Survivorship

Antioxidant Foods and Cancer Prevention: Fact or Fiction?

Nutrition to Fight CancerAntioxidants are all the rage. Our news outlets put out one story after another — some claiming these powerful chemicals can help lower our risk of cancer, improve heart health and even have anti-aging properties — while others suggest antioxidants aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Separating fact from fiction can be difficult and leave many of us scratching our heads.

How Antioxidants and Free Radicals Work Together

Free radicals are highly reactive and unstable molecules with an unpaired electron. To stabilize (oxidize), free radicals take electrons from other molecules, damaging them in the process and turning them into free radicals themselves. This triggers a cycle of cell damage and causes stress to your body.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. While we’re used to hearing about the harm free radicals can cause us, the truth is they’re also necessary for our health. They help our bodies fight infection, repair tissue injury and even fight aging. However, if high levels of free radicals are present in the body, they can increase your risk of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and more.

That’s where antioxidants come in. According to the National Cancer Institute, antioxidants are chemicals that can safely interact and neutralize free radicals in our bodies, lowering the overall amount and slowing oxidation.

The Best Sources of Antioxidants

Antioxidants occur naturally in many different types of food, including:

  • Dark green, leafy veggies, like kale spinach and collard greens
  • Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts
  • Berries, including blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and cherries
  • Green tea
  • Purple, blue and red grapes
  • Orange vegetables, including sweet potatoes, carrots and acorn squash
  • Whole grains
  • Beans, such as soybeans, lentils, black-eyed peas, black beans and kidney beans
  • Herbs and spices, like turmeric and garlic

Research has also recently studied whether antioxidant dietary supplements can offer the same boost as foods that have high levels of naturally occurring antioxidants. Most of this research has been inconclusive, leading to confusing headlines. Until we understand more, it’s best to choose foods high in antioxidants rather than supplements so you get the most benefits of these powerful chemicals.

Easy Steps for Adding Antioxidants to Your Diet

Boost your health by following these simple tips:

  • Add berries to oats or yogurt at breakfast
  • Try making a smoothie with berries, cherries, spinach and a splash of coconut water or 100 percent juice
  • Grab whole grain breads and buns
  • Challenge yourself to try one new fruit or vegetable high in antioxidants at least once a week
  • Fill your plate with fresh fruits and veggies
  • Treat yourself to a cup of green tea
  • Add healthy herbs and spices to veggies or meat

Learn More

Navigating the ins and outs of antioxidants and how they can benefit your health can be confusing. A dietitian can help answer questions and create a customized nutrition plan that meets your needs. At Winship Cancer Institute, we have a team of dietitians available to support patients before, during and after treatment.

Learn more about our services or schedule an appointment with a dietitian by calling 404-686-4441.

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Comprehensive Cancer Center for Georgia — the highest designation given by the NCI to cancer centers in the nation. Winship offers expertise in cancer research, prevention, detection and treatment with the most advanced therapies. Winship is where you get treatments years before others can. Our expert team coordinates every detail of your visit to meet your individualized treatment plan. Visit emoryhealthcare.org/cancer or call 1-888-WINSHIP for an appointment.

Your Cancer Diet When Undergoing Treatment

Nutrition to Fight CancerA healthy diet can quickly take a back seat during cancer treatment. Chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments can be hard on the body, which makes it difficult to get the nutrients you need. Although cancer treatment effects can differ for each patient, common side effects that can make it difficult to eat healthy may include:

  • Nausea
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Taste Change
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea

However, a healthy diet is more important than ever when undergoing treatment. According to the American Cancer Society, proper nutrition can help patients maintain weight, lower risk of infection, improve energy and better tolerate some side effects.

Easy Ways to Improve Your Diet

When trying to improve your own diet, it’s important to keep in mind that cancer is an individual experience. What tastes good or appeals to one person may make someone else feel worse. The best place to start is with the healthy choices you already like and take small steps that will help combat side effects and boost your diet, including:

  1. Eating small meals or snacks
  2. Making healthy choices
  3. Making simple adjustments to your diet
  4. Talking to a dietitian

1. Eat small meals or snacks

Nausea, heartburn or diarrhea can make eating or drinking seem impossible. Try eating small meals or snacks to make the task seem less daunting and help you feel more comfortable.

2. Make healthy choices

When you are able to eat, be sure to make healthy choices:

  • Avoid high-fat or spicy foods, which can trigger nausea and heartburn.
  • Find vegetables that taste good and are easy on your stomach. Lightly steamed or blanched veggies may help ease heartburn compared to raw veggies.
  • Pair complex carbohydrates with a lean protein. Try whole wheat crackers with peanut butter or eggs and whole grain toast.
  • Reach for healthy snacks, such as nuts, applesauce, yogurt, cheese or brown rice.
  • Try to eat at least 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables. Pick options that taste good to you and are easy on your stomach.

3. Make simple adjustments

Simple choices throughout the day can help make eating a little easier, including:

  • Staying elevated after eating.
  • Eating when you’re hungry. If you can’t face breakfast in the morning, but get hungry at dinnertime, plan light snacks for the morning. Then, try to eat more later in the day.
  • Staying hydrated. Drinking water can help manage some side effects, like constipation, but can sometimes make others worse. Take small sips throughout the day to stay hydrated without upsetting your stomach.
  • Eating food at room temperature. Food that’s too hot or cold can be tough on nausea and heartburn. Let food cool off a bit before eating.

4. Reach out for help

It can be difficult for some patients to find that balance between managing their side effects and eating healthy. A dietitian can help sort through your questions and side effects to build a strong and healthy diet.

The dietitians at Winship Cancer Institute help support patients before, during and after treatment by working closely with them to create individualized nutrition plans.

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Comprehensive Cancer Center for Georgia — the highest designation given by the NCI to cancer centers in the nation. Winship offers expertise in cancer research, prevention, detection and treatment with the most advanced therapies. Winship is where you get treatments years before others can. Our expert team coordinates every detail of your visit to meet your individualized treatment plan. Visit emoryhealthcare.org/cancer or call 1-888-WINSHIP for an appointment.

Life After Breast Cancer

supportive-friendsBreast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women according to the American Cancer Society. This year alone, more than 234,000 cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. Most women with breast cancer do quite well and have long lives after completing treatment. One of the hardest things for survivors is living with the worry that the cancer may come back. We recommend scheduling regular follow-up appointments with an oncologist and following the screening and/or prevention guidelines that your provider recommends. I also tell my patients to try, as best as they can, not to worry.

It is easy to see how breast surgery, radiation, and some of the side effects from systemic therapy (which, depending on treatment, can include hair loss, nausea, fatigue, weight gain, hot flashes, joint aches, or other unpleasant symptoms) can wreak havoc on a woman’s self esteem. In addition, many women are used to serving as a support system for their spouse, children, parents or other loved ones, and being responsible for important matters at work and at home. Learning to accept help and support rather than giving it can be very challenging. I always recommend honest conversations with family and loved ones, and involving a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist if patients are interested and willing to pursue this. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk with someone outside of one’s immediate network of family and friends to try to sort through some of the feelings surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Support groups can also be helpful; hearing from others who are going through the same thing (perhaps at similar points in life and/or stages of the disease), can help normalize the experience.

Physical changes to the breast – scars from lumpectomy or mastectomy, getting used to the look and feel of reconstructed breasts (if this approach is chosen), and radiation-related changes – can make women less comfortable with their bodies and therefore less comfortable being intimate. These changes can also make them worry about whether a partner will still find them attractive. In addition, some of the systemic treatments used in breast cancer, such as chemotherapy or anti-estrogen therapy, can change hormone levels and decrease interest in intimacy. I always recommend sharing these concerns with your doctor or health care team. Talking with a social worker, psychologist, or even sex therapist can be helpful in dealing with some of the complicated feelings surrounding the look and feel of the breasts after treatment for breast cancer. There are also a number of options for managing symptoms like vaginal dryness, which can be a result of chemotherapy or anti-estrogen therapy and can make intimacy uncomfortable. Finally, open communication with significant others is critical, as they too may be struggling to find the best way to show affection in this new situation. I have actually seen many situations where the diagnosis of breast cancer actually brings couples closer together, as they navigate the path from diagnosis to treatment and finally to recovery together.

Find a primary physician through our Emory Healthcare Network or call HealthConnection at 404-778-7777 to learn more from a registered nurse. To request an appointment for a mammogram, call (404) 778-PINK (778-7465) to speak with a scheduling coordinator.

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University’s Breast Cancer Program

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University’s Breast Cancer Program offers a multidisciplinary approach. Our team of experienced specialists in medical, surgical and radiation oncology, plastic surgery, breast imaging, pathology and genetic counseling deliver a comprehensive and coordinated approach to treating breast cancer. At the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, our specialized clinicians use the latest precision medicine treatments and procedures that improve breast cancer care. Proton therapy, a precision radiation treatment, is now one of the many technologically advanced tools to precisely and effectively treat each individual patient’s specific cancer.

About Dr. Meisel

jane lowe meiselJane Lowe Meisel, MD, joined the Glenn Family Breast Center at Winship Cancer Institute as a practicing physician in January 2015. Prior to her arrival, she was Chief Fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Dr. Meisel is a medical oncologist with a special interest in women’s health and in cancers that affect women, including breast, cervical, endometrial, and ovarian cancers. Her goal is to provide exceptional, state-of-the-art individualized care to patients fighting these diseases and to conduct research that improves treatment options for these patients.

 

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Spiritual Health and Your Cancer Journey

When a person is experiencing a serious illness, it’s not just their body that’s affected. The entire being — from the spiritual to emotional — can be impacted. This can be particularly true for individuals navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment. It is not uncommon for people to experience a crisis of faith, to feel disconnected from their religious community or loved ones, or to feel that it is hard to talk about the way their outlook on life may be changing. Some people may feel isolated, angry or overwhelmed. Others may have a renewed sense of meaning or faith. No matter the experience, it can be helpful for people living with cancer to connect with their own spiritual life as a way of coping with their illness.

What is Spiritual Health?

Simply put, spiritual health is the quality of whole-person wellness – including spiritual and emotional wellness.

People have different ideas about what gives them meaning, their deepest values, and religious beliefs, which may affect decisions they make relating to treatment. These values can also impact decision-making about end-of-life care. Even common health issues can bring up spiritual concerns, and patients and family members may benefit from exploring the way their broader life is affected when they experience illness. Some patients and their family caregivers want doctors to talk about spiritual concerns, but feel unsure about how to bring up the subject.

Spiritual Health at Winship Cancer Institute is here to help patients connect with what they value most, to what gives them meaning in life — whether that’s a particular faith, religious or spiritual practice, meditation, cherished pastime, or loving connection to community, family and friends.

Our Spiritual Health clinicians are available to talk to anyone and everyone, regardless of their religious identity. We provide an open, supportive and compassionate presence. This can happen at any point of a person’s cancer journey – at the time of diagnosis, during treatment, or when returning for follow-up care. The Spiritual Health clinicians at Winship Cancer Institute will not impose any belief, but will be present to listen, understand and help you connect with what you value.

In recent years, there have been studies to investigate the benefits of spiritual health. The results support the importance of spiritual health in giving a renewed sense of hope, self-worth and meaning.

How Can I Attend to My Spiritual Health?

Ultimately, a person’s spirituality is a part of their own personal journey. What works best for one person may not work for another. Spiritual health clinicians can talk with you to help you find or strengthen a spiritual connection to whatever it is you believe or find of value.

For some, engaging spirituality may include prayer, attending a religious service, spending time outdoors or daily meditation. The first step is to identify what’s important to you and asking yourself questions such as “What gives me meaning?” and “What do I value most?”

These questions may be difficult to answer at first, but spending time thinking about what you value most can help you find and strengthen a path to spiritual wellness.

Ask for Help

Spiritual clinicians are also available to talk with any patient or caregiver at Winship Cancer Institute. Visit our website if you’d like to talk with someone from our spiritual health team.

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Comprehensive Cancer Center for Georgia, the highest designation given by the NCI to cancer centers in the nation. Winship offers expertise in cancer research, prevention, detection and treatment with the most advanced therapies. Winship is where you get treatments years before others can. Our expert team coordinates every detail of your visit to meet your individualized treatment plan. Visit emoryhealthcare.org/cancer or call 1-888-WINSHIP for an appointment.

 

About Caroline Peacock, LCSW, MDiv

Caroline Peacock, LCSW, MDiv, is the Manager of Spiritual Health and Community Care for the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. She is a Certified Associate Educator with the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, an ordained Episcopal priest, and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been with Emory Healthcare since 2013, where she received her training as a spiritual health educator. Prior to training in Spiritual Health, she worked as a clinical social worker in New York City. Caroline has a passion for offering compassionate, respectful, and effective patient/family-centered care in a multi-faith, multi-cultural environment. She has a Master of Divinity from General Theological Seminary, and a Master of Social Work from City University of New York Hunter College.

Listen to the Spiritual Health podcast: http://www.emoryhealthcare.org/podcasts/index.html?segitem=36546

7 Tips to Peacefully Celebrate the Holidays When You are Not Feeling Jolly

It is the time of the year to feel happy…time to be generous…time to spend time with loved ones… and sing festively? Are you not in the mood this season? Don’t worry; you are not alone. Many people find the holidays very stressful and sometimes even sad. Social engagements and family gatherings add another time commitment to already busy days. Gift giving puts pressure on already strapped budgets. Expectations of how you should be enjoying this time of year only make you feel worse. All of these feelings are magnified and complicated by cancer treatment during the holidays.

There are things you can do to help yourself get through the holidays and maybe even enjoy them a bit. Self care is important throughout the year, but during a stressful period it must be a priority.

1) Get Adequate Rest

Making sure you get adequate sleep nightly is key!

  • Adults need 7-9 hours every night and children need 10 – 12 hours of sleep each night.
  • Set a bedtime, and get out of bed every morning at the same time.
  • Don’t drink caffeine after lunch.
  • Limit alcohol to one drink at dinner.
  • Avoid stressful conversations after dinner.
  • Enjoy a relaxation routine in the hour before bed.

Relaxation routines depend on what works best for you, but consider stretching, breathing slowly, writing in a gratitude journal or listening to gentle music. For more information on the importance of adequate sleep and rest, visit the National Sleep Foundation’s website.

2) Pay Close Attention To Your Diet

Another key aspect of self-care is attention to diet and exercise.

  • Fill your plate with colorful foods, mostly fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat only one plate of food at each meal.
  • Enjoy a holiday dessert, but a small serving is enough.
  • Cook with family, enjoy the conversation in the kitchen, but wait to put food in your mouth until you sit down to the meal.
  • Instead of soda, drink warm tea or cider.
  • After the meal, take a walk. Take a walk 3 times a day. Bring someone on the walk whose company you enjoy.

3) Listen To Music You Like

If elevator carols make you crazy, actively search for music you actually like, maybe Celtic  tunes, old country or Jamaican steel drums, and turn that on whenever you can.

4) Try Alternative Gifts This Year

  • If your budget is tight, make gifts this year. Paint on canvas, write a poem, organize a scrapbook of old pictures, and cook a new dish. Or offer a service, such as walking a dog, watching children, delivering meals, organizing a closet.
  • If wrapping presents makes you grumpy, spend time finding wrapping paper you like. Design your own paper. Make your own cloth bags that can be reused. Wrap in plain paper and finger paint it.

5) Turn Your Hospital Experience Around

If going to the hospital or clinic during the holidays brings you down, try to turn the experience around. The staff is always asking you questions, how about you ask them a couple? Ask  the front desk, the valet, the nurse what they like about the holidays, what music they like, and what time of year they prefer.

6) Take Time Out Each Day to Be Positive, Relax and Breathe!

  • Every day, take time to breathe. Turn off the TV and computer. Sit down, stretch your head to the sky, softly close your eyes, relax your shoulders, breath in through your nose slowly and out slowly through your mouth. Say to yourself “I can breathe, I can do it.”
  • Every day remind yourself, “I am here today, I am going to find one thing I like today to make this day worthwhile.” Small things count. Notice a tree, feel the cool air, smile at someone.

7) Treat Yourself to an Alternative Therapy

Get a massage, try a Tai Chi or yoga class, consider acupuncture, drink green tea, or add turmeric to your favorite vegetable stir-fry. Many health benefits of alternative and complementary medicine are described at http://nccam.nih.gov. Be sure to check with your physician before you begin any new exercise programs, and let your physician know about any supplements you take.

To truly make a difference in the way you feel, daily make the effort to do some of the things mentioned above. You don’t need to do them all, but pick three things and make the commitment to do them every day!

Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year!
Wendy Baer, MD

About Wendy Baer, MD

Wendy Baer, MD, is Medical Director of Psychiatric Oncology with appointments in the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Winship Cancer Institute.

Clinical Specialties In her work at the Winship Cancer Institute, Dr. Baer helps patients and their families deal with the stress of receiving a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment. As a Psychiatrist she has expertise in treating clinical depression and anxiety both with medications and psychotherapy to help people manage emotions, behaviors and relationships. The fundamental goal of Dr. Baer’s practice is to promote wellness and maximize patients’ quality of life as much as possible. She believes strongly in the team approach to patient care and collaborates regularly with patients’ doctors, nurses and social workers.

Education Dr. Baer attended medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated with honors. From UNC she went to the University of Pennsylvania where she completed her residency in Psychiatry and served as the Chief Resident in her senior year. Prior to moving to Atlanta, Dr Baer worked in with patients dealing with cancer at the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle, WA.

Colorectal Cancer Awareness

Dr. Seth Rosen Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in both men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 95,520 new cases of colon cancer and 39,910 new cases of rectal cancer in 2017.

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Most colorectal cancers start as a growth, called a polyp, in the inner lining of the colon or rectum and slowly progresses through the other layers. Removing a noncancerous polyp early can keep it from becoming a cancerous tumor, which is why screening is such an important tool for preventing this disease.

Colorectal Cancer Symptoms

Colorectal cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms. It’s important to get screened regularly.

If you do have symptoms, they may include:

  • Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood in stool
  • Unintended weight loss

If you develop symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor immediately.

Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

Your risk for developing colorectal cancer increases as you get older. Younger adults can get colorectal cancer, but more than 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older.

Other risk factors include:

  • Inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Personal or Family History of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
  • Tobacco use
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Your racial and ethnic background
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Lack of regular physical activity
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • A low-fiber and high-fat diet
  • Overweight and obesity

Colorectal Cancer Screenings

Several tests are used to detect colorectal cancers, one of the most commonly used tests is a colonoscopy. During this test, the doctor uses a colonoscope (a thin tube with a small video camera on the end) to look at the entire length of the colon and rectum. Special instruments can be passed through the colonoscope to biopsy or remove any suspicious-looking polyps.

Other tests include:

  • Double-contrast barium enema (DCBE)
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy)
  • Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)
  • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
  • Stool DNA test

When should I get screened? 

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that adults age 50 to 75 get screened for colorectal cancer. Adults age 76 to 85 should ask their doctor if they should be tested. However, you may need to get screened earlier than 50 if you meet certain risk factors.

If you believe you are at an increased risk for colorectal cancer, talk with your doctor to determine how often you should be tested and what screening is right for you.

Colorectal Cancer Treatments

There are many ways to treat colorectal cancer depending on its type and stage.

  • Some treatments may include local therapies such as: surgery, radiation therapy, ablation or embolization
    • These treatments are often used for earlier stage cancers
  • Systematic treatments including chemotherapy and targeted therapy may be used because they can reach cancer cells anywhere in the body

Next Steps

If you have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, please call 404-778-1900 or 888-946-7447 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Winship Cancer Care

Your Winship multidisciplinary care team includes oncology surgeons, colorectal surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, pharmacists, nutritionists, social workers and advanced practice nurses with expertise in colorectal and gastrointestinal cancers. The benefits of our multidisciplinary and highly experienced teams include:

  • Access to doctors and surgeons who rank among the top colorectal cancer experts in the world
  • Weekly review of patient cases by the full team of experts
  • Coordinated scheduling for appointments among various specialties
  • Access to a nurse navigator to assist you throughout the treatment process
  • Access to support groups and education classes for you and your caregivers
  • Availability of new treatment options within our clinical trials program

Bio – Dr. Seth Rosen

Dr. Seth Rosen is a board certified colon and rectal surgeon. He’s an Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at Emory University School of Medicine. As chair of Emory Healthcare’s Robotic Institute Committee, Dr. Rosen leads a team that is tracking utilization of robotic surgery throughout Emory Healthcare, including outcomes, quality, cost, and efficiency; identifying areas for improvement; and initiating plans based on its recommendations.

Dr. Rosen is a Fellow of The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons and a current member of the Medical Association of Georgia.

He’s also a member of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

Cancer Survivor Exercises for Health

Winship at the Y was established to provide cancer survivors with better access to specialized exercise programs. This program, which is unlike any other in the country, is open to any cancer survivor, not just patients at the Winship Cancer Institute.  In addition to physical benefits, exercise may provide a psychological and emotional benefit during and after cancer treatment. Breast cancer survivor, Janel Green, who was treated at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, talks about how the special exercise program has helped her regain her health.

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Massage Therapy Used to Combat Breast Cancer-Related Fatigue

cancer and massage therapyFatigue is the most common side effect of cancer treatment according to the National Cancer Institute. Many breast cancer survivors describe their fatigue as more intense than the feelings of being tired that we all experience from time to time. Reported characteristics include feeling tired, weak, worn-out, heavy, slow, or lack of energy and difficulty getting-up-and-going.

Currently, researchers from Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University are investigating the benefits of massage therapy on breast cancer survivors with extreme fatigue.

“We decided to look at massage therapy for cancer fatigue because cancer-related fatigue is one of the most prevalent and debilitating symptoms experienced by people with cancer,” explains Mark Rapaport, MD, principle investigator for this study. “Many studies investigating massage for patients with cancer have been focused on depression, anxiety or pain.”

“We already know that frequent massage can enhance the immune system and reduce anxiety, and it has been reported that massage therapy can stimulate energy, and reduce symptoms such as nausea and pain,” says Mylin Torres, MD, associate professor in Emory’s Department of Radiation Oncology, serves as a co-investigator on the study. “We believe that there are many positive effects to be gained by therapeutic massage and we hope to prove that, among other biological advantages, massage may diminish the incapacitation that cancer-related fatigue can cause for our patients.”

Participants in the six-week study are post-surgery breast cancer patients, between the ages of 18 and 65, who have been treated with standard chemotherapy, chemoprevention and/or radiation, and are suffering with breast cancer-related fatigue. They are broken into three groups.

  • Group one receives a typical Swedish-type massage
  • Group two does not receive a massage
  • Group three receives a light touch massage.

Throughout the clinical trial, participants’ vital signs are taken and blood drawn to check for immune markers. The study staff also regularly checks in with each participant to record any changes in their life or their health. So far, the findings are promising.

View this Fox21 news clip to learn more about recent findings from the cancer fatigue trial!

 

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Coping with Survivor’s Guilt After Cancer

cancer survivor guiltBeing diagnosed with cancer can bring on many different types of emotions from fear to sadness to relief; however, many patients don’t think about how they might feel after they complete their treatment. Many are surprised when they begin to feel guilty. This is known as survivor’s guilt. It is a feeling that is often experienced by those who have survived a major or traumatic event such as being diagnosed with cancer. The feelings may come from a sense of guilt that they survived the disease and another patient did not or they did well with treatment while another had a very difficult time recovering.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you think you might be suffering from survivor’s guilt:

  • You are not alone. Survivor’s guilt is very common. It is a natural response for many cancer patients. It often feels like sadness, depression or even grief.
  • Tell someone about how you’re feeling. Talk with a friend or family member you trust. You can always reach out to a social worker to help you process these feelings. Acknowledging those feelings can be help you process them and ultimately overcome them.
  • Consider keeping a journal. Sometimes it is helpful to write down how we are feeling in order to help us manage those emotions. Starting an art project is another creative way to cope with survivor’s guilt.
  • Remind yourself that every patient’s cancer journey is different and that’s okay. It is unrealistic to compare your treatment outcomes to someone else’s because everyone is different.
  • Be supportive. If you know someone who is going through treatment and having a difficult time, it is important to provide them with as much support as possible. As a cancer survivor, you offer a unique type of support because you have been there.
  • Attend a cancer survivor’s support group. Reaching out to other survivors can be helpful.

