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    Healthy Lung Month - Tips to Keep Them Healthy

    How to Care for Your Lungs During Healthy Lung Month


    Your lungs are a set of indispensable organs that allow you to breathe properly; just as your heart, liver, and brain work to support your body and mind, your lungs are a vital part of this system. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to accomplish normal day-to-day activities. Since October is Healthy Lung Month, there is an abundance of ways you can avoid specific lung cancers and diseases. While some of these may not be entirely preventative, due to genetics, you can take control of your health by practicing a lifestyle that protects, fortifies, and immunizes your lungs. These may be manageable changes or they may require more effort, but all endeavors will contribute to your overall health. To start, you should acquire a full understanding of what you need to prevent and then you can know how to best address these potential threats.
    Diseases and Cancers that may Affect Your Lungs
    Asthma
    Asthma is a prevalent condition, largely affecting 26 million Americans today. There are no definite answers to complete prevention, but triggers, which particularly heighten and worsen asthma symptoms, can be regulated. This is significant because asthma is chronic and refers to the constricted airways in the lungs, that may swell in response to these triggers. During intense episodes, an asthma attack may ensue, and this is the result of severe reactions. However, in most cases, asthma involves wheezing, an ongoing cough, chest tightness and pain, and shortness of breath.
    Doctors diagnose two types of asthma. The first is allergic and is caused by common environmental pollutants that are known as allergies. Mold, pollen, dust, and pet dander are typical examples of these allergens; although anything from a peanut to a shellfish allergy or an insect bite can provoke an allergic asthma attack. The second type of asthma is non-allergic. People who suffer from this form of asthma don’t necessarily have allergies to prompt asthma symptoms, but they are brought on by medications, exercise, illness, particle pollutants, fluctuations in the weather, and even stress.
    Pneumonia
    A less threatening, or at least not as lasting lung condition is pneumonia. This describes an infection in which the alveoli of the lungs become enlarged with fluid. Swelling leads to difficulty breathing, coughing, and chest pain, similar symptoms that occur with asthma. Although pneumonia may be mild or severe, this illness is caused by either bacteria, a virus, fungi, or irritants that you may inhale.


    Pneumonia also differs from asthma because can imitate the flu. The patient can experience fever, mucus, chills, headaches, and fatigue. Unfortunately, having the flu or cold can make you predisposed to contracting pneumonia. Healthy Lung Month becomes even more relative because fall and winter are prime seasons for catching any of these illnesses.
    Lung Cancer
    Nearly one in sixteen people are diagnosed with lung cancer and along with this, not everyone who has it previously smoked. Lung cancer is divided into two types--small cell and non-small cell. With the latter, tumors form in the lung tissues. The initial signs of non-small cell lung cancer are persistent coughing and shortness of breath. If you have this type of lung cancer, there are then three specific types determined by the way the cells look when examined under a microscope. When cancer resides in the thin cells along the interior of the lungs, it is called squamous cell carcinoma, or epidermoid carcinoma. Tumors originating in numerous types of large cells are large cell carcinoma. Finally, adenocarcinoma affects cells that line the alveoli and induce mucus.
    The other half of lung cancer diagnoses refers to small cell lung cancer. Two types belong in the category of small cell lung cancer: Small cell carcinoma (oat cell cancer) and combined small cell carcinoma. Whereas with non-small cell, the type depends on how the cells develop, what areas they reach, and how they look when examined under a microscope.
    Mesothelioma
    Though not always specific to the lung region, mesothelioma cancer most commonly damages the lining of the lungs. The only proven cause of mesothelioma is exposure to airborne asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a carcinogen that is easily inhaled because fibers are microscopic and cannot be removed once they stick to internal organs. Mesothelioma is rarely diagnosed early on. Once recognized, this cancer has typically reached the late-stage and there is little recovery. As with lung cancer, there are multiple types of mesothelioma. However, pleural mesothelioma makes up around 80 – 90% of all diagnoses. Other organs and places it may affect are the heart, abdomen, and in the rarest cases, the testicles.
    Symptoms of mesothelioma cancer are chest pain, swelling in the abdomen, coughing, difficulty breathing and swallowing, hoarseness, low oxygen level, respiratory complications, and muscle weakness. Pleural mesothelioma may mimic other lung conditions and can be misdiagnosed for lung cancer, the flu, and bronchitis or pneumonia. These diseases and cancers are far more common, making mesothelioma an isolated and challenging cancer.
    Prevention and Protection for Your Lungs
    For most of these conditions, there are obvious underlying causes. Smoking, by far, seriously impacts your health. Most of these diseases and cancers are smoking-related. People over 65, those with diabetes, heart disease, who are obese, and who already have asthma are more prone to certain risk factors for pneumonia. Keeping healthy is significant because a weak immune system can make you more susceptible to infections that target your lungs. For example, a balanced and rich in nutrients diet also reduces the risk of lung cancer. Exercise is equally consequential to caring for your lungs.


    Asthma patients need to stay away from environmental factors like pollution, season allergies, secondhand smoke, and other triggers. If you have asthma, you can discuss this with your doctor for a stronger comprehension and stay prepared by keeping an inhaler or other medication to combat unexpected attacks.
    Carcinogens that have been linked to the development of lung cancer include arsenic, diesel exhaust, silica, and many more. As stated, asbestos is the predominant cause of mesothelioma, however, exposure can induce a number of asbestos-related conditions. If you are a homeowner or work in an industry which handles these materials, following codes and regulations is incredibly important.
    Keeping your lungs in good health is something to strive for every day, not just in the month of October; however, this time of year is dedicated to bringing awareness in hopes of incorporating these practices long-term. Respiratory diseases can be alleviated with plenty of education and regard for how they affect your health and how they can escalate into even more perilous symptoms. October is an ideal time to begin implementing these lifestyle choices before winter brings seasonal infections and illnesses.
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    Image Guided Biopsies - The Why, What, and When

    Solid tumors discovered with mammography or CT scans may or may not be cancer. If benign tumors are small and not pressing on nerves, blood vessels, or an organ, it might be best for a patient to leave the tumor alone and not perform surgery (where there is always a risk for complications).

    But how do our doctors tell the difference between a cancerous tumor and a benign tumor? They use a biopsy — a procedure where the cells of a tumor are examined under a microscope. If the cells are cancerous, then the pathologist performs additional tests to determine specific characteristics of the cancerous cells. For example, the pathologist can look for estrogen and progesterone receptors. This information determines the specific treatment that a patient needs. For prostate cancer, the urologist usually removes 12 core samples from the prostate to determine the grade, commonly called the Gleason score.
    How do physicians pinpoint the location of a tumor?
    Physicians use different types of imaging to determine the exact location of a patient’s tumor. The most commonly used imaging types used for biopsy are:
    Computed tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan uses X-rays taken from various angles. A computer puts these images together to provide a 3-dimensional image of the area scanned. CT scans are frequently used to detect the presence of tumors or other abnormalities of the abdomen, chest, head, limbs, neck, or pelvis. Sometimes, a contrast dye improves the details of the images. Contrast may be given by mouth or injected in the blood stream via an IV line.

    Fine-needle aspiration biopsy of the lung; drawing shows a patient lying on a table that slides through the computed tomography (CT) machine with an x-ray picture of a cross-section of the lung on a monitor above the patient. Drawing also shows a doctor using the x-ray picture to help place the biopsy needle through the chest wall and into the area of abnormal lung tissue. Inset shows a side view of the chest cavity and lungs with the biopsy needle inserted into the area of abnormal tissue. Image-National Cancer Institute.


    Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. An MRI utilizes powerful magnetic and radio waves to produce detailed images. Because an MRI doesn’t use radiation, MRIs can be used if a woman is pregnant. MRIs are safe to use when imaging our reproductive organs, an especially important consideration for women of child-bearing age and even older men who want to preserve their fertility. MRI imaging is used to image the abdomen, brain, breast, chest, and spinal column. MRI is particularly helpful in the imaging of soft tissue areas. Just as with CT scans, radiologists may use contrast dye to enhance the images.

    Magnetic resonance image (MRI) of individual breast, demonstrating marked enhancement (bright area) which was confirmed to be cancer. Image-National Cancer Institute.


    Ultrasound.
    Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to generate detailed images of our internal organs. The sound waves bounce off our organs into a transducer, which creates images. Ultrasound doesn’t use radiation, providing a safe way to image women who are pregnant.

    Ultrasound transrectal biopsy of the prostate. An ultrasound probe is inserted into the rectum to show where the tumor is. Then a needle is inserted through the rectum into the prostate to remove tissue from the prostate. Image-National Cancer Institute.


