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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Zambakari

Fighting Cancer: Punch Early, Punch Right

Dr. Christopher Zambakari, B.S., MBA, M.I.S., LP.D.


Nathalia Zambakari, Board Certified AGACNP-BC

 

Under a single home care umbrella, Desert Haven Home Care, Apollo Residential Assisted Living, Oasis of Prescott, and Villa Fiore Assisted Living feature unparalleled care, service and advocacy in the compassionate treatment of senior citizens in need of medical attention. Offered in a familial setting, the facilities are teamed by professionals passionate about their work and fully engaged in the welfare of residents. Each facility proudly provides patient-centric supervisory, assisted and directed care, short-term respite stays and memory care support for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.


The following brief on cancer is one in a series of regular informational blogs relative to the field of service, care and the treatment of our elderly.

 

Cancer is a word, not a sentence.[1]


It’s almost like putting your finger in the dike. Plug one leak, another appears. If you were to offer that the trouble with dikes, is they leak, well, then the trouble with cancer is there are too many of them.


In fact, there are more than 200 different cancers, each caused by a buildup of mutations. As the disease progresses, more and more different mutations accumulate.


Early detection of the signs of cancer is a critical component in any prognosis.

Cancer is a genetic condition – genes determine how our cells behave, particularly how they grow and divide. Occasionally, this systematic process fails, causing damaged or abnormal cells to go rogue, to proliferate when they should not, growing out of control and spreading to other body parts. There are trillions of cells in the body, which means cancer can begin practically anywhere.[2] Furthermore, the genetic mutations in every person’s cancer are different from one another – additional alterations will take place when cancer spreads, so different cells in the same tumor may have different genetic alterations.


Like the little Dutch boy who saved his town from flooding, fighting cancer takes courage.


Credit: fizkes / Shutterstock

Nasty numbers


The prevalence rate of cancer worldwide is estimated at 43 percent among all malignancies. Globally, it is the second-leading cause of death. In males, leading cancer diagnoses in 2020 were colorectal, lung and prostate cancers, while in women breast, lung and colorectal cancers were the three most frequent pronouncements.[3]


The deeper one digs into the statistics, the more numbing they become.


In the United States, nearly 2 million cancer diagnoses were reported, while more than 600,000 fell victim to the disease. These numbers can be dissected further to include groupings by sex, age, race/ethnicity, geography, and other factors. In addition, research shows that annually the number of new cases per 100,000 men and women is 442.4, based on 2013–2017 cases. Similarly, over the same four-year window of time, we can put a number to the mortality rate: 158.3 per 100,000.[4],[5]


Moreover, breast cancer is the most common type of the disease treated in the U.S. According to current incidence estimates, 12.9 percent of American women born today will have breast cancer at some point in their lives. In this projection, a woman born today has a one-in-eight chance of developing breast cancer at some point in her lifetime, if the current incidence rate continues.[6],[7]


Reducing risk factors


There are many environmental factors – among them obesity, alcohol, UV radiation, toxins in cigarette smoke and infection – that can damage DNA, causing cells to divide incorrectly. It’s exactly when such division takes place that the likelihood of cancer presents.


But, the dike doesn’t have to spring a leak. There are ways to plug the holes. In fact, according to estimates, as many as 50 percent of cancer cases may have been prevented: Modifiable factors can have significant influence on risk, particularly for the most common malignancies. Certainly, these, in many cases, may be extensive lifestyle modifications, but they carry with them the hope for achieving significantly lower cancer incidence rates.[8]


Not for nothing, research shows that up to 50 percent of cancer cases, and about 50 percent of cancer deaths, are preventable with the knowledge we have today.[9] As noted above, tobacco use and heavy alcohol consumption are villains. Choosing more fruits and vegetables over fatty foods, red meat and sugars can reduce the risk of cancer. And, about the “knowledge we have today,” in addition to lifestyle choices, we know family histories can tell us much in the fight to be risk free. In clinical practice, biochemical markers are frequently employed to fully assess one’s health condition and to detect any trouble early. These special clinical markers are critical when it comes to treating the disease quickly and improving the ultimate outcomes.[10]


Symptoms of cancer


Early detection of the signs of cancer is a critical component in any prognosis.

The grim reality is that cancer is a debilitating, oft-fatal disease. The journey is long and treatment can cause significant physical and psychological changes in survivors.[11] Cancer survivors report having anxiety or depression, which impairs cognitive function and may endure even after therapy. Cancer can impact cognition and make it difficult for patients to deal with existential and social problems. The patient’s self-worth, quality of life and expectations for the future are affected.[12] Fatigue is a common presenting symptom. Weight loss, depression, the onset of other ailments – among them hypothyroidism, vitamin and iron deficiencies, celiac disease – and, less frequently, autoimmune diseases like lupus and chronic infections are all byproducts of the battle against cancer.[13]


Research shows that up to 50 percent of cancer cases, and about 50 percent of cancer deaths, are preventable with the knowledge we have today.

