A serial cheat and liar he may be after his confession on the Oprah Winfrey show, but there’s no denying he’s a cancer survivor. In this blog entry, I would like to elaborate on what he suffered from – cancer of the testes with spread to the brain and lungs – and the chances of survival in patients with this condition.
In October 1996, after delaying seeing a doctor and after his testes had swollen up to three times the normal size( he was also coughing up blood), he finally sought a medical consultation which confirmed that he had advanced stage three testicular cancer, of the subtype embryonal carcinoma. Worse, the cancer had already spread to the lungs and brain. Immediate surgery was done to remove the diseased testicle as well as the satellite tumors in the brain. Subsequently, chemotherapy, an essential part of the two-step treatment, was planned.
Here, instead of the standard chemotherapeutic regimen (the BEP regime), he opted for one (the VIP regime) which did not contain the drug bleomycin, which has toxic effects on the lungs and would probably have meant that his cycling career would have been finished. The course of chemotherapy finished in December 1996, and in February 1997, he was declared cancer-free, which he apparently remains to this day.
An interesting fact to note is that, prior to the surgery, he had already won two Tour de France titles. Following the cancer treatment, he was recruited by US Postals, resumed training, and was able to win the Tour de France every year from 1999 till 2005, when he officially retired.
Quite an amazing feat, even if it was tainted by the use of performance-enhancing substances. I would be hesitant to call them drugs, as the alleged substances involved (EPO, testosterone , human growth hormone, corticosteriods and blood transfusions) are all part of normal body constituents.
So, is what Armstrong the cancer survivor experiencing something out of the ordinary? Unknown to many, testicular cancer has one of the highest cure rates of all cancers – in excess of 90 percent overall; almost 100 percent if it has not spread elsewhere. Even if the cancer had spread widely, as in Armstrong’s case, the cure rate is over 80% following chemotherapy. Indeed, it is the most common form of cancer in males aged 20-39 years.
- Editorial: Lance Armstrong, world-class liar (denverpost.com)
- Zero Worship: Did Surviving Cancer Make Armstrong a Hero? (psychologytoday.com)
Its been speculated for some time..that eating red meat leads to an increased incidence of heart disease and cancer. And an analysis, published in Archives of Internal Medicine, using data from two studies that involved 121,342 men and women, further confirms the fact that consuming red meat is associated with a sharply increased risk of death from cancer and heart disease; and the more of it you eat, the greater the risk.
People who ate more red meat were less physically active and more likely to smoke and had a higher body mass index, researchers found. Still, after controlling for those and other variables, they found that each daily increase of three ounces of red meat was associated with a 12 percent greater risk of dying over all, including a 16 percent greater risk of cardiovascular death and a 10 percent greater risk of cancer death.
The increased risks linked to processed meat, like bacon, were even greater: 20 percent over all, 21 percent for cardiovascular disease and 16 percent for cancer.
You might say that you had suspected this all along, but the new results suggest a surprisingly strong link and further reinforce this conclusion.
The modus operandi for red meats and heart disease is quite clear-cut: the high saturated fats content leads to cholesterol deposition in the walls of the arteries. In the case of cancer, the mode of action is less clear-cut. Some postulated causes include:
- the presence of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in grass-fed meat which has anti-cancer properties.
- the mode of cooking, with preference to ‘low and slow’ and doneness.
- chemicals (nitro compounds) used in preservation of processed meats.
- breakdown of blood components like haem to harmful cancer-causing chemicals (read more here).
This probably why meat-eating countries like Argentina do not report high incidences of gut cancer..
For the very first time, a supreme court has ruled that using mobile or cordless phones is directly linked to causing brain tumors, affirming what many scientists have been saying for years now about the dangers of cell phone radiation. The U.K.’s Telegraph reports that 60-year-old Innocente Marcolini, who developed a tumor in his trigeminal nerve, was ruled to have suffered this fate as a result of using his mobile handset for up to six hours every day for 12 years.
Italy’s Supreme Court in Rome, ruled that there is a “causal link” between Marcolini’s mobile phone use and the non-cancerous tumor that caused the entire left side of his face to become paralyzed. Experts provided evidence at a recent trial showing that the electromagnetic radiation emitted from mobile and cordless phones damages cells.
Though Marcolini’s brain tumor is non-cancerous, it still reportedly threatened to kill him because it had been encroaching on his carotid artery, which is the major blood vessel responsible for transporting blood to the brain. The tumor also developed directly next to where Marcolini typically held his phone next to his ear, illustrating how significantly mobile phone radiation can disrupt proper brain cell function.