    How is the sample of the tumor obtained?
    Radiologists use many different methods to obtain a tissue biopsy. The choice of technique is dependent on the location and size of the tumor and how much tissue is needed for the biopsy.
    • Core needle biopsy (CN). If the pathologist needs a larger tissue sample, a radiologist uses a large, hollow needle attached to a syringe. • Fine needle aspiration biopsy (FN). A very thin hollow needle is used if fluid or only a small amount of tissue is required for the biopsy. • Vacuum-assisted biopsy. Radiologists use a specialized suction instrument to collect a tissue sample. What happens during the procedure? Most patients are anxious about these biopsy procedures. They worry about pain and discomfort, and if they will have to remain still. Because image-guided biopsies are a standard procedure, the team performing our biopsy knows how to minimize discomfort and help us relax. The team chooses the best pain relief for our particular type of biopsy. • Conscious sedation. Patients receive a relaxing medicine via an IV. You might also have local or regional anesthesia, such as a nerve block. • General anesthesia. Patients are unconscious during the biopsy procedure – this is usually used for a major surgical procedure to obtain a biopsy sample. • Local anesthesia. A doctor injects numbing medicine with a needle around the area to be biopsied. You might feel a “stinging” sensation during the injection.

    For some biopsies, you might be asked to hold your breath or stay still and quiet. Your medical team will explain before the procedure what to expect.
    How long does it take to get the results?
    Many cancer patients say that waiting was the worst part of having an image-guided biopsy. A simple biopsy result is usually available in two or three days. If your biopsy requires more complex analysis, it might be 7-to-10 days before you get the results. Since treatment decisions are based on the biopsy results, try not to worry if the results take time … pathologists follow your doctor’s instructions as to what tests are needed for the type of cancer you have.
    Your doctor evaluates your pathology report and develops a treatment plan. Ask for a copy of your pathology report. You might not understand all of the language contained within the report when you first read it. But later on, once treatment begins, you’ll start to understand more about your type of cancer, and your biopsy/pathology report will help you understand your treatment options.
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    Stem Cell Transplants - What They Are and What They Do

    A stem cell transplant is a treatment for blood cancers. It’s used to treat certain types of leukemia, some kinds of lymphoma and to treat multiple myeloma.


    It used to be referred to as a bone marrow transplant because the stem cells were extracted from the bone marrow. Now, stem cells are harvested from the blood so they are referred to as stem cell transplants. But they are the same medical procedure, regardless of which terminology is used.
    Who needs a stem cell transplant?
    Stem cell transplants are usually used for patients if they suffer from one of these three situations. Stem cells are called “hematopoietic” and can turn into any type of blood cell. They are found in the bone marrow and in our circulating blood.
    • Catastrophic failure of the bone marrow or stem cells so that they can’t make blood cells • Your bone marrow or blood cells become diseased to the point that your survival is at risk • You can only be cured with high doses of strong chemotherapy and/or radiation that would kill your stem cells as well as your cancer Stem cell transplants are utilized most often in the treatment of cancer of these cancers. • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) • Hodgkin lymphoma • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma • Multiple myeloma • Myelodysplastic syndrome • Waldenström's macroglobulinemia • Myeloproliferative disorders (polycythemia, myelofibrosis, and thrombocythemia) • Testicular cancer

    Both adults and children receive life-saving stem cell transplants.

    Stem cell transplants
    are not usually the first line of treatment because although they can cure cancer, they carry significant risks and are costly, ranging from $350,000 to $800,000.
    The Two Types of Stem Cell Transplants


