Is Cancer One of the Effects of Alcohol Usage? Find out!

We all know that alcohol can be dangerous, but did you know that cancer can be one of the effects of alcohol usage? A new study found more information confirming the link between alcohol consumption and cancer risk. While this new study is not the first to link alcohol to cancer, it provides a new understanding for just how that link works. Which makes it all the more important.

New Findings

How was this study different from those earlier ones? It looked into how alcohol caused this risk (LiveScience). Thanks to new research published in the journal Nature and part-funded by Cancer Research UK, we know more about one way cancer is caused (Cancer Research UK).

Earlier studies found that there is strong evidence that alcohol exposure causes cancer at seven specific sites in the body. There are likely other parts of the body that are affected by alcohol exposure, but these seven had the highest risk of cancer:

  • A part of the throat called the oropharynx.
  • The larynx.
  • The esophagus.
  • The liver.
  • The colon.
  • The rectum.
  • The female breast.

There is also continually growing evidence that this strong link between increased cancer risk as effects of alcohol usage can occur in other parts of the body, including the prostate, pancreas, and skin. (LiveScience)

The Importance of Stem Cells

The experiment focused on effects of alcohol usage on stem cells, which are the cells that supply the many different specialized cells that our bodies are made of. These cells are crucial for replenishing cells lost throughout your lifespan, and once they are damaged, they can spread that damage further (LifeScience).

While this post talks about effects of alcohol increasing the risk of cancer, there’s a little more to it than that. As the research from this experiment highlights, it isn’t alcohol that causes damage to DNA in stem cells, but one of the chemicals that alcohol gets broken down into (Cancer Research UK).

“When the body processes alcohol, it converts it into a highly reactive toxin called acetaldehyde, which damages DNA,” explained lead study author Dr. KJ Patel, a tenured principal investigator at MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England (LifeScience). When that toxin isn’t broken down further it builds up in the cells. That build-up can then cause damage to DNA and, especially in stem cells, that can cause cancer (Cancer Research UK).

There are two ways that a cell can cope with exposure to excessive amounts of acetaldehyde:

  1. The enzyme ALDH2 can clear away the acetaldehyde. But if more alcohol is consumed than the ALDH2 can deal with, then the excess acetaldehyde can damage the DNA, so…
  2. An enzyme called FANCD2 must then come in to repair some of the DNA damage (BioNews).
The Experiment

In this study, researchers looked specifically at blood stem cells. The team simulated heavy drinking by giving mice doses of alcohol that would be equivalent to an adult human drinking one bottle of whiskey in a short period of time. Some of the mice were genetically engineered to lack the two enzymes described above. There were three groups of mice: a group that had all the enzymes still in place, a group that had the enzyme ALDH2 removed, and a group that didn’t have either enzymes.

Patel explained that after removing just the first level of protection (the ALDH2), which is just the enzyme that detoxifies the acetaldehyde, one big dose of alcohol is enough to initiate four times more DNA damage than in normal mice.

“That level of damage is not very dissimilar to having spent a short period of time in front of Fukushima,” Patel said. (LiveScience).

The Real World Effects

While the mice in the experiment were genetically engineered to lack one or both of these levels of protection, it’s not uncommon for people to be born without either one or both of these enzymes. The lack of the first level (ALDH2) is a condition that is especially common in Asia, and effects about 5 million people.

Problems with the second layer of protection (the DNA repair mechanism) are also quite common. DNA repair mechanisms are deficient in women who carry either the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation, which is known to predispose women to breast cancer. Problems with DNA repair also occur in children with the disease Fanconi’s anemia (LiveScience).

As we mentioned before, the scientists in this study focused specifically on DNA damage in blood stem cells. Previous research has shown that alcohol affects blood cells. Many people with alcoholism become anemic, meaning that they don’t have enough red blood cells.

One professor who wasn’t involved in the study, Malcolm Alison (a professor of stem-cell biology at Queen Mary University in London) said that it is believed that most cancers do in fact arise from stem cells.

“Most of our organs and tissues have stem cells, immortal cells that replenish cells lost through the likes of old age throughout our lives, and the hematopoietic system (or, the system for blood cell generation in the body) is no exception,” Alison said in a statement (LiveScience).

Does This Include Red Wine?

Some other studies have suggested that red wine may help reduce your chances of getting heart disease and cancer. Other research, including this study, has shown that drinking even small amounts of alcohol can increase your risk of cancer.

Where did this idea come from? The ancient Egyptians and Greeks considered wine to be “good for health” and often used it as a form of medicine. Still, research today shows that that believe doesn’t actually hold true. Instead they’ve found that the skin and seeds of grapes may have healthy properties (mainly the antioxidant resveratrol). This natural chemical found in grapes protects your cells from damage that could lead to cancer.

Because it’s made from grapes, red wine is full of resveratrol. Still, it’s hard to determine if the benefits of this antioxidant outweigh the risks of alcohol exposure.

Even though some studies do suggest that a glass of wine may lower your risk of heart disease, it’s not confirmed that a glass of red wine will lower your risk for cancer. Your safest bet is to just not pour that glass (MD Anderson Cancer Center).

How You Can Use This New Information

We should all be trying our best to limit our alcohol consumption this year, as alcohol has been proven to be bad for your health in other ways (for example, causing liver damage and pancreatitis).

The American Cancer Society advises that drinking occasionally isn’t likely to increase your risk of cancer. It’s only routinely having more than one or two drinks a day that could raise your cancer risk. Keep that in mind and try to build healthier habits in 2018 (The American Cancer Society).

Still, if you have a family history of one of the cancers listed above, you should be extra careful about your alcohol consumption.

Sources: effects of alcohol

effects of alcohol

Integrating Holistic Therapies Into Your Cancer Treatment Plan

Cancer is a frightening diagnosis, and it’s no small wonder that many patients and their loved ones often seek out alternative or holistic therapies as a mean of regaining some control over their health and well-being.

As an oncologist, I believe in treating the whole person – not just the disease. True wellness depends upon more than your doctor’s orders alone, and I agree wholeheartedly that some holistic therapies may be extremely beneficial in caring for a patient’s body, heart, mind, and spirit when employed in tandem with clinical treatment. But while there are a number of helpful, supplementary remedies and practices out there to choose from, plenty of fraudulent (and even dangerous) ones exist, too.

So, if you or a loved one are curious about holistic (sometimes called “integrative”) medicine, how do you know whether a particular treatment may be helpful or harmful? Here, I’ll guide you through a few simple guidelines for safely incorporating holistic therapies into a traditional battle plan against cancer.


The primary responsibility of all doctors is to act in the service of the safety and wellbeing of our patients. Doctors know that we still have much to learn about cancer, and we are always excited to discover new treatments and methods that may help our patients to survive and thrive. We also know that it’s our job to uphold rigorous standards of clinical testing and safety, and to steer our patients clear of charlatan practitioners and fraudulent services that may compromise their health and well-being.

When considering particular holistic therapies, use common sense. Be wary of “miracle cures” or any product or service promising a “silver bullet” treatment for cancer. Every case of cancer is different, just as every patient is different, and there is no “one size fits all” cure for all types and variations of the disease. A patient’s age, medical history, and genetic makeup (as well as the location and genetic traits of the cancer itself) are just some of the factors that doctors consider when devising a personalized strategy for treatment. As such, always approach any product or service offering a “quick fix” for cancer with extreme skepticism and caution (American Cancer Society [1]).

Early detection and treatment often improve a cancer patient’s chances of survival, so don’t avoid or delay a clinically-tested treatment recommended by your doctor (like surgery, radiation, or immunotherapy) for the sake of an untested alternative therapy. The goal should be to integrate, not replace, and an alternative therapy that ultimately does nothing may still be harmful if it costs doctors and patients valuable time and money that could be spent on proven, potentially-lifesaving treatments.

Ultimately, remember the spirit of the word “holistic”: every element working together as an interconnected whole. Always coordinate with your oncology team and thoroughly discuss any supplementary course of treatment before you try it. Remember that some holistic therapies may be more harmful than helpful: herbal compounds may interact poorly with some medications, for example, or be dangerous for patients with certain medical conditions. If you have questions about whether a holistic therapy is safe, ask your doctor: your oncologist may be able to guide you to integrative therapies that safely work in tandem with traditional cancer treatments, and to help you choose a truly holistic treatment strategy that’s custom-tailored for you.


A healthy diet and exercise are two important, common-sense ways to safely integrate holistic therapies into your traditional cancer treatment plan (again, always consult your doctor first before making a radical change to your existing routine). Many patients find massage, yoga, and acupuncture to be extremely useful in reducing stress, managing symptoms, and generally finding more comfort and delight in their daily lives during treatment. If you find it helpful and your doctor feels it isn’t harmful, do it!

Remember always that your mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being is just as important as your physical well-being. In an observational study published by the peer-reviewed journal Cancer, patients who demonstrated strong religious or spiritual beliefs – “feelings of transcendence or meaningfulness or peace” – displayed better overall physical health than those who did not (American Cancer Society [2]). Spirituality is the ultimate personalized medicine, and there’s no right or wrong answer dictating what form it should take for you. It could be an organized religion, but “spirituality” doesn’t have to be traditional in order to be effective: mindfulness practices, meditation, support groups, writing, and art are all ways that you may connect with our greater human community and discover a higher, loving purpose.

Finally, don’t underestimate the simple power of making time for your friends, family, hobbies, and work: they make up the life you’re fighting for, and a strong personal support system may help care for you when and if you are unwell enough to care for yourself.


Your fight against cancer will be, in many ways, the most deeply-personal enterprise you undertake in your life. Throughout it all, remember that you’re not just “Patient X” in a hospital bed, and you are not the disease: you are you! What works for one person may not work for another, so don’t be afraid to keep asking questions and continue working together with your cancer-fighting team to find the best treatment strategy for you.


American Cancer Society [1]. Can I Safely Use an Alternative or Complimentary Therapy?

American Cancer Society [2]. Study: Cancer Patients with Strong Religious or Spiritual Beliefs Report Better Health. Stacy Simon. October 21, 2015.

9 Ways You Can Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk

According to the latest statistics, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Luckily with new advancements in treatment, the mortality associated with breast cancer has decreased. Still the disease claims over 40,000 lives a year in the US alone, so knowing how to reduce your risk of breast cancer is an important asset.

What Causes Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is the result of DNA mutations, which is characterized by a solid tumor that originates in the tissue of the breast. There are a few different factors that can cause this DNA mutation. The majority of them are acquired later in life. The most common age of diagnosis is 65. Age is the main risk factor for breast cancer simply because the longer you live, the more opportunity there is for the DNA in your breast to develop a mutation.

Sometimes these DNA mutations are inherited at birth, like the BRCA1 or BCRA2 gene. If your family has a history of breast cancer, it is important to go through screening and genetic treatment early, as sometimes preventative treatment is recommended. (NY Daily News)

Your breast cancer risk is also tied to certain other health issues, which is where our 9 ways to reduce your risk come in. Some recent studies have found that there are in fact some changes you can make and habits you can work on to reduce your odds of getting breast cancer:

  1. Be mindful of your weight. Becoming overweight or obese (especially after menopause or later in life) increases breast cancer risk. This is because after menopause, most of your estrogen comes from fat tissue. Having more fat tissue increases your chance of getting breast cancer by raising estrogen levels. Women who are overweight also tend to have higher levels of insulin, which is another hormone. Higher insulin levels have also been linked to other cancers.
  2. Exercise regularly. A few different studies have found that exercising regularly can improve your chances of avoiding breast cancer. One particular study from the Women’s Health Initiative found that as little as 1.25 to 2.5 hours of brisk walking per week reduced a woman’s risk by 18%. The American Cancer Society recommends that you don’t try to cram this into one long workout, but instead spread it out over the course of the week.
  3. Limit time spent sitting. A study from the American Cancer Society showed that women who spent more than 6 hours a day sitting when not working had a 10% greater risk for invasive breast cancer compared with women who sat less than 3 hours a day.
  4. Limit your drinking. Research has shown that women who have 2 to 3 alcoholic drinks a day have about a 20% higher risk compared to women who don’t drink at all. Women who have one drink a day have a very small increase in risk as well. Excessive drinking has been found to increase your risk of other cancer types as well. (American Cancer Society)
  5. Don’t smoke. It’s no surprise that smoking is bad for your health. However, accumulating evidence suggests that there’s actually a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women.
  6. Breastfeed. According to the Mayo Clinic, breast-feeding may play a role in breast cancer prevention. They suggest that the longer you breastfeed, the greater the protective effect. (Mayo Clinic)
  7. Avoid or limit hormone replacement therapy. Hormone replacement therapy (or HRT) was used in the past to help control some symptoms of menopause like night sweats and hot flashes. Researchers now know that postmenopausal women who take the combination of estrogen and progestin may be more likely to develop breast cancer. Breast cancer risk appears to return to normal within five years after stopping this treatment. (American Cancer Society).
So instead, talk to your doctor about other options to control your menopause symptoms. If you do decide that HRT is the right choice for you, it’s best to use the lowest dose you can for the shortest possible time.
  1. Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution. While environmental pollution can be difficult to protect yourself against, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure to radiation. Medical-imaging methods, such as computerized tomography, use high doses of radiation that may be linked with developing breast cancer. Reduce your exposure by having a conversation with your doctor to make sure every test is absolutely necessary before they’re done.
  2. Receive annual mammograms starting at age 40. Since most of the time breast cancer does not cause symptoms until the disease is quite advanced, it is important to detect it long before symptoms appear. For most women, starting at age 40 is early enough, but higher risk patients (like women with a mother or sister who had cancer at an early age) may need to start getting mammograms much earlier. (NY Daily News)

Hopefully knowing and practicing these tips will put your mind at ease from worrying about breast cancer. For more information, be sure to look to the sources provided below.


