Woman Donates Bells to Swedish Cancer Institute on the Issaquah Campus for Patients to Ring in Celebration of Treatment Milestones
ISSAQUAH, Nov. 1, 2012 - A Snoqualmie-area resident treated for her cancer at Swedish/ssaquah recently donated two large, wall-mounted bells to the Cancer Institute at that campus. Cancer patients who reach treatment milestones and/or finish their treatment can ring them as a way to signal and celebrate the momentous occassions.
As lung cancer awareness month approaches us in November, we think about what lung cancer risk means to ourselves, friends, family members, and our patients. Many don’t know that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., far surpassing the rates of other cancers like breast, colon, and prostate.
What’s the risk of getting lung cancer?
The health risks from cigarette smoking are considerable and pose the largest risk for lung cancer; more than any other risk factors combined. Men who smoke are at 23 x the increased risk and women at 16 x the risk for lung cancer. This lung cancer risk is directly correlated with the concentration of (numbers of cigarettes smoked each day) X (number of years smoked).
Fortunately, the number of those who have quit smoking is growing, but sadly, more than half of all newly diagnosed lung cancers today are occurring in former smokers or non-smokers. People who have quit smoking remain at continued risk for lung cancer and there is also concern about lung cancer in second-hand smoke exposure.
The positive news on lung cancer is that two large multicenter research trials have been conducted in the past 12 years. The Swedish Cancer Institute was a major study site for one of these trials in association with Seattle Radiology. These trials have very clearly and consistently shown significant benefit in the early detection of lung cancer with low dose CT scan, reducing lung cancer mortality by 20%.
Who should be screened and how?
Understanding who is at risk for lung cancer is helpful but identifying...
Surgeons are often Type A personalities, the ones who sit in the front of the class, who volunteer for everything, who stay scrubbed in the OR all day with appendicitis and do a post-op check before checking themselves into the emergency department (yes, that was me.) As such, surgeons are often dismissive of the subspecialty of breast surgery. The surgeries are not as complex as cardiac bypass surgery or Whipple procedures for pancreatic cancer. In fact, it’s often a rotation for interns. I was a Type A personality. I had no plans to do breast surgery.
Then, a funny thing happened. I had my first son during residency. Planned with military precision, of course, to coincide with the beginning of my designated research years, as I had hoped to squeeze another baby in there somewhere. After his birth, I would breastfeed, because that is what Type A mothers do these days. It’s the best! Of course, I would do the best! However, like many mothers out there, we had an incredibly rocky start. Poor latch with inadequate weight gain. Triple feeding with pumped milk. Cracked nipples leading to mastitis. As a Type A person, I threw myself into research in an effort to solve the problems. Not just the many, many baby books out there, but Medline searches on breastfeeding management. I learned more than I ever had in my surgery textbooks about the breast, the physiology of lactation that is both incredibly simple and enormously complex, and most importantly, miraculous. I was reminded constantly in my reading of the importance of preserving this ability to breastfeed my son, for his and my health, and how challenging that could be.
I would sit in my office, working on surgical infections research, as I pumped and read about normal breasts and infected breasts and cancerous breasts. Antibiotic rotations in ICUs and glucose control became less exciting than being able to offer targeted medical advice to a frustrated friend in Boston, whose refractory mastitis was being met with shrugs from some of her local doctors until we correctly identified MRSA as the source. Maybe it wasn’t saving lives, but it saved her breastfeeding relationship with her child. Who knows, maybe in the end it would be saving lives! I read more ....
If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may wonder if radiation is an option for you.
Radiation is an important pillar of treatment for breast cancer and has never been safer when designed by an experienced team with state of the art technology. Radiation will be part of a standard treatment plan after breast conserving surgery (also called lumpectomy or partial mastectomy). With the addition of radiation to the breast as an insurance policy, patients will do just as well as those undergoing mastectomy. Even after a mastectomy there are indications when radiation to the chest wall and nodes are recommended for best outcome. After a lumpectomy, radiation to the whole breast is the current gold standard.
How does radiation actually work?
Radiation works by aiming it at a target. Free radicals are produced which kill cancer cells, while normal cells have the capability to repair the damage. Cancer cells don’t.
Having the most advanced technology available to precisely plan and deliver radiation to the target will protect healthy tissue for optimal outcomes and the best possible cosmetic result.
How can I make sure I receive the best radiation?
The radiation oncologists treating you should be part of an interdisciplinary team. I, for example, work closely with the patient, the breast surgeons and the medical oncologists. I then design a personalized radiation plan, tailored to the unique characteristics of the tumor and each patient’s personal preferences. The more personalized the treatment the better.
To allow patients to feel their best during and after treatment, I often work with physical therapists, naturopaths, and other support staff (social worker, dietitian etc).
What type of radiation treatment do I need?
Radiation options after a breast conserving surgery can be very confusing. Here is a list that may help you understand the different options:
Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’ve been paying more attention to online blogs about breast cancer and realize there is a lot of information and misinformation out there. How can you know what’s correct, what’s marketing, and what is just plain wrong? Here are some tips:
- Be an aware and questioning reader: Ask yourself some of the following questions. What is the source of the information? Does the author have anything to gain financially from the information? Are there studies that provide data supporting the recommendations? Who funded the studies and were there any potential conflicts of interest?
Investigate more than one source: Healthcare has become very politicized and complicated but you can find reliable sources. But realize even with trusted sources the information provided may be conflicting. Some reliable sources include: Swedish Cancer Institute, Breast Cancer Action, National Cancer Institute, and American Cancer Society.
- Don’t be taken in by conspiracy theorists: I have practiced surgery for 30 years in a variety of situations and healthcare institutions and NEVER have I experienced a desire to withhold effective tests and treatments from patients. Physicians and hospital systems are not suppressing tests, treatments, and /or cures in order to stay in business. I don’t know a breast surgeon who wouldn’t be thrilled to have to practice another specialty if there was a way to prevent breast cancer.
Here are some things that I think it is important to know about breast cancer: