and toes.

The average adult should use one ounce of sunscreen per application. That means the bottle should be gone within a few applications.

A family of four should use one bottle of sunscreen on vacation in two days. But most only use 1.5 bottles of sunscreen per year. 

active man

One in two men will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. And, one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in American men, just behind lung cancer.

So, what can men do to protect themselves from cancer? We recently spoke with John Papadopoulos, M.D., assistant professor of Urology. He works at the MD Anderson Regional Care Center in Katy.

Here's what Dr. Papadopoulos had to say.

What are some easy tips for men to help men prevent cancer?

There are a lot of things men can do to protect themselves from cancer:

  • Avoid tobacco - even celebratory cigars - and limit alcohol to no more than two drinks per day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and stay physically active each day.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Make fruits and vegetables the biggest part of every meal and go easy on the meat. Limit the amount of red meat you eat to 18 oz. week and avoid processed meats like hot dogs and pepperoni. 
  • Wear sunscreen and practice sun safety. 
  • See a doctor regularly and get the screening exams you need. Many men avoid seeing a doctor because they're afraid, but if you do have a chronic disease like cancer, diabetes or heart disease, the earlier we catch it, the easier it will be to treat. 

Keep in mind that doing these things doesn't guarantee you won't get cancer. But living a healthy lifestyle can put you in fighting shape if you do develop cancer.

READ: Men: Health for your age

What cancer screening exams do men need? And, when should most men start screening?

Most men need both a prostate exam (digital rectal exam and PSA test) and a colonoscopy starting at age 50. This is the appropriate age for screening if you don't have a family history (father, son, brother) of prostate or colon cancer and you're not African American, which can make you more likely to develop these cancers.

Cathy Eng

Each year, fewer than 1,000 Americans are diagnosed with appendix cancer, also called appendiceal cancer.

The appendix is located in your digestive system, near where your large intestine and small intestine meet. Tumors in the appendix can be cancerous (malignant), but some are harmless (benign).

Unfortunately, because appendix cancer is so rare, there's still a lot we don't know about its causes and prevention. Appendix cancer can also be hard to detect. A routine preventive colonoscopy to detect colon cancer may incidentally detect appendiceal cancer, but not always.

We recently spoke with Cathy Eng, M.D., associate professor of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology, to learn more about appendix cancer symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options.

Here's what she had to say.

Last summer, Oliver Bogler felt a lump in his chest -- one that sometimes seemed to grow and ache. Though his Internet searches told him it could be male breast cancer, Bogler put off telling his wife. He also put off going to see a doctor for several months.

Though the male breast cancer diagnosis that Bogler ultimately received is rare, stories like his are not. Men are far less likely than women to have visited the doctor in the past year, according to research.

But, as Bogler learned, waiting and avoiding the doctor doesn't usually make symptoms disappear. In fact, it may just cause more worrying.

Now Bogler is sharing his advice for others who put off doctor's visits, especially men who suspect they may have cancer.

In honor of National Men's Health Week from June 10-16, we encourage you to watch Bogler's video below and share it with the men in your life.

girl with questions CW.JPGFor many patients and caregivers, the first visit to MD Anderson can be a little daunting. On top of wondering how you and your family will cope with your cancer diagnosis, you may be worried about everything from parking to what to expect on your first day to whether your doctor will listen to your concerns.

Below, several patients and caregivers share what they wish they'd known before coming to MD Anderson. We hope their insight helps make your first visit a little easier.

You're not just a number
"I wish I'd known that it's pretty easy to be a patient here. I was intimidated by stories of how going to MD Anderson is like being in a cattle call. I did not find that to be true at all. It's peaceful and, even though the size can be intimidating, there are so many forms of help and ways to ease the visit. MD Anderson is a place where I feel listened to and not like a number."
-- Brandie Sellers, two-time breast cancer survivor

wendysbell.JPGWe see plenty of people in hospital gowns in the halls and clinics here at MD Anderson. But women in evening gowns? Almost never.

So, at least a few jaws dropped when Wendy Hunsaker and 12 of her closest female friends and relatives walked into our Radiation Treatment Center on a Monday afternoon, clad in evening gowns.

Wendy was here for her last round of radiation treatment for breast cancer. And, when it was over, she intended to celebrate by ringing the bell surrounded by friends and relatives.

But first, a wardrobe change: Wendy would trade in her hospital gown for a knee-length white beaded evening gown, a cashmere wrap and glittering gold heels that, as Wendy put it, "The Wizard of Oz's Dorothy would envy."

A guest list of "prayer warriors"
Wendy began planning her intimate black tie celebration soon after she started radiation treatment in October 2012. She'd been inspired by her sister-in-law, Linda, a two-time triple negative breast cancer survivor who'd stressed the importance of celebrating the end of her cancer treatment.

Wendy ordered gold glittered invitations instructing guests to wear "evening gown bling" and planned a seated dinner at her home to follow her bell ringing.


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