5 things women should know about cancer screening

When it comes to cancer screenings, some women might think, “Well, I don’t have any symptoms, so I don’t need them.” But that’s actually when you should get them. Cancer screenings should only be done when you display no symptoms. Otherwise, it’s not a screening test anymore; it’s a diagnostic test. That’s why you shouldn’t wait until you have a lump in your breast or blood in your stool. Because by the time you’re actually showing symptoms, the cancer might not be in its earliest, most treatable stages anymore. Read on to find out which tests you need and how frequently you should get them, and get answers to other screening questions I often hear at MD Anderson’s Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center. What screenings do I need, and when should I start getting them? For the average-risk woman (as opposed to those at high risk of developing cancer), we recommend: Starting at age 21: A Pap test to check for cervical cancer. If the results are normal, you should be tested every three years. Pap tests are no longer recommended every year for average-risk women of any age. Starting at age 30: If you get a Pap test and an HPV test at the same time, and both are negative, you can move to an every-five-year testing schedule. If you only get the Pap test, you should stay on the three-year schedule. Starting at age 40: A yearly breast exam and mammogram to check for breast cancer. Starting at age 50: A colonoscopy every 10 years, a virtual colonoscopy every five years, a Cologuard test every three years or a fecal test...

Daughter of metastatic breast cancer patient: Why I participate in the Boot Walk

From the outside, most people can’t tell that my mom has cancer. She looks great in short hair, stays really active and gets lots of exercise. But the truth is, she has stage IV breast cancer, an advanced form of the disease that has now spread to her bones. Nobody knows how much longer she might live. It’s really scary to think that my mom’s cancer has no cure. But she’s doing everything she can to fight it — and so am I. My mom’s first breast cancer diagnosis My mom was first diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma — a form of breast cancer — in 2000, when I was just a toddler. I don’t remember much about that time, but I do remember pulling out clumps of her hair after walking up to her side of the bed. (I didn’t know it back then, but that hair loss was due to the hardcore chemotherapy she was on.) My mom’s cancer went into remission after she finished treatment that year. It stayed that way until I was a junior in high school. Then, in October 2016, she had a small lump on her chest biopsied, and we found out the cancer had returned. My mom’s second breast cancer diagnosis My mom knew immediately that she wanted to go to MD Anderson. She called and requested an appointment at MD Anderson in The Woodlands. She was able to get one within a few days. At MD Anderson, she met with Dr. Jenny Pozadzides, Dr. Elizabeth FitzSullivan and Dr. Banu Arun. They ordered additional tests, which showed the cancer had already...

Young acute lymphoblastic leukemia survivor benefits from childhood cancer programs

When Elijah “Eli” Delgado first started experiencing stomach pain, doctors told his mom, Leanne, it was most likely a gastrointestinal issue. She knew it had to be more than that because stomach problems runs in the family and Eli’s symptoms were different than those of his older brother. “As a parent, you have that gut feeling you know something’s wrong with your child,” Leanne says. Eli’s stomach pain continued for another year. Leanne still had no answers, even after visiting multiple doctors. One morning after Eli was screaming and crying about his pain, Leanne followed her instinct and took him to an emergency room. It was there that Leanne finally felt like somebody was listening to her. The doctor told her that Eli’s bloodwork suggested he might have leukemia and that they should go to a hospital for additional tests. “I was like what? Not my child. He’s so active!” Leanne recalls. “I kept thinking, ‘I don’t want to go through that. I don’t want to have to lose him!’ and ‘How do I tell my kids that their brother is sick?” An acute lymphoblastic leukemia diagnosis In February 2019, a week after Eli’s fifth birthday, doctors confirmed his diagnosis: acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was transferred to MD Anderson to receive the treatment he needed, led by a team of childhood leukemia experts, including Branko Cuglievan, M.D., and Cesar Nunez, M.D. Eli immediately started chemotherapy, but because his white blood cell count was high, he developed tumor lysis syndrome from the cancer cells breaking down. He was placed on temporary dialysis while undergoing chemotherapy to clean the blood and...

6 pain management options for cancer patients you might not know about

When it comes to treating cancer pain, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Patient preference, allergies and potential drug interactions with other therapies all impact which approach your doctor recommends. “A lot of patients assume opioids are the only option, but there are many ways to help manage pain and increase quality of life,” says pain management specialist Uzondu Osuagwu, M.D. Here, Osuagwu shares six options you may not be aware of. 1. Anti-inflammatory drugs “When a tumor invades bone, nerves or organs, it can cause inflammation, which can be painful,” Osuagwu says. Taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like Celebrex or meloxicam can offer relief. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help treat less severe pain and are available over-the-counter. “Although these drugs can help control inflammation, they may also affect platelet function and may mask fever, so they may not be recommended for patients on chemotherapy, immunotherapy or certain clinical trials,” Osuagwu adds. That’s because patients on these treatments are more susceptible to infection or bleeding if platelet counts drop. “Pain management is part of a multidisciplinary team approach to cancer care,” Osuagwu says. “I routinely work with a patient’s oncologist before recommending a new pain treatment to ensure there aren’t concerns about negative reactions.” 2. Muscle relaxers Sometimes cancer treatment causes pain. For example, patients who’ve had radiation therapy may develop scar tissue near the treatment site, which can cause muscle tightness. Muscle relaxers can help relieve that tightness, Osuagwu says. Patients may also have pain that has nothing to do with their cancer treatment, like pre-existing back pain or muscle spasms. Muscle relaxers can offer relief in those cases...

CBD oil and cancer: 9 things to know

CBD oil (cannabidiol) is everywhere these days. Once available only at novelty or vitamin shops, it’s now also at your local grocery store, pharmacy or even yoga studio. It comes in many forms: oils that are dropped under the tongue, roll-ons that are applied to the skin and even solutions for vaping. Some producers extract CBD oil and add it into foods to create edible products. But what is CBD oil exactly, and how does it affect cancer patients? Can it really treat — or even cure — cancer or relieve its symptoms? To separate fact from fiction, we spoke with our Kimberson Tanco, M.D. Here’s what he wants cancer patients to know. What is CBD oil, and how does it differ from marijuana and hemp? Marijuana and hemp are both varieties of the cannabis sativa plant. Both contain cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the two most-common, known active ingredients. The main difference is that hemp has far less THC than a typical marijuana plant. And unlike THC, CBD is not a psychoactive agent, so there’s less possibility that it will cause the same mental confusion, drowsiness or hallucinations that often come with THC. Is there any truth to the claims that CBD oil can cure cancer?   Right now, no. There is no evidence that CBD oil can cure cancer. What, if anything, can CBD oil do to alleviate the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of cancer treatment? It’s hard to say if CBD oil can alleviate cancer symptoms or cancer treatment side effects, because the studies are pretty mixed and even fewer are standardized....