Fort Smith Radiation Oncology, P.A.

Kris L. Gast, M.D.
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October Cancer Demystified- Importance of Mammograms

A recent study led by a team of researchers from the Netherlands shed light on the importance of a mammogram and its ability to detect breast cancer at its earliest stage. This team of researchers studied every breast cancer case registered in their country from 1999-2012 —nearly 174,000 cases!

The research team divided the data into two groups. The first group of women were diagnosed in the years 1999 through 2006.  The second group of women were diagnosed in the years 2007 through 2012. Their research showed that the breast cancer survival rate before 2006 was 91%, while after 2006 the survival rate jumped to 96%, showing an increase in survival rates of breast cancer patients.

Before 2006, the cancers were larger at diagnosis and the number of mastectomies performed was greater. After 2006, women survived longer, because the tumors were smaller when they were removed and less-invasive surgery such as lumpectomies became more common. The researchers concluded that early detection is indeed saving lives and improving survival rates.

The findings also demonstrate that consistent, high-quality care matters. The breast cancer survival rate in the Netherlands is a whopping 96 percent and is 100 percent for the very early breast cancers, compared to only 90% survival for women in the United States.

These findings tend to support the use of regular mammograms to detect breast tumors at the earliest possible stages. And the new research confirmed that when cancers are detected earlier, less aggressive surgery can be performed.

Thus, the take-home message: Start having your mammograms at age 40 and continue yearly screening indefinitely, and if possible opt for breast-conserving surgery. For more information about your breast cancer options, please feel free to call 479-648-1800 to schedule an appointment.

Posted In: Cancer Demystified by Dr. Kris Gast
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September Cancer Demystified- Prostate Cancer

The month of September is designated as prostate cancer awareness month, a good time for men to talk to their doctors about checking for prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is not only the most common cancer in men but also the second leading cause of cancer deaths.  Usually a slow growing cancer, early stage prostate cancers are confined within the prostate gland and have a high cure rate. Later stages of prostate cancer can be devastating, as the cancer can invade the bladder or rectum and spread to the bones, causing severe pain with a minimal chance of cure.

The American Society of Oncology recommends prostate cancer screening should start at age 50 with a PSA blood test and an exam by a physician. Men with a family history of prostate cancer should be screened beginning at age 40.

If diagnosed with prostate cancer, men can expect to see an urologist and a radiation oncologist to discuss treatment options. The options for treatment range from surgery, radioactive seed implantation, intensity modulated radiotherapy, androgen deprivation, and observation. Some patients require a combination of treatment options, as well.

Doctors should review all the choices of treatments with their patients while explaining the risks, benefits, and side effects of each choice.  The goal of treatments today is to minimize the side effects as much as possible.  For example, over the last thirty years, the goal of radiation oncologists has been to decrease or eliminate the side effects of treatment while still delivering a curative dose to the cancer. Today, side effects of radiation therapy to the prostate are very minimal.

The earlier a prostate cancer is found, the more options a man has in regards to treatment. Please talk to your doctor about your screening options, or call 479-648-1800 to schedule an appointment with my Cancer Prevention Clinic.

Posted In: Cancer Demystified by Dr. Kris Gast
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August 2015 Cancer Demystified- Alternate Cancer Treaments and Therapies

Many cancer patients are interested in trying anything that may help them throughout their course of therapy, including complementary and alternative cancer treatments, therapies that have not been approved by our governing regulatory agencies or supported by clinical studies.

Patients look to complementary and alternative therapies in hopes of helping with the signs and symptoms caused by cancer and cancer treatments. Such symptoms can include: anxiety, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, pain, difficulty sleeping, and stress.

The following is a list of complementary or alternative treatments felt to be safe. Growing evidence shows that these types of treatments, which may work well when combined, may provide some benefits.

  1. Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years and is used to reduce nausea and pain, relieve muscle strains, help with constipation, and improve overall moods.
  2. Aroma therapy is the use of fragrant oils to provide a calming environment. An example is sprinkling lavender oil on tissue and placing it under the bed pillow.
  3. Gentle exercise may help fight fatigue and stress and improve sleep. Many studies have shown that exercise can help cancer patients live longer and have a better quality of life.
  4. Massage therapy can be used to relieve muscle tension and stress and to promote relaxation. Many cancer centers now offer massages as part of their treatment regimen.
  5. Meditation has been found to help relieve anxiety and stress. Mediation can be done individually for a few minutes every day or in classes with an instructor.
  6. Music therapy, listening to songs and music that lift the spirit, can help relieve pain and control nausea and vomiting.
  7. Tai Chi is an ancient form of exercise where gentle movements are used in conjunction with deep breathing. Tai Chi has been found to decrease pain, not only in cancer patients but also in people diagnosed with fibromyalgia and with stroke sufferers.

Before starting any of these alternative or complementary therapies, please talk to your doctor to ensure it is safe with your current plan of treatment.

Posted In: Cancer Demystified by Dr. Kris Gast
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