13th November 2017

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Monday 13th November arrives and so we start all over again.

Unfortunately the last sessions of chemotherapy did not prove positive results and as per the previous doctors report posted on the BLOG it was found that the cancer had spread and now officially CLASS IV stage.

My team has drawn me up a new cocktail of chemo and hopefully this time round we have better results

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The process / schedule is as follows – 2 days of infusions followed by 21 days of nothing …… we then repeat.

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Stage IV > Diagnosis confirmed

And so we have finally arrived at Stage IV ……. not a terribly comforting thought – but that’s reality & it is what it is……

Where do we go from here….. well as highlighted in the report my team has drawn up a new cocktail of chemotherapy drugs and we will be starting these infusions  on Monday 13th Nov 2017

Stay tuned for more

 

 

Stages of Cancer

Stages of Cancer

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board,

Staging helps describe where a cancer is located, if or where it has spread, and whether it is affecting the other parts of the body. Doctors often use tests to determine a cancer’s stage. Staging may not be complete until all of the tests are finished. Knowing the stage helps the doctor:

  • Plan treatment, including the type of surgery and whether chemotherapy or radiation therapy are needed
  • Predict the chance that the cancer will come back after the original treatment
  • Predict the chance of recovery
  • Talk about the diagnosis in a clear, common language with the entire health care team
  • Determine treatment effectiveness, and
  • Compare larger populations with the same diagnosis to research new, more effective cancer treatments.

Doctors commonly use the American Joint Committee on Cancer’s (AJCC’s) TNM system to describe a cancer’s stage. Doctors use the results from tests and scans to answer these questions:

  • How large is the primary tumor? Where is it located? (Tumor, T)
  • Has the tumor spread to the lymph nodes? If so, where and how many? (Node, N)
  • Has the cancer spread to other parts of the body? If so, where and how much? (Metastasis, M)

Listed below are the general descriptions of the TNM staging system. However, each type of cancer has a separate TNM system. Learn more specific staging information for each type of cancer.

  • Tumor (T). The letter “T” plus a number (0 to 4) describes the size and location of the tumor, including how much the tumor has grown into nearby tissues. A larger tumor or one that has grown more deeply into the surrounding tissue receives a higher number. For some types of cancer, lowercase letters, such as “a,” “b,” or “m” (for multiple), are added to the “T” stage category to provide more detail.
  • Node (N). The letter “N” plus a number (0 to 3) describes whether cancer has been found in the lymph nodes. It may also describe how many of the lymph nodes contain cancer. Lymph nodes are tiny, bean-shaped organs that help fight infection. Regional lymph nodes are located closest to where the cancer began. Distant lymph nodes are located in other parts of the body. Most often, the more lymph nodes with cancer, the larger the number assigned. However, for some tumors, the location of the lymph nodes with cancer may determine the “N” stage category.
  • Metastasis (M). The letter “M” indicates whether the cancer has metastasized, or spread, to other parts of the body. If the cancer has not spread, it is labeled M0. If the cancer has spread, it is considered M1.

Cancer stage grouping

Doctors combine the T,N,M results to determine the stage of cancer for each person. Most cancers have four stages: stages I (one) to IV (four). Some cancers also have a stage 0 (zero).

  • Stage 0. This stage describes cancer in situ, which means “in place.” Stage 0 cancers are still located in the place they started and have not spread to nearby tissues. This stage of cancer is often highly curable, usually by removing the entire tumor with surgery.
  • Stage I. This stage is usually a small cancer or tumor that has not grown deeply into nearby tissues. It also has not spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. It is often called early-stage cancer.
  • Stage II and III. These stages indicate larger cancers or tumors that have grown more deeply into nearby tissue. They may have also spread to lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body.
  • Stage IV. This stage means that the cancer has spread to other organs or parts of the body. It may also be called advanced or metastatic cancer.

    Prognostic factors

    In addition to the TNM staging system, your doctor may use other information to help determine the chance of recovery and decide on the best available treatment. This may include:

    • Grade. The grade describes how much cancer cells look like healthy cells under a microscope. It also helps predict how quickly the cancer will spread. A tumor with cells that look more like healthy cells is called well-differentiated or low-grade. A tumor with cells that look less like healthy cells is described as poorly differentiated, undifferentiated, or high-grade. Different types of cancer have different methods to assign a cancer grade.
    • Tumor markers. Tumor markers are substances found at higher than normal levels in the blood, urine, or body tissues of some people with cancer. Doctors and researchers have been discovering tumor markers for many types of cancer that can help determine the best treatment. For some cancers, certain tumor markers may be more helpful than stage in predicting how well a specific treatment will work or the chance that the cancer will spread. Learn more about testing for tumor markers.
    • Tumor genetics. Many genes in cancer cells may help predict if the cancer will spread or what treatment(s) will work. Recent research studies have found ways to determine the genes involved in many types of cancer. In the future, this information may also help doctors target treatment to each person’s cancer.

    Other Staging Systems

    The TNM system is mainly used to describe cancers that form solid tumors, such as breast, colon, and lung cancers. However, doctors use other staging systems to classify other types of cancer, such as:

    • Central nervous system tumors (brain tumors). Because cancerous brain tumors do not normally spread outside the brain and spinal cord, only the “T” description of the TNM system applies. Currently, no single staging system exists for central nervous system tumors.
    • Childhood cancers. The AJCC does not include childhood cancers in its staging system. Doctors stage most childhood cancers separately according to other staging systems that are often specific to the cancer type.
    • Cancers of the blood. The TNM system does not describe leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma since they usually do not form solid tumors. Each blood cancer has a unique staging system.

