Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Patient gets a look at her old heart following transplant

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After a transplant earlier this year, a young British woman gave her heart away...literally. After doctors removed her heart -- damaged by a condition called restrictive cardiomyopathy -- Jennifer Sutton, 23, lent it to the Wellness Collection of central London. It will be on display to help educate the public on the importance of donor organs. Jennifer recently got to see her heart and described the moment as "surreal." I can only imagine. Read more about Jennifer's story and see a picture of her (and her heart!) at BBC News.

Chicago Cubs honour Breast Cancer patients

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This Chicago Cubs will honour breast cancer patients in their September 22nd game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, CNN has reported. It's all part of the National City Real Men Wear Pink campaign, of which legendary player Ryne Sandberg is a spokesperson for. The game will feature real breast cancer survivors from the Chicagoland area, though unfortunately, nominations for survivors were only accepted until September 1.

I think it's awesome that the men involved with sports teams are getting involved in the fight against breast cancer. It might be a disease limited to females but it's something that affects everyone in one way or another.

American Cancer Society to focus ads on the uninsured crisis

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The American Cancer Society plans to dedicate its entire $15 million advertising budget this upcoming year 2008 to the consequences of being uninsured in America, according to an article in The New York Times.

According to the article, the group cites frustration at cancer rates not dropping as quickly as hoped and recent research indicating that being uninsured leads to a delay in cancer detection as factors in its decision. The advertisements are nonpartisan and don't recommend specific solutions to the U.S. healthcare crisis, but they are intended to raise awareness of this issue as we head into the presidential campaign of 2008.

The TV ads for the campaign include one of images of uninsured cancer patients appearing fearful with a narrator saying, "We're making progress, but it's not enough if people don't have access to the care that could save their lives." Another commercial shows a young mother whose family has gone into serious debt because her insurance did not fully cover her cancer treatments.

I think this sounds like a great use of advertising money. Let's hope the campaign increases awareness among all Americans to press our politicians for change.

Exercise of the Week: Step-Ups

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Just because the summer season has reached its end, it doesn't mean that it's time to let our exercise programs go. People tend to put on more weight during the colder months for a few reasons: 1) Because they probably won't be donning their bathing suits at the beach for quite some time, and 2) Because our bodies are designed to slow our metabolism down -- a carry-over from our more primitive days when food sources became more scarce during the cold season. For these reasons, and probably about eight thousand others, it's a smart idea to keep stoking the flames of your metabolism right through the upcoming frost. So, to help you do just that, I'm showing you an exercise this week that will help you burn some serious calories while toning up your legs.

Called the Step-Up, this cardiovascular movement will help you speed up your metabolism as you strengthen and tone your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and even your calves. To perform this exercise, start by standing in front of a weight bench or any safe substitute for one (tip: take two milk crates, spread them apart, and place a firm, wooden board over them -- a great, makeshift bench). Next, take your right foot and place it on the surface of the bench. From there, step-up onto the bench, using your right leg to power the rest of your body up. Once you are standing firmly on top of the bench with both feet, step back down with one leg and follow with the other. Then, step up onto the bench with your left leg, following with your right. Repeat this movement for several repetitions, increasing speed and perhaps even adding small weights (dumbells in hand work well, as does holding a medicine ball) as you get stronger and more familiar with the movement.

I found a very good video demonstration for the Step-Up on ShapeFit.com. To view it, click HERE.

Note: The content presented in this post is for informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor or fitness professional before starting a physical fitness program.

Is somebody planning to reverse diabetes with candy?

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A study reported in the journal Nutrition found obese, diabetic mice whose diet was supplemented with an extract of cacao liquor demonstrated a significant reduction in blood sugar.

Scientists examined if cacao beans might be helpful in preventing Type 2 diabetes. They supplemented the diets of obese, diabetic mice with cacao liquor for 3 weeks. The specific type of cacao liquor, called cacao liquor proanthocyanidins (CLPr), contains 72% polyphenols. They found that blood sugar was reduced in direct correlation with the dosage of CLPr.

This study was funded by confectionary giant Mars, Inc. In case Mars doesn't ring a bell - maybe some of their products might: Snicksers, 3 Musketeers, Milky Way, and M & M's to name a few. With the results of this research, and the deep pockets behind it -- maybe Mars is contemplating coming out with a diabetes-reversing candy bar? I suggest they call it The Sweet Escape (start the music!)

Nutrigenetics the science of you and food

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Nutrigenetics is the study of the interaction of genes and diet. The Diet Channel has published an article explaining what nutrigenetics is and how it will revolutionize the world of diabetes.

Researchers believe elevated blood sugar can be mapped back to a genetic reaction. Drugs are only overriding the cause of elevated blood sugar and forcing the sugar into the cells, causing damage over time. Nutrigenetics is addressing the cause of the elevated blood sugar and may suggest a better diet to control your diabetes. Genes control how you metabolize certain vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. These genes can vary from one individual to the next. See what happens to Buddy the Elf when he consumes way too much coffee? Yes, I know - that's Hollywood. Nevertheless - a comical example of what nutrigenetics explores.

Consumer-friendly tests are available for these gene and diet interactions. The tests are done with a cheek swab. You send your swab off to a specialized lab, which analyzes DNA from the cheek cells. You receive a report identifying your gene variations. A qualified health professional can explain the test results, and make specific diet and supplement recommendations to optimize your health. If this is a test you're interested in taking, Sciona's Mycellf Program will be happy to prepare your profile. Open up and say Ahhhh.

When a child can't remember....

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In the fall of 1985, a very scary thing happened shortly after I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. One morning I woke up and I couldn't remember things I would normally remember. I couldn't remember the name of my neighbor's dog. I had a fanatical love for Cookie. Of course I would remember Cookie! A diabetic child would never forget such a sweet name for such an adorable dog! One more thing -- I had a pounding headache.

My mom brought me to the hospital, where my endocrinologist met us. They ran test after test and nary could an expert explain my memory loss. They confirmed I was experiencing amnesia, which turned out to be temporary because I was back to normal the next day.

How many people have experienced this same phenomenon? I surmised that this was my body reacting to the Humulin insulin I had started only a month or so before. The insulin must have been competing with my body's own attempts to generate insulin thus thwarting my blood sugar down into a dangerous hypoglycemic state. A study published in 1991 shows that hypoglycemia results in a lesion in the left temporal lobe. I have one of those lesions now, but it wasn't discovered until 2000. Oh yeah - and my peduncle is perfectly asymmetric. What does that mean anyway?

Why weren't doctors informed of this potential reaction to insulin in 1985? A study 6 years later is a few years too late. And how many more newly diagnosed insulin-dependent diabetics experience the same thing? My parents were scared out of their mind and nobody (including specialists) had any idea what to do with me.

Feed yourself, feed your heart: 5 important nutrients

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We talk a lot about nutrition here at The Cardio Blog, and that's because health experts link a healthy diet to a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. And while we all know that a low-fat, high-fiber diet is important to good heart health, there are other vitamins and minerals that are important in keeping your ticker ticking. They include:
  • magnesium
  • folic acid and other B vitamins
  • niacin
  • potassium
  • calcium
While eating a balanced diet full of whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, and plenty of veggies and fruit will give you the daily recommended allowance of most of those nutrients, magnesium is often little harder to get. Found mostly in whole grains and dark, leafy vegetables, some magnesium is lost when foods are cooked. Raw pumpkin seeds, spinach, and black beans are all good sources of magnesium. Talk to your doctor before taking any kind of supplement, since they can interfere with medications or cause trouble in people with certain conditions.

Health organizations want Americans to cut salt by half

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I'll be honest here and admit that, because I've never had a blood pressure problem, I once believed it didn't matter how much salt I ate. Older and at least a little wiser, I now realized that as a nation, we all eat far too much sodium than is healthy. Four major health organizations -- the AMA, AHA, ADA, and the U.S. National Institutes of Health -- have teamed up in a national campaign to cut our intake of salt by 50%. Cutting salt can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and lower the risk of death.