Spotting Leukemia Early

Spotting leukemia early on can be key in a patient’s fight against it. Diagnosing cancer early can have a significant impact on your chances of survival, response to treatment, and even your quality of life during treatment. (News Medical)

Unfortunately, in many cases spotting leukemia early can be difficult. People in the early stages of leukemia often show no obvious symptoms. So how can you tell early on if you or a loved one has leukemia? Read on for our tips on how to spot leukemia early.

What Is Leukemia?

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. It’s the result of the DNA of a single cell in the bone marrow becoming damaged (which is also known as a mutation).

Unlike other cancers, it doesn’t produce a tumor but instead causes overproduction of abnormal white blood cells. Since white blood cells are meant to fight infection, abnormal leukemia cells aren’t up to that crucial task.

Hundreds of billions of new blood cells are produced in your bone marrow each day, which provides your body with a constant supply of fresh, healthy blood cells. In large numbers, leukemia cells begin to interfere with the production of other blood cells (Cleveland Clinic).

How Common Is Leukemia?

Even though it’s often considered a disease of children, leukemia affects far more adults. The frequency of certain types of leukemia actually increases with age (Cleveland Clinic). With nearly 30,000 cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year, it truly is important to learn what the warning signs are and catch leukemia early.

Symptoms and How to Catch It:

As we mentioned earlier, many patients with leukemia don’t exhibit any symptoms early on. Particularly in patients with chronic leukemia types, there can be no symptoms at first or just a slow development of symptoms over a long period of time.

In acute leukemia types, patients often very suddenly develop symptoms within a matter of days. It is very common for leukemia diagnoses to be made as an emergency.

Spotting Leukemia based on the following symptoms:
  • Anemia is caused by having a lower than necessary count of red blood cells, which slows down the delivery of oxygen to the body’s organs and muscles. It can cause a pale complexion and lack of energy in patients.
  • Bleeding can occur in a patient’s gums or nose, or in stool or urine.
  • Bruises may develop from very minor bumps.
  • Small spots of discoloration called petechiae may form under the skin.
  • Patients may be more susceptible to infections like a sore throat or bronchial pneumonia. A headache, or low-grade fever, mouth sores, or skin rash may accompany these infections. (Cleveland Clinic)
  • Coughing and trouble breathing can occur when certain types of leukemia cause swelling in structures in the chest, like lymph nodes or the thymus (a small organ in front of the trachea, the breathing tube that leads to the lungs). These enlarged structures can then press on the trachea, causing coughing or even trouble breathing. In some cases where the white blood cell count is unusually high, the leukemia cells can build up in the small blood vessels in the lungs, which can also cause trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of the face and arms can also be the result of an enlarged thymus. It can press on the SVC (the superior vena cava, a large vein that carries blood from the head and arms back to the heart). When this happens, it is called SVC Syndrome, which can be life-threatening, so it should be treated immediately. It can cause swelling in the face, neck, arms, and upper chest (sometimes with a bluish-red skin color). It can also cause headaches, dizziness, and a change in consciousness if it affects the brain. (American Cancer Society)
  • Swollen lymph nodes can also be a sign of spotting leukemia. Lymph nodes are small, bean-sized structures that contain clusters lymphocytes. Swollen nodes may be seen or felt as lumps under the skin in areas of the body like the sides of the neck, underarm areas, above the collarbone, or in the groin. Lymph nodes inside the chest or abdomen can also swell, but these can only be seen on imaging tests.
  • Headache, seizures, and vomiting can occur sometimes in children when the leukemia has already spread to the brain and spinal cord by the time it is diagnosed. Once it has reached the brain and spinal cord, leukemia symptoms can also include trouble concentrating, weakness, problems with balance, and blurred vision. (American Cancer Society)
  • A fever that lasts for more than 1 to 2 weeks can also be a warning sign of leukemia.
  • General loss of well-being may also occur in patients with undiagnosed leukemia. Patients may have loss of appetite and weight and a feeling of weakness or fatigue all the time. This sign can be especially hard to spot, since the symptoms are the same symptoms of just living a busy life.
Why Are People Delaying Diagnoses?

You may be surprised to learn that in most cases (83% of them, according to a recent survey) patients with these symptoms don’t expect them to be the warning signs for cancer. That 83% of patients reported that they wrote the symptoms off as part of getting older or just the consequences of a busy lifestyle.

A few of the symptoms above are more likely to be caused by something other than leukemia, so it can be easy to dismiss them. Especially if they develop slowly over time, which they sometime do. (American Cancer Society).

One teen in Pennsylvania went a full month playing varsity soccer with undiagnosed leukemia. Schyler Herman was a goalie, so she typically had lots of collisions with the ball and other players, but her parents noticed that she was getting unusually deep bruises from the hits.

She was in a game that went into double overtime one night when another player accidentally kicked her in the calf. A deep hematoma formed, and her parents took her to the emergency room the next day where the X-rays came back negative for a fracture, but Schyler still felt pain.

She went in for more blood work and once the results were in, the doctors suggested she see an oncologist, because they believed she had leukemia. Her blood levels were actually so critical that Schyler was rushed to the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia for immediate treatment. Schyler couldn’t believe it — she’d been having headaches for the past month and was always fatigued, but she attributed that to the consequences of being an athlete. (Pocono Record)

Even with the symptoms present, it can seem crazy to jump to the conclusion that it’s leukemia that you have. Still, in many cases it is.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

Obviously you can’t assume that every headache and cough will lead to spotting leukemia. Still, there is one major step you can take in protecting yourself:

Often when patients go to their doctor with these symptoms, they either decline to take a blood test or their doctor doesn’t even offer it. Generally a blood test is enough to indicate the diagnosis, but often patients will go weeks (and in some cases even months) without getting a blood test. Instead they’re given antibiotics for the infections or pain killers to relieve the pain, but since they aren’t given a blood test, they’re just putting bandaids on the symptoms without finding the cause. (News Medical)

Which is why if you notice any of these symptoms, you should request a blood test to confirm that the cause isn’t a larger problem, like leukemia.


Spotting Leukemia

A Mother Breastfeeding: A Surprising Way to Reduce Your Risk for Cancer

A mother breastfeeding her child supplies optimum nutrition for babies, boosts childhood immunity, and strengthens the bond between parent and child. But did you know that a mother breastfeeding also offers surprising health benefits for mothers? Indeed, some studies even suggest that a mother breastfeeding can reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women who choose to have children.


The benefits that a mother breastfeeding provides for babies are very well-documented. In addition to providing the perfect balance of nutrients that your baby needs to survive and thrive, breast milk contains hormones and antibodies that naturally strengthen an infant’s developing immune system. The protective effect of breast milk is shown to last even after a child stops breastfeeding, and contributes to a number of short and long-term pediatric health benefits. Breastfed babies experience a reduced incidence of gastrointestinal issues, respiratory infections, ear infections, type 2 diabetes, childhood obesity, and some childhood cancers (UpToDate [1]).