    Restaging

    The stage of a cancer does not change over time. If the cancer comes back or spreads to another part of the body, it has the same stage as the first diagnosis. The more recent information about the size and spread of the cancer is added to the stage.

    Sometimes, a doctor might restage a cancer to determine how well a treatment is working or to get more information about a cancer that has come back after treatment. This process uses the same staging system described above. Usually some of the same tests that were done when the cancer was first diagnosed will be repeated. After this, the doctor may assign the cancer a new stage. The doctor then adds a lowercase “r” before the new stage to show that it is different from that of the first diagnosis. However, this is not common.

Metastatic Cancer

Some information extracted from the National Cancer Institute

What Is Metastatic Cancer

The main reason that cancer is so serious is its ability to spread in the body. Cancer cells can spread locally by moving into nearby normal tissue. Cancer can also spread regionally, to nearby lymph nodes, tissues, or organs. And it can spread to distant parts of the body. When this happens, it is called metastatic cancer. For many types of cancer, it is also called stage IV (four) cancer. The process by which cancer cells spread to other parts of the body is called metastasis.

When observed under a microscope and tested in other ways, metastatic cancer cells have features like that of the primary cancer and not like the cells in the place where the cancer is found. This is how doctors can tell that it is cancer that has spread from another part of the body.

Metastatic cancer has the same name as the primary cancer. For example, breast cancer that spreads to the lung is called metastatic breast cancer, not lung cancer. It is treated as stage IV breast cancer, not as lung cancer.

Sometimes when people are diagnosed with metastatic cancer, doctors cannot tell where it started. This type of cancer is called cancer of unknown primary origin, or CUP. See the Carcinoma of Unknown Primary page for more information.

When a new primary cancer occurs in a person with a history of cancer, it is known as a second primary cancer. Second primary cancers are rare. Most of the time, when someone who has had cancer has cancer again, it means the first primary cancer has returned.

Cancer cells spread through the body in a series of steps. These steps include:

  1. Growing into, or invading, nearby normal tissue
  2. Moving through the walls of nearby lymph nodes or blood vessels
  3. Traveling through the lymphatic system and bloodstream to other parts of the body
  4. Stopping in small blood vessels at a distant location, invading the blood vessel walls, and moving into the surrounding tissue
  5. Growing in this tissue until a tiny tumor forms
  6. Causing new blood vessels to grow, which creates a blood supply that allows the tumor to continue growing

Most of the time, spreading cancer cells die at some point in this process. But, as long as conditions are favorable for the cancer cells at every step, some of them are able to form new tumors in other parts of the body. Metastatic cancer cells can also remain inactive at a distant site for many years before they begin to grow again, if at all.

Where Cancer Spreads

Cancer can spread to most any part of the body, although different types of cancer are more likely to spread to certain areas than others. The most common sites where cancer spreads are the bone, liver, and lung. The following list shows the most common sites of metastasis, not including the lymph nodes, for some common cancers:

Common Sites of Metastasis
Cancer Type Main Sites of Metastasis
Bladder Bone, liver, lung
Breast Bone, brain, liver, lung
Colon Liver, lung, peritoneum
Kidney Adrenal gland, bone, brain, liver, lung
Lung Adrenal gland, bone, brain, liver, other lung
Melanoma Bone, brain, liver, lung, skin, muscle
Ovary Liver, lung, peritoneum
Pancreas Liver, lung, peritoneum
Prostate Adrenal gland, bone, liver, lung
Rectal Liver, lung, peritoneum
Stomach Liver, lung, peritoneum
Thyroid Bone, liver, lung
Uterus Bone, liver, lung, peritoneum, vagina

Symptoms of Metastatic Cancer

Metastatic cancer does not always cause symptoms. When symptoms do occur, their nature and frequency will depend on the size and location of the metastatic tumors. Some common signs of metastatic cancer include:

  • Pain and fractures, when cancer has spread to the bone
  • Headache, seizures, or dizziness, when cancer has spread to the brain
  • Shortness of breath, when cancer has spread to the lung
  • Jaundice or swelling in the belly, when cancer has spread to the liver

Treatment for Metastatic Cancer

Once cancer spreads, it can be hard to control. Although some types of metastatic cancer can be cured with current treatments, most cannot. Even so, there are treatments for all patients with metastatic cancer. The goal of these treatments is to stop or slow the growth of the cancer or to relieve symptoms caused by it. In some cases, treatments for metastatic cancer may help prolong life.

The treatment that you may have depends on your type of primary cancer, where it has spread, treatments you’ve had in the past, and your general health. To learn about treatment options, including clinical trials, find your type of cancer among the PDQ® Cancer Information Summaries for Adult Treatment and Pediatric Treatment.

When Metastatic Cancer Can No Longer Be Controlled

If you have been told you have metastatic cancer that can no longer be controlled, you and your loved ones may want to discuss end-of-life care. Even if you choose to continue receiving treatment to try to shrink the cancer or control its growth, you can always receive palliative care to control the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of treatment. Information on coping with and planning for end-of-life care is available in the Advanced Cancer section.

06th November 2017

Just prior to removal of the chest drain we had an x ray taken to give us a snapshot of the landscape.

