Aging, Cancer, and Age-associated Illnesses

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Happy Aging_No magic pill_CPDAging is inevitable. Aging is a complex process through a progressive loss of physiological integrity, which has a negative impact on various body systems and their functions. Aging is also a major risk factor for cancer.

As you age, accumulated damage to the cells put an increased burden on your immune response. Chronically stimulated inflammation, along with genetic, lifestyle and environmental risk factors, all intensify in your body and speed up the deleterious process. 

How well we age depends on many factors, including what we eat, how physically active we are, and how often and how long we are exposed to health risks such as smoking, over-consumption of alcohol, or harmful, toxic chemicals/substances.

In a parallel way, cancer is a disease of aging. Cancer is multifaceted and each one varies; but all cancers develop over time.

Interactions between aging and cancer occur at cellular, molecular, biological and physical levels via various intricate pathways. Along with “degenerative dysfunctions”, an initial cellular change becomes cumulative and collaborative to facilitate the accumulation of more or further alterations, thereby contributing to an exponential increase in age-associated cancer. Thus, cancer is a common health challenge among aging and especially elderly people. What could make this process worse are conditions like obesity and diabetes.

The good news: Cancer and other age-associated chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are mostly preventable! Prevention can be enhanced by lifestyle modifications, which is documented by both Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine emphasizes human vitality. One principle in regard to aging is that Qi—your life energy—is crucial to longevity. Longevity is not about mere length of life. It is also about quality of life, i.e. living a life without suffering pain, distress, and diseases. Injury, physical suffering, and lack of proper nutrition cause Qi deficiency. Qi can be increased or decreased, replenished or drained, and balanced Qi promotes blood circulation, reduces inflammation, and regulates hormones. 

Here are some key strategies that keep your vital Qi protected and replenished:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight and avoid abdominal obesity. Excessive calorie intake and a sedentary lifestyle cause abdominal obesity.
  2. Have a diet rich in nutrients and antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
  3. Avoid or limit high-fat, high-sugar foodstuffs and excessive salt intake from packaged or processed foods.
  4. Participate in physical activities regularly, age actively.
  5. Watch your numbers (cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc), keep your blood pressure normal, and schedule routine cancer screenings.
  6. Remember to get a good night’s sleep.
  7. Practice gratitude. Gratitude is a secret to happiness, so keep counting your blessings.
  8. Love your age and love more. In addition to the love you show to your family, there are many ways to show your love, such as pursuing your passion, giving to your community, and caring and helping others. 

Let’s face it. You cannot help aging, but you don’t have to get “old”. Hopefully, at the end, you will achieve one of humanity’s greatest dreams, which is to have a long, productive, and happy life in a healthy body.

So, happy aging through vibrant well-being!

Links between Obesity, Diabetes, and Colon Cancer

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Links 3 conditions_CPDColorectal cancer remains the 3rd most common cancer and is the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.

The causes of colon cancer are multi-factorial. They include cellular, molecular, and genetic factors, as well as dietary and lifestyle factors. Today, I’m going to focus on one significant yet modifiable risk factor, obesity.

We start with a glimpse at the numbers.

The incidence rate of obesity is alarmingly high among U.S. adults based on CDC data. Rates for different age groups include middle-aged (40.2%), older (37.0%), and younger (32.3%). Also, about 17% of children and adolescents (age 2-19) are obese.

More than 29 million adults and children in the U.S. have diabetes. 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes, a condition that can lead to type-2 diabetes. Note that an estimated one in two seniors has pre-diabetes.

Obesity may be a factor in approximately 300,000 deaths each year. Diabetes will cause an estimated 75,578 deaths and colorectal cancer, an expected 49,190 deaths in 2016.

A look beyond the numbers

Obesity is a leading cause of diabetes, a disease for which the body fails to control blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels are characteristic of both obesity and diabetes. What is less well known is that diabetes and obesity are also linked to an increase in cancer risk.

In fact, obesity is linked to many types of cancer (colon, esophageal, thyroid, breast, prostate, uterine, kidney, pancreas, gallbladder and non-Hodgkins lymphoma) and, needless to say, heart disease, stroke, and other chronic illnesses.

