Screening may boost liver cancer survival rates

liver cancer screeningScreening isn’t necessarily effective for all cancers, but primary liver cancer is one type of cancer where those at high risk, such as persons with hepatitis B or C or cirrhosis, may benefit from screening (the use of tests to look for the presence of disease before symptoms appear). Primary liver cancer, also known as hepatoma or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common form of liver cancer in adults according to the American Cancer Society.

Screening for HCC can begin as young as 40 and involves measuring alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) blood levels and Continue reading

New test better predicts prostate cancer

More than 1 million men will undergo a prostate biopsy this year, but only about one-fifth of those biopsies will result in a prostate cancer diagnosis.

The reason is that the traditional prostate cancer screening test – a blood test to measure prostate specific antigen, or PSA – does not give doctors a complete picture.

A new test developed at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center improves upon PSA. It adds two more markers that might indicate prostate cancer. Studies have shown the urine-based test, called Mi-Prostate Score, is far more accurate than PSA alone. Continue reading

Should You Be Screened for Lung Cancer?

New guidelines explained

Recently, the American Cancer Society announced its revised lung cancer screening guidelines for heavy smokers. In summary, it recommends that doctors discuss lung cancer screenings with people in relatively good health who meet certain criteria that put them at risk for developing the disease:Cancer411

  • Ages 55-74
  • At least a 30-year history of pack-a-day cigarette smoking
  • Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years

If you believe you may be at risk, you and your doctor should discuss all the known benefits and known harms associated with lung cancer screening. If you decide to be screened, the recommendation specifies that testing should be done with a low dose computed tomography (CT) scan and take place at a facility with experience in lung cancer screening. Learn about lung cancer screening at U-M.

The guidelines were strongly influenced by a 2011 National Lung Screening Trial that studied 53,454 men and women in good health, aged 55 and over and at high risk of lung cancer because of their smoking history. The study found that CT scans for those at high risk did, in fact, detect more cancers earlier, saving lives. However, since some of the follow-up diagnostic tests can carry risk, the American Cancer Society does not recommend screening for those at lower risk.

Continue learning about lung cancer and lung cancer screening

Throat Cancer: More Common Than You Think

Michael Douglas, Sigmund Freud, Ulysses S. Grant, George Harrison and Babe Ruth –what could these people possibly have in common?  Throat Cancer.

Even though it’s not talked about as much as some other types of cancer, throat cancer isn’t rare. In fact it’s the sixth most common cancer in the United States.

Throat cancer can start in the soft tissues of the upper, middle or bottom portion of the throat and can include the voice box (larnyx).

Researchers have found that 85% percent of throat cancers occur after exposure to cancer-causing chemicals like tobacco and alcohol and tend to develop in areas where these chemicals have the most contact. Those at risk for developing throat cancer are people who drink 3 or more alcoholic beverages per day, or smoke or chew tobacco (or have in the past).  People that use both tobacco and alcohol are at an even greater risk for developing throat cancer than people who use alcohol or tobacco alone.

Symptoms like difficulty swallowing, a sore or painful area in the mouth or throat, a persistent hoarse voice, or a lump in the throat or neck that doesn’t go away should be checked by a doctor.

The good news is that throat cancer may be prevented by changing habits and can be treated if caught early. You can reduce your risk for developing throat cancer by receiving regular medical check- ups, eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, and seeing the doctor when symptoms persist for more than a couple of weeks.

Continue reading about throat cancer and risk factors and treatment options:

Skin cancer prevention: Teens may not be getting the message

When it comes to cancer prevention, there are no guarantees. Many factors beyond our control, like genetics, play a role in whether we’ll develop cancer in our lifetime. There are things we can do, though, to decrease the chances. Avoiding smoking — or quitting — is an example. Avoiding the sun (not tanning or getting sunburned) is another. Watch this video of people who either have skin cancer, had skin cancer or are remembering someone who has died due to skin cancer.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in more than 2 million people are diagnosed annually. Continue reading

Clearing the confusion about mammograms

The bottom line: Mammography saves lives. Various organizations may not agree perfectly on screening recommendations, but don’t use that as an excuse to throw up your hands and do nothing.

Pink ribbon

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This year, an estimated 209,060 Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer; more than 40,000 will die from the disease.

“Mammography is one of the few screening tools that has been proven to save lives. Every woman over 40 should at least begin a discussion about screening with her doctor,” says Mark Helvie, M.D., director of breast imaging at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Here’s what everyone does agrees on:

  • All women 50-74 should receive regular mammograms.
  • Mammography may be the right choice for women in their 40s. While many groups, such as the American Cancer Society and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, continue to recommend routine screening, others advocate a discussion between women and their health care providers.
  • Yearly or every other year? Many groups continue to recommend annual exams. The difference of opinion comes down to a balance between benefit and harm. Annual screening saves more lives but at a cost of more harms. Talk to your doctor about your options.
  • Women at very high risk for breast cancer may benefit from additional screening with MRI. Continue reading