    There are two main types of stem cells transplants.
    Autologous transplant aka Auto Transplant. This is when a patient receives their own stem cells after they get treated for their cancer. A patient’s own healthy stem cells are collected through a process known as apheresis. The medical facility freezes the stem cells to use after treatment. Treatment consists of potent chemotherapy and, occasionally, radiation. Then, the patient’s stem cells are thawed and infused back into the patient via an IV. Within 24 hours, the newly infused stem cells are in the patient’s bone marrow where they begin to grow, multiply and help the bone marrow make new, healthy blood cells. • Allogeneic transplantation aka ALLO transplant. For this type of stem cell transplant, the patient gets another person’s healthy stem cells. This requires that the donor’s marrow matches the patient’s bone marrow. White blood cells contain a protein called human leukocyte antigens (HLA). The closest match helps prevent a serious condition known as graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) where healthy cells from the transplant attack the patient’s own healthy cells. Matches may come from a brother or sister or other family member. Some patients may not have siblings or other family members still alive — that’s when the National Marrow Donor Program comes into play. They maintain a registry of over 33 million potential donors and over 765,000 units of umbilical cord blood units to help critically ill cancer patients find a match for a life-saving stem cell transplant. Once a donor is found, the patient receives strong chemotherapy and/or radiation. Typically, the stem cells are not frozen, and the patient receives the new stem cells immediately after treatment.
    Which type of stem cell transplant a patient receives is dependent on the type of cancer and if your bone marrow is still healthy. If your cancer is in your bone marrow, you’ll have to receive donor marrow to replace your diseased bone marrow.
    Decision Time
    Your cancer treatment team evaluates each potential patient’s options and makes the recommendation to have a stem cell transplant. The pros and cons are evaluated to determine if a stem cell transplant is the best option for you. Considerations include:
    • Age • Stage of cancer • Time already spent in treatment • Donor source • Patient’s overall health

    Once the decision is made, patients and their family have many other decisions to make. A stem cell transplant is complicated. There are over 200 stem cells transplant centers in the U.S. Patients and family members have to travel so there are logistical and financial considerations in addition to looking at the centers that have the best success rates. The patient also has insurance considerations. Here’s are some of the factors you’ll need to consider.
    • How much will your insurance cover? • How much out of pocket will you have to pay? • Who will take care of you during treatment? • How long will you be away from home? • How long will you be in the hospital? • Where will your caregiver stay while you are in the hospital? • Who will take you back and forth to appointments? • What kind of follow-up care will you need? • Will you be able to return to work afterward?



    Fortunately, organizations like The National for Transplants (NFT), BeTheMatch and The Bone Marrow and Cancer Foundation have trained team members to help you through every step of your stem cell transplant. Some larger insurance companies have transplant case managers. 
    You won’t be alone.
    If you or a loved one may be facing a stem cell transplant, download this comprehensive 60-page brochure to learn more about stem cell transplants.
    WhatNext?
    Approximately 23,000 stem cell transplants are performed annually in the United States. Almost 60 percent are the autologous type (from the patient’s own stem cells) and the remaining are from donors — about 40 percent of those are from related donors and the remaining 60 percent are from unrelated donors.
    How can we help? We, as cancer patients can’t be donors. But our family members and friends can sign up to be donors. There is a need for more donors in certain ethnic groups:
    • African-American • Alaskan Natives • American Indian • Asian • Bi-racial individuals • Hispanic or Latino • Native Hawaiian • Pacific Islanders

    There is also a need for umbilical cord donors. This source of stem cells can be used when a donor match isn’t available or when there is an immediate need for a match. If a daughter or granddaughter is pregnant in your family and wants to help fight cancer, tell her about the need for umbilical cord blood.
    Stem cell transplants, although still relatively uncommon, save lives.
    Have you had a Stem cell Transplant? Please share your experiences in the comments. 
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    Genetic Testing Vs. Genomic Testing - Differences and Benefits

    Once we are diagnosed with cancer, we begin to hear words that we haven’t heard before. Often, we don’t understand their meanings — but it’s important to learn as much as we can about the disease we have.


    We may have heard about genetic testing and genomic testing on television. Some famous people, including Angelina Jolie and Kelly Osbourne, have been responsible for many of us hearing the words — “genetic testing” — for the first time. Both of these women tested positive for the BRCA1 gene after seeking genetic testing because of a family history of cancer.
    Researchers continue to learn more each year about the complexity of the changes that occur within our bodies where healthy cells experience changes turning them into cancerous cells. Not only can cancer run in families and be inherited, mutations may occur within our cells throughout our lifetime and may result in the development of cancer.
    Newer treatments target genetic changes in cells. And new tests are being developed to detect and identify mutations.
    What are the differences between genetic testing and genomic testing? Although these words sound similar, these are two different kinds of testing.
    What is genetic testing?
    Genetic testing examines the genes we inherit at birth. Genes pass from generation to generation. Genes control our eye, hair, height and skin color as well as tendencies to develop certain diseases, including cancer.


