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

10 Biggest Cancer Clinical Trial Myths BUSTED

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According to the National Cancer Institute, less than 5% of adult cancer patients sign up for cancer clinical trials.  But how is this possible if clinical trials are considered the backbone of medical research?  It may boil down to the fact that many people have misconceptions about what clinical trials are and how they operate.  In fact, I have been guilty of this… I remember when our Oncologist suggested a clinical trial for Alan’s sarcoma… I immediately assumed that meant we were out of treatment options and at the end of our rope.

Fast forward to today… I read a fantastic article on cancer clinical trials written for the Cleveland Clinic’s Health Hub, a free health information website and eNewsletter.  It was so good that I’m reposting the article below … after all, knowledge is power.  Let’s share the power!

“People have a lot of misconceptions about cancer clinical research trials. They might think patients mostly just take sugar pills instead of receiving actual treatment.  Or they may think clinical research studies are only for people who have no other options.

These and many other common beliefs about cancer clinical research trials are simply not true, says Joshua Beaver, Research Program Manager for Solid Tumor Oncology at Cleveland Clinic.

Mr. Beaver and his colleagues lined up a list of the Top 10 myths that they frequently hear about clinical trials and set about shooting them down one by one:

Myth 1: Participating in clinical research provides no benefit to me as the patient

In fact, trials give patients access to the latest drugs and procedures. Studies show that patients who participate in clinical trials have outcomes at least as good, if not better, than the general patient population.

Myth 2: My doctor can tell me whether or not to consent to clinical research

A physician’s job is to help a potential clinical research patients weigh the pros and cons and otherwise educate them.  Your doctor can’t give you a “yes” or “no” answer or try to predict whether a particular treatment will work or not. Instead, think of your doctor as a helpful resource in making an informed decision.

Myth 3: Researchers treat patients like guinea pigs

This is far from the truth,” Mr. Beaver says, mentioning a survey finding 97 percent of trial participants experienced respectful treatment and care exceeding their expectations.  Often, patients will not even feel like they are part of a study because clinical trials incorporate the best available medicine. Researchers will then adjust treatment to see if enhancements can improve patients’ quality of life or response rates.

Myth 4: Clinical research patients are taking sugar pills

Researchers never use sugar pills in place of the best known treatment for a given cancer, and they are very rarely used in clinical cancer trials whatsoever, Mr. Beaver says. “Patients who join clinical trials will never sacrifice quality of care.”

Myth 5: Health insurance won’t cover the cost

Check with your carrier but the chances are good that coverage will extend to the full cost of your treatment.

Myth 6: Cancer clinical research studies are for people who have no other options

Sometimes clinical trials are a last resort. But many times they simply involve a simple addition or adjustment to a standard treatment plan that can provide patients with a better quality of life.

Myth 7: You need to live near a major hospital to participate

Many clinical trials take place at regional hospitals. “Some trials even extend to local cancer clinics and doctor’s offices,” says Mr. Beaver.

Myth 8: Informed consent exists primarily to protect researchers’ legal interests

Informed consent provides patients with information about their rights as a participant to help them decide whether to participate. Mr. Beaver adds, “The consent process is actually designed to avoid ‘legalese’ and to make absolutely sure that it is understandable to everybody.”

Myth 9: Once you sign the informed consent form, you’re legally bound to participate

Patients have the right to decline participation at any time. Their doctors will then switch to the standard treatment for their condition.

Myth 10: Patients can’t expect medical personnel to keep them informed

Physicians, medical professionals and research staff are all available at any time to help patients. “We know and appreciate that patients’ willingness to participate is what makes cancer trials possible,” Mr. Beaver says.”

(Source: Health Hub from Cleveland Clinic)

Check Out Cleveland Clinic’s FREE Clinical Trials App

Cleveland Clinic has created a free Clinical Trials app for cancer patients to keep abreast of their 130+ active cancer clinical trials. This Cancer Clinical Trials app is available for both Apple and Android devices.

With this app, you can:

The app also includes contacts for patient resources, financial services information, support groups and treatment guides.

FREE Running Program for Cancer Survivors in MD, DC, VA, NY & Chicago

Andy & Alan 2004 Bay Bridge 10K

Andy & Alan @ Rockville Rotary Twilighter 8K Runfest 1992

 

Pictured above is my husband Alan (on the right) with his childhood friend Andy.  Since this picture was taken, Andy has run more than 30 marathons, completed 13 triathlons and has become a certified running coach.  Despite all these accomplishments, Andy always made time to go for a run or walk with Alan, even after he was diagnosed with cancer.

 

It was no surprise to me that Andy connected with The Ulman Cancer Fund’s CANCER to 5K Training Program - a FREE 12-week training program designed to introduce or reintroduce cancer survivors to training for and completing a 5K road race.  Amazing, right?!

ABOUT The CANCER to 5K Training Program:

Research has now shown that exercise is especially important for cancer survivors both in and out of active treatment.  Regular exercise not only improves mood, boosts self-confidence and reduces fatigue, but there is loads of evidence suggesting that higher levels of physical activity can help keep the cancer from recurring.

