Maryland Oncology Hematology is a guest on Great Day Washington

Dr. Surupa Sen Gupta and Dr. Colette Magnant represented Maryland Oncology Hematology on Great Day Washington to explain the importance of screenings, self-exams, and living a healthy lifestyle for breast cancer awareness month.

 

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Hope Connections Support Groups 9/27 thru 10/05

Hope Connections has 25 different groups available this week for people diagnosed with cancer as well as their caregivers, family & friends. Click calendar to visit Hope Connections website for instructions on how to join these online groups.

 

First Time visitors must complete a “First TIme Visitors Form” on the Hope Connections website.

 

 

Once again for all classes visit the Hope Connections website by Clicking HERE

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Breast Cancer: What you need to know

Cancer is a collective term referring to many different diseases. Simply put, cancer is uncontrolled cell growth, which can lead to tumor formation. A non-invasive tumor (in situ cancer) remains within the tissue where it originated. A malignant tumor (invasive cancer) has potential to spread to neighboring tissues and can form new tumors (metastases) elsewhere in the body. Tumors become dangerous when vital organ function is threatened by the overgrowth of cancer cells1.

 

Breast cancer is expected to affect 1 in 8 women, making it the most common cancer in women, after skin cancer2. This article discusses: diagnosis, treatment, taking proactive steps, and finding support.

 

Statistics:

In 2019, the US reported 3.8 million breast cancer patients and survivors.

Although breast cancer incidence is slightly higher in white women, breast cancer-related mortality is almost 50% higher in black women3. More than half of breast cancer patients are diagnosed at an early stage; however, men are slightly more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage compared to women.  As men make up just 1% percent of all breast cancer patients, there is still much to be learned about male breast cancer2,4.

 

Diagnosis:

Created for the National Cancer Institute, http://www.cancer.gov

Breast cancer can be diagnosed by imaging and histology (pathologic review). Imaging techniques help to visualize cancerous growths. Mammography, the most routine imaging technique used in breast cancer diagnostics, uses x-ray imaging5. There are some limitations, such as mild discomfort, very low radiation exposure, and a false positive rate. Ultrasound is often used to further define mammogram findings.  Additional imaging techniques (such as MRI breasts) are sometimes used; however, these techniques are expensive and still lack specificity (can have false positive findings).

Histology is the study of cells under the microscope6. Healthy cells usually look very uniform, but cancerous cells vary in shape and size. This is one way that they can be identified under the microscope; however, some non-cancerous diseases can cause cells to ‘look suspicious’. In such cases, cells can be stained for breast cancer-specific biomarkers to clarify the disease diagnosis7.

Cancer staging:

Once a diagnosis has been made, doctors must determine how far the cancer has progressed. The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) classifies tumors using the Tumor Node Metastasis (TNM) model. Specifically, this classification describes: the tumor size, the number of lymph nodes involved, and whether the tumor has metastasized. The details of the TNM model can be summarized using a 5-stage system, where stage 0 is in situ (non-invasive) cancer, and stages 1 through 4 are progressive extents of invasive cancer. Cancer staging helps doctors determine how much risk the cancer poses to a patient, and how it should be treated8–10.

 

Treatment:

When breast cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, surgery can be performed to remove the cancerous tissue. A lumpectomy is surgery that only removes the tumor, while a mastectomy removes the entire breast. The choice of surgery depends on the breast size, tumor size and location, and other factors. Lymph nodes are often also removed to determine the cancer stage, or if they are already known to contain cancer cells11.

 

Lumpectomy, accompanied by radiation treatment, has become standard practice, as it reduces the risk of local cancer recurrence in both in situ and invasive cancer12.

Radiotherapy uses high doses of radiation to destroy cancer cells by damaging their genetic material. Cancer cells are limited in their ability to repair damage. This makes them more susceptible to radiation than healthy cells, which are better at repairing damage. Nonetheless, healthy cells and tissues within and surrounding the breast can be damaged by radiation. Accordingly, radiation treatments are carefully planned to spare and protect healthy tissue13,14.

 

Chemotherapy can be used to shrink tumors prior to surgery (neoadjuvant), to prevent recurrence after surgery (adjuvant), or to treat advanced (metastatic) breast cancer15–17. Chemotherapy is a systemic medication that damages the genetic machinery needed for cell division, making it efficient in eliminating rapidly growing cells (such as cancer cells). Healthy cells with a high growth rate, such as those found in hair follicles and the digestive system, are also affected by chemotherapy, and this leads to the well-known side effects of hair loss and nausea18.

