Category Archives: Cancer Awareness/Prevention

palliative care specialist

Have you ever talked with a palliative care specialist? Do you know what they do, or how they could help you with your cancer treatment? What a palliative care specialist does “Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. This type of care is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness-whatever the diagnosis. “The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. Palliative care is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and can be Read more…

Firefighters with Cancer

It’s been 17 years since “9/11.” No doubt, you remember where you were on that day. Images of heroic first responders are etched in our memories forever. Exactly how has the health of survivors and first responders (including firefighters) at Ground Zero been impacted? Are there more firefighters with cancer than in the general population? One recent study (1) estimates 2960 new cancer cases in the WTC-exposed cohort between January 1, 2012, to December 31, 2031. This means that in the future we can expect to see greater numbers of WTC-exposed rescue and recovery workers, including firefighters with cancer. It’s still hard to find clear statistics. Collecting data takes decades, so we won’t know for many years, the full cost they paid that day. But, we Read more…

No two cancers are alike.

I recently read an article about John McCain and Jimmy Carter.[1]  Apparently, a lot of people wonder why their cancers could have had such different outcomes. The thinking behind this is something most cancer patients encounter throughout their journey. People often don’t realize that no two cancers are alike. Today I’ll share some of the reasons for this, and what it means for cancer patients and their loved ones. Where cancer originates is what kind of cancer the patient has. One of the reasons no two cancers are alike is because they originate in different areas of the body. For example, Jimmy Carter was diagnosed with melanoma. This is a dangerous form of skin cancer. John McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma. A glioblastoma is a Read more…

Radon

You can’t see it or smell it. It’s in the air, both outdoors and in, as well as in drinking water from rivers and streams. It can be deadly. It may sound like something from a science fiction story, but it’s real. It’s radon. Why is Radon a Big Deal? Each year, it contributes to as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths.[1] It’s a leading cause of lung cancer, second only to smoking and is the number 1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Non-smokers account for 20% of annual lung cancer deaths in the US[2] What is Radon? Radon is an odorless, colorless, highly radioactive gas. The alpha radiation released by radon is the same as that of plutonium. It’s soluble and easily penetrates materials Read more…

Cancer Cells 101

Cancer is a complex disease. In fact, it is really many diseases with one thing in common— cancer cells have a communication problem. To understand cancer cells, you need to first understand healthy cells and how they function. A cell is the basic, structural unit of all known living organisms. It’s the smallest unit of life that can replicate independently. Each cell contains DNA, a blueprint for how proteins are produced or suppressed in the body Healthy Cells Healthy cells stop growing when there are enough cells present. In the “cell cycle” damaged cells are repaired and old cells die and are replaced if appropriate. Your skin is a good example of this. New skin cells are produced in the bottom layers of your epidermis. Over Read more…

Internet Research

In the past, patients were often told to avoid doing their own internet research. That was because the internet really is a dumping ground for both information and misinformation. More and more, doctors are appreciating their patients’ efforts to participate in their healthcare. This is especially true when the patient uses internet research wisely. Benefits of doing your own research: You can decide if what is happening merits a trip to the doctor. Often you can be put at ease when you discover your symptoms might feel awful, but you most likely have a cold. Sometimes, odd, but otherwise painless symptoms mean something more ominous is happening. For example, when my husband felt 3 hardened lymph nodes above his left collarbone (supraclavicular nodes), that specific Read more…

Staging Your Cancer

Doctors stage a patient’s cancer at the time of diagnosis. Doctors determine the extent of your cancer, such as how large the tumor is, and if it has spread, using x-rays, lab tests, and other tests or procedures.  This is called the “stage” of your cancer. By staging cancer, your doctor can determine among other things, how aggressive the cancer is and how aggressive the treatment will have to be.  Today we will look at how these staging systems work. Most staging systems include information about (1): Where the tumor is located in the body The cell type (such as adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma) The size of the tumor Whether cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes Whether cancer has spread to a different part Read more…

Lung Cancer Awareness

It’s still October, but I want to remind you a few days early that November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a big deal to me, personally, because lung cancer has affected so many people I have known and loved. Most of my readers know that my husband was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer almost exactly 6 years ago. not long before that, my stepmother died of lung cancer. We’ve had many friends who have been diagnosed with lung cancer. One thankfully is still alive and well. Next month, I will be posting a series on breathlessness. So I thought I would take this opportunity to share some facts and statistics about the most deadly cancer. Our Lung Cancer Awareness Story In October of 2012, Read more…

Metastasis

One of the most frightening words a cancer patient can hear is, “metastasis.” We learned in the post, Cancer Cells: Juvenile Delinquent Zombies, that one of the reasons that cancer is such a deadly disease is its ability to metastasize, or spread from one part of the body to another. Depending on what kind of cancer the patient has, the most serious form is known as “metastatic.” How Cancer Metastasizes The place where cancer first develops is called the primary tumor site. From there, cancer spreads locally, invading nearby healthy tissue. If too much time passes between the emergence of the primary tumor and treatment or treatment is unsuccessful, cancer cells will break away from the primary tumor site. They then move through the walls of Read more…

mesothelioma advocate

As an advocate for cancer patients and their families, I daily hear from people facing cancer. Recently, a gentleman named Virgil wrote to me about his experience, Doctors recently diagnosed Virgil with mesothelioma. This diagnosis turned Virgil’s life upside down. What is Mesothelioma? Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that forms in the thin protective tissues which cover the lungs and the abdomen. Exposure to asbestos causes cancer in the mesothelium tissues. This cancer is caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a group of silicate minerals that are fibrous in nature and functions well as a fire retardant. It was once a commonly used insulator. Now that the dangers of asbestos are well known, it has fallen out of use. It can still be found Read more…

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