New Treatments to Kick Cancer’s Butt

Five Cutting Edge Treatments Coming onto the Cancer Treatment Scene

No one wants to hear about the possibility “the Big C” when talking to their doctor, however new cancer treatment options are being discovered and studied every day.

Immunotherapy and Neuroblastoma

Neuroblastoma is a cancer that forms in developing nerve cells and is most often diagnosed in children under the age of five years, according to an article from The Dana Foundation. It is extremely difficult to treat, even with aggressive therapies and has a high relapse rate. A new treatment in study at the University of California, San Diego Medical School consists of a monoclonal antibody and two hormones that help shore up the immune system binds to a lipid on these cancer cells and causes immune system cells to attack. Alice Yu, the treatment study’s leader, says that patients who received this treatment were 20% more likely to be disease free after two years.

Destroying Blood Vessels to Fight Kidney, Colo-rectal and GI Cancers

Without a blood supply cancer cannot grow. By stopping angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels, Dr. William Li, head of the Angiogenesis Foundation, believes that many cancers (and possibly even obesity can be stopped). The body has it’s own system of adding and removing blood vessels as needed, but diseases such as cancer can disrupt these cycles. Currently, there are 12 anti-angiogenic drugs treating 11 different cancers, with more in the works. Studies show that is a 70 to 100 percent increase in survival in patients with kidney, gastrointestinal and colo-rectal cancers. Dr. Li also posits in an article at that eating foods naturally high in anti-angeogenic compounds such as red grapes, berries, dark chocolate and green tea among many others could also help “starve” cancer cells of their blood supply.

Chemoprevention for Breast Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society web site, new treatment options include giving women with certain breast cancer risk factors tamoxifen or raloxifene maybe reduce breast cancer risk. There are side effects, however, that many women do not wish to contend with. Other studies are looking at aromatase inhibitors for reducing the cancer risk in post-menopausal women.

A One-Two Knockout for Leukemia

Dr. Christopher Cogle of the University of Florida is involved in a study, recently approved by the FDA to enter phase 1 clinical trials in humans, in which Oxi4503 is used to poison cancer cells while simultaneously destroying the surrounding blood cells reports The Gainesville Sun. He adds that the trial will not see if the treatment works, since it has already shown promising results in mouse studies, but to determine the maximum dosage level of this “double barreled” cancer therapy.

“Smart Bomb” for Pancreatic Cancer

Without a doubt pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly and difficult to treat forms of cancer. According to a Medical News Today article, pancreatic cancer cells are protected by a layer of specialized cells from the effects of chemotherapy.

A new treatment, using tumor-penetrating micro particles (TPM), presented by Dr. Jessie L.S. Au, Pharm.D, Ph.D, at the Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) Annual Meeting in Los Angeles is better able to deliver the cancer killing drugs to the tumor, slowly releasing over several weeks to target rapid and slow growing tumors. The TPM are designed to move about without being removed by the lymphatic system so they will affected the cancer infected organ longer than traditional treatments. Dr. Au believes that this is a safer option because one dose lasts several weeks, and may be especially helpful to people with the later end stages of pancreatic cancer. This treatment should receive FDA approval for a human clinical trial this year.


Jen Uscher, Immunotherapy Improves Cure Rate for Children with Neuroblastoma. The Dana Foundation.

Kim Zetter, TED 2010: Halting Blood Vessels Key to New Cancer Treatment; Possibly Obesity. Wired.

What’s New in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment? American Cancer Society.

Diane Chun, UF Researchers to Test New Leukemia Treatment. The Gainesville Sun

Rosalind D’Eugenio, Discovery Offers Potential New Pancreatic Cancer Treatment. Medical News Today.

Recovery from Cancer. Diagnosis #3. Age 31 Years Old

The years 2001-2007 were not dramatic for my health. I was in college until 2003 and applied to be a part of the St. Jude Children Research Hospital professional oncology education program. Being in an environment where the fear of cancer had built up over the years, made me unable to perform at the level I should have performed. Physical recovery had been such an issue that I had not dealt with my emotional recovery.

I continued to have surgeries for lumps in 2001 and 2002. By choice, I avoided the doctor in 2003 because of a strong desire to become a mother. In the ten months between my son’s birth and my daughter’s conception, I underwent a mammogram and some testing but no surgeries. While pregnant with my daughter, I found an operating report note from 2002 that had somehow escaped my notice. The report was very interesting.

The cause of my many cysts/lumps/tumors was never explained to me as I am unsure anyone knew what was the cause. A genetic test was suggested before I left St. Jude hospital but because I was no longer a child and in their age range it was not done. The alumni doctor told me she would get back to me with an appointment to see a geneticist at another hospital and for almost two years I kept emailing and asking her to help. I eventually gave up and moved on with life and my kids then I found this report from that time period in 2005.

Whoever wrote the report knew genetic conditions very well. It was suggested that if I had colon polyps, and I did, (St. Jude hospital knew I had colon polyps) then a diagnosis of Cowden Syndrome needed to be entertained. I will be fair in saying my doctors at St. Jude hospital asked if there was a family history of people like me and there was not. Cowden Syndrome can be spontaneous as can any genetic condition. A genetic test should have been done.

When I read the word Cowden Syndrome, I went to the Internet. I am not a very good writer so it is difficult for me to put into words what I felt when I looked at the symptoms and almost every one of them fit me perfectly. For years, I had felt like a freak and an outcast. I thought I was the only person in the world who grew lumps and bumps like I do. At the time I learned about Cowden Syndrome, a support group existed and it was wonderful speaking with people who were just like me.

I immediately went in search for a doctor to refer me to a geneticist. The problem with being a patient at one of the most renowned medical hospitals in the world is that it isn’t believed they can make mistakes. One doctor claimed there was no way I had all those problems and had never been genetically tested. Another doctor thought that because I did not have the mental retardation component that is sometimes but not always seen, I could not have the condition. The third doctor listened to me and whether he believed I had been genetically tested previously was not something he mentioned. He set it up for the referral department to find me an appointment and be checked out. I demanded it because I then had two children who were nothing more than babies and had 50-50 odds of having my same problems. After a few month period, the lady in the referral department finally made an appointment with the only adult geneticist in the state. It took almost two years to get in to see him.

My son had an appointment with a geneticist before I did. The geneticist was in the same town mine was and said there was no reason to test my little boy until I was tested and I agreed. He decided to do a cheek swab on me so that eight weeks later when I finally met my geneticist the answer would be in.

