Fort Smith Radiation Oncology, P.A.

Kris L. Gast, M.D.
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September Cancer Demystified~ Prostate Cancer

The month of September is designated as prostate cancer awareness month.  Following skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.  Each year nearly 250,000 cases will be diagnosed, while 30,000 men will die of prostate cancer.  Over a man’s lifetime, 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at an average age of 65. Diagnosis before the age of 40 is very rare.

What are the guidelines for prostate cancer screening? Screening for prostate cancer should start at the age of 50 for most men; however, for men with a family history, screening should start at age 40.  The screening includes a PSA blood test and a rectal exam.  PSA, or Prostate-specific antigen, is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland. The PSA test measures the level of PSA in a man’s blood. The rectal exam allows the doctor actually to feel the patient’s prostate gland and check for bumps or knots within the prostate.

What are treatment options for prostate cancer? Prostate cancer is a very treatable and curable disease.  The options for treatment range from surgery, radioactive seed implantation, intensity modulated radiotherapy, androgen deprivation, and observation. Some patients require a combination of treatment options, as well.

Surgery entails a total removal of the prostate gland.  Radioactive seed implantation is the insertion of radioactive seeds into the prostate gland.  Intensity modulated radiotherapy is radiation therapy delivered to the prostate gland over a period of several weeks.  Androgen deprivation is hormone therapy which can “shut off” the prostate cancer for a time before it becomes active again. With this type of treatment, the length of time before the prostate cancer becomes active again can be considerable. Hormone therapy is typically used in older more frail men. Observation is a plan to monitor a patient and watch his PSA levels over time.

The earlier a prostate cancer is found, the more options a man has in regards to treatment. In honor of prostate cancer awareness month, my office, Fort Smith Radiation Oncology, is hosting a free prostate screening event.  Please call 479-648-1800 today to schedule your free screening to be held on Thursday, September 25, 2014.

Posted In: Cancer Demystified by Dr. Kris Gast
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August Cancer Demystified~ What is Ovarian Cancer?

What is ovarian cancer? Ovarian cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells are present in the ovaries, the two small, almond-shaped organs located on each side of the uterus.

Every year nearly 250,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer; 150,000 women die yearly from the disease. In women age 35-74 ovarian cancer is the 5th leading cause of cancer deaths. Over their lifetime, one in 72 women will develop ovarian cancer. In Arkansas, approximately 200 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year with 150 deaths occurring yearly.

Difficult to detect, especially, in the early stages, symptoms of ovarian cancer are vague and common.  Ovarian cancer signs include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and feeling the need to urinate urgently. Often, weight gain, weight loss, fatigue and back pain are also experienced.

Risk factors for ovarian cancer include having a personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer, increasing age, obesity, smoking, increased frequency of ovulation, and hormone therapy after menopause.


What about prevention? The use of birth control pills can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. Compared with women who never used oral contraceptive, those who used oral contraceptives for 3 years or more have about a 30%-50% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. Also, having one or more children, particularly before the age of 25, and breast feeding may decrease a woman’s risk.


Treatment for ovarian cancer is initially surgery followed by chemotherapy and sometimes radiation therapy. Unfortunately, most women are diagnosed at a later stage of the cancer because of its vague symptoms. This fact contributes to the high death rate for ovarian cancer.

Women who experience any of the symptoms for more than 3-4 weeks should visit with their doctor. To learn more about how to get involved locally, visit the Arkansas Ovarian Cancer Coalition River Valley Chapter’s website and consider attending their annual Teal Night in Tahiti fundraiser held Saturday, August 16, from 6pm-10pm at the Fort Smith Convention Center.

Posted In: Cancer Demystified by Dr. Kris Gast
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Poem by Steven Michael Sanders

Mr. Sanders gave us permission to share his poem with you all.  To read more of his poetry go to the website




It’s not so much the pain involved

Or the fact that it drives you insane

It’s the questions tormenting your psyche

That you are searching to explain

Some people may think you’ve lost it

As you wonder and doubt the whys

You try to see the beauty of life

While the world around you cries

It always seems to come out of the blue

Fading the brilliance to grey

You tell them all just what it is

But no one knows what to say

You appreciate those who care for you

And don’t doubt the ones who know

But it’s not exactly what you had in mind

To fade your vibrant glow

It’s a difficult road to be positive

But a must if you’re to endure

Trusting in those who have always loved you

Is the path to find the cure

You must follow the pathway before you

No matter how large the stones

And walk along the water’s edge

Knowing you’re not alone


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