Posts Tagged ‘cancer diagnosis’

How Will I Cope with Cancer?

Wendy Baer, MDGetting diagnosed with cancer is a unique experience for every person. It can mean many different things depending on the type of cancer, the stage, the treatment options and the overall health of the person. Regardless of the type of cancer, most people experience a whirlwind of emotions during the time of diagnosis. Uncertainty and loss of control are two common feelings. Uncertainty is especially intense in the work-up phase when you are not sure what kind of cancer you have, what your options are for treatment or who is going to take care of you during treatment. Loss of control may be an issue when you feel your body is broken, tumors may be growing, cells may be multiplying, and you wonder about dying. You may feel loss of control over your energy since you are not able to do activities or work you enjoy. The time needed for appointments may make you may feel as if the medical system has taken control of your entire schedule.

If you are asking yourself the question, “How will I cope?” you are actually in a good starting place. Actively thinking about how to manage emotions such as uncertainty and loss of control is a sign that you will be able to get through your cancer experience.

There are two key questions to ponder as you work through the issue of how to cope during cancer. How have I coped before? And, what do I like?

How have I coped before? When faced with difficult situations in the past, everything from a new school or a new home to a relationship breakup or a job loss, what have I done to get by? What thoughts or behaviors helped me manage my emotions? There are definitely many unhelpful coping strategies during stressful life events, such as becoming isolated, sleeping too much or using more alcohol. Unhelpful coping strategies should be noted and avoided. More helpful coping strategies include being with people who really care about your wellbeing, spending time outdoors, listening to music, breathing deeply and slowly, making lists and schedules and allowing other people to help you with chores.

What do I like? Not just what flavor of ice cream or what kind of movie, but what makes you feel joyful? What do you care about, what do you want to be good at? Who in your life matters to you? Who do you like to be around? Cancer can make your own mortality prominent in your mind on a day-to-day basis. The question, “what do I like?” is essential to consider when you recognize time is limited. Thinking about what matters to you, even writing those things down, encourages you to then take steps to include them in your life. Make a list with specifics. There may be simple pleasures you can enjoy during cancer treatment, and others that will have to wait until after treatment, but plan them, talk about them, work towards getting there. Having both short and long term goals can help you cope with cancer.

Some people are not able to answer these two questions because clinical depression gets in the way of seeing anything pleasant or joyful, or severe anxiety short-circuits the ability to think logically. Drugs and alcohol interfere with the ability to experience pleasure in a meaningful way. Emotional and behavior disturbances can be treated, both with medication and with talk therapy. A comprehensive cancer center offers psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers willing and interested in helping you get your mind in a healthy place to answer the two important questions. Taking care of your brain is critical for overall health.

You can cope. Answering the first question shows that you’ve coped with hard things before. Answering the second question gives you motivation to get through treatment for cancer. There may be challenges, really tough ones, but you can absolutely conquer these challenges. How do I know? I witness people surviving and thriving everyday at Winship.

Wishing you well,

Dr. Baer

About Dr. Baer

Wendy Baer, MD is the Medical Director of Psychiatric Oncology at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. In her work at Winship, 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.

8 Ways to Cope with Cancer as a Young Adult

Friend SupportReceiving a cancer diagnosis can be devastating. Just imagine how hard it would be to hear the news as a young adult. The challenges of being diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 18 and 39 are different from those in patients who are diagnosed later in life.

Many young adults diagnosed with cancer experience a disruption in a new career and dating. Cancer and any treatments that follow can sometimes have long-term affects on a person’s ability to start a family.

Here are eight ways to help you cope with cancer as a young adult:

  1. Request and ask for help. Having a support system during this time is critical. Be sure to reach out to others for support even after your treatment is completed.
  2. Consider giving friends and family members specific tasks in order to help you. Some friends and family members may not be sure how best to support you during this time. It may be helpful to you and them to provide friends and family members with specific requests. For example, request rides to treatment, ask for certain meals to be made or errands to be ran.
  3. Educate yourself. Having knowledge about your diagnosis and treatment often helps young patients maintain some sort of control during this time. This also helps to ensure you are making educated decisions about your healthcare.
  4. Ask questions! Do not hesitate to ask your healthcare provider if you have any questions. Write down your questions prior to your medical appointments.
  5. Inquire about how your treatment will affect you. Many treatments affect a patient’s ability to conceive children in the future. Talk with your medical professional about this and what options may be available to you.
  6. Consider reaching out to other young cancer survivors through young adult support groups or connecting online. The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University currently has a new Young Adult Cancer Survivor Online Support Group that meets once a month. This group is specific for any young adult who was diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 18 and 39.
  7. Reach out to a social worker for additional emotional support. Oncology social workers have a special level of expertise and are trained to provide support to patients as they are coping with diagnosis and treatment. It is often helpful to be able to process your feelings with someone else. Social workers also have a wealth of knowledge about additional resources that may be helpful.
  8. Try not to compare yourself to other friends or family members. Your cancer diagnosis may have altered your life pattern, however, it does not have to destroy it.

