Mastering Medicalese

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Betsy de Parry

Unless we happened to choose a career in the medical field, most of us gave up learning medical terminology in high school health or college biology.

Then we get cancer and come face to face with big, incomprehensible words that we’ve done just fine not knowing our whole lives. It’s like going to a foreign land without speaking the language and being unable ask for directions.

Since healing is our destination when we detour to Cancer Land, it helps to understand how to get there. And that means learning at least some Medicalese. I know it’s not easy.

Like most people, I was thoroughly dazed and confused when I was first diagnosed. Not only was I facing a life-threatening disease, but suddenly I was hearing and reading huge words that I didn’t understand. No wonder I felt unequipped to make informed decisions that needed to be made.

And there were lots of mysterious words and phrases. One of my first encounters was with “bilateral inguinal lymphadenopathy.” I figured that bilateral meant both sides and that lymphadenopathy might be swelling of some kind, but inguinal? What the heck was that? Continue reading

Food safety is as simple as ABC: Always Be Careful

food safetyIt’s mid-day and you are trying to figure out what to have for dinner. You decide on meatloaf, but the ground sirloin is in the freezer. Since you have a few hours, you set it on the counter to thaw and proceed to the next thing on your to do list. Despite what your parents may think or what you have done for years, this is not the safest way to thaw meat.

World Health Day, celebrated each year in April, is focused on food safety. Increase your understanding and awareness by following the tips below.

Keep clean

  • Wash hands, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, before cooking and when switching tasks, such as cutting raw meat to cutting raw vegetables.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with cool running water and a soft brush before cutting, slicing or shredding.

Separate raw and cooked

Continue reading

Beyond counting sheep: intervention for the sleepless cancer patient

insomniamCancerPartner sat down recently with Deirdre Conroy, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and clinical director of the U-M Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program, to discuss the factors that determine a good night’s sleep, why it is especially important for cancer patients, and what treatment options are available.

mCancerPartner: Unless we have a nighttime job, most of us try to sleep at night and be awake in the daytime. How do circadian rhythms relate to sleep?

Dr. Conroy: Circadian rhythm is the name for your body’s internal clock. It is a 24-hour Continue reading

Dr. Theodore Lawrence on advances in radiation therapy for cancer

Theodore Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D., is the director of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, and a world renowned expert in radiation therapy. In this short video, Dr. Lawrence talks about some of the exciting advances in radiation therapy. These include the ability to individualize radiation therapy. Instead of treating all patients with a particular tumor the same, we can now see – while it is happening – how an individual’s tumor is responding to therapy and make adjustments during treatment.

Take the next step:
• If you have questions about radiation therapy, or any aspect of cancer care, call the nurses at the University of Michigan Cancer AnswerLine™. They can help patients or their loved ones find a clinical trial or provide insights into the newest and latest cancer treatments. Feel free to call at 1-800-865-1125 or send an e-mail.


Cancer-center-informal-vertical-sig-150x150The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.

Our full-service patient library: one of the Cancer Center’s crown jewels

full-service library for UMHS Comprehensive Cancer Center patients and family members

Lori Boylan, information resource assistant (left) and Ann Marie Scholten

The Patient Education Resource Center, commonly referred to as the PERC, is a full-service library for UMHS Comprehensive Cancer Center patients and family members. The PERC takes great pride in making sure the resources and services it provides are tailor-made to those who are facing a cancer diagnosis. The PERC, located on Level B2 of the Cancer Center, is home to the usual library amenities such as: books, reference services, medical models, computers for patient and family use, and a copy and fax machine. In my opinion, what sets the PERC apart are its caring individuals and the following services and programs: Continue reading

Pneumonia vaccine: What is it, and why do I need it??

pneumonia vaccineThe numbers of pneumonia cases are on the increase. You can blame the weather, our aging population, or the fact that this is one of the more common side effects that can occur as a result of having chemo or radiation therapy as part of cancer treatment. No matter which factor you choose, pneumonia affects millions of people worldwide each year.

Pneumonia is a severe acute respiratory infection, a condition where fluids fill the lungs and disrupt how oxygen is absorbed. Breathing can become very difficult, along with several other key symptoms including: Continue reading