Research shows that obesity and diabetes are associated with an increased risk of developing colon cancer.

Intrinsic links between obesity, diabetes, and colon cancer are vastly complicated. One clear tie is sugar. High levels of blood sugar are a characteristic in both obesity and diabetes. High blood sugar also makes us predisposed to cancer by increasing the activity of a gene involved in cancer progression. Apparently, dietary sugar is a link tying together obesity, diabetes, and colon cancer, and thus excess sugar has an impact on our risk for cancer.

Certainly, other links play a causal role. For instance, chronic inflammation is a central process that likely leads obese individuals to an elevated risk of diabetes and colon cancer, which all three conditions share a common inflammatory loop participated by multiple cell signaling molecules, growth and nuclear factors.

Highlighted Call for Actions

1. Colon Cancer screening

If you or your loved ones turn 50, you all should begin screening for colorectal cancer and then continue getting screened at regular intervals. This is because colorectal cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Colorectal polyps can be found by screening and then removed before they develop into cancers. Plus, any developing cancer can be found earlier by screening when treatment works best.

2. Diabetes Control

Early intervention is critical to preventing or delaying the onset of type-2 diabetes. Good news for our nation’s seniors is that Medicare will extend coverage for pre-diabetes care. Check out the National Diabetes Prevention Program, a preventive health initiative via the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation.

3. Healthy Weight Management

Nutrition and balance diet, weight loss, daily physical activity and healthy lifestyle are all beneficial for keeping weight down. Look for further details in CancerPreventionDaily earlier posts.

In brief, obese people are at a higher risk for developing cancer. Also, an obese condition is often resistant to chemotherapy regimens. The bottom line is that obesity prevention is a key life-saving approach.

 

Image source: CancerPreventionDaily

Cheering You on to Immune-beneficial Exercises

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Exercise n Immune_Trainer.aeWe are at the beginning of March. If you made a New Year’s resolution about health and have made some progress, cheers! If you don’t have a resolution or it fell off the wagon by the end of February, it’s time to get back on track. I’m here to help you by breaking down how a few types of exercise may boost your immune function.

Note that we are not talking about strenuous physical exercise (e.g., an Ironman race) performed by well-trained athletes. We will examine doable exercises for ordinary folks like you and me. The key is that you need to choose types of exercise that are appropriate for your particular situation.

Let’s start with moderate regular exercises.

This can be walking 20-30 minutes a day, yoga or pilates, stretching, dancing, and even badminton—physical activities that can be easily incorporated into your daily life. Moderate, regular physical exercise is considered to be associated with many health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, reduced weight gain, improved glucose tolerance, better sleep, and increased immunity to fight infection.

A few studies by the Kagawa group showed that walking at a forest park increased human “natural killer” cell activity and the level of anti-cancer proteins, with the effect lasting at least seven days. Because “natural killer” cells are a part of the immune response to cancer, the research provided an intriguing perspective despite the small samplings of human subjects in the studies.

Resistance exercise (weight training)

Resistance training ranges from push-ups and squats to weight lifting and weight machines in order to build strength. Maximal resistance exercise increases the acute immune response, which is measured by changes in circulating levels of leukocytes and inflammatory molecules (i.e. cytokines).

To avoid impairing the immune system, allow your body and your immune system the time to recover. For instance, give your muscles 48-72 hours to rest between resistance trainings.

Endurance exercise (aerobic, cardio training)

Aerobic exercise can stimulate the immune system. At the cellular level, research reveals that acute aerobic exercise greatly enhances a cellular signaling protein (G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2) that is involved in the regulation of hypertension and heart failure. The protein also regulates an inflammatory response, measured by activities of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (e.g. lymphocytes, a critical component of immune system), which was also stimulated by the aerobic exercise.

In a human study, eight weeks of endurance exercise also changed the blood levels of some inflammatory cytokines in a beneficial way in an elderly population and people with certain inflammatory diseases. In contrast, poor exercise capacity in patients even without heart failure is independently associated with markers of chronic inflammation, which may lead to infections following surgery.

Overall, how exercises improve immune function can be explained in the following ways: 1) Exercise may facilitate to flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, which may help prevent upper respiratory tract infection (e.g. cold). 2) Exercise may make disease-fighting antibodies and immune system cells circulate faster so that they could detect illnesses earlier. And 3) Exercise may reduce the release of stress-related hormones, by which the power of immunity is enhanced and the chance of illness, lowered.

