Friday, December 12, 2008

Health Care and Cancer Threat

According to ABCNews.com, Cancer is projected to become the leading cause of death worldwide in 2010. That is a staggering piece of information and one that deserves our full attention. It means that despite the progress we have made here in the United States and other developed countries in decreasing the burden from cancer, the rest of the world is far behind and is suffering the consequences. In the last 30 years of the 20th century, the global burden of cancer more than doubled. That trend is projected to continue, and by 2030 there could be 27 million newly diagnosed cases of cancer, 17 million deaths each year and 75 million people alive with cancer within five years of diagnosis.

The report goes on to say that One quarter of cancers in developing countries are attributable to infectious diseases, some of which are preventable with currently available vaccines. More importantly, although 12 percent of cancers in developing countries today are related to tobacco, that number is expected to increase significantly as cigarettes spread their scourge around the world. There are many countries that are still in the relatively early stages of their own tobacco pandemics, and have yet to be affected to the degree seen in the United States. The future impact of tobacco on the health of those countries is absolutely frightening. Another sad tale is that many developing countries are adopting Western lifestyles at a quickening pace. Americans are exporting our diets, our habits and our fast-food outlets throughout the world. Along with that comes overweight and obesity, and with that an increase in the risk of cancer deaths in both men and women. Couple these factors with an increase in global population and aging of that population, and you have a formula guaranteed to increase the numbers of people diagnosed and dying from cancer.

Obesity has long been associated with an increased risk and severity of breast cancer in postmenopausal women according to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. New research now shows that this risk is not the result of differences in the use or accuracy of mammography screening but instead may actually be the result of biologic differences in tumor development. Approximately 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the United States alone. The majority of breast cancers are diagnosed among postmenopausal women. Previous research has indicated that postmenopausal women who are overweight or obese are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Furthermore, being overweight or obese has been associated with larger tumor size and more advanced disease at diagnosis. Researchers have been uncertain about the reasons for the association between obesity and increased breast cancer risk, especially because obese women are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced disease. Obese women are more likely than normal weight women to have fatty breast tissue, which increases the visibility of tumors on mammography. However, obese women also have larger breasts and it can be difficult to get accurate images of the entire breast, which could result in missed cancers.

Additionally, the Nemours Foundation reports that although breast cancer in teens is extremely rare, it's a good idea for girls to learn how to perform a breast self-examination (BSE) so they can get used to how their bodies feel normally. After learning what is normal for them, teens can then recognize changes in their breasts. Doctors recommend doing a monthly BSE at the same time each month (like a few days after a girl's period ends, when breasts are less tender). Some kinds of lumps that teenage girls may feel are normal, but a doctor should check out any lump to be sure. If your daughter notices any changes or has any questions, she should talk to her doctor.

According to Punch on the Web, a recent statement by Pfizer, a leading pharmaceutical company, that “no fewer than 100,000 new cases of breast cancer occur in the country every year” calls for serious concern and an urgent action to arrest the ugly trend. The pharmaceutical giant also says the nation has 25 cases per 100, 000 women. This development, it says, has ranked breast cancer as the commonest form of cancer among women. Pfizer further estimates that more than 400, 000 women die annually from the disease. Without a doubt, ignorance is one of the causes of this life-threatening disease. Evidence abounds that breast cancer is treatable if discovered early and that survivors can lead normal lives. Oncology experts agree that early detection is the best way to treat breast cancer. Three steps recommended for early detection of breast cancer are regular mammogram (a screening tool that uses X-ray to provide an image of the breast), clinical breast examination and breast self-examination. They advise women to familiarise themselves with their breasts and report unusual changes to their physicians.

Changes to look out for, according to Pfizer, include a lump or thickening which is different from the rest of the breast tissue; continuous pain in one part of the breast or armpit; one breast becoming larger or lower; when a nipple becomes inverted or changes shape or position; swelling under the armpit or around the collarbone; a rash on or around the nipple and discharge from one or both nipples. both men and women are capable of being affected by the disease but men are generally at low risk for developing breast cancer.

Also, recent studies have found the standard screening test for prostate cancer may not be accurate for obese men, leaving them more vulnerable to the disease, and surgery is less likely to be effective for them as reported by HealthDay online. Obese men are more likely to be diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease. The reason: The blood test that looks for elevated levels of the protein prostate-specific antigen (PSA), indicating a heightened cancer risk, doesn't seem as reliable for obese men; and the assumption is that these men have more blood volume, so PSA gets diluted. By the time obese men get to elevated levels, the cancer is more advanced. Prostate cancer is suspected when the PSA reading is 4 or higher. The current recommendation is for men aged 50 and older to be offered an annual PSA test, with explanations of its possible risks and benefits. A federal preventive medicine committee this week said that PSA screening should not be done for men aged 75 and older because the risks outweigh the benefits.

Additionally, according to eDocAmerica.com, eating meat grilled well done or burned has been linked to two types of cancer, colon and pancreatic. The longer meat cooks at high temperatures, the greater the buildup of cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). This increased risk of cancer is not confined to grilled foods but is associated with pan-fried meats at high temperatures also. Grilled vegetables, even well-done, do not appear to pose the same risk as overcooked meat. You can also reduce your risk by precooking meats in the oven or microwave, and then finishing them on the grill for just a few minutes. So, go easy on the red meat.

Also, supplements are known for the power to help cure many diseases. According to MedScape Today.com, neither vitamin E nor vitamin C reduces the risk for prostate cancer or total cancer, according to the results of a large, long-term, randomized trial of male physicians reported in the December 9 Early Release issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Neither vitamin E nor vitamin C supplementation was significantly associated with colorectal, lung, or other site-specific cancers. Overall findings were not affected by adjustment for adherence and exclusion of the first 4 or 6 years of follow-up. Adjustment for various cancer risk factors did not show any significant change of the effect of vitamin E on prostate cancer risk or either agent on total cancer risk. The data provided no support for the use of these supplements for the prevention of cancer in middle-aged and older men. However, it is reassuring that there was not a clear signal of harm for either agent according to the study.

Cancer changes the health care outlook for anyone who receives that diagnosis. It also affects family members, co-workers, employers, and friends. Make sure that you get regular screenings and report any irregularities in self-examinations to your doctor. Early detection saves lives.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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