Cancer 101

Cancer 101 is a series of blog entries that serve to educate patients, family members, and other interested parties on select topics that are crucial to understanding the biology and treatment of cancer. While this information is widely available on the internet, Cancer 101 is meant to provide information that is clear, accurate and understandable without significant scientific background.

The lesion’s curse

Posted by on Mar 12, 2012 in Cancer 101, Cancer Care, General Medicine | 2 comments

The lesion’s curse

A frightened Diane called me today. She was in big trouble. Her primary doctor’s office had called with terrible news. The MRI showed Diane had a lesion. Desperate, she reached out to an Oncologist for help.

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Narcotics and Cancer

Posted by on Mar 2, 2012 in Cancer 101, Cancer Care | 0 comments

Narcotics and Cancer

For many people the word “cancer” is synonymous with ”pain.” The nightmare of uncontrollable agony is perhaps as terrible as fear of the disease. On the other hand, many of us are frightened of side affects from pain medications, and worry about the threat of addiction. Fortunately, medications can control most pain and with care, this can be done safely.

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Stage Zero Cancer

Posted by on Feb 17, 2012 in Cancer 101, Cancer Care | 8 comments

Stage Zero Cancer

Here is a weird one. Stage 0 Cancer. That is “zero” as is nothing, zip, bupkis. Is Stage 0 cancer the same as no cancer at all? Must we worry about is this nada named neoplasm?

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Cancer 101: MicroRNA and Cancer

Posted by on Jan 6, 2012 in Cancer 101, Cancer Care | 0 comments

Cancer 101: MicroRNA and Cancer

Cancer is the disease of uncontrolled growth. Growth switches that should be off are turned on. Regulating genes in our cells malfunction, and malignant cell division occurs. Known as molecular biology, future cancer prevention and treatment will focus on these events. The recent discovery of MicroRNA is an electrifying breakthrough in understanding this disease. The classic description of cell growth and division has three parts.  First, there are the genes in our DNA. These hold instructions for growth and function.  DNA directs the...

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MRI and Breast Health

Posted by on Dec 16, 2011 in Cancer 101, Cancer Care | 6 comments

MRI and Breast Health

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is an exciting tool to promote breast health and fight breast cancer.   MRI combines the highest quality pictures of breast tissue with the highest cost of any breast imaging modality.  The best for the most.  Given the wide but somewhat confusing use of breast MRI, it is worth a moment to review this technology. MRI uses magnetism to create images of tissue. There is no X-ray exposure.  Ions in water and fat change in a high-powered magnetic field.  Differences in tissue ions are detected by applying magnetic...

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Cancer, mass, tumor…what’s in a name?

Posted by on Oct 23, 2011 in Cancer 101, Cancer Care | 8 comments

Cancer, mass, tumor…what’s in a name?

Today, a patient said to me, “Doc, I understand I have cancer, but when you start talking about tumors I really get scared.”   Now, I certainly did not intend to frighten him, I was just trying to explain the situation.   I started thinking about these loaded words and the confusing messages they can deliver.  Is “cancer” the same as “neoplasm?” Can you have  “tumor” without  “malignancy?”  Are there “benign masses?”  So, in the interest of clarity, and so I stop needlessly unnerving my patients, I present the following definitions: Growth –...

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Cancer 101: PET Scans

Posted by on Sep 13, 2011 in Cancer 101, Cancer Care | 10 comments

Cancer 101: PET Scans

Let us play doctor.   Believe for a moment that you are sitting in your office advising a patient.   On the patient’s chest X-ray is a half-inch spot.  The patient is frightened and you are concerned. How you will determine if the spot is cancer or might it be a scar from an old infection? Do you take the patient to surgery and remove the lesion?   Surgery requires anesthesia and causes pain.  An operation carries the risk of bleeding and infection.  Insert a needle?  That is hard to do in the middle of the lung (“Please hold your breath for...

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Cancer 101: All Bleeding Stops

Posted by on Jul 26, 2011 in Cancer 101, Cancer Care | 0 comments

Cancer 101: All Bleeding Stops

When black night turns red by gunshot and blade, when pressures drop and life starts to fade, doctors are solaced by words which can jade, ALL BLEEDING STOPS!  Words truly in gold, bare comfort they hold, patients beg for rescue more bold, so here the story of blood’s clotting be told.  Of Platelets and Factors we shall talk, before no corpuscle, nor artery shall we balk, come with us now as we walk, the miracle of dry wounds we shall stalk. Why does bleeding stop? It is one of the most remarkable events in medicine that a liquid can suddenly...

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Cancer 101: What is a Metastasis?

Posted by on Jun 16, 2011 in Cancer 101, Cancer Care | 2 comments

Cancer 101: What is a Metastasis?

Her father was perhaps the unluckiest patient ever. She told me that he had seven different cancers.  He had lung cancer. Then he had lymph node cancer. He had liver cancer. He had bone cancer. He had brain cancer. He had skin cancer…. twice! This was a terrible story.  But, then, wait…maybe unlucky but not strangely unlucky.   So, I asked, which cancer came first?  The skin cancer, a melanoma.  Mystery solved.  This gentleman did not have seven cancers…he had one…a melanoma which had spread to multiple places (including the skin itself)…....

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Cancer 101: Genes and Tumors

Posted by on Jun 2, 2011 in Cancer 101, Cancer Care | 0 comments

Cancer 101: Genes and Tumors

In order to defeat the enemy, it is important to understand it.  Cancer patients in this country this year will visit doctors, hospitals and emergency departments 29 million times.  They will ask their health providers billions of questions regarding their disease and treatment.  However, frequently, they will not quite understand the basic science of cancer and so will be at a disadvantage.  It is critical that we all understand this disease to protect ourselves, to get the best care and to heal the ones we love. Cancer is a disease of...

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