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When a Parent Has Lung Cancer: Tony Hawk Remembers

Tony Hawk, flickr.com

Pro-skateboarder Tony Hawk shares what life was like, and what can help, when a parent has lung cancer.

Lung Cancer Spotlight10

Can Dental Hygiene Have an Impact on Lung Cancer?

Monday March 31, 2014

We are learning more and more about chronic inflammation, and how it may lead to the development of cancer. This can be seen directly in some cancers in which cancer develops from local inflammation. Examples include HPV leading to cervical cancer and chronic esophageal reflux leading to esophageal cancer. But inflammation in one region of the body may also lead to the development of cancer in another region of the body.

There is now evidence that periodontal disease is associated with cancers of the lung, kidney, pancreas, head and neck, as well as leukemia and lymphomas.

Why? How could inflammation in the mouth lead to cancer at distant sites, such as lung cancer or kidney cancer?

Periodontal disease creates inflammation that doesn't stop in the mouth; instead the inflammation results in an increased concentration of inflammatory markers throughout the body. An increased concentration of these inflammatory markers is in turn linked with an increased risk of several types of cancer.

What can you do to lower your risk, or what about if you already have cancer?

  • Make regular appointments with your dentist.
  • Brush and floss regularly.
  • Before beginning chemotherapy it's a good time to talk to your dentist; due to a low white count or platelet count your oncologist may recommend avoiding flossing and using a gentle toothbrush during treatment.
  • Learn more about causes and prevention of periodontitis in the article below.

Check out some other effects that gum disease may have on the body:

Exercise and Coping with Cancer Fatigue

Monday March 31, 2014

Cancer fatigue is something those without cancer can't quite understand. A cup of coffee won't do it. Sleeping in won't take it away. And it seems like you would give up almost anything to be able to stay in bed. Those who have experienced mono, or lived through the first trimester of pregnancy may get an inkling, but otherwise? You can't really understand what cancer fatigue feels like until you've been there.

Not surprisingly, several studies have found that exercise can reduce cancer fatigue both during and after cancer treatment. Easily quoted, but harder to put into practice.

If you're struggling with cancer fatigue talk to your oncologist. There are some "reversible" causes of fatigue that can accompany cancer treatment. Things such anemia, depression, and uncontrolled pain. This article lists some of those reversible causes:

Unfortunately, cancer fatigue isn't usually alleviated with a prescription for iron tablets. Which brings us back to the one thing that consistently seems to make a difference - exercise.

What kind of exercise helps the most? Aerobic exercise - such as swimming, running, walking at a good pace, washing windows, or an exercise class. It's important to check with your doctor, however, before beginning to exercise.

But how can you motivate yourself to exercise when you're so tired? Here's a few tips.

  • Take it slowly. Even if you begin with a brisk 10 minute walk, it's a start.
  • Connect with a friend. It's much easier to stick with a program to exercise if you are accountable to a friend.
  • Think of activities that involve exercise but don't feel like exercise - things such as a hike in the woods, dancing, walking the dog, or washing windows.
  • Check with your doctor about exercise programs. Some cancer centers offer exercise programs at a minimal charge.
  • Last but not least, don't give up. So you felt too tired to exercise for a few days. Don't chastise yourself, but simply begin again.

Do any of you have any tips that have helped you exercise despite cancer fatigue? We would love to hear them.

Have You Had Genetic Testing for Your Lung Cancer?

Monday March 31, 2014

If you've been diagnosed with lung adenocarcinoma, or another form of non-small cell lung cancer, your doctor may have recommended genetic testing. But from people I've spoken with lately, this is very confusing.

(First of all, if you have non-small cell lung cancer and your doctor hasn't ordered testing, talk to her. There is now a general consensus that everyone with advanced or metastatic lung adenocarcinoma have genetic testing (biomarker testing) of their tumor. Yet a recent study found that only 60% of oncologists are following these guidelines.)

The confusion comes from what many of us think about when we think of genetics and gene mutations - something is passed down through families.  There are 2 basic types of mutations. The first is hereditary. This is the kind of mutation you inherit from your parents, and is the kind of mutation that is getting a lot of attention in regard to breast cancer. The second type of mutation is acquired. In the process of becoming cancerous, cancers develop many gene mutations, and in fact it is these mutations that cause the development and growth of cancers. These mutations are not present from birth and are not passed on to children.

The importance of testing for mutations is that treatments are now available - both approved drugs and those available in clinical trials. The approved targeted therapies include Tarceva (erlotinib) for people with EGFR mutations, and Xalkori (crizotinib) for people with ALK positive lung cancer.

Since this topic is so confusing, the article below takes you step by step in understanding why genetic testing may be important for those with lung cancer.

Blood Clots Common in People with Newly Diagnosed Lung Cancer

Monday March 31, 2014

Arriving in perfect time for the end of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Awareness Month, a new study reinforces the importance of recognizing, and preventing when possible, blood clots.

Blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis (DVTs)) which can break off and travel to the lungs (pulmonary emboli) have been an important complication of cancer. And when TV journalist David Bloom died from a pulmonary embolus (PE) while reporting from Iraq, the public began to realize that DVT's and PE's can occur with devastating effects even in people who are healthy and fit.

Why is this extra important for people with cancer?

Overall, the risk of blood clots in cancer patients is elevated for many reasons and 3 to 15% of people with lung cancer develop blood clots during their treatment. But a few other statistics are worthy standing up and taking notice:

Blood clots aren't reserved for those who have been struggling with cancer for a lengthy period of time. Researchers looked at 673 people with newly diagnosed lung cancer within the first week after admission.

6.2% were found to have a DVT alone. 4.9% were found to have a PE alone. And 2.1% had both.

The chances someone with newly diagnosed lung cancer would have a DVT were higher if:

  • They had metastatic cancer.
  • They had an elevated white blood cell count.
  • They had lung adenocarcinoma.
  • They had anemia.
  • If they had an elevated CEA.

Another disturbing finding from an earlier study was that 78% of people who developed blood clots during chemotherapy (for a variety of cancers) developed these while they were away from the hospital or clinic - hence, making it important for people with cancer to recognize the signs.

What are some of the symptoms?

  • Pain in the calf. Redness and swelling in one leg. Sudden shortness of breath. Chest pain.

What can you do to lower risk?

  • Blood clots are more common in people who are sedentary. When you are in the hospital, get up and move around when possible. If you are traveling by plane or car, stop if driving and get up frequently and move around if flying.

Many cancer treatments increase risk. But as noted above, blood clots can occur even early on after a diagnosis. Don't put off learning about blood clots, possible symptoms, and methods of prevention.

What are some other things that you should know about cancer and blood clots? Check out this article:


Zhang, Y. et al. Prevalence and associations of venous thromboembolism in patients with newly diagnosed lung cancer. Chest. 2014 Mar 27. (Epub ahead of print).

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