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8 Things to Know about Cancer-Related Fatigue

Posted on in Cancer

Medically reviewed by Rommel Lu, MD

Cancer patients often feel tired physically, mentally and emotionally.  Not surprising, given the struggle and stress of testing, surgery, radiation therapy and the attack of chemotherapy on cancer cells. “X-rays and lab tests can’t tell us about a cancer patient’s fatigue,” Says McLeod Oncologist Dr. Rommel Lu.  “It’s the patients who tell us. They complain of heaviness in arms and legs. They also have trouble concentrating and completing everyday tasks. They might be irritable and take less care in their personal appearance. Knowing more about the problem can help cancer patients deal with their fatigue.”

Medically reviewed by Dr. T. Rhett Spencer

Bulky machines sit in a darkened room.  A bed stretches into the inside of the machine. It may buzz or hum. These machines that direct radiation into cancer are one of the most effective ways to kill, control or shrink tumors. External Beam Radiation Therapy, Radiotherapy or Cancer Radiation Therapy uses the large machines to generate high energy, highly targeted x-ray, cobalt or particle beams. The beams are focused to hit the tumors inside the body, disrupting the DNA in the tumor. The goal is to kill the tumor cells so that the body sloughs them off. Treatments are generally painless and the machine doesn’t touch the patient nor does it make the patient radioactive. 

Stages of Cancer: What You Need to Know

Posted on in Cancer

Medically reviewed by Dr. Rajesh Bajaj 

“How bad is it?” After the doctor says “cancer,” a patient’s mind is flooded with a thousand questions. For most patients – “How bad is it?” – is the most urgent question. “Over the years, a number of different methods have been used to determine the answer to this question,” says McLeod Oncologist Dr. Rajesh Bajaj.  “Today, most cancer specialists use the TNM system to determine the stage of the cancer.  The TNM system helps the specialists determine the type of treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy) and predict the chances of recovery or recurrence.” At its simplest “T” stands for tumor, “N” stands for lymph nodes and “M” stands for metastasis (cancer that has spread to another part of the body).

Chemotherapy – Fighting Cancer with 100+ Chemicals

Posted on in Cancer

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Sreenivas Rao

Along with surgery and radiation therapy, chemotherapy – the use of powerful drugs to attack cancer cells – is one of the main treatments available to cancer patients. “Chemotherapy involves using a specific drug or one combination of several of the more than 100 now used, depending on the specific goal of treatment,” says McLeod Oncologist Dr. Sreenivas Rao.  “Not only is the specific mix of drugs important, but also the order in which the patient receives the drugs is critical. Sometimes chemo is given alone. Other times, it’s part of the treatment along with surgery or radiation therapy.”

Medically Reviewed by John T. Atkins, MD

Let’s be honest: Smoking causes lung cancer. About 90% of lung cancers are caused by smoking. The more cigarettes you smoke a day and the younger you started smoking, the greater your risk of lung cancer. In South Carolina, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths – accounting for more victims each year than breast, prostate and pancreatic cancer combined.

Patients with childhood acute leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease and testicular cancer all have something in common:  Cures for their cancers were developed through clinical trials.

Clinical trials can focus on diagnosis, screening and prevention. However, most of us think of clinical trials in the context of potential new treatments.  Patients who exhaust standard treatments in surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy often explore participation in clinical trials, where they can gain access to promising new treatments not generally available elsewhere.

A tidal wave of emotion, fear and confusion. 

“When a person hears the word cancer they’re often overwhelmed. Their lives are filled with unfamiliar medical terminology, appointments, tests, and life-or-death decisions about their prognosis,” says McLeod Oncology Navigator Maureen Byrd, RN, BSN. “It’s at this point that the patient may benefit from the support of a nurse or social worker -- someone who understands their disease and can help them navigate through their cancer journey.”

Surgical Options for Lung Cancer

Posted on in Cancer

Medically Reviewed by
Gregory Jones, MD

“If the lung cancer is contained at an early stage and the patient has a good heart and lung reserve, removing a section of the lung, as well as dissecting out lymph nodes, is pretty much the standard of care,” says McLeod Cardiothoracic Surgeon Gregory Jones, MD. “Plus, surgeons are pushing ahead with less invasive procedures, including video-assisted platforms and small incisions in places that can spare muscles and nerves.”

Healthcare Ratings: How They Stack Up.

Posted on in Cancer

Over the years, most people have relied on recommendations from friends and family when choosing a doctor or hospitals. With the rise of the Internet, easily and often accessed by health consumers, ratings and rankings boomed. To be an informed consumer, it’s good to understand what information each rating uses and how it is compiled. Here’s a brief overview.

Organizations compile their ratings with different information, from different sources with different formulas to make the data consumer-friendly. Here are the most common ways in which ratings are generated:

New Mammography Study: Too Much Mammography? No!

Posted on in Cancer

Medically Reviewed by
Noel Phipps, MD

In early February 2014, the Canadian National Breast Cancer Study published an article in the British Medical Journal, essentially saying, “Long-term follow-up does not support (mammogram) screening in women under 60.”

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.”

5 Breast Cancer Myths And the Truth You Need to Know

Posted on in Cancer

“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?


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. 

Questions To Ask Your Oncologist About Your Cancer.

Posted on in Cancer

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 Treatment Options

Posted on in Cancer

“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.

You've Been Diagnosed With Cancer, Now What?

Posted on in Cancer

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:

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