Finding Cancer Early


Blood test kit
Lee Haywood, via Flickr

What is the best way to fight cancer? Joshua Leo and Liz Waid look at an organization fighting cancer through safe, simple tests.

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Transcript


Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Joshua Leo.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand - no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

During one holiday, Johanna Poole and her family received some bad news. You may recognize her name. That is because Johanna is a Spotlight writer. Happily, Johanna’s story has a happy ending. Johanna told Spotlight about her experience.

Voice 3 

“One Christmas holiday, my family had gathered at my sister’s house. We were talking and having fun together. The babies played on the floor at our feet. We opened presents and laughed at jokes.

Then my father told us that he needed to say something. We could tell from his voice that something was wrong. He had recently visited his doctor. The doctor had done many tests of my father’s health. But one thing was not normal. My father had cancer. A simple blood test had found the cancer. We were very frightened. But my father was hopeful. Later that month, he had surgery. The doctor removed the cancer.”

Voice 2 

This is a common story for many people. But there are people and groups that are developing new tests for cancer. One of these groups is the Canary Foundation. They believe that early discovery of cancer is the key to keeping people healthy. Today’s Spotlight is on the Canary Foundation.

Voice 1 

Johanna’s father had prostate cancer. This cancer affects a part of the male reproductive system. Many men get prostate cancer, especially as they get older. But in the United States, 99% of prostate cancer patients survive. They live many years after their treatment. This is for one simple reason: a simple blood test can identify prostate cancer early, before it becomes a major problem.

Voice 2 

There are many kinds of cancer. People can have cancer of the skin, breast, brain, and many other parts of the body. But most cancers do not have a simple test like the tests for prostate cancer. Doctors do not know about the cancer until the patient becomes sick.

Voice 1 

The Canary Foundation believes that doctors should be able to catch all cancers early. Don Listwin started the Canary Foundation in 2004. Listwin started the foundation after his mother died of ovarian cancer. Her name was Grace.

Voice 2 

Grace had been sick. She had visited doctors. But the doctors believed she had a simple infection. They gave her antiobiotic medicines. These medicines did not help her. Finally, they discovered the real cause of Grace’s sickness – cancer. But it was too late. The cancer was then too large. She only lived for 12 more months.

Voice 1

It is common for doctors to miss the signs of cancer like this. Doctors often do not have enough information to find cancer early. Cancer attacks hidden places in the body. Doctors cannot see it. Tests for cancer may be difficult, painful or cost a lot of money. Don Listwin wanted to provide doctors with the information they needed to find cancer early. So he started the Canary Foundation.

Voice 2 

The Canary Foundation is named for canary birds. Listwin gave the foundation this name for a very particular reason. Many years ago, workers brought canaries into mines. Sometimes poisonous gases filled the air in the mines. The miners could not smell or see the gas. They did not know they were breathing poison. But the canary would smell the gas first and die. When the miners saw the dead birds, they knew they had to leave the mine.

Voice 1 

Canaries helped to save lives by finding the gas early. The Canary Foundation hopes to save lives by finding cancer early. Many cancer organizations spend money on research. But Listwin noticed that these organizations concentrated on cures for cancer - not on finding cancer early. When doctors discover cancer later, it is more difficult to treat and cure.

Voice 2 

The Canary Foundation aims to do things differently. They support researchers and scientists. These scientists are creating simple tests to find cancer early. The first step is searching for biomarkers. These signs appear in a person’s body. The biomarkers tell the doctor that something is wrong. For example, prostate cancer can be found by looking at a patient’s blood. Particular chemicals in the blood tell the doctor that the patient might have cancer. The doctor then looks for the cancer using other tools.

Sara Dean is a researcher for the Canary Foundation. She told Spotlight,

Voice 4 

“If you want to catch cancer early, while doctors can still treat it, you have to find biomarkers that show up before a person is sick.”

Voice 1 

Biomarkers can be in liquids from a person’s body - like blood, liquid waste, and spit from a mouth. Or they can be found in other parts of a person’s body. Doctors can discover these biomarkers by performing many kinds of tests. A doctor may use equipment like a medical scanner to see inside a patient’s body. He looks for particular information that shows the patient may have cancer.

