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Colorectal cancer genetic testing

Recent reports show that colorectal cancer is on the rise in young adults, especially those younger than 40. And many of these cases are linked to genetic mutations.

The good news is that many colorectal cancer cases in young adults can be prevented with the help of genetic counseling and testing. Understanding your colorectal cancer risk can help you start taking steps to prevent cancer.  

We spoke with Eduardo Vilar-Sanchez, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of Clinical Cancer Prevention, to find out more about genetic testing for colorectal cancer. Here's what he had to say. 

Who needs genetic testing for colorectal cancer? 
Any colorectal cancer patient younger than 50 should consider genetic counseling to evaluate the need for genetic testing. In addition, any colorectal cancer patient with a family history of cancer should consider genetic counseling for similar reasons. 

Doug Jones quit smoking

By Doug Jones

I have always heard people say, "Now is not a good time to quit!" There is always a time when you are less stressed, less busy or maybe more devoted to becoming healthier. I am here to tell you not to listen to those people.

When I started working at MD Anderson in January 2000, I was smoking two packs a day, and had been smoking since I was very young. In 2002, I transferred to Laboratory Informatics, where we support several clinical and research areas around MD Anderson. After talking to some of the doctors and seeing the inner workings of the hospital, I made the decision to quit smoking.

However, I was under so much stress when I made that decision. My mother was moving to Texas, and I was going through a bad divorce.

Getting help at MD Anderson
One of my co-workers recommended that I reach out to Bill Baun, program manager for MD Anderson's employee wellness program.

Making that call was very hard, but I realized I had nothing to lose. Mr. Baun came to our support room, talked with me and made me comfortable and secure in my decision to quit smoking.

He put me in contact with MD Anderson's tobacco cessation program, which provides counseling and support for patients and employees trying to quit. That was the beginning of my new life. 

smoking5.19.jpgBy Clayton Boldt

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that e-cigarette use has grown rapidly among teens in the past few years.
It may seem encouraging that this rise coincides with a drop in the use of tobacco products among kids. But e-cigarettes may not be harmless.

The truth is that we have very limited information on e-cigarettes. Their long-term impacts remain unknown, and we don't yet have enough data to support them as a healthy option.

E-cigarettes may create new tobacco users
Because e-cigarettes are not currently regulated by the FDA, manufacturers don't have to report their ingredients. Therefore, it's unclear what is used to flavor many of these products and what health risks might be linked to those chemicals.

E-cigarettes are available in thousands of flavors, such as bubblegum, cinnamon roll and peppermint. This has likely contributed to the increased use in young non-smokers. Most adult smokers started their habits as kids, and e-cigarettes may create a new generation of tobacco users.

FB_esophagealcancer.jpgEsophageal cancer is most common in middle-aged men who are overweight and have a history of acid reflux or heartburn. But our esophageal cancer team -- one of the few in the United States -- diagnoses this disease in all kinds of patients.

We talked with with Ara Vaporciyan, M.D., and Mara Antonoff, M.D., to find out what you need to know about esophageal cancer symptoms, risk factors and treatment. Here's what they had to say. 

Who's at risk for esophageal cancer?

Known risk factors for esophageal cancer include old age, male gender, obesity, longstanding heartburn, tobacco use, alcohol, and diets heavy in processed meats. Having reflux or Barrett's esophagus, a complication of reflux, poses the greatest risk.

People with exposure to certain chemicals, history of injury to the esophagus, human papillomavirus (HPV) or a history of cancer also are at increased risk.

Remember, having these risk factors doesn't mean that you'll get esophageal cancer. And some people who develop esophageal cancer don't have any risk factors.

Therese_Bevers415.jpgBy Brittany Cordeiro

Recent news headlines suggest women with dense breast tissue need specialty care and exams to detect breast cancer.

But Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center, says the news is ahead of the science.

"We understand that dense breast tissue is associated with an increased risk for breast cancer, but we don't fully understand that risk," Bevers says. "We need more research on how to manage women with dense breast tissue before we can say whether extra screening exams make a difference."  

Below, Bevers answers some common questions about dense breasts and screenings. 

What does it mean to have dense breasts?
Breast density describes the proportion of the different tissues that make up a woman's breast. Women with dense breasts have more glandular tissue (breast and connective tissue) than fat.

Also, breast density can only be determined by a mammogram. It's not a measure of feel, such as size or firmness.

amanda42.jpgBy Amanda Woodward

As a melanoma survivor, I know how important it is to find the right dermatologist. After all, I've spent my fair share of time doing just that. My husband is in the Army, and we move often. Each time, I have to find a new dermatologist. It is one of the most stressful parts of moving around for me. It takes a while to build mutual trust.

But I've been fortunate to find some really great dermatologists who listen to my concerns and whom I trust to find any abnormal moles that could lead to skin cancer recurrence.

Here's what I look for in dermatologists:

Are they listening to me?
Like really listening. I spotted the abnormal mole that led to my original melanoma diagnosis. It was just a gut feeling. No, I'm not a doctor, but I do know my body and expect my dermatologist to at least listen and acknowledge my questions and concerns. In the same breath, however, I need my dermatologist to hear me when I say I'm anxious. I would have them remove all of my skin if that were a possibility! So, I also need my dermatologist to reign me in and help me determine what really needs to be examined or removed.