In the face of repeated studies that there was no direct causative effect, this landmark ruling takes a new perspective on the possible dangers of prolonged mobile phone usage. To add fuel to the debate, last year the WHO ( World Health Organisation) urged limits on mobile use, calling them a Class B carcinogen.
International radiation biology expert Michael Repacholi said: “Studies show no evidence of cancer”. But he quickly adds : “If you are worried, use a headset, hands-free or loudspeaker.”
- Mobiles can give you a tumour, court rules (thesun.co.uk)
According to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department in San Jose, California which issued the death certificate, the immediate cause of death of the Apple CEO was listed as respiratory arrest with the underlying cause “metastatic pancreas neuroendocrine tumor”.
-he passed away at home, 3pm on October 5.
-no autopsy was performed.
– he was buried at a non-denominational cemetery in Santa Clara County on Oct. 7.
The conclusions that can be drawn from the death certificate implies that the neuroendocrine cancer of the pancreas (the rarer form of cancer of the pancreas) presumably spread to the rest of the body (stage 4) despite the liver transplant in 2009 to remove cancer cells in the liver. This is much in keeping with the seriousness and malignant nature of this type of cancer, where the survival rates are less than 4% after 5 years (less than 4% of sufferers live beyond 5 years).
..so said the headlines in a British newspaper, the Telegraph here. The paper was commenting on a study published last week which showed that those who consume as little as a quarter of a tablet of the over-the-counter aspirin pill reduced their chances of getting cancer of the large bowel, stomach and lungs.
So taken up by this finding, The New York Times, in an article today offered an explanantion of how aspirin prevents cancer : inflammation may play a role in cancer, and aspirin blocks the synthesis of prostaglandins, which are mediators of inflammation, and may affect early tumor promotion.
Good news like this unfortunately may not make everybody happy. The pharma companies, for one, will not relish this as aspirin is a very inexpensive drug to produce and, not being covered by a patent, will not bring in much profits ( it only costs a heart patient USD 4 for a year’s supply of aspirin, compared with USD 2000 to keep him on cholesterol medications).
In fact, 3 decades ago, the medical fraternity were singing praises about it –about how aspirin prevented heart attacks and strokes – to the extent that healthy doctors were taking it ‘just in case’ an illness were to strike them.There were calls then to even include aspirin in the community water supply so that people would benefit.
So how come this humble drug has not made that much a headway since it holds so much promise? The answer lies in the presence of a notorious and potentially dangerous side-effect: bleeding in the stomach and/or the brain. This can occur in susceptible individuals sometimes months after commencing it and it is often difficult for doctors to anticipate who will get them.
My advice is, despite aspirin being an over-the-counter medication not requiring a doctor’s prescription, its continuous usage necessitates one consulting a doctor about the potential risks. Caveat emptor!
- Aspirin timeline (telegraph.co.uk)
The two easiest ways to help to prevent two common cancers is easily obtainable but not generally known to the public.
Stomach cancer, which is the second leading cause of deaths due to cancer, shows a worldwide incidence but seems to be more common in the Far East where it is attributable to the consumption of pickled and salted foods. However, it is now known that a cause of stomach cancer is a bug well-known for causing stomach and duodenal ulcers, called Helicobacter pylori (H pylori). Now, researchers have shown that if they were to eliminate this bug from those suffering from early stages of this cancer, they were able to effect a cure. Read more of this here.
More doctors believe that if one’s stomach contains these bugs,it may be better to rid of them by swallowing a course of antibiotics.
For patients having symptoms suggestive of stomach ulcers(the non-cancerous kind), the presence of H pylori can easily be detected by a few easy ways, including breath tests and blood sampling. Sometimes, a scope needs to be inserted into the stomach to obtain tissue samples. Once the test is confirmed positive, a 2-week course of antibiotics that includes one or more of these -lansoprazole, amoxycillin or clarithromycin- is given to eliminate this bug from the stomach.
Primary liver cancer, the fifth most common cancer in the world, is a deadly cancer for which the outlook is bad as, by the time someone has symptoms, the cancer is far-advanced and has spread to other organs. Again, a bug – the hepatitis B virus-has been identified to be the cause in 50% of primary liver cancers aka hepatocellular carcinoma, aka hepatoma.
The role of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in causing liver cancer is well established. So much so, an effective means of prevention is to get Hepatitis B immunisation shots after a prior blood test has confirmed the absence of previous infection due to hepatitis B virus. In most countries in Asia, it is already mandatory for all newborns to be immunised, so there is a real chance that the incidence of liver cancer due to hepatitis B will fall dramatically in the near future.
Talk to your doctor and discuss whether these two groups of medical drugs can reduce, even eliminate your chances of getting these cancers.