    Patients and family members who have a family history of cancer should talk to their doctors about genetic testing. How do you determine if your family history might put you at risk? The more first-and-second degree relative who have had cancer, the more risk. First-degree relatives are children, parents and siblings. Second-degree relatives are grandparents, aunts and uncles along with nieces and nephews.
    You might be at increased risk for cancer if you have one or more first-or-second degree relatives with the following diagnosis details:
    • Diagnosed before age 50 • Rare kind of cancer, like sarcoma or male breast cancer • Same kind of cancer • Two or more kinds of cancer in the same relative • The BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation • Lynch Syndrome

    What is genomic testing?
    Genomic testing is a relatively new field that examines entire set of genes (over 25,000) with over 3 billion DNA units. This testing looks at all of our genes, searching for ones that have experienced harmful changes (aka mutations).


    Cancer occurs when healthy cells change into cells that grow out of control, either growing tumors or crowding out healthy cells in our bloodstream or bone marrow. The changes occur mostly in our cell’s DNA. These mutations are the reason that normal cells turn into cancerous cells. These changes occur over our lifetime and are not passed on to our children.
    The reasons for mutations are complex and not fully understood. Sometimes, it’s a copying error as cells divide and multiply. Think about making a copy of a copy and then making a copy of that copy. Over time, the quality of the copy degrades. Other times, exposure to chemicals, tobacco, air pollution, too much time in the sun or “bad luck” cause the mutations. Some of these mutations are present in a large population of cancer patients — new targeted therapies focus on these mutations preventing further growth of new cancer cells and causing the existing cancer cells to die.
    This testing can be performed on a biopsy sample of a solid tumor or from a blood sample. Genomic testing
    results help guide treatment choices for many patients. Genomic testing also includes looking for inherited mutations. The newer, targeted therapies and immunotherapy drugs work when certain biomarkers or other DNA changes are present. Genomic testing also helps predict treatments that won’t work. Which patients should have genomic testing?


    The field of genomic testing and its part in treatment decision is new and changing almost daily as more kinds of cancer are approved for the newer targeted therapies and immunotherapies. Recommendations vary from facility to facility because this is an emerging field of medicine, commonly referred to as personalized medicine. A patient’s genomic profile helps patients learn which clinical trial options are available to them.
    These are some of the kinds of cancer and situations where genomic testing may be recommended. Talk to your medical team if genomic testing will help find better options for treating your particular situation.
    • Solid tumor cancers, including breast, colorectal, non-small cell lung cancer, melanoma and ovarian • Blood cancers (also called hematologic malignancies) and sarcomas • Rare cancers • Metastatic (Stage IV) and Stage III cancers • Patients seeking to enroll in clinical trials.

    Experts recommend genomic testing for advanced solid tumor cancer and at diagnosis for blood cancers and sarcomas. Are these tests covered by insurance?
    Genetic counseling is usually covered by insurance. If your medical team orders genetic testing, your insurance should pay for it. Your medical facility will probably appeal on your behalf if you are denied.
    Genomic testing is cutting edge science. On March 16, 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Medicare would start paying for some FDA-approved genomic testing. Medicare Advantage plans will also provide coverage for beneficiaries who meet eligibility requirements. Coverage by private insurance companies varies by company and state of residence. For patients not covered by insurance, financial aid is available.
    Foundation Medicine, Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), Genomic Health, Inc., Guardant Health and Myriad Genetics are among those covered by Medicare and Medicare Advantage and some private insurance companies.
    WhatNext?
    Personalized medicine
    is becoming more common now that genomics testing is reliable and widely available and covered by insurance. If you are a Stage III or Stage IV solid tumor cancer patient, a breast cancer patient of any stage or have blood cancer or sarcoma, ask your oncologist about genomics testing. It could save your life.
    Do you have experience with genetic or genomic testing? Please leave a comment below describing it. 

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    Breast Cancer Awareness Month - Remembering, Honoring, and Preventing

    October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
    . This month helps increase awareness of the importance of screenings so that breast is caught in its early stages when it can be cured. It’s a time to remember those lost to breast cancer and to help those currently diagnosed with breast cancer.


    Breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in women (except for skin cancer). Almost 269,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2019, along with about 69,000 women diagnosed with in situ breast cancer. Although uncommon, over 2,600 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019.
    Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death among women in the U.S., after lung cancer. But thanks to aggressive screening efforts and more effective treatments since 1989, the death rate from breast cancer has been steadily declining.
    This October, WhatNext.com wants to focus on those currently in treatment for breast cancer. Every diagnosis of cancer brings its own unique set of circumstances, but we want to focus on helping you cope with your breast cancer diagnosis.


    The Stress and Fear of Diagnosis
    The time waiting for biopsy results until treatment begins are some of the most stressful times that a person ever experiences in their life. Fear of the unknown and fear of our treatments are something that each of us must face and conquer. We’re all different, so each of us learns to cope differently.
    Self-image. We fear disfigurement from surgery and wonder if our significant other will still love us. Although our hair will grow back, we fear losing our hair — the color and style of our hair is part of what defines us — that’s why hair loss is so devastating for many of us. We may experience anger, sadness, guilt, or a combination of feelings as we adjust to the diagnosis of breast cancer. These feelings are normal. You might find greater peace of mind in a support group.
    Uncertainty and fear about the future. How bad is treatment going to be? Will I still be able to work? Will I lose my breast? How will I take care of my children? A thousand “what ifs” will enter our minds. Some fears will be resolved as additional tests point the path of our treatment. But learning how to live with a certain amount of uncertainty is something that all of us eventually learn how to do. Again, a support group (either local or online) or counselor can help us sort through our feelings.
    Treatment Options
    Gone are the days when a mastectomy was the standard treatment for breast cancer. The fear of losing one’s breast remains for all women, whether they have been diagnosed with breast cancer or not. In 2019, breast cancer patients have many options because of the personalized diagnosis that each patient receives. Most of the personalization of treatments come from years of research so that every breast cancer patient’s treatment is individualized to their unique set of circumstances.


    • Tumor subtype. Treatments are customized according to a patient’s hormone receptor status (ER or PR) and HER2 status. • Genetic status. If a patient has genetic mutations, such as the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. • Stage of the tumor. Most patients have choices of less invasive or more aggressive treatment, depending on their preferences. • Biomarker (genomic) markers. New genomic testing helps predict the chance of recurrence to help patients decide whether to have chemotherapy or how long to take hormonal therapy. • Patient’s status. Our overall health, menopausal status, age, and lifestyle make each of us unique. One woman may choose to have every treatment available because they don’t want to take any risks regarding recurrence. Another woman may decide to forego a particular procedure because she is in poor health and has several existing health conditions.

    Patients can choose between reconstruction options, bone-strengthening treatments and adding complementary therapies like yoga, meditation, or acupuncture.
    Coping with Side Effects
    The most important fact to realize is that our treatment team wants to help us with side effects. So they think you are complaining when you ask for help with a side effect. Mention anything that seems “different” or “off” to be sure that it’s not a severe side effect of your treatment.
    Common side effects include: • Nausea • Hair loss • Mouth sores • Diarrhea • Fatigue/tiredness • Insomnia • Low blood counts • Joint pain • Neuropathy • Weight gain or weight loss • Brain fog, confusion, or forgetfulness

    Remember that not every person has every side effect. Some of these resolve pretty quickly with simple treatments. Don’t suffer in silence. Our chemo and radiation nurses are experienced in the treatment of side effects and will offer their best advice if we ask. High costs and financial stresses
    Most cancer treatment centers have a social worker on staff. Many social workers meet with every new patient to learn what kind of support we might need. From gas money to arranging for co-pay assistance and everything in between, oncology social workers are a God-send. If we are unable to work, that throws another curve to our family income. Speak up and ask to speak to the insurance coordinator too. They know reliable sources for copay assistance.
    Download this helpful 32- page booklet from the American Society of Clinical Oncology to learn about financial help during your breast cancer treatment.


    The Role of the Caregiver.
    Many caregivers learn that being the caregiver is more complicated than being the patient. Whether it’s your mother or mother-in-law who has breast cancer or it’s your wife or it’s your daughter, caregivers have to juggle many responsibilities. Don’t forget that even our husband, brother, or father might be diagnosed with breast cancer — no matter the circumstances, caregivers carry lots of responsibility.
    • Going to medical appointments • Coordinating schedules and care • Giving medicine • Meal preparation • Household chores including laundry and yard maintenance • Insurance and billing • Emotional support

