Continue reading Warning Signs For Cancer
Weight loss. Bleeding. Bloating. Cough. When are symptoms like these a temporary bother, and when are they early signs of something much worse — like cancer?Beth Howard
Random…Thoughts for today
I hate ever hearing the word cancer and especially knowing the cruel side effects it has on people. And people dying from it.
I am sure that dreams/nightmares, can consciously affect a person.
Everyone will not notice what you do for them, and that’s ok. It is done probably from the heart and that doesn’t need gratification if it is genuine.
I love that morning coffee. It has been a good friend.
Anyone else annoyed by the Mickey mouse on Disney?????
When it comes to treating cancer, early detection can be beneficial. That’s why experts are constantly working to develop new technology that catches the disease as soon as possible.
“Cancer screening leads to early detection of cancer, allowing most cancers to be diagnosed at a stage that is curable,” said Lauren Nye, an oncologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
But navigating this process can be confusing, to say the least. What cancer diagnostic tests should you have done and at what age? And how reliable are these tests? Below, experts break down the important tests you should be aware of when it comes to early cancer detection and when (or if!) you should consider taking them:
At-Home Genetic Testing
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Some at-home genetic tests can also offer health results. Within 23andMe’s health and ancestry service, customers can opt in to accessing their risk for the select variants of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene through a report. The report, authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, provides information on whether a person’s genetic result is associated with an increased risk for breast, ovarian, prostate and other cancers.
Stacey Detweiler, a medical affairs associate and genetic counselor with 23andMe, said it’s important to note that 23andMe “only tests for three of more than 1,000 BRCA variants known to increase cancer risk.”
And a negative result in the report ― i.e., “no variants detected” ― does not mean the user isn’t at risk for cancer because other genetic and nongenetic factors that are not tested still play a large role in overall risk for these cancers, Detweiler added. But a positive result ― or “variant detected”― may indicate a person’s risk for certain cancers, especially breast and ovarian cancer in women.
“We strongly recommend customers whose genetic result is associated with an increased cancer risk to speak to a health care professional about additional testing to confirm the result and to better understand their potential cancer risks,” Detweiler said.
A warning to keep in mind: Some experts caution against at-home genetic health testing if you experience anxiety. It’s a personal decision that’s best weighed against factors including your mental health and your genetic risk for cancer.
“Until there is a cure, screening mammography is our best tool in the fight against breast cancer,” said Michael Fishman, a radiologist at Boston Medical Center. For early detection, Fishman suggested breast cancer screenings with tomosynthesis (i.e., a 3D mammogram).
Breast tomosynthesis takes a series of images of the breast that can be scrolled through, similar to the pages of a book, so radiologists can examine the breast layer by layer. This, according to Fishman, provides radiologists with clearer, more accurate images and allows them to identify cancers that may be hidden in breast tissue. Fishman recommends mammography screenings at age 40 and annually thereafter.
“Some women, depending on their personal breast history, their family history and their genetics, may need to begin screening at a younger age,” noted Lauren Carcas, a medical oncologist and breast cancer specialist at the Miami Cancer Institute. Chat with your doctor about your risk factors to figure out when you may need to start.
David Liska, a colorectal surgeon at Cleveland Clinic, said colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers and the ideal tool to screen for it is a colonoscopy.
“A colonoscopy is the only colorectal cancer screening test that can prevent cancer, while other tests just detect cancer. A colonoscopy can both detect and remove polyps before they can turn into colon cancer,” he said, adding that the majority of people may have no symptoms from colorectal cancer at its earliest stage, which is why it is essential to keep up with screenings.
The American Cancer Society recommends people at an average risk for colorectal cancer start regular screenings at age 45.
Stool Tests for Colon Cancer
While colonoscopies are the preferred method for colon cancer screenings, there are other tests that have been approved as well, which can be done from your own bathroom.
High-sensitivity fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) check for the appearance of blood in the stools that are unable to be seen visually. For these tests, which are approved by the FDA as a form of colorectal cancer screening, patients collect stool samples and return them to their doctor for analysis.
Cologuard is another FDA-approved, noninvasive stool screening that can be done for those 50 years or older and with an average risk for colon cancer. Patients can get access to Cologuard by discussing their screening options with their health care provider, who can then prescribe it. The testing kit is sent with simple instructions to follow, according to Mark Stenhouse, president of Cologuard at Exact Sciences.