But while much attention is devoted to the health of newborn children, the health of their mothers is more often ignored. Indeed, the U.S. boasts one of the most embarrassing postpartum maternal mortality rates in the developed world: 15-30 maternal deaths for 100,000 live births 2015 and rising, a trend that runs contrary to the declining rates observed in Europe, Australia, and Canada (The Lancet).

If we are to create a culture that values maternal health, we must promote and foster practices that contribute positively to it. A Mother breastfeeding is one of those practices, providing a number of short and long-term benefits that begin at birth and continue for the duration of a mother’s life.


Shortly after birth, the act of a mother breastfeeding stimulates the production of oxytocin: a hormone produced by the mother’s pituitary gland that prevents hemorrhaging and promotes uterine healing. Together with prolactin (another neuropeptide associated with breastfeeding), oxytocin may also have a positive impact on the mental health of new mothers by reducing maternal stress levels and promoting parent-child bonding. (UpToDate [2].)

Mothers who nurse may also have a slight edge in losing “baby weight” after pregnancy, thanks to the metabolic boost that breastfeeding appears to provide. And because breastfeeding helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, nursing mothers are demonstrated to have a lower risk for developing diabetes and heart disease than their formula-feeding counterparts (La Leche League International).


Studies estimate a 4.3 percent drop in a woman’s relative risk of developing breast cancer for every 12 months she nurses (UpToDate [3]). The benefit continues to accrue over multiple pregnancies and appears to have a positive impact on ovarian cancer, as well: one study found that women who breastfeed multiple children for a combined 31 months or more could see a 91% reduction in their risk for ovarian cancer versus women who breastfeed for less than 10 months (MD Anderson Cancer Center).

Doctors surmise a variety of factors may contribute to this phenomenon.

We know that nursing stimulates the production of certain beneficial hormones and neuropeptides in a mother’s body. These hormones also postpone the return of ovulation and menstruation after she gives birth, thus reducing the likelihood of an immediate, consecutive pregnancy. This natural “spacing” mechanism allows a mother more time to heal between pregnancies while encouraging her to devote more time and attention to each of her newborn children (La Leche League International). A delay in ovulation may also reduce a woman’s exposure to estrogen, which can reduce her overall risk for developing breast and ovarian cancers (MD Anderson Cancer Center). Oral contraceptives that delay ovulation are associated with similar anti-cancer benefits.

Breastfeeding also contributes to cell shedding and turnover within the breast tissue, which may help remove damaged cells before they can develop into cancer (MD Anderson Cancer Center).


Mothers who nurse for at least 6 months see the greatest health benefits for both themselves and their children, but a number of social and societal factors may deter some women from breastfeeding. Limited parental leave from work, lack of access to private nursing facilities in public spaces, and a lack of support from friends and family may influence a woman’s decision to stop breastfeeding early or avoid it altogether.

If a friend or a loved one is breastfeeding, support her decision in any way you can. Let her know that you think breastfeeding is important, and that she is always welcome to nurse her child in your home. If you are a boss or employer, create company policies that promote a woman’s ability to breastfeed in the workplace and make sure that nursing mothers in your organization have a private space to nurse if they choose to do so. You may also give books or classes about breastfeeding as a gift to expectant parents (AICR).


A culture that promotes breastfeeding is one that values the health of women. Breastfeeding promotes postpartum healing, supports mental health, and may even grant nursing mothers longterm protection against some forms of cancer. In choosing breast over bottle, new mothers make a lasting investment in their own health and the health of their families. After all: a healthy, happy mom is one of the best gifts your child can receive.

About the Author:

Dr. Robert Lum, Founder and Head Oncologist at Oncologic Advisors, has over twenty years of radiation oncology experience. He graduated, with honors, magna cum laude with a degree in molecular biology from University of California, Berkeley, attended Case Western Reserve University medical school, and completed his residency at University of California, Irvine and City of Hope in Los Angeles in Radiation Oncology. He has been President of the Christian Medical and Dental Society (Ventura County), President of the Ventura County Medical Society, District Representative to the California Medical Association, and on the Professional Advisors Board of Directors for Cancer Support Community of the San Fernando Valley, Ventura, and Santa Barbara in California. Over the years, he has advised many patients throughout the treatment of their cancer. Treating the whole person, not just the disease, is the philosophy Dr. Lum has embraced over his years of practice.


UpToDate – Infant benefits of breastfeeding. Richard J. Schanler, MD. Topic Last Updated: 09 December 2016.

The Lancet – Global, regional, and national levels of maternal mortality, 1990-2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. GBD 2015 Maternal Mortality Collaborators. Vol. 338. 08 October 2016.

UpToDate [2] – Maternal and economic benefits of breastfeeding. Richard J Schanler, MD. Topic Last Updated: 07 December 2016.

La Leche League International – A Well-Kept Secret: Breastfeeding’s Benefits to Mothers. From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 4, p. 124-127. Alicia Dermer, MD, IBCLC. July – August 2001.

UpToDate [3] – Factors that modify breast cancer risk in women. Wendy Y Chen, MD, MPH. Topic Last Updated: 02 August 2017.

MD Anderson Cancer Center – Breastfeeding Lowers Your Breast Cancer Risk. Brittany Cordeiro. October 2014.

AICR American Institute for Cancer Research – Experts: Breastfeeding Protects Moms from Breast Cancer. Mya Nelson. 10 May 2012.


Cure for Lung Cancer, Prevention, and Risks

Whats the best approach to finding a cure for lung cancer that works for you? Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death worldwide, accounting for approximately 1.69 million deaths annually (WHO). In the U.S. alone, it accounts for approximately 225,000 new diagnoses and causes 160,000 deaths every year. While these statistics are frightening, there’s plenty of reason to have hope for a cure for lung cancer: new treatments and a general reduction in the popularity of smoking mean that lung cancer mortality rates have begun to decline in recent years (UpToDate [1]). Here we’ll discuss the most common types of lung cancer and their treatments, along with some common-sense measures you can take to reduce your personal lung cancer risk.


Lung cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lungs or airways. Most lung cancers fall into two main categories: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) or non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). These categories refer to the specific type of cell within the lungs in which the cancer originates. Identifying the type of cancer a patient has is a critical first step to a cure for lung cancer. (UpToDate [1]).

In an advanced state, lung cancer may metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body. You may also hear your doctor refer to lung cancer as “bronchogenic carcinoma” (UpToDate [1]).


You may be wondering if it’s possible to prevent lung cancer; for many people, the answer is yes. While some cases may be influenced by genetic factors or other pre-existing health conditions (such as HIV or pulmonary fibrosis), most lung cancers are caused by smoking, environmental toxins, and other external lifestyle factors (UpToDate [1]).

Smoking isn’t the only cause of lung cancer, but it is by far the leading one. An estimated 90 percent of all lung cancers are presumed to be caused by smoking, and smoking one pack a day over the course of 40 years increases your risk of developing lung cancer by 20 percent over someone who has never smoked. In short, your lung cancer risk increases the more frequently you smoke and the longer you smoke. The most effective way to reduce your personal lung cancer risk is to avoid smoking (UpToDate [1]).