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Looking at the above shot – a couple of features are distinguishable

1/ Above right in the left side of the chest is a circular object – that is the port that was implanted and hooked up directly to my jugular – allows for chemotherapy to be infused directly

2/ Above left you can see the chest drain pipe enter the thorax

3/ Now just directly above that you will also note a distinct white mass and a couple smaller ones as well …… we believe these masses are a result of Metastasis

And these masses are considered to be responsible for irritating the pleural lining and resultant fluid build up

Another worrying trend / sign is the gradual weight loss

05th November 2017

Been tad quiet on this site ………. but that doesn’t mean things have been slow.

Arrived back from the field and after consultation with my medical team we decided to have a follow up CT Scan prior to the continuation of chemotherapy.

Well lo and behold ……….

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Scan revealed a mass of fluid trapped in the pleural space of the right lung [see volume of grey sea above]

I was promptly booked into Vincent Pallotti hospital and my favorite surgeon did a bit of investigation by conducting a thorascopy of the lungs and thereafter inserted a chest drain. Treating the build up of fluid in the pleural space is by virtue of a combination of tactics – once the fluid is drained off –  It was a this time that he removed 2.5 litres – a remarkable amount by all accounts. The surgeon performs what is known as a chemical pleurodesis – which consist of him dusting in a mixture of silver nitrate tetracycline talc which promotes the lining sticking together.

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Once in the ward – it appeared that somebody had left the tap on inside my thorax – as I was draining up to 500 mld every 12 hrs > a liter every 24hrs thereafter.

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However by day 4 this had petered off somewhat and eventually I was discharged attached to a smaller portable unit to convalesce in the comfort of mine own home.

So why did I get the pleural effusion….. lets take a look at general causes

Other causes of pleural effusions include:
  • congestive heart failure.
  • cirrhosis, or poor liver function.
  • pulmonary embolism, which is caused by a blood clot and is a blockage in the lung arteries.
  • open heart surgery complications.
  • pneumonia.
  • severe kidney disease.

Having gone through the list and ticked off all the above we focused on CHF [congestive heart failure] and visited Cardiologist Jens Hitzeroth.

The concern was that the red devil chemotherapy had served to damage the heart muscle as this is a known and recorded side effect.

First off a comprehensive sonar was conducted – which showed a perfectly good / functional heart muscle – with all the valves operating as they should.

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From the scan it appeared that we have a tumor i the chest cavity which was from time to time making contact with the right atrium causing a spike in heart rate. I was also required to wear a holter device which monitored my heart rate and electrical activity for 24 hrs. Thereafter the device was removed and the data sent to Amsterdam for decoding.

2 days later I received the news that the heart muscle is as strong as a “blou wildebeest”

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Sharks DO get Cancer

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Ocean of Pseudoscience: Sharks DO get cancer!

The sea is a dark and often mysterious place, and it’s no wonder that the fear and fascination with the marine world has led to more than a few inaccurate claims. The crew over at Southern Fried Science have decided that this week is all about busting pseudoscience and the myths that surround our ocean realm. As it turns out, I’d posted about one of these before. So here, in honor of Ocean of Pseudoscience week, is a repost busting the myth that sharks don’t get cancer.

There are a lot of myths out there about the marine world, but by far the one that bothers me the most is the notion that sharks don’t get cancer. This simply untrue statement has led to the slaughter of millions of sharks via the industry for shark cartilage pills, which are sold to desperate cancer patients under the false pretense that they can help reduce or cure their illness.

The myth started way back in the 1970s when Henry Brem and Judah Folkman from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine first noted that cartilage prevented the growth of new blood vessels into tissues. This creation of a blood supply, called angiogenesis, is one of the key characteristics of malignant tumors, as the rapidly dividing cells need lots of nutrients to continue growing. It’s not shocking, then, that angiogenesis is a common target for those seeking potential cancer therapies.

Brem and Folkman began studying cartilage to search for anti-angiogenic compounds. They reasoned that since all cartilage lacks blood vessels, it must contain some signaling molecules or enzymes that prevent capillaries from forming. They found that inserting cartilage from baby rabbits alongside tumors in experimental animals completely prevented the tumors from growing1. Further research showed calf cartilage, too, had anti-angiogenic properties2. A young researcher by the name of Robert Langer decided to repeat the initial rabbit cartilage experiments, except this time using shark cartilage. Since sharks skeletons are entirely composed of cartilage, Langer reasoned that they would be a far more accessible source for potential therapeutics. And indeed, shark cartilage, like calf and rabbit cartilage, inhibited blood vessels from growing toward tumors3.

Around the same time, a scientist by the name of Carl Luer at Mote Marine Laboratories in Sarasota, FL was looking into sharks and cancer, too. He’d noticed that sharks seem to have relatively low rates of disease, especially cancer, and wanted to test their susceptibility experimentally. So he exposed nurse sharks to high levels of aflatoxin B1, a known carcinogen, and found no evidence that they developed tumors4.

That’s when Dr. I William Lane stepped in. He’d heard about the studies done by Langer and Luer, and become immediately entrenched with the idea that oral shark cartilage could be a treatment for cancer. In 1992 he published the book Sharks Don’t Get Cancer: How Shark Cartilage Could Save Your Life. The book was a best-seller, popular enough to draw in the media from 60 Minutes who did a special on Lane and his new cancer cure. The segment featured Lane and Cuban physicians and patients who had participated in a non-randomized and shoddily done ‘clinical trial’ in Mexico which heralded spectacular results. He then co-authored a second book, Sharks Still Don’t Get Cancer, in 1996.

