Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

Coping After Cancer Treatment is Finished

Cancer TherapyA cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. In fact, many patients have told me that cancer can easily define your life with on-going treatment lasting months and even years. Many patients stop working, limit their social interactions and even change roles within their household as a way to focus on completing treatment. You might think that once chemotherapy, radiation and surgery are over a patient would celebrate and move on, but that’s not always the case. Many patients feel lost and can find themselves asking what now? The intense focus on treatment often overshadows the future.

Here are five tips to help you cope after your treatment is finished:

  1. Consider attending a local support group. They are a great way to connect with others who have a similar diagnosis and have completed treatment. Support groups are a safe place to discuss the feelings that go along with being done with treatment and handling post treatment life.
  2. Reach out to a social worker or counselor. They are often available to provide individual counseling. This is helpful in allowing you an opportunity to identify your strengths and appropriate ways to move forward now that you’re better.
  3. Think of what helped you cope before treatment. Make a list of things that made you feel better when you were having a difficult time before you were diagnosed or treated. Some of those same healthy techniques such as exercise, yoga, or talking to a friend could be useful post treatment.
  4. Don’t rush yourself. Be realistic about your expectations of how you should feel after treatment. Be sure to ask your medical team how you should feel both physically and emotionally post treatment. Remember, you have been through a lot, and it will take time for you to fully recover. Putting additional stress and pressure on yourself to “feel better” because you are finished with treatment can only make this more difficult.
  5. Remind yourself you are a survivor! You have survived your diagnosis and treatment. Positive self-talk is beneficial in reducing stress and decreasing depressive symptoms.

More than 14 million Americans are cancer survivors. No matter what the type or stage of the disease, reaching out for additional support and assistance is just as important after treatment as it is during treatment.

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.

Resources

Living with Cancer

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.

Growing Hope Together!

Mary BrookhartI was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 33. A cancer diagnosis always comes as a shock, but it’s particularly unexpected at that age. Because my mother had breast cancer at a young age, a new provider sent me for my base line screening mammogram and that turned out to be my first and only mammogram. I can say without a doubt that a mammogram saved my life.

I was treated here at Winship, by Dr. Toncred Styblo and Dr. David Lawson. Twenty-five years later, all three of us are still here. I came back to Winship six years ago, but not as a patient. I took a job as supervisor of business operations for the Glenn Family Breast Center at Winship, and I am one of the organizers of the Celebration of Living event coming up this Sat., June 21.

That’s why the Celebration of Living event is so near and dear to my heart. This is a chance to get together with other survivors, and discover that part of being a survivor is learning that it’s ok to let fun and humor back into your life. Learn to let the fear go and not let it rule your life. Coming to the Celebration of Living event can be a first step toward getting back out into the world, or it can be a continuation of your on-going journey. We all know that battling cancer has very dark moments, but I hope we can bring some hope and lightness into your life.

So I invite all cancer survivors, their family members and friends to come share this special day. There will be workshops for the mind, body and soul, as well as music, food and companionship. It’s free and open to all. Detailed information is available on our website.

I see more and more people surviving cancer because of new and better treatments and earlier detection. In the time since I got my screening mammogram, the technology has greatly improved. Emory and Winship are now offering state-of-the-art 3D mammograms (also called tomosynthesis) at no additional charge above the cost of standard mammograms, so that all women can benefit from this more precise screening technology. For more information about this new service and where it’s available, check out this video about 3D mammography at Emory Healthcare.

For some, the idea of living a normal lifespan with cancer as a chronic disease is a reality.

My hope is that one day, all cancer patients will enjoy a lifetime of survivorship.

Mary Brookhart,
Cancer Survivor

About Mary Brookhart

Mary Brookhart grew up in Ohio before moving to Georgia to get away from the snow. There she enjoyed a 20+ year career in advertising and design. In 2008, looking for something more rewarding, Mary returned to Winship, this time, not as a patient, but as supervisor of business operations for the Emory Glenn Family Breast Center. Besides serving as an advocate for breast cancer patients, Mary coordinates screenings for mammograms and the Emory’s Breast Cancer Seminar for the Newly Diagnosed breast cancer patient. She currently lives in rural Conyers, with her husband of 37 years, and their three horses.