Study note:

The issue of exercise and its benefits in regard to alteration of the immune system is a complex one and a matter of delicate balance. It depends on whether the population is healthy or diseased, and even within unhealthy groups, the effect on cancer patients may differ from that on diabetic individuals. It also depends on types and workloads of exercise, parameters measured (e.g., hormonal, chemical factors, or proteins), transient versus sustained change, age groups studied, size of sampling, time-bound periods, and other factors.

To sum up –

Despite the fact that too much exercise can have a contrary effect and reduce immunity, exercises in various proper forms at all ages are AAA (triple A) – Actionable, Advantageous, and Awesome!! Therefore, keep doing exercise or getting more physically active one day at a time, and you’ll reap the benefits toward transforming your health and life.

 

Image credit: www.trainer.ae

Inspired by World Cancer Day

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

WCD_WeCan n ICanWorld Cancer Day (February 4th, each year) is a global observance and initiative to fight cancer. The theme of 2016 World Cancer Day is “We can” and “I can”, being selected by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC).

We can and I can – clarity, simplicity and forcefulness.

Much focus of World Cancer Day goes towards raising awareness of cancer, reducing risks of cancer, and learning how to prevent, detect and treat cancer early. To help achieve this goal, I’d like to bring one thing to the spotlight: Lifestyle modification.

Why? Only 5–10% of all cancer cases are attributed to genetic or inherited mutation. 35- 40% of cancer can be prevented by a major lifestyle change.

Next, how can you modify lifestyle to a healthier, livelier one? I’ve given a lot of information and strategies through CancerPreventionDaily.com. Here are 7 quick and effective tips:

1.      Quit smoking, period. This is not only for the individual but also for your loved ones and many, many others.

2.      Avoid or limit alcohol. Have we seen enough how alcohol takes a toll at physical, mental, emotional and social levels?

3.      Get physically active! Walk, run, jump, play or gardening … do whatever you can at where you are to move each day.

4.      Eat smart. Diet is intimately linked to diseases, as English Proverb cautions, “Don’t dig your grave with your own knife and fork”. In developing cancer, processed meats and foods speed it up, while a plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits slow it down.

5.      Maintain a healthy weight. It is well-accepted that obesity is a significant risk factor of several types of cancer. Taking the above actions will benefit weight loss.

6.      Avoid over-exposure to sun.

7.      Remember early detection.

Cancer is preventable disease. With hope and love, we all can do our own part and contribute to prevention or cure of cancer, ultimately making a difference in saving lives.

 

Image credit: worldcancerday.org

10 Things Important to Know about Lead Poisoning

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Lead Q & Tap Water_CPDWhat are your thoughts on the Flint lead-poisoning water crisis? Are you concerned about the quality of your drinking water? Do you know how lead may impact your body in the long-term? Read on, you’ll get an instant and clear idea.

Exposure to lead is a serious public health problem because of its association with numerous damages to nearly every system in the human body and various cancers. Here are 10 key concerns and strategies you need to know:

1. A hidden fact: Lead contamination is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and likely symptomless. So, it often goes unknown.

2. Routes of lead toxicity: Lead can get into your body through the water you drink, the food you eat and the air you breathe. How can lead get into your water? Your municipal water system or your house may have pipes containing lead or joined with lead solder.

3. The critical numbers: For lead awareness, I suggest to focus on these two: First, tap water lead should be below the EPA’s action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) or 15 mg/L.Second, in children (esp. under age 5), a blood lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter (5 mg/dl) or higher should raise a red flag, as the reference level of CDC recommended public health initiatives. If their blood lead levels exceed 10 mg/dl, the children can be in serious trouble!

4. The irreversible health consequences: Lead is a common occupational and environmental toxin with well-known adverse effects on intelligence, school achievement and behavior. Lead exposure also increases a risk for a variety of chronic illnesses such as hypertension, heart disease and kidney disease.

5. The Link to cancer: Lead is one of the heavy metals that are classified as a probable human carcinogen, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Lead has been linked to cancers of lung, stomach, breast, and renal cells, although further studies await.

