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Proton Therapy Offers Precision Treatment And Fewer Side Effects For Prostate Cancer Patients

pic(NAPSI)—Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men in the U.S., but if detected early, it has a five-year survival rate of nearly 99 percent. While surgery and radiation therapy may have similar outcomes for early-stage prostate cancer, radiation therapy is the primary option for locally advanced prostate cancer and can also be used for localized prostate cancer.

When deciding on a treatment route, the best option is the one that most effectively treats the tumor and spares surrounding healthy tissue and organs, which reduces the risk of side effects. All of this can be accomplished with proton therapy, a treatment option available at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center.

Proton therapy is an advanced type of radiation treatment that uses a beam of protons to deliver radiation directly to the tumor, destroying cancer cells while sparing surrounding healthy tissue and vital organs. It is because of the precision of proton radiation and its ability to reduce the risk of short- and long-term side effects that Arkansas resident Terry Lavy decided to come to Houston, Texas to undergo proton therapy treatment at MD Anderson.

Terry, a 72-year-old retired University of Arkansas professor, received an alarming phone call from his urologist in March 2008; he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

"My first reaction was shock and disbelief," Terry said.

He sat down with his local urologist to discuss his treatment options, but before making a decision, Terry decided to talk it over with his friends and family. During this time he spoke to a family friend, who had just received proton therapy at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center in Houston.

"I was anxious about having surgery and the side effects of the treatment options I had discussed with my doctor," he said. "But, when my friend told me proton therapy is noninvasive, has fewer side effects and works just as well as other radiation options with no hospitalization, I knew this was the route I wanted to go."

Immediately, Terry called MD Anderson to inquire about proton therapy and scheduled an appointment. In July of 2008, Terry and his wife temporarily relocated to Houston.

Terry received proton radiation five days a week for a total of 38 treatments over a two-month period. After his last session, he rang the ceremonial gong symbolizing the end of his cancer treatment. He said he was most impressed with how easy his treatment was.

Terry's physician, Seungtaek Choi, M.D., an assistant professor of radiation oncology, noted that "proton therapy was an excellent treatment choice for Terry's cancer because the reduced risk of side effects would allow him to continue his life and enjoy his pas- time of fishing and spending time with his grandchildren." He also said that "Terry is doing well and hasn't experienced adverse side effects."

"I never felt any pain, weakness or other physical effects from the treatment," Terry said. "The lack of fatigue is evident because one cannot differentiate between those patients receiving their first treatment or their 38th. Some people received treatment while still working a full-time job and others regularly played 18 holes of golf after each treatment. We all felt fine."

Now, more than three years after he completed treatment, Terry is feeling great and his checkups show no evidence of disease. Since receiving proton therapy, Terry has made it his duty to share his story and tell other prostate cancer patients about the option of proton treatment. Over the years, he has referred over 20 people for proton therapy treatment.

"I am so fortunate to have heard about proton therapy, so now I want to be sure to pass my knowledge and experience on to others," he said. "I'm convinced proton radiation is the way to go for men facing prostate cancer."

For more information about the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center, visit www.MDAndersonProton.com or call (866) 632-4PTC (4782).

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Learning By Listening To Others

pic(NAPSI)—There’s a lot to be learned by listening to stories of those who faced the same difficult journey that you do—and listening can be an especially valuable skill for those recovering from cancer.

One person who knows this all too well is Della Haverty, whose recovery from colon cancer involved surgery, plus numerous oncologists’ visits and repeated blood work.

The 51-year-old Ohio mother had not anticipated how important listening would become throughout her journey to cancer survivorship.

“When you go through something as personal as colon cancer, you are left with questions,” said Haverty. “Since I didn’t know anyone who had survived colon cancer, I found I had no one to ask.”

What she did have, however, was the Cancer Survival Toolbox, a set of audio CDs provided by her health insurer that allowed her to listen and learn from survivors as they shared their experience, skills and resources.

“Much of colorectal cancer awareness focuses on the critical aspect of screening,” said Pamela Goetz, director of Survivorship Programs at the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS). “We know effective screening can have a huge impact on the number of people who survive colon cancer, which is now the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.”

But, it’s also critical to address the ongoing survivorship needs of those who are diagnosed with cancer, beyond screening, says Goetz.

“If you have cancer, you may need to relearn skills to be able to advocate for yourself and get the medical care that’s best for you, from the point of diagnosis through treatment and, for some, to the final stage of survivorship,” said Goetz. “The toolbox uses cancer patients’ stories to provide practical solutions to commonly faced problems that resonate with others facing the same journey.”

The toolbox was created by a team of expert nurses and social workers, drawing on their professional and personal knowledge to develop a program for survivors of any type of cancer, along with their friends, family and loved ones, to help them gain the skills to advocate for themselves at any stage of their survivorship.