LindaRyansons223.jpgBy Linda Ryan

As cervical cancer survivor, I have spent considerable time and energy trying to protect my children from cancer. I didn't want them to feel the emotional effects of my own cancer journey, and I certainly don't want them to go what I went through.    

When it comes to cancer prevention, there is something I can do now to reduce their chances of being diagnosed with certain cancers in the future: Vaccinate against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause several types of cancer. That includes cervical cancer, as well as head and neck cancers, anal cancer, vulvar cancer and rare genital cancers.

What the HPV vaccine prevents
I know the phrase "HPV vaccine" can conjure up negative connotations, but the words "cancer" and "chemotherapy" are much worse in my book.

Most people don't consider chemo easy or fun. For me, the side effects were painful. When I was undergoing cervical cancer treatment, I didn't have a port, so I received my chemotherapy through an IV. My infusions were close to nine hours long. Some of the medicines and hydration irritated my veins and caused pain that needed to be managed with heat, cold, and eventually, medicine. The pain often brought me to tears.  

Had I been given the chance to be vaccinated 30 years ago vs. having a hysterectomy, eight rounds of chemotherapy and live with the worry that I may not see my children grow up, I know what I would have chosen. And, it's what I chose for my two sons.

AmandaWoodward26.jpgBy Amanda Woodward

Pregnancy can do some crazy things to your, well ... everything! In my case, with both my first and now second pregnancies, my skin has broken out like I'm a teenager! But as a melanoma survivor, I know I need to pay extra attention to my skin when I'm pregnant -- and not just to the breakouts. 

Over the years, I've come to learn a thing or two about protecting yourself, and I think it is my duty as a survivor to spread a tiny bit of awareness. Here's what I've learned about caring for your skin when you're a pregnant cancer survivor: 

Communicate with your oncologist.

Prior to trying to conceive, my husband, Kyle, and I sat down with my oncologist and did a little family planning. (Romantic, right?) I completed melanoma treatment five years ago, but still attend follow-up appointments, and, of course, skin checks. We told my oncologist that we were thinking of starting a family and wanted to know what that would mean for my cancer care. He told us that as far as my cancer was concerned, there was no reason I couldn't or shouldn't become pregnant.

136197_Jonasch_E.jpgIn the 1980s, the American Cancer Society reported that 80% of kidney cancers were diagnosed in the late stages. Today, thanks to better screening methods, only about 40% of cases are discovered at the advanced stage even though patients may not have any kidney cancer symptoms

At MD Anderson, we're continuing to make progress in improving kidney cancer diagnoses and kidney cancer treatment. We spoke with Eric Jonasch, M.D., associate professor in Genitourinary Medical Oncology, to find out more about kidney cancer treatment and research, as well as prevention and diagnosis. Here's what he had to say.  

Who's at risk for kidney cancer? What signs and symptoms should people look for?
Those who have a first-degree relative, like a parent or sibling, who have had kidney cancer are more likely to develop kidney cancer. So are men, as this type of cancer is seen in men twice as often as in women.

In addition, the older we get, the greater our risk becomes. Most kidney cancer patients are over age 60. People who are obese, have high blood pressure or smoke also are more likely to be diagnosed with kidney cancer.

How is kidney cancer diagnosed?
Increasingly, kidney cancer is diagnosed incidentally, when a patient comes in for an unrelated complaint that requires a CT scan and the care team discovers a mass in the kidney.

Kidney cancer symptoms don't often show themselves, but patients whose cancer has progressed to a later stage may experience pain in the stomach or lower back, or blood in their urine.

Patients with kidney cancer also may experience unexplained high hemoglobin levels, unexplained uncontrollable blood pressure or unexplained and persistent weight loss.

Once the cancer is spotted through the CT scan, and there is no sign of spread to other organs, the surgical team may proceed directly to a surgical removal of the tumor. But if the tumor looks abnormal or like it has grown outside of the kidney, they may perform a biopsy to determine if it is a different cancer type.

Mayberry25.jpgBy Jami Mayberry

Wouldn't it be great if there were a cure for cancer? I am praying for that to happen in our lifetimes.

The only thing better than a cure for cancer would be to never get it. A vaccine would do just that. And fortunately, one already exists for cervical cancer and other types of cancer related to the human papillomavirus (HPV).

By getting your kids vaccinated against HPV, you can protect them from several strands of HPV that are known to cause cancer in both women and men.

With the HPV vaccine, I could've avoided cancer

Oh, how I wish they would have had the HPV vaccine when I was young. I would have gotten it, and it might have saved me from so much suffering.

You see, in May 2013, I was diagnosed with vulvar cancer, which may have been caused by HPV. The vaccine may have been able to prevent it. I have spent many hours thinking of how wonderful it would have been to have the vaccine as a child. While many people think of the HPV vaccine preventing cervical cancer, it also can prevent anal cancer, penile cancer, vulvar cancer, oral cancer, and head and neck cancers

A monstrous art project. A groundbreaking lung cancer screening trial. Inspiring stories from our patients and caregivers. Our mission to end cancer. These are just a few of the topics that been popular on MD Anderson's YouTube channel in 2014.

To find out what you missed -- or rediscover some favorites -- check out our top five videos from 2014.

What drives MD Anderson to end cancer

What if we could end cancer? This is the bold idea that guides everything we do here at MD Anderson. Watch our patients, survivors, volunteers and employees describe the hope they feel here and share why they believe MD Anderson is the best place to treat and ultimately end cancer:

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.


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