Fort Smith Radiation Oncology, P.A.

Kris L. Gast, M.D.
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June 2016 Cancer Demystified- Importance of exercise

Caring for patients for over 30 years as a physician, I have always encouraged my patients to keep moving.

I discuss with them to continue their normal activities as they progress through their cancer treatments, as well as to add exercise to their daily routine.  Studies have shown that patients who exercise, or “move more,” do better in reducing their risk of the cancer progressing or even recurring.

The additional health benefits of exercise are numerous. First, exercise  can improve mood, which will in return help combat a secondary issue I see with cancer patients— depression.  Exercise can also reduce the risk of blood clots, increase bone density, improve heart function, and reduce anxiety.

Exercise during treatment should be enjoyable, and that doesn’t necessary mean going to a gym every day. Having spent my life progressing through every imaginable form of exercise, I always tell my patients to start off their routine by going on walks.  Other good exercises include water aerobics and Pilates.

Traditional or classic Pilates is my personal favorite.  Pilates has been shown to increase strength without adding bulk, improve flexibility, improve posture, eliminate back pain, increase energy level, and help prevent injury from other activities. Pilates is also very safe for seniors. For my patients, I recommend only attending Pilates instruction from a certified instructor with private lessons.

If my patient already has a good exercise plan in place, I just encourage them to listen to their body and adjust their plan as needed.

Finally, if the combination of cancer treatments, such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, has taxed the body too much, I suggest waiting to begin an exercise program until after the body has healed. However, I still believe in the “move more” philosophy. The sooner an exercise program can begin, the sooner the benefits will appear.

Posted In: Cancer Demystified by Dr. Kris Gast
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April 2016 Cancer Demystified- Colorectal Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, in 2014 about 136,830 people were predicted to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the US with about 50,310 people predicted to die of the disease.

In both men and women, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death. Colorectal cancer can affect people at an early age, such as 20’s or 30’s, if it runs in their family.  Most commonly, however, the rate of being diagnosed with this disease increases after the age 50.

Colorectal cancer is a cancer found anywhere from the start of the colon to the end of the rectum. Most colorectal cancers begin as small polyps, which usually do not cause any symptoms.  As the polyps grow, they can turn into cancer.

The symptoms of colorectal cancer include a change in bowel habits lasting over four weeks, blood present in the stool, gas, cramping, or abdominal pain, weakness, and weight loss.

What causes colorectal cancer? Some studies have shown that a diet high in fat and low in fiber leads to an increased risk in developing this cancer. Other risk factors include increasing age, history of polyps, history of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, and alcoholism.  In some cases, colorectal cancer can be an inherited cancer found in families.  This occurrence is called a Lynch syndrome, a diagnosis when multiple people on the same side of the family are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. In addition, with this syndrome cancer is more likely to be diagnosed at a young age.

Screening for colorectal cancer should start at age 50, or younger depending on family history.  Ask your doctor to schedule you for a colonoscopy.  If no polyps are found you won’t need another scope for 10 years! If a polyp is found, your doctor performing the scope should remove the polyp and you will likely be re-scoped in 3-5 years. Remember early detection equals CURE!

Posted In: Cancer Demystified by Dr. Kris Gast
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February 2016 Cancer Demystified- Music Therapy

Music is all around us.  Many of us listen to music to help improve our mood and energy level, while some of us may need it to help us go to sleep. Several listen to music during workouts or while driving. Did you know music could be so therapeutic?

Music has been used in medicine for thousands of years. It has been shown not only to help us deal with pain but also to reduce the perception of the intensity of our pain. Music also helps reduce anxiety, regulate blood pressure, and reduce stress in patients and caregivers.

As reported by the American Cancer Society,  researchers from Drexel University held 30 trials that included a total of 1,891 cancer patients using music therapy sessions with the patients listening to all types of relaxing music that included classical, jazz, folk, country and western, easy listening, religious and many others. The researchers were able to scientifically measure in these patients a significant improvement in anxiety and mood and measure small improvements in heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and pain.

In addition to benefits to patients in treatment, music also has many other benefits. Listening to music while exercising can encourage the exerciser to go further, exercise longer, and improve intensity, all of which will increase endurance.  That steady beat gets the heart and body going!

Listening to music has also shown even more beneficial effects. For example, one study suggests listening to music with a regular rhythm, low pitches, and a tranquil melody improves sleep. Other benefits of listening to music regularly include reduction of stress levels, decrease in symptoms of depression, improvement of mood, and for students even better test scores!

Obviously, many types of music exist. Which should you listen to? First, pick music that you like and that makes you happy. Then, make music a part of your daily routine for a healthier 2016.

Posted In: Cancer Demystified by Dr. Kris Gast
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