February 24, 2014 1:45 pm

Q and A with Dr. Kris Gast

Posted in: Ask the Pros

Q: What are side effects of radiation treatment to the brain?

A: Being nerve tissue, the brain takes a long time to show changes and to heal.  Common side effects of radiation to the brain can be hair loss, skin redness, itching and fatigue. Also, some patients will experience short-term memory loss a year or two after treatment.  Another side effect can be somnolence syndrome, a condition causing drowsiness during the day or a need to sleep for longer than normal at night.  This effect usually occurs one to two months after treatment and resolves fairly quickly.


Q: The World Health Organization just announced that the rate of cancer is going to double by 2024! Why are the numbers going up?

A: The incidences of cancer cases are expected to rise for a number of different reasons.  In countries like the United States, the population is not only aging but also living longer.  Moreover, nearly 20% of our population still uses tobacco products, a major cause of cancer.  In developing countries, smoking rates are even higher.  The report also states that developing countries are reflected most in this new data, because of their population growth, longer lifespans, and susceptibility to cancers associated with industrialized lifestyles. Good news from the report is that over half of all cancers are preventable.



Q: I have multiple family members with cancer.  Is there some type of test I could take to see if I have cancer?

A: Sadly, no magic test can diagnose cancer.  However, a number of different blood tests can help in the diagnosis of cancer based on a patient’s symptoms. Doctors can check tumor markers, substances found in the blood, urine, other bodily fluids, or tissues of some patients with cancer. Tumor markers may be used to help diagnose cancer, but limitations to their use exist. Some noncancerous conditions may cause the levels of certain tumor markers to increase. Another possible consideration is genetic testing for those having a strong family history of breast cancer.  This test could identify a marked increase risk of developing breast cancer.  However, it will not identify any current cancer.  The best advice to decrease the risk of developing cancer is to refrain from use of tobacco products, maintain a healthy weight, exercise, and visit a physician regularly.

Q: What are the cancer rates for Arkansas?

A: The Arkansas Cancer Registry keeps records on the number of cancer cases reported every year.  The website www.healthyarkansas.gov links to the Arkansas Cancer Registry reports with solid data posted for years 2008-2010. The following statistics are key findings:

  1. Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death in Arkansas and in the United States.
  2. Cancer is expected to surpass heart disease as the number one cause of death worldwide.
  3. Every year nearly 15,000 Arkansans are diagnosed with cancer and 7000 die of the disease.
  4. The mortality rates from cancer in Arkansas are above the national level.
  5. Lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer deaths in Arkansans.

Breast and prostate cancer are the most diagnosed cancers in Arkansans



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