 

Targeted therapy, often used in combination with chemotherapy, focuses on specific molecules that stimulate growth or survival in cancer cells19. Hormone therapy is used in specific breast cancers where growth is stimulated by the hormones estrogen or progesterone. When cells are prevented from interacting with these hormones, hormone-induced growth is inhibited20. Some therapies are targeted at proteins that are associated with the growth of certain breast cancers. Tumors with high expression of HER2 can be treated with anti-HER2 therapies, which inhibit the function of this protein21. The choice of targeted therapy is dependent on the molecule that a particular type of breast cancer ‘responds to’. This is an important step towards personalized medicine: profiling a specific patient’s cancer and treating it accordingly to maximize treatment efficacy22.

 

Interestingly, when a tumor first forms, the immune system recognizes this as a strange event and tries to oppose tumor formation. Some cancer cells develop mechanisms that make them undetectable to immune cells. This is called immune tolerance. Immunotherapy aims to re-establish the immune system’s ability to detect cancer cells and combat immune tolerance23,24.

 

Altogether, breast cancer treatment is a multidisciplinary approach that benefits from the combination of different therapies. Besides increasing treatment efficacy, combination therapy can allow for the use of lower doses, which reduces adverse effects and delays drug resistance25.

 

What you should do:

Women are encouraged to take a proactive approach to their health, especially as it relates to breast cancer. Primary breast cancer prevention is the avoidance of known risk factors. Secondary prevention is early detection26. The American Cancer Society recommends that women can choose mammogram screening starting at age 40, but that all women should start annual mammogram screening by age 45.  Also, adult women should consider performing monthly self-exams. Forty percent of breast cancers are detected by the patients themselves27,28.

When breast cancer is familial, or has an early age of onset, genetic testing is often advised. If genetic testing suggests a high possibility for breast cancer development, preventative treatments, such as medications or risk-reducing mastectomy, are available.  Also, enhanced screening for cancer is considered for some genetic testing results.  In all cases, the psychological effects of genetic testing should be taken into account. The cancer risk should be well examined in order to avoid unnecessary interventions29.

Finding support:

Breast cancer treatment extends well beyond the confines of the doctor’s office. Support groups, hosted by mental/medical healthcare professionals or cancer survivors, can offer shared experiences/education and can provide a sense of community and comradery30. Psychoeducational support groups provide patients and their families with the knowledge and psychological tools they need to move forward in a holistic manner31.

Cancer, of any kind, is a difficult road to travel; access to the right people and the right information can provide fuel for the journey.

 

 

About the Author

Carol Tweed, MD joined Maryland Oncology Hematology in our Annapolis division October 2020. Dr. Carol Tweed attended Duke University, where she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. She graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Biology, and a concentration in molecular biology. She received her medical degree from Washington University in St. Louis, where she was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha. She then completed her Internal Medicine Residency and Hematology/Oncology Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania.

From 2006-2012, Dr. Tweed was an Assistant Professor on faculty at the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center. During this time, she practiced as a breast oncology specialist and enthusiastically educated medical students, residents, and fellows.

In 2012, she moved to Annapolis, MD, and joined AAMC Oncology & Hematology, before joining Maryland Oncology Hematology in October 2020. Dr. Tweed passionately cares for patients with a broad range of hematologic and oncologic disorders. Her work as a breast medical oncology expert continues.  She is a regional speaker on the topics of breast cancer and cancer genomics. She is co-founder and co-director of the Maryland Breast Cancer Consortium.

Dr. Tweed is an active clinical researcher; she has served as principal investigator on numerous national and international clinical trials. She also is an Instructor of Medicine/preceptor for Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, educating medical students.

Dr. Tweed is board certified in Hematology and Medical Oncology.

 

References:

