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All Posts in Category: Cancer

Top 6 Carcinogenic Food Contaminants

Cancer is on the rise. The number of new cancer cases in Canada is expected to rise about 40% in the next 15 years, according to a new report – Canadian Cancer Statistics 2015 – released by the Canadian Cancer Society. Almost all cancer deaths in Canada (96%) will occur in people over the age of 50, and most (62%) deaths will occur in those aged 70 and over.

Many people worry that substances or exposures in their environment may cause cancer. Food is one of them. We eat (at least) 3 times a day and what we eat has tremendous impact on our health.

But let first define what a carcinogen is.

Cancer is caused by changes in a cell’s DNA – its genetic “blueprint.” Some of these changes may be inherited from our parents. Others may be caused by outside exposures, which are often referred to as environmental factors. Environmental factors can include a wide range of exposures, such as:

  • Lifestyle factors (nutrition, tobacco use, physical activity, etc.)
  • Naturally occurring exposures (ultraviolet light, radon gas, infectious agents, etc.)
  • Medical treatments (radiation and medicines including chemotherapy, hormone drugs, drugs that suppress the immune system, etc.)
  • Household exposures
  • Workplace exposures
  • Pollution

Substances and exposures that can lead to cancer are called carcinogens. Some carcinogens do not affect DNA directly, but lead to cancer in other ways. For example, they may cause cells to divide at a faster than normal rate, which could increase the chances that DNA changes will occur.

Carcinogens do not cause cancer in every case, all the time. Substances labeled as carcinogens may have different levels of cancer-causing potential. Some may cause cancer only after prolonged, high levels of exposure (“the dose makes the poison”). And for any particular person, the risk of developing cancer depends on many factors, including how they are exposed to a carcinogen, the length and intensity of the exposure, and the person’s genetic makeup.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). One of its major goals is to identify causes of cancer. The most widely used system for classifying carcinogens comes from the IARC. In the past 30 years, the IARC has evaluated the cancer-causing potential of more than 900 likely candidates, placing them into one of the following groups:

Group 1: Carcinogenic to humans

Group 2A: Probably carcinogenic to humans

Group 2B: Possibly carcinogenic to humans

Group 3: Unclassifiable as to carcinogenicity in humans

Group 4: Probably not carcinogenic to humans

Perhaps not surprisingly, based on how hard it can be to test these candidate carcinogens (who would want to be voluntarily subjected to carcinogens?), most are listed as being of probable, possible, or unknown risk. Only a little over 100 are classified as “carcinogenic to humans.”

Here is my list of the worst carcinogenic foods (contaminants).

A special note here, in case it wasn’t clear by now: food itself, in its natural state, is NOT carcinogenic. It is the process of preparing the food, the things we add to the food, we spray the food with, the way we preserve or “enhance” the food that will make the altered food be considered carcinogenic.

  • Processed meats: Most processed meat products, including lunch meats, bacon, sausage, and hot dogs, contain chemical preservatives that make them appear fresh, tastier and appealing, but that can also cause cancer. Both sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate have been linked to significantly increasing the risk of colon and other forms of cancer, so be sure to choose only uncured meat products made without nitrates, and preferably from grass-fed sources. (Group 1)

  • Microwave Popcorn: From the chemically-lined bag to the actual contents, microwave popcorn is at the center of lung cancer debates around the world. Not only are the kernels and oil likely GMO (which the manufacturer does not have to disclose) , the fumes released from artificial butter flavoring contain diacetyl, which is toxic to humans. Make your own organic popcorn the old-fashioned way – air popped – it tastes better, doesn’t release toxic fumes, and is a healthier choice for you. (Group 1)

  • Alcoholic beverages: all types of alcohol (fermented and those further distilled) can cause cancer in humans. Animal studies have not convincingly demonstrated that ethanol itself is carcinogenic leading to the hypothesis that other contaminants in alcoholic beverages or ethanol metabolites (acetaldehyde) are responsible for these effects. This is true only for heavy alcohol consumption (heavy drinkers). (Group 1)
  • Salted fish: This is produced in several parts of Asia using a method that appears to result in the production of carcinogenic by-products. These foods can be very high in nitrates and nitrites, which react with protein to form nitrosamines. (Group 1)

