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This is just one family's experience with cancer but it provides an idea of what to expect when cancer ambushes your life leaving you shell-shocked; and can possibly dispel some fears of the unknown.  Knowledge is power.  When cancer entered our lives we were woefully ignorant about it.   Nobody talked about their experience with treatment -- only the types of treatment available. So I am sending this message out to cyber space in hopes it reaches the ones that need to hear it.  Cancer research has made some incredible discoveries since my loved one was diagnosed so your treatment may be different than what we experienced....hang in there.   I will continue to update this post as our journey and experience with cancer continues. Today is January 2, 2016 and I can report that my loved one is working, and making the most of life.  All of us value our time together in a way we never did before.  In a couple of weeks a full body scan will be performed that will tell us if any visible cancer remains or has returned after several surgeries, radiation and chemo. If the scan comes back clean, my loved one will definitely be more confident going forward.  Meanwhile, I try to stay on top of current cancer research in case it rears its ugly head again.  At the bottom of this post, I will make notes on cancer research I have encountered. Also, check out my  Google+ 'Cancer Experience and Advice' collection for posts on cancer research.  Hang in there!  You are stronger than you think.  Never give up.
Our story began in February 2014 when my loved one bit the inside of the mouth during a dream like many of us do sometime. It did not heal over the course of two months and became more painful.  A visit to the dentist and one week of antibiotics did nothing.  A visit to the emergency room three months after the initial bite revealed the sore had become a squamous cell cancer tumor creeping up a nerve toward the brain. Lesson learned….if a sore or injury anywhere on the body does not heal in ten days, seek immediate treatment no matter how trivial.  It takes just one cell to mutate incorrectly during healing to turn into cancer.  Do not stop seeking treatment until the initial injury heals.  Being stoic and enduring pain can kill you.  

The painful oral tumor prevented my loved one from opening the mouth very far making it difficult to examine. No treatment could begin until a dental check up to see if bad teeth needed to be removed prior to radiation and any dental infections had been treated.

Then radiation teeth guards and oral hygiene trays had to be made.  The mouth had to be opened to make the molds.  It was a very painful and emotional event to watch.  Then came the insertion of the chemo port in the neck and surgery to insert a feeding tube.  It took approximately a week and a half to complete these preliminary steps before the first chemo treatment.

Chemo and radiation each work differently to destroy cancer.  We asked why we can't do one or the other?  Why do we need both? The doctor explained doing both is a one-two punch against the cancer -- together they are more effective than done alone.

Our next question was if the tumor should be removed before radiation and chemo.  The doctor advised against it because he said radiation and chemo could shrink it or perhaps kill it all together.  If it shrunk, less tissue would be destroyed removing it.  Since it was surrounding a nerve, it was inoperable unless it shrunk off the nerve.

My loved one is claustrophobic so panic set in when viewing the radiation chamber.  A net-like mask made specifically for the patient is used to bolt the patient down on the radiation platform keeping them immobile. You can see through the mask but you are aware you are trapped in it with no one present in the room for the length of the treatment. The radiation is mapped out and programmed so there can be no patient movement.  My loved one was bolted down for ten minutes every weekday for seven weeks.  A pill was taken to reduce the anxiety but it was still difficult.  For the first two weeks, there was no difference in the appearance of the face, but eventually a severe sunburn appearance took hold. It is important that a cream is used anywhere the skin has been radiated to keep it from creating open fissures and peeling off.  The radiated skin also tends to wrinkle up like it has been dehydrated unless it is moisturized.  Hair around the nape of the neck was lost but has regrown.  Wherever the most radiation is received, the hair follicles are destroyed.  My loved one lost 90 percent hearing in one ear, one saliva gland, and taste has been altered. Chicken and many other things no longer taste good.  Dry mouth will always be a problem and water must be available at all times to keep the mouth and throat wet.

The chemo therapy made my loved one very very sick.  A lot of gagging and coughing up phlegm was experienced and sleep could only come one to two hours at a time before the gagging or nausea set in.  Lying flat was impossible.

Twice during treatment my loved one experienced a hard ball forming on the face in a place other than the original cancer tumor.  Was cancer growing in another nearby spot?  Trips to the emergency room revealed an irritated salivary gland and an irritated lymph node -- not a new cancer.  

My loved one hated the feeding tube and the liquid given to be used with it caused gas, nausea, and diarrhea.  Liquid Ensure via the mouth was the meal of choice.  A lot of weight was lost.  A comfortable chair and bed near a bathroom is a necessity because there is a lot of fatigue, gagging and throwing up.  Too much noise and activity around them causes irritation.  However, they should not be left alone to dwell on their condition.  They may be irritable, and unpleasant to be around, but still need to vent that irritation.  It is best to just listen and let them vent.  They need to have some control over their lives since cancer has taken away so much of it. The types of worries expressed can be concern over not being the person they were, that they are no longer useful or are a burden to their loved ones, and fear that they will be abandoned. At the same time that they are irritable, they may also be affectionate realizing that life is short and wanting to express their love while there is time.  There may come a time when they do not want to talk about cancer because it is always present and they are weary from the battle.  They just want to escape it for a while.  If possible and they are up to it, arrange some excursion that distracts them from cancer and don’t mention cancer to them during that time.

My loved one has cancer but the whole family has it too…we are just experiencing it in a different way then the patient.  For the first time you entertain life with the possibility that they won’t be in it.  It seems impossible and unbearable.  Little decisions seem so important because if the wrong treatment is given it could be disastrous, or your loved one could misunderstand what you are saying and be upset.  Cancer is always the silent elephant in the room.

 Tolerance for the way other family members cope with a loved one’s cancer is also needed.  We don’t all react the same way.  Just because someone acts strong does not mean they aren’t crying inside.

It’s difficult to sleep because of the flight/fight response you are experiencing in your desire to save your loved one.  You may not want to talk about it with others because you have no answers to their questions and retelling the story is the same as reliving it.  

