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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Unplug and Relax

by: cancercompass

According to a recent survey, Americans really love their cell phones. Of the 2,500 survey participants, 77 percent said they would feel more stressed out about losing their cell phone than losing their wedding ring.

Recently, I took a short vacation to Mexico. I didn’t want to pay the international mobile fees, so I left my cell phone off and locked in the hotel safe the entire trip. Boy, was that a wonderful feeling! My wedding ring, however, I had on my finger the entire time.

I understand the need to have a cell phone handy if you are in an unfamiliar area and need directions or assistance, but when travelling on vacation why is there a need to always “feel connected”? With so many things going on in our daily lives, it is liberating to turn off the cell phone for a few days and just focus on relaxing, as well as being entirely present when spending time with those around you.

For those who are currently going through cancer treatment, or have watched a loved one fight that important fight against cancer, you know that there are a lot more important things in life than seeing what your friends are Tweeting about at 3 in the afternoon. Enjoying the bells and whistles on your cell phone is certainly a fun way to pass time, but let’s not let it take over our lives!

When you go out to dinner with friends, how often does someone at the table pull out a cell phone and start checking their email or playing Words With Friends? I’m not going to lie; there are times when that person has been me!

If you’re planning a vacation soon, or just would like to clear your mind and truly relax for a few hours, try putting your cell phone in another room. Or, see if you can spend a whole week only using your phone for its original purpose: calling someone. With texting and email, it’s rare that our phones are ever even used for such a thing.

Downtime and relaxation is important for everyone, and even more so if you are currently going through cancer treatment or recovery. Being plugged can make you feel safe and secure, but so can a great in-person conversation with a loved one.



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Healthy Summer Grilling Tips

by: cancercompass

Yesterday was the first official day of summer, which means now is the time for many to dust off the old grill and give it a healthy summer workout.

Temperatures have already skyrocketed in many locations, and thanks to Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May, many already know that using sunscreen and protective clothing is a great way to prevent skin cancer. However, did you know that following a few simple grilling instructions could decrease your risk of developing other forms of cancer? 

"Diets that feature big portions of red and processed meat have been shown to make colorectal cancer more likely,” says American Institute for Cancer Research Dietitian Alice Bender, MS, RD. “Evidence that grilling itself is a risk factor is less strong, but it only makes sense to take some easy cancer-protective precautions."

In addition to the risks that come from a heavy meat-based diet, when you add high heat into the mix the risks go up. Meat, poultry or fish cooked at high temperatures, especially well-done or charred, can prompt heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to form. These chemical compounds cause changes in DNA that can increase risk factors for colorectal, stomach, lung, pancreatic, breast and prostate cancers.

According to Bender, there are two changes that you can make to avoid raising your cancer risks: what you grill and how you grill it. Here are some changes to consider making this summer:

1. Throw Fruits and Veggies Onto the Grill: Cut down on the amount of red and processed meat this summer by adding more fruits and vegetables to the grill. Either replace the meat all together, or lower your portions of meat while increasing the amount of fruits and veggies. 

2. Marinate First: Marinating meat has been shown to reduce the formation of HCAs. This could be because of the acids or antioxidants in the marinade, but researchers aren't 100 percent sure why.

3. Try Different Meats: Instead of only grilling burgers and hot dogs, try chicken or fish. While cooking these meats over high heat is still a risk, at least you are taking the red and processed meats out of the equation. 

4. Pre-cook: Grilling for a long period of time over high heat is partially the problem when it comes to HCAs. If you cook the meat first in the microwave, oven or stove, this can reduce the time that the meat is exposed to high heat that comes out of a grill. Be sure to put the meat on the grill immediately after it is precooked.

5. Cook Longer at Lower Heat: Another way to lessen the amount of HCAs is to cook the meat for longer at a lower temperature. Also, cut off any charred portions of meat.

6. Try Organic Meat: Choosing organic meat can reduce your exposure to antibiotics and growth hormones. Learn more about cooking organic meat.

Have a happy and healthy summer!



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Celebrating Life Every Day

by: cancercompass

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to attend the Celebrate Life ceremony hosted by Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Zion, Ill. The annual event celebrates those treated at CTCA who have reached the five-year survival mark. It was a joyous event filled with joy, hugs, laughter and inspiration.

