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experts.jpgNo matter where you are in your cancer journey, you're likely curious about cancer prevention and treatment. Or, maybe you're trying to figure out how to manage an unexpected side effect or whether or not you can exercise during cancer treatment.

Whatever the case, you're sure to find wisdom, guidance and hope in the insight of our doctors and other experts, many of whom shared their expertise here on Cancerwise and in our Cancer Newsline podcast series in 2014.

Below, we've pulled together some of the most helpful insight and advice our doctors and other experts shared this past year. We hope you find something here that helps or inspires you in your cancer journey.

Immunotherapy: Unleashing the immune system to attack cancer
We're making great strides in immunotherapy, a new way of treating cancer that targets the immune system rather than the tumor itself. And, this innovative approach, developed by Jim Allison, Ph.D., professor in Immunology, will open doors for treating all types of cancer. Learn more in this podcast with Allison and Padmanee Sharma, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Genitourinary Medical Oncology and Immunology.

Understanding the new HPV vaccine
Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new vaccine targeting nine types of HPV, including five that haven't been covered by other vaccines. And, for those who get the vaccine, that means even better protection against cervical cancer, oral cancers and other cancers linked to HPV, says Lois Ramondetta, M.D., in Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine. Find out what you should know about the new HPV vaccine.

cancer_vaccine_02 var.jpgYesterday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new vaccine targeting nine types of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), including five types that haven't been covered by other HPV vaccines.

To better understand this new HPV vaccine, known as Gardasil 9 or HPV 9, and what it means for preventing HPV-related cancers, we spoke with Lois Ramondetta, M.D., in Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine. Here's what she had to say.

What is the new HPV vaccine, and what does types of HPV does it guard against?

This is the third FDA-approved HPV vaccine. The previous HPV vaccine, known as Gardasil, only protected against four strains of HPV. This one protects against nine different strains of HPV that have been linked to several types of cancer, including cervical cancer, anal cancer, penile cancer, oral cancer and head and neck cancers

This is great news for cervical cancer prevention. Whereas Gardasil was expected to prevent 70% of all cervical cancers, the new HPV vaccine will prevent closer to 90% of cervical cancers.

Keep in mind that these vaccines only work to prevent HPV. So, if you already have HPV, you can't get the vaccine to treat the HPV or to prevent HPV-related cancers.

Conquest Garden photos (1).JPGFrom the gardens to the skybridge to our leading doctors and kind volunteers, there are many things that set MD Anderson apart and help our patients feel at home. 

Whether it's your first appointment or you've become an old pro, you're likely to appreciate these 17 unique features.

1. Our 69 aquariums. The 66 freshwater and three saltwater live coral reef aquariums in our clinics are home to 3,000 fish -- mostly cichlids, angelfish and rainbow fish. The largest freshwater aquarium, by the Pharmacy in the Main Building, holds 850 gallons.

2. The Observation Deck.
Located on the 24th Floor of the Main Building, the Observation Deck offers peace and quiet, as well as a scenic view of Houston. You're also welcome to play the piano up there.

3. Our volunteers. MD Anderson is fortunate to have more than 1,200 volunteers who contributed  193,921 hours of service last year. Stop by our Hospitality Centers for a cup of coffee and to visit with these caring individuals, many of whom are survivors or caregivers themselves.

4. Our pianos. Twenty-five of our volunteers play the piano in The Park and the Mays Clinic between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. They also play at the Rotary House each day. If you're lucky, you may hear our harpist or one of our two flautists as well.

5. Room service. Inpatients -- as well as their families, caregivers and friends -- can order whatever they want from room service each day from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Our classically trained senior executive chef comes up with the menu of fresh, cooked-to-order meals.  

lung x ray.jpgLung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths, but new advances in prevention, lung cancer screening and research are helping to save more lives. And, here at MD Anderson, we're leading the fight against lung cancer by focusing on prevention, lung cancer screening and personalized lung cancer treatment through our Moon Shots Program, an ambitious program to reduce cancer deaths for several cancers and ultimately find cures for these and other cancers.

We spoke with Ara Vaporciyan, M.D., and Mara Antonoff, M.D., to find out what you need to know about lung cancer. Here's what they had to say about lung cancer screening and early detection, as well as the latest in lung cancer treatment and research.

Who is more likely to develop lung cancer?
Cigarette smoking is estimated to directly cause about 85% of all lung cancers. Smoking cigars or pipes, as well as secondhand smoke exposure, also put you at increased risk of developing lung cancer. 

So does exposure to certain environmental carcinogens, such as asbestos, radon, arsenic, tar, chromium and nickel.

Lung cancer also can run in families, but we have yet to identify exactly the genetic basis for this.

Lung cancer also is becoming more common in women.

tennis shoesBy Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D.

To live long, healthy lives and lower their chances of recurrence, breast cancer survivors should focus on staying active and watching their weight, according to a report out today from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). The report looks at research on whether physical activity, nutrition and overweight and obesity affect breast cancer and overall mortality in breast cancer survivors. The report found evidence to suggest that in women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer:

  • Physical activity, a high fiber diet and eating more soy were associated with longer survival.
  • Obesity is related to a greater chance of developing a second cancer of the breast, dying from breast cancer and shorter survival.
However, the report notes that high quality research on this topic is still limited.

Staying healthy to prevent cancer recurrence

So, what does the report mean for cancer survivors? Should you exercise, and maintain a healthy diet and a healthy weight?

nataliearneson812.jpgBy Natalie Arneson

I recently found out that I carry the BRCA 1 genetic mutation, and I'm not freaking out.