After chemo and radiation, scans showed that the oral tumor shrank off the nerve leading to the brain but that cancer remained in the lymph nodes and thyroid in the neck.  Extensive oral biopsy showed no cancer cells survived in the oral tumor area after treatment.    No surgery was performed to remove anything in the mouth after chemo and radiation.  There is a hard spot where the tumor was that may be scar tissue.  Jaw mobility without pain was restored although the mouth cannot be opened as wide as before cancer. Some taste on one side of the tongue and some hearing returned. Fatigue remains.

Why, after chemo and radiation, did cancer survive in the neck?  It was a mystery until doctors realized my loved one had two different types of cancers at the same time, and they don't both respond to the same treatment.  Make sure you are not the rare cancer patient that has more than one type of cancer that goes undetected while being treated for the one type of cancer that is known.    Please do not make the mistake we did.  We thought my loved one had cancer without realizing that there are many different types of cancers that respond to treatment differently. ==> Treatment for one type of cancer can render another type of cancer 'untreatable'!  Because it is rare for a patient to have two types of cancer at once, the doctors treating my loved one did not realize there were two different cancers in play so they recommended a course of treatment for the cancer type they were aware of:  Squamous Cell Cancer.  The treatment as you know was radiation and chemotherapy followed by surgery.
Later, after radiation and chemotherapy, we found out that Thyroid cancer was also present.  A scan revealed that because my loved one was radiated for the squamous cell cancer, the thyroid cancer cells have mutated into untreatable cancer cells.  They can spread at will without being detected.  A pet scan in some cases can find them but it is not reliable.  This is not good news for us because we were relying on removing any cancer that spread and showed up during my loved one's lifetime.  My loved one will continue with thyroid cancer treatment including lymph node and thyroid removal, which has been done, and swallowing a radioactive pill and remaining alone for five days.  But there is no way to know if the pill will destroy all the thyroid cancer cells still present after surgery since they have mutated and are now resistant to treatment and undetectable.

When you have dental xrays, make sure your thyroid is shielded by the lead vest.

My loved one’s frontal neck surgery removed the thyroid and 40 lymph nodes of which 12 were cancerous with thyroid cancer -- not squamous cell like the tumor in the mouth.  Lymph nodes in the rear of the neck were not touched and because of the prior radiation it cannot be determined if they are cancerous.  Even though a daily thyroid medication is taken, my loved one has lost 60 pounds and is very thin.  It is hard to tell if that is from the effects of the treatments or if a painful jaw is preventing proper levels of food consumption.  For those concerned about scarring from this type of surgery, the scar extends from behind one ear down into the natural neck folds and up to behind the opposite ear in a smile formation.

The neck surgery took nine hours and was closed with staples which were removed painlessly after a week. Three draining tubes were inserted around the neck to drain the fluid buildup at the surgery site. They were removed two days after surgery (after two months, shoulder pain remains which is attributed to those tubes).

Massive doses of calcium are given during the hospital stay to see if the body is absorbing it post surgery.  If the body absorbs correctly, the patient can go home to recover.  My loved one spent four days in the hospital.

There was swelling in the neck area for a while but then it subsided and the neck looks normal.  The neck is stiff and it became painful to hold up without support after surgery.  No neck brace can be worn because of the surgical scar in that area.  Eventually the neck muscles rebuild and it becomes easier to hold the neck and head up.  Physical therapy is recommended because scar tissue can form that prevents neck mobility. 

The scar is healing nicely but is still a very thin red smile line which is not that noticeable when looking straight frontal but is noticeable from the side view.  The scar is expected to fade over time and does blend in nicely with the natural neck folds.  The neck is slightly thinner but not deformed. It is important that a vitamin E cream is used on the scar after it closes and anywhere the skin has been radiated.  The radiated skin tends to wrinkle up like it has been dehydrated unless it is moisturized.  My loved one needs physical therapy to restore more function and movement to the neck but so far has refused.  Without physical therapy and forced movement (even with some pain) scar tissue forms and muscle atrophy will eventually prevent mobility.  


The radiation has caused jaw bone death which was expected around four months after radiation to the neck.  My loved one underwent 20 rounds (1.5 hours each) in a hyperbolic chamber to force blood into the dying jaw area to stop the deterioration.  During this process, an infection set in in the jaw and antibiotics had to be taken.

It has been weeks since we found out about the jaw bone death, and surgery was performed April 24, 2015 after 20 dives in the hyperbolic chamber.  Because radiation to the face and neck tightens and changes the internal structures of the face and neck and makes resuscitation difficult, an air tube prior to surgery sometimes has to be inserted down the nose while the patient is awake prior to complete anesthesia.  Luckily, my loved one had enough of an opening and jaw and neck movement that it was not necessary.   A roughly 2.5 inch by 5 mm section of jaw bone and three teeth in the left lower rear jaw were removed during outpatient surgery.  Blood was taken from my loved one, spun, and the growth factors removed from the blood.  The growth factors were injected in the surgery site to induce the growth of blood vessels in the area since much tissue was damaged by the radiation to the side of the face and neck.  The surgery took 3 hours from entering the operating room to recovery, and then my loved one went home to recover.  Because morphine causes my loved one nightmares, Percocet was prescribed for pain.  Even though an extra amount of numbing medication was administered at the end of surgery, pain at a level of 4 (from 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst) was experienced during recovery.  Two Percocet, one at a time with a twenty minute wait time, was administered and helped tremendously.  There will be a liquid diet the first two days and then a soft diet (scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, soups) for the next two weeks.  

Ten more hyperbolic chamber dives of 1.5 hours each will be given now that the jaw surgery is complete in an effort to restore blood flow to the jaw.

It has been nearly three weeks since the jaw bone surgery and the ten hyperbolic chamber dives have been completed. The gums are not reattaching to the jaw bone as hoped and another section of dead bone has been found further back from the surgery site.  Five more hyperbolic chamber dives are required before a course of treatment will be determined.

