What You Should Know About the 2014-2015 Influenza Season

 

Today marks the first day of Autumn.  I love this time of year…. Alan’s birthday, cooler temperatures, crisp air, beautifully colored leaves, and flu shots.  Yes, you read that right… now is the time- BEFORE winter arrives (and with it, the flu)- when it’s best to get your flu shot.

 

Regardless of how severe this season’s flu will or will not be, it sucks if you are the one who gets it.

 

What do cancer patients & survivors- whose immune system may be weakened from cancer treatments- need to know about the flu?  

 

Doctor’s offices around the country are vaccinating their patients for the upcoming 2014-2015 flu season NOW.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people who have had cancer or who currently have a diagnosis of cancer- as well as their families and close contacts- get vaccinated by October.

 

Below is important information that every cancer patient & survivor should know about the flu from flu.gov and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention:

 

  • Having or surviving cancer does NOT put you at an increased risk for getting the flu. It does, however, put you at an increased risk of complications from the flu virus.  Complications include pneumonia, hospitalization and even death.
  • Getting the flu vaccine is your best protection against the flu.  But always talk with your medical team prior to getting vaccinated.    Under certain circumstances, there may be some cancer patients should not get vaccinated.
  • If you are a cancer patient or survivor, do not get the nasal spray- ONLY get the flu shot.
  • Because you are at an increased risk of getting pneumonia, talk to your health care provider about the pneumococcal vaccine.  Discuss the possibility of needing two pneumococcal vaccinations with your health care provider.  This vaccine can help protect you against pneumonia.
  • Call the doctor if you think you’ve been exposed to the flu.  You may be prescribed an antiviral medication, which can help stop the virus from infecting your body.
  • If you haven’t already gotten a flu shot, schedule an appointment with your doctor today.

 

 

The Power of Resilience is in EVERYONE!

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The power of resilience is in everyone.

 

I saw this on HopeLab’s FaceBook Page and had to repost it on CancerHawk today.  It so eloquently redefines what is within each of us.  Cancer has shown me that each one of us is stronger than we realize.  When you look in the mirror, what do you see? xoxoxoxoxo

2014 – 2015 Top Ranked US Cancer Hospitals

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Each year US News & World Report ranks the top 50 cancer hospitals in the US.  Every hospital ranked is experienced in treating difficult cases.  Reputation among specialists, survival rates, success in keeping patients safe and patient volume are among the criteria used to evaluate the cancer hospitals.  For a complete explanation of how these rankings are determined, click HERE.

*** Regardless of which hospital center you choose, even if it’s a top ranked one, it is still important to get a second opinion… or a 3rd or a 4th. ;-) ***

So without further ado, below are the 2014-2015 US News & World Report’s Top Ranked Hospitals for Cancer:

1.  Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York, NY)

2.  University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, TX)

3.  Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN)

4.  Dana Farber/ Brigham & Women’s Cancer  (Boston, MA)

5.  Johns Hopkins (Baltimore, MD)

6.  University of Washington Medical Center (Seattle, WA)

7.  Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)

8.  UCSF Medical Center (San Francisco, CA)

9.  UCLA Medical Center (Los Angeles, CA)

10.  Stanford Hospital & Clinics (Stanford, CA)

11.  Hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania-Penn Presbyterian (Philadelphia, PA)

12.  City of Hope (Duarte, CA)

13.  Cleveland Clinic (Cleveland, OH)

14.  New York-Presbyterian University Hospital of Columbia & Cornell (NY, NY)

15.  University of Colorado Hospital (Aurora, CO)

16.  Moffitt Cancer Center (Tampa, FL)

17.  Northwestern Memorial Hospital (Chicago, IL)

18.  Seidman Cancer Center at UH Case Medical (Cleveland, OH)

19.  Fox Chase Cancer Center (Philadelphia, PA)

20.  Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (Winston-Salem, NC)

21.  Barnes-Jewish Hospital/ Washington University (Saint Louis, MO)

22.  Duke University Hospital (Durham, NC)

23.  USC Norris Cancer Hospital-Keck Medical Center of USC (Los Angeles, CA)

24.  Emory University Hospital (Atlanta, GA)

25.  UC San Diego Medical Center (San Diego, CA)

26.  Mayo Clinic (Phoenix, AZ)

27.  Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (Philadelphia, PA) *tied