At the age of 28, I began having bumps come up on my face and when the geneticist entered the room he looked fascinated at the bumps (these are a part of Cowden Syndrome). After seeing them and my thyroid scars he said he didn’t have to look at the report from the pathology because he knew it would show positive. He asked me how the doctors at St. Jude hospital could possibly have missed it. I did not give my opinion then or now and I will not. I am thankful for the chemotherapy that saved my life and I do not expect perfection but yes, there is some upset in my thoughts on this especially since I now have children who could have this same condition.

My geneticist went to retrieve the test results. He brought the paper into the room and I saw all kinds of conditions listed in black that had the words neg. for negative out beside them. One of the conditions was in red and it was the one we both knew would be positive. I had the PTEN mutation in Cowden Syndrome. My cell overgrowth was caused from there not being enough of the protein that controls cell death.

Learning what I suspected was the truth brought the strangest emotions. I felt grief because prior to this point I had hope cancer would no longer be a part of my life but then knew it likely would be (I just did not understand how soon), confusion because it could have been caught years before as a test was available when I was within St Jude hospital’s patient age limits, and happiness. I no longer felt quite as much like a monster. Only one in 250,000 people have Cowden Syndrome but others do have it.

When the test came back positive for Cowden’s, I elected to have a bilateral mastectomy. My odds of breast cancer were 35-50 percent for the rest of my life due to atypical hyperplasia in 2001 and now Cowden Syndrome. Though my mammogram looked normal (for me), I knew cancer cells could hide. I was very afraid because within the two years previously, I had began to be able to secrete blood from one nipple. Because it could never be done in office, I was dismissed and told to come back when it could. I felt the need to have surgery to clear out what was in there because a part of me just knew.

Surgery was scheduled for February 28, 2008. The last thing I said to my husband was, “what if something is hiding in there?” One week later while still at home attached to drainage tubes, my doctor called to tell me we made the right decision because early cancer cells were found in pathology.

Emotionally this was a huge setback for me that I have yet to recover from. For so many years, I had been afraid to live life in fear of the dysgerminoma coming back. I accepted it being gone and had a family and a life. Physically the surgery was the most painful I have experienced. I cannot compare it with childbirth because my labor with Owen stalled at 4 cm and Hannah was a planned C-section but I can compare it with Pitocin induced contractions up until that point and it hurt worse. The drains caused a constant burning sensation and the skin stretchers having been placed inside open wounds were a nightmare. These contraptions were so tight I could not breathe and morphine did not begin to cover the pain. The first two nights following the mastectomy I wanted to die because I could not imagine a pain any worse than that and at least it would be over with quickly.

Treatment for ductal carcinoma in situ (my diagnosis that is also known as DCIS) is a mastectomy. Some doctors treat with chemotherapy, especially when the grade is a 3-the most abnormal looking cells and closest to the invasive ones. Grade 1 means cells look abnormal but are closer to looking like normal cells. I had grades 1-3 with 2 being the most dominant. All grades were throughout both breasts at 60 percent and 70 percent.

Reconstruction was painful. It took three weeks for me to have an injection of saline into the skin stretchers because I had to keep the drains that long, Each injection felt as if it broke the incisions open again. I was happy going from my previous DDD cup to a B cup especially knowing the nipples we tried to save in my mastectomy had cancer cells in them. I was ready for implants and to be rid of all cancer cells.

Waking up from the mastectomy, I was protected somewhat from the psychological effect of no nipples or breasts. I had small mounds that were the skin stretchers. The implant surgery caused a relief of the physical pain from the stretchers but the emotional pain became uncontrollable. The loss of my nipples and gain of red gashes across my breasts was almost too much to bear. I felt like a monster. My medical coverage will not pay for nipples so I continue to adjust to my new body. It is difficult to be so reminded of mortality more of less constantly.

Physical recovery has been bizarre. I continue to have phantom pains throughout my breasts at times. The effect of the loss of breast tissue from under my arms took a lot of adapting to because it feels like I have nothing but deep pits there now. Dimpling and scarring were both complications of the surgery but due to my medical coverage, I cannot have it repaired. After almost two years, I finally feel fine physically on most days in regard to pain in my breasts but the emotional recovery has been hell.

7 Tips to Restrain Cancer

1.3 million Americans are getting cancer and it is killing about 550,000 annually states With the increase of cancer in the nation, it makes it even more important to increase research that is aiding in the prevention against cancer. Since the 1971 National Cancer Act, cancer has reached epidemic proportions. Although there are treatments to get rid of minor cases of cancer and each day researchers get closer to figuring out the cure, it is important that people take special consideration in restraining the start of cancer. After all, the best cure against cancer is to prevent it from every starting. Although family genes will still pass down some forms of cancer, there are other things that people can do to restrain the start of cancer which are simple and easy however many forget to do them.

1. Get Regular Sleep. Yes, your parents were correct; you do need your sleep however not just for your beauty anymore. Researchers have found that going to bed before 10PM and getting up before 6AM is actually the ideal sleeping hours. Fitting this new time schedule into your daily schedule may seek difficult however it is important to the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is an antioxidant that slows estrogen production. In 2001, the National Cancer Institute found that nurses that worked night-shifts compared to those working the day-shift had an increase of 50% of getting breast cancer.

2. Meditate: For years Chinese cancer patients have been testing meditation which has proven to increase the power of ones’ immune system. In addition, the American Cancer Society (ACS) found states that one should practice meditation a few times a week to help ease anxiety, pain and insomnia which all decrease the immune system. If meditation is not your idea, try taking a quiet, brisk walk about 10-20 minutes a day in exchange. Studies have also shown that owning a pet and petting him/her each day be very meditative.

3. Watch your Weight: Start to watch ones weight and try to keep from those high-fat diet cravings that all of us have once and a while. Not only is overweight unhealthy it also increases the estrogen levels in the body. The National Cancer Institute states that high estrogen levels in the body will lead to the risk of getting breast cancer because fat forms in the breast that will form tumors. Studies now show that if your waist is over 30 inches, around your belly button region, then you are overweight! In addition, being underweight is very bad for the health since there are not enough nutrients for a healthy body. Double check your BMI and waist measurements today.

4. Eat More Phytonutrients: Phytonutrients are seen in many natural foods such as kale, cabbage and berries. Not only will these fruits and vegetables increase your protection against harmful cancer producing cells, it will also help in the aid against weight gain. Check out articles to learn more about phytonutrients on A.C.

5. Use Natural Supplements: The best supplements are herbs and spices such as turmeric and green tea. Some other popular cooking herbs and spices are oregano, rosemary, dill, garlic since they contain higher levels of antioxidants that help in the defense of cancer. In addition, taking a natural supplement pill each day for anyone over the age of eighteen is now required by most doctors.

