One of the keys to detecting prostate cancer early is understanding the most common risk factors. Since September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, this article will focus on raising awareness of early detection. By knowing which groups of men are most at risk, you’ll be better equipped to make educated decisions about when to begin screening and what to ask your doctor.
The COVID pandemic has led to an increase in delayed cancer screenings. Many people postponed routine tests that could help with early detection, such as the PSA test for prostate cancer. That made this year’s Eddie Check more important than ever. After postponing the annual blood drive and free PSA screening event in 2020 due to COVID, organizers got to work to make sure the 2-day event would return in 2021. On Thursday, September 9 and Friday, September 10, hundreds of men across East Tennessee received a free PSA screening, which can indicate various prostate issues, such as infection, inflammation, or even cancer.
It seems like new information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic is coming out every day. Most recently, the development and availability of vaccines have stirred up many questions, as well as some confusion. The influx of COVID vaccine information (and misinformation) can be even more daunting for cancer patients and survivors.
To help cancer patients better understand the vaccines, Provision CARES Proton Therapy hosted a special chat session with our Proton Ambassadors. Dr. James Gray, Medical Director and board-certified Radiation Oncologist at our Nashville center, gave a great presentation on “COVID-19 Vaccine and Cancer: Facts vs. Fiction.”
The first time James walked through the doors at Provision CARES Proton Therapy, he knew he’d made the right decision. He hadn’t even spoken with a physician yet or stepped foot into a treatment room. He hadn’t even gotten the proton therapy brochure that he’d come to pick up in the first place.
On Day 1, as he stood in the lobby waiting for that brochure – an aggressive prostate cancer diagnosis looming large on his mind – a man approached him. As is often the case in the Provision lobby, the two strangers got to talking. They talked about cancer. They talked about proton therapy for prostate cancer . They talked about the weekly lunch and learns at Provision. And the sandwiches. Oh, James remembers the sandwiches!
But above all, one thing stood out to James during that conversation. The man said five memorable words that proved to James he was exactly where he needed to be:
“This place saved my life.”
The number of American cancer deaths from 2017 to 2018 dropped by 2.4%, marking a record single-year drop for the second year in a row. These new stats were published in the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) annual Cancer Facts & Figures report, which also reveals more positive news regarding the long-term direction of cancer death rates.
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and it’s common to hear public service announcements reminding men to get a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. Afterall, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among American men and early detection is the best prevention.
However, recent recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) cast doubt on whether the potential risks associated with PSA screening are worth the reward. Now though, new research suggests those risks may be exaggerated.
The long-term benefits of the PSA test for prostate cancer may outweigh any potential harm according to a recent paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). While current guidelines advise patients and physicians to determine the value of routine PSA screening on a case-by-case basis, researchers suggest that perceptions of PSA tests as ineffective are based on overstated harms and point to evidence showing that screenings can reduce death rates and prevent metastatic disease.
About one out of every nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, making it the second most common cancer in American men, behind only skin cancer.1 However, due to advances in cancer screening awareness and early detection, most men will not die from prostate cancer. In fact, many men who are diagnosed with an early-stage, low-grade cancer may need little to no immediate medical treatment. Instead, they can choose from two different methods of monitoring their prostate cancer: watchful waiting or active surveillance.
For men with prostate cancer, the goal of cancer management methods like watchful waiting and active surveillance is to avoid the side effects caused by cancer treatments like surgery or radiation therapy.
Both watchful waiting and active surveillance are ways of monitoring the cancer for changes, but the reasons for choosing one method over the other are different:
- Watchful waiting is better for men who can’t undergo curative treatment. It is meant to manage symptoms by controlling the cancer, but is not intended to cure it.
- Active surveillance is better for men who would benefit from curative treatment should the cancer become more aggressive.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, life as we knew it came to an abrupt halt. That included routine healthcare visits, as many providers postponed appointments and cancer screening tests that were deemed “non-essential.”
In the United States alone, an estimated 22 million cancer screening tests were disrupted by COVID-19 from April to June 2020. As a result, about 80,000 patients could be at risk for delayed or missed diagnoses.
The IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science recently published these estimates as part of its report on shifts in healthcare demand, delivery and care during the COVID-19 era. In this article, we’ll look at how diagnostic procedures for some of the most common cancers are impacted. We’ll also share some tips to help you move forward with your cancer-related care in a timely and safe manner.
Lung Cancer Awareness Month is dedicated to educating the public about the prevalence of the disease in the United States, and providing resources on prevention, screening and treatment.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), lung cancer will kill more than 140,000 people in 2019, making it by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. It is the second most common cancer in both men and women (not counting skin cancer). For men, prostate cancer is the only cancer more common, while in women breast cancer is more common.
One of the toughest parts about researching breast cancer online is trying to sort fact from fiction. The internet is full of half-truths, conflicting reports and flat-out myths about the disease. Provision CARES Proton Therapy is committed to our Culture of CARE, putting the patient experience first. So, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re debunking five of our most commonly heard myths. All of these breast cancer facts have been verified for quality and accuracy by our cancer care experts to help you make an informed decision about your healthcare.
MYTH: I found a lump in my breast, so I have cancer.
TRUTH: Lumps don’t always indicate cancer. Likewise, the absence of lumps doesn’t always mean you don’t have breast cancer.
