Archive For "March, 2013"

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Dr. Kris Gast ~ Ask the Pros

Radiation Oncologist at Fort Smith Radiation OncologyQ: I have heard that the budget cuts will greatly affect research for finding a cure for cancer.  Is this true and if it is, where will doctors find the money to continue their research?

 

A: According to the latest news coming out of Washington, this is very true.  The National Cancer Institute is expected to lose a significant amount in funding.  Unfortunately, the budget for cancer research has always been low in the United States when compared to other countries where scientists have found that grants are more readily available.  However, other than government funding, the second largest supplier of funding for cancer research is the American Cancer Society and its Relay For Life fundraisers.  The American Cancer Society has funded 46 Nobel Peace Prize winners and countless scientists over the last 100 years.  They have also spent more than $3.5 billion on cancer research since 1948 and have played a role in nearly every cancer breakthrough in recent history.  My advice is to find your nearest Relay For Life walk and participate! It will take all of us helping the American Cancer Society by raising funds for their research to continue the goal of finding a cure for cancer.

 

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March Cancer Demystified~ Understanding Metastatic Cancer

Radiation Oncologist at Fort Smith Radiation OncologyMy dad had prostate cancer years ago.  During his yearly check up, one of his blood levels came back abnormal.  His doctor ordered a CAT scan and a bone scan, which came back showing cancer in his bones.  Does he have bone cancer? How long can he live with this?

A person who has had a diagnosis of cancer at a specific site, such as the prostate, has prostate cancer.  If that cancer comes back in organs or sites that are distant from the original location of the cancer, the person then has what is called metastatic cancer.  The word metastasis comes from the Greek word meaning displacement– meta meaning “next” and stasis meaning “placement.” The original cancer cells have traveled through the blood stream and deposited into the “next placement,” the bone or other sites.

When reviewing the two most common cancers, breast cancer and prostate cancer, studies show that those patients with metastasis only to the bone can live a long time; some can even live decades.  Patients with bone metastasis may or may not experience pain. However, radiation is of benefit regardless.  Radiation therapy can be used to help relieve the pain symptoms of bone metastasis but also to aid in preventing the tumor from growing further.

Other cancers, such as lung cancer, stomach cancer, and pancreatic cancer can spread to the bones; but they usually spread to other organs, for instance, the liver.  When this happens, patients do not usually do well and are often told they have six months or less to live.  When given this type of diagnosis, the doctor may recommend hospice care. Hospice care is specialized care for people with a life-limiting prognosis.  Hospice can help with pain management and symptom control so that a person may live the last days of life fully, with dignity and comfort, at home or in a home-like setting.

Posted In: Cancer Demystified by Dr. Kris Gast
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Dr. Kris Gast ~ Ask the Pros

Radiation Oncologist at Fort Smith Radiation OncologyQ: My mom was just diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. She has bone cancer and a brain tumor. Does she have three different cancers, and what does stage IV cancer really mean?

A: The majority of cancers are staged based on the extent of the original (primary) tumor and on whether or not cancer has spread in the body. To help determine if the patient’s cancer has indeed spread either regionally or distantly to other organs, oncologists use x-rays, CAT scans, MRI scans, and PET scans. Most cancer stages are assigned a number from I-IV, with I being an isolated cancer and IV being a cancer which has spread, or in cancer terms, metastasized. A patient with a stage IV cancer does not have a new or different cancer throughout the body since metastatic cancer has the same name and same type of cancer cells as the original cancer.

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