6. Eat Flax: Studies show that people that eat high levels of fiber, at least 30 grams a day experience 52% less risk of cancer. Flax is fantastic in the aid of cancer because it is a fiber and contains essential omega-3 fatty acids. It is easy to consume also since it comes in oil, supplement and seed forms from most grocery or organic food stores. Try to purchase flax seeds and store in a cool, dark location for storage. It can last up to three months and up to three days ground.

7. Annual Checkups: It is important, especially for women in the aid against breast cancer, to regularly screen against cancer in the body. In fact, the American Cancer Society actually requests that women have annual MRI’s and mammograms since all present tests are not 100% accurate. In addition, there is a new technique called “Thermography” available to women. For women with breast cancer in the family history, it is recommended to start these annual checkups around the age of twenty.

Bowel Cancer

What Everyone Needs to Know

Idai Makaya looks at a current and topical issue in the media at the moment – bowel cancer. There has been a lot of discussion in recent months about bowel cancer and how to tackle the disease from a government perspective – but it would be useful to let individuals know what (if anything) they can do themselves to ensure they minimize their chances of developing this life-threatening condition.

To get to the heart of the matter I recently interviewed a respected clinical specialist with many years’ experience and expertise in the management of bowel cancer, Dr Alistair King. Dr King is a Hertfordshire-based Consultant Gastroenterologist, and is clinical lead and screening colonoscopist for the West Herts Bowel Cancer Screening Centre. He also has a specialist interest in the treatment of pancreatic & biliary disorders, viral hepatitis and other gastrointestinal cancers. Dr King knows first-hand the impact of bowel cancer on people’s lives and he kindly took the time to provide us all with some key information and practical advice which I’ll share here in Q & A format.

Q. Dr King, how common is bowel cancer (in the areas you work in, nationally and internationally)?

A. Bowel cancer is the UK’s third most common cancer. 34,900 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK every year, ie one person is diagnosed every 15 minutes. One in 20 women and 1 in 18 men will be diagnosed with bowel cancer at some point in their lives.

Q. Are there certain people who are more likely to develop bowel cancer?

A. The biggest predictor of bowel cancer is advancing age, with 85% of cases occurring in those aged 60 or over. Individuals with one first degree relative (mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister) diagnosed before the age of 45, or with two first degree relatives diagnosed at any age also have an increased risk, and should contact their doctor to talk about possible screening.

Q. What proportion of people with bowel cancer are likely to actually die from it?

A. 50% of people diagnosed with bowel cancer die of it, usually within 5 years of diagnosis. This works out as 16,100 deaths per year in the UK with one person dying of bowel cancer every 30 minutes.

Q. What causes bowel cancer and is there anything individuals can do to prevent or avoid developing it?

A. There is no one cause of bowel cancer, but probably a complex interaction of multiple factors. Genetics are likely to play an important role, hence the disease sometimes runs in families as described previously. There is also some evidence that lack of exercise, being overweight, and a diet high in red meat, low in fruit and vegetables, and low in fiber leads to an increased risk of bowel cancer. Hence efforts to improve diet and lifestyle are likely to be helpful, however are no guarantee against developing the condition.

Q. Is there anything you as a doctor can do to help prevent the disease?

A. The earlier a cancer is detected, the more likely the patient can be cured. Bowel cancer awareness campaigns encourage people with typical symptoms to seek medical help. This can be difficult as people are often reluctant to talk about bowel related issues, nonetheless it is very important. Typical symptoms of bowel cancer would be change in bowel habit to looser, blood in the stool, anemia (low blood count), and unexplained weight loss.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme is now up and running across most of the country including Hertfordshire. This consists of a free stool testing kit sent through the post to all 60-69 year olds, and from April 2010 tests will also be sent to 70-75 year olds. 2% of individuals have an abnormal stool test and are referred to a screening center for further investigations. This program is already detecting many cancers at an early stage before the patient has any symptoms. At this stage curative treatment is much more likely to be successful.

Q. Briefly, how is bowel cancer treated?

A. Most bowel cancer is treated with surgery, where the section of the bowel affected by the cancer is removed. In most patients the remaining bowel is joined together again, and the patient’s bowel continues to function as normal. Patients with more advanced cancers may also require chemotherapy (cancer drug treatment) in order to improve the chance of longterm cure. Sadly, if the tumor has spread beyond the bowel wall, or to other organs, the chance of cure is very small, but chemotherapy may be given to improve symptoms, and to improve survival.

Q. How effective/successful are the various treatments?

A. Treatments for colon cancer are very effective but are crucially dependent on how advanced the disease is at presentation. Early cancers confined to the inner lining of the bowel are cured in 85-95% of patients. However, if the tumor has spread to other organs, the chance of surviving the disease more than 5 years is less than 10%.

Proceedures Involved in Colon Cancer Screening

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Sometimes referred to as colorectal cancer, up to one third of people diagnosed with this cancer will die from it. Because of this very high mortality rate, extensive screening guidelines have been developed in an effort to detect colon cancer as early as possible, when treatments can be most effective.

Screening for colon cancer allows detection of the disease before symptoms appear. In addition, there are some screening procedures which can actually double as minor treatments, such as the removal of benign polyps, which can eventually turn cancerous. Current guidelines suggest that all people begin screening for colon cancer at age 50. An overwhelming majority of colon cancer develops after this age. In select high risk populations, screening procedures may begin as young as age 40.

Several factors go into making an effective screening test for colon cancer (or any other disease). The test must be sufficiently sensitive. This means that the test must be able to detect a vast majority of cases of colon cancer. A test which misses most cancers is useless. In addition, the test must be specific. A test which is positive in a wide range of different conditions is not as useful as one which is positive for only one disease.

A good screening test must also entail as little risk to the patient as possible. Cost of the screening procedure is a factor as well. Lastly, the screening test must be able to detect the potential cancer at a very early stage, when something can still be done to effectively treat it.

Because most cases of colon cancer take many years to develop to a serious level, screening can be quite effective in lowering mortality. Some screening techniques have been shown to lower risk of developing colon cancer caused by certain factors by up to 90%.

There are currently four major screening tests for colon cancer. Each of them has specific advantages and disadvantages. This review is meant to be a quick introduction to each test. For more detailed information about each screening test, and its appropriateness to your health, you should speak with your doctor.

Fecal occult blood testing

The first screening test for colorectal cancer is fecal occult blood testing. Many colon cancers will cause some degree of bleeding. Often this blood is very small and quantity and can be hard to see by just looking at your stools. The fecal occult blood test is a way to detect very small amounts of blood in your stool which would otherwise be impossible to see.

The fecal occult blood test is relatively simple and noninvasive to the patient. The patient being tested is given a set of three credit card size, chemically treated paper cards. Each card has room for two small stool samples. Each stool sample is a very small smudge. The cards are then folded up, sealed properly, and sent to a lab for testing. Picking small samples of your stools out of the toilet may be gross, but the test is relatively simple and straightforward compared to the others.

