Cancer & the St. Christopher Fund

November 1, 2010

Over the next year, with the help of Randal Reilly Publishing, we will visit the most common medical conditions that beneficiaries of the St. Christopher Fund have encountered.    
To date, the most common condition is cancer.  Lung cancer has been the most common type of cancer.  Lung cancer is the number one cause of preventable deaths in the United States.  More than 400,000 Americans die each year from smoking tobacco which is about 20% of all deaths!  Lung cancer claims more lives than all other cancers combined including colon, prostate, ovarian, lymph, and breast cancer.
Not surprisingly, in almost all of the St. Christopher Fund cases, those with lung cancer were smokers.  Furthermore, many were not expected to survive.  The effects of the disease are widespread:  First, you become unable to work while undergoing treatment which leads to you and your family becoming destitute, forced to sell your house, truck, and automobiles in order to just survive and take of the business of daily life.  Many times families become homeless and are forced to move in with friends, family or shelters. Second, you may not be able to afford treatment or you have waited too long to seek treatment and the cancer has spread.   In these cases, and even for many who do get treatment in time, the result is death.  This result then leaves your family without a home and without YOU.

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What is cancer?  How can you detect cancer?  Is cancer treatable?  Can it be cured?


What is cancer?

Cancer is a disease that begins with one rogue cell. This cell then begins to double in number every few minutes. The cell can be similar to the gland or organ that it develops in and is called an Adenocarcinoma.  Most cancers are what are termed malignant, meaning that it can move to distant sites like the brain, lung, liver and bone. Cancers have the ability to grow blood vessels that nourish the rogue cells allowing these cells to double faster and faster.

How can you detect cancer?

Unfortunately, most cancers are detected after patients develop symptoms.  These symptoms include cough, weight loss, a lump in a breast, neck or mouth, difficulty urinating, bloody or dark urine and dark black or bloody stools. The only proactive way to detect early cancer is to find a good doctor who evaluates each of your risk factors and routinely (every 1-2 years) looks for causes of any new symptoms and looks for any physical findings that have changed.  It is important to remember that a family history of cancer is a risk factor.  If your mother or father had a cancer then your chances of having cancer are increased over a person with a negative family history.

Is cancer treatable?

Yes, cancers are treatable. If found early, certain treatments are very effective and, in most cases, they prolong life. These treatments include Chemotherapy, Radiation Therapy, Surgery, Bone Marrow Transplant, and most recently, Immune System Stimulants that assist one’s own body to attack the rouge cells and kill them without harming the surrounding tissues.

Can cancer be cured?  My response to the hundreds of patients that I counsel is that I never use the term cured. But this is me (Dr. John) talking and not the Cancer Doctor. Remission is a term that I prefer and remission can last a lifetime. Cure means that the cancer has completely gone away and will never return.  I think this way because I have had a cancer return 20 years after the “Cure”. Having said this, I think the day will come soon when I can say cure.

A few last words of advice:

• QUIT SMOKING!  There are many tools, prescriptions and resources out there to help you quit.  For instance, try visiting www.smokefree.gov.  Or, try Chantix (www.chantix.com, 877-CHANTIX).  The makers of Chantix even offer programs for those uninsured or who need help paying for the prescription (866-706-2400).  And think of the money you’ll save: If you smoke 1 pack/day and pay $5/pack, in 20 years, you will save $67,133.70.  And you’ll be much more likely to be around to spend it!  
•  If you don’t have a doctor, get one.
•  One easy option to live healthier is to change your diet and use supplements that help with prevention.

These are suggestions for you to help yourself.  Don’t forget about the people who depend on you.  No matter if the end of life is natural or premature, family always comes first.  So take care of yourself and your family.

St. Christopher Fund contact
information:
Website:  www.truckersfund.com
Donation line: 877-332-GIVE (4483)
Fax #: 865-851-8396
Address: P.O. Box 30763
\Knoxville, TN 37924

Article by:
Dr. John & Donna Kennedy, Ph.D., M.S.
Executive Director
St. Christopher Fund
865-202-9428, truckersfund@gmail.com