Of course, Lane started up his own shark fishing and cartilage pill making business called LaneLabs which still makes and sells cartilage pills today. But Lane was not alone – many companies began selling shark cartilage pills and powders as alternative therapies or nutritional supplements. The world market for shark cartilage products was estimated to have exceeded $30 million in 1995, prompting more and more harvesting of sharks for their cartilage.

The results have been devastating. North American populations of sharks have  decreased by up to 80% in the past decade, as cartilage companies harvest up to 200,000 sharks every month in US waters to create their products. One American-owned shark cartilage plant in Costa Rica is estimated to destroy 2.8 million sharks per year5. Sharks are slow growing species compared to other fish, and simply cannot reproduce fast enough to survive such sustained, intense fishing pressure. Unless fishing is dramatically decreased worldwide, a number of species of sharks will go extinct before we even notice.

It’s bad enough that all this ecological devastation is for a pill that doesn’t even work. Shark cartilage does not cure or treat cancer in any way, even in mouse models6. These are also the results of at least three randomized, FDA-approved clinical trials – one in 19987, another in 20058, and a final one presented in 2007 (published in 2010)9. Ingestion of shark cartilage powders or extracts had absolutely no positive effects on cancers that varied in type and severity. To paraphrase Dr. Andrew Vickers, shark cartilage as a cancer cure isn’t untested or unproven, it’s disproven10. Indeed, the Federal Trade Commission stepped in by 2000, fining Lane $1 million as well as banning him from claiming that his supplements, or any shark cartilage derivatives, could prevent, treat or cure cancer.

But what’s worse is that this entire fraudulent enterprise that steals the money of those desperate for any kind of hope is based on a myth. No matter what a money-grubbing man with a PhD in Agricultural Biochemistry and Nutrition tries to tell you, sharks do get cancer.

Even if we hadn’t found cancer in sharks, it’s highly unlikely that they alone are cancer-free. It’s far more likely, instead, that the perceived ‘low rates of cancer’ are due to the fact that there has yet to be even one study which looked at the rates of disease in sharks. No one has systematically checked these animals for cancer or any other diseases. Even if such a study occurred and didfind low rates, it doesn’t mean they’re even close to immune to cancer. Sharks are pelagic fish. They live in some of the least contaminated areas on earth. This means that, odds are, they have low levels of exposure to the chemicals that cause cancer in so many land and near-shore species. Furthermore, the odds that a really sick shark would make it into such a study are slim. A shark whose function is compromised by tumors would likely end up the meal of other, hungry sharks long before they’d end up on a hook cast by researchers.

But in 2004, Dr Gary Ostrander and his colleagues from the University of Hawaii published a survey of the Registry for Tumors in Lower Animals11. Already in collection, they found 42 tumors in Chondrichthyes species (the class of cartilaginous fish that includes sharks, skates and rays). These included at least 12 malignant tumors and tumors throughout the body. Two sharks had multiple tumors, suggesting they were genetically susceptible or exposed to extremely high levels of carcinogens. There were even tumors found in shark’s cartilage! Ostrander hoped that this information would finally put to rest the myth that sharks are somehow magically cancer-free.

Yet here we are, five years later, and I still see all kinds of shark cartilage pills for sale at the local GNC. But furthermore, the myth that sharks are cancer-free is still believed by many intelligent people. Just ask writer Shelly Silverstone, who tweeted just this week about how sharks don’t get cancer. But even worse, just today I read a tweet from The National Aquarium that said “It must be something in the water. Sharks are the only known species to never suffer from cancer.” The National Aquarium has almost 4,000 twitter followers, and this inaccurate tweet was passed on by a number of these including The Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce, FL. A random, misinformed writer I can understand, but how can such a large non-profit, dedicated to “extending the knowledge and resources gained through daily operations toward the betterment of the natural environment” perpetuate such an erroneous and ecologically damaging myth?

In case I haven’t been clear, let me say it again: Sharks do get cancer! There isn’t even any evidence to say that they don’t get cancer very often, as no one has systematically looked at cancer rates in them. So any statement that even suggests that sharks are cancer resistant is misleading at best, and down right wrong at worst.