What can you do to lower your salt intake? You can eat fewer processed foods and become a savvy label reader. You can make more of your foods at home and use spices instead of salts to flavor food. When eating out, ask for unsalted foods and empty your salt shaker at home. You can even consider making your own bread, since bread and cereal products account for a large portion of our daily intake. Shoot for 1,500 to 2,400 mg of salt a day, which seems like a lot but is much lower than the 4,000 to 6,000 mg the average American eats today.

Thought for the Day: The mighty mushroom

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Now I advise everyone to take all food-related recommendations with a grain of salt, because what first may appear healthy may not be in the long run -- and what is once deemed unhealthy may one day turn into a health food, like coffee.

Now, here's something new to think about:

It turns out the average mushroom may have healing powers. A new study out of Tufts University found that white button mushrooms help boost the body's natural immunity against tumors and viruses.

Source: Woman's Day, September 12, 2007
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Today, I am grateful

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The following post is one of a series of posts appearing Monday through Friday on The Cancer Blog. This feature -- Today, I am grateful -- allows me to share with readers my appreciation for all the treasures in my life, both big and small. In my post-cancer world, I find It healing for my soul to be mindful of the good in my life. It is my pleasure to share my gratitude with you.

For the past six and a half years, I've been a full-time, stay-at-home mom. It's my job, just like my husband has a job. In his job, he gets to actually leave the house alone, go to the bathroom all by himself, eat lunch in peace with other adults, and collect a paycheck each and every month. I get none of that. Still, I get a lot. I got to hold my babies all day, every day when they were teeny, tiny. I got to love and nurture them and observe their every move. I saw them walk and talk for the first time, eat solid food, grasp toys, and eventually, head off to school.

Both of my boys are in school now, so I am without them for about five hours each weekday. Still, I am a full-time mom. I wake them in the morning, feed them breakfast, pack their lunches and backpacks, head them in the direction of matched clothing, urge them to brush their teeth and put on their shoes and buckle up tight in the car. I drive them to their respective schools and return promptly at the end of the school day to pick them up. And then we spend the afternoons together. It's a great job. I wouldn't trade it for anything -- not even a big, fat paycheck.

Today, I am grateful I get to be a stay-at-home mommy.
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Not everyone needs a genetic test before taking Camptosar according to study

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A study from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests that not everyone needs a genetic test prior to taking Camptosar (irinotecan).

Irinotecan, also known as Camptosar, is used as a second-line treatment for colorectal cancer. The FDA recommends screening for a gene that could make patients more susceptible to the harmful side effects of the drug, namely neutropenia, which is an abnormally low level of white blood cells.

The UNC researchers analyzed data from nine previous studies of irinotecan. They found that patients who received a medium or high dose had a greater risk of neutropenia if they had two copies of a specific variant of the gene UGTA1. At lower doses of the drug however, the risk was the same regardless of UGTA1 status.

The authors, led by Howard McLeod, Pharm.D., recommends that the FDA amend their guidelines to reflect this knowledge. Changing this guideline may help avoid unnecessary tests and expenses as well as quicken treatment waiting times.

New tumor classifications to help more lung cancer patients

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A new tumor classification system may indeed give more lung cancer patients hope for treatment, as it divvies up the various stages of lung cancer tumors where some will be classified as "more treatable" that in the past.

This marks the first change in a system used to predict cancer survival related to tumors in about ten years. Those who have had lung cancer but have been told that their cases are not that treatable (read: denied treatment by insurance companies) will surely be glad at this news.

With lung cancer being rated as the deadliest cancer form globally, and with more and more smoking bans coming to cities and entire countries, perhaps lung cancer will be receiving the even more recognition it deserves. That, my friends, is not a bad thing.

Prostate cancer survival linked to season of diagnosis

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A recent study published in The Prostate by Dr. Lagunova and colleagues suggests that the season of prostate cancer diagnosis may be linked with survival. The study showed that men diagnosed with prostate cancer in the summer and autumn have better survival.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to higher prostate cancer mortality in previous studies. The authors put forth a theory that levels of calcidiol, an intermediate metabolite of Vitamin D, are higher during the summer and autumn and therefore may impact prostate cancer incidence and outcome. The researchers divided Norway into three areas based on sun exposure and documented Vitamin D intake.

