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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Happy Oncology Nursing Month!

by: cancercompass

I have known for a while that May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and every news outlet has been reporting on the topic as well. However, what I learned today is that May is also Oncology Nursing Month! Luckily, there is still a day and a half to show your oncology nurses your appreciation, if you haven’t already.

Though May is the “official” time to honor your oncology nurses, really these men and women deserve praise and gratitude all year long. They are there with you through the ups and downs of your treatment, always available to listen to your needs and help out in any way possible.

This year, the theme for the month is “Oncology Nursing: Lifting Spirits, Touching Lives.” I couldn’t think of a more appropriate statement, even though it may be hard to describe all that they do in mere words.

There are many ways to show your oncology nurse that you appreciate him/her this month, and the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) has a few additional options, such as awards and a foundation. They also offer the Honor Someone Special program, which presents a “simple yet meaningful way to say ‘thank you’ to a cancer nurse who, in their own practice, promotes excellence in oncology nursing and quality cancer care.”

I happened to discover the importance of this month when I stumbled across a lovely article posted on the Mesothelioma Alliance Cancer Blog. On the blog, I found heartwarming stories contributed by cancer patients, survivors and nurses themselves who have been touched by the important relationship that exists between cancer patients and their nurses. If you do nothing else to celebrate Oncology Nursing Month, read through these beautiful stories. I dare you to get through them with dry eyes, because I sure needed to keep a fresh tissue handy.

May is over in just a couple of days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show your oncology nurse appreciation year-round. A card, some flowers or a small gift is a lovely gesture, but a smile, a thank you or a hug costs nothing and has a priceless result.

Here’s to the oncology nurses out there on behalf of the Cancer Compass Blog! Thanks for all that you do.



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Vacation, Time to Get Away

by: cancercompass

This weekend, Americans will pause to honor their fallen soldiers on Memorial Day. For many, this holiday is also a time to enjoy a barbecue with friends, as it signifies that summer is right around the corner. Due to the three-day weekend, some will even take a vacation.
If you haven’t gone on a vacation in a long time, it’s time to ask yourself: “why not?” Even if you are currently going through cancer treatment, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be setting aside relaxing time for yourself.  Don’t forget that a vacation doesn’t have to mean a trip to Mexico (that’s where I’ll be headed this weekend to celebrate a friend’s wedding) or another distant location, it can mean a trip to a nearby state park or just a day of playing hooky at the beach.

Whether you are going through treatment, recently in remission or a 10-year cancer survivor, a getaway can still be included in your immediate plans. Though this might take a little more careful planning during treatment, it can certainly still be done. Everyone needs to get away once and a while, if for nothing more than a change of scenery. Afterwards, you can return home refreshed and relaxed and ready to push forward, regardless of whether your trip was for a few hours or a few days.

If you are currently going through treatment and you’d like to travel outside of your immediate area, check with your doctor first to make sure you are healthy enough to travel. Keep your safety and health in mind as you prepare, then let go and enjoy your getaway, no matter how big or small.

Here are some tips to follow when traveling with cancer. To see more information on each, visit the Newsletter, “Traveling with Cancer.”

• Choose your destination wisely. 
•  Assess the risks and benefits of travel. 
•  Check your health insurance. 
•  Prepare ahead for any special travel needs
•  Get medical documentation from your doctor.
•  Keep your medications on hand. 
•  Bring important contact information. 
•  Check vaccination requirements (if applicable). 
•  Take early precautions.  
•  Reduce the risk of blood clots. 
•  Minimize chance of infection.  
•  Bring snacks and light meals. 
•  Know your body's limits.  
•  Pick a good travel companion.



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Don’t Neglect Your Skin This Summer

by: cancercompass

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and to celebrate, I paid a visit to my dermatologist. I am a fair-skinned redhead, and skin cancer runs in my family. Therefore, sunscreen is a close friend of mine, and since I exhibit multiple skin cancer risk factors, experts recommend that I visit my dermatologist every year.

It’s been almost two years since my last visit, when my dermatologist removed a mole on my arm, just in case. It is always hard to find time to make those visits, but I figured I would celebrate Skin Cancer Awareness Month the right way, by getting myself checked out.

According to the American Cancer Society, each year about 2 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. Although the survival rates for these types of skin cancers are very high, damage can still be done. As for malignant melanoma, the most dangerous of skin cancers, the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 76,250 new cases in 2012, and 9,180 deaths.

These are scary stats, but the great news is that skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer, and one of the most treatable, when it is caught early. Skin cancer occurs when mutations form in the DNA of skin cells, causing them to grow out of control. Usually, the damage results from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which comes from the sun and artificial rays (tanning beds, sunlamps).

Summer is right around the corner, which means you’re going to be spending more and more time outdoors. There is no need to hide in a corner inside whenever the sun is out. Take the proper precautions and you can still have fun in the sun.

Though your risk factor for skin cancer may be higher if you’re a fair-haired, fair-skinned person like me, skin cancer can happen to anyone. Here are some tips to protect your skin this summer:

Stay in the shade. This is the best way to enjoy the great outdoors without getting burned.

Wear protective clothing/hats. When you do spend time in the sun, wear protective clothing and hats to prevent sunburns.

Wear sunscreen. Always wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher to protect exposed skin. Reapply every two hours and don’t forget to get your lips, ears and hairline.

Skip the tanning salons all together. If you really want to look tan, try self-tanners or spray tans instead.

Protect your eyes with sunglasses. More than just a fashion statement, sunglasses can protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays. See how to choose the right pair.