Local Firefighter Stomps Out Head and Neck Cancer: Get Screened on April 25!

While the human papillomavirus (HPV) is most commonly known as a risk factor for cervical cancer in women, it is also a growing risk factor for head and neck cancers in men. According to the American Cancer Society, oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers (tongue, tonsils, oropharynx, gums and other parts of the mouth) occur more than twice as often among men as they do among women. Tobacco and alcohol use are still the most common risk factors for all head and neck cancers, but recent studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 60 to 70 percent of cancers in the throat and base on the tongue may be linked to HPV.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that head and neck cancers account for approximately three percent of all cancers in the U.S. Head and neck cancer includes cancers that occur in the head or neck region, ranging from the nasal cavity and sinuses, to the back of the throat, including the tonsils and base of the tongue.

In this FOX 5 video, meet Frank Summers, a local Atlanta-area firefighter who sought treatment at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, after his startling diagnosis of HPV-related head and neck cancer.

 

Free Head & Neck Cancer Screening

Want to get screened? Emory’s Department of Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat) will hold a FREE head and neck cancer screening tomorrow, Friday, April 25, 2014 at Emory University Hospital Midtown. The screening will be held from 8am to 12pm at the address below. Walk-ins are welcome!

Department of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery
Emory University Hospital Midtown
Medical Office Tower (MOT), 9th Floor, Suite 9400
550 Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30308

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Sign-up to Learn the Biology of Cancer

biology-cancerHave you ever wondered about the biology behind cancer? If so, join Assistant Professor of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Gregg Orloff, Ph.D, on Tuesday, August 6 at noon for an interactive, live, web chat on the “Biology of Cancer.” He will be available to discuss questions such as:

  • What is cancer?
  • What causes cancer?
  • What can you do to prevent cancer?
  • How is cancer diagnosed and treated?
  • What is the role of infectious organisms like viruses in cancer?
  • Why and how cancer spreads.
  • Why do cancer drugs not always work.

This interesting chat will open your eyes to what cancer is and what you can do to help reduce the chances that you or your family members will be diagnosed with the disease.

Chat Sign Up

Survivor Story: Debbie Church’s Battle with Breast Cancer

Debbie Church

Debbie Church is Coordinator of the Cancer Survivors’ Network and Patient Navigator at Saint Joseph’s Hospital and a 5-year breast cancer survivor. Debbie has shared her story through the journey of survivorship below. We’re lucky to have Debbie and Saint Joseph’s Hospital as part of the Emory Healthcare family and we thank her for sharing her story. We hope our readers and community members are as inspired by her story as we are!

“Dick and I fell in love over 32 years ago and have never quite gotten over it! We have had some interesting moments, but we have made it through each challenge. Love always finds a way. Unexpectedly, our lives changed in an instant when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2008. We knew life would never be the same. Life is like that box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.”

Read more of Debbie’s story on the Saint Joseph’s Hospital blog >>

About Debbie Church, BA
Debbie Church, BA in Psychology and History, Salem College, and a M.Div. from Southeastern Seminary Wake Forest and a Certified Cancer Services Navigator has worked in oncology for over 20 years. She is currently employed at St. Joseph’s Hospital of Atlanta as Coordinator of the Cancer Survivors’ Network and Patient Navigator. She has worked also as Director of Support Services and Chaplain at Northwest Georgia Oncology Centers, Atlanta Medical Center and various hospitals in the Southeast. She has spoken at many cancer events including GASCO Conferences here in Atlanta and other hospice and oncology centers in the southeast. She was a contributing author for Thomas Nelson’s Women’s Study Bible as well as publishing a book in 2010 with her husband, Don’t’ Ever Look Down; Surviving Cancer Together.

The Skinny on Neuroendocrine Cancer

Neuroendocrine tumors develop in the cells of the neuroendocrine system, a network of glands throughout the body that produce hormones. Neuroendocrine tumors are rare, typically affecting 1 – 2 people per 100,000 people.

The different types of neuroendocrine tumors depend on the particular cells that are affected.  They usually develop in the digestive system and the lungs.  Approximately 38% of tumors are in the appendix, 23% in the ileum (also known as carcinoids), 13% in the rectum and 11.5% in the bronchi.

