Are Lung Cancer Survivors Getting Too Many Costly Scans for No Reason? Study Suggests So

“Once you’ve made it through lung cancer treatment, you want to make sure you catch it early if it comes back again.

“But a new study suggests that one approach to watching for a cancer’s return is being inappropriately used at many hospitals. And it isn’t helping patients survive longer, the research shows. The findings are published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

“The study looked at how often survivors of lung and esophageal cancer went through a kind of imaging called PET scanning as the primary way of monitoring their condition, instead of as a backstop to other kinds of scans.

“PET scans are expensive, but potentially powerful. They let doctors see increased activity by cells inside the body — including fast-growing cancer cells — and can do so early. Many cancer patients receive PET scans as part of diagnosis, to see how advanced their cancer is, and to see how it’s responding to treatment.”


ACOG: Vaginal Estrogen Safe for Breast Ca Survivors

“Vaginal estrogen is safe for breast cancer survivors suffering from such urogenital symptoms as vaginal atrophy, vasomotor symptoms, and lower urinary tract infections, and there is no evidence of increased risk of cancer recurrence with the treatment, according to a statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

“However, the decision to use vaginal estrogen should be made in consultation with a woman’s oncologist, and only if ‘first-line choices’ for managing urogenital symptoms — which should be nonhormonal products such as lubricants — are ineffective for breast cancer patients, reported ACOG’s Committee on Gynecologic Practice, writing in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“Sexual medicine specialist Lauren Streicher, MD, of Northwestern University, who was not involved with the statement, said that although the treatment clearly eases vaginal dryness, many physicians are reluctant to prescribe it for breast cancer patients. But she said the response is quite different when gynecologists are asked about it.”


Patients with Melanoma Skin Cancers don’t Regularly Perform Thorough Skin Self-Exams

“According to the American Cancer Society, more than 70,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma each year in the United States. It is recommended that such individuals perform a thorough skin self-exam on a regular basis to look for potential disease recurrence or new melanomas. But research by Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey investigators shows fewer than 15 percent of melanoma patients surveyed regularly examine all parts of their body. Rutgers Cancer Institute behavioral scientist Elliot J. Coups, PhD, an associate professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, is the lead author of the work just published in the journal Melanoma Research (doi: 10.1097/CMR.0000000000000204). He shares more about the research.”


Weight Training Helps Breast Cancer Survivors Regain Functional Strength

“Weight training can be a big boost to breast cancer survivors who are trying to regain muscle and bone strength lost due to cancer treatment and physical inactivity, says a Florida State University researcher.

“In the academic journal Healthcare, FSU Professor of Exercise Science Lynn Panton details how a weight training regimen can help women who’ve survived breast cancer repair chemotherapy-weakened bodies and help them get back to living their lives.

“ ‘Cancer treatment causes this accelerated aging,’ Panton said. ‘What we are finding is that many breast cancer survivors are very weak in the upper body.’ “


Training for Patients with Melanoma and Their Partners on Skin Examinations

“Training on skin self-examination (SSE) to aid early detection could be extra beneficial for patients with melanoma and their partners who report having low relationship quality because it gives them activities to do together, according to an article published online by JAMA Dermatology.

“Melanoma remains a significant public health concern with an estimated 73,000 new cases of invasive melanoma and more than 9,900 deaths expected to occur in 2015. Melanoma is a treatable cancer with a high survival rate if it is detected early. Individuals previously diagnosed with melanoma are 10 times more likely to develop additional melanomas, which makes them an important population on which to focus early detection. Melanomas detected during SSE are more likely to have favorable outcomes. However, many areas on the body are difficult to examine by oneself so a skin-check partner is beneficial.”


A Little Known Side Effect with a Huge Impact

“First, there was achiness, a pain that never went away. Then, her right arm and hand began to swell, a little at first and then a lot. Then Rebecca Thomas, a breast cancer survivor five years out from surgery, chemo and radiation, was hospitalized with a raging infection.

“ ‘The swelling wasn’t bad at first and I didn’t think much of it,’ said the 65-year-old food service worker from Seattle, who was diagnosed with cancer in 1988. ‘But I got a [cut] on my finger and bacteria got in there and I ended up with a very bad case of cellulitis. It got at least three times the normal size, my whole hand and arm. After that is when the trouble really set in.’

“Thomas’ ‘trouble’ was lymphedema, a condition that impacts millions of U.S. cancer survivors every year, particularly patients who undergo lymph node dissection as part of their treatment, like actress and ‘lymphedema ambassador’ Kathy Bates.


Acupuncture Reduces Hot Flashes in Breast Cancer Survivors

“Acupuncture may be a viable treatment for women experiencing hot flashes as a result of estrogen-targeting therapies to treat breast cancer, according to a new study from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Hot flashes are particularly severe and frequent in breast cancer survivors, but current FDA-approved remedies for these unpleasant episodes, such as hormone replacement therapies are off-limits to breast cancer survivors because they include estrogen. The results of the study are published this week in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

” ‘Though most people associate hot flashes with menopause, the episodes also affect many breast cancer survivors who have low estrogen levels and often undergo premature menopause, following treatment with chemotherapy or surgery,’ said lead author Jun J. Mao, MD, MSCE, associate professor of Family Medicine and Community Health. ‘These latest results clearly show promise for managing hot flashes experienced by breast cancer survivors through the use of acupuncture, which in previous studies has also been proven to be an effective treatment for joint pain in this patient population.’ “


Breast Cancer Survivors Who Experience Pain During Intercourse May Benefit from Lidocaine Treatment

Scientists at Oregon Health & Science University report that breast cancer survivors who experience pain during sexual intercourse, a common side effect of breast cancer treatment, may achieve comfort when liquid lidocaine is applied strategically to prevent pain. Their research was published online today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“ ‘The physical and psychological consequences for the more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. are very real and often misunderstood, or not treated,’ said Martha F. Goetsch, M.D., M.P.H., adjunct assistant professor in the OHSU Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the study’s lead author. ‘This noninvasive treatment will offer distinct help in alleviating the physical — and quite frankly the emotional — pain associated with sexual intercourse, making sexual function more enjoyable and fulfilling for them and their partner.’

“It is estimated that anywhere from 70 to 100 percent of breast cancer survivors, including those treated at OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, experience some sort of sexual dysfunction, including dyspareunia, which is the clinical term for pain during sexual intercourse. Breast cancer survivors are especially vulnerable to the condition because their treatment is focused on eradicating estrogen. This increases the severity of the typical menopausal symptom of pain with sex. A high proportion of women in menopause who have not had breast cancer also suffer from what is now termed vulvovaginal syndrome of menopause where estrogens decline.”


Breast Cancer Survivors Gain Weight at a Higher Rate than Their Cancer-Free Peers

“Breast cancer survivors with a family history of the disease, including those who carry BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, gained more weight over the course of four years than cancer-free women—especially if they were treated with chemotherapy, according to a prospective study by Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers.

“Data from earlier studies suggest that breast cancer survivors who gain weight may have a higher risk of having their cancer return, the researchers say, noting that gains of 11 pounds or more are also associated with a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

“For the study, the researchers reviewed a baseline questionnaire and a follow-up one completed four years later by 303 breast cancer survivors and 307 cancer-free women enrolled in an ongoing and long-term study at the Kimmel Cancer Center of women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer. Study participants completed a baseline and at least one follow-up questionnaire between 2005 and 2013, and one-quarter of the subjects were premenopausal.”