For men: Communicating with doctors

communicating with doctorsIt’s a well-known fact that men and women communicate differently, and this carries over into all relationships, including ones with health care providers. A diagnosis of cancer can be overwhelming, and there can be a great deal of information to process. Some men may have more difficulty in communicating with doctors for the following reasons:

  • More discomfort in discussing health related problems
  • Stress can cause men to withdraw and become quiet
  • Men don’t like to be told what to do
  • Don’t want to waste people’s time by asking questions

Patients are taking a more active role in their health care. We know that outcomes are better when patients are working along with their doctor in making decisions that are best for them. The following are some tips that can be helpful in improving communication: Continue reading

Cancer research: Where are we headed?

May is National Cancer Research Month

cancer research

In 1928, Sweden became the first country to issue a postage stamp commemorating the fight against cancer. On April 1, 1965, the United States issued its first anti-cancer commemorative stamp, pictured above. Source: Taub, Marvin. “Cancer Stamps: 50 Years in the Crusade Against Cancer Through Stamps,” CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, v.28,no.3, May/June 1978, 164-169.

In 1971 President Nixon signed into law the National Cancer Act which officially launched the “war on cancer.” It earmarked a budget of $100 million towards cancer research and the promise to find new treatments for the second leading cause of death in America at that time.

“One of the most important things that came out of the National Cancer Act is that we started to do a lot of basic science to study the disease … today cancer is thought of as a molecular disease within a cell, whereas in the old days, cancer was thought of as a disease of tumors of tissue,” says Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.

So where has this science taken us 44 years later? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer still remains the second leading cause of death after heart disease. However, all is not lost, we’ve come a long way in 44 years!

Unlike the 1970s, when hardly anyone who had cancer was considered a survivor, we now have more than 14 million cancer survivors in the United States, and that number is projected to increase as our baby-boomers age. While survivors are increasing in numbers, we have also made progress in cancer prevention though screening and early detection programs, specifically in colon and cervical cancer.

As Dr. Brawley’s comments above reflect, we have continued to advance our understanding of cancer at the molecular level. This knowledge in turn has led to new developments in targeted therapy, vaccine therapy and immunotherapy. Continue reading

Squamous cell skin cancer, what is it?

May is national melanoma/skin cancer detection and prevention month

FunInSunThe summer season is fast upon us, and for many, that equates to more time spent outside. The sunshine and warmer weather is a welcome reprieve from the long winter. With this sunny weather comes the reminder to protect our skin from the adverse effects of getting too much sun. Too much sun exposure to the skin can cause cancer to start in the squamous cells of the skin.

Squamous cell skin cancer is the second most common type of skin cancer, and typically the least known. Many patients that are newly diagnosed have never heard of it. Continue reading

Showing support to a friend with a new cancer diagnosis

cancer diagnosisMost of us have heard the Beatles lyric, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” When you have a friend diagnosed with cancer, it is often hard to know how to help. Should you talk about the cancer? Should you avoid talking about the cancer diagnosis? What is the best way to help your friend?

It is helpful for good friends to know there are different ways that people cope with cancer. A range of feelings may occur: anger, fear, anxiety, or blaming themselves (because of something they did or did not do). These initial reactions will likely only last a short time. You may need to be patient and understanding and overlook some behaviors. Continue reading

You should be talking to your doctor about supplements!

supplements and cancerJust the other day someone asked me about the use of herbs and supplements in their daily diet.

While we were talking, I mentioned I take several supplements, one of which is Vitamin D. My rational and evidenced based research points to the fact that I live in Michigan, one of the northern most states, known for its lack of sunshine during the winter months and therefore decreased sun exposure, which leads to decreased levels of Vitamin D. This sun exposure is what allows our bodies to make Vitamin D. Most people don’t have a nearly enough Vitamin Continue reading

I found a lump in my breast, what next?

breast lumpWhether it was discovered during a breast self-exam or incidentally as you were putting on your deodorant, finding a breast lump can be terrifying. Somehow it seems human nature for us to think the worst when we find a mass or lump anywhere there should not be one. Both the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society provide some peace of mind by noting that most breast lumps are not cancer. In fact, there are a whole host of more common and benign (non-cancerous) conditions that can cause lumps in the breast including collections of fluid, deposits of fat, and deposits of calcium.

But once found, do not wait, thinking the mass will go away on its own. Make sure to notify your healthcare provider. If you are having any difficulty moving your arms or have uncontrolled pain or redness/swelling in the breast, you should contact your care Continue reading