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  2. Rojas, K. & Stuckey, A. Breast Cancer Epidemiology and Risk Factors. Clin. Obstet. Gynecol. 59, 651–672 (2016).
  3. Baquet, C. R., Mishra, S. I., Commiskey, P., Ellison, G. L. & DeShields, M. Breast cancer epidemiology in blacks and whites: Disparities in incidence, mortality, survival rates and histology. J. Natl. Med. Assoc. 100, 480–489 (2008).
  4. Breast Cancer Occurrence 3 Breast Cancer Risk Factors 12 What Is the American Cancer Society Doing about Breast Cancer? 26 Sources of Statistics 30 References 32.
  5. Gøtzsche, P. C. & Jørgensen, K. J. Screening for breast cancer with mammography. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews vol. 2013 (2013).
  6. McDonald, E. S., Clark, A. S., Tchou, J., Zhang, P. & Freedman, G. M. Clinical diagnosis and management of breast cancer. J. Nucl. Med. 57, 9S-16S (2016).
  7. Jafari, S. H. et al. Breast cancer diagnosis: Imaging techniques and biochemical markers. Journal of Cellular Physiology vol. 233 5200–5213 (2018).
  8. Cancer Staging – National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/diagnosis-staging/staging.
  9. Breast Cancer: Stages | Cancer.Net. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/breast-cancer/stages.
  10. Hortobagyi, G. N., Edge, S. B. & Giuliano, A. New and Important Changes in the TNM Staging System for Breast Cancer. Am. Soc. Clin. Oncol. Educ. B. 38, 457–467 (2018).
  11. Riis, M. Modern surgical treatment of breast cancer. Annals of Medicine and Surgery vol. 56 95–107 (2020).
  12. Castaneda, S. A. & Strasser, J. Updates in the Treatment of Breast Cancer with Radiotherapy. Surgical Oncology Clinics of North America vol. 26 371–382 (2017).
  13. Bhattacharya, S. & Asaithamby, A. Repurposing DNA repair factors to eradicate tumor cells upon radiotherapy. Translational Cancer Research vol. 6 S822–S839 (2017).
  14. Boyages, J. Radiation therapy and early breast cancer: Current controversies. Med. J. Aust. 207, 216–222 (2017).
  15. Anampa, J., Makower, D. & Sparano, J. A. Progress in adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer: An overview. BMC Medicine vol. 13 (2015).
  16. Redden, M. H. & Fuhrman, G. M. Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy in the Treatment of Breast Cancer. Surgical Clinics of North America vol. 93 493–499 (2013).
  17. Grunfeld, E. A. et al. Chemotherapy for advanced breast cancer: What influences oncologists’ decision-making? Br. J. Cancer 84, 1172–1178 (2001).
  18. Bagnyukova, T. et al. Chemotherapy and signaling: How can targeted therapies supercharge cytotoxic agents? Cancer Biology and Therapy vol. 10 839–853 (2010).
  19. Su, H., Gao, Y. J. & Zhang, C. X. Advances in targeted therapy of breast cancer. J. Dalian Med. Univ. 35, 496–501 (2013).
  20. Puhalla, S., Bhattacharya, S. & Davidson, N. E. Hormonal therapy in breast cancer: A model disease for the personalization of cancer care. Molecular Oncology vol. 6 222–236 (2012).
  21. Pernas, S. & Tolaney, S. M. HER2-positive breast cancer: new therapeutic frontiers and overcoming resistance. Therapeutic Advances in Medical Oncology vol. 11 (2019).
  22. Chan, C. W. H., Law, B. M. H., So, W. K. W., Chow, K. M. & Waye, M. M. Y. Novel strategies on personalized medicine for breast cancer treatment: An update. International Journal of Molecular Sciences vol. 18 (2017).
  23. Gonzalez, H., Hagerling, C. & Werb, Z. Roles of the immune system in cancer: From tumor initiation to metastatic progression. Genes and Development vol. 32 1267–1284 (2018).
  24. Soysal, S. D., Tzankov, A. & Muenst, S. E. Role of the Tumor Microenvironment in Breast Cancer. Pathobiology vol. 82 142–152 (2015).
  25. Fisusi, F. A. & Akala, E. O. Drug Combinations in Breast Cancer Therapy. Pharm. Nanotechnol. 7, 3–23 (2019).
  26. Kolak, A. et al. Primary and secondary prevention of breast cancer. Ann. Agric. Environ. Med. 24, 549–553 (2017).
  27. Pace, L. E. & Keating, N. L. A systematic assessment of benefits and risks to guide breast cancer screening decisions. JAMA – Journal of the American Medical Association vol. 311 1327–1335 (2014).
  28. Roth, M. Y. et al. Self-detection remains a key method of breast cancer detection for U.S. women. J. Women’s Heal. 20, 1135–1139 (2011).
  29. Rousset-Jablonski, C. & Gompel, A. Screening for familial cancer risk: Focus on breast cancer. Maturitas vol. 105 69–77 (2017).
  30. Support Groups. https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/comp_med/types/group.
  31. Cipolletta, S., Simonato, C. & Faccio, E. The effectiveness of psychoeducational support groups for women with breast cancer and their caregivers: A mixed methods study. Front. Psychol. 10, (2019).
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Eating Healthy Really Can Prevent Cancer

Did you know that eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important way to protect yourself from cancer? Putting the right kinds of food into your body can provide you with the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to keep you healthy and strong. To help build your defense against cancer, focus on eating some of these cancer-fighting foods that may already be in your kitchen.

Foods That Help Fight Cancer

The National Cancer Institute does not recommend any dietary supplement for the prevention or treatment of cancer. However these foods have shown potential for reducing the risk of developing cancer due to their cancer-fighting properties.