  • Pickled vegetables: They have been studied for their association with cancer mainly in Asia and especially in China. The pickling process is different from that used in many parts of the world and uses no salt or vinegar. Instead it relies on natural fermentation and can lead to contamination with mold. (Group 2B)

  • Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs): The rapidly growing industry of genetically modified crops are infiltrating our food supply at an alarming rate. More than 90% of our corn and soy are now genetically modified. The current research on the health risks of GMOs is inconclusive. In other words, researchers cannot confirm whether or not GMOs increase cancer risks. Yes still, IARC has recently labelled the corn or soy sprayed with Roundup (the active ingredient: glyphosate) as probably carcinogenic to humans. (Group 2A)

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IV Nutrition Therapy

Intravenous (IV) Therapy is the quickest, safest way to administer vitamins, minerals and amino acids to enhance immune function, increase energy levels, and help manage a variety of chronic health problems. IV nutrients can be preventive by strengthening your body’s defenses as well as anti-aging by promoting great skin, hair, and nails to help you look and feel younger. IV is also an excellent tool to prepare for surgery, it decreases the rate of infections, complications, scar-formation and hospitalization.

IV nutrients provide rapid relief for a variety of symptoms and conditions. When you take a vitamin orally, your body must work to shift nutrients into your blood. However, when vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are infused intravenously (IV), they are delivered directly into the bloodstream bypassing the stomach and liver and supplying much higher doses of certain nutrients than could typically be given orally.

An IV infusion delivers 100% of each vitamin/mineral administered providing maximum absorption for great results.

What are some of the benefits of IV Nutritional Therapy?

  • Fewer side effects. IV therapy bypasses the stomach and intestines. This means no upset stomach or intestinal problems like cramps, nausea, or diarrhea, which sometimes result from taking high doses of certain vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C and magnesium.
  • Corrects cellular deficits. For some patients, certain disease states can reduce the ability of orally administered nutrients to penetrate cell walls, which in turn reduces their effectiveness. When nutrients are delivered via direct IV vitamin therapy, however, they are better able to penetrate cells, making them more effective in boosting the immune system, healing damaged tissue and reducing tissues inflammation.
  • Boosts the immune system. Our IV (intravenous) Program uses a concentrated blend of key vitamins, minerals and amino acids that boost the body’s immune system in a way that orally administered vitamins and intramuscular vitamin injections simply cannot match. In fact, the ultra-high blood concentrations of IV vitamin C that we can provide can be just as effective as prescription medications for treating influenza and other viruses. Our unique blend of various B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, and calcium have a significant effect on a variety of conditions from asthma to angina and promote whole-body health and wellness.

Is IV Nutritional Therapy Right for Me?

Most of us have some form of Gut damage due to chronic exposures to toxins in our daily environment. This leads to our bodies having a harder time absorbing the necessary nutrients for our cells to nourish in. IV therapy solves this problem by infusing directly into the bloodstream where these nutrients make their way into cells for pure nourishment.

What are the conditions treated with IV Therapy?

Here are some conditions that IV nutrition therapy proved to be helpful:

  • Asthma
  • Migraines
  • Allergies
  • Fatigue (chronic)
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Energy Boost
  • Enhance Athletic Performance
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Acute Muscle Spasms
  • Lowered Immune System
  • Cancer care
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What is Vaping?

You’ve probably heard of this…or seen the mushrooming of the stores in Toronto, if you drive along Danforth Ave or Kingston Road…full of store with this name on them: VAPE.

What is it?

Vaping can be defined as the act of inhaling and exhaling the water vapor produced by an electric device called vaporizer (also called a vape, or e-cigarette).

e-liquid

And if you’re wondering what is the “smoke” that comes out of the person’s mouth, well, it’s the e-liquid in gaseous form that is inhaled and exhaled by vapers. It usually looks thicker than smoke, but dissipates more quickly into the air and smells stronger, usually like fruit, candy, mint or the flavoring used.