27.  University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (Iowa City, IA)  * tied

29.  University of Kansas Hospital (Kansas City, KS)

30.  Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital (Columbus, OH)

31.  University of Chicago Medical Center (Chicago, IL)

32.  UPMC- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (Pittsburgh, PA)

33.  Oregon Health and Science University Hospital (Portland, OR)

34.  University of California, Davis Medical Center (Sacramento, CA)

35.  University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers (Ann Arbor, MI)

36.  Nebraska Medical Center (Omaha, NE)

37.  Hackensack University Medical Center (Hackensack, NJ)

38.  University of North Carolina Hospitals (Chapel Hill, NC)

39.  Vanderbilt University Medical Center (Nashville, TN) *tied

39.  Yale-New Haven Hospital (New Haven, CT) *tied

41.  Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles, CA)

42.  Houston Methodist Hospital (Houston, TX)

43.  University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics (Madison, WI)

44.  Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Boston, MA)

45.  Florida Hospital Orlando (Orlando, FL)

46.  University of Maryland Medical Center (Baltimore, MD)

47.  Loyola University Medical Center (Maywood, IL)

48.  Mount Sinai Hospital (New York, NY) *tied

48.  Rush University Medical Center (Chicago, IL)

50.  NYU Langone Medical Center (New York, NY)

The 411 on Cancer Immunotherapy

 

One of the most promising areas in cancer research and precision medicine today is “Immunotherapy.  Credited as the first therapy ever proven to extend the lives of patients with metastatic melanoma, immunotherapy is changing the way some cancers are treated.

 

Here’s the dealio (as my daughter always says)…  Immunotherapy refers to a class of treatments that use the body’s own immune system to help fight cancer.  Some treatments boost the body’s immune system in a very general way, while others help train the immune system to attack cancer cells specifically.  Today, most people who receive immunotherapy have cancers that are advanced. Their cancers have either recurred and spread after primary treatment, or were diagnosed in an advanced stage.  Often times, patients receiving immunotherapy treatments are enrolled in a clinical trial.

 

Because immunotherapy is a rapidly evolving field, understanding the “basics”  can be complicated and confusing.  One of the best resources I’ve found to help explain the complexities of immunotherapy is the Cancer Support Community’s  new program… Frankly Speaking About Cancer: Your Immune System & Cancer Treatment.  

 

Additionally, the Cancer Support Community is hosting several FREE webinars on immunotherapy for patients diagnosed with melanoma, leukemia, lymphoma and lung cancers.  “Immunotherapy Advances in Melanoma” is scheduled for September 9, 2014 at 6:30pm EST.

 

Other fantastic resources on immunotherapy include:

Cancer Research Institute

The Cancer Research Institute (CRI) is dedicated to advancing the immune system’s power to conquer all cancers. Click HERE to see brief statistics on specific cancers as well as an overview of the current and potential impact of immunotherapy for each cancer type. All content on this site has been reviewed and verified by experts in cancer immunotherapy.

 

TheAnswerToCancer.org

Great informational site for patients and caregivers who are interested in learning more about cancer immunotherapy as a treatment option.  Hear firsthand from patients who have benefitted from this novel approach to cancer treatment.  

 

Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Finder  

Many patients are not aware of opportunities to participate in clinical trials and may find it difficult to identify trials that may be appropriate for them.  The Cancer Research Institute has partnered with EmergingMed to provide the Cancer Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Finder, a tool designed to help patients quickly search for clinical trials that match their specific cancer diagnosis and treatment history.  

The Cancer Research Institute also has Clinical Trial Navigators available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST who can help you find personalized trial matches, connect with study sites, and answer many of your questions.  Simply call (toll-free) 1-855-216-0127.  This service is free and completely confidential.  

 

Lazarex Cancer Foundation  

If you need help navigating clinical trial options or financial assistance to attend a clinical trial, connect with Lazarex Cancer Foundation.  Lazarex can help with the costs associated with participating in a clinical trial, including:

  • Transportation (airfare, gas, rental cars, taxi fare, parking/tolls)
  • Lodging (short- and long-term housing)
  • Certain medical expenses not covered by insurance and necessary for clinical trial treatment.

 

A Brief History of Immunotherapy

In case you’re interested, Targeted Oncology (fantastic site for the latest news and insights from leading researchers and cancer centers) has a great article on the history of immunotherapy which dates back to the late 19th century.

 

Make sure to discuss any findings with your doctors and health care team.  Knowledge is power…

 

What You Need to Know About Breast Reconstruction

The Cancer Support Community surveyed 762 breast cancer survivors (who were eligible for breast reconstruction) and found that 43% of these women did not receive any info about breast reconstruction PRIOR to making surgical decisions (mastectomy or lumpectomy). Why is this a huge problem? Well, if you opt to reconstruct one or both boobs, the method you choose to reconstruct can be affected depending on how the initial surgery is done. Since you can’t go back and re-do your mastectomy, this is an extremely important conversation to have with your doctor BEFORE a mastectomy takes place.

 

Watch this fantastic video created by Understand.com to learn more about breast reconstruction options.  Then ask your doctor what options would be best for you.

Fight Cancer & WIN! With This Kick-Ass Cancer Fighting Video Game

 

Any oncologist or parent will tell you that getting young cancer patients (that includes children, teenagers and even young adults) to stick to their treatment regimens and take their medications when and how they have been prescribed is no easy task.  To help encourage treatment adherence (which improves outcomes and saves lives!), researchers at HopeLab created  Re-Mission2, a series of six very cool, FREE video games that are super fun to play, a tad bit addicting ;-) AND help it’s players beat a diagnosis of cancer.  

 

Here’s how it works:  

Re-Mission2 gives players a better understanding of their disease and how their bodies benefit from treatments that can be inconvenient, unpleasant or even debilitating at times. Research studies have shown these games not only encourage treatment adherence, but they also give players a much needed sense of power and control*.

 

Each game puts players inside the human body to fight cancer with an arsenal of weapons and super-powers, like chemotherapy, radiation, targeted cancer drugs, antibiotics and the body’s natural defenses. The game play parallels real-world strategies used to successfully destroy cancer and win.  A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

Download Re-Mission2 Today for FREE!

Simply click HERE to access all six Re-Mission2 games online or download Nanobot’s Revenge mobile app from iTunes  or Google Play.  And let the games begin!

 
 
P.S.  Major kudos to Cigna Healthcare and the Childhood Leukemia Foundation Keeping Kids Connected  program for providing free iPads preloaded with  Re-Mission 2: Nanobot’s Revenge  to hospital centers throughout the country. 
 
*For more information on the above mentioned research studies, see
Hope Lab Research: Re-Mission Outcomes Study and Re-Mission Attitude Studies in the Brain

When to Buy Organic: 2014 Dirty Dozen & Clean 15


 

Many people believe that the pesticides used to grow conventional or non-organic produce may have played a role in their cancer and that removing pesticides from our food may help re-build and strengthen their bodies.  Although there is no definitive research proving either belief, should we avoid buying some or all fruits or vegetables that are conventionally grown?  

 

To help answer this question, the Environmental Working Group (EWG)the nation’s leading environmental health research and advocacy organization, created the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.  This guide, which is updated each year, highlights the cleanest and dirtiest conventionally-raised fruits and vegetables. The EWG recommends that if a conventionally grown food tests high for pesticides, go for the organic version instead whenever possible.

 

The 12 most pesticide-laden foods are known as “The Dirty Dozen”. When choosing fruits & veggies included in the Dirty Dozen, the EWG suggests buying these foods as ORGANIC.

2014 Dirty Dozen includes: 

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Nectarines (imported)
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry tomatoes
  11. Snap peas (imported)
  12. Potatoes

*When possible, the EWG suggests that hot peppers and leafy greens like kale and collard greens should also be purchased as organic as these veggies are often tainted with unusually hazardous pesticides.

 

The 15 least pesticide-laden foods are known as The Clean 15″.  If the fruit or veggie is listed on the Clean 15, it’s ok to buy it as non-organic or conventional.

