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VA Researching for You

Cancer

Cancer is a general term that includes more than 200 different diseases. In all forms of cancer, cells in the body grow and multiply abnormally, eventually taking over and destroying normal tissue.

The main types of cancer are leukemias and lymphomas, involving the blood and related tissues; carcinomas, which occur in the skin, glands, and certain organs; and sarcomas, which involve muscles and connective tissue.

VA researchers have long been interested in the causes of cancers, in finding new treatments for different forms of cancer, and in evaluating existing treatments. In 1930, the year the Veterans Administration (the predecessor to today's Department of Veterans Affairs) was established, the Hines, Illinois, VA hospital created a cancer treatment center, in which surgeons, radiologists, and specialists worked together to provide the latest treatments for cancer patients. Learn more.

VA’s Major Cancer Accomplishments:

• 1932: Established tumor research laboratory in Hines, Illinois—the first VA research laboratory to receive funding specifically for research
• 1950: Concluded, in a paper by Dr. Robert Schrek of Hines, there is "strong circumstantial evidence" linking cigarette smoking with respiratory tract cancers
• 1956: Linked cigarette smoking with precancerous lesions
• 1984: Developed a transdermal nicotine patch to reduce the cravings for cigarettes
• 2000: Showed the superiority of colonoscopy to sigmoidoscopy
• 2012: Demonstrated that observation is as effective as surgery in treating early-stage prostate cancer
• 2015: Joined with gastroenterologists from throughout the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom to develop a new set of recommendations on the surveillance and management of areas of pre-cancerous cells in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. 

Learn more..

Below is a news story that illustrates VA’s commitment to advancing technology and research initiatives to benefit our nation’s Veterans.

Joshua Cooper prepares to administer a CT scan at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.Joshua Cooper prepares to administer a CT scan at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System. A VA study has found that smokers are often confused about the actual benefits and limitations of low-dose CT scans to screen for lung cancer. (Photo by Jeff Bowen, for illustrative purposes only.)

Smokers hazy on actual benefits of lung cancer screenings

Regular cancer screenings can lower the chance of death from lung cancer. But they cannot reduce the risk of developing lung cancer for people who smoke. Patients seem to be confused about the actual benefits and limitations of lung cancer screenings, according to a study by the VA Center of Innovation for Veteran-Centered and Value-Driven Care in Seattle.

Researchers asked smokers a series of questions about smoking and lung cancer screening. Their answers showed that most patients were mistaken about the benefits of such screenings and smoking in general. Only 7 percent of patients answered all five questions correctly.

In light of these findings, Dr. Jaimee L. Heffner, lead author on the paper, emphasized the importance of communicating to patients the importance of quitting rather than just relying on screenings to protect them from cancer. "Quitting smoking is by far the most important thing a person can do to prevent lung cancer as well as a host of other diseases caused by tobacco use, and it's important that this message doesn't get lost in the discussion of lung cancer screening," he said. Heffner, with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, collaborated with the VA team on the study.  Read more..

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