The toolbox is available from the NCCS through Empowerment and Action for Cancer Care, an alliance between Genentech and WellPoint.

For more information, visit www.canceradvocacy.org/toolbox.

Some of the communication, negotiation and decision-making tips of the program include:

• Expressing your feelings by letting others know how you feel and what you think;

• Picking the experts you respect and trust to be part of your health care team;

• Identifying and asking for the help and support you need;

• Understanding that you are an individual, not a cancer statistic.

The toolbox helps patients learn how to find reliable information about their disease, as well as how to analyze information they may see on the Internet. It also helps them understand their own decision-making style and communicate their preferences with their providers.

Haverty listened to the program over a period of four months while driving in the car.

“The CDs provided the advice, answers and encouragement I needed to be a survivor and continue this journey,” said Haverty. “Listening to other survivors’ stories of suffering with the disease, and victory against it, gives me the courage to face every day.”

 

Note to Editors: March is Colon Cancer Month.

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New Colorectal Cancer Screening Test Shows Promise

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(NAPSI)—Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cancer killer in the U.S.1—more than 143,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease and almost 52,000 will die from it this year, according to National Cancer Institute estimates.2 Older adults, especially, are more likely to get colorectal cancer, with about 60 percent of new diagnoses occurring in people 65 and older.3

Despite its high incidence, the disease is often considered the most preventable, but least prevented cancer. Colorectal cancer is highly treatable if found early, but more than 40 percent of adults age 50 and older have not been screened as recommended.4 However, an investigational, noninvasive, in-home screening test, developed by Exact Sciences in collaboration with Mayo Clinic, currently shows promise as a potential addition to other available screening tools for colorectal cancer.

“Colorectal cancer is highly treatable if caught early, but most patients are diagnosed with the disease in its late stages, primarily due to poor screening compliance,” said Dr. Robert Hardi, gastroenterologist and principal investigator for a clinical study evaluating the Exact Sciences test. “If approved, this simple, non-invasive test that accurately detects pre-cancer and early-stage colorectal cancer may improve screening participation and help save lives.”

Clinical Study Now Enrolling

Exact Sciences’ investigational stool DNA test works by detecting altered DNA from precancerous or cancerous polyps in the colon. A nationwide clinical study is underway to further evaluate this screening test.

“Early studies have been very promising,” said Dr. Hardi. “Now more research is ongoing to evaluate the test’s performance in a large population, especially among people 65 and older who are more likely to develop colorectal cancer.”

Exact Sciences is actively recruiting participants between the ages of 65 and 84 for a pivotal research study called The Multi-Target Colorectal Cancer Screening Test for the Detection of Colorectal Advanced Adenomatous Polyps and Cancer (DeeP-C). The study is enrolling more than 10,000 participants at approximately 100 sites across the U.S. and Canada. Qualified participants may be eligible for compensation for their time.

For more information about participating in the study, call (800) 949-8292 or visit www. exactsciences.com. Note, Mayo Clinic and some of the investigators associated with this research have a financial interest in the technology being studied in this research.

Do you qualify for the study?

• Are you between the ages of 65 and 84?

• Are you scheduled for or do you need to schedule a screening colonoscopy?

• Are you willing to provide a stool sample and undergo a colonoscopy within 90 days of enrollment?

If you meet these criteria, call (800) 949-8292 for more information.

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References

1. Basic Information about Colorectal Cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Link)

2. Colon and Rectal Cancer. National Cancer Institute. (Link)

3. About Colorectal Cancer. New York Department of Health. (Link)

4. Cancer Screening - United States, 2010. Centers for Disease Control. (Link)

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St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Celebrates 50 Years

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(NAPSI)—Fifty years ago, few children with cancer survived, and many doctors believed treatment was futile. On February 4, 1962, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital opened its doors and took a radically different treatment approach, which proved pivotal in changing how the world fights childhood cancer.

The history of St. Jude is marked with milestones in the research and treatment of pediatric cancer and other childhood illnesses. In less than 10 years of the hospital’s opening, St. Jude investigators showed that the combination of chemotherapy and radiation cured at least half of all children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The most common form of childhood cancer, ALL was previously considered almost fatal. Today, St. Jude patients with ALL have a 94 percent survival rate.

St. Jude is recognized for playing a significant role in improving overall survival rates for all childhood cancers, which have increased from 20 percent in 1962 to more than 80 percent today.

“In the nearly four decades I’ve been at St. Jude, I’ve had the privilege of watching the organization grow from one building to a sprawling campus of about 2.5 million square feet of research, clinical and administrative space,” said Dr. William E. Evans, St. Jude director and CEO. “Driven by our patients, and thanks to our employees, colleagues at our fundraising organization, ALSAC, and the public support they generate, St. Jude will only continue to grow in the years to come.”

