New patients and their first visit:

Some useful things to know about the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center

information for new patientsNewly diagnosed patients who choose their care at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center can feel overwhelmed by the number of decisions they and their family must make. I’m often asked by new patients how to get to Ann Arbor and where to park. Others have financial questions or wonder if their family can come to the appointment, too.

Given the complexities of health care and of large academic medical centers like ours, it seems only natural that we should provide our patients with some degree of orientation. Patients receive a virtual encyclopedia Continue reading

Joint pain: Is it just the weather??

joint painToo often people blame the winter weather and extreme temperatures for their new or increased joint pain and inflammation, also called arthralgia. If these same people are patients being treated with chemotherapy, the pain could be related to treatment. Joint pain can be debilitating, and can cause a decrease in daily functioning and quality of life.

Certain types of chemotherapy are known to cause increased amounts of joint pain:

  • Paclitaxel or the other taxanes
  • Bleomycin
  • Cladribine
  • L-asparaginase
  • Biologic response modifiers such as filgrastim, pegfilgrastim, and sargramostim.

There many other causes of this type of pain and these should be ruled out prior to treatment for this condition. A doctor’s evaluation can help determine the cause of joint pain. There are multiple tests that might be used to evaluate these symptoms including x-rays, bone scans, MRI and blood tests. Continue reading

Tumor Lysis Syndrome and how the body handles disintegrating cancer cells

Tumor Lysis SyndromeAs a nurse at the U-M Cancer Answer Line, I get calls and emails with all kinds of cancer-related questions. Last month I received a phone call from a patient recently diagnosed with lymphoma. He was going to begin chemotherapy in the next week and had always been interested in chemistry and biology. He asked me what happens when chemotherapy attacks a tumor. Does it blow up like an explosion or melt away like icicles in the sun, or something in between? His question along with his diagnosis of lymphoma, immediately make me think of Tumor Lysis Syndrome (TLS). Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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