The major disadvantage to fecal occult blood testing is the very high number of false positive results. Only about 3-5% of positive results will ultimately lead to colon cancer. This is because there are many possible causes of blood in the stool, not just colorectal cancer. A positive fecal occult blood test does not mean you have, or ever will have, colon cancer. Further testing is indicated in most cases.

Barium enema

A barium enema is another screening test for colon cancer. The most accurate and commonly done version of this test is actually known as a double-contrast barium enema.

This test is a special x-ray which takes a picture of the entire colon and rectum. Before the x-rays taken, a liquid solution containing barium is injected into your rectum. The liquid will coat the inside of your bowels, and is drained out before the x-ray is taken. The coating which remains shows the lining of the bowels on the x-ray in fine detail.

Double-contrast barium enemas are able to detect about 40 to 50% of precancerous polyps in the tested area. The test itself is safe, although a bit uncomfortable for the patient. The effectiveness of a barium enema in reducing deaths from colon cancer is somewhat controversial. Data on its effectiveness is mixed. In addition, positive tests are usually followed up with a colonoscopy (discussed below).


Sigmoidoscopy is the first of two screening tests for colon cancer which allow a doctor to have a direct view of the inside of your bowels. The procedure involves inserting a small, flexible fiber-optic tube into the lower part of your colon. In medical jargon the test is often referred to as a “flex sig”.

The tube which is inserted has a small camera on the end which is hooked up to a TV monitor. This allows the doctor to take video and pictures of the inside of your bowels.

A flexible sigmoidoscopy does not look at the entire large intestine. It only looks at about half of the total area of colon and rectum. There is minimal risk involved in flexible sigmoidoscopy. In rare cases, it is possible for the camera to cause a small puncture or tear in the lining of the intestine. The most significant disadvantage to the screening test is that it does not look at the entire large intestine.


Colonoscopy is very similar to sigmoidoscopy, only it is more invasive and allows the doctor to see the entire large intestine. Colonoscopy also allows a doctor to remove some small polyps, which are can be precancerous. Colonoscopy uses a similar camera to the flex sig, only it is now a little larger and longer.

Because this procedure can be uncomfortable for the patient, a mild sedative is given to keep the patient as calm and relaxed as possible.

Colonoscopy has an excellent ability to detect just about any lesion which may be cancer or precancerous. The doctor is able to see the entire colon and rectum during this exam. With this increased sensitivity comes some increased risk. The tube used to do the exam can puncture the wall of the bowel, and sedation used can have side effects as well.

You should work with your doctor to develop a screening plan and assess your risk for colon cancer. Each of these tests are important in the process of early detection for colon cancer, however you must work with your doctor to determine which of them may be most appropriate for you. If you have specific questions about the details of any of these exams, speak with your doctor as well.

A Cancer Tale

I am a survivor of that killer disease, cancer. Though not nearly as much a “survivor” as many others who’ve been ravaged by such a heart-rendering, destroying beast.

Thirty years ago, while I was working on my bachelor’s degree at a small Texas college in the Big Bend of Texas (Sul Ross State College), my wife (at the time), Lucy, also a student, had a bad case of the flu (t’weren’t no flu shots back then). So we were visiting the college’s infirmary. The college’s doctor (so many years ago I just can’t recall his name) casually noticed a dime-sized lump on my left wrist where I normally wore my wrist watch.

“Doc” looked at it, rubbing it gently with his thumb and said, “When you bring Lucy back next week I want to look at it again.

Thinking little of it, I dropped Lucy off at our little college apartment and back to the college to run a printing press as one of my part-time jobs to supplement my GI Bill income.

Next week I took Lucy back to the infirmary. The lump on my wrist had grown to the size of a quarter. “I want to do a biopsy,’ Doc said. I had no idea what he was talking about, asking my new wife, “What’s a biopsy?” as we headed for classes. At 26 I’d never had a need for a doctor (other than childhood mumps) and knew virtually nothing about cancer or any other ailment that “old folks get.”

A week later, the lump had grown to almost the size of a half-dollar. By the time Doc had sliced out a piece of the lump using a local anesthetic (I watched with fascination as he removed a small piece of the lump, grayish matter and a lot of blood, but felt nothing but giddy).

I wish I could remember his name. I can see his face, even today, mindful of some Normal Rockwell painting of a family doctor. I only remember that he did needlework to keep his fingers nimble, and had framed needlework all over his office.

A few days later, at around 5 a.m., Doc’s wife was pounding on our apartment door urging us to “get up, get dressed, and go see Doc.”

Bleary-eyed and confused, we dressed, jumped into the car and found Doc at the infirmary. “The biopsy came back,” he said. “The report is that you have a cancer called fibrosarcoma, We need to get you to a cancer hospital as quickly as possible. There are two,” he said, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and MD Anderson, in Houston. I’ll call and make all of the arrangements. Which one do you want to go to?

Alpine, Texas, where the college is located, is a long-mile from nowhere, so I chose MD Anderson, in Houston, thinking that at the very least, it’ll still be in Texas. “Good! Go home. Pack. And hit the road,” he said. This was on a Thursday. I’ll schedule you for intake Monday morning.”

Driving from Alpine to Menard (my home town and the residence of my parents and Lucy’s parents) is 300 miles. From Menard to Houston is 350 miles, so we had a 650 mile trip to make in four days. As students we barely had enough money for gas to reach Menard. I called my parents and they agreed to loan me $1,000 (“just in case”).

From Menard to Houston we made it Sunday evening after a couple of stops for watermelon … Lucy was pregnant with our first child and she craved watermelon… to my sister’s home in Houston. She was a stay-at-home mom with a young child. Jay, her husband, was a Coastguardsman.

Monday morning we gathered what I thought I’d need “for a couple of days at the hospital” … little did we know how long it was actually going to be.

By the end of the week I’d been through two surgeries. One to remove the cancer, and another a “prefusion” of mustard and nitrogen gas on my left arm. The process, I think, is still being used today, but it was “new stuff” back then. The process, basically, is to isolate my arm from the rest of my body with a heart-lung machine and pumping the mustard-nitrogen mixture through my blood vessels to “kill” any malignant tumor still possibly in my arm.

It was an amazing experience for me. I had an anesthesiologist from England, a Japanese doctor, a doctor from Tennessee, nurses from Mexico, Texas, Colorado, and New York.

