Everyone has questions concerning cancer and Michael Sherman, medical director for Contra Costa Oncology, would like to answer yours. Contra Costa Oncology has offices in Walnut Creek, Concord, San Ramon and Rossmoor. If you have questions for Dr. Sherman, e-mail Donna Lynn Rhodes.
Q: What part does nutrition play in cancer? Are there any foods to avoid or foods that help fight against cancer or any vitamins I can take that will help?
A: Nutrition studies in cancer are difficult to conduct, as there are many variables. The most accurate studies come from rats in a cage that have no other variable, or conditions that might be different despite the diet. However, since we are not rats, it is difficult to draw comparisons. In addition, it takes decades to see an affect of dietary intake on cancer development. Also, many diet studies come from recall of what you eat. And for most people it’s hard enough to remember what you had last night for dinner let alone months or years ago.
Q: Once cancer has been detected is there a way to know how long someone has had it?
A: When I give a cancer diagnosis to my patients one of the first questions most of them ask is, “How long have I had it?” Unfortunately there is really no way to tell. Cancer cells are defined by the ability to grow without restriction, gather their own blood supply, and spread beyond their tissue of origin – a difficult thing to time. It is possible a cancer cell is held in check by the immune system for decades, and then another mutation in the genetic code happens and the cancer begins to grow or spread. Likewise, a cell may have several changes in the genetic code that happen over weeks to months and then starts to grow. Once you are diagnosed with cancer the most important thing is to know where it has spread (stage of cancer) and what treatments can stop the spread or kill the cancer cells that are in hiding.