Symptoms of Neuroendocrine tumors

Neuroendocrine tumors may be slow growing (low grade or well differentiated) or rapidly growing (high grade or poorly differentiated).  They may be functional (release hormones) or nonfunctional.  When functional neuroendocrine tumors release a variety of hormones including a hormone called serotonin, a condition called carcinoid syndrome may occur. Symptoms most commonly associated with neuroendocrine tumors include flushing, diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain and cramping.   Patients with carcinoid syndrome may also experience cardiac changes, which are caused from fibrotic damage to the heart.  Usually a patient with carcinoid syndrome does not experience these symptoms until the tumor has spread within the body.

Other terms used for neuroendocrine tumors include
• Gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors – tumors in the gut or pancreas
• Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors – also known as islet cell cancer, or PNET
• Gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumors – tumors that develop in the bowel, stomach or esophagus
• Pheochromocytoma of the adrenal gland
• Carcinoid tumors of the lung or intestinal tract
• Carcinoid Syndrome
• Gastrinoma, Insulinoma, Glucagonoma, VIPoma (vasoactive intestinal peptide tumor)

Treatment of neuroendocrine tumors

Treating neuroendocrine tumors can be a challenge due to the various types, locations in the body, the symptoms they produce and the diverse number of treatment modalities. Treatment is individualized to  each patient but can include surgery, liver directed therapy, medications, and/or radiation.

When treating a rare, challenging cancer such as neuroendocrine cancer, it is important to have a team of healthcare professionals at your side who are experts in the  disease and can collaborate to create a treatment plan individualized to each patient.

At Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, we take this multidisciplinary approach with teams of  expert medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, interventional oncologists, gastroenterologists, pulmonologists, endocrinologists, nurses, and dieticians ( just to name a few) to create a care plan unique to each patient.

About Bonnie Josaphs, RN, BSN, OCN

Ms. Josaphs received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware in 2002. She has been practicing within Gastrointestinal (GI) Oncology since 2004.  She specializes in gastrointestinal cancers which include cancers of the esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, pancreas, gallbladder and stomach.

Related Links

More information on neuroendocrine tumors:
Winship Cancer Institute Clinical Trials for Neuroendocrine Tumors
 The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is Georgia’s only NCI-designated Cancer Center.

Survivorship Care Plan- Are You Prepared? Take-Aways from Web Chat

Cancer Survivorship SupportRecently, I conducted a chat with Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University on the Effects of Chemo and Radiation on Cancer Survivors. In 1978, as a child, I was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. I received radiation and chemotherapy at that time that resulted in my development of significant late side effects in my adult life.

The participants asked some great questions. One particular question we did not have time to answer was,

“Did you find a survivorship care plan an effective tool for you or your parents once you moved from active treatment?”

For me, a cancer treatment summary or a survivorship care plan was extremely helpful after my active treatment. Without the knowledge from my parents and their guidance, I would not have been able to properly prepare a care plan.

I recommend that every cancer survivor become well informed and secure a treatment summary and survivorship care plan.  Consider it the first step in accepting responsibility for your personal health and well-being after cancer treatment.

A Cancer Treatment Summary should include the following information at a minimum:

  • Identifiers for you (name, medical record number and birthdate)
  • A description of your cancer diagnosis including pathology and staging information
  • A list of all treatments you have received (surgery, chemotherapy, biological therapy, hormonal therapy, and/or radiation therapy)
  • All dates and doses of treatment you received  (i.e. cumulative doses of anthracyclines)
  • Any significant side effects you experienced during treatment
  • Contact name and phone number of a member of your family or close friend
  • Names and Contact information of all providers involved in your care

A Survivorship Care Plan should include the following information at a minimum:

  • A Treatment Summary
  • A plan for long term follow-up including appointments and testing you will need and when you should have them
  • A list of any long term side effects that you need to be aware of and ways to handle them (including physical issues as well as emotional and social issues you may experience)

For more information on how to prepare your survivorship plan and the benefits of having one, check out the chat transcript.

