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ABSTRACT: The incidence of malignant melanoma has increased in recent years more than that of any other cancer in the United States. About one in 70 people will develop melanoma during their lifetime. Family physicians should be aware that a patient with a changing mole, an atypical mole or multiple nevi is at considerable risk for developing melanoma. Any mole that is suggestive of melanoma requires an excisional biopsy, primarily because prognosis and treatment are based on tumor thickness. Staging is based on tumor thickness (Breslow's measurement) and histologic level of invasion (Clark level). The current recommendations for excisional removal of confirmed melanomas include 1-cm margins for lesions measuring 1.0 mm or less in thickness and 2-cm margins for lesions from 1.0 mm to 4.0 mm in thickness or Clark's level IV of any thickness. No evidence currently shows that wider margins improve survival in patients with lesions more than 4.0 mm thick. Clinically positive nodes are typically managed by completely removing lymph nodes in the area. Elective lymph node dissection is recommended only for patients who are younger than 60 years with lesions between 1.5 mm and 4.0 mm in thickness. In the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Trial, interferon alfa-2b was shown to improve disease-free and overall survival, but in many other trials it has not been shown to be effective at prolonging overall survival. Vaccine therapy is currently being used to stimulate the immune system of melanoma patients with metastatic disease.
ABSTRACT: The treatment of osteosarcoma requires a multidisciplinary approach involving the family physician, orthopedic oncologist, medical oncologist, radiologist and pathologist. Osteosarcoma is a mesenchymally derived, high-grade bone sarcoma. It is the third most common malignancy in children and adolescents. The most frequent sites of origin are the distal femur, proximal tibia and proximal humerus. Patients typically present with pain, swelling, localized enlargement of the extremity and, occasionally, pathologic fracture. Most patients present with localized disease. Radiographs commonly demonstrate a mixed sclerotic and lytic lesion arising in the metaphyseal region of the involved bone. Computed tomography and bone scanning are recommended to detect pulmonary and bone metastases, respectively. Before 1970, osteosarcomas were treated with amputation. Survival was poor: 80 percent of patients died from metastatic disease. With the development of induction and adjuvant chemotherapy protocols, advances in surgical techniques and improvements in radiologic staging studies, 90 to 95 percent of patients with osteosarcoma can now be treated with limb-sparing resection and reconstruction. Long-term survival and cure rates have increased to between 60 and 80 percent in patients with localized disease.
Vulvar Cancer - Article
ABSTRACT: Vulvar cancer was reported in 3,200 women in 1998, resulting in 800 deaths. Recent evidence suggests that vulvar cancer comprises two separate diseases. The first type may develop from vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia caused by human papillomavirus infection and is increasing in prevalence among young women. The second type, which more often afflicts older women, may develop from vulvar non-neoplastic epithelial disorders as a result of chronic inflammation (the itch-scratch-lichen sclerosus hypothesis). Although vulvar cancer is relatively uncommon, early detection remains crucial given its significant impact on sexuality. Diagnosis is based on histology; therefore, any suspicious lesions of the vulva must be biopsied. Excisional or punch biopsy can be performed in the physician's office. Clinicians must closely monitor suspicious lesions because delayed biopsy and diagnosis are common. Once diagnosed, vulvar cancer is staged using the TNM classification system. Treatment is surgical resection, with the goal being complete removal of the tumor. There has been a recent trend toward more conservative surgery to decrease psychosexual complications.
ABSTRACT: Although the overall incidence of gastric cancer has steadily declined in the United States, it is estimated that more than 12,000 persons died from gastric cancer in 2003. The incidence of distal stomach tumors has greatly declined, but reported cases of proximal gastric carcinomas, including tumors at the gastroesophageal junction, have increased. Early diagnosis of gastric cancer is difficult because most patients are asymptomatic in the early stage. Weight loss and abdominal pain often are late signs of tumor progression. Chronic atrophic gastritis, Helicobacter pylori infection, smoking, heavy alcohol use, and several dietary factors have been linked to increased risks for gastric cancer. Esophagogastroduodenoscopy is the preferred diagnostic modality for evaluation of patients in whom stomach cancer is suspected. Accurate staging of gastric wall invasion and lymph node involvement is important for determining prognosis and appropriate treatment. Endoscopic ultrasonography, in combination with computed tomographic scanning and operative lymph node dissection, may be involved in staging the tumor. Treatment with surgery alone offers a high rate of failure. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy have not improved survival rates when used as single modalities, but combined therapy has shown some promise. Primary prevention, by control of modifiable risk factors and increased surveillance of persons at increased risk, is important in decreasing morbidity and mortality.
ABSTRACT: Although only 32,000 new cases of adenocarcinoma of the pancreas occur in the United States each year, it is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in this country. The overall five-year survival rate is 4 percent, and localized, resectable disease has only a 17 percent survival rate. Risk factors include smoking, certain familial cancer syndromes, and familial chronic pancreatitis. The link between risk of pancreatic cancer and other factors (e.g., diabetes, obesity) is less clear. Most patients present with obstructive jaundice caused by compression of the bile duct in the head of the pancreas. Epigastric or back pain, vague abdominal symptoms, and weight loss also are characteristic of pancreatic cancer. More than one half of cases have distant metastasis at diagnosis. Computed tomography is the most useful diagnostic and staging tool. Ultrasonography, magnetic resonance imaging, and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography may provide additional information. The majority of tumors are not surgically resectable because of metastasis and invasion of the major vessels posterior to the pancreas. Resectable tumors are treated with the Whipple procedure or the pylorus-preserving Whipple procedure. Adjuvant fluorouracil-based chemotherapy may prolong survival. For nonresectable tumors, chemotherapy with gemcitabine prolongs survival. Other agents are being studied. Radiation combined with chemotherapy has slowed progression in locally advanced cancers. Throughout the illness and during end-of-life care, patients need comprehensive symptom control.
Esophageal Cancer: A Review and Update - Article
ABSTRACT: Although significant advancements have been made in the treatment of esophageal cancer, this aggressive malignancy commonly presents as locally advanced disease with a poor prognosis. Despite improvements in the detection of premalignant pathology, newer preventative strategies, and the development of more effective combination therapies, the overall incidence of esophageal carcinomas has risen. A clear association has been established between the development of esophageal cancer and Helicobacter pylori infection, gastroesophageal reflux disease, smoking, and heavy alcohol use. However, the growing number of newly diagnosed esophageal adenocarcinomas, despite widespread treatments with proton pump inhibitors and the eradication of H. pylori, leaves the medical community searching for more answers. There is a potential link between esophageal adenocarcinoma and obesity. Common presenting symptoms of esophageal cancer are dysphagia, odynophagia, and progressive weight loss. The initial assessment for patients with these symptoms is made with double-contrast barium esophagraphy. Treatment modalities include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of modalities. Prevention strategies include smoking and alcohol cessation.
ABSTRACT: Testicular cancer is the most common malignancy in men 20 to 35 years of age and has an annual incidence of four per 100,000. If diagnosed early, the cure rate is nearly 99 percent. Risk factors for testicular cancer include cryptorchidism (i.e., undescended testicles), family history, infertility, tobacco use, and white race. Routine self-examination and physician screening have not been shown to improve outcomes, and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and American Cancer Society do not recommend them in asymptomatic men. Patients presenting with a painless testicular mass, scrotal heaviness, a dull ache, or acute pain should receive a thorough examination. Testicular masses should be examined with scrotal ultrasonography. If ultrasonography shows an intratesticular mass, the patient should be referred to a urologist for definitive diagnosis, orchiectomy, and further evaluation with abdominal computed tomography and chest radiography. The family physician's role after diagnosis of testicular cancer includes encouraging the patient to bank sperm because of possible infertility and evaluating for recurrence and future complications, especially cardiovascular disease.
Ovarian Cancer: An Overview - Article
ABSTRACT: Although ovarian cancer may occur at any age, it is more common in patients older than 50 years. Patients often present with nonspecific pelvic or abdominal symptoms. Initial diagnostic tests include transvaginal ultrasonography and serum cancer antigen 125 measurement; however, these tests are not specific for ovarian cancer. Conventional treatment includes surgical debulking followed by chemotherapy. Prognosis is typically determined by the cancer stage and grade, although future treatment may depend on tumor genetic composition. Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common type of ovarian cancer, and because 70 percent of cases are diagnosed at stage III or IV, it is associated with a poor prognosis. Preventive visits provide an opportunity to identify and educate women at increased risk of ovarian cancer, but routine screening is not recommended. Women with a family history of ovarian cancer or a known associated genetic syndrome should be offered genetic counseling or a discussion of available preventive interventions, respectively.
ABSTRACT: Bladder cancer is the sixth most prevalent malignancy in the United States. The most common type of bladder cancer is urothelial (transitional cell) carcinoma, and cystoscopy remains the mainstay of diagnosis and surveillance. Fluorescence cystoscopy offers improvement in the detection of flat neoplastic lesions, such as carcinoma in situ. Non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer is typically managed with transurethral resection and perioperative intravesical chemotherapy. Intravesical bacille Calmette-GuÃ©rin therapy is preferred over mitomycin for those at high risk of disease progression. For muscle-invasive disease, standard management is radical cystectomy. In these patients, neoadjuvant chemotherapy or postoperative adjuvant chemotherapy should be considered based on pathologic risks, such as positive lymph nodes or pathologic T stage. Multidrug systemic chemotherapy involving cisplatin is commonly used. No major organization recommends screening for bladder cancer.
Treatment of Breast Cancer - Article
ABSTRACT: Understanding breast cancer treatment options can help family physicians care for their patients during and after cancer treatment. This article reviews typical treatments based on stage, histology, and biomarkers. Lobular carcinoma in situ does not require treatment. Ductal carcinoma in situ can progress to invasive cancer and is treated with breast-conserving surgery and radiation therapy without further lymph node exploration or systemic therapy. Stages I and II breast cancers are usually treated with breast-conserving surgery and radiation therapy. Radiation therapy following breast-conserving surgery decreases mortality and recurrence. Sentinel lymph node biopsy is considered for most breast cancers with clinically negative axillary lymph nodes, and it does not have the adverse effects of arm swelling and pain that are associated with axillary lymph node dissection. Choice of adjuvant systemic therapy depends on lymph node involvement, hormone receptor status, ERBB2 (formerly HER2 or HER2/neu) overexpression, and patient age and menopausal status. In general, node-positive breast cancer is treated systemically with chemotherapy, endocrine therapy (for hormone receptor–positive cancer), and trastuzumab (for cancer overexpressing ERBB2). Anthracycline- and taxane-containing chemotherapeutic regimens are active against breast cancer. Stage III breast cancer typically requires induction chemotherapy to downsize the tumor to facilitate breast-conserving surgery. Inflammatory breast cancer, although considered stage III, is aggressive and requires induction chemotherapy followed by mastectomy, rather than breastconserving surgery, as well as axillary lymph node dissection and chest wall radiation. Prognosis is poor in women with recurrent or metastatic (stage IV) breast cancer, and treatment options must balance benefits in length of life and reduced pain against harms from treatment.