Month promotes increased awareness of gynecologic, prostate cancers
SCREENING LEADS TO EARLY DIAGNOSIS, TREATMENT
Regular Pap smears and gynecological exams are key to early detection and treatment of cervical and other types of cancers, but many women still don't see a doctor or get a Pap test on a routine basis, says Sandra E. Brooks, M.D., director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center and an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "About 12 percent of the women in Maryland have not had a Pap smear in the last three years," Dr. Brooks says. She adds that it is important for women with abnormal test results to be followed closely by their physicians and to receive treatment, if necessary. Women over age 18 should have a Pap test at least every three years, and some women should have them annually, Dr. Brooks says. The University of Maryland offers free Pap smears at its five UniversityCare family health centers, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., as part of a cancer screening program for uninsured city residents funded through the Maryland Cigarette Restitution Fund Program. For an appointment, call (410) 362-4673. Each year, more than 80,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cancer of the ovaries, cervix, uterus, vagina and vulva.
HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY AND CANCER
A recent study found that women who used estrogen replacement therapy after menopause had a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who never used hormone replacement therapy. Other research suggests that combination estrogen-progestin therapy increases the risk for breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. But Dr. Brooks suggests that women consult their doctors before stopping hormone replacement treatment. "I would look for alternative treatment. But if a patient's symptoms are severe and cannot be controlled without estrogen, I would assess whether the benefits outweigh the risks and determine the best approach for that individual," she says.
HIGHER INCIDENCE OF UTERINE SARCOMA AMONG BLACK WOMEN
African-American women have twice the incidence of uterine sarcoma, a cancer of the uterus, compared to white women, according to a study led by Dr. Brooks of the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center. Dr. Brooks says that the study of 1,175 women diagnosed from 1993 to 1997 did not uncover the reason for the difference, but researchers believe it may relate to metabolism of estrogen. "Our study determined that although there was an excess incidence in black women, survival rates of black and white women were no different when they received the same treatment, such as surgery and radiation for Stage II disease," Dr. Brooks says. Most uterine cancers start in the endometrium, or lining of the uterus, but uterine sarcoma is a malignancy of the muscle or connective tissue.
MULTIFACETED APPROACH TO TREATING PROSTATE CANCER
Prostate cancer treatments work better for some men than for others, and doctors are finding that the most effective method of treating the cancer may be a combination of medical treatment, radiation therapy and surgery. According to Nancy A. Dawson, M.D., the director of the Genitourinary Oncology Program at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center and a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, an individual's treatment should be tailored to the aggressiveness and characteristics of his cancer. In some cases, doctors place radioactive "seeds" within the prostate to attack the cancer or combine chemotherapy with hormone therapy. Every year, 180,000 men in the United States are diagnosed with prostate cancer - the most common cancer among men and the second-leading cause of cancer death.
SELENIUM AND VITAMIN E CLINICAL TRIAL
As part of an international clinical trial being conducted at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center and more than 400 sites in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada, researchers are looking at whether two powerful antioxidants, selenium and vitamin E, might prove effective in preventing prostrate cancer. "This is the largest prostate cancer prevention study ever conducted," says Dr. Dawson, who is principal investigator for five sites throughout the region taking part in the 12-year clinical trial. As part of the study, participants take 200 micrograms of selenium and 400 international units of vitamin E each day. More than 32,000 men are expected to participate in the study, which began last year and is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and the Southwest Oncology Group.
FREE PROSTATE CANCER SCREENING AT UROLOGY CLINIC
The University of Maryland Medical Center is offering free prostate cancer screening on September 20 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in connection with Prostate Cancer Awareness Week, which is September 15-21. Participants will receive a free digital rectal exam and PSA test that measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, in the blood. "Recent data has shown that prostate cancer screening does lower the death rate," says Michael J. Naslund, M.D., the director of the Maryland Prostate Center and an associate professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Dr. Dawson, the director of the Genitourinary Oncology Program and a professor of medicine, adds, "Prostate cancer is curable when detected early." Men who are 50 or older are urged to have the annual screening. African-American men or those with a family history of the disease may start screening in their 40s. The screening will be held at the urology clinic on the ground floor of the hospital, Room NGE 19. For more information, call (410) 328-5943.
PROSTATE CANCER CONFERENCE SET FOR SEPTEMBER
Cancer experts from across the United States will attend a medical conference, "Prostate Cancer 2002: New Perspectives," being held September 26-28 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel. The conference, which will feature internationally recognized experts, is sponsored by the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the International College for Postgraduate Medical Education in Golden, Colo. "The conference is offered as an exceptional 1½-day course on recent, exciting advances in prostate cancer, both clinical and translational," says Dr. Dawson, the course director who was instrumental in organizing the meeting. Topics to be discussed include the biology of prostate cancer, prevention and imaging, treatment of complications such as erectile dysfunction, and treatments such as hormonal therapy, gene therapy and vaccines.
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