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Ask the Pros- Dr. Kris Gast

Q: What does the term SPF mean?

A: SPF stands for the “Sun Protection Factor.” The SPF rating, mainly a measure of UVB protection, shows how long protection from the sun’s UVB rays lasts with an application.  The higher the SPF, the longer the protection will last.

For example, a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will delay the onset of a sunburn in a person who would otherwise burn in 10 minutes to burn in 150 minutes. Therefore, an application of a SPF 15 sunscreen would allow a person to stay out in the sun 15 times longer.

However, many sunscreens do not block UVA radiation, which does not cause sunburn but can increase the rate of melanoma. Thus, people using sunscreens may be exposed to high UVA levels without realizing it. For the best protection, the use of broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen is recommended.

 

Q: What does UVA and UVB stand for in regards to sun exposure?

A: UV is short for ultraviolet, part of the sun’s light that is invisible to the human eye. UVA rays are those that penetrate the skin deeply and are responsible for tanning.  Causing skin cells to age, UVA rays give sun worshipers wrinkles.  Exposure to UVA rays in large doses can also cause skin cancer.  However, UVB rays are considered the more “dangerous” of the sun’s rays and are most commonly linked to skin cancer. UVB Rays are the rays you can blame when you get a sunburn. Unlike UVA rays, these rays aren’t always the same strength year round. They are more prevalent in the summer months; however, they are able to reflect off of water or snow.

Q: What kind of skin cancers are there?

 

A: The three major types of skin cancers are squamous cell, basal cell, and melanoma.  Squamous cell skin cancers, making up 20% of all skin cancers, tend to be on areas of sun-exposed skin, such as the face, eyes, lips, arms, and back of hands.  With over 1 million new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year, basal cell carcinoma is the most common cancer in humans.  These cancers grow slowly and usually appear on the face and neck area.  Melanoma derives from special cells in the skin and can occur anywhere on the body.  Caught early, most melanomas can be cured with relatively minor surgery. However, melanoma can be more serious than the other forms of skin cancer, because it may spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body and cause serious illness and death.

 

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Ask the Pros- Dr. Kris Gast

Q: Are radiation treatments painful?

A: Patients typically do not feel the treatment.  Generally given over several sessions ranging from one week to eight weeks, daily radiation treatments given for cancer are much like having an x-ray taken. The patient lies still on the table for 10-15 minutes as a prescribed dose of radiation is delivered to the precise area needed for treatment.  Side effects of the radiation treatment are specific to the area being treated and usually do not occur until a few weeks into the session. For more information about side effects of radiation therapy, visit www.fsro.net or www.cancer.org.

 

Q: Do all patients have the same side effects from radiation therapy?

A: Many factors can affect one’s side effects from radiation treatments.  Factors can include: the area of the body being treated, the size of the treatment field, the physical size of the patient, and the sensitivity of normal tissues. Also, the combined treatment of radiation therapy with chemotherapy can enhance side effects. No two patients react the same to radiation treatments. Everyone’s treatment is customized and unique to their cancer diagnosis.  Your radiation treatment team will work hard to minimize as many side effects as possible.

 

Q: I keep hearing about Relay For Life.  What exactly is Relay For Life?

 

A: The American Cancer Society Relay For Life is a yearlong fundraising event. Locally, in September of every year, area teams start raising money by having bake sales, yard sales, raffles, anything they can think of to raise money.  In May or June the actual Relay event happens and in Fort Smith, it is a 12 hour party from 6pm until 6am.  During this event teams walk laps, survivors are honored and basically it is a big party with food, competitive games, theme laps, and shopping.  The teams will continue to raise money through August. Although some money does stay locally for programs, the American Cancer Society uses the majority of money raised for research to find a cure for cancer.

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Ask the Pros- Dr. Kris Gast

Q: My testosterone level is in the low range.  Should I take a testosterone replacement? What are the side effects?

 

A: A male’s testosterone level peaks in early adulthood and begins to drop by 1% a year according to the Mayo Clinic. Men with low levels of testosterone could benefit from replacement treatment.  However, the side effects of such treatment include an increased risk of cardiac disease, kidney disease, acne, sleep apnea, enlarging breasts, and shrinking testicles.  Testosterone replacement can also increase one’s risk of developing prostate cancer. This past January, the FDA announced plans to investigate the use of the treatment because of reports of stroke, heart attacks, and death in men who used the replacement.  When considering taking the replacement, please consult with your doctor and decide what is best for you.

 

Q: What determines how many radiation treatments are given?

 

A:.  Many factors help determine how many radiation treatments patients will receive for a cancer diagnosis.  The type and stage of the cancer are the first and most important factors to evaluate.  Next, since overall health plays a vital role in determining the treatment plan, a patient’s ability to tolerate the standard treatment regimen must be decided.  Another practical issue to consider as a factor involves travel constraints for patients living far distances from treatment centers.  As with all medical treatments, radiation treatment plans for patients should be individualized and customized to their specific cases.

 

 

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