    A good caregiver is worth their weight in gold … especially when it comes to emotional support. Helping our family member stay upbeat and positive during treatment is the most crucial aspect for a caregiver. Don’t forget to accept help from others.
    October 13, 2019 — Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day
    Although metastatic breast cancer is considered incurable, women are living longer and experiencing a better quality of life than ever before. Over 154,000 women (and some men) in the United States are living with metastatic breast cancer. About 34 percent of these patients have lived with their Stage IV breast cancer for over 5 years; in fact, there are 10-year survivors. Newer targeted therapies are changing the outcomes for metastatic breast cancer.
    October 18, 2019 - National Mammography Day
    Mammograms save lives. Early-stage breast cancer has high cure rates. The American College of Radiologists recommended that all women have an assessment of their risk for breast cancer before they are 30. The evaluation takes into consideration family history, ethnic background, genetic mutations, presence of dense breast tissue, and other factors. High-risk individuals should begin annual screening mammograms by age 30 or 10 years before their first-degree relative was diagnosed with breast cancer. Many high-risk women should also have an annual MRI.


    The Bottom Line …
    We are not alone. One out of every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time in their lives. That’s someone about every 15 seconds. Research continues, but breast cancer is a complex disease. Thus far, there is not a way to prevent breast cancer. Early detection is our best defense. Have an annual mammogram.
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    Genetic Testing - Knowledge Is Power

    It seems that we hear about a friend, a relative, a co-worker or someone in the news who gets diagnosed with cancer all too frequently. Although death rates for cancer have been declining since the 1990s, that is only part of the story — the diagnosis of cancer is traumatic, expensive and changes most people’s lives forever.


    Over 1/3 of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives.
    If our mother or father or one of our parents had cancer, does that mean we’ll have that same type of cancer? Of course, that’s the $64,000 question. Currently, there is no way to know which individuals will develop cancer.
    But there are tests to help access our risk of developing cancer when there is a family history of cancer.
    What is genetic testing?
    Genetic tests
    can tell us our risk for developing cancer within our lifetime. These tests look for mutations in our genes, chromosomes and proteins that are genetic mutations. Genetic tests for cancer risk are available for these types of cancers:
    • Breast • Colon • Kidney • Melanoma • Ovarian  • Pancreatic • Prostate • Sarcoma • Stomach • Thyroid

    These tests predict your risk to develop a particular type of cancer, but they can’t determine if you definitely will get cancer or not. They can also determine if you have genes that you can pass on to your children.

    But most importantly, they can help you and your medical team develop a plan to detect cancer at its earliest stage so that it can be cured.
    What are the pros and cons of genetic testing?
    Many people struggle over the decision of whether to get genetic testing. There is no right or wrong answer. It’s an individual’s decision about what feels right for them.

    Some of the pros are:
    • You’ll know – good or bad, you’ll know and remove the uncertainty hanging over your head. • You’ll receive in-depth counseling about your cancer risk. • You can make educated decisions about modifying risk factors, including smoking, alcohol use and diet. You can also develop a plan for screening earlier and more frequently for early detection if you develop cancer. • You can share your knowledge with family members.

    Some of the cons are:
    • If you are prone to be anxious, you may suffer from excessive stress and anxiety. • Feeling guilty if your results are negative and another family member’s results are positive. Family dynamics might change. • Your test results may be inconclusive. • Genetic tests are expensive and might not be covered by insurance. • Fear of discrimination – especially for employment and getting insurance. • A false sense of security if you get negative results. Negative results mean that you have average risks for developing cancer.


    Who should get genetic testing?
    You should talk to a genetic counselor if several first-or-second degree relatives have been diagnosed with any of the cancers listed above. 
    Here are some of the questions that help determine if genetic testing might be appropriate for you.
    • How many relatives had cancer? For how many was this cancer their cause of death? • Have I been diagnosed at an early age? • How will I use the information that I gain? • Can my medical team utilize this information to treat me, help reduce my risk factors or detect cancer at its earliest stage? • Have I had several different types of cancer? • Have I had cancer in both organs of a set, like our kidneys, breasts or lungs? • Have I been diagnosed with an unusual presentation, such as a male having breast cancer? • Am I a member of an ethnic group or racial group, such as Ashkenazi Jewish, who is known to have a susceptibility to one or more types of cancer?

    So … WhatNext?
    We as patients and relatives of patients face difficult decisions about genetic testing. Some people would rather not know if they might be predisposed to the same kind of cancer that their mother or father had. Many people believe that fear of the unknown is worse than gaining the knowledge of what part, if any, their family members’ cancer might have on their health. Armed with genetic testing results and appropriate counseling, many people can reduce their risk of death from cancer with genetic testing.


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