Leafy Green Vegetables

Leafy green vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, while remaining very low in calories, sodium, and fat. Greens such as spinach, kale, collard greens, swiss chard, leaf lettuce, and romaine lettuce, are known to combat a variety of cancers including skin cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer, and breast cancer. Because they are also rich in carotenoids, the plant pigments that act as antioxidants in the body, leafy greens are also thought to be good at battling cancers of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, radishes, and even wasabi, contain fiber, folate and vitamins C, E, and K. They also get their strong smell and bitter flavor from substances known as glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing chemicals. Adding vegetables like these to your diet can help boost your body’s protective enzymes and flush out cancer-causing chemicals.

Cruciferous veggies are considered to be most useful in reducing the risk of developing bladder cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, prostate, skin cancer, and breast cancer.

Garlic

Garlic is a staple ingredient that has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes around the world. Protective effects from garlic may arise from its antibacterial properties or from its ability to block the formation of cancer-causing substances, enhance DNA repair, reduce cell proliferation, or induce cell death. Garlic is most useful in fighting against breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, esophageal cancer, and stomach cancer.

Most people take garlic in the form of a supplement rather than eating bulbs of garlic. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines for general health promotion for adults is one of the following:

  • a daily dose of 2 to 5 g of fresh garlic (approximately one clove)
  • 0.4 to 1.2 g of dried garlic powder
  • 2 to 5 mg of garlic oil
  • 300 to 1,000 mg of garlic extract
  • or other formulations that are equal to 2 to 5 mg of allicin

Tomatoes

While tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamins C and A, it’s the lycopene, the pigment that gives red tomatoes their color, that has been studied for its cancer-fighting effects. Antioxidants, such as lycopene, destroy damaging free radicals, which can attach your your cells and hurt your immune system. Although the evidence suggests that foods containing lycopene, including tomatoes, likely offer cancer protection, the American Institute for Cancer Research stresses the importance of eating a variety of plant foods. No single food can effectively lower cancer risk, so it is important to eat a variety of healthy foods so you can gain the most benefit in fighting cancer.

Lycopene in tomatoes is believe to be most helpful in fighting endometrial cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer.

Berries

Raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, and berries of every color are good sources of vitamin C and fiber. They are also rich in antioxidants and ellagic acid, which help block free radicals and deactivate specific carcinogens (cancer causing agents) that can lead to cancer growth. Berries have been found to be useful in fighting colorectal cancer, esophageal cancer, skin cancer, and oral cancer.

These are just a handful of foods that will help you maintain an overall healthy diet which is recommended to fight cancer. To learn more about what foods make for healthy choices, you can visit the American Cancer Society’s Basic Ingredients for a Healthy Kitchen. Consume all things in moderation, even healthy foods, and include a wide variety of healthy foods in your daily intake, not just those listed here.

Foods That Can Cause Cancer

Animal Fats

Not all meats and dairy products are bad for you, however, the ones that contain saturated fats can be. Consider choosing low-fat versions of meats and cheeses, and steer clear of processed meats whenever you can which tend to be higher in fat, nitrates and other preservatives.

Alcohol

The less alcohol you drink, the lower the risk of cancer. It doesn’t matter whether it’s beer, wine, or spirits–too much alcohol can impair your body’s ability to fight disease. The National Cancer Institute recommends that women have no more than one drink per day and men have no more than two drinks per day. Excessive alcohol consumption can put you at an increased risk of mouth cancer, esophagus cancer, breast cancer, and liver cancer.

Charred Meats

When high-temperature methods, such as grilling, are used to cook meats like beef, pork, fish, and poultry, certain DNA-damaging chemicals, called HCAs and PAHs can form. Although it is still unclear whether such exposure causes cancer in humans, the cancer that it has been found to cause in animals indicates that it may be best to avoid foods that are highly charred (black from heat exposure).

There are many other foods that researchers are still studying to determine whether they may contribute to the development of cancer or help reduce your risk of cancer. If you have questions regarding how to prevent cancer, it’s best to consult your doctor. The team at Maryland Oncology Hematology is always ready to help patients find healthy food options they can enjoy both now and after cancer treatment. For more information, contact us, or visit us at one of our 12 locations including Annapolis,  Bethesda, Brandywine, Clinton, Columbia, Frederick, Lanham, Laurel, Mt. Airy, Rockville at Aquilino Cancer Center and Silver Spring at White Oak Cancer Center.

For more information on cancer prevention you can visit the following blogs:

Sources:

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What are Complementary Therapies, and What Can They Do for Cancer Patients?

Complementary therapies are products and/or practices that differ from standard medical care provided by your oncologists. These non-traditional methods are in no way meant to replace cancer treatment. They’re called complementary because they are meant to work alongside your cancer treatment in hopes of relieving symptoms and side effects, relieving pain, and improving quality of life.

Complementary therapies typically concentrate on relaxation and reducing stress. Many of these types of therapies may help calm emotions, relieve anxiety, reduce nausea, minimize pain, provide extra energy, and increase overall health and well being.

Many cancer patients feel as though complementary therapies leave them with a little more control over their health as they go through cancer treatment. They also tend to appreciate that complementary therapies do not require additional medicines. When the symptoms and side effects of your cancer treatment are difficult to cope with, these alternative approaches can be supportive in bringing relief. Before adding any complementary therapy to your current treatment, however, it is important to talk with your cancer specialist.

There are many different types of complementary therapy. Be sure to tell your therapist or instructor that you are a cancer patient before you start any complementary therapy. This is important information that could impact what they recommend for you.

Complementary therapies include, but are not limited to:

  • Aromatherapy and Essential Oils: The use of essential oils either by inhalation or topical application. Oils can aid in reducing anxiety, nausea, depression, and pain. Be sure you receive instruction before applying any oils to your skin.
  • Acupuncture: The practice of applying needles, heat, pressure, and other treatments to one or more places on the skin known as acupuncture points. It can be effective for cancer treatment side effects such as nausea and vomiting, pain, and fatigue.
  • Chiropractic: A chiropractor can provide hands-on manipulation of the spine (adjustment) that can help with stresses cancer treatment has put on the musculoskeletal system, which can increase mobility, flexibility, strength, and function. It may also help relieve nausea, fatigue, headaches, and other body pains in the back and neck area.
  • Herbal supplements: May help strengthen the immune system and ease the side effects of cancer treatment. These can interact with medicines being used for cancer treatment and should always be discussed with your cancer care team before using.
  • Massage therapy: A hands-on method of manipulating the soft tissues of the body that can promote relaxation and help with pain, fatigue, immune function.
  • Guided Imagery (Visualization): A technique that focuses and directs the imagination toward a specific goal. Practicing this may be able to reduce feelings of depression and increase feelings of well-being. The University of Michigan provides a free guided imagery audio library.
  • Art or music therapy: Creative arts that promote a better quality of life by aiding in the reduction of depression, anxiety, and pain. It can also be a positive outlet for emotional expression.
  • Yoga: Yoga connects the mind and body through movement and meditation. Yoga can help improve quality of life by relieving both physical and emotional stress.
  • Support groups: Group meetings can help cancer patients cope. Having emotional support can help improve both quality of life and survival.

In most cases, cancer doctors are very supportive of their patients using complementary therapies. This is typically because they have seen people cope better with the cancer and its treatment.

Again, it isn’t recommended that complementary therapies replace cancer treatment. They are simply meant to be used in conjunction with the current cancer treatment. Talking with your cancer specialist can help find the right balance between the complementary therapies and traditional treatments you are receiving for your cancer. Our oncologist at Maryland Oncology Hematology are able to talk you through these complementary cancer therapies, as well as additional methods of therapy that may be best for your cancer care. If you are in Maryland or the Washington D.C. area, you can schedule a consultation by picking the Maryland Oncology Hematology location that’s most convenient to you and calling to make an appointment.

Sources:

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The Importance of Genetic Testing in Cancer Research

It’s common for cancer patients and their families to feel helpless, as if their futures and those of their loved ones are entirely dependent on physicians and medications. Genetic testing is one way for cancer patients and their relatives to regain a sense of control over the horrible disease, and make a valuable contribution toward improving cancer detection, new cancer treatments and understanding cancer prevention methods.

One of the most effective ways for cancer researchers to learn why a type of cancer occurs (an important step in discovering new cancer treatments) is to study the genes of cancer patients and those who share their DNA profile.

How is Genetic Testing used to Advance Cancer Research?

When researchers study the genes from a large sampling of individuals who have or are susceptible to certain cancers, they’re able to detect patterns, or genetic markers. This information can be used to predict the likelihood that someone will develop a disease, as well as to develop cancer screening tests, prevention protocols and various cancers treatments.

Because of cancer genetic testing, researchers from the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics (DCEG) have made important discoveries that have advanced cancer research and cancer treatment. For example:

  • Researchers studying the genes of a patient with nevoid basal-cell carcinoma syndrome identified the gene responsible for the skin cancer. That finding culminated in the first U.S. Food & Drug Administration-approved biological agent therapy for advanced and metastatic basal cell skin cancer.
  • Researchers studying breast cancer patients’ genes discovered that a gene mutation on the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene increases the likelihood of developing the disease. Today, people who discover they have this gene have the option of choosing elective mastectomies to reduce their risks of breast cancer.
  • Researchers studying the genes of dyskeratosis congenita patients discovered that 60 percent have the same genetic mutation. That finding led to a new diagnostic test for the disease and new criteria for evaluating potential bone-marrow donors.
  • Researchers studying monoclonal B-cell lymphomatosis patients discovered that the disease is a precursor for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). That finding paved the way for screening tests now used to diagnosis CLL in its early stages, which allows patients to begin treatment before the disease advances.