Vaping is a tobacco-free, and in some cases even nicotine-free, version of a traditional tobacco cigarette, but we don’t use the word smoking as there is no smoke per see, there is only flavored water vapors that you inhale and exhale.

These stores sell these vaporizers and the flavorings that the customers use.

 

The history of Vaping

In contrary to the popular belief that vaporizers were “invented” a few years ago, their history dates back thousands of years. The earliest mention of vaping can be seen in the book called The History of Herodotus by the Greek Historian Herodotus. He talks about the first use of vaping while writing about the customs and traditions of Scythians, a massive clan of Iranian Eurasian rovers who used to live in the lands of what is now Southern Russia, back in 500BC. Scythians would throw weed on red-hot stones, which would turn into vapor immediately, and they would bathe in it and inhale it. Probably not the most sophisticated vaporizer, but that surely was an interesting ritual.

Irfan Sheikh – the physician of the Mughal emperor Akbar I (1542 – 1605 AD) – is accredited with inventing hookah, many consider it a key step towards the making of the modern vaporizer.

Skipping to more recent times, in the 1960s, a Korean War veteran Herbert A. Gilbert invented, and patented, the first e-cigarette as an alternative to burnt tobacco. His smokeless, non-tobacco cigarette resembled a modern e-cigarette: it included flavor cartridges, heating elements, and smokeless flavored air. Unfortunately it was never commercially realized. Manufacturers were enjoying the height of the tobacco cigarette in the 1960s, when cigarette ads and public smoking ran rampant. There was no need for a less addictive, and healthier alternative to smoking.

In the 2000s, Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist and small-time medical researcher made the first modern e-cigarette. Motivated by his own smoking addiction, and his father’s death from smoking-induced lung cancer, Hon Lik spent numerous years building a smokeless cigarette that worked. In 2006, he released his first e-cigarette to the international public. It contained a battery, plastic cartridge, ultrasonic atomizer and a nicotine solution suspended in propylene glycol.

By 2006 e-cigarettes had made their way to Europe, and then to North America. They started off as quite expensive items, but over the years, as more companies manufactured them, the price came down and popularity went up.

 

Canadian Vaping laws

At this time in Canada, electronic cigarettes (aka e-cigarettes, e-cigs, vapes, vaporizers, etc.)  are 100% legal to use as individuals.  There are currently no regulations as to where you can use them, with a few exceptions.  There are however several municipal vaping regulations that have been created by municipalities and provinces.

You must be 19 to purchase e-cigarettes and vaping supplies. — Enacted Jan 1, 2016.  Similar to tobacco products, it is illegal to buy and sell e-cigarettes and vaping supplies to anyone under the age of 19.  It is required by law for vape shops in Ontario to receive proper government approved Identification from the customer before selling them e-cigarettes or supplies. Also, it is now illegal to use e-cigarettes (vape) in non-smoking areas.

No vaping sign

Data from the 2015 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey suggests that in 2015, 26 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 19 reported having ever tried an e-cigarette, up from 20 per cent in 2013.

For all businesses in Ontario, the use of e-cigarettes indoors now falls within the scope of the Smoke Free Ontario regulations. This means that use of an e-cigarette is restricted in exactly the same way as tobacco cigarettes.

 

Is Vaping Really Safe?

Well, this is a question that usually follows the question what is vaping. So, instead of giving you my personal opinion, let me simply state some of the results of some of the researches carried out to find the answer:

  • Vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking – Public Health England
  • Vaporizers are many times less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes, and vaping can even help smokers quit – American Heart Association
  • The proven advantages of vaping outweigh its “potential” harms. Vaporizers are the first genuinely new way of helping people quit smoking that we have seen in many years – Royal College of Physicians – England
  • Exhaled vapor has lesser volatile organic compounds than the normal exhaled breath, let alone exhaled smoke – Spanish Council of Scientific Research

So, is vaping safe? Well, despite all these researches and studies, we can’t say that vaporizers pose absolutely no threat to your health. But what is 100% safe? So let’s put the answer this way: vaping is safer than smoking, and can be a great aid in harm-reduction for people who want to quit smoking.

e-cig vs cigarette

And because e-cigarettes have been on the market for only about 10 years, there have been no long-term studies of people who have used them for 30 to 40 years. Therefore, the full extent of vaping effects on heart and lung health, as well as its cancer-causing potential over time is not known.

Another unanswered question is how the flavorings used in the devices may affect people’s health. Nearly 500 brands and 7,700 flavors of e-cigarettes are currently on sale in USA and Canada. It’s not yet known whether these flavorings have any respiratory effects when they are vaporized and inhaled. More research is needed to identify any hazards associated with the potential inhalation of flavoring agents.

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NUTRIGENOMIX: test your genes for your best health!

It is already a well-established fact now that your genes can help tell you what to eat and influence how diet affects your health. It has long been apparent that some people respond differently from others to certain foods.

Genes also can help explain why people choose the foods they do—for example why some people have a greater tendency for sweets or salt, for instance. And this test in particular also can show how our bodies respond to different types of exercise.

Genetic testing has gained widespread use in many areas, especially in helping to determine our risk for developing various diseases, from cancer to cardiovascular conditions. Another, more recent use for genetic testing is known as pharmacogenomics, which can help doctors predict which of several medications a patient is taking is most likely to benefit that individual patient.

Nutrigenomix is a University of Toronto start-up biotechnology company that is dedicated to empowering healthcare professionals and their patients with comprehensive, reliable information with the ultimate goal of improving health through personalized nutrition.

NUTRIGENOMIX

The Nutrigenomix® 45 Gene Test from this company provides you with the latest that science has to offer in personalized nutritional counselling.

This comprehensive genetic test consists of a panel of 45 genetic markers that enable a naturopath to provide a patient with personalized nutrition advice and physical activity recommendations tailored to your DNA.

This test can help you determine how you respond to key components of your diet as well as physical activity.

The results of this test can impact weight loss & body composition, nutrient metabolism, heart health, food intolerances, and eating habits.

The test also provides you with information related to the relationship between your genes and athletic performance & injury risk.

Fear of needles? No problem. This test needs only your saliva! Simple.

Genes

Your test results are presented in a customized report, which includes dietary and physical activity recommendations based on your individual genetic profile.

To see a Sample Report and to understand the beauty of this test, please click here.

To see a Sample Report for the newly introduced Nutrigenomix Sport Test (45-gene Sport Test), please click here.

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Medical Thermography

The roots of Thermography, or heat differentiation, are ancient, dating back to the time of the pyramids. A papyrus from 1700 BC documents the association of temperature with disease.history1

By 400 BC, physicians commonly employed a primitive form of Thermography: they applied a thin coat of mud to a patient’s body, observed the patterns made by the different rates of mud drying, and attributed those patterns to hot and cold temperatures on the surface of the body. Hippocrates summed it up: “In whatever part of the body excess of heat or cold is felt, the disease is there to be discovered.”

Fast forward 2,000 years and thermography is gaining more and more acceptance in the medical world.

Here, at the Family Naturopathic Clinic, we consider thermography as a very important and unique “Health Discovery Technology” that provides thousands of patients with peace of mind when they may be questioning new or unusually concerning health symptoms.

Skin blood flow is under the control of the sympathetic nervous system. In normal people there is a symmetrical dermal pattern which is consistent and reproducible for any individual. This is recorded in precise detail with a temperature sensitivity of 0.1 Celsius with our scanner.

In addition, thermography can assist in the discovery of the state of health in general. You may have heard of thermography as a safe method of breast health screening…but it can be that and so much more!

Role in Breast Cancer screening

Thermography is a painless, non-invasive, state of the art clinical test without any exposure to radiation and is used as part of an early detection program which gives women of all ages the opportunity to increase their chances of detecting breast disease at an early stage. It is particularly useful for women under 50 where mammography is less effective.

Thermography’s role in breast cancer and other breast disorders is to help in early detection and monitoring of abnormal physiology and the establishment of risk factors for the development or existence of cancer. When used with other procedures the best possible evaluation of breast health is made.

