USA — Doctor Emphasizes Prevention in Cancer Fight

WASHINGTON — Smok­ing ces­sa­tion, annu­al phys­i­cals and rou­tine screen­ings are the best ways to decrease the risks of can­cer, said a Navy doc­tor who rou­tine­ly sees active-duty and retired mil­i­tary per­son­nel and fam­i­ly mem­bers for chemother­a­py.

“We see a lot of lung can­cer patients who have nev­er smoked in their lives,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Erin Larkins, an oncol­o­gist and hema­tol­o­gist at the Nation­al Naval Med­ical Cen­ter in Bethes­da, Md. “But it’s known that smok­ers, espe­cial­ly heavy smok­ers, are def­i­nite­ly at increased risk for lung cancer.” 

And can­cers of the head, neck, mouth, throat and voice box — and the num­bers of those cas­es thought to be linked to smok­ing — have increased, Larkins said. 

“When [smok­ing is] com­bined with drink­ing the num­bers go even high­er,” she added. 

The most com­mon can­cers in the Unit­ed States, Larkins said, are breast can­cer in women and prostate can­cer in men. Colon can­cer rates No. 2 for men and women, she added. 

“Lung can­cer has been No. 3 for a long time,” she said, not­ing lung can­cer has the high­est death rate of any cancer. 

“We’re expand­ing treat­ments, but it’s still an aggres­sive can­cer usu­al­ly found in advanced cas­es, which makes it dif­fi­cult to treat,” Larkins said. 

Rou­tine pre­ven­tive screen­ings, such as mam­mo­grams and colono­scopies, have cre­at­ed high rates of ear­ly can­cer detec­tion, Larkins said, adding that treat­ment at ear­ly stages increas­es chances of survival. 

When to start get­ting mam­mo­grams is a deci­sion usu­al­ly made between the doc­tor and the patient, the doc­tor said. “There’s some debate now about whether to start mam­mo­grams at 40 years old or 50 years old,” she explained. “The opin­ions are var­ied through­out the med­ical field right now.” 

Women with a moth­er or sis­ter who had breast can­cer at age 40 should start get­ting mam­mo­grams 10 years ear­li­er, Larkins added. 

Colono­scopies are rec­om­mend­ed after age 50 and are known to be a very effec­tive screen­ing for colon can­cer, Larkins said. 

Anoth­er pro­ce­dure for detect­ing colon can­cer is the “vir­tu­al colonoscopy.” Sim­i­lar to a CAT scan, she said, this pro­ce­dure can detect tiny polyps and oth­er concerns. 

Prostate can­cer is the most com­mon can­cer that occurs in men, Larkins said. A test for prostate-spe­cif­ic anti­gen mol­e­cules in the blood — com­mon­ly known as “PSA screen­ing” — is rec­om­mend­ed for men old­er than 50, Larkins said, and stud­ies indi­cate that African-Amer­i­can men should start PSA tests at 40. 

Cer­vi­cal can­cer in women has become rel­a­tive­ly rare, the doc­tor said, thanks to ear­ly detec­tion by Pap smears. No screen­ings exist for pan­cre­at­ic and ovar­i­an can­cers, she said, but “stud­ies are being done all the time to finds screens” for those can­cers and oth­ers that are dif­fi­cult to treat because a patient often has no symp­toms until the can­cer is advanced. 

Vac­cine ther­a­pies are under study, Larkins said, but are not in com­mon use to pre­vent cer­tain can­cers. “The main thing is be aware of screen­ing and know it’s some­thing you should do, based on your age [or] fam­i­ly his­to­ry,” she said. “Be aware of your own health.” 

Mean­while, stud­ies and tri­als to detect and treat dif­fer­ent can­cers remain an ongo­ing process, the doc­tor said. 

“One of the biggest changes in the last sev­er­al years has been look­ing at tumors indi­vid­u­al­ly as much as we can,” she said. “We know not all breast tumors behave the same — some are much more aggres­sive than others.” 

World Can­cer Day is observed Feb. 4. It was estab­lished by the Inter­na­tion­al Union Against Can­cer to raise aware­ness and encour­age can­cer pre­ven­tion, detec­tion and treat­ment. The IUAC is a glob­al con­sor­tium of 350 can­cer-fight­ing orga­ni­za­tions in more than 100 countries. 

The World Health Orga­ni­za­tion esti­mates that with­out treat­ment, 84 mil­lion peo­ple will die of can­cer between 2005 and 2015. 

“If can­cer spreads,” Larkins said, “it is most­ly still incur­able. If we can pre­vent it, rather [than] treat it, that’s a much bet­ter option.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →