14 posts in the category “Cancer”

A possible Parkinson’s disease/melanoma link? Time for a skin check

Posted 7 months ago by

Now that summer has passed, have you had your skin examined? Studies have shown that people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) may have an increased risk for melanoma, so skin screenings are extra-important. Take a look at recent research and get some tips on monitoring your moles and skin.

Studies show…

A 2017 Mayo Clinic study found that people with either PD or melanoma are four times as likely to receive a diagnosis of the other disease. The researchers say the PD drug levodopa (which some people believe may play a role in melanoma risk) is not likely a factor in the PD/melanoma connection, according to McKnight’s. They found that the majority of melanomas were diagnosed before the diagnosis or treatment of Parkinson’s disease, so taking levodopa doesn’t appear to be a risk factor.

Future research should focus on genes, immune responses and environmental exposures that could cause the relationship, the researchers say.

Know your “ABCDEs”

Check out the Skin Cancer Foundation’s “ABCDEs of Melanoma” (click here to see images of examples), and make an appointment right away if you spot any of these warning signs:

A = asymmetry. Malignant moles tend to have an odd shape.

B = border. The edges of an early melanoma may be uneven or “scalloped.”

C = color. Watch out for moles that are a spotty mix of colors (from tan to black, or even shades of red, white or blue).

D = diameter. Melanomas are usually larger in diameter than a pencil eraser (but may be smaller early on).

E = evolving. Keep an eye out for any changes in your moles, such as size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or new symptoms such as bleeding, itching or crusting.

Also, keep in mind these other risk factors for melanoma, according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research:

  • Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure (psst: use sunscreen and protective clothing)
  • Caucasian race
  • Older age
  • Male
  • Family history of melanoma or personal history of melanoma or other skin cancers

The Fox Foundation is currently funding studies on the PD/melanoma connection, including one exploring the role of alpha-synuclein (a sticky protein) in both conditions, and others examining the genes or gene mutations involved in the two conditions. Learn more here.

On PatientsLikeMe

Some members report having both PD and melanoma. “I encourage everybody to go to a dermatologist, who has observed thousands of moles, on various skin types, and pay them to do a body scan,” says one member with PD and melanoma (fortunately, a biopsy showed his cancer had not spread). “Melanoma is not slow progressing like Parkinson’s.”

Has your doctor ever mentioned melanoma risk? Join PatientsLikeMe or log in to talk about Parkinson’s and melanoma in the PD forum.


“Chemo brain”: 3 surprising findings from recent research

Posted 9 months ago by

“Chemo brain” — the term for cognitive problems associated with chemotherapy treatment — appears to be very common, but doctors only started paying attention to it in the late 1990s.

2012 study that finally helped elevate chemo brain as a serious and widespread issue estimated that up to 75% of breast cancer survivors experience “cognitive deficits—problems with attention, concentration, planning, and working memory—from 6 months to 20 years after receiving chemotherapy.” Read on to learn some of the surprising findings from recent research on chemo brain.

1. Treatments beyond chemotherapy may cause chemo brain. “From many sources of data, we now know patients experience impairments not just after chemo, but after surgery, radiation, hormonal therapy,” and other treatments, oncologist Patricia Ganz, M.D., tells the National Cancer Institute. Immunotherapy may also cause cognitive dysfunction, according to MD Anderson Cancer Center.

2. Cancer itself may cause some chemo brain. A 2015 study found that people with lung cancer have mental impairments and changes in their brain even before treatment. For example, patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) had “verbal memory deficits” (e.g., trouble remembering words) and damage to the brain’s white matter (which some consider “the subway of the brain”). A 2017 animal study also showed that cancer itself can impact the brain, possibly because the body’s response to cancer can cause inflammation to the brain.

3. Chemo brain is often so subtle that standard tests can’t detect it. Just last month (June 2018), researchers issued a call for a new clinical approach to chemo brain, as reported in the Los Angeles Times. One of the main problems? Experts have mainly tried to assess chemo brain using neurological tests geared toward those with severe brain injuries, Alzheimer’s disease or stroke. But tests like those are “unlikely to detect, measure or explain the often subtle impairments that, for many cancer survivors, make it hard to return to a mentally demanding job, continue driving or lay plans for the future,” The Times notes.

Can anything help with chemo brain symptoms?

“Stimulants or brain training may help some patients,” the team at MD Anderson says. “Cognitive strategies or healthy lifestyle changes, like improved sleep quality and exercise, can also help.” Talk with your care team and ask for a referral to a neuropsychology specialist. (If you’ve tried any treatments or therapies for cognitive symptoms, please make a comment below.)

Join PatientsLikeMe today to find dozens of conversations about chemo brain and see the most commonly reported side effects of chemotherapy.

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