Cancer Blog

Here's our collection of cancer-related stories. We sift through a variety of stories and share the issues that we think matter to cancer patients, caregivers, healthcare providers and survivors. Learn about current events in the cancer community, human interest stories, and promising technology and treatment advances. Tell us what you think in the Comments section at the bottom of each post.

Note: The information contained in this service is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in the service is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment of any illness, condition or disease.



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ACS Confirms Diet, Exercise, and Weight Control Important for Cancer Survivors

by: cancercompass

It’s becoming standard knowledge that diet and exercise are important when it comes to staying healthy. Though this is accepted among individuals who have never faced cancer, questions can arise among those who have been recently diagnosed, as well as people who have completed treatment years ago.

New information from the American Cancer Society (ACS) has confirmed our suspicions that diet and exercise are truly important for everyone!

According to a new study released by ACS published today, scientific evidence demonstrates that “healthy nutrition and physical activity behavior after a diagnosis can lower the chances of the cancer coming back, and can improve the chances of disease-free survival.”

Here are some of the key findings of the report:

-After treatment, it is important to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

-After being diagnosed, avoid inactivity and return to your normal daily activities as soon as possible.

-Aim to exercise at least 150 minutes per week.

-Be aware of food safety issues, which can be a bigger concern for cancer survivors who are susceptible to infections.

-Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  

These are just a few of the recommendations brought forth by ACS, and the study also includes answers to numerous recurring questions, such as “does sugar feed cancer?” By the way, the answer to that question is “no.”

If you have a moment, take the time to read the entire abstract. The report was written specifically for health care providers, but also includes short summaries and recommendations for survivors and caregivers.



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Lose Weight to Feel Great – And Fight Cancer

by: cancercompass

Even though obesity can lead to numerous health problems, the number of Americans who are obese continues to grow each year. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2010 more than 35.7 percent of U.S. adults were considered obese, up from 33.9 percent in 2008.

Most are aware that obesity can cause heart disease, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure, but did you know that it can also increase your risk of getting cancer? Not to mention that an unhealthy weight can have a negative effect on your condition if you already have cancer.

The most common way to measure obesity is by calculating your body max index or BMI. If your BMI is over 30, then you could be at risk for the health problems listed above. Click here to calculate your BMI.

In terms of cancer, obesity is associated with increased risks of cancers of the breast, gallbladder, uterus, colon, rectum, kidney, pancreas, gallbladder and thyroid – and possibly more. Also, obesity can make treatment more difficult. According to one study in breast cancer patients, obesity was linked to shorter time to recurrence, disease-free survival and overall survival.

These facts, figures and studies aren't meant to scare you, but demonstrates how important it is to get your weight under control as soon as possible, as it may save your life in more ways than one. Fighting obesity is an important step to take for those without a cancer diagnosis, but it is just as vital – if not more so – for those who have already begun treatment.

Losing weight is somewhat of a national obsession in America, and it is never easy. If your BMI is over 30 – or if you simply want to get into better shape - there is no time like the present to get started! Even if you’ve never felt sick a day in your life, losing those extra pounds can simply help you feel more alert and active on a daily basis.

Here are a few tips to help you get started!

1. Talk to Your Doctor – If you are serious about beginning a major weight loss program, speak with your doctor first! Not only can he/she provide advice and help you create a plan, but your doctor can also make sure that your body is ready for what’s coming and recommend experts, such as a nutritionist, who can help you along.

2. Join a Group – There is a reason Weight Watchers has been around since 1963 – they know what they’re doing. Fad diets rarely work, and if they do it’s not for long. Organizations like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig have easy-to-follow weight loss plans, and make the process easier with support groups to help motivate you along the way.

3. Set Realistic Goals – Weight loss takes time, and unreasonable goals will only make you frustrated. If your goal is to lose 30 pounds in a month, you are setting yourself up to fail. Create reasonable, attainable goals that take into account your personal fitness level, health concerns and available time. Achievable goals will also help you feel confident and successful along the way.

4. Get Moving – The basic keys to weight loss are simple: exercise and eating well. If you aren't active, take small steps to get moving. Park your car as far away from your destination as possible, or opt for the stairs instead of the elevator. These tiny steps add up to slowly increase your activity level. Start small with your activities, and slowly build them up.

5. Keep a Journal – This will help you keep track of your goals, as well as your thoughts and feelings during the process. Some weeks you’re going to lose a few pounds, and other weeks you’ll have setbacks. You can also keep track of your exercise and eating habits, and take note of what works and what does not.

6. Try to Enjoy the Process – Losing weight doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. Seek out ways to make the process more fun by getting others involved. Invite friends and family to try out a healthy recipe, or go on a long walk on a nice day. Also, remember that losing weight doesn’t mean that you have to stop eating all the foods you love and change your life completely, but you will need to adjust your habits and lifestyle. If you’re having some fun along the way, then the road to weight loss will be much smoother.




