Posts Tagged ‘NCI’

We Are Winship – Survive and Thrive

Shawn Ware felt a small lump in her breast while in the shower on January 2nd, 2009, and on that day, the journey on the fight against breast cancer began for Shawn, her husband Albert, daughter Demitria, son Jalen, and mother Eva Freeman. As part of her treatment plan, Shawn underwent a lumpectomy and additional treatment with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Shawn Ware, breast cancer survivor

Shawn Ware

“You know those side effects that you see in fine print? I had all those and more,” she says, somehow able to laugh about them now. “I didn’t know that your eyelashes act as windshield wipers, and when I lost mine, I had to wear glasses just to keep things from getting in my eyes.”

Shawn triumphed. “I was ready to conquer the world after my last round of radiation,” she says. And three years later, she is considered a survivor and a reason for celebration.

“Cancer, it stinks,” says Shawn, the general manager of Blomeyer Health Fitness Center at Emory. “But you do change. You certainly learn to appreciate the good and not let the little things bother you any more.”

Like millions of other Americans, Shawn is part of a growing trend—more people than ever are surviving cancer. In just six years, the number of cancer survivors has jumped by almost 20 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute—11.7 million in 2007, up from 9.8 million in 2001, the most recent years available.

The good news comes with some challenges, however. As cancer treatment has become more successful, survivors —and their caregivers and providers—have learned that there is a cost to surviving.

“Long-term survivorship starts on the day treatment ends,” says nurse practitioner Joan Giblin, the director of Winship’s new Survivorship Program. “You’re actively doing something during treatment, but when treatment ends, many patients tell us they feel like they have been set adrift without a clear course. Our survivorship program is trying to bridge that gap and provide survivors with tools for these difficult times.”

Giblin says that some survivors respond by isolating themselves. Still others “jump right back into their old lives or try to adjust to a new life by adapting to any after-effects they may still be experiencing.”

Survivors of all types of cancer can face myriad physical issues. Treatment itself can be so hard on the body that survivors sometimes suffer chronic pain, heart problems, depression, sexual dysfunction, and a mental fogginess dubbed “chemo brain.” They also are at heightened risk for recurrence and secondary cancers.

Physical problems arise within individual cancer groups. For example, head and neck cancer patients often have trouble swallowing and lose their sense of taste. Breast cancer patients must deal with the changes that come as a result of a lumpectomy or mastectomy and reconstruction.

In addition, family and relationship problems may arise as all in a survivor’s relationship network struggle to adjust to cancer and life after cancer.  Emotional challenges abound, from sadness, fear, and anger to serious depression. Fatigue is common.

Winship Cancer Institute is helping survivors deal not only with the late physical effects of cancer but also with the psychological and social issues that are part of surviving.

“We are now defining a ‘new normal’ for these patients,” says Giblin. “There can be long-term after-effects when treated for cancer, and we are finding ways to improve their quality of life while providing guidance on strategies for dealing with these after-effects.”

The Winship Survivorship Program officially started in November, 2011. Already more than 10 Winship survivorship “clinics” are being offered, focusing on survivors of 10 different cancer categories. The program holds workshops on such vital topics as nutrition, preventing lymphedema, how to talk to children about cancer, spirituality and pet therapy. Workshops have been held on sexuality and also on fatigue. In May, Winship announced its collaboration with the YMCA of Metro Atlanta for a special exercise program for cancer survivors. A unique collaboration, Winship at the Y was Giblin’s brainchild. She is at the hub of a very extensive interdisciplinary wheel that involves specialists from a wide range of treatment areas, including nutrition, pain management, and psychiatry to help survivors thrive.

“We have to change how we look at cancer patients,” Giblin says. “Many cancers are not curable in a conventional sense, but the improvement in the quality and quantity of life needs to be our priority. Much as we view diabetes as a chronic condition, we must look at many cancers in the same way.”

Head and neck cancer survivor Barry Elson, 70, had difficulty swallowing after his treatment. Barry, who was first diagnosed in 2003, had an esophageal dilation last year to improve his ability to swallow.

“I think in the press of your day-to-day survivorship, you forget to ask what (the treatment) might do to your long-term quality of life,” Barry says.

Shawn found that exercise has not only helped her gain physical strength but also has helped her mental outlook. Shawn was able to exercise throughout most of her treatment, even as ill as she was. Now, her worst worry is fatigue. But that doesn’t slow her down. In her job as fitness manager at Blomeyer, she conducts “boot camp” training sessions and teaches other classes.

Winship is also helping survivors thrive by providing support services to help survivors cope with employment and insurance issues that arise as a result of their cancer.

“After treatment,” Giblin says, “patients tend to not be able to work as long, and they don’t have the stamina they used to have.” In addition, there can be stigma in the workplace against a cancer survivor, which in times of layoffs, can result in their loss of employment and consequently, loss of benefits.

“It’s the people who can’t afford to lose their jobs who do,” she says.

And even in cases where survivors keep their insurance benefits, they might find a lack of integrated care as they celebrate more birthdays.

