Good night, sleep tight: how to manage sleep-wake disturbances

sleep-awake disturbancesWe’ve all been there. It’s the middle of the night, and you can’t sleep. You keep thinking how tired you’re going to be tomorrow if you don’t nod off soon. This can be especially true for those undergoing treatment for cancer. Sleep-wake disturbances have been reported in 30% – 75% of people with cancer.

Getting adequate rest is crucial for quality of life, and it’s essential for healing and immune system function. Let’s face it, when you aren’t getting adequate rest, it can make the best of people irritable. Continue reading

Hi-ho, hi-ho, off to work we go: work and cancer

work and cancerI am often asked questions by newly diagnosed cancer patients about work and cancer. Some ask about working while receiving treatment, while others wonder about returning to work after treatment. This really depends on the type of treatment you get, the kind of cancer, your overall health and the kind of work you do. You may need to shorten your workdays and adjust your schedule. Some people are able work during or after cancer treatment without changing their work schedule.

Cancer and Careers and Harris Interactive conducted a survey to better understand the current needs of working people with cancer. The survey found that the majority of cancer survivors and people with cancer are eager to continue working, but need support to balance their health and work demands. Findings from the survey help to clarify the importance of supporting survivors in their workplaces:

  • Top three reasons to continue working after a diagnosis:
    • Feeling well enough (69%)
    • Wanting to keep things as normal as possible (48%)
    • Wanting to feel productive (38%)
  • 45% of surveyed cancer survivors took no time off following their diagnosis
  • 79% of surveyed cancer survivors said that cancer recovery is aided by the routine nature of work.

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Guided imagery and other stress reducers

guided imageryThe holiday season is upon us, so much to do, so little time! Do you find yourself wishing for a way to slow down and relax that doesn’t cost anything and that you can do anytime, anywhere, without anyone knowing what you are doing? Well, there is a way, and that way is called guided imagery. Guided imagery has been around for centuries, and is both a spiritual, emotional and chemical reaction or an event that will occur naturally in our body – if we know and practice certain specific techniques.

Every day we are bombarded with so much Continue reading

Fatigue busters for cancer-related fatigue

cancer-related fatigueWe all experience fatigue, but cancer-related fatigue can be particularly distressing as it oftentimes is not relieved with sleep and rest. Approximately 80% – 100% of patients with cancer experience fatigue, and it’s the most common side effect experienced by cancer patients.

With the holidays upon us, it’s the season for socializing and spending time with family and friends. With it can come a flurry of activity that can wear out the most energetic of individuals. Finding a balance is especially important for those with a diagnosis of cancer. Continue reading

Radiation therapy and burn concern

radiation therapyRadiation therapy may involve side effects, and symptoms can vary depending on the area treated. For example, a breast cancer patient may notice skin irritation on her chest, like a mild to moderate sunburn, while a patient with cancer in the mouth may have soreness when he swallows. Some patients who are having their midsection treated may report feeling sick to their stomach or diarrhea. I will be focusing on skin changes and self- care tips for patients receiving radiation therapy.

Why is the skin affected?

Radiation is especially effective on cells that Continue reading

Coping with shortness of breath

shortness of breathShortness of breath is something that we’ve all experienced. Typically this occurs when we exert ourselves, like running up a few flights of stairs. The feeling subsides quickly with rest. However, for many, shortness of breath is a daily struggle. It is estimated that 15%-55% of cancer patients experience shortness of breath, or dyspnea (the medical term.)

Dyspnea is described as an inability to get enough air, a feeling of smothering, tightness or suffocation. In cancer patients, it can be caused by the cancer or cancer treatment, or:

  • anemia
  • fluid build- up in the space between the lungs
  • tumor blocking the airway
  • radiation pneumonitis (inflammation of lungs caused by radiation therapy)
  • pneumonia
  • anxiety and stress

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