September 1, 2008

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Outrun Cancer Culprits

Prevention and Early Detection are Key

Hilary Ingoldsby Whitesides

September 1, 2008

In April 2007 Cherri Oaks Ringger of Orem heard the words that more than 7,000 other Utahns heard that same year: You have cancer. “I never thought it would happen to me,” Ringger says. According to the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Cancer Facts and Figures 2007, an estimated 1,444,920 new cancer cases were diagnosed in the United States and approximately 7,660 of them were in Utah. Cancer is the second leading cause of death among men and women after heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year an estimated 2,690 Utahns died from cancer and ACS estimates a similar fatality rate will occur in 2008. Ringger is now a proud breast cancer survivor, but says winning her battle didn’t come without some hard lessons. Ringger’s mother died of cancer, yet Ringger hadn’t had a mammogram in six years at the time of her diagnosis. After finding a lump in her breast Ringger made an appointment for a mammogram. “The doctor did an ultra-sound and biopsy and two days later we found out it was malignant,” Ringger says. “It was only one week from mammogram to mastectomy.” Ringger made the decision to have a mastectomy instead of lumpectomy, a decision she says she has never regretted. By doing so, and because her cancer had not spread into her lymph nodes, Ringger didn’t need chemotherapy or radiation after her surgery. As cancer survival rates continue to improve due to research and new treatments, the importance of preven-tion and early detection should not be overlooked. There is no sure way to prevent cancer, but the ACS does have recommendations to lower your odds. A healthy diet and active lifestyle top the list for decreasing cancer risk. ACS also endorses only moderate alcohol consumption and encourages everyone to abstain from using tobacco. Smoking is connected to 15 different types of cancer and is responsible for roughly 30 percent of all cancer deaths, according to the ACS. Of course, some cancers are connected to genetics and the next best thing for survival is early detection. The Utah Cancer Action Network (UCAN) suggests screening at different ages for different types of cancer. Breast cancer remains the most common type of cancer among women. UCAN recommends that women start performing self-exams at age 20, receive clinical breast exams in their twenties and thirties and start yearly mammograms at age 40. Women should be tested for cervical cancer starting at age 21 or upon becoming sexually active. Women who have gone through menopause are also encouraged to talk to their doctors about the risks and symptoms of uterine cancer. Men are advised to receive blood tests that look for prostate cancer, the most common cancer among males, starting at age 50. Both men and women are encouraged to be tested for colon and rectal cancer starting at age 50. Regular health check-ups with routine tests are suggested for everyone after age 20. Ringger, now involved in a post-surgery study, sees her doctor every three months and remains cancer free. Huntsman Cancer Hospital to Expand Established in 1993, the Huntsman Cancer Institute is home to the largest genetic database in the world and one of the country’s largest collections of publications about cancer, according to its Website. In June 2004 the institute expanded its care by opening the Huntsman Cancer Hospital (HCH). Operating at full capacity, the HCH is planning an expansion of the facility. The expansion is tentatively scheduled to start in spring 2009 and will be complete in fall 2011. It’s estimated that the expansion will cost around $110 million and will consist of a 117,000-square-foot wing north of the hospital. The project will double the number of inpatient rooms to 100 private rooms. “We very much need this additional space,” says Janet Bingham, president and CEO of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. “All 50 of our current beds are occupied nearly 70 percent of the time.” The expansion should allow the hospital to fully support the approximately 70,000 ambulatory visits per year they expect to receive. “We are working hard to conquer [cancer] and, in the meantime, find new and better treatments and relieve the human suffering it causes,” Bingham says. More on the Web: The American Cancer Society www.cancer.org Utah Cancer Action Network health.utah.gov/ucan The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov/women/lcod.htm www.cdc.gov/men/lcod/index.htm
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