“Patients provide a stool sample and ship it in the original prepaid box back to the lab. Results are sent to their health care provider within two weeks,” Stenhouse said.
If the test is positive, the patient will be referred for a diagnostic colonoscopy for additional testing. Stenhouse added that Cologuard is intended for those ages 50 and older. The advantages of these tests is that they require no cleansing of the colon and do not involve a patient having to take time off work and to undergo sedation, unless a test result comes back and a doctor deems a colonoscopy necessary.
There are several blood tests a doctor may perform to assess your risk of cancer.
For example, CellMax Life FirstSight test is a blood test for colorectal cancer screening for the presence of pre-cancer or colorectal cancer.
“This test is for the routine screening of individuals 45 years or older and with average risk for colorectal cancer, meaning they do not have a genetic predisposition or a personal or family history of colorectal cancer,” said Mana Javey, the medical director at CellMax Life. Javey added that individuals with a positive result should get a diagnostic colonoscopy as the confirmatory test.
One of the best ways to test for prostate cancer ― one of the most common cancers in men ― is also through a blood test, called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. This measures the level of a protein made by cells in the prostate gland in the blood. A rise indicates there may be an issue with the prostate.
“Studies show that a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test done early — in a man of age 40 to 45 — will assess his risk of developing lethal prostate cancer,” said Behfar Ehdaie, a urologist with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
This test will classify a patient into one of three groups: a low-risk group (where the individual doesn’t need PSA testing for another five years or so), an intermediate-risk group (where the person should get PSA testing in another year or two) and a high-risk group (where the individual should be evaluated more closely right away), Ehdaie explained.
Pap Smears and HPV Tests for Cervical Cancer
Jessica Shepherd, an OB-GYN and gynecological surgeon at Baylor University Medical Center in Texas, said Pap smears and a test for the human papillomavirus are the best screenings available for cervical cancer.
“Cervical cancer was once the No. 1 cancer killer among American women, but the cervical cancer death rate has dropped significantly since the introduction of the Pap test more than 70 years ago,” she said.
This is why HPV testing is important, too, which can be included when you get a Pap smear. Certain forms of HPV can cause cervical cancer and roughly eight out of 10 U.S. women will contract HPV at some point in their lives. “Most HPV infections go away on their own. Those that persist can eventually develop into cancer,” she said, adding that cervical cancer testing offers early detection of abnormalities before they become cancer.
Shepherd said women should be screened for cervical cancer starting at age 21 until age 65 and that women ages 21 to 29 should get tested with the Pap test. For women ages 30 to 65, it’s recommended to be screened with both a Pap smear and the HPV test together, she added. This is the preferred standard for this age group and detects 95 percent of cervical cancer cases.
Mole Mapping for Skin Cancer
Mole mapping is a tool being used in select hospitals and clinics that does a full-body scan of the skin in individuals at high risk of developing melanoma, according to Burton Eisenberg, executive medical director of Hoag Family Cancer Institute in Newport Beach, California.
“The tool takes a series of computer-enhanced photos of your body, evaluating pigmented skin lesions for risk. And every six months to one year, the patient returns and a repeat scan is then used to compare if changes occurred during the interval since the last visit,” he said.
Jenny Sobera, a dermatologist and chief medical officer at Face MD Plus, recommends the procedure for patients with numerous atypical-looking moles. “Because skin cancer is often detected when a mole has changed, mapping may be the only way to distinguish a changing mole from other stable moles in the same general area,” she said.
Sometimes an annual physical can be the earliest point of entry. This might be a time your doctor can catch early signs of a health issue, like cancer, and may refer you for additional testing if they notice anything they’d like to have investigated.
The same goes for yearly specialist appointments, like the dermatologist, where a medical professional might examine your moles for any signs of skin cancer. It’s a procedure that should be performed once yearly for all patients over 35 and those who have risk factors like fair skin, history of sunburn, history of tanning bed use and family history of skin cancer, Sobera said.
Also, “patients that have had skin cancer or pre-cancerous moles should have skin exams annually and in some cases every three to six months,” she added. “Dermatologists are highly trained in early detection and often use dermoscopy to look for subtle changes.”
© Gravity Images via Getty Images
Finally, don’t underestimate your own power. While many screenings or checks are administered by your doctor ― who recommends tests based on your age, family history and lifestyle ― there are measures you can take at home to make sure you’re in optimal health. This includes performing self-checks for physical signs of certain cancers, like breast cancer or skin cancer.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, everyone should perform a monthly head-to-toe self-examination of their skin to check for “any new or changing lesions that might be cancerous or precancerous.” The warning signs that a mole may be dangerous include a mole that changes color, increases in size, has an irregular outline or is larger than the size of a pencil eraser. A self-exam should take no more than 10 minutes and is something experts coin “a small investment in what could be a life-saving procedure.”
