H.O.P.E. Blog

Will You NEGU?

A remarkable young lady named Jessie Rees coined the term, NEGU, describing her determination to Never Ever Give Up.  This very brave 12-year-old fought brain cancer for two years, and before her death created Joy Jars to share with children with cancer.  The Jessie Rees Foundation was created to honor her commitment to children with cancer.  Its quite fitting logo is NEGU to pay tribute to Jessie's personal message. 

To find out more about Jessie, Joy Jars and the Jessie Rees Foundation, visit www.negu.org, and there you can also sign up for the Year of Joy Program too. 


B+ is an Attitude, Not a Grade

The B+ Foundation (“B Positive”) is one of the largest providers of financial assistance to families of kids with cancer. 

 The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation honors the life of Andrew McDonough. Andrew battled leukemia, septic shock, and complications of childhood cancer for 167 days before passing away on July 14, 2007, at the age of 14. Andrew’s B+ blood type became his family’s and friends’ motto throughout his fight against childhood cancer — to “Be Positive.”

 If you’re interested, go to bepositive.org where you can learn more about the organization and print out an application.


The Latest in Cancer Screening: Genetic Testing

By: Jean Lillquist

genetic testing for cancerTwenty years ago a discovery was made that revolutionized the approach to cancer. The BRCA1 gene, which was linked to an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer, was discovered. Ten years after that, in 2003, the Human Genome Project was completed. Scientists sequenced the three billion letters in the human genome, which is the complete set of DNA in the human body. From this over 1,000 disease genes have been discovered, 2,000 genetic tests created, and at least 350 biotechnology-based products are currently in clinical trials. Today’s researchers can find a gene suspected of causing an inherited disease in a matter of days, rather than the years it took before the genome sequence was in hand.

We all carry certain genes that are normally protective against cancer – they correct any DNA damage that naturally occurs when cells divide. Inheriting faulty versions or ‘variants’ of these genes significantly raises the risk of developing cancer, because the altered genes cannot repair the damaged cells, which can build up and form a tumor. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two examples of genes that raise the cancer risk if they become altered. Having a variant BRCA gene greatly increases a woman’s chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer. They also increase a man’s chance of developing breast cancer and prostate cancer.

BRCA genes are not the only cancer risk genes.

Researchers have identified more than 100 new gene variants associated with an increased risk of breast, prostate, ovarian, and thyroid cancer. Individually, these new gene variants only slightly increase the risk of cancer, but a combination could mean a high risk overall. It is becoming increasingly common for doctors to recommend genetic testing for patients who might be at risk for a cancer caused by inherited gene mutations.

Criteria to Consider Before Genetic Testing for Cancer

Many experts recommend that genetic testing for cancer should be strongly considered when all three of the following criteria are met:

  • The person being tested has a personal or family history that suggests an inherited cancer risk condition.
  • The test results can be adequately interpreted (that is, they can clearly tell whether a specific genetic change is present or absent).
  • The results provide information that will help guide a person’s future medical care.

Should You Speak With a Professional?

It is strongly recommended that a person who is considering genetic testing speak with a professional trained in genetics before deciding whether to be tested. These professionals can include doctors, genetic counselors, and other health care providers such as nurses, psychologists, or social worker. Genetic testing includes a detailed review of the individual’s personal and family medical history related to possible cancer risk. Genetic tests are usually requested by a person’s doctor or other health care provider. Although it may be possible to obtain some genetic tests without a health care provider’s order, this approach is not recommended.

How is Genetic Testing Done?

Testing is done on a small sample of body fluid – usually blood, but sometimes saliva, cells from inside the cheek, skin cells, or amniotic fluid. The sample is then sent to a lab that specializes in genetic testing. The lab returns the test results to the doctor or genetic counselor or, in some cases, directly to the patient him/herself. Counseling about the results then follows to help the patient understand the results and the course of action, if any, to take.

This is barely an overview of a huge new field of medicine. If you want more detailed information you’re advised to look it up on any of the major, reputable cancer sites on the internet: These include the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the National Institutes of Health, M.D. Anderson, as well as Healthline, Everyday Health, Web M.D., and more.

This article is reprinted from H.O.P.E. Lifeline (February, 2017) - monthly newsletter distributed by H.O.P.E. Click here to view the full newsletter.  If you would like to receive the newsletter by e-mail each month, you may subscribe today (no cost or obligation and you may unsubscribe at any time).


Recommended Cancer Screening Guidelines

By Jean Lillquist

cancer screening pic 01 2017February is cancer screening and awareness month. As you are no doubt aware, recommendations for testing have changed (seesawed even) as more research continues to be done. False positives can cause anxiety and lead to unnecessary procedures, while false negatives can cause delays in treatment. Screening tests may be read or interpreted incorrectly or their accuracy compromised and the body itself may present a problem (women with dense breast tissue know all about this). Nevertheless, most health organizations recommend three important screening tests. These are for colon and colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and cervical cancer. Prostate and lung cancer screenings can also be done but are not considered mandatory. See below for those considered most important from the American Cancer Society.

Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

  • Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
  • Women ages 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
  • Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.
  • Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.

All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening. They also should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a health care provider right away.

Colon and Rectal Cancer Screening Guidelines

Starting at age 50, both men and women should follow one of these testing plans:

Tests that find polyps and cancer

Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years*, or Colonoscopy every 10 years, or Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years*, or

CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years*

Tests that mostly find cancer

Yearly guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)**, or Yearly fecal immunochemical test (FIT)**, or Stool DNA test (sDNA) every 3 years*

* If the test is positive, a colonoscopy should be done.