Signs and symptoms are ways the body lets you know – directly and indirectly – you have an injury, illness or disease. The American Cancer Society distinguishes between “signs” and “symptoms” thusly: A sign – fever or bleeding, as examples – can be seen or measured by someone, while a symptom – think pain or fatigue as two – is felt or noticed by the person who has the ailment. Among a long list of signs and symptoms offered by the Cancer Association are:[14]

  • Unexpected and dramatic weight change

  • Swelling or lumps in the body

  • Recurring, unexplainable pain

  • Unusual bleeding or bruising

  • Change in bowel habits; bladder changes

  • Fever, night sweats

  • Vision or hearing troubles

Vigilance – listening to and hearing your body – is a critical tool in the fight against cancer. If conditions like those above persist or grow worse, see your physician. In other words, look for the leak and, like the Dutch youngster, plug it as soon as detected – if it is cancer, you’ll give yourself the chance to have it treated early, when treatment is more successful.



Treatment and future prospects


It must be reiterated that it is possible to diagnose cancer before you show symptoms. Cancer-related checkups are recommended, even though symptoms may not exist. Writes Euan Lawson in British Journal of General Practice of a pair of BJGP studies, “We can see that people are presenting in various ways for many months before they get their [cancer] diagnosis. The effects are subtle, and they are not a reflection on the clinicians, but they offer the tantalising hope of a diagnostic window [authors’ italics] through which we might be able to see a brighter future for people who develop, at least in these studies, colorectal cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma.”


Research and treatments have opened a window of hope.

Bottom line: Tests can help find certain cancers in their beginning stages; give yourself the chance to have cancer addressed early, when treatment is more successful.

Various forms of treatment are available that can control symptoms and halt the spread of the cancer condition. Chemotherapeutic techniques are able to provide, in some case, pain relief while retarding the body’s cell progression. There are late-stage clinical trials underway that will help to improve treatments and bring a greater understanding of the disease and its vulnerabilities, giving medical practitioners another hand up in the fight. Future cancer treatments – as well as regimens for HIV/AIDS – may involve more than one therapy, just as future tumor treatments may use a combination of drugs. While surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiotherapy are among the modalities involved in cancer treatment, another – anticancer bioactive peptides (ACP) – has rapidly expanded, emerging as a promising diagnostic and therapeutic tool in terms of efficiency and specificity.[15]

Treatments, however, are as different and numerous as the individual seeking therapeutic choices. Research and dogged determination is expanding the options available to cancer patients. The critical factor in treatment is an early diagnosis, and regular cancer screenings are key in such a diagnosis.


‘A word, not a sentence’


John Diamond was an award-winning journalist for Britain’s largest daily, The Times. He was a favored broadcaster for the island’s gigantic network BBC. After being diagnosed with throat cancer in 1997, he wrote about the disease regularly in his columns and within the pages of two books he authored. In a remembrance by friend Victoria Cohen, written in The Guardian, the confidant wrote, “It is true that his words helped dismantle the taboos around cancer; persuaded people not to fear open discussion; persuaded doctors not to be mealy-mouthed and dainty with patients.”[16]

It was Diamond who wrote that “cancer is a word, not a sentence.”[17] He was right. Twenty years after his death, research and treatments have opened a window of hope, and cancer screenings are able to detect the disease before it too late. It is widely accepted that there are lifestyle choices important to better health and the avoidance of life-threatening diseases and events (heart attack, stroke, etc.).


Look for the leaks and plug them.


References

[1] Referenced in Rommereim, Leah M, and Naeha Subramanian. "Aiming 2 Curtail Cancer." Cell 162, no. 1 (2015/07/02/ 2015): 18-20.

[2] Fitzgerald, R. C., A. C. Antoniou, L. Fruk, and N. Rosenfeld. "The Future of Early Cancer Detection." [In eng]. Nat Med 28, no. 4 (Apr 2022): 666-77.

[3] Ghaly, Gehane, Hatem Tallima, Eslam Dabbish, Norhan Badr ElDin, Mohamed K. Abd El-Rahman, Mahmoud A. A. Ibrahim, and Tamer Shoeib. "Anti-Cancer Peptides: Status and Future Prospects." Molecules 28, no. 3 (2023): 1148.

[4] “Cancer Statistics,” National Cancer Institute, accessed January 6, 2022, https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/statistics.