The research continues. DCEG researchers are currently conducting several studies, including:

  • Studies of melanoma-prone families to search for “melanoma susceptibility” genes.
  • Studies of patients with a group of rare genetic blood disorders known as inherited bone marrow failure syndromes to learn how these cancers develop.
  • Studies of children with a rare lung tumor, pleuropulmonary blastoma, to determine if changes in a particular gene contribute to this lung cancer.

Genetic testing isn’t foolproof, but it is a powerful tool for cancer patients who want to contribute to science, and individuals who want to assess their risks.

How Is Genetic Testing Conducted?

Most physicians require a patient to undergo genetic counseling before undergoing genetic testing for cancer because the results of your cancer genetic test may yield unwelcome news, and patients should be prepared.

In most cases, the process of undergoing genetic testing is surprisingly simple and painless. Typically, the person being tested provides either:

  • A blood sample (usually several tubes taken from a vein in your arm)
  • A sample of DNA obtained from saliva, skin cells or cheek cells (obtained by swabbing the inside of the cheek)
  • Genetic testing for a fetus may require the mother to have an amniocentesis, although non-invasive prenatal tests are also available

The sample is sent to a genetic testing laboratory for analysis, where they will determine your sample to be positive, negative or inconclusive. Within two – three weeks, the detailed results will be sent to the physician of genetic counselor who ordered the testing.

Can anyone be Candidate for Cancer Research Genetic Testing?

Genetic testing leads to genetic screening tests. Individuals with family histories of certain types of cancer (such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, and others) who are interested in learning if they possess a certain hereditary gene mutation — and who are mentally prepared for the possibility of a positive result — are candidates for genetic testing.

Features suggestive of hereditary cancers include:

  • Any individual diagnosed with cancer prior to age 50
  • Any individual who has developed more than one cancer
  • Any individual with a rare type of cancer (ovarian, male breast cancer, pancreatic)
  • An individual with two or more family members diagnosed with the same cancer
  • A family member with an identifiable gene mutation known to increase the risk of cancer
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry with a personal or family history of  cancer

Individuals who already have cancer and want to contribute to research that could lead to advances in detection and treatments are also candidates.

If you or someone in your family thinks they need to have cancer genetic testing performed, it is important to review our Genetic Risk Assessment section with your doctor or genetic counselor, or if you are located in the Maryland or Washington DC area, schedule an appointment with the Maryland Oncology Hematology team for a more in depth discussion.

Sources:

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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Cancer Patients

Making and implementing New Year’s resolutions that can improve your lifestyle while undergoing cancer treatment can seem too difficult to tackle. But it can be done! Working towards maximizing your emotional and physical strength during this time is an excellent goal with long-term benefits.

There are several ways you can improve your lifestyle, helping you to better cope with the challenges involved in battling cancer. Here are five ideas and how you can incorporate them into your routine this new year.

1. Regular Exercise

For many cancer patients, the idea of following an exercise program while you’re going through cancer treatment is overwhelming. But even small amounts of exercise – such as walking around the block or 15 minutes of yoga – will provide long-term benefits.

According to the American Cancer Society, research shows that exercise is safe for most cancer patients. Planning exercise into your daily routine can help with how you feel physically and emotionally. Patients reported:

  • Better physical functioning
  • Less fatigue
  • Less anxiety

If you are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer treatment, you should begin an exercise program at a lower intensity and build it gradually. The National Cancer Comprehensive Network urges patients to engage in a moderate workout program such as a daily walk combined with strength training using light weights. Moderate exercise is proven to boost immunity, which is essential for patients battling cancer.

If you regularly exercised before cancer treatment, try not to compare your current pace and workout intensity to what you used to do. Listen to your body and be as consistent as you can.

2. Engage in Meditation

Meditation is recommended for cancer patients because it helps manage anxiety, sleep problems, pain, high blood pressure, and fatigue. You can choose from several methods of meditation – a few examples are: mindfulness meditation, focused meditation, or prayerful meditation. Although side effects of these techniques are rare, experts say patients should inform their oncologist of any complementary therapies, such as meditation, before starting. There are resources for helping you learn how to meditate if this is something new to you. The Mindfulness Center and Hope Connections for Cancer Support, both in the Bethesda area, offer programs that can help you with understanding how to use meditation to produce benefits during and after cancer treatment.