6. The influence on generations: Lead compounds cause genetic impairment through various mechanisms including interfering with DNA synthesis and repair, interaction with DNA-binding proteins and tumor-fighting proteins, so genotoxicity can potentially pass on to generations.

7. Drinking and cooking water safety – 3 Rules:

  • Rule 1: Never use warm or hot tap water for drinking, cooking or mixing baby formula.
  • Rule 2: Flush the cold water system for 1-2 minutes especially when the faucet has not been used for several hours. (Otherwise, use the water that’s flushed out for other purposes.)
  • Rule 3: Most desirable is to filter tap water for drinking and cooking. It also costs less than buying bottled water.

8. Children and lead beyond water: Infants and children are susceptible to lead toxicity. So, test your children’s blood lead level.

In fact, the biggest source of lead poisoning in children today is dust and chips from deteriorating lead paint on interior surface or toys. Also be aware that Pica behavior (esp. the ingestion of lead-containing foreign bodies) is a well-established risk factor of lead intoxication in children that may cause grave consequences. Lead is such a ubiquitous environmental toxin widely distributed around the world (e.g. the soil in your kids’ playground) that as a surprise, some traditional herbs (e.g. Ayurveda) may contain toxic amounts of lead.

9. Enough calcium intake: Lead mainly interrupts calcium-dependent processes and calcium signaling in the cells. So ensure enough consumption of calcium and antioxidants from fresh veggies or fruits helps combat negative effects of lead.

10. Everybody has responsibility to prevent water polluting. Learning from the Flint water disaster, we all need to keep vigilant at protecting clean water sources. If you suspect any change in the water, immediately contact your local public health or water system authority.

Bonus ending: Bottled water can serve as an alternative, as the FDA sets specific regulations for it. Take a cautious measure, because not all bottled water is created equal, and bottled water may contain 40% or more of tap water.

 

Image credit: oxfordcounty.ca & CPD

Love and the War on Cancer

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

2016 Love & Hope_iStock+CPDCancer causes much sadness, pain, fear, and anger. It has enormous effects by impacting the quality of life among those with cancer, as well as the lives of their loved ones, and too often by shortening life spans.

As we enter 2016, one New Year’s resolution for CancerPreventionDaily.com is to bring a theme of love and hope to cancer prevention and care. Today I’ll make a start by talking about nurturing your body.

When in good health, we may tend to take that fact for granted and pay little attention to our physiology. But we shouldn’t do that. Instead, we should love ourselves, and that means loving our body.

Loving your body begins by nurturing your precious little cells – the fundamental building blocks of your body. You let love penetrate to each of your cells by taking in nutritious food. By doing so, you boost cellular energy and send grateful signals to each cell. And you let love go in or welcome love by exercising your body in an appropriate way for your condition and age.

Let love penetrate your immune system, too, because that’s your first-line defense to ward off cancer. The good news is that you can harness the power of your immune system as an effective immunotherapy to cure cancer. Former President Jimmy Carter is one patient who has benefited from such cancer immunotherapy.

Let love penetrate your whole body by staying emotionally healthy. Your emotional health is promoted by engaging in physical movement, social connection, and spiritual joy.

Love is communicated in different ways and is easily integrated into a healthy lifestyle. Generally speaking, love can be exhibited in a kind act, in understanding and offering needed support, and in self-care. Love can mean openly talking about cancer in related to one’s fears and anxieties. By letting love rule your body, you develop beliefs and values that help drive positive healthy behaviors.

In our quest for cancer cure and care, let’s embrace something beyond the torture, something beautiful and a deep human need, both biological and physical – LOVE – and let that love nourish our well-being.

Let’s make 2016 a year of love and hope to defeat cancer!

 

Image credit: iStock.com & CPD

Top Five Sharing Tips for Holidays 2015

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Holiday Greeting w-Label_Hui 2015Holiday time can be both joyful and overwhelmingly stressful. What is on your mind? Consider the following TOP FIVE thoughts and tips:

1. Gratitude It’s the best attitude!

Gratitude implies both the thankfulness to others for their aids in any way and a conscious, habitual focus on all positive aspects of life. Many Americans are stressed over traveling, gift shopping, cooking, disappointing (for various reasons) and debt. Counting blessings has a proven favorable effect on the human well-being.

