Archive For "August, 2013"

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Dr. Kris Gast~ Ask the Pros

Q: My mother just finished radiation to her head.  Her scalp is now very red and itchy.  We weren’t told how to care for this.  What do you recommend?

 

A: At my office, we recommend patients use a mild soap or shampoo, such as Dove soap or Johnson’s baby shampoo during their treatment.  Also, we provide our patients with a special order moisturizing body cream that contains Vitamins A and D for them to use starting their first day of treatment.  The use of this cream has dramatically reduced skin reactions with my patients. If a patient has more itching with treatment, I recommend 1% hydrocortisone cream to be applied to the area twice a day. After treatment is finished, use of a lotion that has no fragrance or alcohol will minimize any reactions or dryness.

 

Q: Is radiation always necessary for breast cancer treatment?

A: At the time of a patient’s diagnosis with breast cancer, the majority of women will have a choice between a mastectomy and breast conserving treatment.  A mastectomy is a surgery to remove part of or the entire breast.  Patients that choose mastectomy generally do not need radiation as an additional treatment, unless they are diagnosed with a later stage cancer. Breast conserving treatment involves a lumpectomy, which is an operation where a small volume of breast tissue containing the tumor and some surrounding healthy tissue is removed to conserve the breast. This type of treatment is then followed by a course of radiation treatments to the whole breast.  Both options have the same chance of recurrence thus the preference lies with the patient.  The best advice is to talk to your physician about your choices.

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Cancer Demystified by Dr. Kris Gast

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Affecting 22,000 American women every year, ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths, with 150,000 deaths yearly.  Forming in the tissues of the ovary, most ovarian cancers are either ovarian epithelial carcinomas (cancer that begins in the cells on the surface of the ovary) or malignant germ cell tumors (cancer that begins in egg cells).

Many factors increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer: infertility, estrogen use, endometriosis, nulligravida (women who have never been pregnant), and family history.  Factors shown to decrease the risk of ovarian cancer are breast feeding, child bearing at a younger age, and taking oral contraceptives.

The signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer are subtle and unspecific.  For example, symptoms of bloating, weight loss, difficulty eating, urinary problems, and pelvic or abdominal pain can often be caused by some other illness.  With ovarian cancer, these symptoms usually persist for months prior to a diagnosis.  Therefore, ovarian cancer is often called the silent cancer.

Treatment for ovarian cancer involves an extensive surgery usually followed by chemotherapy, but the choice of treatment depends largely on the type of cancer and the stage of the disease. Thirty years ago, survival rates were only 10-20%, but today, survival rates are up to 50%.  However, much more research is needed to improve early detection and to increase survival rates for those diagnosed with this disease.

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Dr. Kris Gast ~ Ask the Pros

Q: I have a yearly physical exam every year.  Should I still worry about developing cancer?

A:  Unfortunately, the answer is yes.  A yearly physical exam is designed to check your vitals, lungs, and heart and to order routine lab work.  The physical exam is fairly basic, and the blood tests usually ordered would not be looking for cancer.  The typical blood work simply checks your cholesterol, kidney function, electrolytes, and iron levels.

However, your yearly physical is the perfect time to discuss with your doctor any symptoms or findings you have noticed.  Since you and your doctor are a team, sharing information can help your doctor take better care of you.

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