The best prognosis for prostate cancer patients were for those diagnosed in the summer and autumn, defined from June to November.

Lung cancer -- the top cancer killer

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To those who follow cancer on a daily basis, it may be no surprise that lung cancer is the leading type of cancer that kills globally. With billions of cigarettes being smoked each year in probably every country in the world, t should not come as a surprise that lung cancer occurs in such large numbers.

1.3 million lives each year are snuffed out due to lung cancer, yet my guess is that over a billion people continue to smoke worldwide. That's just a guess, but when 300 million smoke in China alone, it's probably a good guess.

If that weren't enough, about 60 percent of those diagnosed with lung cancer die within a year of officially being diagnosed, and almost 75 percent die within two years. Are you still smoking or know someone who is? Read that last sentence again and again.

New sling helps prostate cancer survivors who suffer from incontinence

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Many prostate cancer survivors develop incontinence after undergoing surgery due to damage to the urinary sphincter. This damage is often unavoidable.

A new type of sling, called the AdVance sling, involves a thin strip of mesh, between incisions on the inner thigh, which is then passed beneath the bottom of the urethra to increase support where tissues have been weakened. This can help prevent leakage of urine when abdominal pressure increases.

Dr. Allen Morey of UT Southwestern says that this low-risk procedure can "offer men a chance to return to their daily activities with minimal to no pain," instead of coping by restricting activities or fluid intake.

Is a cough ever just a cough?

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Here's what might be a typical train of thought for someone surviving cancer. That someone, in this case, is me.

I have been getting sicker and sicker for the past three days. Sore throat, sore ears, and a heavy head made me think at first it was some sort of sinus issue. Add a cough, a rumbling and painful chest, sore gums, chills and sweats, and a fever roaring past 102.8 and the worries start rolling in. I feel like I did twice before, just before I was admitted to the hospital with dipping white blood counts.

The worst of it hit Friday night and since I just couldn't make myself sit in the ER for hours on end, I overstepped my boundaries, tracked down my hospital's on-call oncologist, and listed off my symptoms. Since my treatment for breast cancer concluded one year ago, the doctor wasn't worried. He called it an infection and called me in a prescription. In a few days, when my course of antibiotics run out, I should be fine.

Kris Carr said in her documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer, "Is a cough ever just a cough?" For someone surviving cancer, like me: No. It's is always something else first. Only after a little panic does it usually turn out to be just a cough.

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September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, from the Candlelighters Foundation

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September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and this year, the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation is focusing on raising awareness of the specific health issues of adult survivors of childhood cancers. According to the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation, as recently as thirty years ago, few children with cancer survived, but now almost 75% can look forward to being cured.

However, treatments can come at a high price. While there are, of course, immediate effects, there are also late effects including learning disabilities, second cancers and post traumatic stress disorders in the survivors and their parents. According to Candlelighters, many survivors of childhood cancer do not get the proper follow-up care from physicians familiar with the late effects of childhood cancer.

Suggested resources from the Candlelighters for patients, survivors and their families include information on where to find the closest comprehensive clinic for survivors at the Association of Online Cancer Resources. ACOR also offers an online support group for survivors.

Today, I am Grateful

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The following post is one of a series of posts appearing Monday through Friday on The Cancer Blog. This feature -- Today, I am grateful -- allows me to share with readers my appreciation for all the treasures in my life, both big and small. In my post-cancer world, I find It healing for my soul to be mindful of the good in my life. It is my pleasure to share my gratitude with you.

When I think about how much my mom rescued me during my breast cancer treatment, I always land at the fact that she watched my little boys for 35 days in a row while I transported myself to and from radiation therapy. That wasn't all she did -- she also accompanied me to surgery, sat with me during chemotherapy treatments, parked herself by my bedside when I was hospitalized, dried my tears, fed me, hugged me, encouraged me, and loved me.

My mom helped me survive cancer. She is my hero.

Today, I am grateful for my mom.
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Black raspberries may prevent esophageal cancer

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According to a new study led by Dr. Gary Stoner, black raspberries may be effective against preventing the development of esophageal tumors.