This test is designed to improve chances for detecting fast-growing, active tumors in the intervals between mammographic screenings or when mammography is not indicated by screening guidelines for women under 50 years of age.

All patients thermograms (breast images) are kept on record and form a baseline for all future routine evaluations.

Abnormal presentation of the legs

To sum up, the clinical uses for Infrared Thermal Imaging include:

  1. To define the extent of a lesion of which a diagnosis has previously been made;
  2. To localize an abnormal area not previously identified, so further diagnostic tests can be performed;
  3. To detect early lesions before they are clinically evident;
  4. To monitor the healing process before the patient is returned to work or training.

Over the past two decades, it has been determined through extensive clinical studies that inflammation is not just a result of sickness, but the actual CAUSE of serious, life threatening conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Inflammation, most often initially caused by the bio-chemical results of stress, creates an environment that allows these kinds of diseases to establish and flourish. This condition is silent but not invisible… if you can just put yourself in front of an infrared camera and an experienced thermographer. This is why you should use thermography… knowledge offers the power to take control of your future health and the length and quality of your life.

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Can you swallow your tongue?

You have probably heard this before: when you see someone passing out or having a seizure, in general, losing consciousness due to various reasons, there seems to be always someone saying that you should try to get the poor fella’s tongue out of his mouth so he will not swallow it. This is a myth.

But before explaining that, let’s get some facts straight.

Tongue is an amazing muscular organ that is covered by a thin mucous membrane. It lies partly in the mouth cavity and partly in the oropharynx. It is highly mobile and can be shifted into a number of different positions and also assume various shapes. The tongue’s primary function is often seen as that of being the organ of taste, however, its role in various other activities is also crucial.

Functions of the tongue:

  • Taste. The taste buds, the sensory receptors for taste, are located on the tongue.
  • Speech. The movements of the tongue are crucial for articulation.
  • Chewing and swallowing. The tongue helps the teeth and other parts of the mouth with chewing food and passing it down the throat as the first part of the swallowing process.
  • Cleaning. The movements of the tongue dislodge food particles stuck between the teeth, gum and cheek so that it can be spat out or swallowed.

The tongue is a muscular mass and although it is made up of several muscles, all act in conjunction with each other to perform various movements. The tongue muscles can be divided into the intrinsic and extrinsic groups. Broadly the intrinsic muscles can alter the shape of the tongue while the extrinsic muscles change the position of the tongue.

Anatomy of the mouth

Other interesting facts about the human tongue:

  • Tongue is the only muscle in human body that works without any support from the skeleton! It is a biological structure known in mammals as muscular hydrostat; the most common recognized muscular hydrostat is the trunk of an elephant.
  • There are specific segments on tongue for sensing different tastes. The notion that different parts of the tongue is responsible for sensing different types of tastes (in other words, there are taste belts) is actually a myth. Our tongue can taste sour, sweet, bitter, salty and umami. Umami is actually a very new variant of taste discovered by a Japanese scientist who found that the chemical that is responsible for this taste is monosodium glutamate (the famous “MSG”).
  • The tongue is THE STRONGEST muscle in entire body. However, it is at the same time, one of THE MOST SENSITIVE muscles as well.
  • Women have shorter tongues compared to males.
  • Our tongue has a very unique property. It is incapable of detecting taste if it is dry! This means that if you place a piece of lemon on a dry tongue, you will not be able to tell that it is sour. The tongue gets its ability to sense taste only in the presence of saliva that keeps it moist. The most common source of dry mouth/tongue is the prescribed medication.
  • Sticking out your tongue is considered unacceptable behavior in many cultures, but it is a sign of respect in others. In Tibet, sticking out the tongue is a greeting. When two people meet, they stick out their tongues at each other. Among the Maori people of New Zealand, sticking out the tongue is part of a war chant and is meant to intimidate the enemy. If you want to see it yourself and you like rugby, please watch on YouTube the ceremonial Haka before a rugby game of New Zealand (“All Blacks”).

