Your Family’s History of Cancer- Talk About it and Pass it On

Researchers have known for some time that cancer is caused from changes in a person’s genes. This could be from exposure to something in the environment (such as cigarette smoke), inherited from a parent or grandparent, or a combination of these. Your genetic makeup is only one factor that determines whether you will develop cancer.

Most cancers occur in people without a known family history of cancer. But some types of cancer can be inherited.

Talk about it

Your family health history may extend to many different family members, so start by finding out who in your family has had a diagnosis of cancer. Cancer is common so  don’t be surprised if you learn that several family members have had cancer. Keep in mind that some may not wish to share private health information. In that case, explain that you are asking to help plan your own and other family members’ health future. That may make the person feel more comfortable sharing. Continue reading

What to do if you get a cancer diagnosis

After you get over the surprise, shock and fear that comes from hearing “you have cancer,” the next thing to think about is “what do I do about it?”
graphic with words related to cancerOne of the first and most important things to do is choose an oncologist (a doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer) or a cancer treatment center. In many cases, your primary care doctor will refer you to someone he or she knows is an expert in the care of your cancer. Your doctor may also refer you to a hospital or center that has expertise in treating the particular cancer you have.

Diane Simeone, M.D., director of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Program here at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, offered insight for patients in this article: Identifying a Doctor and Facility When You Have Cancer.

The National Cancer Institute offers a search so you can easily find a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer center near you. NCI-designated cancer centers are considered centers of excellence and have received recognition for their expertise.

Our website has a number of other articles that offer information and resources to help you become an engaged patient.  Learn the 10 things you can do to take charge of your medical care. Or, take a look at the list of online cancer resources our medical librarian gathered to help you understand your cancer diagnosis. Along similar lines, please visit our mini-dictionary of terms relating to cancer.

For the not-so-recently diagnosed, what advice would you give?

Facing breast surgery? Here are facts to consider.

Maria Lyzen, right, and Ruth Freedman lead the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center's Breast Cancer Advisory and Advocacy Committee.

Maybe you’ve heard the recent news reports discussing second surgeries for women with breast cancer.

It’s an important, but complicated topic. So what do you really need to know if you or someone you care about is diagnosed with breast cancer?

Most women diagnosed   with breast cancer will have surgery. Many choose to have breast-sparing surgery or lumpectomy rather than a mastectomy. A lumpectomy removes the cancer, along with a small amount of normal tissue that surrounds it.

New research has found that nearly 23% of women have a second surgery, called a re-excision. Re-excision may need to be done if the pathology report reveals that there are still cancer cells at or near the area where the breast cancer was removed. This is what is referred to as a positive margin. The goal of a re-excision is to reduce the risk of breast cancer returning in the future. Continue reading

Finding the right doctor to treat pancreatic cancer

Finding a doctor can be a daunting task, particularly if you’re facing a pancreatic cancer–a relatively rare, but deadly, diagnosis. Diane Simeone, M.D., director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s pancreatic cancer research program, recently offered tips to the Lustgarten Foundation about how patients can find the best care for them. The Lustgarten Foundation is a private organization that funds pancreatic cancer research. Each year, 38,000 Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Visit the Cancer Center’s website to read the interview.


Organic curiosity: Is it worth the extra cost to buy organic?

A cancer diagnosis often makes people re-evaluate their eating habits, inspiring many to incorporate more organically grown foods in their diets. Some people buy organic because of concerns about the environment, pesticides or animal welfare. Others perceive organic foods to be more nutritious. But considering the higher cost, is there any evidence that organically grown food offers more health benefits than conventionally grown food?

The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s dietitians tackle this question in their latest nutrition column for our patient publication, Thrive. In addition to weighing the pros and cons of eating organic food, the dietitians offer lists of foods that typically contain the high and low levels of pesticides when conventionally grown, so that you can spend your money more wisely.
Visit Thrive to read the full story.