Internet technology meets cancer care

Technology connects us with information – and each other – to transform the patient experience

cancer care and information technology

At the Cancer Center, IT experts start with the patient, try to understand his or her experience, then find creative ways to improve that experience.

Smart phone applications, social media, video-on-demand – just when we embrace the latest advance in information technology (IT), another promises to make us smarter, more organized or better connected. Change happens just as swiftly in cancer care, bringing us not only advances in screening and treatment, but more information, more options, and all too often, more questions.

Where do the two roads meet?

We asked Larry An, M.D., director of the Center for Health Communications Research at the University of Michigan, to help us understand how IT improves cancer care. The center includes behavioral scientists, health counselors, and software and media professionals who, in partnership with doctors and researchers from across the university, develop and test ways to help people access information and make more informed health decisions. Continue reading

ICE: End of term reflection paper

Cancer Center patients and staff play important role in educating future doctors

 ICE, or Initial Clinical Experience, is a program for new University of Michigan medical students.

Medical student writes of his experiences in the Breast Cancer Clinic and says he learned more about life and the role of healthcare providers in caring for patients than he ever thought possible.


Editor’s note: ICE, or Initial Clinical Experience, is a program for new University of Michigan medical students. Instead of spending their first term only in lecture halls, they are assigned to shadow clinical faculty and other health professionals. This gives them early connections with patients and families and an understanding of the roles and responsibilities of all healthcare team members within the system.

Where is the line between disease and life drawn? This was a question I constantly thought about during my Initial Clinical Experience during my first term as a medical student. I remember the moment I found out I would be placed in the Breast Cancer Clinic and my feeling of dread. I was worried that so early in medical school I would come face-to-face with cancer, and through it, with death. Continue reading

Blue light cystoscopy for bladder cancer

New technique uses a blue light to see more of the bladder cancer tumor

blue light cystoscopy

Blue light cystoscopy offers a significant advance in bladder tumor detection and, in Michigan, is only offered at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center. It uses a special dye, along with a blue light inside the patient to make cancer tumors more visible to surgeons. Left: tumors as seen with a traditional white light; right: the same tumors more visible with a dye and blue light.


mCancerPartner sat down recently with Cheryl Lee, M.D., a surgeon and professor of urology, to discuss blue light cystoscopy, a technology that significantly improves the detection of non-muscle invasive (early stage) cancer of the bladder during surgery. Dr. Lee’s research focuses on improving quality of life and surgical outcomes for bladder cancer patients. She is active with the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network, where she has served as president of its Scientific Advisory Board and is currently a member of the Board of Directors. She is Past-Chairman of the Bladder Cancer Think Tank.

mCancerPartner: Can you talk about bladder cancer tumors and the challenges they present in regard to removing all the cancer. Continue reading

Paid sick leave: an important safety net for cancer patients

Sick leave eases financial burden, helps ensure job security

paid sick leaveSome patients with cancer experience a serious financial burden. A new study finds the burden is worse for patients without paid sick leave. In a survey of more than 1,300 patients with stage 3 colorectal cancer, researchers found that only 55% who were employed at the time of diagnosis retained their jobs after treatment. Patients who had paid sick leave were nearly twice as likely to retain their jobs as those without paid sick leave.

In the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers found that patients without paid sick leave were more likely to report higher personal financial burden. This includes borrowing money, difficulties making credit card payments, reduced spending for food or clothing, or reduced recreational spending. Continue reading

New books on cancer, survivorship and relationships to check out

There’s always something new for patients and families in our library, the PERC

Our library, the PERC, is a warm, inviting retreat at the Cancer Center

Our library, the PERC, is a warm, inviting retreat at the Cancer Center

At the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s full service library, the Patient Family Education Resource Center – or PERC – librarians and volunteers are always ready to help. Books, electronic devices (some can be checked out), suggested reading lists and other resources are available to Cancer Center patients, families and caregivers. Not sure what you want? Staff at the PERC can help you figure it out.

Here are just some of the recently purchased books you can find at the PERC: Continue reading

Our digital gift to you: guided imagery for peace and relaxation

Turn off the phone, get comfortable, point and click

guided imagery

Click on our guided imagery pages for 12 free audio downloads of soothing words, sounds and images for relaxation, healing and pain relief.


Guided imagery is a gentle but powerful technique that focuses and directs the imagination. It can be just as simple as an athlete’s 10-second reverie, just before leaping off the diving board, imagining how a perfect dive feels when slicing through the water. Or it can be as complex as imagining the busy, focused buzz of thousands of loyal immune cells, scooting out of the thymus gland on a search-and-destroy mission to wipe out unsuspecting cancer cells.

This simple technique to suggest positive mental images, feelings and thoughts can also be a way for you to find freedom from tension and stress. It can provide calm amidst worries, and relief from physical discomfort. Continue reading