Calling out to breast cancer survivors

A chance for you to help improve breast cancer care

breast cancer survivorsLast year, the Cancer AnswerLine ™ nurses had the opportunity to start working with the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Breast Cancer and Advocacy Committee. When I attended my first meeting with this group, I was pleasantly surprised. I had a pre-conceived notion this would be a group of women working on a smaller scale like hosting bake sales to raise money for breast cancer. Instead, I found that this group of smart women has really made an impact on breast cancer treatment. They are currently looking for new members. Continue reading

Safe handling at home of medications and waste

safe handlingWhether your cancer treatment is oral or intravenous, some medications may be harmful to those who live with you. Limiting exposure of other people to your pills and body fluids is your best bet to keeping everyone safe, even if the effect would be minimal.

Keeping prescription medication away from others sounds simple, but cancer therapy can be complex. Here are some general tips to ensure a safe home environment: Continue reading

Managing hot flashes in cancer

hot flashes and cancerHot flashes are annoying and bothersome. They interrupt activities of daily living, and depending on their severity and frequency, can greatly impact a person’s quality of life. In cancer patients, they can affect both men and women undergoing cancer treatment.

Hot flashes are described as an intense heat sensation that involves flushing and sweating of the face and trunk. They can affect 34% – 80% of breast and prostate cancer patients. Continue reading

Point, click, relax: Guided imagery available online


Clare Casselman, LMSW

The first thing you notice about Claire Casselman is her voice. Always calm, always low. It sounds like navy blue: solid and reassuring, rich and full of depth.

It’s the perfect voice for guided imagery, a technique that combines visualization with breathing exercises to foster relaxation, a sense of empowerment and positive changes for well-being. Casselman, a licensed clinical social worker and case manager in the Cancer Center, developed an online guided imagery library to help patients tap their own internal resources for coping.

“All people, in general, use some form of imagery without being aware of it, whether it’s daydreaming or thinking about dinner and how good it’ll taste,” Casselman said. “It’s a skill we use to help us get through an uncomfortable moment. With guided imagery, we focus on that skill and build an intention into our visualization to help us get to where we want to be emotionally.”

Guided imagery has been shown to lower blood pressure, decrease stress hormones, help with chronic pain, enhance sleep, lessen side effects, boost the immune system and improve surgical recovery.

The podcast library features an introduction to the concept of guided imagery as well as seven programs, ranging from “Taking a Walk” to “Healthy Cell Alliance for Treatment.” Some podcasts have specific themes, such as those for caregivers or those seeking pain relief. Although all of the podcasts have been designed for people facing cancer, each recording is broad enough to appeal to people at all stages of life and in all circumstances.

“Our goal is to show people that they are capable of achieving a peaceful calm, of controlling more of the situation and outcomes,” Casselman said. “It’s empowering. Once you’ve learned how to use imagery to clarify your goals, you can think of it as part of your tool kit for coping — whether it’s with cancer or some other challenge.”

Take the next step:

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.

Co-caregiving when cancer strikes twice

John and Madeline Poster

John and Madeline Poster

In the restaurant, John and Madeline Poster are relaxed and having fun bantering about French fries as they eat specialty burgers for lunch. Married for 45 years, the pair has shared many life experiences, including cancer and caregiving. In fact, co-caregiving has helped them learn to enjoy the present, while still looking confidently to the future.

In the 1990s, Madeline underwent a double mastectomy and preventive hysterectomy. When breast cancer returned nearly nine years later, surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy followed. John was Continue reading

Radiation Oncology takes a patient and family centered approach

patients and families

Child life specialist Kristan Freitag strives to improve the patient experience during radiation therapy.

Patients who receive radiation therapy understand that the process often comes with anxiety. In order to best appreciate the wants and needs of patients and families, the Department of Radiation Oncology formed a Patient and Family Centered Care (PFCC) committee. The goal of the group, which consists of former radiation patients, family members and radiation therapy caregivers, is to offer patients and families the opportunity to reflect on their treatment and recommend potential ways to improve the experience for others. Continue reading