Window Controlling Cancer

Cancer Patients Have More Hope After Years of Advancements

“You have cancer,” may be the most frightening thing a person can hear from their doctor.

However, it’s not the death sentence it might have been 30 years ago. Early screenings, advancements in treatment, and a greater emphasis on prevention have helped reduce the incidents of some cancers and increased the survival rates of cancer patients.

Cancer Control Month

Organizations focused on battling cancer take center stage in April thanks to a declaration in 1943 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He called upon doctors, universities, the media, and other organizations to raise awareness about cancer.

It’s been 79 years since that first Cancer Control Month. Incidents of cancer continue to increase as people live longer, but the number of deaths from cancer have dropped dramatically and continue to drop.

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By the Numbers

There were 1.8 million cancer cases diagnosed in the United States in 2021. The American Cancer Society (ACS) projects 1.9 million new cases in 2022 and 609,360 deaths from cancer. That is about 1,670 deaths per day.

That death toll is high, but those numbers have dropped dramatically over the last 28 years. The cancer rate for men and women combined has fallen 32% from 1991 to 2019, the most recent year data were available, according to the ACS.

That 32% drop means almost 3.5 million fewer people died due to cancer during that time. Much of that success is due to fewer people smoking which led to drops in lung and other smoking-related cancers.

Other factors contributing to the lower death rate include:

  • Chemotherapy after colon and breast cancer surgery
  • Combination treatments for more cancers
  • Early detection through improved screenings for cancers in the breast, cervix, colon, prostate, rectum, and lung
Man Putting on Sunscreen

Preventing Cancer

Sometimes cancer just happens. There could be hereditary factors that contribute to the development of cancers like colon, breast, prostate, pancreatic, and ovarian cancer. Doctors have identified the gene mutations and are working to address those in an attempt to control cancer development.

Other times, perfectly healthy people develop blood cancers like leukemia or lymphoma. Even nonsmokers can develop lung cancer. It just happens.

However, anywhere from 30% to 50% of cancer cases are preventable. There are now vaccines that will reduce the risk of some sexually transmitted cancers. It’s also important to practice the following to help lower your chances of developing some cancers:

  • Avoid tobacco use, including smokeless tobacco or e-cigarettes.
  • Eat a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Practice safe sex.
  • Get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B.
  • Protect your skin from ultraviolet radiation.
  • Reduce exposure to other types of radiation because of work or environment.
  • Reduce exposure to smoke from solid fuels like wood or coal.
  • Have regular medical visits.
Woman Sitting on a Bench

Disparities Remain

The overall progress in the fight against cancer has been promising. However, significant disparities exist when it comes to the diagnosis, treatment, and survival rates of certain groups, according to the National Cancer Institute.

  • African Americans have higher death rates than any other ethnic group from many — though not all — cancer types.
  • African American women are more likely than white women to die of breast cancer despite having similar rates of diagnosis.
  • Black men are twice as likely to die of prostate cancer than white men. They also have the highest prostate mortality rate among all U.S. population groups despite the overall death rate dropping significantly.
  • People with more education are less likely to die from colorectal cancer before the age of 65 than those with less education, regardless of race or ethnicity.
  • Hispanic and Black women have higher rates of cervical cancer than women of other groups.

Start with Your Doctor

Having a good relationship with your primary care physician is the best way to begin your long-term health care journey. They can get you on a path that will help you avoid the risks that might lead to cancer. They can also help guide you to the right specialists, should you ever get that diagnosis.

You can find those relationships at AltaMed. Get started by contacting us today at (877) 462-2582.

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Mammograms Are a Powerful Tool for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 330,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women this year. It is the second most common cancer in American women after skin cancers. There is a 1 in 8 chance that a woman will develop breast cancer sometime in her life.

Breast cancer is also the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. More than 43,000 women will die this year from breast cancer.

Breast cancer death rates have been relatively steady since 2007 in women younger than 50. They have continued to decrease in older women, dropping 1% each year from 2013 to 2018.

Early detection as the result of better screening techniques is believed to be one reason for the drop. One extremely powerful tool in the hunt for breast cancer is the mammogram.

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast that can help doctors find early signs of breast cancer. It is considered one of the best ways to detect breast cancer early, sometimes several years before it can be felt.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends women get a mammogram every other year starting when they turn 50. Any woman with a close relative (parent, sibling, or child) who has had breast cancer should talk to their doctor about getting a mammogram earlier. 

Screening mammograms are done when there are no symptoms or signs of cancer. These usually involve taking at least two images of each breast.

Diagnostic mammograms are done where there is evidence of breast cancer like a lump, breast pain, thickening of the skin of the breast, change in breast size, or nipple discharge. Diagnostic mammograms usually take longer and require more images.

Doctor Checking Brain Radiography

Pros and cons

Early detection with screening mammograms has been shown to reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer in women from 40 to 74, especially for those over 50. There have been no studies to show the benefits of regular screening before 40.