For breast self-exams, perform them once a month at home either in your shower, in front of a mirror or while lying in bed. Observe any lumps, changes or discharge. Keep note of any abnormalities in your breasts that you experience and report them to your doctor if anything seems different.
Related Video: FDA Proposes New Mammography Standards (Provided by CNN)
Cancers linked to alcohol use
Alcohol use has been linked with cancers of the:
For each of these cancers, the more alcohol you drink, the higher your cancer risk.
Cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, and esophagus: Alcohol use clearly raises the risk of these cancers. Drinking and smoking together raises the risk of these cancers even more than drinking or smoking alone. This might be because alcohol can help harmful chemicals in tobacco get inside the cells that line the mouth, throat and esophagus. Alcohol may also limit how these cells can repair damage to their DNA caused by the chemicals in tobacco.
Liver cancer: Long-term alcohol use has been linked to an increased risk of liver cancer. Regular, heavy alcohol use can damage the liver, leading to inflammation and scarring. This might raise the risk of liver cancer.
Colon and rectal cancer: Alcohol use has been linked with a higher risk of cancers of the colon and rectum. The evidence for this is generally stronger in men than in women, but studies have found the link in both sexes.
Breast cancer: Even a few drinks a week is linked with an increased risk of breast cancer in women. This risk may be especially high in women who do not get enough folate (a B vitamin) in their diet or through supplements. Alcohol can also raise estrogen levels in the body, which may explain some of the increased risk. Cutting back on alcohol may be an important way for many women to lower their risk of breast cancer.
Does the type of alcohol matter?
Ethanol is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks, whether they are beers, wines, liquors (distilled spirits), or other drinks. Alcoholic drinks contain different percentages of ethanol, but in general, a standard size drink of any type — 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor — contains about the same amount of ethanol (about half an ounce). Of course, larger or ‘stronger’ drinks can contain more ethanol than this.
Overall, the amount of alcohol someone drinks over time, not the type of alcoholic beverage, seems to be the most important factor in raising cancer risk. Most evidence suggests that it is the ethanol that increases the risk, not other things in the drink.
How does alcohol raise cancer risk?
Exactly how alcohol affects cancer risk isn’t completely understood. In fact, there might be several different ways it can raise risk, and this might depend on the type of cancer.
Damage to body tissues
Alcohol can act as an irritant, especially in the mouth and throat. Cells that are damaged by the alcohol may try to repair themselves, which could lead to DNA changes that can be a step toward cancer.
Bacteria that normally live in the colon and rectum can convert alcohol into large amounts of acetaldehyde, a chemical that has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals.
Alcohol and its byproducts can also damage the liver, leading to inflammation and scarring. As liver cells try to repair the damage, they can end up with mistakes in their DNA, which could lead to cancer.
Effects on other harmful chemicals
Alcohol may help other harmful chemicals, such as those in tobacco smoke, enter the cells lining the upper digestive tract more easily. This might explain why the combination of smoking and drinking is much more likely to cause cancers in the mouth or throat than smoking or drinking alone.
In other cases, alcohol may slow the body’s ability to break down and get rid of some harmful chemicals.
Effect on absorption of folate or other nutrients
Alcohol might affect the body’s ability to absorb some nutrients, such as folate. Folate is a vitamin that cells in the body need to stay healthy. Absorption of nutrients can be even worse in heavy drinkers, who often have low levels of folate. These low levels may play a role in the risk of some cancers, such as breast and colorectal cancer.
Effects on estrogen or other hormones
Alcohol can raise the levels of estrogen, a hormone important in the growth and development of breast tissue. This could affect a woman’s risk of breast cancer.
Effects on body weight
Too much alcohol can add extra calories to the diet, which can contribute to weight gain in some people. Being overweight or obese is known to increase the risks of many types of cancer.
Along with these effects, alcohol may contribute to cancer growth in other, unknown ways.
Other long-term health effects from drinking alcohol
Most people know about the short-term effects of drinking alcohol, such as its effects on mood, concentration, judgment, and coordination. But alcohol can also have longer-term health effects. These can vary from person to person.