The cancer diagnosis is something that happened to you, but it doesn’t have to define you or control your future. There is help out there; you just have to know where to look and who to ask.

About Joy McCall, LMSW

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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10 Ways to Talk With Your Child About Cancer

Mother Child TalkingHaving to tell others about your cancer diagnosis can be very challenging and uncomfortable. Sharing the news with a young child or teenager can be even more difficult. Many patients I talk with are hesitant to tell their children about their diagnosis because they want to protect or shield them from the information. Children can sense that something is wrong and keeping that type of secret can be overwhelming.

Here are ten ways to discuss a cancer diagnosis with your child:

  1. Talk to your children in words that they can understand. Try not to provide young children with too many details as this can be overwhelming for them.
  2. Use the word cancer. This helps to avoid confusion when you talk about other illnesses.
  3. Books are a great tool when talking with children about your diagnosis. For young children (ages 3-5 years-old) use picture books. Some good books include What is Cancer Anyway? by Karen L. Carney and NoWhere Hair: Explains Cancer and Chemo to Your Kids by Sue Glader.
  4. Provide reassurance that they will be taken care of.
  5. Remind children that they did not cause the cancer and cancer is not contagious so they cannot “catch it.”
  6. Give them information about changes within the home. For example, if another family member will pick them up from school instead of you.
  7. Provide children with an explanation of what they may expect as you begin treatment. For example, remind children that you may lose your hair when you start chemotherapy or may have to go into the hospital to get better. Reassurance that this is normal is also important.
  8. Expect questions. Even though you may not know the answer to a question, be honest and say that you do not know. It is important that children know they can ask questions.
  9. Check in with your child about how they are feeling. Some children may get angry, quiet or sad. Remind them that they can talk with you about how they are feeling.
  10. Consider registering your child to participate in the CLIMB support group for youngsters. This group is designed for children ages 6-12 who have a parent or grandparent with a cancer diagnosis. Kids meet with other children who are also experiencing something similar and they are encouraged to talk about their feelings. Contact a Winship Cancer Institute social worker for more details.

It is important to remember that every child responds differently to news of a cancer diagnosis. The disease not only affects the patient but the whole family. If you have concerns about how your child is coping with your diagnosis, consider talking with a counselor at your child’s school, or with a social worker at the Winship Cancer Institute.

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About Joy McCall, LMSW

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.

5 Actions to Consider When Diagnosed with Cancer

5 Things to ConsiderA common symptom of a new cancer diagnosis is pure and utter bewilderment. The American healthcare system can be a confusing maze involving dozens of options and decisions. Helping someone understand what comes next is an important part of my job as an oncologist and is necessary to assure a patient’s overall wellbeing.

Here are five actions to consider taking after receiving a cancer diagnosis.

  1. Get a second opinion. Before starting any cancer treatment, get at least one additional physician or team of physicians to review your case and give an opinion on both the diagnosis and possible treatment options. In fact, you may be required to get a second opinion by your insurance company. Don’t worry about offending your doctor. Getting a second opinion is a very common practice.
  2. Look for a clinical trial. Tens of thousands of people benefit each year from volunteering to participate in a clinical trial. Clinical trials can provide you with access to treatments not otherwise available, including new drugs and therapies for many types of cancer. Winship Cancer Institute is proud to offer patients access to hundreds of cancer clinical trials.

Valerie Harper: An Energetic Will to Fight in the Face of Cancer

Valerie Harper Cancer DiagnosisWhat would you do if you were told you had an incurable disease and possibly only months to live? Actress Valerie Harper recently had to ask herself that question. This past January, Harper, best known for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was told she has leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare form of incurable brain cancer.

Doctors told Harper, who already has battled lung cancer, that she could have as little as three months to live. Since going public with her news back in March, Harper has mentioned in several media appearances that she has gained strength from opening up about her battle with cancer. In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Harper displayed great courage and an even greater attitude when asked about her devastating diagnosis. “There’s other ways to handle it than just sit on the couch and accept.”  Through her actions, Harper has demonstrated that she is doing anything but ‘sit on the couch and accept.’