The mutation means that I have a crazy high chance of getting breast cancer. Like, it's practically a guarantee. And ovarian cancer is a strong possibility, too.

You can stop before you barrage me with condolences or compliments. I'll just roll my eyes. And then I'll hug you because I love you. But seriously, don't freak out. I'm not freaking out. Can we just skip freaking out and go to lunch?

Why I decided to undergo genetic testing for breast cancer and ovarian cancer
My mother, Terry Arnold, was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer and triple negative breast cancer at the same time almost seven years ago. Fortunately, when it comes to cancer treatment, my mom kicks butt.

710saoirse.jpgMelanoma was the last thing on Saoirse Murray's mind when she made her first appointment with a dermatologist at age 17. Prom was around the corner, and she was hoping to have a perfect complexion for the big night.

She never guessed that she'd end up with a skin cancer diagnosis.

Saoirse's melanoma diagnosis and treatment

At her first appointment, the dermatologist found two concerning moles on Saoirse's back. He asked Saoirse if she used tanning beds.

Saoirse nodded. She didn't use a tanning bed often. She already had an olive skin tone. But like she'd mentioned, prom was coming up, and she wanted to look perfect.  She'd only gone to the tanning salon a few times -- just like all her friends.

The doctor removed the two moles. 

A few days later, Saoirse received a phone call from her doctor asking her to come back for another appointment as soon as possible.

"I thought it was weird that they had called me at work," she says. "It was a little alarming, but I had no idea what was coming."

You've probably seen someone walking down the street or sitting on an airplane smoking an electronic cigarette -- a smokeless electronic device that allows the user to imitate traditional smoking methods by inhaling a vapor of liquid nicotine. Tobacco companies have recently begun promoting e-cigarettes to hook young people on tobacco, claiming they're harmless and can even help people quit smoking.

But now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stepped in, proposing new rules to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products.

"The reality is we have limited knowledge of what is in e-cigarettes, and if the actual nicotine content on the label is reflective of what's inside. There are no standards for reporting or measuring," says Paul Cinciripini, Ph.D., director of MD Anderson's Tobacco Treatment Program. "Regulation is welcome and further clinical research is needed before e-cigarettes can be promoted as a safe alternative to smoking or as an effective means to quit smoking."

Cracking down on e-cigarettes

E-cigarette sales have jumped from $500 million in 2012 to nearly $2 billion today. This is partly due to hip packing and flavoring options that make e-cigarettes attractive to a new generation of younger smokers. Our tobacco experts are concerned that e-cigarettes may become a gateway form of nicotine for never-smokers, while also preventing those who are trying to quit from kicking their nicotine addiction.

iStock_000007172534Small.jpgBy John Chattaway

As a part of MD Anderson's mission to end cancer, we're aspiring to raise the first tobacco-free generation. It's this goal that led to the creation of the ASPIRE program.

ASPIRE, which stands for A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience, aims to educate teens about the dangers of tobacco use, so they never start smoking. For teens who already use tobacco, it provides information and strategies to quit smoking.

This free, web-based school curriculum has enrolled participants from 28 states and one international city. The program is available in both English and Spanish.

"Young people are very picky about what and how they are taught," says Alexander Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Behavioral Science and director of the Tobacco Outreach Education Program. "That's why we created this online course that is fun, interactive and entertaining while still being educational."

Online tobacco and smoking prevention
ASPIRE can be accessed by anyone through the MD Anderson website. It offers information tailored specifically for one person or for groups. Those who have never smoked can use ASPIRE to learn why it's important to avoid tobacco and how to talk to others about the harms of tobacco.

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By Robert Bresalier, M.D.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States, and the third leading cause of cancer death.

Colorectal cancer develops in the colon or rectum, and grows slowly. In 2014, there will be an estimated 141,000 new colorectal cancer cases in the United States and 49,000 related deaths.  But colorectal cancer is preventable and curable when detected early.

Here are my top four tips to help lower your risks for colorectal cancer:

Tip 1: Get screened for colorectal cancer
Screening remains the most important method to prevent colorectal cancer. People at average risk, age 50 and older, should get a colonoscopy every 10 years. A colonoscopy enables your doctor to detect potentially cancer-causing lesions or polyps early, and remove them.

AmandaWoodward314.jpg

By Amanda Woodward

Because of my melanoma diagnosis, I consider myself a student of sun safety. I've learned to be diligent and cautious about my sun exposure while still getting out and enjoying the season.

However, there's a bit more to it than that. I needed to redefine beautiful as it pertains to skin. As a teen, I saw my peers tanning and was very much aware that tanned skin  was their idea of attractive. Thankfully, society seems to be moving to a place where we see pale skin and consider it healthy, beautiful and classic. I'll take that!

Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks to being safe in the sun and fashionably pale:

By Katrina Burton

MD Anderson is standing by a recommendation that women 40 years old and older receive annual mammograms, despite a recent study that raised controversy regarding breast cancer screening.

"We are not recommending that women change their screening practices," says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson's Cancer Prevention Center. "We stand by our guidelines that recommend women have annual mammograms beginning at age 40 and continue to be screened as long as they are in good health."

But a study by the Canadian National Breast Screening says annual mammography in women ages 40-59 does not reduce mortality from breast cancer and mammography screening should be revisited.

The results of the study, published in the BMJ Journal on Feb. 11, are in direct contrast to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation that  women should begin annual mammograms starting at age 50, and of guidelines by MD Anderson, the American Cancer Society and others that call for annual breast cancer screening to begin at age 40.

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