Just like any health care procedure, patients need to talk with their doctors about the benefits and risks of any screening. While mammograms are a great tool, there are some risks to consider.

  • False positives — Sometimes radiologists find an abnormality that is not cancer. Any anomaly should be followed up with a diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound, or biopsy. These false-positive results can lead to anxiety and are most common in younger women.
  • Overdiagnosis and overtreatment — Some screening mammograms find noninvasive tumors in the lining of breast ducts called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). It should be treated but it is not life threatening.
  • False negatives — Cancer is missed in about 20% of the screening mammograms. This can lead to delays in treatment. This sometimes occurs when the woman has dense breasts.
  • Not always lifesaving — Detection does not always result in a positive outcome. The cancer may have already spread, or the woman may have other life-threatening health conditions.
  • Radiation — The amount of radiation from a mammogram is very small, but repeated exposure could cause cancer. The benefits often outweigh the risk, but it is important for the patient to speak with their doctor.

When you get a mammogram for the first time there are a few things you can do to prepare. Your mammogram may require follow-up with an ultrasound or a discussion with your doctor.  

Women Talking at the Hospital

Here for your unique needs

Women have unique health needs at every stage of their lives — from adolescence to motherhood, and beyond! As we’ve read, women have a higher risk than men of developing breast cancer, heart disease, thyroid issues, and stroke. They need compassionate care that takes all these needs into account.

AltaMed’s experienced team of bilingual and caring doctors takes pride in keeping you healthy at every age, offering you personalized, discreet care for your physical and mental well-being.

Through the State of California’s Department of Health Care Services, the Every Woman Counts program (EWC) provides free early detection cancer screenings, including mammograms. Women who don’t qualify for free EWC screenings can ask about referrals for low-cost options.  

Let our team of bilingual certified enrollment counselors help you explore program options that work best for you and your family.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer Can Be Stopped with Early Detection

March is National Colorectal Cancer Month. It’s a time to raise awareness about one of the most common cancers that affect both men and women. It also has one of the highest survival rates if detected early enough.

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 106,000 new cases of colon cancer and nearly 45,000 new cases of rectal cancer in 2022. The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 25 for women.

We’ve put together some information about the causes, risks, and steps for preventing colorectal cancer.

Colorectal Cancer Defined

Colorectal cancer is also known as just colon cancer. It’s a disease occurring in the colon or the rectum, which is the passage from the colon to the anus.

It’s often thought of as a men’s health issue because men are more likely to develop colorectal cancer, though it does affect both men and women.

Colon cancer starts with abnormal growths called polyps. These can become cancerous eventually. There is an excellent chance of survival if they are detected early enough. They can become cancerous when they’re not detected. The cancer will spread quickly to other parts of the body if left untreated.

Doctors recommend everyone over the age of 50 get screened. Those with a family history of colon cancer should be screened more frequently.

Woman With Pain in a Sofa

The Symptoms

There often aren’t any symptoms for colorectal cancer until it starts to spread. That is why screening is so important. Symptoms may include:

  • A noticeable change in bowel habits lasting four weeks or more
  • Bloody bowel movements
  • Enduring stomach pain or cramps
  • Unexplained weight loss

See your doctor as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms, especially those related to your bathroom habits.

Hand With a Cigar

The Risk Factors

Some risk factors are unavoidable while others are within your control.

Age — which you can’t control — is the number one risk factor for colon cancer. Nine out of 10 colorectal cancer cases occur in people 50 or older.

Other risk factors include:

  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
  • A family history of colorectal cancer
  • Certain genetic/inherited abnormalities such as Lynch syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), and others

Let your doctor know if you have these risk factors. They may recommend earlier or more frequent testing.

Living a healthy lifestyle goes a long way toward cutting your risk of colon cancer. It can also lower your risk against other cancers, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, depression, and more.

Doctor with Senior Patient

Schedule a Checkup!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends regular screenings beginning at age 50, for those without special health concerns or a family history of colon issues. Screenings should continue until age 75. Screenings are some of the best protections against many types of cancer. Adults between the ages of 76 and 85 should get screened only when directed by a doctor.

There are several different ways to test for colorectal cancer. Your doctor will recommend the best option for you based on your health history, current risk factors, and personal preferences.

Some tests, like the fecal immunochemical test (FIT), are done once a year, and can even be done in your own home with no special preparation.

A colonoscopy is a more invasive screening but is only performed once every 10 years.

In many cases, colorectal cancer screenings are covered at no cost by most health coverage plan

We're Here to Serve You

Come to AltaMed to get screened, especially if you’ve been putting it off. You may be able to get a FIT kit by mail, but you should still come in. Call us at (888) 499-9303 to learn more and schedule an appointment.

Cancer Patients Have More Hope After Years of Advancements