I had many room mates during the three months stay at MD Anderson. An older woman (at least she was “old” to me at the time, probably about 50), with lung cancer who smoked constantly when she wasn’t in her bed (there were smoking areas at the hospital back then), and a young man, a truck driver, with a lump the size of a football on his leg. And his young wife. He’d been treated at the Hoxsey Clinic in Dallas (an alternative medicine clinic that treated cancer patients with herbs and such). The young couple has spent all they had on Hoxsey treatments, he lost their house, his truck, and now was losing his life.

I read, played checkers, and had numerous visits from my wife, Lucy, my sister and brother-in-law, and roamed the halls of the hospital bored to tears wearing a plaster cast from my chest to my left shoulder and down to my finger tips. My left arm was plaster-frozen in a perpetual semi-salute, but above my head. But, as hard as I’ve tried to remember, I don’t remember any pain, just boredom.

After about thee months I was given an out-patient status, having to stay with my sister’s family and returning to the hospital once a day for observation and consultation. That was miserable for me, for Lucy, and for my sister’s family. There was only one bed available for the two of us in her home, a single-wide bed on which both Lucy and I would sleep at night.

For the first few nights I’d roll over and conk Lucy with my hard plaster cast, but we finally worked out a system so she didn’t get beat to death. And because it was so difficult for me to dress myself in regular clothes, Lucy bought me a brand new red swim suit I could wear around the house. And that was a total disaster! Without thinking, Joanna, my sister, washed the bright red swim trunks in with her husband’s snow white Coast Guard uniforms. They came out pink! Would you believe a Coast Guardsman in a pink uniform?

After about a month of that the cast was removed and I was free to go home!

When we first arrived back at Sul Ross I was amazed at the number of faculty (and some students) who’d heard of my cancer. There was virtually mass hysteria as they went to get checkups for possible “cancer” afflictions. Thankfully, none showed up “diseased.”

Also, thankfully, the college gave me a reprieve form my course’s finals, except for my public speaking class. I’ve always been deadly afraid of speaking in public, so with a squeaky, chattering voice my final was a speech about my “cancer.” I passed. I know not how, but I passed.

After graduation I took a job teaching at a high school in Winters, Texas, and for the next five years traveled to Houston twice a year for a check up, then for another five years once a year. From Winters to Houston is a long 380 miles. And at a teacher’s salary of only a little over $3,000 a year, the trips were costly. I made twenty 12-hour trips to Houston by bus reading and sleeping.

On my first bus trip to MD Anderson, I didn’t have enough money for a hotel room nor money for a taxi so I had to take a bus that put me in Houston at about 3 a.m., walking the ten miles from the bus station to the hospital and walking back to catch a bus back to Winters. That was the last time I’d ever try that. From that day forward I swore to save enough money without having to walk that ten miles at each visit..

I read a lot on those trips. The two I most remember was The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William Shirer, a 600 page tome, and The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant.

After ten years of poking and prodding, I was declared “90% cured,” and sent home for good.

The cost for those years of care? A few pints of blood thankfully donated by friends of my sister. And that was it.

Not another reoccurrence. At least not on my wrist. I was again diagnosed with a small cancer on the left side of my right eye about five years ago. It was removed in Columbia and I’ve had no occurrences since.

Perhaps the strange part about all of this is that I not once was frightened by the cancer nor concerned that I wouldn’t be “okay”. It just seemed to be an “is” and a “was.”

Doctors and hospitals come and go, I guess, but memories remain. MD Anderson and its wonderful nurses and doctors and all of the other staff will, forever, be a part of me.

But I was one of the lucky ones.

Pancreatic Cancer

What is the pancreas?

The pancreas in a six inch oblong gland, that is located just behind the stomach. There are two types of glands that make up the pancreas, the exocrine and the endocrine glands. The exocrine gland produces enzymes that aid in the digestion of fats, proteins and carbohydrates from the foods you eat. The endocrine gland secretes insulin and other hormones that help to regulate the metabolism of blood sugars in the body.

What is pancreatic cancer?

The most common form of pancreatic cancer is exocrine tumors.

Approximately 95% of all exocrine tumors are called adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma most often form in the duct of the exocrine pancreas, but it can sometimes be formed in the cells that make up the enzymes. Exocrine tumors are in most cases fatal, due to the fact that when the tumor is extremely small, it is hard to detect. By the time a diagnosis is made, the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Adenosquamous carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and giant cell carcinomas are less common forms of exocrine pancreas tumors.

Endocrine pancreas tumors are a rare form of pancreatic cancer. This type of tumors are called islet cell tumors, with many subtypes involved, depending on which hormone producing cell it starts in. These tumors typically grow slower and are often found early. Islet tumors are often treatable even after the cancer has spread.

Who is at risk for pancreatic cancer?

There is no known cause for pancreatic cancer. However there are many known risk factors, which can contribute to this disease. Many people will develop pancreatic cancer, that have no risk factors. On the other hand, many people who have risk factors, will not develop pancreatic cancer. If you are concerned that you may have any of the risk factors listed below, talk to your Doctor. He/she will be able to answer any concerns.

1. More men than women are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 
2. Most pancreatic cancer is diagnosed in people over the age of 60. 
3. The risk for pancreatic cancer will triple, if anyone in your immediate family has had the disease. 
4. Chronic pancreatitis may increase the risk. 
5. African Americans are at a greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer. 
6. If you have diabetes, you are at a greater risk. 
7. Smokers are at a 50% to 75% greater chance of developing pancreatic cancer, than those who do not smoke. 
8. Those who have a diet high in fat content are at risk. 
9. Exposure to some chemicals could increase your risk of pancreatic cancer.

What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

Often there are no symptoms of pancreatic cancer until the disease in the advanced stages. Once the symptoms start to appear, they will include the following.

1. Upper abdominal and upper back pain. 
2. Jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes and may include dark colored urine. 
3. Weight loss. 
4. Decreased appetite. 
5. Upset stomach and vomiting. 
6. Depression.

How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?

There are many tests that your doctor may perform in order to diagnose pancreatic cancer. These include, but are not limited to the following.

1. A physical examination to look for signs of jaundice. Your doctor may examine your abdomen by feeling for changes or excessive water buildup around the pancreas, gall bladder or liver. 
2. Lab tests such as blood, urine and stool samples to check for abnormalities. 
3. An ultrasound to create images of your pancreas or other internal organs. 
4. CT scan which uses x-ray images, usually used with a type of dye that is injected into a vein This dye helps to enhance the pancreas images. 
5. MRI which creates an image of the pancreas by using a magnetic field and radio waves. 
6. ERCP is where a small lighted tube is placed into the stomach, through the mouth, to the beginning of the small intestine. Then a catheter is placed inside the lighted tube and into the ducts of the pancreas. A small amount of dye is injected into the ducts and an x-ray is taken. 
7. A biopsy may be performed, by taking tissue samples of the pancreas and checking for cancer cells. The sample may be obtained by inserting a needle through the abdomen, into the pancreas.