3. Follow a Nutritious Diet

Food may not always sound good, or side effects of treatment can make it hard to eat. But taking in the right amount of calories is still really important for keeping up your strength and maintaining a healthy weight. What you eat while going through cancer treatment may be a little different from your typical diet, but try to keep it as nutritious as possible.

When possible, select healthy sources of fat including avocado, olive oil, nuts and fish such as salmon. Stay away from trans fats and foods high in cholesterol, such as processed snacks, fast food, and shortening. Here are a few suggestions that can help you with following a healthy diet during cancer treatment and beyond:

  • Eat protein every day. It will help you feel full, maintain your strength and rebuild tissue during your cancer treatments. This might include nuts, yogurt, cheese, or eggs.
  • The American Cancer Society suggests eating at least 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day, including citrus fruits and dark-green and deep-yellow vegetables. Colorful vegetables and fruits and plant-based foods contain many natural health-promoting substances. During cancer treatment try to cook vegetables before eating them.
  • Use liquid meal replacements if it’s hard to get the right amount of nutrients every day. This is especially helpful if you have dry mouth.
  • Try eating smaller meals more often so that you can keep up your strength without feeling overly full. Keeping food in your stomach can also counter nausea.

If you find that some of your favorite foods don’t taste quite right during cancer treatment, that’s OK. Eat healthy foods that taste good and make sure to keep them stocked up in the house.

4. Cultivate an “Attitude of Gratitude”

Because of the mind-body connection, a grateful, positive attitude can make a decided difference in how you feel. Thankfulness helps people deal with adversity and is consistently linked to greater happiness. Cure Today magazine encourages cancer patients to find three things each day for which they are grateful. Write them down so you can revisit them when times are hard. This habit will grow stronger the more you engage in it.

5. Let Others Help You

You don’t often hear of resolutions that include “allowing others to help me.” But as a cancer survivor, this is something that you can commit to trying. It’s not only good for you but gives your family members and friends a way to feel like they are helping you. It can also help you avoid feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Allow loved ones to bring you a meal or stop by, even if your house isn’t in perfect order. Joining a cancer support group may also be helpful. These organizations offer the opportunity to share feelings with people who can understand and relate to your situation, and you can do the same for them. Studies show belonging to such groups makes cancer patients feel more hopeful and less anxious. They are available in person and online.

Maryland has an array of cancer support organizations, such as those offered by the Baltimore Cancer Support Group, Hope Connections for Cancer Support, The Mindfulness Center in Bethesda, and the Cancer Support Community. Your oncology team can put you in touch with those who can provide an additional list of cancer support groups available in the Maryland and Washington D.C. communities, even groups that might be for your specific type of cancer.

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Managing the Holidays with Cancer

Even people in perfect health often feel exhausted and overwhelmed during the holiday season; that feeling is often magnified when you’re battling cancer. You may not have the stamina to battle Black Friday crowds, deck the halls and entertain as lavishly as you have in years past, and that’s OK. If you’re a cancer patient try not to overexert yourself, but don’t isolate yourself either. Here are some ways cancer patients can manage and even enjoy the holidays while undergoing or recovering from cancer treatment.

Accept Help

When you were diagnosed with cancer and going through cancer treatment, you were probably inundated with offers of help and support. Now is the time to accept those offers. Whether you need help hanging Christmas lights or wrapping gifts, don’t hesitate to ask friends, neighbors and family members for help. Most people will feel honored that you asked, and you’ll probably enjoy both their help and their company.

Tweak Traditions

It’s easy to become caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and become overwhelmed. This year, try to focus on the underlying reason for your traditions: Celebrating relationships and enjoying spending time with loved ones. If your tradition involves gathering the family for Christmas dinner, you can achieve that without spending hours in the kitchen. Ask each guest to bring a dish and have a pot-luck, have the meal catered, meet at one of the many wonderful restaurants in Maryland, or move the dinner to someone else’s house.

Let Your Fingers Do the Shopping

One of the most daunting aspects of the holidays is battling traffic and crowds to buy gifts. You certainly don’t have to buy gifts. However, if you want to consider shopping online. You’ll save time and energy, and you’ll probably also save money. Visit sites such as Retailmenot.comOffers.com, and freeshipping.org for online coupon codes. Another benefit of online shopping is that many sites offer a gift wrapping option. You can buy your gift and arrange to have it wrapped and shipped directly to your loved one.

Carve Out Time for Yourself

It’s easy to become overwhelmed during the holidays, so take care of yourself by taking breaks to recharge your batteries. Take a walk, take a bath, or take a nap. This is a good idea for cancer patients, even when it’s not the holidays. But it’s almost critical during the holiday season.