May 20, 2015 and the jawbone continues to die.  The gums will not heal over the surgery site.  No decisions on what to do yet.  Wait, wait, wait another week for an answer.  It could take a year or more before all the jaw bone that is going to die dies.  In the meantime, infection is the immediate enemy.  When the exposed dead jaw bone turns yellow, infection can set in and surgery must be performed.  Always in the back of our minds is the question of how much jaw bone will be left and will it be disfiguring.

There is hope that the jawbone surgery will be the last surgery needed unless the cancer reappears and is detectable.  But if the jaw bone surgery closes incorrectly, infection sets in, or the tissues do not regenerate, additional bone death can occur and more surgery will be required. If more jaw bone needs to be removed, bone will be taken from my loved one’s hip area to replace it.   It is all a waiting game from now on.

It’s been a year now since that first cell mutated into cancer and all our lives are forever changed.  Cancer is a bitch and it tests your metal in every conceivable way.  Bless the oncologists, surgeons, nurses, and peripheral staff that fight this everyday on the front lines. 

January 27, 2016.  My loved one has had a full body scan that compared this scan with those of the past.  It shows NO NEW incidences of cancer, or growth of cancer in previous cancerous areas.  Hallelujah!  There is a spot on the lung but that may just be a lesion from a previous infection.   The next scan will be in six months.  The jaw bone continues to deteriorate at the point it was radiated. The dry, brittle area is scraped off from time to time, but the gums stubbornly won't cover it.  We are told we will have to wait to see how much jaw bone death will occur.  My loved one, while looking well enough, still has lingering effects from chemo and radiation experiencing a tiredness and feeling old nearly a year after treatment.  This is normal and may subside with time.  There are intermittent sharp pains where the neck incision was made (from ear to ear) and the neck becomes sore and tires easily.  My loved one  mistakenly continues to refuse physical therapy for the neck and shoulder areas.  The incision is no longer pink after a year and has receded nicely into the neck folds, although the cheek is dry and wrinkly from radiation.  One doctor has recommended a filler under the skin for that area...not botox.   Initially told incorrectly in May 2014 that this was Stage IV cancer, we are so grateful for this outcome to date, and look forward to increasingly better, less invasive, treatment for cancer.

May 9, 2016: Bad news…my loved one’s ultrasound found a 1cm lump on the left side of the neck. The doctors think it's a left over lymph node. My loved ones labs also came back with .2 on thyroid detection... which is low, but according to the doctors indicates thyroid cells are still in the body. My loved one may still have thyroid cancer. The next scan in five months will tell us more.

December 22, 2016: My loved one's two recent biopsies just came back negative for cancer! After radiation, chemo, multiple...too many to count.. hyperbolic chamber dives, dying jawbone, and three surgeries over two years...I'm so incredibly thankful! If you or a loved one has cancer, don't give up. Technology is on your side and winning more and more each day.


5/5/2015:  My loved one was diagnosed with squamous cell oral cancer in 2014.  Subsequently, after radiation and chemo for the oral cancer, thyroid cancer was found.  We knew that there was cancer present in the neck before it was discovered to be thyroid cancer.  We thought it was the squamous cell cancer that had spread from the oral tumor.  

Why did my loved one have two cancers at the same time?  Yes, it could be a coincidence, but one has to wonder if there is something more to it.  My loved one had extensive fluoroscopy conducted after removal of uvula for sleep apnea, and swallowed barium during fluoroscopy xray to image the throat several years prior to developing cancer.  Online research shows that the FDA was concerned as far back as 2008 about excessive radiation exposure in CT Scans.  I am not recommending that anyone refuse a CT Scan or a fluoroscopy necessary for medical treatment, but there does seem to be evidence that cells subject to radiation can become damaged while remaining viable.  With their mutated DNA, do they spawn cancer?   After reading the articles below, it seems that many people develop leukemia (a blood cancer) years after receiving radiation.  Unless I misunderstood the article, it seems a study done in 2008 in San Francisco indicated that not all medical x-rays had consistent levels of radiation, and many times the level of radiation was excessive.  It was of enough concern, that the FDA posted a cancer risk notification on it's website.

These are the links I am referring to: cedures/MedicalImaging/MedicalX-Rays/ucm115354.htm 


In the war against cancer, doctors have discovered a powerful new tool: the immune system. The FDA recently fast-tracked approval of three new immunotherapy drugs, called PD-1 inhibitors, designed to help white blood cells hunt down and eradicate hard-to-fight tumors--indefinitely. “Chemotherapy almost always stops working,” says Jonathan Cheng, executive director of oncology clinical development at Merck. “The promise of immune therapy is that you’re training the immune system to attack something foreign, so you’re able to maintain that activity for a very long time--hopefully for the rest of a patient’s life.”


4/15/2015:  Cancer Research on the Evolution of Cancer Cells
Why does cancer go into remission after treatment, and then come roaring back?  Cancer starts with one cell mutating in an abnormal way.  Scientists mapping the evolution of cancer cells think there is evidence that cancer continues to mutate in stages and those stages do not respond to the same therapy. There may be cancer cells in a tumor in various stages of mutation so therapy will be effective for some parts of the tumor but not others. The tumor is like a family with many children (cells) at various ages that respond differently, e.g. you wouldn’t treat an infant the same as a five year old.  Even though the tumor shrinks after treatment, some cancer cells within the tumor will be in a stage that makes them immune to that treatment.  It is important that a tumor be analyzed to determine the stage that the majority of its cells are in to determine the most effective treatment.  Through the 'evolutionary/family tree' line of research, scientists are hoping to change our ‘Cancer’ game from one of defense to offense.  Read about it at:

4/21/15  Pancreatic Cancer Research:   A new research study has shown that pancreatic cancer cells can be coaxed to revert back toward normal cells by introducing a protein called E47. E47 binds to specific DNA sequences and controls genes involved in growth and differentiation. The research provides hope for a new treatment approach for the more than 40,000 people who die from the disease each year in the United States.