Perhaps the most disappointing part is that the shark immune system is incredibly fascinating and worth study whether or not it can squash out cancer. Sharks are the earliest evolutionary lineage to have developed an adaptive immune system complete with immunoglobin, T-cell receptors, MHCs and RAG proteins12, and they do it without bone marrow, the source of almost all of our immune system cells. Instead, they have two completely unique immune organs, the Leydig’s and Epigonal organs, that are barely understood. Studying the shark immune system is essential to understanding the evolution of adaptive immunity that is present in all higher vertebrates. And if, indeed, they are resistant to cancer, then that makes the study of their immune system all that much more important. But instead, we mindlessly kill over 100 million of them a year to make Asian delicacies and ineffective cancer treatments, and we keep brainwashing our kids into believing that shark’s don’t get cancer. Where are Adam and Jamie when you need them? It’s time that the myth of cancer-free sharks is busted once and for all.
References
1. Brem H, & Folkman J. (1975). Inhibition of tumor angiogenesis mediated by cartilage. J Exp Med (141), 427-439 DOI: 10.1084/jem.141.2.427
2. Langer R, & et al (1976). Isolations of a cartilage factor that inhibits tumor neovascularization. Science (193), 70-72 DOI: 10.1126/science.935859
3. Lee A, & Langer R. (1983). Shark cartilage contains inhibitors of tumor angiogenesis. Science (221), 1185-1187 DOI: 10.1126/science.6193581
4. Luer CA, & Luer WH (1982). Acute and chronic exposure of nurse sharks to aflatoxin B1 Federal Proceedings, 41
5. Camhi M. Costa Rica’s Shark Fishery and Cartilage Industry. http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Organizations/SSG/sharknews/sn8/shark8news9.htm (1996).
6. Horsman MR, Alsner J, & Overgaard J (1998). The effect of shark cartilage extracts on the growth and metastatic spread of the SCCVII carcinoma. Acta oncologica (Stockholm, Sweden), 37 (5), 441-5 PMID: 9831372
7. Miller DR, Anderson GT, Stark JJ, Granick JL, & Richardson D (1998). Phase I/II trial of the safety and efficacy of shark cartilage in the treatment of advanced cancer. Journal of clinical oncology : official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, 16 (11), 3649-55 PMID: 9817287
8. Loprinzi CL, Levitt R, Barton DL, Sloan JA, Atherton PJ, Smith DJ, Dakhil SR, Moore DF Jr, Krook JE, Rowland KM Jr, Mazurczak MA, Berg AR, Kim GP, & North Central Cancer Treatment Group (2005). Evaluation of shark cartilage in patients with advanced cancer: a North Central Cancer Treatment Group trial. Cancer, 104 (1), 176-82 PMID: 15912493
9. Lu C, Lee JJ, Komaki R, Herbst RS, Feng L, Evans WK, Choy H, Desjardins P, Esparaz BT, Truong MT, Saxman S, Kelaghan J, Bleyer A, & Fisch MJ (2010). Chemoradiotherapy with or without AE-941 in stage III non-small cell lung cancer: a randomized phase III trial. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 102 (12), 859-65 PMID: 20505152
10. Vickers, A (2004). Alternative cancer cures: “unproven” or “disproven”? CA: A Cancer Journal For Clinicians, 54, 110-118 DOI: 10.3322/canjclin.54.2.110
11. Ostrander GK, Cheng KC, Wolf JC, & Wolfe MJ (2004). Shark cartilage, cancer and the growing threat of pseudoscience. Cancer research, 64 (23), 8485-91 PMID: 15574750
12. Flajnik MF, & Rumfelt LL (2000). The immune system of cartilaginous fish. Curr Top Microbiol Immunol (249), 249-270

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30th September 2017

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An excellent article from the Cancer Research Organization UK…….

Google ‘cancer’ and you’ll be faced with millions of web pages. And the number of YouTube videos you find if you look up ‘cancer cure’ is similarly vast.

The problem is that much of the information out there is at best inaccurate, or at worst dangerously misleading. There are plenty of evidence-based, easy to understand pages about cancer, but there are just as many, if not more, pages spreading myths.

And it can be hard to distinguish fact from fiction, as much of the inaccurate information looks and sounds perfectly plausible. But if you scratch the surface and look at the evidence, many continually perpetuated ‘truths’ become unstuck.

In this post, we want to set the record straight on 10 cancer myths we regularly encounter. Driven by the evidence, not by rhetoric or anecdote, we describe what the reality of research actually shows to be true.

Myth 1: Cancer is a man-made, modern disease

It might be more prominent in the public consciousness now than in times gone by, but cancer isn’t just a ‘modern’, man-made disease of Western society. Cancer has existed as long as humans have. It was described thousands of years ago by Egyptian and Greek physicians, and researchers have discovered tell-tale signs of cancer in a 3,000-year-old skeleton. It’s even been discovered in dinosaur bones.

While it’s certainly true that global lifestyle-related diseases like cancer are on the rise, the biggest risk factor for cancer is age.

The simple fact is that more people are living long enough to develop cancer because of our success in tackling infectious diseases and other historical causes of death such as malnutrition. It’s perfectly normal for DNA damage in our cells to build up as we age, and such damage can lead to cancer developing.

We’re also now able to diagnose cancers more accurately, thanks to advances in screening, imaging and pathology.

Yes, lifestyle, diet and other things like air pollution collectively have a huge impact on our risk of cancer – smoking for instance is behind a quarter of all cancer deaths in the UK – but that’s not the same as saying it’s entirely a modern, man-made disease. There are plenty of natural causes of cancer – for example, one in six worldwide cancers is caused by viruses and bacteria.

Myth 2: Superfoods prevent cancer

Blueberries, beetroot, broccoli, garlic, green tea… the list goes on. Despite thousands of websites claiming otherwise, there’s no such thing as a ‘superfood’. It’s a marketing term used to sell products and has no scientific basis.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t think about what you eat. Some foods are clearly healthier than others. The odd blueberry or mug of green tea certainly could be part of a healthy, balanced diet. Stocking up on fruits and veg is a great idea, and eating a range of different veg is helpful too, but the specific vegetables you choose doesn’t really matter.

Our bodies are complex and cancer is too, so it’s gross oversimplification to say that any one food, on its own, could have a major influence over your chance of developing cancer.

We’ve also written extensively on the scientific evidence about anti-oxidants and cancer in these posts – part one,  part two and part three.