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Caregivers, Don’t Ignore Your Own Health

by: cancercompass

A few months ago, I dedicated a post to singing the praises of the sometimes underappreciated caregiver. It’s a tough job, and, at times, it can be thankless. As much as you want to devote all of your time to helping a loved one get through a cancer treatment, a recent study emphasizes the reasons you have to remember to pay attention to your own health along the way. 

By using the national Swedish cancer registry and the Swedish inpatient registry, researchers discovered that for people whose partners have cancer, the risk for heart disease and stroke increased by 13 to 29 percent. The study found that in most cases, stress was the key culprit. 

Constantly caring for a loved one whose health may or may not be in continual decline can take a toll on anyone. Not only is stress a problem for you as a caregiver, but if you’re spending all your time tending to someone else’s needs, you don’t have the time or energy to take care of your own health needs.  

One problem is that many caregivers feel guilty pausing to do anything for themselves. However, if you’re not in tip-top shape, how can you successfully care for your loved one? Remember, your loved one would never want you to completely give up on your own happiness. As a caregiver, it is important to push that guilt aside, and take a few moments for yourself. If nothing else, make sure to take care of any health issues of your own that may arise.

Here are a few tips for caregivers to stay healthy.

1. Talk to a Counselor/Psychologist – Let’s face it, at times you are going to be angry at the cards that you and your loved one were dealt. Even if the illness isn’t happening directly to you, watching a loved one go through treatment is a painful experience. You don’t want to burden that person with your feelings of anger or frustration, because the patient has his/her own feelings to deal with. Schedule time to talk with a counselor on your own, and just let everything out. You’ll feel a lot better after that release.

2. Practice Relaxation Exercises with Your Partner – Both you and your partner need to relax. It seems nearly impossible to relax when going through such a tough time, but it’s going to help both of you through the process. Take a yoga class together, or practice relaxation exercises on your own. A couple’s massage is also a great way to help both of you de-stress, without feeling guilty for taking time for yourself.

3. Spend Time Together Without Discussing Cancer –Carve out some time every day where you don’t even utter the “c” word. Go to a silly movie together, or cook a nutritious meal, light candles and just enjoy each other without worrying about when the next treatment will come.

4. Find a Support Group – Whether you find your own caregiver support group or attend a group with your loved one, talking to others in a similar situation is always helpful.

5. Pay Attention to Your Health – If you don’t feel well, find out what’s wrong! While your loved one’s health may seem more pressing at the time, your own ailment could be a sign of a bigger problem. Go get yourself checked out so that you can stay healthy.

As much as you want to spend all of your time caring for your loved one, don’t forget that you have to live your life as well! Your partner would certainly want this for you, and it is the best way to make sure both of you get to the other side of this difficult time, together.



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Fighting For Change: Bald Barbie On the Way

by: cancercompass

Thanks to a Facebook campaign and a petition drive by two determined women, Mattel has agreed to create a brand-new doll that will be one of Barbie’s friends, who also happens to be bald.

Jane Bingham of New Jersey was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma five years ago, and created the “Beautiful and Bald Barbie” Facebook page to encourage others to join the campaign to create a bald Barbie that would provide young girls with a different kind of role model. Many youngsters lose their hair due to cancer and other diseases, and seeing a bald doll would remind them that they aren’t alone during this difficult time.

Bingham began the campaign with a friend, Rebecca Sypin, whose daughter also lost her hair during treatment. Both are pleased that the campaign was a success, as the Barbie doll will be developed and will come with wigs, hats, scarves and more. The doll will not be sold in stores, and instead Mattel is donating the dolls to hospitals and the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. According to a press release, a spokesman for Mattel said the company wanted to “give the dolls to children who would directly benefit from them rather than sell them at retail.”

While this is a HUGE step, I do think the scope could go even further. In the same release, Mattel commented that they don’t want to profit from the dolls. This is an admirable endeavor, but why not attempt to sell them and then donate the proceeds to a worthy cause. That way, the dolls will be available right on the same shelf as the "standard" Barbie.

Unfortunately, the current plan will limit access to the dolls. Why shouldn’t children with a full head of hair have access to these dolls as welll? Part of the goal is to make these children who have lost their hair for whatever reason realize that though they are special, they are not “abnormal” or “weird.” Seeing these dolls on the same shelves with Barbie herself could benefit not only the youngsters who have lost their hair, but could also be useful for the children they face at school every day who don’t quite understand.

Though the end result might not be exactly what Bingham and Sypin had in mind, it is still a remarkable feat that they were able to fight for their beliefs and convince Mattel to take this important leap. Truly, Mattel could’ve ignored the efforts and done nothing, so I commend the company for listening and allowing these voices to be heard. This is a big step forward, and could do wonderful things for the children that do indeed have access to the dolls. If nothing else, it really demonstrates that if you fight for what you believe in, you really can make a change.

Not only did Mattel get involved, but MGA Entertainment, creators of Bratz and Moxie dolls, will also be releasing six bald dolls this year. According to the company, the “plan comes on the heels of an ever-growing social media movement that calls for toymakers to create hairless dolls to emotionally comfort young girls and boys who suffer from hair loss due to cancer treatments.” These dolls will be available Toys "R" Us stores.

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