Cancer Answers:  The Latest Treatments - Part 2
The Borneo Post - Sunday, 3 February, 2002

Medical experts say that melanoma is
treatable if it's detected early, and one area of research involves development of improved diagnosis tools of new computerised analysis techniques and imaging soon will enable experts to see clearer detail beneath the surface of the skin, and to differentiate between blood, collagen and melanin pigment.  This will allow dermatologists to correctly identify melanomas and reduce the number of harmless moles surgically removed.

A n o t h e r interesting skin cancer news from researchers in Australia involves the completion of the first trial of a plant-based topical cream for treating squarmous-cell and basal-cell carcinoma. The study was very successful, with the only side effects being mild inflammation.

In the report, ninety percent of patients showed complete remission. In many cases, the results were backed up by later biopsy, and most were found to be clear. The next step will be the development of a commercial product.  FIVE YEAR SURVIVAL RATE: 87 percent. No significant improvement since 1983.

The number of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer is in the increase. A Pap smear will not detect ovarian cancer, and there are no early screening tests currently available. Unfortunately, early symptoms often go unnoticed, meaning that about 70 percent of cases are only diagnosed once the cancer has already spread.

Because of this, the treatment for ovarian cancer can often be aggressive, and almost always includes a hysterectomy, removal of both Fallopian tubes, ovaries and lymph glands. In some cases, it may also be necessary to remove part of the bowel.

Researchers say new technologies such as genomics (the study of genes) and proteomics (the study of specific gene proteins), will have an enormous influence on research into ovarian cancer in the future. Being able to combine these sciences gives scientists the potential to identify new treatments and early screening tools.

The Peter McCallum Institute and QIMR in Australia were recently awarded a US$2 million grant, part of the American Military Medical Funding Programme, to conduct a study to look at possible underpinning factors such as HRT, pregnancy and oral contraceptives. Aconsortium of 15 research centres in Australia also has been granted affliction with the Medical Institute of Health in the US.  FIVE YEAR SIRVIVAL RATE: 3035 percent. No significant improvement in recent years.

With more and more research and tests undergoing in the future, and the combined effort of countries into further breakthrough studies of cancer, it means that more people will now have access to cutting-edge treatments and new drugs, as well as international clinical trials and the prevention of cancers.

Environmental and lifestyle factors are the cause of about 75 percent of all cancers. However, we now know enough about the risk factors associated with cancer, that we could potentially, wipe out more than half of the problem by making some sensible lifestyle changes and avoiding known carcinogens.

1. SMOKING. By far the best way to reduce your chances of developing cancer is to never start smoking. If you do smoke, quitting is the most important way to protect yourself. Tobacco products are directly responsible for up to 95 percent of all lung-cancer cases and 30 percent of all cancers. Your risk is also increased by passive smoking.

2. UV RADIATION. Today, most people are aware of the potential skin damage that is caused by direct exposure to the sun. Protect your skin sensibly and stay in shady areas whenever possible. Make sure that your entire body is protected - the most common areas for melanoma are the lower legs for women and the upper back for men.

3. EXERCISE. The widely known health benefits of physical activity on a regular basis include an enhanced immune function and improved response to medical treatment. Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress - another factor that is associated with cancer.

4. EARLY DETECTION OF CANCER. Make sure you remain vigilant about screening tests, especially if you have a family history of cancer. If you do develop cancer, the ultimate outcome will be enormously influenced by how early the cancer is identified and dealt with.

- Women over 50 should have mammograms at least every two years.
- Men should check their testes for lumps and report any unusual changes to their GP.
- All women who have ever had sexual intercourse need to have Pap smear every two years.
- Get to know your body and examine it regularly. Don't delay seeing your doctor about your concerns - your fear of a cancer diagnosis could
end up being more dangerous than the actual disease itself. Be prepared to act immediately if you notice any of the following:
- Sores, or lesions that do not heal.
- Any moles, spots or warts that change in colour, size or shape.
- Persistent indigestion or difficulty swallowing.
- Any lumps in your breasts, neck or armpits. Unusual bleeding, such as rectal, or unusual discharge.
- Any changes in bowel or bladder function. Chronic cough.
- Unexplained weight loss.

5. DIET. Research shows that a healthy diet is related to a reduced likelihood of getting cancer. Make sure that you eat a healthy, balanced diet that is low in fat, and includes plenty of fibre, as well as at least five serves of fresh fruit and vegetables. Avoid burnt meat as charcoal has been identified as a possible cause of cancer, as has an excessive alcohol consumption.