2014 Clean 15 includes:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet peas – frozen
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Papayas
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet potatoes

 

*  Keep in mind that the information above is based on produce bought at supermarkets. If you shop at farmers markets, ask about their growing practices. Even if what they sell isn’t certified organic, many local farmers use as few pesticides as possible, making the foods on the Dirty Dozen become good choices, even if they aren’t certified organic.

 

*  The EWG maintains that the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure So it’s better to eat conventionally-grown produce than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.

 

*  Download the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce App on your smart phone.  The App is available for an Android phonefor an iPhone or iPad; or for a Windows phone.   

 

 

Nutritional Fixes for Common Cancer Side Effects

Super helpful info from Cancer Treatment Centers of America

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To learn about fixes for these and other common cancer side effects, check out Cancer Nutrition & Recipes for Dummies.

Click HERE for more on nutrition therapy, tips & recipes from Cancer Treatment Centers of America Dieticians.

 

http://ctcaho.pe/CancerNutritionAndRecipesForDummies

When It Comes to Cancer, Unknown is Unacceptable…

Molecular profiling, biomarker testing and targeted therapies are changing the way physicians treat cancer patients.  In the not-too-distant future, experts agree that cancer will be defined and treated based on each person’s unique molecular profile and biomarkers rather than the body part where it first originated.  Until this happens, oncologists must rely on knowing the part of the body where the cancer started (known as the primary site) to guide their treatment plans.

 

So what happens when a person is diagnosed with cancer and doctors do not know it’s primary site?

 

Each year 45,000 – 75,000 US cancer patients are diagnosed with metastatic disease but the primary site (the part of the body where the cancer started) cannot be determined. This is known as “cancer of unknown primary” or CUP.  In some instances, physical examination, detailed blood tests and various imaging scans can help determine the primary tumor location.  In other cases, doctors are forced to use their best guess and treat accordingly. As a result, the prognosis of patients diagnosed with CUP is poor.

 

If you’ve been diagnosed with Cancer of Unknown Primary, check out the Rosetta Genomics Cancer Origin Test. The Cancer Origin Test uses highly sensitive technology to measure the level of microRNAs in a tumor sample to determine the primary tumor location.

 

How accurate is the Cancer Origin Test? In a nutshell, I’d say it’s pretty darn accurate.  In a study of 509 tumor samples, 82% of the samples tested using the Cancer Origin Test produced a single predicted origin with 90% accuracy.  In another study, 84 CUP patients were tested and results from 77 patients predicted a single origin with 92% accuracy.*

 

The Bottom Line… The origin of your cancer can have a big impact on your treatment plan.  If you’ve been diagnosed with Cancer of Unknown Primary (CUP), ask your doctor which test(s) he or she plans to use to diagnose your cancer.  The Cancer Origin Test can yield results in just 4-7 days enabling doctors to provide patients with their best treatment options quickly.  If your doctor is not familiar with the Cancer Origin Test, let them know about it. The right diagnosis can save your life. 

 

BTW, many insurance companies including Medicare now cover this testing. For those patients who may not be able to afford testing, Rosetta Genomics has a Patient Assistance Program (PAP).   For more information, call their Customer Service at 1-215-389-9000 or US Toll Free at 1-888-522-7971.

 

*Rosetta Genomics
*Meiri E., Mueller W.C., Rosenwald S., A second-Generation MicroRNA-Based Assay for Diagnosing Tumor Tissue Origin, The Oncologist 2012
*Pentheroudakis G, Pavlidis N, Fountzilas G, et al. Novel microRNA-basedassay demonstrates 92% agreement with diagnosis based on clinicopatholoic and management data in a cohort of patients with carcinoma of unknownprimary. Mol Cancer June 2013

 

Protect Yourself From Mesothelioma (aka Summer’s Silent Threat)

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Meet PATIENT ADVOCATE Susan Vento of The Asbestos Cancer Victims’ Rights Campaign (ACVRC) a national campaign dedicated to protecting the rights of asbestos victims, making sure they and their families are protected in seeking compensation, and opposing legislation that seeks to roll back their rights.  At the end of this article written by the ACVRC, I’ve listed some incredible resources to help anyone touched by mesothelioma, the cancer caused by asbestos exposure.  