Don’t wait to get help if you think you are experiencing survivor guilt. It is important to acknowledge and address the issue sooner rather than later. Patients can talk directly to oncology social workers through the following community organizations: www.livestrong.org, www.cancer.org and www.cancercare.org.

About Joy McCall, LCSW

Joy McCallJoy McCall is a Winship social worker with bone marrow transplant, hematology and gynecologic teams and their patients. She started her professional career at Winship as an intern, working with breast, gynecologic, brain and melanoma cancer patients. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Kennesaw State University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Georgia. As part of her education she completed an internship with the Marcus Institute working on the pediatric feeding unit, and an internship counseling individuals and couples at Families First, supporting families and children facing challenges to build strong family bonds and stability for their future. She had previously worked with individuals with developmental disabilities for over 4 years, providing support to families and caregivers.

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With a Little Help from Friends

lex gilbert cancer survivorI always assumed that cancer would catch up with me one day. After all, my mother and two of my aunts had breast cancer so I figured I must be next in line. Yet it never occurred to me that the rectal bleeding I’d been experiencing could be colon cancer. Surely the sigmoidoscopy ordered by my doctor would lead me to a quick fix and that would be that. Surprise! When I woke up after the procedure, she came to my bedside and told me I had colon cancer.

When I heard those words I went numb. The world looked as it might if viewed through a funhouse mirror. I remember someone standing nearby handing me a box of Kleenex. I didn’t need the Kleenex. I didn’t cry until many weeks later and boy did I need Kleenex then. I think my soul just closed up shop so it could absorb the gravity of my situation at its own pace, and when it was ready to let go of the emotions, it let go.

Believe me, I am not one of those survivors who talk about what a gift it was to have cancer! I certainly would have preferred to learn the lessons taught by cancer in a less painful way, but all things being equal, there were important lessons learned and I think they are clearly worth passing along. Here’s one.

I pride myself on being self-sufficient and independent. One of the most difficult aspects of being a patient was accepting help from friends. When they offered, I’d say that we didn’t need anything even though that was utterly and completely false. Husbands come in handy sometimes and mine immediately jumped on my reluctance to let folks “in.” At the same time, a dear friend and colleague set up an on-line calendar where I could post what I needed and friends could sign up to help. I could ask for someone to buy me groceries on Wednesday, or help me get the house in order on Saturday, or mow the lawn, drive me to an appointment, or just plain keep me company.

The overwhelming response to the calendar and the ensuing discussions made me realize that when people offer help, they want to help! What a revelation! Too many of us deny our friends the satisfaction and fulfillment that helping someone in need gives them. Allowing folks to help also brings them into our lives in a deeper way, resulting in even more satisfying friendships. The Jedi mind-trick is that letting people help is a gift to them, as well as a gift to you.

About Lex Gilbert

Lex Gilbert is a cancer survivor and very active volunteer with Winship Cancer Institute. She originally comes from southern California, where she ran her own marketing and promotions company serving major corporate clients from throughout the U.S. She has been a life-long volunteer and was awarded “top volunteer” by the County of San Diego for her work mentoring a child in foster care. She moved to Atlanta in 2007 and now works in the Office of Health Promotion at Emory. She was awarded the CLASS Distinguished Service Honor in the Division of Campus Life. Bruce Gilbert, her husband of 32 years, is a musician fighting Parkinson’s disease and also volunteers at Winship as a pianist.

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Colon Cancer Chat Transcript

An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part I: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Diagnosis

An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part II: Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment

Winship Cancer Institute – Colon Cancer Resources

Find a primary physician through our Emory Healthcare Network or call Health Connection at 404-778-7777 to learn more from a registered nurse.