Stoner and his team found that black raspberry powder, when fed to tumor-induced rats, inhibited cancerous cell production in the esophagus, oral cavity and colon. The powder also had the ability to prevent the conversion of precancerous cells to cancerous ones.

According to Dr. Stoner, preliminary results in humans suggest that black raspberries can prevent pre-cancerous lesions in the mouth, esophagus and colon from turning into cancerous lesions.

However, there has been no benefit seen once a cancerous tumor is already developed.

Fat can turn vitamin C into cancer-promoting agent

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Although Vitamin C is a great thing to have in your system at regular daily intervals, it can be used to actually promote the formation of cancer-causing chemicals when there is too much fat in the stomach, according to a recent article in the journal Gut.

The interaction of vitamins and minerals in the body (synergy) can have a strong impact on the effectiveness of many of them, but this seems like an odd one to me. Nevertheless, lipid and ascorbic acid interaction was studied in terms of possible cancer contributions to the upper stomach area (which is sensitive to cancerous issues and tumor development).

The problems revolved around nitrites, which could be converted into cancer-causing compounds called nitrosamines if there was too much fat in the gut when ascorbic acid was present. The term "nitrite" may be familiar to you -- it's what makes processed meats look red when they're really "dead."

Lung cancer tied to knee arthritis

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Isn't it a little odd to see arthritis being tied to lung cancer? That is precisely what a new research report has stated, though. The correlation between arthritis of the knee and initial signs of lung cancer in heavy smokers made up the conclusion of a new report yet to be published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Monoarthritis -- inflammation in just one knee joint -- was found to be the first sign of non-small lung cancer in a group of patients that were studied. The interesting thing here is that all those lung cancer cases were completely undiagnosed before each knee arthritis case was examined.

The good news is that the lung cancer in most of these men who were studied (all of which had been heavy smokers) were in the operable stage -- and when the cancerous tissue had been removed from each patient, knee arthritis problems subsided. Interesting connection, yes?

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Thought for the Day: Resilience

A new MayoClinic.com feature on resilience defines people with resilience as those who "harness inner strengths and rebound more quickly from a setback or challenge, whether it's a job loss, an illness or the death of a loved one." The feature offers a checklist to test your resilience quotient and tips on becoming more resilient, such as building your relationships, using humor and having goals.

The question I ask is, how quickly do we have to 'rebound' from a loss or a hardship to be considered resilient? How do we know we have these inner strengths, never mind having to 'harness' them?

I believe that the simple act of getting up every morning, in the face of adversity and loss and pain and all that life throws at us, is an act of bravery of the greatest proportions. Resilient people go forward, even when it feels like they are spinning in place, or going backwards.

I believe that we are all more resilient than we can even imagine.
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Take it easy when running from cancer

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I'm dizzy, light-headed, over-heated and just plain worn out after my workout this morning. Why? Because I overdid it.

I've been so focused on running from cancer by eating right and strenuously exercising -- research says it take five hours of vigorous exercise per week to keep breast cancer away -- that I drove myself to depletion this morning. It hit me when a wave of dizziness came over me in the midst of my outdoor workout. My body felt heavy, my strength disappeared, and it took every ounce of energy I could muster to put one foot in front of the other so I could get home. I suspect it was a combination of dehydration -- I didn't take water with me -- and heat -- it's really hot here in Florida -- and pushing myself too hard. The fact that I feel a bit under the weather didn't help either, I'm sure.

My body spoke to me today. And it's got my attention.

It's good to be determined about living a healthy lifestyle. But it's wise to take a break now and then, to let go of the rigors of always running -- literally -- from a disease that may or may not catch up with us. So my resolution for the rest of the day is to take it easy -- well, as easy as I can with two little boys who run circles around me. And the next time I think of passing the limits of healthy living, I'm going to stop, breathe, and find peace in the fact that I'm doing the very best I can. And that's enough.

