My doctor wants me to have brachytherapy – what is it?

brachytherapyPatients sometimes ask me about a radiation treatment called brachytherapy. Brachytherapy radiation is used to treat a variety of cancer types, but is most common in prostate, breast and gynecological cancers (cancers of the uterus, cervix and vagina).

Brachytherapy is sometimes a preferred method of treatment, depending on your physician’s advice, because of its precision. Rather than using a machine such as a linear accelerator outside of the body to direct radiation through healthy tissue to get to the cancerous cells, brachytherapy radiation is implanted inside the body either temporarily or permanently, depending on the type and location of the cancer. Continue reading

HPV and throat cancer

HPV and throat cancerRecently I received a phone call from a patient who was concerned about the increased risk of throat cancer related to a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. When asked, she stated that yes, both she and her partner had engaged in oral sex, therefore, the concerned interest in a potential connection between HPV and throat cancer.

Oropharyngeal cancer in the throat, soft palate, tonsils or base of the tongue can occur as a result of the HPV virus. HPV can cause warts in the genitals, mouth and anus, and is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, particularly in adults younger than 55. This might be related to changes in oral sex practices. Continue reading

Heartburn’s burn and the risk for esophageal cancer

esophageal cancer

Reflux of stomach acid over time can damage the lining of the esophagus, which can lead to esophageal cancer.


Heartburn. It’s a symptom that many people experience on a regular basis. What many people don’t realize is that long-term heartburn can put them at risk for esophageal cancer. The esophagus is the long tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Reflux of stomach acid over the long haul can damage the lining of the esophagus, which can lead to cancer. Continue reading

Women and sexuality after bladder cancer

women and sexuality after bladder cancerRecovering sexuality after bladder cancer can be difficult for women. In December, Daniela Wittmann, Ph.D., LMSW, CST, and LaShon Day, PA-C, both from the University of Michigan Department of Urology, were the experts featured in a series of four webinars on this topic, sponsored by the Bladder Cancer Awareness Network.

The one-hour webinars are now available for viewing on YouTube for anyone wishing to gain a better understanding of sexuality and intimacy after treatment for bladder cancer: Continue reading

National Cancer Moonshot

Reflections on the new presidential initiative by a cancer nurse

National Cancer MoonshotAt the State of the Union Address in January, President Obama shot out a rocket concerning cancer research and finding a cure by 2020. This “moonshot” initiative is being led by Vice President Biden, who recently lost a son to glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer.

The National Institutes of Health will receive additional funding to bring its budget up to $2 billion. The National Cancer Institute will receive an additional $264 million towards its 2016 budget.  WOW!

The thinking behind this generous funding is that it will allow scientists the opportunity to pursue potential avenues that might lead to a cure for cancer. These avenues might not otherwise have been pursued due to lack of funds. Continue reading

Overcoming anxiety about the colonoscopy

Learning the facts can reduce your fear factor of this important cancer detection tool

colonoscopy anxietyFor many, the thought of having a colonoscopy can cause dismay and distress. I’ve known people who have procrastinated having a colonoscopy for years because of the fear and anxiety surrounding this procedure. The following are some concerns and myths, along with the facts about this important screening test.

Concern: I’m afraid I will be awake or in pain for this procedure.

FACT: The vast majority of patients are adequately sedated for this procedure and experience no pain or memory of the procedure. Something called conscious sedation is given. These medicines are given through an intravenous injection and they relax you and block pain. It’s not general anesthesia; therefore, you recover quickly from its effects. Continue reading