While the most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump, most breast lumps are caused by conditions other than cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the two most common causes are fibrocystic breast condition and cysts. Fibrocystic condition causes noncancerous changes in the breast that can make them lumpy, while cysts are small fluid-filled sacs that develop in the breast.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) says lumps are more likely to be cancerous if they are painless, hard and have irregular edges. However, some breast cancers can be painful, soft or round. That’s why you should always check with your doctor if you notice any changes in your breasts.
There are many other symptoms of breast cancer, even if a lump is not detected. These can include swelling of the breast, skin dimpling, breast or nipple pain, nipples turning inward, red or flaking breast skin, nipples discharging fluids other than breast milk, and swollen lymph nodes under your arm or around your collar bone. The ACS recommends contacting your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
MYTH: Breast cancer only happens to older women.
TRUTH: Breast cancer can develop in younger women, too, as well as men.
While your risk does increase with age, the NCI reports women in their 30s have a 1 in 208 chance of developing breast cancer. By the time a woman reaches her 40s, that risk has increased to 1 in 65. Overall, it’s estimated that 1 out of every 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer at some point in her life.7
Breast cancer in men accounts for less than 1% of cases in the United States. However, the ACS says male breast cancer is on the rise.1 Unfortunately, a higher percentage of men are diagnosed with advanced-stage breast cancer, likely a result of less awareness and fewer early-detection screenings.
MYTH: My family has no history of breast cancer, so I am not at risk.
TRUTH: While a family history of breast cancer does put you at greater risk, most women who develop breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease.1
According to the CDC, a family history of breast cancer may put you at higher risk for the disease, but is not indicative of whether you’ll actually develop cancer.2 In fact, the ACS says most women with one or more affected first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, children) will still never be diagnosed.
The CDC provides a table with examples of average, moderate and strong family health histories, along with suggestions for preventative measures each group can take. Regardless of your family history, the CDC recommends you get mammograms and other breast exams as recommended by your doctor, maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. As family history of breast cancer increases, genetic counseling becomes an option to test for hereditary breast cancer. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what screenings are best for you and when you should get them.
MYTH: A double mastectomy will eliminate my risk of breast cancer.
TRUTH: If the cancer is detected early enough, other treatment options can eliminate the cancer without removing the entire breast.
A mastectomy involves removing the entire breast and is typically performed when breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) is not an option. However, women with early-stage cancers can typically choose between the two types of surgeries. The ACS notes that while it’s normal for your gut reaction to be to “take out all the cancer as quickly as possible” with a mastectomy, the fact is that, most of the time, a lumpectomy combined with radiation therapy results in the same outcome.
Many patients at Provision CARES Proton Therapy choose to combine a lumpectomy with proton radiation therapy. Proton therapy for breast cancer treatment is non-invasive and painless, causing less cosmetic damage than conventional x-ray radiation. It is extremely precise and therefore more effective at targeting cancerous cells without causing damage to surrounding breast tissue. Because proton radiation has little to no impact on a patient’s energy level, quality of life during treatment is improved.
For women who do opt for a mastectomy, it’s important to remember that post-surgery treatment is still necessary. Even after removing the breast, there’s a small chance the cancer could recur on residual breast tissue or the chest wall. You should continue to perform self-breast exams and see your doctor on a regular basis.
MYTH: Antiperspirants and wire bras can cause breast cancer.
TRUTH: There has been no conclusive evidence linking antiperspirants or bras to breast cancer.
Rumors have swirled across the internet claiming underarm antiperspirants cause breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) says the basis of these claims is the aluminum-based active ingredient in antiperspirants. Some scientists have suggested that absorbing these aluminum compounds into your skin could increase your risk factor for breast cancer.4 Still, no clear link has ever been established between antiperspirants and breast cancer. In fact, the NCI even cites a study from 2002 that concluded there is no increase in risk for breast cancer among women who reported using an underarm antiperspirant.3
Another rumor making its rounds across cyberspace is that wearing a wire bra can increase your risk of breast cancer. This myth was debunked by a 2014 study published by the American Association for Cancer Research. According to the authors, it had been suggested in the media that bras impede lymph circulation and drainage, interfering with the process of waste and toxin removal.6 However, the study concluded that wearing a bra had no effect on your risk of breast cancer.
- Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2017-2018. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/breast-cancer-facts-and-figures/breast-cancer-facts-and-figures-2017-2018.pdf
- Breast and Ovarian Cancer and Family History Risk Categories. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/disease/breast_ovarian_cancer/risk_categories.htm
- National Cancer Institute. Antiperspirants/Deodorants and Breast Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/antiperspirants-and-breast-cancer-risk.html
- Darbre PD. Aluminium, antiperspirants and breast cancer.Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry 2005; 99(9):1912–1919. [PubMed Abstract]
- Mirick DK, Davis S, Thomas DB. Antiperspirant use and the risk of breast cancer.Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2002; 94(20):1578–1580. [PubMed Abstract]
- RayCC. Q and A – Bras and Cancer [Internet]. NY times; 2010 [cited 2013 Dec. 16]. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/science/16qna.html?ref=science.
- Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, et al. (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2016, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD,https://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2016/, based on November 2018 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, April 2019.