To further speed progress, the hospital embarked on the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project in 2010. The collaboration between St. Jude and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis aims to identify the genetic changes that give rise to some of the world’s deadliest childhood cancers. Through the three-year, $65 million initiative, investigators are mapping the cancer genomes of 600 children, comparing cancerous cells with normal cells to better understand the pathology of these diseases. The project is already yielding exciting discoveries into poorly understood cancers.

“St. Jude has a legacy of taking on the toughest of pediatric cancer questions, and that focus won’t change,” said James R. Downing, M.D., St. Jude scientific director and deputy director. “We’re uniquely positioned to move research and treatment ahead. From the genetic data we collect from the genome project, we’re creating the foundation of knowledge to deliver the next decades’ childhood cancer discoveries and treatments.”

Throughout its five decades, St. Jude research has included work in cancer biology and genomics, pharmacogenomics, gene therapy, bone marrow transplantation, drug discovery, radiation treatment, blood diseases and infectious diseases, integrated into a long series of innovative clinical trials.

St. Jude is also a leader in patient care. According to Joseph Laver, M.D., St. Jude clinical director, “the unsurpassed family-centered care that’s provided at St. Jude stems from the multidisciplinary team approach that has been a hallmark of St. Jude since 1962.”

“Looking toward the future, St. Jude is a national resource with a global mission and will continue to enhance its leadership as a resource for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases,” Evans said. “We’ve created a collaborative culture whose team members demonstrate unceasing compassion for our patients and families, innovation in our treatment and research, and quality in everything we do.”


 

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With Preventive Screenings, You Can Curb Serious Health Problems

by George Andrews, M.D.

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(NAPSI)—About half of American adults suffer with at least one chronic condition, such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, many of these conditions are preventable or can be detected early through check-ups and screenings, which oftentimes are free or covered at low costs by most health plans.

Being proactive by regularly taking advantage of the availability of preventive tests can decrease trips to the doctor or the emergency room and help detect chronic conditions before they become serious and require expensive treatment. To encourage their members, many health insurers offer rewards, such as free or discounted medications, for taking these preventive tests. Some plans also help make it easy for members to have the screenings by setting up appointments for them or providing home test kits.

However, despite these benefits, there is concern that adults aren’t getting the preventive care they need for lifelong health and well-being. Here are four key areas where Humana suggests you get preventive care:

1) Cancer. Fewer than half of adults over age 50 are up to date with screenings for colorectal cancer. However, estimates suggest that a screening, such as a colonoscopy—recommended every 10 years by the CDC—could help save more than 18,000 lives annually from colorectal cancer, the second-leading cause of U.S. cancer-related deaths.

Additionally, recent studies found that only half of eligible women in the U.S. get their recommended annual mammogram. Mammograms lower the risk of dying from breast cancer by 35 percent in women over the age of 50.

2) Diabetes. Diabetes, which affects 24 million Americans, is the leading cause of heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower-extremity amputation. With tests available to monitor for cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, blindness and foot issues, it is easier than ever to diagnose diabetes and reduce the progression of related complications.

3) Heart and Stroke. Heart disease and stroke are the first and third-leading causes of death, respectively, also accounting for a large number of disabilities for Americans. Fortunately, screenings have helped reduce death rates for both conditions by more than 20 percent since 1999. Cardiovascular screenings every five years to test cholesterol, lipid and triglyceride levels can help detect conditions leading to a heart attack or stroke. It is also important to eliminate smoking, a direct contributor to heart disease and stroke. Today, many health plans like Humana offer help with smoking cessation.

4) Mind/Body. On average, adults with serious mental illnesses live 25 years shorter than their counterparts without these illnesses, which are largely due to preventable conditions. Depression screenings are just one service designed to help monitor for serious mental health conditions. Counseling for alcohol and drug abuse—both of which can lead to a wide range of physical, mental and social problems—is also available.

George Andrews, M.D., is the Corporate Chief of Quality at Humana. A former Fulbright scholar, Andrews is board certified in the areas of internal medicine and cardiovascular disease. Humana Inc., headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, is a leading health care company that offers a wide range of insurance products and health and wellness services that incorporate an integrated approach to lifelong well-being.

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Doctors Request Medicare Cover Lifesaving Test

pic(NAPSI)--A new, less invasive way to screen for colorectal cancer could help save thousands of lives—if more people could access it.

The test is a virtual colonoscopy, which doctors say is as effective as standard colonoscopy for detecting cancer but often easier on the patient. The problem is, while most major insurance companies cover the procedure, Medicare does not.

An Answer

An American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN) study, published Feb. 23 in Radiology, found that virtual colonoscopy works as well in those ages 65 and older as it does in adults ages 50−64 and can serve as a frontline colorectal cancer screening tool for seniors. This is consistent with the ACRIN National CT Colonography Trial for patients 50 and older, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2008. Now that there is proof that virtual colonoscopy works very well, including in those ages 65 and older, Colon Cancer Alliance and other experts say Medicare should cover seniors for this life-saving test.