Cigars, pipes, and menthol or “light” cigarettes are not safe alternatives to smoking traditional cigarettes, and smoking these products also puts you at risk for lung cancer. Secondhand smoke also presents a significant risk, and accounts for over 7,000 lung cancer deaths amongst nonsmokers every year (American Cancer Society [1]).

The good news is that you can radically reduce your chances of developing lung cancer by quitting smoking, even if you’ve been a smoker for many years. The longer you abstain, the greater the benefit; some studies indicate that former smokers saw an 80-90 percent reduction in their risk after remaining smoke-free for 15 years or more (UpToDate [2]). The American Cancer Society offers a wealth of resources if you or someone you love is trying to quit; call at 1-800-227-2345 for more information (American Cancer Society [2]).

Exposure to asbestos, radon, and diesel exhaust at home or work may also increase your chances of developing lung cancer. If you have to work around hazardous agents, be sure to carefully observe all recommended safety protocols in order to minimize your risk.


As with most cancers, an early diagnosis will improve the prognosis for lung cancer patients. Unfortunately, many lung cancer cases go undetected until they are quite advanced, which makes them more difficult to treat. Many people don’t experience symptoms in the early stages of the disease, or may write them off as symptoms of other, more benign illnesses. For example, a habitual smoker may experience a persistent cough and presume it to be a natural side-effect of smoking (American Cancer Society [1]).

Chest pain, a cough, hemoptysis (coughing up blood), dyspnea (shortness of breath), and hoarseness in the voice may signal lung cancer. If you experience any of these symptoms, don’t ignore them and see your doctor right away (UpToDate [1]).


Like every person, every case of cancer is unique. Along with an individual’s medical and family history, doctors will consider the size, location, and molecular properties of a tumor in order to devise a personalized treatment strategy for each patient. Surgery, chemotherapy, targeted radiation therapy, and targeted pharmaceuticals (like bevacizumab) may all be employed to treat lung cancer. (UpToDate [3]).

Immunotherapy – a type of therapy that utilizes the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells – may also be used to treat some forms of lung cancer. When you are healthy, your immune system is able to detect and avoid normal cells in the body while identifying and attacking those that are invasive. Unlike diseases caused by viruses and other pathogens, cancer is caused when normal cells that belong to the body grow out of control. Therefore, cancer cells are often able to multiply unchecked because your body doesn’t recognize them as intruders.

A newer class of drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors may be used to “turn on” the body’s natural immune response to cancer cells. These drugs activate a chemical signal (or checkpoint) on immune cells that directs them to attack malignancies and prevent them from growing. Nivolumab (Opdivo), pembrolizumab (Keytruda), and atezolizumab (Tecentriq) are all targeted immunotherapy drugs that may be used as a cure for lung cancer (American Cancer Society [3]).

If you or a loved one is fighting lung cancer, you may wish to ask your doctor about immunotherapy as a possible cure for lung cancer strategy. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion if you’re struggling to understand your options; a consultation from a reputable source (like OncoLogic Advisors) may help to guide you.


Lung cancer is one of the deadliest and most common forms of cancer, but it is also preventable. While there is still no surefire cure for lung cancer, an early diagnosis can improve a patient’s chances of survival. Promising new therapies (like targeted immunotherapy) continue to offer new hope and more options for treatment, and are helping more lung cancer patients to live longer, healthier lives.


WHO (World Health Organization) Media Centre – Cancer Fact Sheet. Februrary 2017.

UpToDate [1] – Overview of the risk factors, pathology, and clinical manifestations of lung cancer. David E. Midthun, MD. Topic Last Updated: 3 February 2017

American Cancer Society [1] – Lung Cancer Detection and Early Prevention.

UpToDate [2] – Cigarette smoking and other possible risk factors for lung cancer. David M. Manino, MD. Topic Last Updated: May 31, 2017

American Cancer Society [2] – How to Quit Smoking or Smokeless Tobacco.

UpToDate [3] – Overview of the treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Rogerio C Lilenbaum, MD, FACP. Topic Last Updated: June 2, 2017.

American Cancer Society [3] – Immunotherapy for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer.

cure for lung cancer

The Battle Against Glioblastoma Brain Cancer

On July 19, 2017, U.S. Senator John McCain announced that he had been diagnosed with glioblastoma brain cancer: a malignant and aggressive type of brain cancer, which his doctors discovered during a routine screening (Reuters). You may have heard of this type of cancer before: it claimed the lives of Senator Ted Kennedy and Beau Biden (son of Former Vice President Joe Biden). But if this term is news to you, you probably have a number of questions: what is glioblastoma? How is it different from other brain cancers, and how do you treat it? Here, we’ll cover the basics of the disease, and discuss chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, and other experimental therapies that may be available if you or a loved one is battling this often-lethal form of cancer.


All brain tumors are not alike. Doctors categorize different types of tumors according to the part of the body (and type of cells) in which they originate. For example, some tumors begin in glial cells – kind of cell within the human nervous system. Doctors refer to this very broad category of tumors as gliomas.

Since there are also several different kinds of glial cells (all of which perform different tasks within the nervous system), doctors may then further classify different tumors according to these sub-types of cells. For example, astrocytes are a sub-type of glial cell; tumors that begin in astrocytes are called astrocytomas.

With a biopsy (that is, by removing a sample of cells to analyze under a microscope), doctors are able to classify different types of astrocytomas into even smaller groups. These groups are determined by what the cells in the tumor look like, and how quickly they spread. “High-grade” or “Grade IV” astrocytomas – the fastest growing group – are called glioblastomas. Your doctor also may refer to glioblastoma as “glioblastoma multiforme” or “GBM.” (American Cancer Society).

So, all glioblastomas are astrocytomas, but not all astrocytomas are glioblastomas. (If this is confusing, think of another example – like breeds of cats. All Bengal cats are cats, but not all cats are Bengals).

Around two-thirds of astrocytomas are glioblastomas. Glioblastomas are the most common type of malignant brain tumors in American adults (American Cancer Society).


Symptoms of glioblastoma brain cancer may vary depending on the size of the tumor and where it is within the brain. Patients may experience headaches, seizures, memory loss, motor weakness, or loss of other cognitive functions (UpToDate [1])

Unfortunately, the prognosis is often poor for many people with glioblastoma brain cancer. The disease often recurs (comes back) even with aggressive treatment, and the median survival for most patients is around 14.6 months. Around 30% of patients live as long as two years, and (according to one study) around 10% may survive five years or more (American Brain Tumor Association).

Younger patients and children tend to fare better than older patients (as is the case with many cancers), though around half of glioblastoma diagnoses occur in patients who are 65 years and older. A variety of factors make treatment more challenging for older patients: they’re more likely to suffer from pre-existing illnesses than young people, for example (some, like Senator McCain, may already be cancer survivors). They tend to take more medications and may be more susceptible to side-effects, which can limit their options for treatment. “Social and economic vulnerability” (access to affordable healthcare) is often another limiting factor in the quality of care that many patients are able to receive (UpToDate [2]).

