Tuesday, July 3, 2012

For 18 million cancer survivors, better survival

For those of us who have lost family to cancer, survivorship seems like a good problem to have. Still, survivors face tremendous challenges, being at greater risk for a second cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

According to a recent report by the American Cancer Society, the ranks of cancer survivors will grow to 18 million by 2022. One reason for increased survival is that more Americans are getting screened, which is catching their cancers early enough to do something about them, says Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., professor in the UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences and associate director of the Cancer Prevention and Control program at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

She is one of several researchers at the cancer center currently conducting studies aimed at improving survivor health or quality of life.

Surprisingly, among the greatest risks to survivors is poor nutrition and weight gain. Demark-Wahnefried’s work explores the cancer-obesity link and focuses on lifestyle modification, recommending that survivors exercise 150 minutes per week and eat mostly plants.

She recently helped the UAB Cancer Care Network win a $15 million Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation grant to create the Deep South Cancer Navigation Network. Economic, educational and social disparities faced by many Deep South communities have created an urgent need for patient navigation.

The grant will further counsel survivors on nutrition and treatment choices, providing overall better health care, and serves as a model for hospitals nationwide seeking to reduce cancer care costs in an ever-growing population..

For more information, call the ACS National Cancer Information Center, 1-800-227-2345 or read their new guidelines.

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