New microscope offers hope for tumor patients

New technology series

University of Michigan's Dr. Daniel Orringer with the new SRS microscope which promises to make brain tumor and other cancer surgeries safer and more efficient

University of Michigan’s Dr. Daniel Orringer with the new SRS microscope which promises to make brain tumor and other cancer surgeries safer and more efficient

Here at the University of Michigan we are testing a new microscope that will radically change brain tumor surgery—making it safer and more efficient. So far, we have used the microscope on tissues from 89 patients with great success.

Timing and location are important

One of the most difficult things for a brain surgeon is figuring out exactly where a brain tumor starts and stops because brain tumor tissue can be hard to distinguish from the rest of the brain. The new stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscope allows us to see the edges of a tumor in a few seconds instead of waiting the 30-45 minutes it usually takes for a frozen tumor section to be developed.

Right now, we are using the microscope on an experimental basis through grants from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization for Life Sciences Program. We are using the microscope almost exclusively on neurosurgical cases. I’m also collaborating with Matt Spector, who is a head and neck surgeon, to look at squamous cell carcinoma.  Continue reading

Medical assistant’s cancer opens a door

Now a dedicated walker, Mimi Schork chooses her menu wisely

Mimi Schork (center) with her husband Matt and coworker Tiffiney Dixon

Mimi Schork (center) with her husband Matt and coworker Tiffiney Dixon.

A phone call last winter changed Mimi Schork’s life. After working as a medical assistant at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center for 12 years, with the last four years in the Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Mimi learned that she had cancer. The call confirmed a positive biopsy of a suspicious lump found during her annual mammogram. Mimi was now a patient herself, with early stage HER-2 positive breast cancer.

“My mind went blank. Then I thought of my lifestyle. I’ve smoked since I was 16, don’t exercise and pretty much eat and drink whatever I want at any time of the day or night. Did these habits contribute to my cancer?” Mimi asked. Continue reading

A meaty debate: Can red meat be part of a healthful diet?

Small amounts of red meat are fine, when part of a plant-based diet

Eat red meat sparingly, avoid processed meat.

The World Health Organization classifies processed meats as carcinogens and says red meat is probably a carcinogen. Our cancer nutritionists recommend eating only small amounts of red meat, and avoiding processed meats.


With all the focus on a plant-based diet for overall health and reduction of cancer risk, and recent media hype reporting red and processed meat cause cancer, meat lovers are left to wonder if their favorite foods are still allowed.

The WHO (World Health Organization’s) International Agency for Research on Cancer just released its analysis of the literature to date and concluded red meat and processed meat are likely carcinogenic, or cancer-causing foods. They cited a 17% – 18% increased risk of colorectal cancer with as little as two ounces of processed meat or four of ounces red meat per day. Continue reading

Let’s talk about sex and chemotherapy

Guidelines for safe sex during chemotherapy

sex and chemotherapyIs it safe to have sexual relations with my partner who is undergoing chemotherapy? When is the right time, or the safest time? As a Cancer AnswerLine™ nurse, I get questions like this from callers from time to time.

Sexuality and sex are two very important parts of a relationship, and it is only natural that our patients and partners worry about what the best approach is. And the short answer is: Sexuality is whatever a person desires, as long as it is mutual and safe. Continue reading

How an app is improving breast cancer care

breast cancer app

Jacqueline Tonks enjoys using technology. At age 78, she’s learned from her grandchildren and children, and is a frequent user of Facebook, Skype and texting. So when she heard about a mobile app that could help her manage her breast cancer treatment, she downloaded it.

“The nice thing about this app is that when I turn on my iPhone or iPad, the app appears and reminds me of things to do today. I really like the reminders of what exercises I’m supposed to do, in what order, and how many. It keeps me on track,” Tonks says. Continue reading