There is a common belief that you can swallow your tongue but it is not actual possible to do it. What the people would actually mean is that tongue can block the opening of the airway (trachea); one of the first things you are taught in basic life support is that if someone is having difficulty breathing you should tilt his/her head and lift the chin; this will help to remove the tongue as an obstruction.

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Cordyceps: the killer fungus!

Cordyceps sinensis is a very interesting medicinal mushroom that has been used for medicinal purposes in Asia for centuries. It is used mainly to restore lost energy and vigor and to stimulate a fatigued immune system acting like a general tonic for the body.

In addition to the English term “caterpillar fungus” there are other interesting names of this killer fungus. In Tibetan it is referred to as Yartsa gunbu. The Chinese name is dong chong xia cao (meaning “winter worm, summer grass”). The Latin name cordyceps means “club head”, and sinensis is “from China”. According to the recent DNA review of the genus Cordyceps, the new name for Cordyceps sinensis is actually Ophiocordyceps sinensis.

It grows only in the mountains of Himalaya, on the Tibetan plateau, at the altitude of 3,000-5,000 m in cold snowy marsh lands of China (Tibet), Nepal, India or Bhutan.

This fungus is also known for its unique way of reproducing. It sprouts from the body of dead caterpillar in the wild, entering the body of a live caterpillar while it is in the larval form of a large moth (Thitarodes spp.) native to the region. Upon infection from the spores, strands of filaments called “hyphae” begin to sprout from the spores that then leads to the death of the caterpillar. That’s a parasite with no scruples! The hyphae grow longer and multiply and develop into a relatively large stalk-like fungal fruiting body that emerges from the insect’s carcass after having sapped the caterpillar’s body of all nutrients thus killing and mummifying the remains. This horror movie action makes Cordyceps one of the coolest mushrooms around!

The killer fungus in action!

The fruiting body is usually up to 4 inches (around 10 cm) long and 0.3 inches (1/2 cm) wide. Unlike a typical mushroom, these are curved and finger-shaped like a small cane. They’re usually orange or brown. It can be a very important source of income for people living in rural Tibet.

Cordyceps sinensis – sprouting from buried caterpillars

BBC News reported a few years ago that some Himalayan villagers make their living by collecting the fungus along the mountainous regions of Tibet to sell to a Chinese market that can be as high as tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram. In fact, the money to be made is so lucrative that it resulted in multiple homicides as villagers from one region tried to prevent outsiders from cashing in on their limited supply. It was estimated that the price of Cordyceps sinensis on the Tibetan Plateau rose dramatically by 900% between 1998 and 2008 due to the demand from the Western hemisphere and Europe Today, in order to meet this demand, Cordyceps is grown in climate-controlled greenhouses within a grain-based substrate.

Tibetan mountains

Cordyceps fungus has a long history of use in traditional medicine in China and now worldwide. It has numerous bioactive compounds, including polysaccharides and nucleosides (organic molecules that will be converted into building blocks of the genetic material DNA) which have been studied for their broad range of biological activities. Its main constituents are Unsaturated fatty acids, Amino acids and Adenosine, Adenine, Uracil, Uridine and Cordycepin (3′-deoxyadenosine). It is usually standardized to 4% cordycepic acid and 0.25% adenosine (Metagenics). Cordycepin is known as a nucleotide analogue, due to its structural similarities to adenosine.

It is sweet in flavor, slightly warm in nature and in Traditional Chinese Medicine this fungus mainly manifests its therapeutics actions in the Lung and Kidney meridians (enhances Kdnney Yang and replenishes Essence, invigorates the Lungs, stops bleeding and dissolves Phlegm).

In the Western medical world, the health benefits of Cordyceps sisnesis are:

  • Stimulation of the immune function
  • General adaptogen, resulting in more energy, strength and stamina
  • Anti-tumor properties (good for cancer)
  • Anemia (builds bone marrow)
  • Persistent cough (reduces excess phlegm and increases oxygenation in the lungs)
  • General sexual tonic and libido/performance enhancer (“Viagra” of Asia)
  • Reduces cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, VLDl and increases HDL
  • Improves Arrhythmia
  • Improves Tinnitus
  • Hypoglycemic effects (reduces blood glucose and benefits insulin resistence)
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Blood tests for cancer

 I am writing this article to answer a question I get from some of my patients about blood tests for cancer. Is there any reliable blood test to detect cancer? Is usually what I am being asked once in a while by my patients.