If it becomes clear the festivities will carry on into the wee hours, it’s OK to excuse yourself and make an early exit. If you’ve accepted an invitation but aren’t feeling well, feel free to send your regrets at the last minute. The holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint. Make your health top priority, and those around you will understand.

You Don’t Have to be Cheerful All the Time

When you have cancer, that fact is always on your mind. For most people, the holiday season is a time for reflection. As a cancer patient, it’s only natural that you’ll mourn your life before cancer and feel anxiety about the future. Anger, sadness and frustration are common, understandable emotions that don’t go away during the holidays. Express your feelings, as your honesty gives your loved ones permission to express their feelings, too. Cancer is a terrible disease, and it’s cathartic to acknowledge that. It’s OK to laugh and to cry.

Celebrate Life, Love and Happiness

You may have cancer, but cancer does not define you. Celebrate and enjoy your life. Whether you spend time with friends and loved ones, volunteer to help others or meditate in preparation for a brand new year, take time during the holiday season to celebrate all the wonderful things about your life, and know that our cancer specialist at Maryland Oncology Hematology are here to help you.

 

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Men: Are You at Risk For Prostate Cancer?

Every man and those who love him should know how to prevent prostate cancer. This is because a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer every three minutes. Fortunately, thanks to strides in cancer research and cancer clinical trials, this disease is often preventable and has a very high survival rate, if detected in the early stages.

Who is at a higher risk of getting prostate cancer?

Some men have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer, but that doesn’t seem that they will develop the disease. Also, it is possible that a man with several risk factors will never develop the disease.

These risk factors include:

  • Age

The chances of developing prostate cancer drastically increase when a man turns 50. However, over half the cancer cases are discovered in men who are 65 or older. It is rare for a male under the age of 40 to develop prostate cancer; however, it can happen.

  • Genetics and Family History

Most prostate cancer occur in men without a family history, but there are some links that suggest their are inherited factors in developing prostate cancer. Discuss your family medical history with your doctor to help determine if you should have a genetic cancer risk assessment. If you have a family history of prostate cancer or many of the risk factors be sure talk to your doctor about things you can do to lower your risks.

  • Geographic Location

North Americans have a slightly higher risk than men in many other parts of the world. The reasons for this are still unknown, but are believed to be related to the more advanced screening methods in the United States.

  • Race

Race is another factor; your chances of dying from prostate cancer are over two times higher if you are a Caribbean man of African descent or African-American male. Studies indicate that this is because a high majority of African-American males have one or two copies of a genetic variant, which is a variation in the DNA sequence of their genomes. Also making them more than two-times more likely to die from the disease than white men.

It is best to be aware of risk factors and seek help with your doctor if you notice any abnormal changes.

How do you lower your risk of prostate cancer?

The success in treating prostate cancer has also provided more knowledge on how to lower our risks of prostate cancer. While there are many factors, such as genes, age and race, that we aren’t able to control; there are a few factors that we can control to help lower risks, including:

  • Schedule a physical with your doctor each year. This is important because the beginning stages of prostate cancer have few or no symptoms. An annual physical can help detect the disease in the earliest stages.
  • Eating a healthy diet that includes at least 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables each day. Vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, and cauliflower are especially good.
  • Avoiding obesity by keeping your body at a healthy weight.
  • Exercising on a regular basis.
  • Avoid smoking, or quit if you already smoke.
  • Talk to your doctor. If you feel that you are at a greater risk to develop prostate cancer, talk to your doctor about additional vitamins, mineral, or medications that you can take to help lower your risks.

Talk to your healthcare provider about what’s best for you and to schedule your yearly prostate cancer screening. However, increased urination or a weaker flow of urine can be signs of advanced prostate cancer, and while these problems can also be caused by other problems that have nothing to do with cancer, we recommend making an appointment to see your doctor about these symptoms. There are tests can detect prostate cancer in its earliest stages, whether or not you have any symptoms. If the test result is abnormal, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the disease. Your doctor will conduct other tests to find out for sure.

For help with this disease in the Maryland and Washington, D.C., area, contact us to make an appointment with one of our prostate cancer specialists. Our staff members are up-to-date on the latest clinical trials and cancer research and will help you choose the best treatment option to successfully battle this disease.

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What Is Head and Neck Cancer?

Head and neck cancers, as you may have guessed, affect areas of the head and neck. These cancers aren’t common (they account for about 3% of all malignant cancers in the United States). And, according to the National Cancer Institute, head and neck cancer diagnosis have been declining for decades. So have mortality rates.

Continue reading “What Is Head and Neck Cancer?”

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