To catch a thief: why you should address pain

April 15-21, 2013 is recognized as National Minority Cancer Awareness Week

Carmen R. Green, M.D.

Carmen R. Green, M.D.

For people with cancer, the old saying “no pain, no gain” couldn’t be more wrong. mCancerPartner recently sat down with Carmen Green, M.D., associate vice-president and associate dean for health equity and inclusion, to discuss the evolving field of pain research, why you should address pain quickly, and why racial and ethnic minorities and women are less likely to have their pain assessed. Dr. Green is also a professor of anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, and of health management and policy.

mCancer Partner: Tell us about your research.

Dr. Green: Far more people are surviving their cancer. That’s really good news! However, more survivors are living with chronic conditions such as pain.  The prevalence of pain is increasing, and preventing and managing pain has been a national priority. So, we wanted to know how prevalent cancer-related pain is and whether there are differences in consistent or breakthrough pain and cancer Continue reading

Screening for Colorectal Cancer: Time to Stop Avoiding the Colonoscopy

“Your doctor said you need WHAT?” People can feel a bit uneasy when a doctor mentions screening for colon cancer or rectal cancer.

Danielle Turgeon, M.D., is one of the University of Michigan gastroenterologists who perform colonoscopies.

Danielle Turgeon, M.D., is one of the University of Michigan gastroenterologists who perform colonoscopies.

But, according to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States. Preventing colorectal cancer, and not just finding it early, is why doctors recommend colorectal screening tests, even though the subject may seem embarrassing to discuss.

Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or rectum, most often as a polyp, or small piece of tissue that projects from the inner wall. Screening tools can find cancer in people before symptoms show up, which is when colorectal cancer is most easily treatable. Some also can find and remove suspicious-looking polyps before they become cancerous, which may prevent colorectal cancer.

Who should be screened:

  • Starting at age 50, men and women of average risk for colorectal cancer
  • People with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or pre-cancerous polyps
  • People with inflammatory bowel disease
  • People with certain other risk factors, including a known family history of a hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome

The American Cancer Society recommends the following screening tests: Continue reading

Cancer Myths – What Can You Believe?

As a Cancer AnswerLine nurse, my primary job is to provide information and support to anyone dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Sometimes, the information my callers want relates to whether or not something they heard about cancer is true. If what they heard isn’t true, I have the opportunity to debunk a myth about cancer.

Annette Schork, RN, BSN, OCN, CBCN, is one of four oncology registered nurses at the Cancer AnswerLine™

Annette Schork, RN, BSN, OCN, CBCN, is one of four oncology registered nurses at the Cancer AnswerLine™

Here are the facts about three common cancer myths:

Myth #1: Cancer is contagious.

A gentleman who called the Cancer AnswerLine wondered if his wife could get cancer from her co-workers. In this situation, three people sitting next to each other were diagnosed with breast cancer. One of the most common myths is the idea that cancer is contagious. You cannot catch cancer from someone who has it. It is infectious agents, such as viruses, that can spread among people. And although cancer is not contagious, infections with certain strains of the human papillomavirus can increase the risk of developing cervical and some other types of cancer, including some forms of head and neck cancer.

Myth #2: Cancer will spread if it is exposed to air during surgery.

People may believe this because after surgery, they often feel worse than before surgery. However, cancer does not spread from being exposed to air during surgery. It is important to remember that it is normal to feel pain when recovering from ANY surgery. Another reason people may believe this myth is because sometimes more cancer may be found during the surgery. This is not because of the surgery – the cancer was already there. Cancer does not spread because it has been exposed to air. Continue reading

Facing Cancer While Living Alone

People with cancer who live alone face a lot of unique challenges, whether it’s keeping your spirits up, getting chores done, or meeting with your medical team. Most of the time, friends want to offer assistance in some way, and there are people and services in the community who can help. Here are some tips that can help remedy any sense of isolation, which commonly occurs for people with cancer who live in a household of one:

Network: reach out to friends, acquaintances, members of your community of faith, and co-workers. People often are willing to lend a hand if they know you need it. Give them options, depending on your level of comfort, for how they can get involved.

Reach out to community organizations: Local non-profit and religious organizations may offer assistance. In particular, the American Cancer Society, United Way and Area Agencies on Aging may be able to connect you with volunteers to help with transportation, shopping, housekeeping, meals and companionship in difficult times.

Use the Web: Several online tools are available to help you share your story with friends and family—and inspire them to contribute everything from kind words to a Sunday casserole to a case of nutritional drinks. These include CarePages.com, which offers free space to post updates on your condition; here’s how it works. Another useful tool, LotsaHelpingHands.com, offers ways to solicit and organize help. Also consider setting up a wish list via Amazon.com to let people know what supplies you need, even if they aren’t offered for sale by Amazon.

Bring a tape recorder: If you don’t feel comfortable inviting a friend to your medical appointments, bring a tape recorder to help you remember what your doctor says. You can listen to these conversations again later if questions pop up. You can also ask your doctor to mail you a copy of the clinical notes after each visit.

Get support: No matter how independent you are, it’s important to have an emotional outlet during these difficult times. Make regular phone calls to catch up with friends socially. And consider talking with a therapist, counselor, member of the clergy or spiritual care provider.

You can find more tips about coping here.

Leukemia and Lymphoma – The “Liquid Tumors”

Health professionals often refer to leukemia and lymphoma as “liquid tumors”.   Also called blood cancers, these cancers can affect the bone marrow, the blood cells and the lymphatic system.

Every 4 minutes, 1 person in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer, according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.   Leukemia and lymphoma are often grouped together and considered related cancers because they probably all result from acquired mutations to the DNA of a single lymph- or blood-forming stem cell.

Continue reading

Opportunity of a Lifetime: Help Researchers Understand Factors that Cause and Prevent Cancer

Learning that you or a loved one has cancer can be frightening and overwhelming. If there was a simple way you could do something to prevent others from facing cancer, would you be willing to give it a try?

If you answered yes, then here’s an opportunity of a lifetime for you or your loved ones to enroll in the American Cancer Society’s new research study called the Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3). By joining CPS-3, people can help researchers better understand the genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that cause or prevent cancer, which will ultimately save lives.

The study is open to anyone who:

  • is willing to make a long-term commitment to the study, by completing periodic follow-up surveys at home
  • is between 30 and 65 years old
  • has never been diagnosed with cancer (those with basal or squamous cell skin cancer can still participate)

As part of enrollment you’ll be asked to:

  • Read and sign an informed consent form
  • Complete a survey that will ask you for current information on lifestyle, behavioral and other health factors
  • Have your waist measured
  • Give a small blood sample (similar to a doctor’s visit – 7 teaspoons total). The blood sample is drawn by a trained, certified phlebotomist
  • Complete periodic health surveys at home to update your information

Enrollment is being held at locations across the nation, including in Ann Arbor beginning in October. View enrollment times and schedule your appointment.

If you are a cancer survivor, you can still get involved. Tell your friends and loved ones about how they can enroll, prevent cancer for future generations and make a difference in the life of another.

For more information visit: www.cancer.org/cps3 ; email cps3@cancer.org or call 888-604-5888.