Staging pancreatic cancer.

Once the doctor has diagnosed pancreatic cancer through a series of tests, the pancreatic cancer must be staged. This will determine how advanced the pancreatic cancer has become. Staging will help your doctor to determine the method of treatment you are most likely to benefit from. Tests that will help to determine which stage of pancreatic cancer you have include the following. 
1. Laparoscopy is where a lighted tube which is equipped with a video camera is inserted through a small incision into the abdomen. The video is observed by the doctor, to see if the cancer has spread to your abdomen. 
2. Blood tests to determine if your blood contains tumor markers termed CA19-9. The more your blood levels of CA19-9 are elevated, the more progressed your pancreatic cancer. 
3. Chest x-ray to see if the pancreatic cancer has spread to the lungs. 
4. MRI to see if the pancreatic cancer has spread to surrounding tissue. 
5. CT scan will help the doctor to see the pancreas and help him determinine if the pancreatic cancer has spread to other areas. 
6. A bone scan may be performed to determine if the cancer has spread to the bones.

The stages of pancreatic cancer.

Stage l: The cancer has not spread from the pancreas. 
Stage ll: The cancer has spread from the pancreas to surrounding tissue and organs. 
Stage lll: The cancer has spread from the pancreas to the surrounding tissue and organs as well as to the major blood vessels and possibly spread to the lymph nodes. 
Stage lV: The cancer has spread from the pancreas to other organs such as the liver, lungs and the lining of the abdomen that surrounds your internal organs.

What is the treatment for pancreatic cancer?

The method of treatment for pancreatic varies with each patient and what stage the cancer has progressed to. Other variables include the persons age and overall health. Following is a list of options that your doctor may discuss with you, in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

1. Surgery is not always an option with pancreatic cancer. When surgery can be performed, the type of surgery depends on the position of the tumor. A part or all of the pancreas may be removed, along with the spleen, part of the small intestine, bile duct and part of the stomach. 
2. Radiation therapy uses high energy rays to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often combined with chemotherapy before or after surgery. This combination may be recommended instead of surgery, if surgery is not an option. 
3. Chemotherapy uses drugs to target cancer cells and destroy them. Chemotherapy is often combined with radiation therapy to treat cancer that has spread from the pancreas to other organs. 
Chemotherapy may be combined with targeted drug therapy, to treat individuals with advanced pancreatic cancer. 
4. Targeted drug therapy is a new form of pancreatic cancer treatment. These drugs block chemicals needed by cancer cells to grow and divide. They are usually combined with chemotherapy in people with advanced pancreatic cancer. 
5. Clinical trials are test studies to see how a new drug, surgery or treatment will benefit pancreatic cancer. Talk to your doctor before joining a clinical trial to see if it is right for your condition.

What is the prognosis for pancreatic cancer?

The prognosis of pancreatic cancer is not a good one. The key to survival is catching this deadly disease in it’s early stages. Sadly to say, most pancreatic cancer is not diagnosed until it has reached advanced stages. The overall average survival rate of pancreatic cancer for 1 year is 20% and the 5 year survival rate is 4%.

How I Have Survived Cancer for Over 20 Years

Quite a few folks have asked me to elaborate on something I’ve only mentioned in passing in a spot here and there around the site. I’ve put off doing so because my hard-core views on the subject of the Big C tend to cause constipated expressions on people’s faces as they decide whether or not to agree, or get very defensive with me. Some wish to immediately give me my Comeuppance.

This article is on my views. I am not a medical doctor. What works for me may not work for you. If you sue me over this, all you will likely end up with is a cute puppy that pees on the carpet. I’m guessing you’d rather have the Cancer.

Warning: Some of this is pretty graphic

When my 26 year old daughter was 5, I stayed up all night one night. Not that I wanted too, but I didn’t want blood all over my new satin sheets and it just would not stop… I went through an entire 40 count box of super tampons that night. Come morning I was to the point of passing out from blood loss. This was not menstruation. This was hemorrhaging.

Once at the to-capacity ER, they immediately took me back in a wheel chair and plopped me on a table. The resident on duty managed to stop the flow, but completely misdiagnosed me… as usual. My life is a series of misdiagnosis. He said it was a tubular pregnancy gone awry. I said oh hmm at least it ain’t Cancer then. heh. A week later the phone calls started. Bad Pap smear results. So I went in for another Pap. This one was even worse. Things were progressing rapidly.

Aug 6-ish, 1986 I had a cone biopsy in the hospital. This is where they remove your cervix and send it for biopsy. They wheeled me in the next morning and removed my uterus. Now, this was quite awhile ago. Vaginal hysterectomies were a new procedure, and this was the first time my doctor had ever performed one. I was never in my life, nor since, in as much pain as I was that day after surgery. It felt like they just reached up in there and yanked, which is what she later said she basically did. Morphine brought the pain to the level that I could finally scream, if that tells ya anything. I seriously wanted to die right then and there to end that pain. That surgery was a fiasco in my eyes, and helped set the stage for my stance on future cancer care.

So, after enduring that mess…. at my 6 week check up she said she needed to take my ovaries, that the cancer had spread. Well folks, I was not about to let them touch me again. No way no how. That memory was one I absolutely was not going to relive for any reason. The Cancer was not near as scary to me as that pain was. She told me it wouldn’t be like that. I say they lie daily and I wasn’t havin’ none of it. I also refused Chemo. She said that without further medical intervention, I had 2 years to live tops. I said fine, I’ll make them 2 good years then..told her to piss off and I left. I did not go back.

In fact, I didn’t see another doctor until about 7 years ago when I had too… was kinda doubled over a bit you see. I even put that off til I could barely walk. By the time I got into surgery my appendix was on the verge of exploding. oops. That’s the extent to which I despise and mistrust the medical community though. I think for the most part they are a bunch of self-righteous fornicating flim-flam men (or women.) Here it is 21 years later and I’m still alive. The cancer went away. Why? Because I believed 100% that it would. Yes, it really is that simple.

Now, the majority of folks have been lead to believe that Cancer kills. They have been lead to believe this by MDs. They scare you to death into procedures that mostly make things worse. The main cause of deaths in my family is suicide because of Cancer, and Chemo. The two relatives who shunned Chemo and refused to be afraid are still alive. The many who listened and became terrified are all dead. Do some folks live after chemo? Sure they do… but I believe they do so in spite of Chemo, not because of it… and I think they would have most definitely lived without it too, only without the pain, nausea and hair loss.