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Worthy Wisdom: Back to breakfast

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We know it's best not to miss breakfast. It's the meal that gives us energy for the day, increases metabolism, and helps our bodies burn fat faster and better. Since breakfast comes at the time of day when most of us are rushing and hustling to get going for the day, it becomes pretty easy to skip this power meal. In the spirit of putting breakfast back into your schedule, here are some simple Canyon Ranch ideas for getting the boost you need during the start of your busy days.
  • Cottage cheese and fruit. Grab some low-fat cottage cheese and top with fresh fruit. Add your favorite nuts and seeds and some ground flax seed for a nutty flavor and a burst of omega-3. Add flax to any of the following ideas too.
  • Scrambled egg or tofu with spinach and scallion in a whole wheat wrap.
  • Whole grain bread with one tablespoon nut butter.
  • Plain yogurt with fruit, cinnamon, or berries.
  • Hot oat bran cereal or oatmeal (not instant) with cinnamon, dried figs or other fruit, and nuts.
  • Smoked salmon with tomato and onion on whole grain bread.
If any of this sounds like too much to accomplish in the early morning, try preparing some items ahead of time so all you have to do is grab and go.

Thanks Canyon Ranch for the breakfast basics.

Addicted to tanning

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In a recent column by Dr. Leslie Baumann, Baumann addresses the risks of tanning addiction. According to Baumann, tanning addiction is not 'just in your head'.

Baumann cites a study where doctors used substance-abuse screening techniques to examine frequent beachgoers and found that over 50 percent of the beachgoers in the study showed signs of dependence. Researchers theorize that UV exposure stimulates endorphin-like production and therefore, a sense of heightened well-being. From an evolutionary perspective, this trait would be adaptive as it would encourage adequate levels of vitamin D.

Baumann adds that since we can access adequate vitamin D through supplements now, these are the best bets for those at high-risk for skin cancer. If you're going the sun route, it only takes 20 minutes a day to generate the needed vitamin D levels.

Easier to get a Botox appointment than an evaluation for possibly precancerous moles

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According to a study in The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, patients seeking to have a potentially cancerous mole evaluated by a dermatologist have to wait longer than those seeking Botox treatments for wrinkles.

The researchers report that dermatologists in 12 cities offered a typical waiting time of eight days for a patient seeking Botox for wrinkles, compared with a typical wait of 26 days for a patient requesting an evaluation of a changing mole.

The lead author, Dr. Jack. S. Resneck, Jr., says, "We need to look further and figure out what is leading to shorter wait times for cosmetic patients." This study did not examine the causes.

One explanation, according to The New York Times article covering the study, could be that the demand for medical dermatologists outstrips the supply. Other dermatologists quoted in the article said that financial incentives plus obstacles in receiving payment from insurance companies might have a role in varying wait times.

Crazy Sexy Cancer documentary teaches life lessons

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I didn't feel well the night cancer survivor Kris Carr's documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer aired on TLC. At the time this production began, I should have been calling it a night, bundling myself in my sheets, and drifting off to sleep. But I couldn't do it. Once I caught laid eyes on Carr's film, I couldn't let it go.

Kris Carr, a young woman diagnosed on Valentine's Day 2003 with stage 4 incurable cancer of the vascular system, began documenting her journey from the very first moment fear tore through her body.

What she captured on camera -- audio of voice mail messages, clips of car trips to and from appointments, glimpses of tests and scans and poking and prodding, peeks into her innermost thoughts and most private moments, interviews with others battling cancer, and her determined journey through both conventional and alternative healing -- brought her story to life.

Life. That's what Carr has learned to embrace throughout her struggle with a disease that does not respond to chemotherapy, radiation, or any other traditional treatment approach. Hers is a wait-and-watch condition. She could live a long time with this cancer. Or it could become aggressive and kill her. It's stage 4, she says. There is no stage 5.

Carr said in her quest to find a cure she figured out how to live. She took risks, learned to fly on a trapeze, visited her childhood home, fell in love -- with her cameraman -- and met dozens of people living triumphantly with cancer.

About her documentary, four years in the making, Carr writes on her blog: "I don't look at my journey as if it is a battle (partly because I hope I don't lose) so instead I call it my cancer adventure story. It is a documentary film about how I coped with cancer. Since there is no cure and no treatment for my disease I live with it everyday. By calling it crazy sexy cancer I demystify it and redefine it for myself. It makes me feel a little lighter and a lot stronger -- NOT shackled and shelved like damaged goods.