CT colonography employs X-rays and virtual reality technology to produce three-dimensional images of the colon that permit a thorough and minimally invasive evaluation. It also requires no sedation.

The Disease

Colorectal cancer is the third most frequently diagnosed cancer and second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Yet despite the known benefits of screening, studies indicate that millions of Americans age 50 and older are not being screened for the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that up to 30,000 colorectal cancer deaths each year could be prevented if all those age 50 and older were screened regularly. Studies at National Military Medical Center have shown that availability of the virtual exam significantly boosted screening rates.

The Doctor’s Advice

As C. Daniel Johnson, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic, explained, “CT colonography is a perfectly viable colorectal cancer screening tool for the traditional Medicare-age population. Wider availability made possible by Medicare coverage of CT colonography would attract more seniors to be screened for colorectal cancer-which is so successfully treated when detected early. Making CT colonography more available to seniors ultimately could save lives.”

Further Information

Learn more at www.acrin.org.

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Medicine For Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

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(NAPSI)—The more than 13 million American adults who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), one of the most common lung diseases in the U.S., and the people who care for them, may soon have more treatment options.

New Medicines in Development

That’s because America’s biopharmaceutical research companies are working on 54 new medicines to treat COPD, according to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). These new therapies are in clinical trials or under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for patient use.

The Condition

COPD is a serious, progressive lower respiratory disease that encompasses two main conditions—chronic bronchitis and emphysema—characterized by obstructed airflow to the lungs that interferes with normal breathing. People with COPD may be limited in their ability to work, exercise and even perform routine activities.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the number of patients with COPD is increasing. In addition to those who have been diagnosed with the disease, 12 million Americans likely have COPD without knowing it. The NIH says symptoms can include:

• Constant coughing, sometimes called “smoker’s cough”;

• Shortness of breath while doing activities you used to be able to do;

• Feeling like you can’t breathe;

• Not being able to take a deep breath; and

• Wheezing.

If you experience any of these, see your doctor.

Early Detection Is Key

“Early detection of COPD is imperative, as effective treatment and lifestyle changes can change the course and progression of this devastating disease,” said PhRMA President and CEO John J. Castellani. PhRMA’s mission is to advocate for public policies that encourage medical innovation and research into new medicines for patients by pharmaceutical and biotechnology research companies.

America’s biopharmaceutical research sector is the global leader in medical innovation, with more than 300 new medicines approved by the FDA in recent decades. Researchers are currently studying more than 3,000 more compounds.

Learn More

For more information about the research, see www.phrma.org/research/new-medicines-COPD.

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Who Has Fibromyalgia? It Might Not Be Who You Think

pic(NAPSI)—You’ve probably seen the many commercials for fibromyalgia drugs on TV. They usually feature middle-aged women describing unexplained aches and pains. Although fibromyalgia most often affects adults, it can also develop in childhood and go undiagnosed for years in patients who often suffer in silence.

According to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), juvenile primary fibromyalgia syndrome (JPFS) typically develops between the ages of 13 and 15, although the symptoms can develop much earlier. Children and teens with JPFS feel pain that interferes with daily life and often have difficulty sleeping. Although it’s not entirely clear how many children are affected by JPFS, the ACR estimates that it is anywhere between 2 percent and 7.5 percent of children in North America and Europe.

The symptoms can be so severe that adolescents with JPFS miss a lot of time in school and withdraw from social activities. The Journal of Pediatric Psychology recently reported that the rate of homeschooling among teens with fibromyalgia was more than 10 percent higher than the national average of about 2 percent.

Because their symptoms are so vague, teens with JPFS are often told by physicians that they are experiencing growing pains or suffering from depression. It can take years for teens to get an accurate diagnosis. What’s worse, even once they are diagnosed properly, there are no medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of fibromyalgia in patients younger than 18.

Lynne Matallana, founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA), is all too familiar with the difficulties that teens with fibromyalgia and their parents face. “Very little research has been done on fibromyalgia in children and teens,” Matallana said. “Current clinical trials, like the MyFi study for teenagers, help in the search to find a safe and effective treatment for JPFS.”

Parents who are aware of a family history of fibromyalgia, especially among female family members, should be watchful for the signs and symptoms in their children. Blood relatives of patients with fibromyalgia have a higher prevalence of the disease and tend to be more sensitive to pain than the general population.

Because of the lack of treatment options for JPFS, clinical trials for potential drugs are currently under way to determine if they are safe and effective for teens.

The MyFi study for teens with fibromyalgia is currently recruiting patients at study sites across the United States. For more information on this research, please visit www.MyFiTrial.com or call (866) 692-1317.

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