Along with a patient’s age and overall health, the size, placement, and genetic makeup of the tumor will influence the approach to treatment. There is no “one way” to treat brain cancer: most glioblastoma patients undergo a combination of treatments after their initial diagnoses, including resection (removal of some or most of the tumor with traditional surgery), chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and pharmaceutical therapies (typically temozolomide or bevacizumab) (UpToDate [2]).


While radiation therapy does not necessarily provide a replacement for first-line treatment with traditional surgery, it’s often accepted as the “single most effective” adjuvent (or, concurrent) therapy for this type of cancer (Cureus).

Radiation therapy is not the same as chemotherapy. In chemotherapy, the patient takes a medication that targets cancerous cells; this medication may be administered orally, intravenously (though an IV), by injection, or topically (on the skin). In radiation therapy – sometimes called “radiotherapy” – radioactive particles like X-rays or protons are aimed at (or placed near) malignant cells for the purpose of killing them. By directing the radiation precisely to the affected area, doctors hope to target cancerous cells while minimizing damage to healthy ones. This kind of precision cancer therapy is especially valuable when treating sensitive areas of the body, such as the brain and spinal cord. Both chemotherapy and radiotherapy may be used to treat glioblastoma.

A type of radiotherapy called “stereotactic radiosurgery” (or “SRS”) is often used to treat patients with recurrent or advanced glioblastoma. Some types of SRS employ a particle accelerator. Others employ a smaller robotic device which fires a thin beam of particles at the affected area (you may have also heard this technology referred to as the “gamma knife” or “cyber knife”). Unlike traditional surgery, radiosurgery is non-invasive (it doesn’t involve an incision) and is painless (NIH/MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopecia).

More clinical trials are required in order to understand exactly how radiotherapy and radiosurgery may best benefit patients with glioblastoma brain cancer. Some doctors champion the approach as our best known option for prolonging survival; others argue that radiotherapy alone is simply not enough to defeat the invasive (and intricate) nature of glioblastoma, and advocate the pursuit of new experimental therapies to combat the disease (UpToDate [3]).


If you’re wondering if experimental therapies are available for glioblastoma, the answer is yes. In fact, clinical trials often present the best treatment option for patients with very aggressive and recurrent glioblastomas (UpToDate [3]).

Because glioblastoma brain cancer is so deadly – and because so many cases recur and progress after initial treatment – the need to develop personalized strategies and new, innovative therapies is immense (UpToDate [3]). Researchers are currently exploring a number of treatments including immune checkpoint inhibitors, genetically-engineered cellular therapies (like CART-T cell therapy, which utilizes a patient’s own modified immune cells to fight the disease), even vaccine-like viruses that attack malignant cells (Washington Post).

Many of these experimental therapies do not provide a replacement for surgical resection and radiation therapy, but doctors are hopeful that these new treatments will offer a greater range of options in creating a personalized, multi-faceted treatment plan for every patient and bolster progression-free survival in more cases.

Navigating the healthcare system is a frustrating and cumbersome task for many patients. Finding a clinical trial can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to gain access or even learn about your options without the appropriate referral. If you or a loved one are struggling to find the right doctor or treatment, a referral service (like OncoLogic advisers) can help.


We still have much to learn about glioblastoma brain cancer and how to treat it, but doctors haven’t given up hope. Researchers continue to dedicate their lives and careers to the discovery of new and innovative ways to treat this devastating and deadly disease. If you or a loved one is battling glioblastoma, remember: the fight is always on.


Reuters – “U.S. Senator John McCain diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer.” Patricia Zengerle, July 19, 2017.

American Cancer Society – “Types of Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Adults.” Last Revised: January 21, 2016.

UpToDate [1] – “Clinical manifestations and initial surgical approach to patients with high-grade gliomas.” Tracy Batchelor, MD, MPH, William T Curry, JR, MD.

American Brain Tumor Association – “Glioblastoma (GBM).”

UpToDate [2] – “Management of glioblastoma in older adults.” Tracy Batchelor, MD, MPH and Helen A Shih, MD. Topic Last Updated: May 10, 2017.

Cureus – Stereotactic Radiosurgery for Glioblastoma. Kristin J. Redmond and Minesh Mehta. Published Online: December 17, 2015.

NIH/MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia – “Stereotactic radiosurgery – CyberKnife.” Yi-Bin Chen, MD; Internal Review and update by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial Update: March 3, 2017.

UpToDate [3] – “Management of recurrent high-grade gliomas.” Tracy Batchelor, MD, MPH, Helen A Shih, MD, Bob S Carter, MD, PhD. Topic Last Updated: May 26, 2017

The Washington Post – “These experimental treatments target brain cancer like John McCain’s.”  Laurie McGinley, July 26, 2017


Colon Cancer in Teenagers and Young Adults: An Alarming Trend

Colon and rectal cancer – sometimes called colorectal cancer, or “CRC” – is the third most common cause of cancer-related deaths in American women, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths in American men. Stronger screening measures leading to early diagnoses have led to a recent decline in U.S. colorectal cancer deaths overall, particularly in patients over 50 (UpToDate [1]). But a new study by researchers at the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute has illuminated a surprising new trend: while CRC rates in older Americans continue to drop, the incidence of rectal and colon cancer in teenagers and young adults appears to be on the rise (Journal of the National Cancer Institute).

Doctors aren’t certain what’s causing the uptick in colorectal cancer in teenagers and young adults, but most agree that the need for further research is clearly indicated to find out more. Until then, teenagers and young adults can certainly benefit from a greater understanding of the disease and what measures they may take to prevent it.


As the name suggests, colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that originates in a person’s colon or rectum. Most colorectal cancers start as polyps (or growths); not all polyps are cancerous, but some may later develop into cancer (American Cancer Society [1]). Modern preventative screening measures (such as colonoscopies) enable doctors to detect and remove more of these growths before they become malignant, thusly reducing the incidence of colorectal cancer overall. And for patients who have already developed CRC, an early diagnosis through screening often means an improved prognosis and greater chance of survival (STAT).

As described by the ACS/NCI study, incidence and mortality rates of both colon and rectal cancer have declined significantly for older American adults (those born circa 1950 or before), due in large part to these preventative screening measures. And since older adults have historically comprised the majority of CRC cases, they’ve had a huge impact on driving the statistics: between 2003 and 2012 alone, overall incidence of colorectal cancer has decreased in the U.S. by about 3% per year (Journal of the National Cancer Institute).

Unlike their elders, however – and contrary to the overall downward trend – younger adults have seen a curiously accelerating incidence of CRC. The study found that individuals born between 1950 and 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer, quadruple the risk of rectal cancer, and a similar risk profile to individuals born circa 1890 (Journal of the National Cancer Institute).


Younger people are less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer. As a result, cancers and precancerous polyps are less likely to be detected early, leading to a increased incidence of full-blown (and more advanced) CRC when it occurs in younger patients.