2. Family and friends – Bonus is Fit!

Forget about work, stress, and any negative feelings, let your heart and spirit go with those of your family and friends, enjoy love, laughter, happy memories and fun time. One of the big challenges is health. Unhealthy diet and large portions of food, time on the couch, drinks and comprised sleep can all add up to a toll on your weight gain. Finding a way to move or boost your physical activities is very beneficial. For those weight-loss enthusiasts, how about losing 1-2 pounds over the holidays instead of gaining more?

3. Cancer care family

Individuals who are diagnosed, suffering or survived cancer, and those who want to fight or prevent cancer are all in one family. If you are a cancer patient or a cancer survivor, take it easy and enjoy simple pleasures or people around you. If someone close to you has cancer or you are a caregiver, take care of yourself and delegate more. If you have lost a loved one, the holidays can be understandably more difficult. Feel free to express your emotions and work through grief slowly. Remember, you’re not fighting cancer alone and you don’t have to cope with your loss alone either. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

4. Time for yourself

This should genuinely apply to everybody. Loving what you do is a blessing, whether it is your career or your pleasure or leisure. So, make sure to set aside some quiet or alone time for yourself, relax, recharge and re-energize or renew yourself.

5.  Heartfelt thanks for our military and their families.

Remember our military soldiers and families as well as veterans for their sacrifice to protect our country and our safety. While it’s understandable that Americans get concerned and anxious over national security, let’s transform fear and restlessness to gratitude and goodness by showing appreciation and helping them in any way we can. We can also contribute to peace and help end all forms of suffering of mankind.

Best wishes for a warm, wonderful Holiday Season & a healthier, happier 2016!

Two Key Sources of Lung Cancer Development

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Lung Cancer_lungcancer.about.com_iStock_000016025129_LargeWhen I think about lung cancer, I replay horrifying memories of my dad being cruelly taken away by lung cancer within two months after diagnosis, and my mother-in-law being painfully tortured for two years after her lung surgery. And they both were non-smokers.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide; you may have a story to tell, too. Let’s give lung cancer awareness a boost this month. Aside from genetic factors and pre-existing lung diseases, I’m going to talk about two important factors.

I.                   Tobacco and environmental carcinogenic factors

Much has been done by quit smoking campaigns. Yet stores still sell and folks still buy and smoke cigarettes. Let’s make this message clear:

Smoking Destroys Your Main Weapon to Fight Cancer!

Why? Tobacco smoking causes a profound mutation of genes, especially mutation of a tumor suppressor (called p53), the protein that helps you fight cancer! Research reveals elephants (Asian and Africa) have 20 copies of the tumor suppressor gene TP53, while humans have only one copy, which may explain why the cancer rate is significantly lower in elephants than in humans. Why would anyone destroy this powerful anti-cancer weapon? And remember: Exposure to second-hand smoke can also lead to dire consequences.

Because most lung cancers result from inhaling cancer-causing substances, it’s also critical to stay away from environmental hazards that are risk factors for lung cancer. These include:

  • radon
  • asbestos
  • air pollution
  • exposure to certain occupational materials (coal, tar, arsenic, nickel, chromium and cement dust)
  • radiation
  • toxic household cleaners

There are also many microorganisms (viruses, bacteria and parasites) in our environment that are carcinogens.

II.                Dietary or food mutagens and carcinogens

Food quality and sources are of major concern, because you may have no idea what’s hidden inside. Let me highlight three common factors that can potentially cause lung and other cancers:

1.  Improper cooking

Meat (beef, pork, fish, or poultry) cooked at high temperatures generates potential cancer-causing compounds, such as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). In many studies, rodents fed a diet containing HCAs developed lung cancer and cancers of the breast, colon, liver, skin, and prostate. PAHs were shown to promote cancers of lung and gastrointestinal tract as well as leukemia. Analysis of human urinary samples confirmed mutagenic exposure to high-heat cooked meat.

2.  Processed foods

The World Health Organization recently classified processed meats as carcinogens. Food additives and/or coloring substances such as nitrite and nitrate are so-called mutagens. They trigger mutation, and accumulated mutations may progress to cancer.