 

The Cancer to 5K Training Program is a progressive run/walk program designed to get cancer survivors to the 5K finish-line happy, healthy and injury-free.  

*  Who can join?  Cancer to 5K is open to any cancer survivor regardless of age, location, treatment status or fitness level.  Survivors who have completed treatment as well as survivors who are currently undergoing treatment can participate.

*  Where is training held?  If you live in the following areas, certified running coaches and experienced volunteer runners (aka “Sherpas”) will help train you in a small group setting.  Each 12-week session is limited to 10 participants.  Click HERE for exact locations in:

      • Washington DC/Northern Virginia
      • Montgomery County Maryland
      • Howard County, Maryland
      • Baltimore, Maryland
      • New York, NY
      • Chicago, IL.

* What if you live elsewhere?  If you live outside the current group training areas, you can still participate with The CANCER to 5K “At Home” Training Program.  As a Cancer to 5K “At Home” participant, you will receive one-on-one coaching with a Cancer to 5K coach. Workouts will be sent to you via email, and you will have access to your coach via email and phone.

Registration for the fall training season is now OPEN!  
Group workouts will begin in August 2014.
“At-Home” participants can begin training anytime.

 

For more information, contact Program Manager Laura Scruggs via email at laura@ulmanfund.org  or via 410.964.0202 x108.  

Please note:  A medical waiver must be signed by the participant’s current primary care physician to ensure that training for a 5K won’t negatively impact treatment or recovery.

 

Financial Assistance from Walk In My Shoes Cancer Foundation

 

 

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and are having a hard time making ends meet, check out the Walk In My Shoes Foundation.

Walk In My Shoes Foundation assists cancer patients with paying rent, mortgages, utility bills, medication, purchasing gas cards, buying groceries, etc.  To qualify for assistance, which is based on availability, the following guidelines have been set:

  • Only patients undergoing cancer treatment are eligible for assistance.
  • Only bills in patient’s name are eligible for payment.
  • Maximum assistance is $500.00 per patient per calendar year.
  • First come first serve basis.
  • No income guidelines.
  • Men, women, children are welcome to apply regardless of type of cancer.
  • Cash will not be disbursed.

To apply, please complete the form on the Walk In My Shoes Foundation CONTACT US page or email them directly at info@walkinmyshoesfoundation.com.  Someone should contact you within 48 hours.

All Hail Kale & This Yummy Salad Recipe

 

Eating healthy, good-for-you foods during and post-treatment can help cancer patients feel better and stay stronger.  Proper nutrition can help them keep up their body weight and strength, keep body tissue healthy, and fight infection.

 

Dark leafy greens are the rockstars of the produce department as they have the most concentrated source of nutrition we have.  Kale is a nutritional powerhouse.  Calorie for calorie, kale has more iron than beef and more calcium than milk.  Kale is also loaded with vitamin K.  According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating a diet rich in the powerful antioxidant vitamin K can reduce the overall risk of developing or dying from cancer.  Needless to say, I’m always in search of new ways to eat kale.  BTW, whenever possible buy organic kale as kale typically ranks very high on the EWG’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce listing (the higher the ranking, the more pesticides used)

 

Meet Eris Norman, a certified health coach who lost her mother at the young age of 58 to sarcoma.  Eris shared with me one of her very favorite kale salad recipes…  she says this preparation keeps all of the kale’s nutrients in tact.  The dressing is a hit, even with kids.  Raw garlic is nature’s antibiotic and is best eaten after it’s been chopped up and sitting for 10 minutes to release all its essential oils so we can most benefit.  Nutritional yeast is a vegan food which contains Vitamin B12, high protein, high fiber, folic acid and is gluten-free.  It has a cheesy flavor and is great in recipes or sprinkled on top of food.  As Mikey from the old Life cereal ads used to say “try it, you’ll like it!

 

Cheesy Goldfish Kale Salad

By Linda Petursdottir of www.simplewellbeing.com

Ingredients:

1-2 bunches organic curly kale, stem removed and leaves rinsed and chopped

Optional additions: cut up apple, sliced onions, siced avocado, dried fruit and toasted seeds

Dressing:

1/2 cup raw apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup Tamari
 sauce

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 cloves garlic

1 cup Nutritional Yeast

1 cup organic extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

1. Place all ingredients for the salad dressing except olive oil in a blender and then gradually pour the olive oil in while blending.

2. Pour a desired amount over the rinsed and dried kale. With your clean hands or salad utensils, rub and mix the dressing into the kale.  The lemon juice and salt from the Tamari will begin to break down the cellular wall of the kale which provides greater nutrient absorption. 

3. The dressing keeps in fridge for 3-5 days. Be sure to take it out of the fridge a few minutes before using it as the oil gets coagulated.

D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S and oh so very nutritious!  Enjoy!!!

 

(Sources:  WebMD, Environmental Working Group)