The steady accumulation of evidence over several decades points to a simple, but not very newsworthy fact that the best way to reduce your risk of cancer is by a series of long-term healthy behaviours such as not smoking, keeping active, keeping a healthy body weight and cutting back on alcohol.

Myth 3: ‘Acidic’ diets cause cancer

Some myths about cancer are surprisingly persistent, despite flying in the face of basic biology. One such idea is that overly ‘acidic’ diets cause your blood to become ‘too acidic’, which can increase your risk of cancer. Their proposed answer: increase your intake of healthier ‘alkaline’ foods like green vegetables and fruits (including, paradoxically, lemons).

This is biological nonsense. True, cancer cells can’t live in an overly alkaline environment, but neither can any of the other cells in your body.

Blood is usually slightly alkaline. This is tightly regulated by the kidneys within a very narrow and perfectly healthy range. It can’t be changed for any meaningful amount of time by what you eat, and any extra acid or alkali is simply peed out in urine.
To maintain the correct balance within the body, your urine can and does change pH, depending on what you’ve eaten (explained in detail in this post). This can be seen by testing urine pH (acidity) after eating different foods and is the basis of the mistaken belief that diet can “make the body alkaline”. But that’s all you’re changing, and anyone who claims otherwise simply doesn’t understand how the body works. 

While eating lots of green veg is certainly healthy, that’s not because of any effect on how acid or alkaline your body is.

There is something called acidosis. This is a physiological condition that happens when your kidneys and lungs can’t keep your body’s pH (a measure of acidity) in balance. It is often the result of serious illness or poisoning. It can be life-threatening and needs urgent medical attention, but it’s not down to overly acidic diets.

We know that the immediate environment around cancer cells (the microenvironment) can become acidic. This is due to differences in the way that tumours create energy and use oxygen compared with healthy tissue. Researchers are working hard to understand how this happens, in order to develop more effective cancer treatments.

But there’s no good evidence to prove that diet can manipulate whole body pH, or that it has an impact on cancer.

Myth 4: Cancer has a sweet tooth

Another idea we see a lot is that sugar apparently ‘feeds cancer cells’, suggesting that it should be completely banished from a patient’s diet.

This is an unhelpful oversimplification of a highly complex area that we’re only just starting to understand.

‘Sugar’ is a catch-all term. It refers to a range of molecules including simple sugars found in plants, glucose and fructose. The white stuff in the bowl on your table is called sucrose and is made from glucose and fructose stuck together. All sugars are carbohydrates, commonly known as carbs – molecules made from carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

Carbs – whether from cake or a carrot – get broken down in our digestive system to release glucose and fructose. These get absorbed into the bloodstream to provide energy for us to live.

All our cells, cancerous or not, use glucose for energy. Because cancer cells are usually growing very fast compared with healthy cells, they have a particularly high demand for this fuel. There’s also evidence that they use glucose and produce energy in a different way from healthy cells.

Researchers are working to understand the differences in energy usage in cancers compared with healthy cells, and trying to exploit them to develop better treatments (including the interesting but far from proven drug DCA).

But all this doesn’t mean that sugar from cakes, sweets and other sugary foods specifically feeds cancer cells, as opposed to any other type of carbohydrate. Our body doesn’t pick and choose which cells get what fuel. It converts pretty much all the carbs we eat to glucose, fructose and other simple sugars, and they get taken up by tissues when they need energy.

While it’s very sensible to limit sugary foods as part of an overall healthy diet and to avoid putting on weight, that’s a far cry from saying that sugary foods specifically feed cancer cells.

Both the ‘acidic diet’ and ‘sugar feeds cancer’ myths distort sensible dietary advice – of course, nobody is saying that eating a healthy diet doesn’t matter when it comes to cancer. You can read about the scientific evidence on diet and cancer on our website.

But dietary advice must be based on nutritional and scientific fact. When it comes to offering diet tips to reduce cancer risk, research shows that the same boring healthy eating advice still holds true. Fruit, vegetables, fibre, white meat and fish are good. Too much fat, salt, sugar, red or processed meat and alcohol are less so.

Also, this post, “What should you eat while you’re being treated for cancer“, is packed with links to evidence-based advice from our CancerHelp UK website. And this post, from the Junkfood Science blog, explores the science behind sugar and cancer in more detail.

Myth 5: Cancer is a fungus – and sodium bicarbonate is the cure

This ‘theory’ comes from the not-very-observant observation that “cancer is always white”.

One obvious problem with this idea – apart from the fact that cancer cells are clearly not fungal in origin – is that cancer isn’t always white. Some tumours are. But some aren’t. Ask any pathologist or cancer surgeon, or have a look on Google Image search (but maybe not after lunch…).

Proponents of this theory say that cancer is caused by infection by the fungus candida, and that tumours are actually the body’s attempt at protecting itself from this infection.

But there’s no evidence to show that this is true (and plenty of evidence – going back at least as far as 1902 – that it starts from faults our own cells).

Furthermore, plenty of perfectly healthy people can be infected with candida – it’s part of the very normal array of microbes that live in (and on) all of us. Usually our immune system keeps candida in check, but infections can get more serious in people with compromised immune systems, such as those who are HIV-positive.

The ‘simple solution’ is apparently to inject tumours with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). This isn’t even the treatment used to treat proven fungal infections, let alone cancer. On the contrary, there’s good evidence that high doses of sodium bicarbonate can lead to serious – even fatal – consequences.