3.  “Junk foods”

Other dietary factors include over-intake of sugar, fat, sodium, and total calories. Those factors lead to fat buildup, obesity, and potentially genetic alteration that promotes cancer.

Putting it all together, a modern lifestyle of convenience is often mixed with outdoor air pollution by environmental toxins and indoor air pollution by tobacco smoke and volatile organic compounds, along with food contamination by food additives and carcinogenic agents.

Quite disturbing and concerning, isn’t it? So, let’s raise awareness to a higher level this month, this year, and beyond!

Ladies, especially watch out – because women are at higher risk of developing lung cancer than men, whether you smoke or not!

 

Image credit: lungcancer.about.com and istockphoto.com

Care for Deadly Diseases: 10 Strategies to Help You Embrace Your Role

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Did you know …

Patient_involve_scripps.orgMore than 560,000 Americans die from cancer each year – more than 1,500 Americans each day.

More than 2,150 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day – 1 death every 40 seconds.

Nearly 800,000 Americans suffer from a new or recurrent stroke annually – someone has a stroke every 40 seconds and someone dies of a stroke every 4 minutes.

Imagine if you or your loved one had one of these deadly diseases, what kind of care and outcome would you desire?

The Good news is that much effort has been shifting to patient-centered care, with its focus on individual needs. This is in contrast to evidence-based practice that tends to focus on populations. Therefore, high-quality care and a good outcome must now be defined in terms of what is meaningful and valuable to the individual patient.

The Institute of Medicine has identified six areas for quality of care: safety, effectiveness, efficiency, patient-centered care, timely care, and equitable care. As a patient, you are the center of care. That means you need to take an active role in prevention and get involved in your care.

Because we’ve previously covered a great deal about prevention, today I’ll touch on a patient’s role in a high-quality care. And these strategies can extend to many other diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity and rare diseases.

Here are 10 strategies for getting involved in your healthcare:

1.      Know your critical numbers and results of your screening tests.

These important results include checks for blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, mammogram, colonoscopy, bone density scan, and even genetic analysis. These results are valuable for your primary care doctor too.

2.      Tell your story.

Inform the doctor what’s going on with you, in addition to simply answering probing questions from the doctor. Some details of your pain or discomfort may shed light for a correct diagnosis.

3.      Obtain a good primary doctor and a specialist.

Find doctors who have not only reputable professional expertise but also compassion, and who take time to listen to you instead of rushing through routines.

4.      Always have a list of questions in hand when visiting your physician or specialist.

In case you don’t know where to start, WebMD provides essential questions about different conditions. You can also use Question Builder (by Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality) to generate your own questions at http://www.ahrq.gov/apps/qb/  – an excellent tool!

During your visit, if you don’t understand why a particular question is relevant to your situation, ask about it or let a family member do so. You may find that the doctor is only asking the question out of routine. Conversely, you may find out that issues you ignored might actually be very important to your case.

5.      Avoid medical errors, misdiagnoses, and unnecessary tests.

Hospital infections and medical errors kill 500 people each day. So, take safety initiatives to avoid being a victim. Communicate with your doctor if you have questions or concerns. Understand why your procedures or medications are necessary, and understand what will happen if you need surgery. Always keep with you a list of medications you are taking.

6.      Personalized medicine starts with individuals and reflects the patient’s needs, preferences and values.

Let’s face it – different cancers need different treatments; likewise, different patients have different needs. Personalized medicine is characterized as the right treatment for the right person at the right time. It may also encompass a biological therapy that targets specific cells or an interactive approach that requires patients and their physicians to develop customized diet plans and exercise regimes or change unhealthful habits. Remember, you play a key role in transforming your health. So make sure to have proper preventative care.

7.      Be vigilant for new symptoms or concerns, e.g., the occurrence of fever, fall, pain, or swelling.  If you suffer from a serious chronic illness like cancer and have a weak immune system, you are very vulnerable to any infections or inflammations that may worsen your situation. So, take care of your immunizations, and of food and hand hygiene.

8.      Be proactive and active.

This includes choosing a cost-effective health insurance plan and understanding your coverage. It could also be checking out where the nearest Primary Stroke Center is in town in case of a stroke emergency, because time is critical for surviving a stroke! Or volunteer to enroll a clinical trial.