One of the men I was able to meet and study in college was Norm Sheeley of the Sheeley Institute. He is all about pain management, but he also has very strong feelings on Cancer. He goes so far as to believe that if you die from cancer, you have committed suicide via cancer. It is his feeling that there is no good reason for anyone to let themselves succumb. I agree to a point. We can heal it ourselves, but the folks who die from it do so because of being misinformed. They die because they don’t know any better, not because they really want to die.

Five years ago they told me I had about 6 months to live due to Colon Cancer. I was not about to walk around wit one of those bags on my hip, and we’ve already established how anti-chemo I am. Again I walked out. Again, here I still sit annoying the general medical population with my refusal to just keel over.

Four years ago I went through a stereo-tactic core biopsy for breast cancer. I’ll never do that again. This supposed 10 minute procedure lasted over 3 hours. Three excruciating hours of having my tit in a vice while a needle dug around inside my breast. I never went back to those doctors.

Three years ago an MD told me I have Lupus. A second opinion said no, it’s Rheumatoid Arthritis. I went to a third MD for a tie-breaker diagnosis. Guess what the third guy said. Go ahead… You have neither Lupus or RA. you have cancer somewhere which is causing all of these symptoms. He looked quite confused when I burst out laughing.

Now, I’m going through it again. Am I upset? Oh hell no. To me, Cancer is a minor annoyance at best. But the American MDs are, once again, acting all hystrionic because I won’t just jump up on their little OR table immediately. This time I am going to let them remove my ovaries. Does this make me a hypocrite? Nope. This time it’s causing severe abdominal distension. I look like I’m freakin 7 months pregnant. I already resemble a trailer park Sleaze-bag because I can’t wear my dentures over other health issues… I don’t need all this extra baggage too. heh. So yeah, they can have it so the distension will go away. I have no need of my ovaries now anyway. Insemination has long been a sport rather than functional anyway. I certainly have no use for those eggs.

So yes, maybe they can operate this time, but not because I fear the Cancer, but because I hate the look. It really doesn’t go well with my outfits. But Chemo? Nope. They can cut and then get the hell out. End of that story. Hell, I’m not sure I even believe I have what they say I have, I just want the weight loss benefit. I am awaiting an appointment with Swedish doctors first, though. The US was at 36th place on the Infant Mortality Rates list in 2002 (a huge factor in determining health care quality..) They have now dropped to 57th. I do not trust US doctors at all. Sweden is ranked the second highest in the World. We’ll see what they say.

Now I know that my feelings are polar opposite of the majority. I’ve never much cared what the majority thinks on anything. Mainly I find a majority is only such because of sheep mentality anyway. Perhaps I’ll build a statue in the front yard… a big ol’ sheep with an American Flag painted on it. Oh wouldn’t the neighbors love that!

I figure that this article will make quite a few people angry. I’m indifferent to that. I’m sorry, but I am. You fear cancer? fine… fear it. I refuse to. When I have it, I change my eating habits. I find that I crave artichokes mainly, but also broccoli and brussle sprouts. They say it helps fight cancer… I just know I love them and it can’t hurt… but also that my body craves them. Listen to your body, it knows what it needs and will tell you if you pay attention.

Moderate exercise helps too. The main thing though is attitude. You must believe completely that your body is capable of healing itself. You must trust it to do so. This means bucking the entire medical community and everything you were brought up to believe.

I’m not telling anyone to drop all their doctors. I’m telling you MY experience. Period. I suggest nothing. Now you understand why, when told I have cancer, it’s pretty much an eye-roll event for me. I’m sure I will die eventually, but not from cancer.

Barbara’s Battle with Cancer

The Ups and Downs

I was in shock when my best friend called to say that she had cancer. I was dumbfounded as I listened to her telling me that she had ovarian cancer and would be having surgery in a few weeks. Numbness struck as I thought it is the week before Christmas; her favorite time of the year.

She survived the surgery and the prognosis was good. She would have to undergo radiation and chemo, but they were optimistic that they had gotten it all. I looked at her when she came home and was amazed, she was ashen and her bright eyes were dull. As usual, she was optimistic and raved about how she had lost so much weight. We joked as this was a constant battle for her.

Our lives changed drastically. We had always done shopping trips, lunches, get togethers and so much more. Little did we both realize that our lives for the next two years would revolve around doctor’s appointments, meal preparation and anything that had to do with this damned cancer.

The chemo treatments started. I took her to the treatments as I worked nights and her husband worked days, so it was easier. The chemo made her violently ill. She dreaded them as she started feeling good the day before the treatment and felt lousy the rest of the time.

Her appetite shrank as did her weight. She had no strength to cook and no interest in food. No problem, I would make extra when I fixed my families meals and bring over dinner. I tried everything and anything to tempt her appetite – nothing seemed to work. Every night I called and it was always the same, “it was good, but I just wasn’t hungry”.

The doctor’s decided that perhaps radiation would be better since the chemo was making her so ill. it did seem better she was not so violently ill, but there was no appetite. She said everything tasted like tin. I learned not to fix her favorites, to try other dishes and combinations. This seemed to work, but then nausea set in, everything made her sick. The doctor’s prescribed a pill for her that was supposed to lessen the nausea. These were like gold – $60 a pill and not covered by insurance.

During this time she developed a problem with her leg – it always ached and she never felt good. She had back problems due to her being so overweight. The leg and the back problems just added to the difficulty of her treatment.

So many times we would go for her radiation treatment to be told that the bed was not working, could we come back later, which we did. This took its toll on her as it was always the chore of getting there and having the treatment and leaving, when we had to wait or come back, it made it so much worse.

When the radiation was finally over, she went for her examination and the results were good – they could not find any trace of the cancer. It had been 6 months – we were overjoyed. Life started to get back to normal. Barbara’s appetite increased, she went back to work part time and all seemed well. We went on day trips, we did shopping and everything seemed to be back to normal. This was short lived.

I went over to take her to work one morning and she said that she didn’t feel well. I asked what was wrong and she said it wasn’t anything in particular, she just didn’t feel good. She made a doctor’s appointment and we went. They took more tests and could find nothing, maybe she was just tired. It didn’t change, she never felt good. We started going to her regular doctor, the cancer specialist, her allergist and an internist. No one could find anything. Yet, she didn’t feel good.

July 4th of 2000 came and we spent the day together. She and her husband came over for a barbecue and despite me having all her favorites, she barely ate a thing. We did a lot of laughing and enjoyed the day. The next day, she was vomiting and just didn’t feel good. Once again, we went to the same doctor’s and they could find nothing out of the ordinary. A blood test revealed that her levels were a little low. A liver scan was suggested for July 20th.

Barbara and I talked about everything, but for some reason we just could not talk about this liver scan. We did as much as we could in the two weeks before this scan. We went shopping, watched TV and just enjoyed being together. Going out was difficult as we now had a walker, cane and a pocketbook full of pills. We laughed and acted like this would go on forever.