To answer this question I need first to introduce the notion of Tumor Markers.

These are substances that are produced by the cancerous cells or by the other cells (usually neighboring cells) in the body in response to the detection of cancer or other benign (non-cancerous) conditions.

A tumor is by the definition any abnormal growth of cells, a mass of cells; even a collection of fluid would qualify as a tumor in the world of pathology. Tumors could be benign (not dangerous per se) and malignant (a threatening type of tumor). Also used, there is the term neoplasm, which is another way of saying tumor, in a more academic fashion.

Stages of growth of a tumor

Now, when these cells start to multiply without control, the mass itself starts to produce some chemicals that are called tumor markers. Most tumor markers are made by normal cells as well as by cancer cells. Most of the time, they are produced at a higher number in cancerous conditions. These substances can be mostly found in the blood, but also they show up in urine, stool, tumor tissues or other tissues or bodily fluids of patients with cancer.

To date, based on the listing from National Cancer Institute (USA) website, there are more than 30 tumor markers that are used in clinical care. Some are associated with only one type of cancer, others are associated with two or more cancer types. There is no “universal” tumor marker that can detect any type of cancer. So far. Let’s hope that medicine and oncology with all the grants and pharmaceutical power behind it will find this universal marker in the near future.

The problem with these tumor markers is that sometimes, benign tumors can cause the levels of some tumor markers to increase too. This is a serious limitation to which oncology didn’t find an answer yet. On top of that, tumor markers have not been identified for every type of cancer. I mean, simply put it, there is cancers that do not have tumor markers, do not have something specific to be identified and measured. Cancer is a tricky bastard that is.

Because of these things, tumor markers cannot be used alone to diagnose cancer. They are combined with other tests, of which the BIOPSY is the gold standard in oncology (a pathologist examines the biopsied cells in the lab). Seeing is believing here.

The most common blood tests used in screening for cancer and showed to reduce the cancer deaths are:

  • Alpha-fetoprotein blood test

This test is sometimes used, along with ultrasound of the liver, to try to detect liver cancer early in people at high risk of the disease.

  • CA-125 test

This blood test, which is often done together with a transvaginal ultrasound, may be used to try to detect ovarian cancer early, especially in women with an increased risk of the disease.

  • PSA test

This blood test, which is often done along with a digital rectal exam, is able to detect prostate cancer at an early stage. However, expert groups no longer recommend routine PSA testing for most men because studies have shown that it has little or no effect on prostate cancer deaths and leads to overdiagnosis and overtreatment.

  • High-sensitivity Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)

This test has been shown to reduce deaths from colorectal cancer. Colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy are also done concurrently here and help prevent colorectal cancer because they can detect abnormal colon growths (polyps) that can be removed before they develop into cancer.

  • Calcitonin

It is a blood test used to aid in diagnosis, check whether treatment is working, and assess recurrence for medullary thyroid cancer.

  • Lactate dehydrogenase

This test is used to assess stage, prognosis, and response to treatment for tumors like: Germ cell tumors, lymphoma, leukemia, melanoma, and neuroblastoma.

So, unfortunately, the general answer to the question that prompted this article is NO. There are no reliable blood tests that will detect cancer by themselves. There are tests that will raise the alarm for malignancy but these tests are usually done after you have symptoms or are done for screening if you are a high-risk patient for a specific cancer due to your family history (someone in your family died of some cancer at an early age). The symptoms, prior risk, combined with tests (blood or genetic) and imaging will complete the picture for a doctor and a diagnosis will be made and provided.

One word about the genetic testing.

This seems to be the future of cancer screening. Genetic-based testing can tell an individual about their predisposition for certain types of cancer as well act as a tool for the early detection of cancer. These tests are much more accurate than the older generation of cancer markers.

 

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