“For the first time, we have shown that overexpression of a single gene can reduce the tumor-promoting potential of pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells and reprogram them toward their original cell type. Thus, pancreatic cancer cells retain a genetic memory which we hope to exploit,” said Pamela Itkin-Ansari, Ph.D., adjunct professor in the Development, Aging, and Regeneration Program at Sanford-Burnham and lead author of the study published today in the journal Pancreas. E47 turns the clock back The study, a collaborative effort between Sanford-Burnham, UC San Diego, where Itkin-Ansari holds a joint appointment, and Purdue University, generated human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cell lines to make higher-than-normal levels of E47. The increased amount of E47 caused cells to stall in the G0/G1 growth phase, and differentiate back toward an acinar cell phenotype. - See more at:

April 27, 2015 Colon Rectal Cancer:

Author: Chris Jones-Cardiff
Cardiff University Original Study
Posted by Chris Jones-Cardiff on April 27, 2015
You are free to share this article under the Attribution 4.0 International license.

A new study is the first to show that common inherited genetic variants influence life expectancy in patients with colorectal cancer (CRC).

A team from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine analyzed over 7,600 patients with CRC from 14 different centers across the UK and the US. They found that a genetic variant in the gene CDH1 (encoding E-cadherin) was strongly linked to survival.

Having combined data of both inherited genetic variations and variations found within the cancers, the scientists believe that the resulting information will play a crucial role in managing patient survival.

“Our findings show that patients carrying a specific genetic variant, which is found in about 8 percent of patients, have worse survival, with a decrease in life expectancy of around four months in the advanced disease setting,” says study leader Professor Jeremy Cheadle.

“This work shows the potential use of genetic variants to help provide clinically useful information to patients suffering from colon cancer,” says Lee Campbell, science projects and research communications manager from Cancer Research Wales, which part-funded the study.

“Not only does this important piece of research allow clinicians to make more informed treatment decisions for individuals in future, but also has the capability to enhance existing screening or post-operative surveillance programs for this disease.”

“This represents a critical first step to improving colorectal cancer patient outcomes through a greater understanding of the influencing genetic factors,” adds Ian Lewis, director of research and policy at Tenovus Cancer Care.

The Bobby Moore Fund from Cancer Research UK, Tenovus Cancer Care, the Kidani Trust, Cancer Research Wales, and the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research Cancer Genetics Biomedical Research Unit (2011-2015) supported the work.
The findings are available in Clinical Cancer Research.
Source: Cardiff University
Original article source:

Clinical findings:
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Essential Oils - DO Tell Your Doctor - Your doctor can make sure it’s safe for you and rule out any side effects, like affecting your prescriptions. For example, peppermint and eucalyptus oils may change how your body absorbs the cancer drug 5-fluorouracil from the skin. Or an allergic reaction may cause rashes, hives, or breathing problems.

DON’T Be Afraid to Try Them
Used the right way, they can help you feel better with few side effects. For example, you may feel less nauseated from chemotherapy cancer treatment if you breathe in ginger vapors. You may be able to fight certain bacterial or fungal infections, including the dangerous MRSA bacteria, with tea tree oil. In one study, tea tree oil was as effective as a prescription antifungal cream in easing symptoms of a fungal foot infection.

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What Is Bladder Cancer?
Cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the body. Bladder cancer typically begins in the inner lining of the bladder, the organ that stores urine after it passes from the kidneys. Most bladder cancers are caught early, when treatments are highly successful and the disease has not spread beyond the bladder. But bladder cancer tends to come back, so regular check-ups are important.

Warning Sign: Blood in Urine
Blood in the urine can be a sign of bladder cancer, either visible to the eye or picked up by routine testing. The urine may look darker than usual, brownish, or (rarely) bright red. Most commonly, blood in the urine is not caused by cancer, but by other causes. These include exercise, trauma, infections, blood or kidney disorders, or drugs, such as blood thinners.

Warning Sign: Bladder Changes
Bladder symptoms are more likely to come from conditions other than cancer. But bladder cancer can sometimes cause changes to bladder habits, including:

Needing to go, with little or no results
Having to go more often than usual
Painful urination
Difficulty urinating
Urinary tract infections or bladder stones can cause similar symptoms, but require different treatments.

Risk Factor: Smoking
Although the exact causes of bladder cancer remain unknown, smoking is the leading risk factor. Smokers are about four times more likely to get bladder cancer than people who have never smoked. Chemicals in tobacco smoke are carried from the lungs to the bloodstream, then filtered by the kidneys into urine. This concentrates harmful chemicals in the bladder, where they damage cells that can give rise to cancer.

Risk Factor: Chemical Exposure
Research suggests that certain jobs may increase your risk for bladder cancer. Metal workers, mechanics, and hairdressers are among those who may be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals. If you work with dyes, or in the making of rubber, textiles, leather, or paints, be sure to follow safety procedures to reduce contact with dangerous chemicals. Smoking further increases risk from chemical exposure.

Other Risk Factors
Anyone can get bladder cancer, but these factors put you at greater risk:

Gender: Men are three times more likely to get bladder cancer.
Age: Nine out of 10 cases occur over age 55.
Race: Whites have twice the risk of African-Americans.
Other factors at play include a family history of bladder cancer, previous cancer treatment, certain birth defects of the bladder, and chronic bladder irritation.

Diagnosis: Testing
There's no routine test for bladder cancer. But if you're at high risk or have symptoms, your doctor may first order a urine test. If needed, a procedure called cystoscopy lets your doctor see inside the bladder with a slender lighted tube with a camera on the end. The cystoscope can be used to remove small tissue samples (a biopsy) to be examined under a microscope. A biopsy is the best way to diagnose cancer.