Even with the results of the ACS/NCI study, the recommended age to begin preventative screening measures has remained unchanged: 50 years of age for adults of average risk. Study coauthors Drs. Philip Rosenberg and William Anderson state they hope their findings will pave the way for further research, along with a potential reassessment of the recommended screening age. Until then, they hope to promote awareness of colorectal cancer in young people amongst doctors and patients alike, and encourage the public to follow through with the most current screening guidelines for detecting the disease (NIH: National Cancer Institute).

Talk to your doctor about colorectal cancer screening and prevention, even if you think you’re too young to get it. Dont hesitate to get checked out if you notice any unusual symptoms: abdominal pain, bloating, rectal bleeding, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, or a change in bowel habits may be signs of colon or rectal cancer (UpToDate [1]). Your doctor can better help you to assess your personal risk and establish a prevention and screening strategy that’s appropriate for you.

Even though rates are rising, colon cancer in teenagers and young adults is still relatively rare: of around 135,000 new CRC diagnoses that are made each year, less than 15,000 cases are in people under the age of 50 (STAT). Many doctors still arent accustomed to diagnosing and treating colon cancer in teenagers and young adults, so dont be afraid to ask questions if you experience any suspicious symptoms.

And remember, it’s ok to get a second opinion, especially if you suspect you have been misdiagnosed. If you don’t know where to turn, help is available; a reputable medical referral service (like OncoLogic Advisors) can help match you with a new doctor and explore your options for treatment.


A person’s age and a family history of colorectal cancer are still considered to to be the the leading risk factors for developing the disease. As such, doctors typically recommend more stringent screening measures for patients over the age of 50, as well as for individuals of any age who have a genetic predisposition for CRC. People with a history of inflammatory bowel disease (like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s) may also be at increased risk (UpToDate [2]).

Overall, the American Cancer Society advocates a common-sense approach to reduce your risk for colorectal cancer (and colon cancer in teenagers & young adults): get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet rich in fiber and whole grains, drink moderately, and don’t smoke. Some doctors hypothesize that obesity might contribute to CRC, and recommend watching your weight as a sound measure to decrease your personal risk for colon cancer and bolster your overall health (American Cancer Society [2]).


We still have much to learn about the recent rise in rectal and colon cancer in teenagers and young adults. Until we know more, patients of every age should get to know the risks and symptoms associated with the disease and pursue common-sense measures in the service of a healthier lifestyle. Above all, see your doctor right away (and don’t hesitate to get a second opinion) if you suspect something is wrong.

Remember: early detection saves lives.


UpToDate [1] – Clinical presentation, diagnosis, and staging of colorectal cancer. Finlay A Macrae, MD, Johanna Bendell, MD. Topic last updated: 26 June 2017

Journal of the National Cancer Institute – Colorectal Cancer Incidence Patterns in the United States, 1974-2013. Rebecca L. Siegel, Stacey A. Fedewa, William F. Anderson, Kimberly D. Miller, Jiemin Ma, Philip S. Rosenberg, Ahmedin Jemal. 28 February 2017.

American Cancer Society [1] – What is Colorectal Cancer?

STAT – Colorectal cancer mystery: Rising rates among millenials, Gen X

NIH: National Cancer Institute. Colorectal Cancer Incidence Rising in Young Adults: An Interview with Drs. Philip Rosenberg and William Anderson. NCI Staff. 23 March 2017.

UpToDate [2] – Screening for colorectal cancer: Strategies in patients at average risk. Chyke Doubeni, MD, FRCS, MPH. Topic last updated: 18 May 2017.

American Cancer Society [2] – Study Finds Sharp Rise in Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer Rates in Young Adults. Stacy Simon. 28 February 2017.  colon cancer in teenagers

Red Grapes, Resveratrol Products, and Cancer Treatment: Myth or Medicine?

Many of us are familiar with the purported benefits of red wine and red grapes in fighting cancer, preventing heart disease, and treating a wide array of illnesses and ailments. Grape seed extract, resveratrol products, and other grape-based products and supplements are widely available on the shelf at many health food stores, and the idea of having a glass of red wine at dinner “for your health” has become a relatively common bit of advice (MedPage Today).

But are the alleged curative properties of grapes verifiable through science, or is their effect just pseudoscience? And what role, if any, do grapes really play in the prevention and treatment of cancer? A team of researchers at Pennsylvania State University hopes to find out.


In a 2016 study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine (a peer-reviewed journal), the team at Penn State (comprised of researchers affiliated with the Pennsylvania State Hershey Cancer Institute, Department of Food Science, and Department of Plant Science)  posited that a combination of grape seed extract combined with resveratrol – a naturally-occurring bioactive compound in the skin of red grapes and some berries – may indeed have promising anti-cancer properties when used to treat colorectal cancer in both mice and human stem cells (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine).

In the lab, the researchers tested the effectiveness of grape compounds against sulindac, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug with a demonstrated ability to treat colon cancer. One group of mice was treated with a combination of resveratrol products and grape seed extract, another with sulindac, and another kept as a control. Both the sulindac group and the group treated with the resveratrol products/grape seed extract combo saw reduced tumor incidence by over 50%. In addition, the resveratrol products/grape seed extract group saw reduced gastrointestinal toxicity (stomach and intestinal ulcers, which are common side-effects of sulindac). This is an exciting result: in mice, at least, the resveratrol products/grape seed extract combo appears to be about as effective as sulindac, but with fewer side effects (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine).

The team then tested the same set of compounds on human colon cancer stem cells (CSCs), with similar results to the mouse model: the resveratrol products/grape seed extract cocktail appeared to be about as effective as sulindac in suppressing proliferation and inducing apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine).

The team at Penn State is hopeful that their work will pave the way for further study, formal clinical trials, and a possible application for grape compounds in FDA-approved cancer therapies. But the efficacy of resveratrol products and grape seed extract as a cancer treatment has yet to be replicated in studies with human subjects, and it’s important to remember that these findings do not yet translate into a pragmatic approach to treatment that human patients can implement today.


If you’re fighting cancer and frustrated with your treatment plan, you may be tempted to branch out on your own and self-treat with products which are readily available in health food stores and alternative medicine shops. Most doctors would agree that a varied diet incorporating fruits, vegetables, and other vitamin-rich foods is beneficial to overall health, but it’s important to remember that the therapeutic benefits of many over-the-counter herbal supplements and organic compounds remain unverified in clinical trials. Taking these products without the supervision of a doctor may create unforeseen and potentially dangerous interactions with other herbs and prescription medications.

Remember: the fact that a substance is “organic” or “all-natural” does not imply that it is inherently safe. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, dietary supplements are responsible for at least 23,000 emergency room visits in the U.S. every year (STAT). When consumed as a dietary supplement, resveratrol products may cause harmful side-effects in people taking carbamazepine, cytochrome P450 substrate drugs, and antiplatelet drugs, and may even exacerbate certain hormone-sensitive cancers (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center).