July 19th came and we both thought that a special day would be appropriate. It was pouring that day, but we vowed not to let the rain dampen our spirits. We went up to the local farm and got some fresh picked corn on the cob and proceeded to the grocery store to get her a salmon steak – her absolute favorite. She suggested that we go to Stewart’s for lunch as she was craving their fish sandwich. As we were driving there, a deer ran in front of the car. We commented on how unusual it was to see a deer and how beautiful it was. Lunch was a disaster, nothing tasted good and she was too tired to eat. She asked if we could go home – this was not “my Barbara”.

Barbara, her walker, cane, pocketbook and I made it up the 19 stairs to her apartment and she laid down. Soon, it was time for me to go to work. We hugged each other and didn’t want to let each other go. I got called into work during the day on the 20th and could not go for her scan. She told me not to worry, her sister-in-law would take her and she would call me the minute it was over.

I called her the night of the 19th, but her husband said that she was asleep. The 20th came and I called her to wish her good luck and gave her my love. She reassured me that I would hear from her by 10:30 since the test was at 9:00. We told each other how much we loved each other. 10:30, 11:00, 11:30, 12:00; 12:30 came and went and no phone call. I called her husband at work and was told that he left and went to the hospital.

Panic set in. I called and got a wonderful operator who put me through to the emergency room where she was. She had an effect from the scan, and was not doing well. Her heart rate was not good, her breathing was shallow and she was in pain. I called again and spoke to her – she was so weak, she said “thanks, sorry I didn’t call you – I love you”. I told her how much I loved her.

Finally, her husband called, when they did the scan she had been full of cancer and the scan released the cancer into her system. She had about 48 to 72 hours. I was in shock. I went to the hospital and after much hassle finally was allowed in to see her. I was not family. I looked at her – gone was the radiant color in her cheeks, the bright, sparkly eyes never opened. I held her hand and told her that I loved her and I felt a slight squeeze on my hand. It must have been a reflex I was told, she was in a coma. Barbara left us on July 20th at 1:14 a.m.

Lung Cancer: Guide to Signs and Symptoms

When my father was rushed to the best cardiac hospital in Las Vegas, NV following an episode of chest pains and shortness of breath while he was at work, we all just sort of knew that it wasn’t a heart attack. Just like we knew that it wasn’t the Tuberculosis or chest infection that they originally thought it might be after ruling out a heart attack. And when he was sent home with medications to treat the Staph infection that the doctors all agreed was causing his symptoms, we watched him closely.

Six months went by and his cough only worsened. He lost weight. He had no energy. And he just looked ‘sick’. When he went back this time, the doctors had an answer – cancer.

The amount of misdiagnosed cases of lung cancer in the United States is staggering. Sometimes the misdiagnoses don’t affect the outcome. My dad’s lung cancer was terminal even before he was rushed to the hospital with the possible symptoms of a heart attack. Had he been diagnosed with the cancer he had, any treatment they could’ve given him would’ve only prolonged his life by a few more months.But in other cases, had a patient been diagnosed correctly and gotten the proper treatment the first time, a life could’ve been saved, or at least prolonged enough to make a positive difference in that person’s life, and the lives of their friends and family.

But to look at it another way, had my father gone to a doctor about his worsening cough instead of just passing it off as his “Smoker’s Cough” getting worse as he got older, that doctor may have found the cancer before it became terminal and took his life. Looking back, there were many symptoms that even those around him noticed that pointed to cancer long before the seriousness of his illness hit our family full force. Hindsight is always perfect. But at the time those symptoms seemed benign and were easy to brush off as something that wasn’t so serious a thought as the idea of cancer.

According to the Mayo Clinic, lung cancer does not usually show many symptoms in the early stages. Because of this, you’ll want to go for regular check-ups. Sticking with the same doctor can help someone to get to know you, as well as your body, so that they notice small changes in your health and can check for problems such as cancer should it be warranted. This is especially true if you are at risk for lung cancer because you smoke, have been around smokers, there is a family history of lung cancer or you have been exposed to radon gas, asbestos or other carcinogens during your lifetime (especially prolonged exposure).

When the signs and symptoms of lung cancer do start to show themselves, they can be varied in type and also in intensity. How you feel may lead you to think you are coming down with a cold, or it could send you to the Emergency Room. Often times the milder symptoms are overlooked or passed off as something else until there’s no overlooking the fact that you’re sick, and the idea that it might be cancer.

Cancer in general usually leads to some basic symptoms once it has spread to a certain point or is attacking the body. Unexplained weight loss should be monitored and should be looked at by a doctor if not controlled. Many signs resemble the common flu with fever and fatigue. Depending on where the cancer is, it can lead to pain in those areas – the pain can be mild or severe. The skin can also be an indicator of cancer if it becomes darker, yellow, reddened, itchy, or if you experience more hair growth than normal.

Most of those symptoms are not something that you would rush in to see a doctor about until they became excessive or started to interfere with your daily life.

Lung cancer itself can have some very distinctive signs, though. When most people think about lung cancer they think of the coughing that is usually associated with it. Coughing up blood, even just a tinge of red, can be an indicator of many respiratory illnesses and should be looked at, even if just to rule out cancer. Related to that, a steady or chronic cough is common among early lung cancer patients. If you’ve smoked for awhile, you may have what is known as “Smoker’s Cough” and if this worsens over a short period of time you’ll want to get yourself checked out. Even if your symptoms are not pointing to lung cancer, they may be pointing to another respiratory illness such as emphysema or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) that will need treatment to keep from worsening.

Once the cancer has progressed, more definite signs of lung cancer are wheezing, hoarseness when talking, and shortness of breath. This is caused by the body being unable to get enough oxygen through the increasingly damaged lungs. Chest pain may lead many to think they are having a heart attack, especially when experienced with the shortness of breath, as in my father’s case.

What this comes down to is this… If you’re feeling any of these symptoms, it may be because of a respiratory illness, an infection, or even a chest cold. But if you are at risk for lung cancer, and you don’t feel right, you’re coughing, losing some weight, or especially if you are feeling chest pain, then get to a doctor and get yourself looked at. If caught early, lung cancer can be treated in most cases, but you’ll need to undergo a battery of tests that can include X-rays, CT scans, or even a biopsy to determine what the best treatment plan for you would be. Your doctor will give you options, and it is up to you to weigh the outcomes.

Knowing your body, taking care of it with a healthy diet and exercise, and being conscious of your risks for lung cancer can go a long way to keeping yourself healthy, happy, and productive for a long time to come.


Lung cancer

Mayo Clinic

Signs & Symptoms of Cancer

American Cancer Society

Lung Cancer Symptoms