Thursday, May 25, 2017

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

The month of May brings our attention to skin cancer. Summer calls for a variety of outdoor activities, such as afternoons at the ballpark, outdoor picnics, trips to the beach or just a day by the pool. As this season is quickly approaching, it is important to understand what skin cancer is and how we can prevent it while still enjoying those long, fun-filled days in the sun.

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed annually. By definition, skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that primarily occurs on skin that has seen excessive exposure to the sun or tanning beds. There are three major skin cancers: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. If treated early, the prognosis is usually not life-threatening.

Know the signs and symptoms of skin cancer:
  • Signs of non-melanoma skin cancers include new red lesions that steadily grow, non-healing sores or crusted areas on the skin, bumps with a "pearly" or translucent surface, and any tender growths on the skin's surface.
  • Melanomas are darkly pigmented, discolored areas or bumps with an asymmetrical shape, irregular borders, or dark black or multicolored surface. While the majority of melanomas do not arise from moles, new or changing moles in adulthood should be examined.

blake phillips"Over a lifetime, it's quite common for high-risk patients to develop multiple skin cancers on different body sites," says C. Blake Phillips, M.D., a fellow in the UAB Department of Dermatology. "That said, most skin cancers have an excellent cure rate if detected and treated early. I encourage learning the signs of skin cancer and self-exams between clinic visits. Patient awareness is extremely helpful in early diagnosis."

Dr. Phillips outlines several ways in which we can protect ourselves from the sun:
  • Wear protective clothing and wide-brimmed hats with sunglasses when out in the sun.
  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF value of 30 or higher.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. Also note that "water resistant" does not mean "waterproof," as waterproof sunscreen does not exist.
  • When sweating or swimming, sunscreen should be reapplied at least every 2 hours or even more. Sunscreen can be rubbed off by a towel, so reapply after drying off as well.
  • Limit your direct exposure to the sun and seek shade, especially during the hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. when UV rays are the strongest.
  • Avoid indoor tanning. Staying away from the tanning bed altogether is one of the easiest ways to avoid skin cancer, yet an estimated 11.3 million Americans engage in indoor tanning. In fact, more than 410,000 cases of skin cancer in the United States may be linked to indoor tanning.
It is important to remember that anyone with skin is at risk for developing skin cancers. "While less common, even those with heavily pigmented skin can develop skin cancer," says Dr. Phillips.

Talk to your doctor or click here to learn more or schedule an appointment at UAB.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month

May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month. Bladder cancer, a type of cancer that forms in the tissue of the bladder, is the fourth most common cancer in men. Despite this, bladder cancer awareness remains surprisingly low. It is important to understand the symptoms of bladder cancer and who it affects, as well as measures you can take to prevent it.
The American Cancer Society lists the most common symptoms of bladder cancer:
  • Blood in the urine
  • Changes in bladder habits or symptoms of irritation
    • Having to urinate more frequently
    • Pain or burning during urination
    • Having trouble urinating or having a weak urine stream
    • Feeling as if you need to go right away, even when the bladder is not full
Symptoms of advanced bladder cancer include:
  • Being unable to urinate
  • Lower back pain on one side
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Swelling in the feet
  • Bone pain
Understanding the symptoms of bladder cancer can lead to early detection, which improves the chances of being treated successfully. Often times, these symptoms are caused by a multitude of things other than bladder cancer, but it is still important to have them checked so that the cause can be found and treated if need be.

The American Cancer Society also lists some statistics that we should be aware of:

  • Smokers are 3 times more likely to get bladder cancer than nonsmokers.
  • About 9 out of 10 people with bladder cancer are over the age of 55.
  • Men are about 3 to 4 times more likely to develop bladder cancer than women.
  • Whites are about 2 times more likely to develop bladder cancer than African Americans and Hispanics.

Jeffery Nix, M.D., assistant professor in the UAB Department of Urology and associate scientist in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center says, "For bladder cancer patients, median age of diagnosis is 75. About 50 percent of cases are related to smoking, so they'll have other health issues as well. They also have high complication rates after surgery."
Why UAB?
The UAB urology program is one of the few nationally ranked urology programs in the Southeast. Patients that choose the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center for their genitourinary cancer will receive treatment from highly reputable urologists, as well as a personal care plan that utilizes the latest technology and techniques.
To learn more or schedule an appointment, visit our website.