Diagnosis: Imaging
If cancer is found, imaging tests can show whether it has spread beyond the bladder. An intravenous pyelogram uses dye to outline the kidneys, bladder, and ureters, the tubes that carry urine to the bladder. CT and MRI scans give more detailed images of these, and can show the lymph nodes nearby. An ultrasound uses sound waves, instead of radiation, to produce images. Additional imaging tests look for cancer in the lungs and bone.

Types of Bladder Cancer
The main types of bladder cancer are named for the type of cells that become cancerous. The most common is transitional cell carcinoma, which begins in the cells that line the inside of the bladder. Squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma are much less common.

Stages of Bladder Cancer
Stage 0: Cancer stays in the inner lining.
Stage I: Cancer has spread to the bladder wall.
Stage II: Cancer has reached the muscle of the bladder wall.
Stage III: Cancer has spread to fatty tissue around the bladder.
Stage IV: Cancer has spread to the pelvic or abdominal wall, lymph nodes, or distant sites such as bone, liver, or lungs.

Treatment: Surgery
Transurethral surgery is most often done for early-stage cancers. If cancer has invaded more of the bladder, the surgeon will most likely perform either a partial cystectomy, removing a portion of the bladder, or a radical cystectomy, to remove the entire bladder. For men, the prostate and urethra may also be removed. For women, the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and part of the vagina may also be removed.

Treatment: After Surgery
If your entire bladder must be removed, your surgeon will construct another means of storing and passing urine. A piece of your intestine may be used to create a tube that allows urine to flow into an external urostomy bag. In some cases, an internal reservoir -- drained via a catheter -- can be constructed. Newer surgeries offer the possibility of normal urination through the creation of an artificial bladder.

Treatment: Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy involves drugs designed to kill cancer cells. These drugs may be given before surgery to shrink tumors, making them easier to remove. Chemotherapy is also used to destroy any cancer cells left after surgery and to lower the chances that the cancer will return. Hair loss, nausea, loss of appetite, and fatigue are common side effects. The drugs can be given by vein or directly into the bladder.

Treatment: Immunotherapy
Immunotherapy treatments help your body’s immune system attack bladder cancer cells. One treatment, called Bacillus Calmette-Guerin therapy, sends helpful bacteria through a catheter directly to your bladder. Another kind of treatment, called immune checkpoint inhibitors, makes it easier for the immune system to overcome the defenses of cancer cells. These drugs are primarily for advanced cancers and are given by IV about every 2-3 weeks. Flu-like symptoms are a common side effect of these treatments.

Treatment: Radiation
Radiation uses invisible, high-energy beams, like X-rays, to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. It's most often given from outside the body by machine. Radiation is often used in tandem with other treatments, such as chemotherapy and surgery. For people who can't undergo surgery, it may be the main treatment. Side effects can include nausea, fatigue, skin irritation, diarrhea, and pain when urinating.

Complementary Approaches
Currently, no complementary treatments are known to treat or prevent bladder cancer, but research is ongoing. Studies are looking at whether extracts of green tea or broccoli sprouts may help in treating people with bladder cancer.

Bladder Cancer Survival Rates
Survival rates are closely tied to the stage at diagnosis. About half of bladder cancers are caught when the disease is confined to the inner lining of the bladder. Nearly 96% of these people will live at least five years, compared to people without bladder cancer. The more advanced the cancer, the lower this figure becomes. But keep in mind that these rates are based on people diagnosed from 2006 to 2012. The treatments and outlook may be better for cancers diagnosed today. And each person’s case is different.

Sex After Bladder Cancer Treatment
Surgery can damage sensitive nerves, making sex more difficult. Some men may have trouble having an erection, though for younger patients, this often improves over time. When the prostate gland and seminal vesicles are removed, semen can no longer be made. Women may also have trouble with orgasm, and may find sex less comfortable. Be sure to discuss treatment options with your doctor.

Living With Bladder Cancer
Cancer is a life-changing experience. And although there's no surefire way of preventing a recurrence, you can take steps to feel and stay healthy. Eating plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and keeping to modest portions of lean meat is a great start. If you smoke, stop. Limit alcohol to one or two drinks a day, if you drink. Daily exercise and regular checkups will also support your health and give you peace of mind.

New and Experimental Treatments
Several new treatments may prove useful in treating bladder cancer. Photodynamic therapy, used in early stage cancers, uses a laser light to activate a chemical that kills cancer cells. Some gene therapies use lab-created viruses to fight cancer. And targeted therapies aim to control the growth of cancer cells. You may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial of these or other cutting-edge treatments.

May 2016

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How Cancer Affects Your Brain - October 8, 2017 - Your brain is in charge of everything your body does, including vision, hearing, speech, and movement. As brain cancer grows, it presses on and damages areas that control these things. That can lead to complications like headaches, seizures, vision and hearing loss, and balance issues. Your doctor will help you manage these problems while you get treatments for your cancer.

A lot of people with brain cancer deal with this. You feel exhausted because your body uses a lot of energy to fight off the tumor. Cancer-related fatigue isn't normal tiredness. It wipes you out. The cancer also makes it harder for you to sleep soundly. Even when you can sleep, it doesn't always relieve the weariness. To curb fatigue, break up tasks into small chunks and take rest breaks during the day.

About half of people with brain cancer get headaches. The tumor itself doesn't cause pain. But as it grows, it can press on sensitive nerves and blood vessels in the brain. Headaches can last for several hours. They can feel dull, aching, pounding, or throbbing. They’re often worse in the morning or can flare up when you cough or exercise. Your doctor can prescribe medicine to help control the pain.

Nausea and Vomiting
A tumor can make you sick to your stomach if it presses on certain areas of your brain. Cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy also cause nausea and vomiting. "Anti-emetic" medicines relieve nausea. They come in a liquid, tablet, and capsule -- or as a suppository if you're too sick to swallow medicine. Call your doctor if you can't keep down any foods or fluids, or you've been throwing up for more than 24 hours.