For some people, alcohol is addictive. Drinking can become heavier over time, leading to serious health and social problems. Heavy drinkers who suddenly stop drinking can have physical withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, and other serious problems over the next few days. In some people these can be life-threatening. This doesn’t mean that heavy drinkers should not stop drinking. It does mean that heavy drinkers should talk with their health care team about the safest way to stop drinking.
Over time, heavy drinking can cause inflammation (hepatitis) and heavy scarring (cirrhosis) in the liver. This can lead to liver failure. Heavy drinking can also damage other organs, such as the pancreas and the brain, and can raise blood pressure. It also increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
In pregnant women, alcohol use, especially heavy drinking, may lead to birth defects or other problems with the fetus.
On the other hand, low to moderate alcohol use has been linked with a lower risk of heart disease in some people. Low to moderate use is usually defined as 1 or 2 drinks a day for a man or 1 drink a day for a woman. The potential benefit of lowering heart disease risk has to be weighed against the possible health risks for each person.
What does the American Cancer Society recommend?
As part of its guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention, the American Cancer Society recommends that people who drink alcohol limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink a day for women.
The recommended limit is lower for women because of their smaller body size and because their bodies tend to break down alcohol more slowly. These daily limits do not mean it’s safe to drink larger amounts on fewer days of the week, which can still lead to health, social, and other problems.
Alcohol use has been linked to several types of cancer and other health risks, but this is complicated by the fact that low-to-moderate alcohol intake has been linked with a lower risk of heart disease. Still, lowering the risk of heart disease is not a compelling reason for adults who don’t drink alcohol to start.
There are many ways to reduce heart disease risk, including avoiding smoking, eating a diet low in saturated and trans fats, staying at a healthy weight, staying physically active, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol.
According to the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines for Americans, some groups of people should not drink alcoholic beverages at all. These include:
- Children and teens
- People who cannot limit their drinking or who are recovering from alcoholism
- Women who are or may become pregnant
- People who plan to drive or operate machinery
- People who take part in other activities that require attention, skill, or coordination or in situations where impaired judgment could cause injury or death
- People taking prescription or over-the-counter medicines that interact with alcohol
- People with certain medical conditions (such as liver disease or pancreatitis)
Alcohol use during and after cancer treatment
Many studies have found a link between alcohol intake and the risk of developing certain cancers. But it is not clear whether alcohol use after treatment might increase the risk of these cancers coming back (recurring). In theory, it’s possible that alcohol use might raise the risk of recurrence. For example, alcohol can increase the levels of estrogens in the body, which might increase the risk for breast cancer recurrence. But there is no strong evidence from studies to support this.
In people who have already been diagnosed with cancer, alcohol intake could also affect the risk of developing a new cancer.
There are some cases during cancer treatment in which alcohol clearly should be avoided. For example, alcohol – even in very small amounts – can irritate mouth sores caused by some cancer treatments, and can even make them worse. Alcohol can also interact with some drugs used during cancer treatment, which might increase the risk of harmful side effects. It’s important to talk with your doctor about this if you are being treated for cancer.
But for people who have completed cancer treatment, the effects of alcohol on cancer recurrence risk are largely unknown. It’s important to discuss this with your doctor. Factors that can be important include:
- The type of cancer
- Your risk of recurrence
- Your treatment(s)
- Your overall health
- Other possible risks and benefits of drinking
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Along with the American Cancer Society, other sources of patient information and support include:
For more on the link between alcohol and cancer
American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR)
Toll-free number: 1-800-843-8114
For help with and information about alcohol problems
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
Phone number: 1-212-870-3400
Toll-free number: 1-888-4AL-ANON (1-888-425-2666)
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD)
Toll-free number: 1-800-NCA-CALL (1-800-622-2255)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Phone number: 1-301-443-3860
We site: www.niaaa.nih.gov
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator
Toll-free number: 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357)
*Inclusion on this list does not imply endorsement by the American Cancer Society.
American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2016. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society; 2016.
Allen NE, Beral V, Casabonne D, et al. Moderate alcohol intake and cancer incidence in women. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2009;101:296-305.
Cao Y, Willett WC, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Giovannucci EL. Light to moderate intake of alcohol, drinking patterns, and risk of cancer: Results from two prospective US cohort studies. BMJ. 2015 Aug 18;351:h4238.
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions. 2016. Accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm on June 24, 2016.
