Prevention is the best “cure” for cancer: 8 things you can do to prevent cancer

cancer preventionPrevention really is the best cure for any disease. This holds true for the dreaded “C” word as well. The number one best way to prevent cancer is simple: Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Why? Because up to one third of all cancers have a positive relationship with being overweight and obesity.

Narrowing cancer prevention down to this one goal sounds simple, but actually achieving a healthy weight can be more difficult. It is doable, if you commit to little changes at a time. Just try the following: Continue reading

New patients and their first visit:

Some useful things to know about the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center

information for new patientsNewly diagnosed patients who choose their care at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center can feel overwhelmed by the number of decisions they and their family must make. I’m often asked by new patients how to get to Ann Arbor and where to park. Others have financial questions or wonder if their family can come to the appointment, too.

Given the complexities of health care and of large academic medical centers like ours, it seems only natural that we should provide our patients with some degree of orientation. Patients receive a virtual encyclopedia Continue reading

What is palliative care?

palliative careWhat’s in a name? The term palliative care is confusing to many. Oftentimes people associate it with end-of-life care, or hospice care. A poll taken in 2011 revealed that more than 75% of the public lacked knowledge regarding this service.

Although hospice and palliative care overlap in their goals of reducing suffering and providing comfort, the main difference is hospice care is typically for patients who are terminal, or within six months of death, and palliative medicine can be received at any time, whether terminal or not.

Individuals in hospice have chosen to end curative or aggressive treatment, and focus on comfort measures and the dying process. Palliative care patients are often in the midst of active treatment, but need care for distressing side effects from treatment or disease.

Sometimes a referral to palliative care can cause fear in patients and their families because of misconceptions regarding the term. Because of this, some cancer centers have chosen to change Continue reading

Scanxiety

scanxiety

Betsy de Parry

By nature an optimist, I rarely worry about things I can’t control, but I could always count on scans and checkups to trigger a bout with angst. And it never ceased to amaze me that ration and logic (I have no symptoms) shifted so easily to doubt (Will I dodge the bullet again?).

On scan day, I always took a good book but it never got read because my mind was too busy racing back to the dark place where cancer all started. I’d wonder if I’d get to keep living my life. Or if I would have to re-live the nightmare. Or if my daughter would want my mother’s silver.

And then I waited. For good news or bad. Either way, I just wanted to know. And until I did, life paused. It’s not that I stayed home wallowing in self-pity. On the contrary, I went about my daily routine and made myself busy – very busy.

Thankfully, I always got good news – and quickly. As my doctor delivered it, no one but me noticed that my stomach unknotted. My knees stopped wobbling. And a tsunami of relief washed over me.

Once again, I felt safe. Until the next scan triggered another bout of angst. Continue reading

Sharing the light after cancer

cancer survivorOne of the best parts about working on the Cancer Center’s patient magazine, Thrive, is meeting patients who have made positive changes as a result of having been sick. For our fall issue, I interviewed Flora Migyanka, a breast cancer survivor.

Looking at Flora, you’d never suspect she’d been ill. As we all know, outward appearances can be misleading. Flora had a double mastectomy and still faces residual effects like swelling in her arm, pain and muscle wasting in her back. But as a wife and mother to young children, she has incentive to be well. Her family needs her and she needs them. Continue reading

Tumor Lysis Syndrome and how the body handles disintegrating cancer cells

Tumor Lysis SyndromeAs a nurse at the U-M Cancer Answer Line, I get calls and emails with all kinds of cancer-related questions. Last month I received a phone call from a patient recently diagnosed with lymphoma. He was going to begin chemotherapy in the next week and had always been interested in chemistry and biology. He asked me what happens when chemotherapy attacks a tumor. Does it blow up like an explosion or melt away like icicles in the sun, or something in between? His question along with his diagnosis of lymphoma, immediately make me think of Tumor Lysis Syndrome (TLS). Continue reading