Some studies suggest that sodium bicarbonate can affect cancers transplanted into mice or cells grown in the lab, by neutralising the acidity in the microenvironment immediately around a tumour. And researchers in the US are running a small clinical trial investigating whether sodium bicarbonate capsules can help to reduce cancer pain and to find the maximum dose that can be tolerated, rather than testing whether it has any effect on tumours.

As far as we are aware, there have been no published clinical trials of sodium bicarbonate as a treatment for cancer.

It’s also worth pointing out that it’s not clear whether it’s possible to give doses of sodium bicarbonate that can achieve any kind of meaningful effect on cancer in humans, although it’s something that researchers are investigating.

Because the body strongly resists attempts to change its pH, usually by getting rid of bicarbonate through the kidneys, there’s a risk that doses large enough to significantly affect the pH around a tumour might cause a serious condition known as alkalosis.

One estimate suggests that a dose of around 12 grams of baking soda per day (based on a 65 kg adult) would only be able to counteract the acid produced by a tumour roughly one cubic millimetre in size. But doses of more than about 30 grams per day are likely to cause severe health problems – you do the maths.

Myth 6: There’s a miracle cancer cure…

From cannabis to coffee enemas, the internet is awash with videos and personal anecdotes about ‘natural’ ‘miracle’ cures for cancer.

But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence – YouTube videos and Facebook posts are emphatically not scientific evidence and aren’t the same as good-quality, peer-reviewed evidence.

In many cases it’s impossible to tell whether patients featured in such anecdotal sources have been ‘cured’ by any particular alternative treatment or not. We know nothing about their medical diagnosis, stage of disease or outlook, or even if they actually had cancer in the first place. For instance, we don’t know what other cancer treatments they had.

And we only hear about the success stories – what about the people who have tried it and have not survived? The dead can’t speak, and often people who make bold claims for ‘miracle’ cures only pick their best cases, without presenting the full picture.

This highlights the importance of publishing data from peer-reviewed, scientifically rigorous lab research and clinical trials. Firstly, because conducting proper clinical studies enables researchers to prove that a prospective cancer treatment is safe and effective. And secondly, because publishing these data allows doctors around the world to judge for themselves and use it for the benefit of their patients.

This is the standard to which all cancer treatments should be held.

That’s not to say the natural world isn’t a source of potential treatments, from aspirin (willow bark) to penicillin (mould). For example, the cancer drug taxol was first extracted from the bark and needles of the Pacific Yew tree.

But that’s a far cry from saying you should chew bark to combat a tumour. It’s an effective treatment because the active ingredient has been purified and tested in clinical trials. So we know that it’s safe and effective, and what dose to prescribe.

Of course people with cancer want to beat their disease by any means possible. And it’s completely understandable to be searching high and low for potential cures. But our advice is to be wary of anything labelled a ‘miracle cure’, especially if people are trying to sell it to you.

Wikipedia has this excellent list of ineffective cancer treatments that are often touted as miracle cures, which is worth a browse.

If you want to know about the scientific evidence about cannabis, cannabinoids and cancer – a topic we’re often asked about – please take a look at our extensive blog post on the subject, including information about the clinical trials we’re helping to fund.

And if you’ve seen links to article about scientists in Canada “curing cancer but nobody notices”, these refer to an interesting but currently unproven drug called DCA, which we’ve also written about before.

Myth 7: … and Big Pharma are suppressing it

Hand in hand with the idea that there is a cornucopia of ‘miracle cures’ is the idea that governments, the pharmaceutical industry and even charities are colluding to hide the cure for cancer because they make so much money out of existing treatments.

Whatever the particular ‘cure’ being touted, the logic is usually the same: it’s readily available, cheap and can’t be patented, so the medical establishment is suppressing it in order to line its own pockets. But, as we’ve written before, there’s no conspiracy – sometimes it just doesn’t work.

There’s no doubt that the pharmaceutical industry has a number of issues with transparency and clinical trials that it needs to address (the book Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre is a handy primer). We push regulators and pharmaceutical companies hard to make sure that effective drugs are made available at a fair price to the NHS – although it’s important to remember that developing and trialling new drugs costs a lot of money, which companies need to recoup.

Problems with conventional medicine don’t automatically prove that alternative ‘cures’ work. To use a metaphor, just because cars sometimes crash doesn’t mean that flying carpets are a viable transport option.

It simply doesn’t make sense that pharmaceutical companies would want to suppress a potential cure. Finding a highly effective therapy would guarantee huge worldwide sales.

And the argument that treatments can’t be patented doesn’t hold up. Pharma companies are not stupid, and they are quick to jump on promising avenues for effective therapies. There are always ways to repackage and patent molecules, which would give them a return on the investment required to develop and test them in clinical trials (a cost that can run into many millions) if the treatment turns out to work.

It’s also worth pointing out that charities such as Cancer Research UK and government-funded scientists are free to investigate promising treatments without a profit motive. And it’s hard to understand why NHS doctors – who often prescribe generic, off-patent drugs – wouldn’t use cheap treatments if they’d been shown to be effective in clinical trials.

For example, we’re funding large-scale trials of aspirin – a drug first made in 1897, and now one of the most widely-used off-patent drugs in the world. We’re researching whether it can prevent bowel cancer in people at high risk, reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, and even prevent cancer coming back and improve survival.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that we are all human – even politicians and Big Pharma executives – and cancer can affect anyone. People in pharmaceutical companies, governments, charities and the wider ‘medical establishment’ all can and do die of cancer too.