Personality and Mood Changes
More than half of people with brain cancer have personality or mood changes. It's common to feel more angry, withdrawn, anxious, or irritable than usual. Some of these changes may be part of your response to your cancer diagnosis and treatment. Others start when the tumor grows into areas of your brain that control mood and emotion. Talk with your doctor or a mental health specialist. Therapy can help you manage what you're going through.

Speech and Language Problems
Cancer can affect parts of your brain that help you speak and process language. You might struggle to find the right words, or mix up words when you describe objects ("chair" instead of "table,” for instance). It can also be harder to understand what other people say, or to follow a conversation. Language problems can be frustrating. Relax and slow down when you speak. A speech and language therapist can also help with communication.

Memory Loss
If you're more forgetful, it could be due to both your cancer and its treatments. Tumors can harm short-term and long-term memory, depending on their location. Chemotherapy and other treatments affect concentration and leave you mentally foggy. You may hear it called "chemo brain." Use a notebook, daily planner, and smartphone apps to remind you. An occupational therapist can show you how to make work and home tasks easier.

Vision Problems
A brain area called the occipital lobe processes the images your eyes see. A tumor in this part of the brain could affect your vision. Blurred vision, double vision, and floating spots can all be signs of a brain tumor. Your sight might go gray when you stand up or change position quickly. If you have these symptoms, see your doctor for a vision test. Surgery and other treatments that shrink the tumor can improve vision problems.

Hearing Loss
A tumor can put pressure on the nerves in your inner ear that move sound from your ear to your brain. Depending on where the tumor is, you might first lose the ability to hear high-pitched or low-pitched sounds. Ringing in the ears is also common. The hearing loss can come on slowly, and it might only be in one ear. See your doctor for a hearing test and treatment options.

Balance Issues
The cerebellum, an area in the lower part of your brain, controls your coordination and balance. This region helps keep you steady on your feet. A tumor in the cerebellum can throw off your balance and cause you to stumble or drop things. If you have balance problems, see a physical therapist. You might need a walker or cane to help you get around safely. Wear shoes with non-skid soles, and avoid walking on uneven or slippery surfaces.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Tumors release chemicals that make your body more likely to form blood clots. Nearly 1 in 5 people with brain tumors get deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a clot in a deep vein in the leg. If the clot moves into your lungs (pulmonary embolism), it could be life-threatening. See a doctor if you have swelling, redness, and tenderness in your leg. Taking blood thinners will stop the clot from getting bigger and prevent new clots from forming.

About 60% of people with brain cancer get seizures, which are sudden bursts of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Tumors may trigger them by changing brain cells or chemicals in a way that makes nerve cells fire too often. During a seizure, some people shake. Others stare off into space. Anti-seizure medicines can help. Also, avoid triggers, like loud noises or too little sleep.

Numbness and Weakness
A brain area called the parietal lobe helps you process the sensation of touch. A tumor in this part of your brain can cause numbness, or a tingling sensation that feels like pins and needles. Often the numbness affects only one side of your body, such as one arm or leg. One side of your body might also be weaker than the other. Tell your doctor about these symptoms.

Treating Your Cancer
The treatments you get to shrink your cancer will also ease its complications and can include:

Surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells or slow their growth.
Chemotherapy medicines kill cancer cells.
Targeted therapy attacks the parts of cancer cells that help them grow and multiply.

When to Call Your Doctor
You’ll see your medical team often for your brain cancer treatment. Tell your doctors about any symptoms that are new or changing, including:

Extreme fatigue
Vision loss
Hearing problems
Loss of balance
Severe headaches
Trouble thinking or speaking

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Thyroid Cancer is broken down into four types: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic. Thyroid Cancer Survival Rates, by Type and Stage

Thyroid cancer is a disease that you get when abnormal cells begin to grow in your thyroid gland . The thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly and is located in the front of your neck. It makes hormones that regulate the way your body uses energy and that help your body work normally.

Most thyroid cancers are very curable. In fact, the most common types of thyroid cancer (papillary and follicular thyroid cancer) are the most curable. In younger patients, both papillary and follicular cancers have a more than 97% cure rate if treated appropriately. ... Treated correctly, the cure rate is extremely high.

Treatment may include radioactive iodine. The radioactive iodine collects in any remaining thyroid tissue and cancer cells that have spread throughout the body. This treatment kills the cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. Papillary or follicular cancer: If you have had papillary or follicular cancer, and your thyroid gland has been completely removed or ablated, your doctors may consider at least one radioactive iodine scan after treatment, especially if you are at higher risk for recurrence.

Radiation therapy: Used very rarely. Uses X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or prevent cancer from spreading.

Papillary: The most common variant of papillary is the follicular variant (not to be confused with follicular thyroid cancer). It also usually grows very slowly. Other variants of papillary thyroid cancer (columnar, diffuse sclerosing, and tall cell) are not as common and tend to grow and spread more quickly. The bottom line is that most thyroid cancers are papillary thyroid cancer, and this is one of the most curable cancers of all cancers. Treated correctly, the cure rate is extremely high. Even with radioactive iodine therapy and surgery, it's still possible that papillary thyroid cancer (also known as papillary thyroid carcinoma), the cancer may recur. ... Thyroid cancer is treated, in part, by surgically removing all or part of the thyroid gland, a procedure known as a thyroidectomy. Papillary cancers tend to grow very slowly and usually develop in only one lobe of the thyroid gland. Even though they grow slowly, papillary cancers often spread to the lymph nodes in the neck. Still, these cancers that have spread to the lymph nodes can often be treated successfully and are rarely fatal. If you have had papillary or follicular cancer, and your thyroid gland has been completely removed or ablated, your doctors may consider at least one radioactive iodine scan after treatment, especially if you are at higher risk for recurrence.

