Protecting the Heart: Cardiovascular Risks Decline, but Vigilance is Warranted

In the pursuit of malignant tumor cells, normal tissues and organs get caught in the crossfire of cancer treatment. This has been especially true of the heart. In earlier decades, radiation to the chest could carry deadly cardiovascular risks. Newer treatment methods, however, are putting the odds in patients’ favor.

Lori Jo Pierce, M.D.

Lori Jo Pierce, M.D.

“Technological advances now allow doctors to minimize cardiovascular risks of radiation therapy,” says Lori Jo Pierce, M.D., a U-M professor of radiation oncology. Her research focuses on the use of radiation therapy in the multi-modality treatment of breast cancer. Dr. Pierce is participating in the Cancer Center’s Breast Cancer Summit 2013 as a panel speaker on “Research: What questions are we trying to answer?”

Dr. Pierce recently talked with mCancer Partner about how technological advances help to minimize cardiovascular risks to breast cancer patients, and gave a research update on a related study.

mCancer Partner: Who is at risk for radiation associated heart disease?

Dr. Pierce: Anyone who is receiving radiation to the chest could be at risk for radiation-associated heart disease so it is important to shield the heart from the radiation beam. Patients treated with radiation for Hodgkin’s disease in the past were potentially at risk for cardiac disease depending upon the location of the blocks used to protect the heart. Women treated for left sided breast cancer are carefully monitored and planning is done to minimize the heart from being in the radiation field as they, too, could be at risk. Continue reading

Talking helps

Infertility may feel isolating, but you aren’t alone

fertility support groupThere isn’t a guidebook that can walk you through the process of coping with infertility.  It is stressful, and often women can add to that stress with blame, self-doubt, and guilt.

As the social worker for the University of Michigan Center for Reproductive Medicine, I provide support to women and couples going through fertility challenges.

It is okay to feel what you’re feeling. You might feel anger, sadness, disappointment, frustration or guilt.

Take care of yourself. If your best friend or sister was going through what you are experiencing, how would you treat her? Would you remind her not to be so hard on herself and to put herself first? Are you doing that for yourself?

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Five things about Pap tests that might surprise you

Pap tests (or Pap smears) are well accepted tests that check for changes in the cells of the cervix (the lowest part of the uterus or womb) and screen for precancerous and cancerous lesions.pap1

Pap tests are able to detect problems early and treatment may prevent cancer. Data shows that Pap screening has lowered the cervical cancer rate in the United States by more than 50% over the last 30 years.

This test is such a familiar part of our healthcare routine that many women might be surprised to learn five important things about the Pap test:

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Making an informed decision about your treatment options

decision about treatmentWhen you are trying to make an important decision about your treatment options, it’s not uncommon to feel bombarded with information from many sources. For many women considering surgical options for gynecologic conditions, trying to know where to start and what (or who) to believe can be a bewildering process.

Here are 8 tips for sorting through the information and educating yourself as a patient.  In my practice, we care for women with pelvic floor disorders such as pelvic organ prolapse, urinary incontinence, or fecal incontinence, but many of these same principles can help you when you’re faced with making any type of medical decision. Continue reading