Of the 195 overall survivors this year, about 80 made the pilgrimage to Zion. The honored guests entered on a red carpet surrounded by hospital staff, patients, survivors, loved ones and perhaps even a few curious onlookers. Each celebrant was treated to applause as they waved to their “fans” enjoying the warm (well, hot) day.

The guests of honor came from 36 states, including New York, Texas, Ohio and Illinois, to be present for a tree-planting ceremony, lunch, Hope Rounds and more. This was the 24th tree to be planted in honor of the brave survivors, which symbolizes life and growth. Then, five white doves were released to represent each year of the cancer fight the survivors faced with the help of CTCA. 

Before lunch, the honorees and caregivers toured the hospital and brought positive energy, hope and inspiration to those currently treating at CTCA, a process known as Hope Rounds. Each celebrant's name was also added to the "Tree of Life" wall located in the lobby at CTCA at Midwestern.

Everyone then sat down to an organic lunch prepared by CTCA’s food service staff, with recipes straight from the Wholesome Temptation cookbook. The rice dish was delectable, and the lemon-filled cupcake topped with a large helping of CTCA-green icing won’t soon be forgotten. During the lunch, videos of some of the five-year survivors reminded attendants of how precious life is, and how it can change in an instant. Then, each celebrant’s name was called as they took their moment on stage.

I feel lucky to have been able to attend Celebrate Life, which is another reminder that cancer can be seen as the beginning of a new adventure, rather than the end. On every table, a bounded book described each survivor’s journey, which I read from cover to cover with a tissue handy. Five years ago, Lesa Malcolm-Bivens was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer and given 2 ½ years to live. Here she is five years later and still cancer-free. Patick Buckley of Iowa was given three months to live with stage IV esophageal cancer, and like Lesa, he is also a Celebrate Life honoree. The list goes on and on, and each story is a reminder of why you should never give up.

Congrats to all of those who participated Celebrate Life in Zion last week, as well as the hundreds of other survivors at the additional CTCA hospitals in suburban Philly, suburban Phoenix and Tulsa. On August 15, one more location will be added to the CTCA family in Newnan, Ga. 



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Don’t Rush Recovery

by: cancercompass

Let’s face it, fighting cancer can take time. Regardless of your cancer type or treatment regimen, going through treatment, reaching recovery and getting back to your normal life isn’t going to happen overnight. Whether your recovery process is three months or three years, the key to getting back into the swing of things is to take it slow and be patient.

There are lots of clichés that can be used to get this idea across, most likely because the statements ring true: slow and steady wins the race, it’s not a sprint it’s a marathon, etc. etc.

For those who are dealing with cancer, in addition to any injury or illness, pushing yourself too soon can lead to a major setback. Listen to what your doctor says and take his/her advice seriously. If you’re not happy with his/her recommendations, then think about seeking a second opinion. What you don’t want to do is ignore your doctor’s warnings altogether and risk compromising your health by partaking in activities that you’re not ready to explore.

It has been almost four months since I broke my foot. As soon as the cast was in place I was already itching to get back to my running routine. While I have thankfully been able to walk cast- and crutch-free for about a month, my doctor and physical therapist did not want me to run. I was tempted to ignore their warning, but friends warned me not to make matters worse. I waited patiently, and last week I got the OK. It was hard to hit the pavement at first, but this morning I took my first real extended jog. It was only for 10 minutes, but those 10 minutes felt great. If I hadn’t followed their advice, then I could’ve returned right back to square one.

Running may not be the adventure that’s eluding you right now. It could be a different kind of milestone such as taking a road trip for the first time after completing treatment. Even if you feel ready to take that plunge, listen to your doctor’s advice! And, if you feel ready to move forward at a faster pace, consider having a conversation with your doctor about how you’re feeling, and he/she may amend the waiting period.

Waiting for things that you want can be extremely frustrating, but ignoring your doctor’s warnings could be disastrous. Take it slow, get all hands on deck, keep your eyes on the prize and follow the path as the crow flies. Or, simply listen to your doctor’s advice, and find new ways to pass the time while preparing to hit those milestones.

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