Follicular thyroid carcinoma (FTC) is a well-differentiated tumor. In fact, FTC resembles the normal microscopic pattern of the thyroid. FTC originates in follicular cells and is the second most common cancer of the thyroid, after papillary carcinoma. Cancer that spreads to lymph nodes is uncommon (~10%) in follicular thyroid cancer. Invasion into vascular structures (veins and arteries) within the thyroid gland is common. Distant spread (to lungs or bones) is uncommon, but it is more common than with papillary cancer. If you have had papillary or follicular cancer, and your thyroid gland has been completely removed or ablated, your doctors may consider at least one radioactive iodine scan after treatment, especially if you are at higher risk for recurrence.

Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) is a form of thyroid carcinoma which originates from the parafollicular cells (C cells), which produce the hormone calcitonin. Medullary tumors are the third most common of all thyroid cancers. They make up about 3% of all thyroid cancer cases. Medullary thyroid cancer is significantly less common but has a worse prognosis.

Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma is an aggressive form of cancer of the thyroid gland. It is one of the fastest growing tumors in humans. Unlike other forms of thyroid cancer (papillary, follicular, medullary, and their variants) it spreads quickly to other organs. Unfortunately, anaplastic thyroid cancer is one of the most aggressive cancers in humans and is often lethal. Tragically, the five year survival from this type of cancer is less than 5%, with most patients dying within just a few months of the diagnosis.

Survival rates tell you what portion of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time ( usually 5 years) after their cancer is diagnosed. These numbers can’t tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding about how likely it is that your treatment will be successful. Some people will want to know the survival rates for their cancer type and stage, and some people won’t. If you don’t want to know, you don’t have to.

What is a 5-year survival rate?

Statistics on the outlook for a certain type and stage of cancer are often given as 5-year survival rates, but many people live longer – often much longer – than 5 years. The 5-year survival rate is the percentage of people who live at least 5 years after being diagnosed with cancer. For example, a 5-year survival rate of 50% means that an estimated 50 out of 100 people who have that cancer are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed. Keep in mind, however, that many of these people live much longer than 5 years after diagnosis.

Relative survival rates are a more accurate way to estimate the effect of cancer on survival. These rates compare people with cancer to people in the overall population. For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type and stage of cancer is 50%, it means that people who have that cancer are, on average, about 50% as likely as people who don’t have that cancer to live for at least 5 years after being diagnosed.

But remember, survival rates are estimates – your outlook can vary based on a number of factors specific to you.

Survival rates don’t tell the whole story

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they can’t predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. Your doctor can tell you how the numbers below may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with the aspects of your particular situation..

The following survival statistics were published in 2010 in the 7th edition of the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. They are based on the stage of the cancer when the person is first diagnosed.

Click on the link to see survival rates:

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Palliative care helps with the physical and emotional pain of an advanced cancer diagnosis. Through palliative care you can have more pain-free days that help you have a normal higher quality of life. Palliative care can extend life.

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Could a clinical trial help you in your fight against cancer? What are they and could one be right for you?

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Scientists have discovered a way to use the "executioner protein" BAX to induce apoptosis in cancer cells while leaving healthy cells intact. The treatment has so far been applied only to acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells but may have broader uses.


Albert Einstein College of Medicine scientists have induced cancer cells to commit suicide with a new compound that leaves healthy cells untouched. They deployed their novel treatment approach against acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells, which kill more than 10,000 Americans, and makes up about one-third of all new cases of leukemia, each year. Patients survive AML at a rate of only about 30 percent, making effective new treatments a hot commodity. And although the team has only tested the treatment on AML, it could have the potential to successfully attack other varieties of cancer cells.

“We’re hopeful that the targeted compounds we’re developing will prove more effective than current anti-cancer therapies by directly causing cancer cells to self-destruct,” associate professor of medicine and biochemistry and senior author Evripidis Gavathiotis said in a press release. “Ideally, our compounds would be combined with other treatments to kill cancer cells faster and more efficiently—and with fewer adverse effects, which are an all-too-common problem with standard chemotherapies.”

The new compound fights cancer by triggering apoptosis: a natural process the body uses to get rid of malfunctioning and unwanted cells. Apoptosis also takes place during embryonic development: trimming excess tissue from the growing embryo, for example. While certain existing chemotherapy drugs induce apoptosis indirectly by damaging the DNA in cancer cells, this treatment directly triggers the process intentionally by activating BAX, the “executioner protein.”


Pro-apoptopic proteins activate BAX in cells. Once BAX molecules go to work, they find the mitochondria of target cells and drill lethal holes into them, scuttling their ability to produce energy. Cancer cells resist BAX and this process by producing large quantities of “anti-apoptotic” proteins that suppress BAX and even the proteins that activate it. The process discovered by these researchers wakes BAX up again and sends it back to work.

“Our novel compound revives suppressed BAX molecules in cancer cells by binding with high affinity to BAX’s activation site,” Dr. Gavathiotis said in the release. “BAX can then swing into action, killing cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unscathed.”

In 2008, Dr. Gavathiotis was part of the team that first described the BAX’s activation site’s shape and structure. Since that time, he has been searching for small molecules to activate BAX and produce sufficient activity to overpower the natural resistance cancer cells mount to apoptosis. His team screened more than one million compounds and narrowed the field to 500, many of them synthesized by the team, and then evaluated them. These results reveal the outcome of that search.

BTSA1 (short for BAX Trigger Site Activator 1) was the best compound against several different human AML cell lines, including those found in high-risk AML patients. BTSA1 was also able to induce apoptosis in AML cells without affecting healthy stem cells. In AML mice treated with the compound, there was a significantly longer survival rate: 43 percent of the control group was alive and AML-free after 60 days. The BTSA1-treated mice also exhibited no signs of toxicity.

“BTSA1 activates BAX and causes apoptosis in AML cells while sparing healthy cells and tissues—probably because the cancer cells are primed for apoptosis,” Dr. Gavathiotis said in the release. Next the team plans to test BTSA1 on other types of cancer using animal models.