Paper records are lost through the years, hospitals and oncology offices change and primary care physicians—who don’t have experience in oncology —aren’t prepared or educated to provide the ongoing care cancer survivors need.

Barry says he fared well—a result, in part, of diligent Winship physicians Amy Chen and Dong Moon Shin, and the nursing staff—including Giblin.

Despite the side effects she faced during treatment, Shawn says she has grown from her cancer experience.

It makes her a stronger survivor, she says, and also more hopeful, optimistic, and motivated.
“It’s almost motivated me to do more,” she says. “It really helps me to live day by day. You make every day everlasting.”

Original Article Source: Winship Magazine

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Could Winship be Joined by a Second NCI Cancer Center in Georgia?

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory UniversityThere are 66 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers across the United States. Through their designation, these centers and their teams are charged with conducting and leading cancer research and putting that work into life-saving clinical practice every day.  The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is Georgia’s only NCI-designated cancer center.  But in a state where more than 15,000 lives are lost annually to cancer-related deaths, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal is taking steps to help lower these numbers.

It is Deal’s goal to bring a second NCI cancer center to Georgia to help attract additional researchers and cancer research dollars to the state and at the same time, improve access to high quality cancer treatments for the Georgia community. According to a recent article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Deal wants the General Assembly to commit $5 million toward the goal this year, but it will take tens of millions more — and years of work” to achieve bringing a second NCI designated cancer center to the state.

After years of effort and support from groups like the Georgia Cancer Coalition, the Winship Cancer Institute earned NCI designation in 2009. As a result of the growth leading up to the designation and the designation itself, grant funding for Winship from the NCI grew from $9.5 million in 2001 to $29.5 million in 2011. Throughout the multi-year process,  Winship brought elite researchers and faculty on board and built the infrastructure necessary to become one of the most sophisticated cancer research and treatment centers in the country.

This sophistication in cancer treatment available right here in the state of Georgia has allowed Winship to provide the Georgia community with local treatment options for even the most complex cancer cases. Furthermore, it has given doctors across the state a trusted team to collaborate with when a patient referral is needed get Georgia patients access to the most advanced cancer treatment options available.

Now that the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is considered a place Georgians can call home when they are fighting cancer, it’s time to advance that access. We look forward to seeing a strong push behind the need for a second NCI-designated cancer center in Georgia, and look forward to seeing the possibilities for cancer treatment in Georgia advanced as a result.

For more information on Governor Deal’s push for a second NCI-designated center in the state of Georgia, check out this article in the AJC.

Intro to Pancreatic Cancer Part I: Stats, Types, & Risk Factors

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Before we dig a bit deeper into pancreatic cancer in this two-part blog post, below are some important stats you should be aware of. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and American Cancer Society:

  • pancreatic cancer is the 4th leading cause of cancer-related death in both men and women in the U.S.
  • 1.41% of men and women born today will be diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas at some time during their lifetime
  • the median age for diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was 72 years old (based on data from ‘04-’08)
  • the median age of death as a result of pancreatic cancer was 73 years old (based on data from ‘04-’08)
  • 0.53% of men will develop cancer of the pancreas between their 50th and 70th birthdays compared to 0.39% for women
  • About 44,030 people (22,050 men and 21,980 women) will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer Types

According to the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, “A pancreatic cancer type is based on the location of the tumor’s origin within the pancreas. More than 95 percent of pancreatic cancers are adenocarcinomas of the exocrine pancreas. Tumors of the endocrine pancreas are much less common and most are benign.”

  • Acinar Cell Cancers: Acinar cell cancers are tumors that form on the ends of the pancreatic ducts.
  • Adenocarcinoma: An adenocarcinoma is a cancer that begins in the cells that line certain internal organs and have secretory properties. In the pancreas, this is a cancer of the exocrine cells that line the pancreatic ducts.
  • Cystic Tumors: Cystic tumors derive their name from the presence of fluid filled sacs within the pancreas. The fluid is produced by the lining of abnormal tissues or tumors. These tumors may lead to cancer in some patients; however, most cystic tumors of the pancreas are benign.
  • Sarcomas: Sarcomas are tumors that form in the connective tissue that bonds pancreatic cells together and are rare.

Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors

  • Age:  Nearly 90% of those with pancreatic cancer are older than 55 years and over 70% are older than 65.
  • Gender: Pancreatic cancer incidence rates are higher among men than women, but it is possible that this can be attributed to higher tobacco use incidence rates among men.
  • Weight: According to the NCI, “In a pooled analysis of clinical data,  higher body mass index was associated with an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer, independent of other risk factors.”
  • Cigarette Smoking: According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer risk is 2-3x higher for smokers than non-smokers. About 20% to 30% of exocrine pancreatic cancer cases are thought to be caused by cigarette smoking.

Next week, we’ll follow up with more information on pancreatic cancer, including steps you can take to lower your risk (prevention), symptoms of cancer of the pancreas, and how pancreatic cancer is diagnosed and treated.

In the meantime, if you have questions about pancreatic cancer, please leave them for us in the comments below. All comment responses will be provided by physicians of Emory Healthcare and/or the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.