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Within a few years of the discovery of X-rays in 1896, cancer patients were being “treated” with radiation therapy. Multiple radiation treatments were often needed, usually combined with surgery. Side effects included hair loss and damage to tissues and organs near the cancer.
Radiotherapy Improves Its Aim
Fatigue, Nausea, Hair Loss…and More. Many Bumps on the Road of Your Cancer Journey
The punch in your belly from a cancer diagnosis is followed by a tidal wave of emotions and questions. How to tell your family, your friends, your boss? Then, come decisions on treatment options. It’s not an easy road to travel. Understanding what to expect can help with your decisions and your journey.
Actor Robert DeNiro continues to star in movies following a 2003 battle with prostate cancer. “The Talk” co-host Sharon Osbourne (Ozzie’s wife) underwent chemotherapy and surgery in 2002 for colon cancer. Singer Melissa Etheridge continues to record and perform after her 2004 battle with breast cancer. These celebrities are an example of the new world of cancer patients -- a world we know as SURVIVORS. You can be one, too….with the right care and treatment.
“Of the many questions you face after a cancer diagnosis, one is the most important: How does an average cancer patient, like me, find the right place to go for treatment?,” observes McLeod Oncologist Dr. Michael Pavy. “If I faced cancer, here are 7 items I’d look at when considering places to seek cancer therapy and treatment.”
“There are so many myths about breast cancer that it is difficult to narrow down the list,” says McLeod Oncologist Dr. Rommel Lu. “Plastic surgery, the BRCA1/BRCA2 gene, and underwire bras are just a few of the ‘issues’ people have misunderstandings about that we do NOT address here. Checking with the Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation or the American Cancer Society are good reference sources for you.”
Here are some of the most common myths:
When actress Angelina Jolie had her highly publicized mastectomy, she had breast reconstruction surgery at the same time. The decision to have breast reconstruction is becoming a more common decision among the 296,000 women annually who face breast cancer.
“The patient faces a whole range of options,” says Dr. Dominic Heffel of McLeod Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. “The simplest is to do nothing. They can do something that uses an implant or we can use some of their own tissue to rebuild the breast.”
“When it comes to discovering breast cancer, a woman can do a self-exam, looking for lumps or changes in the size or shape of the breast,” says Radiologist Dr. Noel Phipps, Medical Director of McLeod Breast Imaging. “Also, a physician or nurse can perform a clinical breast exam, feeling for lumps or other changes. Or the gold standard for diagnosing breast cancer is the mammogram. But the questions many women face are 1) when should I start getting mammograms and 2) how often should I get a mammogram?”
WHAT IS A MAMMOGRAM?
“If there can be any good news about Cancer Treatment, this is it: You may be encouraged to add foods to your diet that most of us are cautioned to avoid,” says McLeod Registered Dietitian Kitty Finklea. “Cancer can change the way your body uses food. And loss of appetite is a common side effect of chemo and radiation therapy.”
In addition to appetite loss, cancer patients may experience nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, changes in taste or smell and an allergy to dairy products (lactose intolerance). Not everyone has the same side effects, even if they are taking the same treatments.
Much like winners in the TV game show “Jeopardy,” a cancer patient’s chances for success are greatly increased by putting their concerns in the form of a question. In fact, one recent study has shown that patients WANT to ask questions about and be more involved in decisions about their care.
“We know from experience that patients want to be engaged in the decisions about their care,” says McLeod Oncologist Dr. Michael Pavy. “For many cancer patients, the diagnosis signals a loss of control over their life. Not only does involvement in treatment decisions give a person back some sense of control, but also it’s truly the best approach we cancer specialists can take.”
“Cancer is not one disease,” says McLeod Cancer Committee Chair Dr. Rajesh Bajaj. “In fact, it is a group of perhaps thousands of different diseases, which have some common characteristics. For this reason, cancer treatments are very complex and increasingly personalized.”
Although each patient’s treatment must be calculated uniquely, the options fall into three main categories: Medications, Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy.
Hearing the words “You have breast cancer” (or any kind of cancer) can be emotionally destructive. You hear the words but your mind is overcome by a tidal wave of questions and feelings. Denial. Helplessness. What if’s? What now’s? Even “take charge” people can be thrown into shock and depression – their thoughts and lives brought to a screeching halt.
Here are some practical tips to help you take back control over your emotions and your life after your doctor has confirmed a breast cancer diagnosis. Start with the one important realization:
“It is not easy talking to someone who has a life-threatening health issue, even for those of us who deal with it every day,” says McLeod Oncologist, Dr. Sreenivas Rao. “So, we understand how difficult you find it when faced with a friend or family member who is a cancer patient. This article includes some suggestions and some straight talk directly from cancer survivors.”
First, be a good listener. Be respectful. Don’t be scared of silence. Don’t avoid their situation. That would be rude.
“Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide,” says Dr. Vinod Jona, a pulmonologist with McLeod Pulmonary and Critical Care Associates. “It is also the second most common type of cancer disease (next to breast cancer) that we see in this region of South Carolina.”
Despite being so common, lung cancer is surrounded by a cloud of misunderstandings and myths. Here we will try to clarify a few.
“My whole life has been about changing negatives into positives.” Actress and cancer survivor Fran Drescher from her book Cancer Schmancer.
Drescher is just one of many famous cancer survivors. The list includes TV anchormen (CBS’s Bob Schieffer), rock musicians (Eddie Van Halen), professional golfers (Paul Azinger), politicians (former New York Mayor Rudi Guliani), and actors (Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, and Mandy Patinkin).