If you are fighting cancer and would like to pursue a regimen of vitamins and herbal supplements alongside your clinical treatment, always talk to your doctor first in the interest of avoiding any unforeseen drug interactions or adverse effects. And if you wish to pursue a new course of treatment altogether, always do so under the supervision of a licensed medical doctor. If you are overwhelmed, frustrated, or don’t know where to turn, a medical referral service – like OncoLogic Advisors – can help you find a new doctor or tailor a new treatment plan to your needs.


While we have seen some promising research involving resveratrol products and other grape-based compounds, a great deal of study and investigation is still required before they are accepted as an effective strategy for fighting cancer. Herbal supplements and healthy eating alone are NOT a substitute for chemo, surgery, or other established, FDA-approved cancer therapies.

And always remember, if you’re looking for a second opinion, help is out there. You don’t have to resort to untested alternative medicine to discover an alternate approach to cancer treatment.


MedPage Today – Red Wine Study Hints at Breast Cancer Benefit. Michael Smith. 6 January 2012.

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine – Grape compounds suppress colon cancer stem cells in vitro and in a rodent model of colon carcinogenesis. Lavanya Reddivari, Venkata Charepalli, Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Ramakrishna Vadde, Ryan J. Elias, Joshua D. Lambert and Jairam K. P. Vanamala. 9 August 2016.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center – Resveratrol. Last Updated: 16 December 2016

STAT – Celebrity selfies, lax regulations drive booming supplement industry. Megan Thielking. 16 November, 2016.

What is “Xoft?” Understanding Electronic Brachytherapy

Whether or not you or someone you love is fighting cancer, you’ve probably heard that radiation therapy is one of the most effective weapons doctors have in combating the disease. What you might not know is that there are many different types of radiation therapy in use today, and you may have more options than you realized when formulating a treatment strategy (unsure of your treatment strategy?) with your doctor. Today, we’ll explore electronic brachytherapy: a type of targeted radiation therapy sometimes known by the proprietary name of Xoft (pronounced “Zoft”).


Brachytherapy is a type of radiation therapy in which a tiny short-range radiation source is placed inside or near the body in close proximity to cancerous cells. By administering a dose of radiation directly into or near the malignant tissue, doctors hope to target cancers with greater precision while reducing collateral damage to surrounding healthy tissues and organs. Brachytherapy may be used to treat a variety of cancers, including breast, prostate, cervical, endometrial, and some skin cancers (UpToDate).

The exact placement and delivery method of the radiation source will be determined by your doctor according to the type of cancer you have and where it is in your body. Brachytherapy sources come in several different types and sizes, which allow doctors to tailor the procedure to each patient’s needs. Some sources look like tiny seeds, which may be placed near the cancer with an applicator. This applicator might look like a metal wand, a surgical balloon, or a thin, ribbon-like catheter (National Cancer Institute).

Brachytherapy may be administered on either an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending on the type of radioactive source and method of delivery chosen by your doctor. Traditional brachytherapy implants utilize a radioactive substance as their source of ionizing radiation (such as iridium-192 or iodine-125) (UpToDate). Newer methods (like the Xoft system) utilize a tiny electronically-powered x-ray source, which we will explore further below (Xoft).

Your doctor may choose to treat you with a low dose of radiation (or “LDR,” in which the the radiation source may remain in place over the course of several days), or with a high dose of radiation (“HDR,” in which the source is applied for several minutes at a time and is removed between treatment sessions). In some cases, your doctor may choose permanent brachytherapy implants; these implants deliver a low dose of radiation to a malignant area that diminishes gradually over time. As their name suggests, permanent implants remain in place in the body even after the radiation in the source wears off (National Cancer Institute).

In the case of some cancers (like certain early-stage breast cancers), your doctor may choose to administer one high dose of radiation directly to an affected area during surgery; this is called intraoperative radiation therapy (or, IORT) (UpToDate). For example, your surgeon may employ brachytherapy during a lumpectomy. After the tumor is removed, the radiation source is placed in a surgical balloon and inserted directly into the surgical cavity for several minutes. By reducing hospital visits and shortening treatment times, this streamlined, two-in-one approach has an obvious appeal for many patients (Xoft eBx Connect).

Your doctor may recommend brachytherapy alone, or in conjunction with other types of radiation (like external beam radiation therapy) and pharmaceutical or hormonal therapies. Do you need help deciding if this treatment works for you?


Brachytherapy has been in use for some time now, but new developments in technology are making the technique safer, less invasive, and more accessible than ever for doctors and their patients. Companies like Xoft and Elekta have begun offering a newer method of brachytherapy called electronic brachytherapy, which utilizes a minuscule X-ray source rather than a device containing radioactive isotopes (Esteya).

Why is this X-ray technology an improvement? Unlike brachytherapy sources which utilize radioactive substances, an X-ray tube only produces ionizing radiation when your doctor switches it on. This means it’s easier for your doctors to take the necessary precautions in order to use the technology safely, and it’s easier than ever for medical facilities to incorporate brachytherapy systems into their clinical infrastructure. In addition, it’s no longer necessary for patients to be placed in isolation in a shielded area while undergoing treatment with an electronic brachytherapy system like Xoft; medical staff may now remain in the room with you during treatment, providing a more comfortable and personable experience for doctors and patients alike (Xoft).

Xoft, Esteya, and other electronic brachytherapy systems are able to deliver a dose of radiation similar to traditional high-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy with radioisotopes. That means each treatment session packs a bigger punch, so to speak, which translates into shorter treatment times for patients (Esteya).

Electronic brachytherapy is FDA-approved for use both inside the body (for instance, as a method of IORT during a lumpectomy) and outside the body (to treat skin cancers) (Xoft). When employed externally, electronic brachytherapy is gentle, non-invasive, and may be administered in an outpatient setting. As the technique eliminates the need for sutures or reconstructive surgery after the cancer is removed, electronic surface brachytherapy is a particularly appealing option in treating cancers in visible areas like the nose, eyelid, or other parts of the face (Esteya).


Electronic brachytherapy provides an array of effective, accessible options for treating many types of cancer. As with any treatment, it’s important to choose a clinic that is familiar with brachytherapy, with experienced technicians who perform a high volume of cases. (UpToDate). If you find your doctor lacks experience with brachytherapy, or if you wish to know more about you may wish to get a second opinion or a referral to a clinic that specializes in this method of treatment.

Oncologic Advisors offers expert cancer second opinions and navigational services. Our group of dedicated, board-certified oncologists find the best treatment options for patients, while connecting them to top cancer centers and clinical trials in the United States.


UpToDate – Radiation therapy techniques in cancer treatment. Timur Mitin, MD, PhD. Topic last updated April 26, 2017.

National Cancer Institute – What To Know About Brachytherapy (A Type of Internal Radiation Therapy). Revised Feburary 2012.

Xoft – What is Electronic Brachytherapy?

Xoft eBx Connect – eBx for Early Stage Breast Cancer.

Esteya – Electronic Brachytherapy Information for Healthcare Professionals.