October 9, 2017

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Prostate Cancer: Symptoms, Tests, and Treatment - September 5, 2017- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men and the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths among American men. African-American men are more likely to get prostate cancer and twice as likely to die from the disease.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates screening tests and treatments for prostate cancer to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

The prostate is part of the male reproductive system that makes semen. The walnut-sized gland is located beneath the bladder and surrounds the upper part of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder.

Signs and Symptoms

Prostate cancer is frequently a very slow growing disease, often causing no symptoms until it is in an advanced stage. At that point, symptoms may include difficulty starting urination, weak or interrupted flow of urine, and frequent urination, especially at night.
However, these symptoms can have many other causes than prostate cancer, such as a benign enlarged prostate. If you have any concerns about any of these symptoms, you should contact your health care professional. Most men with prostate cancer die of other causes, and many never know that they have the disease. But once prostate cancer begins to grow quickly or spreads outside the prostate, it is dangerous. While the disease is rare before age 50, experts believe that most elderly men have traces of it.


In 2004, FDA approved docetaxel, the first chemotherapy for metastatic prostate cancer that showed a survival benefit, after years of research failed to find a treatment that would prolong the lives of metastatic prostate cancer patients. Metastatic is a term used to describe a cancer that spreads from the original location to other areas of the body.
“When prostate cancer metastasizes to another location in the body, it is in most cases incurable and the goal of treatment is to improve a patient’s symptoms or function, or to extend the length of the patient’s life, ” says Daniel Suzman, M.D., a medical officer in FDA’s Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Since docetaxel, FDA has approved five additional therapies, all of which have shown improvements in survival.

In addition, two major trials have shown that adding docetaxel to hormonal therapy for men with metastatic disease that had not previously been treated improved their survival.

According to Suzman, that’s become a standard of care for men who have a high burden of disease (such as cancer that has spread to the soft tissues or to many spots in the bone) and are a good candidate for chemotherapy. Docetaxel can cause serious side effects that may lead to death such as low white blood cell counts (neutropenia), and serious allergic reactions.Common side effects include low blood cell counts, infection, nosebleeds, decrease appetite, weight gain, rash, hair loss, and nerve pain.

Screening and Tests

Risk of prostate cancer can be measured through prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing. PSA is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland. Because of the widespread use of PSA testing in the United States, prostate cancer is often detected early. In some cases, the prostate cancer found can be very slow growing.
In most of these cases, the prostate cancer may not require treatment, and the use of PSA testing to screen for prostate cancer is controversial, Suzman says. Side effects from treatment of prostate cancer with surgery or radiation therapy can include urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and bowel problems.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, currently recommends against PSA-based screening for prostate cancer due to the lack of data that screening increases survival rates, and because of the risk of over-treatment, leading to side effects in men who otherwise would never have experienced any symptoms. However, a revision to the screening recommendation from the USPSTF currently under review would recommend individualized discussion of the risks and benefits in men between 55 and 69 years old, while continuing to recommend against screening men 70 years and older.
Emerging Research

One promising area of prostate cancer research is related to preventing overtreatment of patients with prostate cancer that is still localized to the prostate and who have a low risk of becoming symptomatic or dying from the condition. Careful selection of these men to ensure that they are low-risk is crucial. There is increasing evidence that close surveillance and repeated biopsies may safely allow these patients to delay definitive therapy (surgery or radiation). “There is a need to reduce the burden to patients of overtreatment if the prostate cancer is slow growing,” Suzman says.
This article appears on the FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Updated: September 5, 2017

Published: September 24, 2014

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Researchers from Duke University's Cancer Institute have published a study explaining how a modified poliovirus is able to effectively treat cancer patients. They discovered that the virus compels the body's own immune system to join the fight against the cancer cells.


Since 2011, researchers have been conducting clinical trials involving a modified type of poliovirus as a form of treatment against recurrent glioblastoma — a very aggressive kind of brain tumor. The promising results of these trials prompted researchers from the Duke Cancer Institute to look into the deeper mechanisms behind the treatment, and the results of their study have now been published in Science Translational Medicine.

Led by Matthias Gromeier and Smita Nair, the research team studied the impact of introducing the modified virus, known as a recombinant oncolytic poliovirus (PVS-RIPO), to two human cancer cell lines: melanoma and triple-negative breast cancer.

They learned that the CD155 proteins produced by the cancer cells acted as receptors for the poliovirus. Once attached to the cancer cells, the virus began to attack them, causing the tumor to produce antigens. These antigens then triggered an immune response from the body, which began attacking the malignant cells.

In addition to attacking the cancer cells, PVS-RIPO also infected the immune system’s dendritic cells and macrophages. The former are tasked with processing antigens in a way that brings them to the attention of T-cells, thus triggering their defensive response. Once these dendritic cells were infected by PVS-RIPO, the T-cells knew to begin attacking the tumor.

The results of the researchers’ tests were later on validated on mouse models in the lab.


While the results of the clinical trials already suggested that PVS-RIPO was a promising new treatment option, the Duke team’s research adds an entirely new dimension to its potential as a weapon against cancer.

“Not only is poliovirus killing tumor cells, it is also infecting the antigen-presenting cells, which allows them to function in such a way that they can now raise a T-cell response that can recognize and infiltrate a tumor,” Nair explained in a press release. “This is an encouraging finding, because it means the poliovirus stimulates an innate inflammatory response.”

In short, this modified poliovirus is able to create a cell culture that’s harmful to cancer cells, and it does so in tandem with mechanisms already present in the human body. “This is hugely important to us,” said Gromeier. “Knowing the steps that occur to generate an immune response will enable us to rationally decide whether and what other therapies make sense in combination with poliovirus to improve patient survival.”

To that end, the Duke researchers think that their study warrants pushing clinical trials to the next level. “Our findings provide clear rationales for moving forward with clinical trials in breast cancer, prostate cancer, and malignant melanoma,” Gromeier told Medical News Today. “This includes novel combination treatments that we will pursue.”
References: Medical News Today, Science Translational Medicine, Duke University.

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