Carr is strong. And inspiring. And if you can catch a replay of her powerful documentary, you will see -- this woman is downright determined to stomp all over cancer.

"I refuse to let cancer break my spirit, victimize me, or make me feel like a sick person," she says. "So I CHOOSE to believe that I am more alive, beautiful and yes, sexier (AKA empowered, passionate and intriguing) than ever before! Why not?"

To watch a seven-minute trailer of her documentary, click here. To view a clip of Carr on the TODAY Show, click here.

Sunday Seven: Seven messages for the newly diagnosed

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My mom's friend was diagnosed with breast cancer the other day. Since I've already been down the breast cancer path, she asked me to send this friend a supportive e-mail. I've done this before -- reach out to someone newly diagnosed -- but it's never easy. I never know quite what to say. Somehow, I figure it out, though.

Here are seven of the messages I shared with this woman who is just beginning her journey with Paget's disease of the breast, a form of breast cancer that shows up in the nipple as an itchiness or scaling that doesn't get better.
  • In the face of uncertainty, worry, and fear, here's some good news: once you gain more and more information about your diagnosis, the easier it gets. The waiting really is the hardest part. Knowing what lies ahead will give you some control over your path.

  • Be strong, be weak, be a crazy person -- it's all necessary as you fight and recover and heal.

  • You may not know it now, but you will become the toughest person you know.

  • In time, you will encounter far more good than bad from this experience. Just be on the lookout, and you'll see.

  • Reading is good (Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book is the bible on breast cancer) but it can be scary too, especially on the Internet. Be careful.

  • Be an advocate for your own health. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't -- so pursue it until it does feel right.

  • And finally, I offered to connect this friend with other breast cancer survivors. She's already taken me up on this offer.
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Less frequent prostate screening may be ok, says European study

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Frequent screening for prostate cancer found more tumors overall, but failed to cut the number of aggressive tumors detected according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. This study further fuels the controversy over the value of screening tests for this cancer and how frequently such tests should be performed.

The researchers write that yearly PSA testing may lead to prostate cancer diagnoses that may be "clinically insignificant." The American Cancer Society currently recommends doctors offer the PSA test or digital rectal exam, annually, to men starting at age 50. The goal is to catch the tumors early on when they are easiest to treat.

However, according to the lead author of this study, Monique Roobol, such frequent screening may also detect minor tumors that may pose no threat but end up receiving aggressive treatment.

Screening in Europe is generally less frequent than here in the U.S., roughly every four years at the institutions that took part in this study.

Rash caused by EGFR inhibitors, including Tarceva, a positive sign, say researchers

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Development of a rash after treatment with inhibitors of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) such as Tarceva (erlotinib) may actually indicate that the treatment is working well, according to an analysis of two phase III trials. According to the analysis, the worse the rash, the more likely patients are to survive their cancers or maintain control of the disease.

The first trial analyzed patients who received erlotinib for stage IIB/IV non-small-cell lung cancer who had failed at least one chemo regimen. The second study looked at erlotinib plus gemcitabine (Gemzar) for patients with locally advanced, unresectable or metastatic pancreatic cancer. The team concluded that those patients who do not develop the characteristic rash within 2 to 4 weeks are less likely to benefit from erlotinib.

This study was conducted by researchers from OSI pharmaceuticals, the company that manufactures Tarceva.

BC Cancer Agency offers unique support group for men whose partners have advanced cancers

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British Columbia's Cancer Agency offers a new, innovative support group for men whose partners have been diagnosed with advanced cancer. One participant was Rob Barrett, whose wife Diana was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Barrett, like many men, did not want to turn to professional counselling, but he did agree to attend such a support group at the BC Cancer Agency Vancouver.

According to the leader of the group, John Christopherson, men tend to be less upfront about their needs and therefore there is a real lack of social support for men.

According to Christopherson, "It isn't typical therapy in the way that most guys think of therapy. It is not conventional and follows no set guidelines, and yet everyone gets something out of it and comes back month after month."

Rob Barrett continues to attend the group, one year after his wife's death, because he feels that he can give back something and help make sense of his grief by helping others.
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