Check your moles. While this isn’t necessarily a way to prevent skin cancer, observing your skin and taking stock of your moles is a great way to detect skin cancer early. If you see anything suspicious, consult your dermatologist. See the specific symptoms to look out for.

As for my visit to the dermatologist this week? All clear! I may not ever have a tan, but wearing sunscreen daily and lounging under an umbrella all these years has certainly paid off. I look forward to visiting my dermatologist again next May. Join me in celebrating Skin Cancer Awareness Month the right way and protect your skin!



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Male Breast Cancer is No Laughing Matter

by: cancercompass

Though breast cancer is 100 times more likely to occur in women than in men, recent studies have found that the disease may be more dangerous for men. No matter how rare, male breast cancer is a serious matter and certainly nothing to be embarrassed about.

According to the study, the overall survival rates for men with breast cancer are lower than those for women when it is diagnosed in an early stage. To make matters worse, many men don’t even know male breast cancer exists, and thus do not consult their doctors about any issues that may be a result of breast cancer. Therefore, the diagnosis can come at a much later stage.

Men have breast tissue that develops in the same way as breast tissue in women, and that tissue is susceptible to cancer cells in the same way. Breast cancer is less common for men because male breasts have ducts that are less developed and are not exposed to growth-promoting female hormones.

Any man can develop male breast cancer, but here are some factors that may increase the risk:

•    Male breast cancer is most common among men age 60–70.
•    Excessive alcohol use.
•    Radiation treatment to the chest.
•    High estrogen levels.
•    Having several female relatives who have had breast cancer, especially those with a mutation of the BRCA2 gene, can be a risk factor.
•    Obesity.

Women are encouraged to perform breast self-exams and also have regular mammograms at an advanced age. Experts agree this isn’t necessary for men, but it doesn’t hurt to know what to look out for. Male breast cancer symptoms can be similar to those experienced by women and may include:

•    Lumps in the breast, usually painless
•    Thickening of the breast
•    Changes to the nipple or breast skin, such as dimpling, puckering or redness
•    Discharge of fluid from the nipples

If you notice any of these symptoms, do not be afraid to inform your doctor. Some men might be embarrassed to think that they might have what’s considered a “women’s disease,” but it is simply just another form of cancer. Seeking help from your doctor could save your life, so put the bravado aside if you notice any changes in your chest or any other alarming symptoms.



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Exercise, Without Exercising

by: cancercompass

There has been a lot of talk recently about how exercising and eating right are important for cancer survivors, as well as cancer patients who are currently going through treatment. While there are many ways to make eating right entertaining (fun recipes, new restaurants), the idea of exercise can be less than enticing to some.

Exercise doesn’t have to mean a 10-mile monotonous run or file miles back and forth in a lap pool. In fact, there are many ways to sneak in exercise, without even realizing that you are being active. The main goal is to get your heart rate going while getting your body moving. Working up a sweat is helpful, but not required.

Here are some fun ways to exercise, without actually exercising, that can work for cancer patients, survivors and anyone else: 

1. Take a walk – Grab a friend, pet or both and take a long stroll on a nice day. No need to speed walk, especially if you’re able to walk for a longer period of time. If you’re worried about feeling fatigued, drive to a nearby park and stroll around for a change of scenery with the safety of your car nearby. Always be sure to bring a phone and ID with you, especially if you are planning to go a long distance on your own.

2. Take the stairs – Avoid elevators and escalators and take the stairs as often as possible, but be reasonable, of course. An appointment on the 30th floor warrants an elevator, while the 3rd floor can be reached by stairs. 

3. Go shopping – Shopping is a great way to distract yourself while exercising. If you’re not in the market to buy anything right now, simply go window shopping and leave your credit cards at home. The mall is also a great spot for people watching, and an indoor option for rainy days.

4. Go dancing – Dancing is an excellent way to get your heart rate up while having a great time. Whether you’re line dancing, doing the fox trot or grooving to the latest tunes, you’ll forget that you’re getting exercise. If you don’t know how to dance, taking lessons is another way to get a great workout.

5. Play a video game – Not all video games fit into this category, but can count as exercise if you're playing games that make you sweat, such as Wii Fit, Dance Dance Revolution, EA Sports Active or Wii Sports Resort. This is a fun way to get moving on your own or with friends, without ever leaving your house. 

6. Try a group sport – Even if sports aren’t your thing, it’s never too late to try something new. Unlike solo sports - running, swimming and biking -  a group activity like softball or basketball will help motivate you to keep it up. Also, it can be a great social activity. Pick whichever sport you enjoy the most, taking note of whether it matches the level of activity that makes you feel comfortable.

7. Take a group fitness class – Many gyms offer group fitness classes throughout the day. You can try Zumba, pilates, yoga, kickboxing or anything else that is offered as a part of your membership. Find the workout method that you enjoy most and the teacher that makes you want to return for more.

8. Go rollerblading – Skates and rollerblades may not be as hip as they once were, but going for a “roll” is still a fun way to be active. You can bring a friend along for the ride, wear headphones or just enjoy your thoughts on a nice day.

The suggestions above are just the beginning! Exercise doesn’t have to be boring and tedious, as there are many ways to stay active while having a good time.

With any of the activities above, just be sure that you don’t push yourself too hard too soon. While exercise is important to the health of cancer survivors, always make sure that your body is ready for certain levels of activity before you get started.

If you’re concerned about starting a new activity, check with your doctor first. Otherwise, get out there and get moving!

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