Voice 2 

Some people have a higher risk of cancer. For example, smokers often get lung cancer. Or, people who spend a lot of time in the sun have a higher risk of skin cancer. This information is helpful in finding cancer early. But some very healthy people get cancer without warning.

Voice 1 

This was the case with Charmaine Atkenson. In 2006, doctors told Charmaine that she had lung cancer.  She was shocked.  How could she have lung cancer?  She never smoked cigarettes. She did not live or work with anyone who smoked cigarettes.

Voice 2 

For years, Charmaine’s doctors never took an x-ray of her chest. They never tested her lungs to see if they were healthy. She did not smoke cigarettes, so her risk of lung cancer was very low. This delay gave the cancer time to grow and spread. The cancer became stronger. When Charmaine’s doctors found her cancer, she was already very sick. Charmaine received many treatments. These treatments would help her live longer, but they cannot kill the cancer. If doctors had found the cancer earlier, they may have been able to kill it.

Voice 1 

For many cancers, finding them early is very important. If doctors find cancer late, the survival rate is only 10%. But if doctors find cancer early, the survival rate is around 90%. Remember Johanna, from the beginning of this program? She told Spotlight,

Voice 3

“My father is now strong and healthy. He rides his bicycle, plays tennis, and takes long walks. His cancer did not change these things. He can live a normal life.”

Voice 2 

This is the hope for every person around the world who gets this terrible disease.

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Johanna Poole. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Finding Cancer Early’.

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Question:

What is the best way to fight cancer?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
nature187_vn
said on February 08, 2012

When I read the story of program,it’s make me getting a little scared,because really we can’t find biomarkers easily ,if they are dangerous diseases hiding inside of body
I think the healthy is the most valuable asset of people,so that each person of us should take care for yourself,and we will have a   well healthy…

Avatar Spotlight
Skender
said on February 11, 2012

I am pleased to read about Canary Foundation and it’s wonderful job. It is interesting to compare it’s job with canary’s job. This foundation save people’s live, like canary did in mines. On the other hand people who take care of pets do not agree to kill bird in mine, even though it might save worker’s life. The best solution is on finding medicine which might kill cancer, aids and other sickness.

Avatar Spotlight
Rain Bows
said on March 02, 2013

Good program,

I’ve heard of dogs who can detect the change of the smell in the breath of people, like when you have cancer you get some chemicals in your body that makes your breath smell differently! The dogs start to react since they tell about this change, so the person realizes she have something by the reaction of the dog.
It will be good if everyone could detect cancer early!

Greetings,
Sofía Miketta.
From Manta-Ecuador.

Avatar Spotlight
Andrew von Truszczyński
said on March 06, 2013

I think it is very difficult to find cancer early. Young person like my sister couldn’t imagine that she suffer from this illness and she checkup her body too late. She was only 31 years old when she died. Before this a few years ago died my father on prostate’s cancer. Not very old man, only 56 years old. Cancer develop very rapidly in the bodies of young people.

Avatar Spotlight
Ni
said on June 13, 2018

Thank you for your program

I think if person have cancer it’s so dangerous.  The disease can spreading fast, I have been see one my neighbour was suffering pain from the cancer, it’s terrible. Only 2 months later, he died. I hope that the medical technology research the new solutions to kill all of the cancer

Avatar Spotlight
Honneur
said on June 15, 2018

The best way to fight cancer is the prevention with previous diagnosis. This is only possible with routine medical exams regularly.

Avatar Spotlight
Dela
said on June 17, 2018

Surely, the earlier cancer is discovered, the more successful its treatment will be. Therefore doctors just as patients mustn’t neglect the medical preventive examinations that should be realized regularly so often as it is necessary. In case of finding cancer symptoms timely the patients have a big chance to recover absolutely after treatment and live the normal, healthy, happy life in the future. I would like to mention in my country the Czech Republic the system of medical prevention has been on a high level for many years.