** The multiple stool take-home test should be used. One test done in the office is not enough. A colonoscopy should be done if the test is positive.

Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines

  • Cervical cancer testing should start at age 21. Women under age 21 should not be tested.
  • Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap test done every 3 years. HPV testing should not be used in this age group unless it’s needed after an abnormal Pap test result.
  • Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test plus an HPV test (called “co-testing”) done every 5 years. This is the preferred approach, but it’s OK to have a Pap test alone every 3 years.
  • Women over age 65 who have had regular cervical cancer testing in the past 10 years with normal results should not be tested for cervical cancer. Once testing is stopped, it should not be started again. Women with a history of a serious cervical pre-cancer should continue to be tested for at least 20 years after that diagnosis, even if testing goes past age 65.
  • A woman who has had her uterus and cervix removed (a total hysterectomy) for reasons not related to cervical cancer and who has no history of cervical cancer or serious pre-cancer should not be tested.
  • All women who have been vaccinated against HPV should still follow the screening recommendations for their age groups.

Prostate Cancer

The American Cancer Society recommends that men make an informed decision with a health care provider about whether to be tested for prostate cancer. Research has not yet proven that the potential benefits of testing outweigh the harms of testing and treatment. The ACS believes that men should not be tested without first learning about the risks and possible benefits of testing and treatment.

Starting at age 50, men should talk to a health care provider about the pros and cons of testing so they can decide if testing is the right choice for them.

African American men or men who have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before age 65, should have this talk with a health care provider starting at age 45. Men who decide to be tested should get a PSA blood test with or without a rectal exam. How often they’re tested will depend on their PSA level.

This article is reprinted from H.O.P.E. Lifeline (February, 2017) - monthly newsletter distributed by H.O.P.E. Click here to view the full newsletter.  If you would like to receive the newsletter by e-mail each month, you may subscribe today (no cost or obligation and you may unsubscribe at any time).


Need-to-Know Facts About Cervical Cancer

Need-to-Know Facts About Cervical CancerBy: Jean Lilquist

Although worldwide cervical cancer is the third most common type of cancer in women, it is much less common in the United States because of routine Pap tests. And it could occur even more infrequently than that (see article below).

Cervical cancer begins in cells on the surface of the cervix (the lower part of the uterus that opens at the top of the vagina). The development of cervical cancer is usually very slow. It starts as a pre-cancerous condition called dysplasia. This pre-cancerous condition can be detected by a Pap smear and is 100% treatable. Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV (human papillomavirus), a group of viruses that are spread through sexual intercourse. Most adults have been infected with HPV at some time in their lives, but most infections clear up on their own. Some types of HPV can cause changes to cells in the cervix. If these changes are found early, cervical cancer can be prevented by removing or killing the changed cells before they can become cancer cells. A vaccine for females ages 9 to 26 protects against two types of HPV infection that cause cervical cancer.

The major cause of cervical cancer is the presence of certain types of the human papillomavirus. Therefore it is vital that women get regular Pap tests, which help find any abnormal cells. Undetected, pre-cancerous changes can develop into cervical cancer and spread to the bladder, intestines, lungs, and liver. It can takes years for pre-cancerous changes to turn into cervical cancer. Patients with the disease do not usually have problems until the cancer is advanced and has spread.

When present, common symptoms of cervical cancer may include vaginal bleeding, which includes bleeding between periods, after sexual intercourse, or post-menopausal bleeding; unusual vaginal discharge, usually a watery, pink, or foul-smelling discharge; or pelvic pain, especially during intercourse.

The following women are more at risk for cervical cancer than others.

  • Women who have had three or more full-term pregnancies, or who had their first full-term pregnancy before age 17, are twice as likely to get the disease.
  • Smoking doubles the risk.
  • Women who take oral contraceptives for more than five years have an increased risk, but this risk returns to normal within a few years after the pills are stopped.
  • Certain types of sexual behavior are considered risk factors for cervical cancer and HPV infection. These include sex before 18, sex with multiple partners, and sex with someone who has had multiple partners. Studies also show a link between Chlamydia infection and cervical cancer.
  • Women with a weakened immune system or health condition such as HIV have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.

Having an HPV infection or other risk factors does not mean that a woman will develop cervical cancer. Most women who have risk factors for cervical cancer never develop it. If abnormal changes in cells are discovered, the cervix is usually examined under magnification in a procedure called a colposcopy, where pieces of tissue are surgically removed (biopsied) and sent to a laboratory for examination. If the biopsy reveals cancer, the doctor needs to determine the stage of the disease to help decide upon the best treatment. Staging will help determine whether the tumor has invaded nearby tissues, or to other parts of the body. Cervical cancer spreads most often to nearby tissues in the pelvis, lymph nodes, or the lungs. It may also spread to the liver or bones.

Women with cervical cancer have many treatment options. These are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of methods. The choice of treatment depends mainly on the size and shape of the tumor, the age and general health of the patient, and whether the cancer has spread. The treatment choice also may depend on whether the woman wants to become pregnant someday.

This article is reprinted from H.O.P.E. Lifeline (January, 2017) - monthly newsletter distributed by H.O.P.E. Click here to view the full newsletter.  If you would like to receive the newsletter by e-mail each month, you may subscribe today (no cost or obligation and you may unsubscribe at any time).




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