 

“Now that summer is in full swing, people are jumping into their long-awaited plans, projects, and warm weather activities. Though this season is characteristically carefree, there is great risk of coming into contact with invisible carcinogenic hazards, asbestos specifically, that can severely compromise your long-term health.

As a result of the widespread and historical use of asbestos, many common summer hobbies and recreational activities come with an unforeseen risk of exposure. According to the World Health Organization, more than 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related diseases. Before you embark on any of the following summer activities, your awareness of how you could potentially expose yourself to asbestos is crucial.

DIY & DEMOLITION

Summer is the season when homeowners often decide to dust off their do-it-yourself gloves. Roughly three quarters of homeowners are planning to work on home improvement projects this year, and according to the EPA, over 35 million homes in the U.S. contain asbestos, making any of these projects potentially dangerous.

Within the home, asbestos may be found in places like attic and wall insulation, vinyl flooring, hot water pipes, and textured paint on walls and ceilings. When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or damaged, the microscopic fibers become airborne which can then be inhaled into the lungs, causing disease. If you drill, cut, saw, hammer, or move anything in your home that may contain asbestos without proper inspection, you’re putting you and your loved ones at great risk.

EXPLORING ABANDONED BUILDINGS

In the summer, children are known to explore abandoned or demolished properties including buildings, railroad tracks, factories, and vehicles. If your child rummages through these neglected and unregulated areas, they will be at great risk for coming into contact with and disturbing asbestos-laden materials, breathing in its lethal dust. Take the time to sit with your kids and educate them about these hidden dangers, while also providing suggestions for fun alternative adventures.

GARAGE SALES & ANTIQUING

In addition to the building materials already discussed, many household items and appliances were commonly manufactured with asbestos prior to the early 1980s. When on the hunt for garage sales, flea markets, and antique shops, avoid purchasing vintage-looking commodities such as heat-resistant fabrics, auto parts, and stove top ovens. There are even oven mitts, irons, and ironing boards that were once marketed specifically because they were made with asbestos. Consult a “Safe Antiques” guide before your next excursion to ensure you won’t mistakenly invite anything made with asbestos into your home.

GARDENING

As a result of geological processes, naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) can be found in soil and rock which can then be disturbed by natural weathering and human activity. When digging and tilling gardens in areas potentially containing NOA, asbestos mineral fibers can be released into the air and inhaled, or tracked into the home on clothing and shoes. To locate NOA areas and ensure your gardening project is a safe endeavor, start by consulting the U.S. Geological Survey reports and contact a state geologist.

CAMPING & BONFIRES

Many people use camp and bonfires for discarding old cabin or household scraps, or they simply enjoy finding nearby, useless materials to burn. However, what you may not realize is that the materials you choose to burn could contain toxic asbestos, which again, becomes lethal when broken down and inhaled. For example, in the UK last year, a group of young people unknowingly built a bonfire using asbestos-laden roofing sheets. Rather than risking your health, keep to using organic materials such as sticks or paper.

PROTECT YOURSELF

Your greatest form of protection this summer is knowledge. Educating yourself and your family on the dangers of asbestos exposure and spreading awareness is your greatest tool at reducing your risk. For many, however, taking these precautions and becoming aware is, tragically, no longer an option. However, there are ways you can help to lessen and prevent further pain for the individuals and families affected. The FACT Act, allegedly intended to promote transparency and prevent fraudulent asbestos claims, in reality invades the privacy of victims and their families, while the companies that victimized them in the first place are left untouched. Ultimately, the FACT Act protects asbestos companies while further victimizing those already suffering. Help support those who have suffered from asbestos by signing our petition. Together, we can help ensure everyone has the safest summer possible and prevent the furthered suffering of asbestos victims.”

If you or anyone you know has been diagnosed with Mesothelioma, consider connecting with these organizations dedicated to assisting mesothelioma victims and their families.  These organizations can help you find the best doctors, treatments and information about mesothelioma.

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

The Mesothelioma Center

Mesthelioma HELP

Mesthelioma.Net

MesoCare

Mesothelioma Survivors