Here at Cancer Research UK we have seen loved ones and colleagues go through cancer. Many of them have survived. Many have not. To suggest that we are – collectively and individually – hiding ‘the cure’ is not only absurd, it’s offensive to the global community of dedicated scientists, to the staff and supporters of cancer research organisations such as Cancer Research UK and, most importantly, to cancer patients and their families.

Myth 8: Cancer treatment kills more than it cures

Let’s be clear, cancer treatment – whether chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery – is no walk in the park. The side effects can be tough. After all, treatments that are designed to kill cancer cells will inevitably affect healthy cells too.

And sometimes, sadly, treatment doesn’t work. We know that it’s very difficult to treat late-stage cancer that has spread throughout the body, and while treatment can provide relief from symptoms and prolong life, it’s not going to be a cure for very advanced cancers.

Surgery is still the most effective treatment we have for cancer, provided it’s diagnosed early enough for an operation to be done. And radiotherapy helps cure more people than cancer drugs. Yet chemotherapy and other cancer drugs have a very important part to play in cancer treatment – in some cases helping to cure the disease, and in others helping to prolong survival.

The claims on the internet that chemotherapy is “only 3 per cent effective” are highly misleading and outdated, and are explored in more depth in these two posts from the Science Based Medicine blog.

We also wrote this post in response to concerns that chemotherapy might “encourage cancer”.

It important to point out that in an increasing number of cases, the drugs do work. For example, more than 96 per cent of all men are now cured of testicular cancer, compared to fewer than 70 per cent in the 1970s thanks in part to a drug we helped to develop called cisplatin. And three-quarters of children with cancer are now cured, compared with around a quarter in the late 1960s – most of them are alive today directly thanks to chemotherapy.

We know that we still have a long way to go until we have effective, kinder treatments for all types of cancer. And it’s important that doctors, patients and their families are realistic and honest about the best options for treatment, especially when cancer is very advanced.

It may be better to opt for treatment aimed at reducing pain and symptoms rather than attempting to cure the disease (palliative care). Balancing quality and quantity of life is always going to be an issue in cancer treatment, and it’s one that each patient must decide for themselves.

Myth 9: We’ve made no progress in fighting cancer

This simply isn’t true. Thanks to advances in research, survival from cancer has doubled in the UK over the past 40 years, and death rates have fallen by 10 per cent over the past decade alone. In fact, half of all patients now survive at least ten years.

This article by our chief clinician, Professor Peter Johnson, outlines some of the key facts.

By definition, these figures relate to people treated at least 10 years ago. It’s likely that the patients being diagnosed and treated today have an even better chance of survival.

To see how the picture has changed, make yourself a cuppa and settle down to watch this hour-long documentary we helped to make – The Enemy Within: 50 years of fighting cancer. From the early days of chemotherapy in the 50s and 60s to the latest ‘smart’ drugs and pinpoint-accurate radiotherapy, it highlights how far we’ve come over the years.

There’s still a long way to go. There are some cancers where progress has been much slower – such as lung, brain, pancreatic and oesophageal cancers. And when you lose someone you love to cancer, it can feel as though no progress has been made at all.

That’s why we’re working so hard to beat cancer sooner, to make sure that nobody loses their life prematurely to the disease.

Myth 10: Sharks don’t get cancer

Yes they do.

20th September 2017

So many have asked what if any have been the noticeable changes……

Truth be told – I was warned about the EPIRUBICIN – AKA the “Red Devil” due to its red colour……… yeah I know it looks like Berocca effervescent … but I assure you it aint nothing like it!!

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and its noted side effects ……

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Now taking the above points into consideration – we took extra precautions and had a baseline sonar / echo scan of the heart muscle prior to starting …… taking note of the above mentioned relation between Epirubicin therapy and Radiation therapy.

Echocardiogram

which received the all clear for us to kick off the party sessions…… because what must also be taken into account is that I have also had radiation – back in 2015

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the maximum allowable dosage to my chest area when we were fighting the previous tumor situated in my esophagus prior to the removal of the esophagus and stomach resection.

 

Those of you who know me well – will realize that I am a very fitness conscious / orientated individual – who cannot sit still – so with the assistance of my trusty FITBIT I have been able to track the metabolic changes that have been occurring.

Weight

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Now we have a 3 week window to build up the chassis to my fighting weight of 85kgs in preparation for the next round = as Cycle 04 is scheduled to kick off on Tuesday 10th October.

Cardiac

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Clearly being back in the field operations is good for me …….

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as the average pulse rate has dropped significantly. Still a tad higher than my normal average but then thats to be expected whilst on chemotherapy.

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What is interesting to note ……… is that since the EPIRUBICIN therapy – I have notice HR spikes every so often in the middle of the night – which do not wake me ….. in fact to the contrary I have woken well rested the following morning and only noticed these details when reviewing my FITBIT data

So looking at the above spike of 204 bpm ….. lets now review the sleep data for the evening in question as follows ….. shows a well rested sleep of 07hrs 17 mins

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Everything considered I am fortunate that I entered into this challenge with what can be accepted as an above average physical condition, which combined with a strong + positive mindset will see me cross that finish line…… of that I have no doubt!!

Watch this space…………..

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