[5] Sung, Hyuna, Jacques Ferlay, Rebecca L. Siegel, Mathieu Laversanne, Isabelle Soerjomataram, Ahmedin Jemal, and Freddie Bray. "Global Cancer Statistics 2020: Globocan Estimates of Incidence and Mortality Worldwide for 36 Cancers in 185 Countries." CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 71, no. 3 (2021/05/01 2021): 209-49.

[6] Ellington, T. D., S. J. Henley, R. J. Wilson, J. W. Miller, M. Wu, and L. C. Richardson. "Trends in Breast Cancer Mortality by Race/Ethnicity, Age, and Us Census Region, United States─1999-2020." [In eng]. Cancer 129, no. 1 (Jan 1 2023): 32-38.

[7] Giaquinto, Angela N., Hyuna Sung, Kimberly D. Miller, Joan L. Kramer, Lisa A. Newman, Adair Minihan, Ahmedin Jemal, and Rebecca L. Siegel. "Breast Cancer Statistics, 2022." CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 72, no. 6 (2022/11/01 2022): 524-41.

[8] Stein, C. J., and G. A. Colditz. "Modifiable Risk Factors for Cancer." [In eng]. Br J Cancer 90, no. 2 (Jan 26 2004): 299-303.

[9] “Ways to Prevent Cancer.” Prevent Cancer Foundation. Accessed May 7, 2023. https://www.preventcancer.org/resource/ways-to-prevent-cancer/.

[10] Zhao, Q., Y. Wang, T. Huo, F. Li, L. Zhou, Y. Feng, and Z. Wei. "Exploration of Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer and Development of a Clinical High-Risk Group Rating Scale." [In eng]. J Clin Med 12, no. 1 (Jan 2 2023).

[11] Wang, Y. H., J. Q. Li, J. F. Shi, J. Y. Que, J. J. Liu, J. M. Lappin, J. Leung, et al. "Depression and Anxiety in Relation to Cancer Incidence and Mortality: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies." [In eng]. Mol Psychiatry 25, no. 7 (Jul 2020): 1487-99.

[12] Mandelblatt, J. S., W. Zhai, J. Ahn, B. J. Small, T. A. Ahles, J. E. Carroll, N. Denduluri, et al. "Symptom Burden among Older Breast Cancer Survivors: The Thinking and Living with Cancer (Tlc) Study." [In eng]. Cancer 126, no. 6 (Mar 15 2020): 1183-92.

[13] Stadje, R., K. Dornieden, E. Baum, A. Becker, T. Biroga, S. Bösner, J. Haasenritter, et al."The Differential Diagnosis of Tiredness: A Systematic Review." [In eng]. BMC Fam Pract 17, no. 1 (Oct 20 2016): 147.

[14] “Signs and Symptoms of Cancer.” Do I Have Cancer? The American Cancer Society, November 6, 2020.

[15] Ghaly, Gehane, Hatem Tallima, Eslam Dabbish, Norhan Badr ElDin, Mohamed K. Abd El-Rahman, Mahmoud A. A. Ibrahim, and Tamer Shoeib. "Anti-Cancer Peptides: Status and Future Prospects." Molecules 28, no. 3 (2023): 1148.

[16] Coren, Victoria. “The Diamond Geezer.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, March 4, 2001.

[17] Cited in Rommereim, Leah M, and Naeha Subramanian. "Aiming 2 Curtail Cancer." Cell 162, no. 1 (2015/07/02/ 2015): 18-20.

 

About the Authors

Dr. Christopher Zambakari, B.S., MBA, M.I.S., LP.D.


Christopher Zambakari is the owner and operator of four Arizona-based assisted living care homes – Desert Haven Home Care in Phoenix, Apollo Residential Assisted Living in Glendale, Oasis of Prescott and Villa Fiore Assisted Living in Prescott Valley. He provides direction and oversight to a team of licensed medical and caregiving professionals to ensure the highest levels of customized care, service and advocacy at each of his facilities.


Nathalia Zambakari, Board Certified AGACNP-BC


Nathalia is a board-certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and a licensed medical professional responsible for short-term care patients suffering from severe conditions. As part of the care team, Nathalia reviews the medical records of incoming residents, helping to manage patient regimens and performing caregiver education to ensure the best care, service and advocacy for her residents-in-care.

Disclaimer

The material presented on this blog does not constitute medical advice. We encourage you to consult your primary care physician (PCP). The statements in this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your personal physician for specific medical advice. If you or your loved one is considering the benefits of quality assisted living, please contact us at 602-670-9326, or email us at info@deserthavenaz.com.



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