9.      Self-educate, but be mindful of information sources and respect the opinions of your medical team.

Reliable and accurate medical advice can be difficult to determine sometimes on the Internet. Medical issues can involve life and death! Respect and trust your physicians, because as in life, sometimes what you think you want may not be what you really need. For instance, maybe what you want is an unnecessary drug, but what you really need is the right information or modification of your behavior. So, don’t measure good care by merely meeting your desires.

10.  Get family and friends involved.

Remember: Your health care is teamwork. Although you need to take ownership and get in the “driver’s seat,” you are not alone; your physicians, care professionals and care givers, the healthcare system, and your loved ones all take the ride with you.

Finally, being empowered with these principles and embracing your active role will facilitate the high-quality, patient-centered care that your medical professionals strive for. And they will help you achieve a desirable clinical outcome, leading to better health and more happiness for you and your family.

 

Image credit: scripps.org

A Genetics and Energy View of Breast Cancer Prevention

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

BRAC genes illustration_Rev_CPD 2015For breast cancer awareness, it’s important to do something beyond wearing “PINK in October.” So today, I’d like to focus on two factors related to breast cancer: genetics and energy.

First, let me use a simple diagram (as seen here) to illustrate how a mutation of BRCA genes is linked to breast cancer.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are cancer suppressors. Their function is to protect a cell from developing cancer, thereby helping you fight cancer. When either of these genes becomes mutated, it no longer functions properly. As a result of unrepaired DNA damage and impaired genetic integrity, cells are more likely to grow uncontrolled to develop cancer, like a car racing on the highway without brakes.

Each of us has BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, both women and men, because BRCA is not a sex-linked gene. The mutation can be inherited from either parent. For women with a BRCA mutation, the lifetime risk of breast cancer is approximately 80%, and the chance of ovarian cancers is 54%. Men may carry the BRCA mutation, but have a lower risk.

Among approximately 200,000 breast cancer cases each year, BRCA gene mutation accounts about 10 percent of them. So, clearly here there is a promising area for treatment and prevention.

Next, let’s approach the topic from the viewpoint of energy.

“Energy” in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is termed “Qi.” Everything is energy at both the physical and spiritual levels. Essentially, the root of cancer is Qi related. There is a principle in TCM – “Flow of Qi makes flow of blood; Qi stagnation causes blood stagnation,” which implicates clots, masses, tumors, and illness.

How can we use positive and healing energy to prevent or cure cancer? Here are 8 ways:

  1. Makes our immune system strong. Our immune system is our powerhouse to fight cancer. That’s why scientific innovations tap into the body’s immune system to destroy cancer cells. When cancer overwhelms your body’s immune capacity and healing power, it is a tragic ending.
  2. Take care of your emotions. Keeping a positive outlook on life will boost your positive energy, because stress is one of risk factors for breast cancer. Anger, fear, sadness, and worry affect your Qi negatively, but happiness and socializing build up vibrant Qi.
  3. Foster gratitude. Devote time (at least a few minutes a day) to appreciate what you have, even the “small things”. Doing so will boost your positive energy!
  4. Go for a nutrient-packed diet. Consume fruits and vegetables and other foods with high fiber, low fat, and low sugar, because nutrition boosts both level and quality of your energy. Alcohol, animal fats, and processed foods do not.
  5. Exercise regularly. Be physically active, because it keeps Qi moving and blood flowing!
  6. Maintain a healthy weight. The key to weight management is energy balance. Obisity is energy imbalance and contributes to the risk of breast cancer. Healthy weight plays a role in lowering the risk of cancer and that of cancer recurrence.
  7. Be vigilant about early detection! Get a genetic screening to identify BRCA gene mutation, and start treatment early. Doing so will help protect your vital energy.
  8. Prevention, prevention, and prevention. Preventive care keeps your energy moving in the right direction. We all know that prevention is better than cure.

To sum up—

Breast cancer prevention is for both women and men, and is a year-round practice. We cannot control our genes, gender, age, race, or family history. However, each of us can promote a healthy lifestyle to boost vibrant, positive energy to reduce breast cancer risk.