Now, eight months since her diagnosis, Harper has yet to slow down. Instead, she is doing book tours and TV appearances, exercising and even starring in an upcoming TV movie, set to air January 2014.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of willpower is “energetic determination,” while the Cambridge American English Dictionary defines it as “the ability to control your own thoughts and behavior, especially in difficult situations.”

A cancer diagnosis affects each patient and his or her family members differently. Some people may enter a state of severe depression, while others go about their normal activities while only stopping to receive treatment. For Harper, energetic determination is the key to making sure every day is the best it can be.

What are your thoughts on Valerie’s reaction to her earth-shattering diagnosis? Do you think her willpower has anything to do with her outlook on life, or could it be her coping mechanism?

At Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, we understand that life after a cancer diagnosis can be anything but ordinary. Because of this understanding, we have developed our survivorship program to meet the needs of cancer survivors at any stage of cancer, from diagnosis to post-treatment. For more information on the Winship Survivorship Program, email survivorship@emoryhealthcare.org or call 404-778-0572.

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All About Colon Cancer

Thank you to everyone who participated in the colon cancer live chat with me on March12. We had some excellent questions on the topics of colon cancer prevention, risk factors, treatment options and new research on the horizon.  As mentioned in the chat, early detection is key to beating colon cancer, so it is important that all people over the age of 50 receive regular screenings. If there is family history of the disease, screening should start at an earlier age.  In many cases, cancer can actually be prevented by screening;  non-cancerous polyps detected during screening can be removed during the procedure.  Also, screening detects early-stage cancer and can prevent its spread. When cancer confined to the colon or rectum (local stage) is discovered, the odds of long- term survival are high.

March is national colorectal cancer awareness month.  Take control of your destiny, and schedule your regular screening today!  It could save your life.

For more information on all the topics we discussed in the chat, please review the chat transcript.

Contact us for more information about our colorectal cancer treatment programs: 404-778-1900 or request an appointment online.

About Bassel El-Rayes

Dr. El-Rayes, Colon Cancer SpecialistDr. El- Rayes is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, the Director of the GI Oncology Translational Research Program and the Associate Cancer Center Director for Clinical Research at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

Dr. El-Rayes completed medical school at the American University of Beirut (AUB). He subsequently joined the internal medicine residency program at Wayne State University. After completing the residency, he joined the hematology oncology fellowship program at the Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University. He then joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor in the area of GI oncology. During this time, he was involved in translational research focused on pancreatic cancer. Dr. El-Rayes joined Emory University in September 2009 as the director of the GI Oncology program. He is designated as a Distinguished Cancer Scholar by the Georgia Cancer Coalition.

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Join Us for a Live Web Chat: Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the deadliest form of cancer among both men and women. It’s responsible for more deaths each year than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. Older adults are at a greater risk for lung cancer; it’s less common in adults under the age of 45. There are several other factors that can increase a person’s risk for lung cancer, but evidence undeniably shows that smokers are at the greatest risk. Studies show the earlier a person starts smoking and the more cigarettes smoked on a per-day basis, the greater the risk for lung cancer.

To learn more about other risk factors for lung cancer, and to get information including screening recommendations, lung cancer prevention tips, and information on survivorship resources, join us for an online chat!

On November 27 at noon (ET) we’re hosting a free online web chat with lung cancer expert Dr. Suresh Ramalingam, MD, Associate Professor, Hematology & Medical Oncology from Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.

Chat Transcript HERE

Take-Aways from Breast Cancer Chat with Heather Pinkerton, BSN

Breast Cancer Awareness MonthWe recently held a live web chat with Heather Pinkerton, RN, BSN, OCN and Nurse Navigator for the Emory Breast Center. During the discussion Heather Pinkerton answered questions about Breast Cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship. Below you’ll find heather’s main highlights from the chat discussion.

The American Cancer Society estimated that for 2012, a total of 229,060 new cases of breast cancer would be diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. In honor of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, participants joined Heather Pinkerton for a live web chat on the topic of breast cancer.

Heather recommended that the general population of women begin screening mammograms at age 40. It should also be noted that if a person has a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, screening mammograms can and should start sooner. Potentially high-risk patients are advised to speak with their personal physician about what age is right for them to begin screening. For those concerned about being a potential high risk patient, The Emory Breast Center at the Winship Cancer Institute has a High Risk Assessment Clinic available. The clinic provides a comprehensive consultation that will include visits with a genetic counselor and breast surgical oncologist. At the end of each consultation, an individual care plan will be provided to each patient including recommendations for regular screenings and follow-up appointments.

Genetic tests are available to identify individual breast and ovarian cancer risk levels. These genetic mutation tests are known as BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. Anyone interested in undergoing these tests should speak with a genetic counselor regarding cost and specifics on coverage.

We also learned from Heather’s discussion in the chat that studies have shown that the relationship between taking birth control pills and developing breast cancer is insufficient to establish a cause-effect link between the two.

If you or someone you know is in need of support through their cancer journey, the Winship Cancer Institute has a several support groups pertaining to breast cancer, monthly at various locations. You can check out the event calendar here.

If you would like more information about breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and support contact 404-778-PINK (7465) or visit the Emory Breast Center at the Winship Cancer Institute.

You may also review the web chat transcript here with Heather Pinkerton, RN, BSN, OCN.

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

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

 

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Last week, we gave you an intro to Pancreatic Cancer, including statistics, information on the types of pancreatic cancer, and pancreatic cancer risk factors. As promised, this week, we’re following up with information on preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer of the pancreas.

Pancreatic Cancer Prevention

Much of the advice you’ll see for cancer prevention is similar across cancers. A few things you can do to help improve your health and fight off cancer, including pancreatic cancer, include: quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Diagnosing Cancer of the Pancreas

Diagnosing cancer of the pancreas can involve a variety of tests and assessments. As is true in any attempt to diagnose a medical condition, a thorough evaluation of a patient’s medical history, risk factors, and symptoms is conducted. Imaging tests, including CT, MRI, PET, ultrasound, and others may be used along with potential biopsies and blood tests.

Treating Cancer of the Pancreas

There are three main modes of treatment in combating pancreatic cancer:

  1. Surgery – Parts or the entire pancreas may be removed depending on the location and stage of the pancreatic cancer. The whipple procedure can be used when the cancer is in the head of the pancreas and involves the removal of the head of the pancreas and parts of the bile ducts, small intestine, and stomach; distal pancreatectomy removes the body and tail of the pancreas and the spleen; and total pancreatectomy removes the entire pancreas, part of the small intestine, a portion of the stomach, the common bile duct, the gallbladder, the spleen, and nearby lymph nodes.
  2. Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy is medication delivered to the body to eliminate cancer cells or greatly reduce their effect. It targets cells that divide rapidly, a characteristic of most cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used to support and enhance other cancer treatment modalities.
  3. Radiation Therapy – Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses ionizing radiation energy to kill cancer cells and shrink cancerous tumors. Radiation therapy serves to either destroy cancerous cells or damage these cells to impede the division and growth of the cancer.

Physicians at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University specialize in these treatments, while researchers at Winship are exploring new and novel treatments for pancreatic cancer, including a number of clinical trials for pancreatic cancer treatment.

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Lung Cancer Risk Reduction via Lung CT Scans Continue to Gain Momentum

Lung CT Screening

Did you know that only 15% of lung cancer patients survive more than 5 years after their cancer has been identified? As Vicki Griffin of the Atlanta Journal Constitution puts it in a recent AJC article on lung cancer, “The bleak bottom line is that lung cancer overwhelmingly terminates lives within months of the initial diagnosis.” But as Dr. Curran of the Winship Cancer Institute reported weeks ago in a lung cancer blog post, this number could be improved. How, you ask? Through low-dose Lung CT scanning.

A recent 5 year study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which is the same organization that has designated the Winship Cancer Institute as one of only 65 NCI designated cancer centers in the United States, shows that when lung adenocarcinomas are caught in earlier, more treatable stages, lung cancer death rates for those at high risk are reduced by 20%. Based on our knowledge that 157,000 people died at the hands of lung cancer in the U.S. in 2010 alone, this means last year, over 31,000 lives could have been saved.

The study evaluated over 53,000 participants at high risk for lung cancer in 25 states, including Georgia. As part of the evaluation of the effectiveness of low-dose Lung CT scans, the study compared the ability for Lung CT screenings and the currently standard chest X-ray technology to identify lung cancer early on.

Emory was a participant in the NCI sponsored study, and we conducted trials across the state of Georgia. As a result of the study’s significant findings, our teams at the Emory Clinic and Emory University Hospital Midtown are now offering current and former smokers with a significant smoking history high risk for lung cancer an opportunity to get a Lung CT scan at very reasonable rates.

Lung cancer remains the number one cancer killer in the U.S., claiming more lives than the next three most common cancer killers — prostate, breast and colorectal cancers – combined. But Lung CT screening may help with the early diagnosis and ultimately, increased survival rates, for lung cancer patients.

For more information on Lung CT scanning, or to find out if you are a candidate for screening, please visit our newly launched website dedicated to educating our community on Lung CT screening and its benefits. You can also call us for more information at 404-778-7777.