About Stephanie Zimmerman

Stephanie’s personal experience as a child diagnosed and treated for Ewing’s Sarcoma in the late 1970’s led her to become a nurse serving the physical and psychosocial needs of children and their families along the cancer trajectory. In April 2008, Stephanie’s heart failed because of the chest radiation and Doxorubicin used to cure her Ewing’s Sarcoma three decades prior. Unable to return to clinical practice following a heart transplant, yet unwilling to abandon her passion for the survivor population, Stephanie partnered with Judy Bode of Grand Rapids, MI in the founding of myHeart, yourHands, Inc. [MHYH]

Related Resources

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Head and Neck Cancer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 2,300 cases of HPV associated head and neck cancers are diagnosed each year in women and more than 9,000 in men. Although alcohol and tobacco continue to be major risk factors for developing cancer of the mouth, throat or voice box, recent studies by the CDC have shown that approximately 63% of cancers associated with the tonsils and base of tongue are associated with HPV. Join Emory Head and Neck Surgical Oncologist, Mark W. El-Deiry, MD FACS on Thursday, January 24 at 12 noon for an online web chat on HPV and Head & Neck Cancer. He will be available to answer questions regarding HPV and Head and Neck Cancer including:

• What is HPV?
• What are HPV-related head and neck cancers?
• How do you get tested for HPV?
• What are the symptoms of an HPV infection?
• Is there a vaccine for HPV?
• Lesions in the mouth and throat?
• Should I get my head and neck cancer tested for HPV?
• Are there any studies related to HPV and head and neck cancers?
• What is Emory doing to educate and prevent head and neck cancers?

Related Links

Why You Should Consider More than Sticker Price when Shopping for Your Cell Phone

Recent news indicates that cell phones and the radiation they emit may be tied to cancer. What does this mean for you?

Can cell phones cause cancer?

When news broke recently that cell phones could possibly cause cancer, our own cell phones began ringing here at Winship Cancer Institute. Reporters wanted help to put the news in perspective after a panel of the World Health Organization placed cell phones in the same category they have placed coffee, exhaust fumes, the pesticide DDT and pickled vegetables, saying that the devices could possibly cause cancer.

Because cell phones are so pervasive – there are an estimated 5 billion world-wide subscribers  – people were naturally concerned. Previous studies have acquitted the phones, but on May 31 a new review was saying they could be guilty after all.

It was important to me then as it is important to me now to try to help people understand the findings of the WHO panel. I think an important message from this report is that there is a possible risk, and that we need more information. Also, the report highlights just how difficult it can be to untangle cancer’s web, to find its causes and the best therapies.  Just think of cigarette smoking. How many millions of people smoked for decades before tens of thousands of cases of lung cancer began to instruct us of the lethal consequences? Cancer often takes years or even decades to develop, and thus it can be years or decades before patterns of disease become clear.

The WHO panel, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, is composed of 31 thoughtful, intelligent scientists from 14 countries who examined several previous studies. They concluded that they cannot rule out the possibility that cell phones can cause cancer. The panel was also careful to say that no known cases of cancer have been linked to cell phone usage.

The radiation that cell phones emit, called nonionizing radiation, is the issue. In general, most scientists have believed that these radio frequency waves were too weak to cause DNA damage that is often the cause of cancer.

That said, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported this year on research from the National Institutes of Health that found that brain activity in the part of the brain closest to the phone antenna can accelerate with less than one hour of cell phone use. That report offered a theoretical explanation – but note, only a theoretical explanation – of how such exposure could possibly cause an inflammatory response in the brain or trigger the formation of free radicals. The inflammatory response, the body’s natural reaction to injury or illness, can and often does go awry, wreaking havoc on a cellular level. Inflammation is now linked to a number of cancers. As for free radicals, this refers to free oxygen radicals within the body. They, too, are bad – thus all the advertisements you see for anti-oxidants that may fight their deleterious effect.

Also, a study last year conducted in 13 countries reported that people considered to be heavy cell phone users had a 40 percent higher risk of gliomas, a type of  brain tumor, such as the tumor  that claimed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

So where does this leave us? Do we need to toss our cell phones? No, but we do need more information. And some of that information needs to be how much radiation a particular cell phone emits. We need to know which phones are potentially safer. There is no reason to panic, but there is reason to begin to ask for information from cell phone manufacturers. There should be more to shopping for a cell phone than price.

Walter J. Curran Jr., MD
Executive Director, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
Associate Vice President, Cancer, Woodruff Health Sciences Center
Chair of Radiation Oncology