This Issue

Against the Odds

A Radical Solution

Exercise your option to reduce your risk of cancer

Q & A

Signs & Symptoms

Understanding the jargon of cancer

Oncologist a doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer

Tumor/Neoplasm an abnormal mass of tissue caused by an over-production of cells

Benign non-cancerous; a tumor that does not spread and is rarely life-threatening

Malignant cancerous; a tumor that can invade nearby organs and spread to other parts of the body; may be life-threatening

Primary cancer the original tumor named for the part of the body in which cancer starts

In situ the cancer is confined to its original site

Invasive the cancer has grown into nearby tissues

Metastasis the cancer has spread to other parts of the body; the new tumor is a metastatic tumor of the primary cancer. For example, breast cancer that has spread to the lungs is called metastatic breast cancer, not lung cancer

Staging defines the extent or severity of cancer using Roman numerals I to IV; Stage I is the least extensive, Stage IV the most extensive

Understanding the jargon of cancer

Invaluable inspection

Screening is one of the most effective ways to prevent cancer or find it in its early stage when treatment is more successful.

Cancer

Starting age*

Test*


Breast
40
Mammogram

Prostate
50
PSA

Colorectal
50
Colonoscopy

Cervical
21
Pap test

*Ask your doctor when to start screening and the most appropriate test.

Invaluable inspection

Celebrate National Minority
Cancer Awareness Week!

Health fair
April 10, 1:30 pm
The Power to Make a Difference – AARP
Twelfth Baptist Church, 150 Warren Street, Roxbury

Health education/workshop
April 14, 11:00 am to 2:00 pm
Annual Alternative & Complementary Health and Wellness Fair
UMass Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Dorchester

April 18 - April 30
The Choice is Yours - Boston Public Library Cancer Awareness Display
• Roslindale Branch Library • Grove Hall Branch Library
• South End Branch Library • Parker Hill Library

April 23, 12:00 to 1:00 pm
Our Time and Space
Charles Street AME Church, 551 Warren Street, Roxbury

May 17, 10:30 am
Seniors on the Move – Nutrition – Community Servings
Roxbury YMCA, 285 Martin Luther King Blvd.

Events are sponsored by
Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.
Call 617-632-3244 for more information.
Celebrate National Minority Cancer Awareness Week!

A colorful way to good health

Reduce your odds

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Signs & Symptoms

  • Unintended weight loss

  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits, such as constipation or frequency of urination

  • Persistent cough

  • Hoarseness

  • Lump that can be felt under
    the skin

  • Fatigue

  • Fever
  • Change in skin color – yellowing, darkening or reddening

  • Sores that do not heal

  • Changes to existing moles

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Persistent indigestion

  • Unusual bleeding or discharge

  • Pain

A radical solution

As a registered dietitian at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI), Stacy Kennedy has heard it all before.

She knows most people are busy. She knows processed foods are convenient and cheaper. But she also knows that a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables can help prevent cancer and ultimately, save lives.

“Eating certain foods may decrease the risk of cancer or the aggressiveness of a current cancer,” Kennedy says.

When it comes to fighting cancer, lifestyles matter. Just ask the Washington, D.C.-based American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).

The Institute contends that eating a plant-based diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, can help ward off many cancers. Add exercise and weight control to the mix and one third of all cancers each year in this country could be avoided, according to the AICR.

Dr. Christopher Lathan, an oncologist at DFCI agrees. “There are certain lifestyle choices we can make to benefit us,” he said. “But you can still do those things and get cancer.” He stresses, however, that when a person follows a healthy lifestyle, “the odds are in your favor.”

Though shrouded in many misperceptions, the science on cancer has become clearer over the years.

First of all, it is not one disease. The cancer detected in the prostate is completely different from the cancer detected in the colon. As a matter of fact, there are more than 100 different cancers; breast cancer alone has more than seven.

Put simply, cancer is an unnecessary proliferation of cells, the body’s basic unit of life. Normally, cells grow and divide in an orderly fashion to keep the body sound. Even a scratch or cut sets this process into motion to replace the damaged goods. Cells also grow old and die.

But every now and then problems arise. New cells form when the body does not need them or old cells refuse to go when their time is up. These extra cells form tumors. Some of them are benign, which means they can grow but do not spread to other parts of the body. Once removed, they seldom come back.

A malignant tumor, on the other hand, is cancerous. These cells grow out of control, and invade and destroy tissues around them. What’s worse, they can break off, travel through the bloodstream and wreak havoc on other parts of the body.

While overweight, obesity and lack of exercise are highly correlated to several types of cancers, including postmenopausal breast, endometrial (uterine) and colon cancer, the importance of healthy eating cannot be overlooked. Certain foods are protective for overall good health.

The reason for this protection is a bit radical — literally. There is a constant process of building, dismantling and re-building of molecules to help the body function properly. Sometimes the process goes awry and results in an unstable molecule — or free radical — that hunts around for an acceptable partner to bond.

The problem is that the free radical can do its share of damage during the search, most notably to the DNA, the body’s blueprint. A damaged DNA can result in a mutation, which can in turn result in cancer.

But all’s not lost. The body has a defense system to stabilize the free radicals. A cadre of organisms called antioxidants devours the free radicals.

There’s a hitch, though. The body cannot make the antioxidants — it has to rely on the food absorbed in the body.

That’s where plant foods come in. These antioxidants — commonly referred to as phytochemicals or phytonutrients — are found in fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and even certain herbs.

That’s why eating a plant-based diet has been found to reduce the risk of many types of cancer.

There are thousands of phytonutrients, but only a handful has been identified. Although it’s not clear exactly which component in the phytonutrients deters cancer, it is clear that the antioxidants not only reduce the risk of cancer, they minimize its impact.

In one study, researchers found that apple extract slowed the rate of reproduction of human colon cancer and liver cancer cells.
The good news is that there is not a particular diet of plant foods a person must eat each day. The Produce for Better Health Foundation puts it simply. If a person eats at least one cup of blue/purple, green, white, yellow/orange and red each day, you’re making your recommended quota.

Health-protecting phytonutrients are “color-coded.” For instance, lycopene — that gives tomatoes and watermelon their red color — is known to combat prostate cancer, and dark green leafy vegetables, like collards and lettuce may protect against breast, stomach or oral cancers.

The cruciferous family, which includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts, has been found to stem the growth of many tumors and help the liver rid the body of toxic substances.

Kennedy sums it up. “Variety is key,” she said.