Chen WY, Rosner B, Hankinson SE, Colditz GA, Willett WC. Moderate alcohol consumption during adult life, drinking patterns, and breast cancer risk. JAMA. 2011;306:1884-1890.
International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. Volume 96: Alcohol Consumption and Ethyl Carbamate. 2010. Accessed at http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol96/mono96.pdf on September 14, 2016.
Kushi LH, Doyle C, McCullough M, et al. American Cancer Society guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: Reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. CA Cancer J Clin. 2012;62:30-67.
Lew JQ, Freedman ND, Leitzmann MF, et al. Alcohol and risk of breast cancer by histologic type and hormone receptor status in postmenopausal women: The NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2009;170:308-317.
National Cancer Institute. Alcohol and Cancer Risk. 2013. Accessed at http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/alcohol/alcohol-fact-sheet on April 4, 2017.
Rock CL, Doyle C, Demark-Wahnefried W, et al. Nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer survivors. CA Cancer J Clin. 2012;62:243-274.
US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Accessed at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/ on September 14, 2016.
World Cancer Research Fund International/American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Report: Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Stomach Cancer. 2016. Accessed at wcrf.org/stomach-cancer-2016 on September 14, 2016.
Last Medical Review: February 12, 2017 Last Revised: April 5, 2017
The link between hot drinks and cancer
A review published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer recently classified drinking very hot beverages as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” raising the risk of cancer.
The findings were based on evidence from studies that showed a link between hot beverages and cancer of the esophagus. A group of scientists analyzed data on the carcinogenicity of a range of beverages, including coffee, tea and mate — a popular steeped South American brew high in caffeine.
What they found was that esophageal cancer seemed to be higher in countries that drank very hot beverages at temperatures of 70 °C (158 °F) because temperatures this high can cause significant scald burns in the esophagus. In fact, a previous study published in 2009 mirrored these same findings. This now places hot beverages in the same category at smoking and alcohol drinking, major causes of esophageal cancer.
Less common in the United States
In 2012, esophageal cancer killed approximately 400,000 people worldwide and was responsible for about 5% of all cancer deaths.
The esophagus is a long, hollow tube that runs from your throat to your stomach and carries the food you swallow to your stomach to be digested. Esophageal cancer usually starts in the cells that line the esophagus, according to the Mayo Clinic, but can occur anywhere along the esophagus.
Esophageal cancer commonly strikes in the lower portion of the esophagus. It’s not as common in the United States and seems to be prevalent in Asia and parts of Africa. Additionally, more men than women seem to get it.
Drink your coffee this way
Twenty-five years after claiming that one of the most popular beverages in the world was “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” the World Health Organization’s cancer agency now has downgraded the cancer risk. An exhaustive review found no conclusive evidence of a carcinogenic effect just from drinking coffee — and that’s a big thumbs up. Unless of course your coffee is really hot — and that’s a big thumbs down.
What You Eat Can Influence Cancer
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.
But studies suggest that simple lifestyle changes, such as following a healthy eating, could prevent 30–50% of all cancers. Growing evidence points to certain dietary habits increasing or decreasing cancer risk.
What’s more, nutrition is thought to play an important role in treating and coping with cancer.
Let’s cover what you need to know about the link between food and cancer.
Higher consumption of foods rich in sugar and refined carbs, as well as processed and overcooked meat, can increase your risk of cancer. In addition, higher dairy consumption has been linked to prostate cancer.
Being overweight or obese is one of the biggest risk factors for several types of cancer. Achieving a healthy weight can help protect against cancer development.
No single food can protect against cancer. However, eating with a eating plan full of diverse whole foods, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, spices, healthy fats, fresh fish and high-quality dairy, may reduce cancer risk.
People on plant-based eating plans, such as vegetarians and vegans, may have a reduced risk of cancer. This is likely due to a high intake of fruit, vegetables and whole grains, as well as a low intake of processed foods.
Optimal nutrition can enhance quality of life and treatment in people with cancer and help prevent malnutrition. A healthy, balanced eating with sufficient protein and calories is best.
Early research suggests that a ketogenic eating may reduce cancerous tumor growth and improve quality of life without serious adverse side effects. However, more research is needed.
Though there are no miracle superfoods that can prevent cancer, some evidence suggests that dietary habits can offer protection. A eating plan high in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein may prevent cancer.
Conversely, processed meats, refined carbs, salt and alcohol may increase your risk. Though no eating plan has been proven to cure cancer, plant-based and keto diets may lower your risk or benefit treatment.
All evidence & citations are from US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health