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What you should know about breast cancer and tips for reading online information

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.

  3. 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:

Providing personalized care and individualized treatment plans for patients

Recently, I met with a patient who was diagnosed with localized prostate cancer at a local urology office. He came to Swedish seeking a second opinion for the treatment of his prostate cancer. In doing this, he explained to me that after the diagnosis of his prostate cancer, he was referred to a website to review the available options for the management of prostate cancer and was given very little guidance by the urologist who made the diagnosis. Unfortunately, this is a common scenario in situations where the diagnosing urologist may not have all of the available treatment options at his or her disposal. In discussing this with him afterwards, he felt that the urologist was only interested in making a diagnosis but had no concern over his treatment choice and he felt very confused.

The patient and I sat down together in a 45 minute consultation visit to discuss his diagnosis. As I do with all of my patients recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, we covered the diagnosis, the available treatment options, and the relative risks of each so that he could make an informed decision. I feel fortunate to practice in a place that offers state-of-the-art therapy for prostate cancer by multiple modalities. At Swedish, we have ....

The Role of Cancer Rehabilitation

When learning that you have cancer, it's easy to forget that your body has trillions and trillions of healthy cells. This is true whether the cancer is stage 0 or stage IV. While this may be hard to believe, it is true. Your healthy cells support you in getting through the rigors of treatment. Too often, however, the support that your healthy cells offer is forgotten in the flurry of activities surrounding treatment and the dramatic changes in your everyday life. These changes are not only physical, but emotional, psychological and spiritual. After all, cancer affects the whole person from molecule to spirit.

At the molecular level, your healthy tissues are subjected to profound physiologic demands, demands that take an enormous amount of their energy. Cancer treatments— surgery, chemotherapy, biologic therapies, radiation—are taxing. Athletes need to prepare well for any physically demanding event. Why then, should it be different for cancer survivors? While a far cry from an athletic event, you may be surprised to learn that the same training principles that apply to athletes also apply to cancer survivors. These principles include the correct exercise frequency, intensity, duration and type, tuned individually to your needs as ...

Seattle Times Publishes Guest Column by Swedish-Affiliated Naturopathic Doctor on Myths and Facts about Echinacea and Cold/Flu Season

SEATTLE, Sept. 24, 2012 - On Sunday, Sept. 23 The Seattle Times published a guest-written Health page column by Swedish-affiliated naturopathic physician Dan Labriola, N.D., headlined 'The cold facts about echinacea.'

Issaquah Run Benefits Swedish Cancer Institute In Issaquah: Join Team Swedish Issaquah

The Rotary Club of Issaquah has selected the Swedish Cancer Institute/Issaquah as the primary beneficiary of their 36th annual 5/10K run/walk event.

All of the funds that go to the Swedish Cancer Institute will be put in a special fund for patients being cared for at Swedish/Issaquah. We know this fund will fill a vital need, allowing Swedish to continue to provide charity care and other resources to patients needing the support.

We would love to have a strong showing at the Issaquah Run, so I encourage you to join team Swedish Issaquah!

Race details:
Issaquah Run
Sunday, Sept. 30
10K Run, 5K Run/Walk & Kids Run

To register for our Swedish Issaquah team, please click here. This link goes directly to our team page, and you must use this link to join the team.

Swedish employees and “friends of Swedish” get $5 off registration. The code for Swedish is SMCRUN and will provide a $5 discount; staff can use this code when registering.

We hope you participate in this important community event and support the Swedish Cancer Institute. For more information and general details about the Issaquah Run, visit www.issaquahrun.com.

Exercise and cancer

There is plenty of research—and it is increasing every day—showing that exercise is beneficial for cancer survivors, whether during or after treatment. In a recent study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, Dr. Andrea Cheville, an onco-physiatrist (cancer rehabilitation physician) and colleagues at Mayo Clinic interviewed 20 patients with advanced lung cancer about exercise, its relationship to their symptoms, and the role of their oncology team in counseling them about exercise (video). Not surprisingly, participants considered their usual everyday activities as "exercise". While important in helping to maintain function, everyday activities generally do not reach the threshold to help maintain or improve overall fitness. In Dr. Cheville’s study, exercise was defined as "a systematic way of stressing the body to increase flexibility, stamina, and strength.”

Systematic and regular exercise causes biochemical changes in the body, not unlike medicine. The route of administration however, is different. You can't take an "exercise pill", you have to actively participate. The changes that exercise brings are beneficial. For example, exercise can help reduce fatigue. While this may seem counterintuitive, especially while living with cancer, taking it easy can actually increase fatigue. This is because the body becomes "deconditioned"—the less the body does, the less it can do. Add the fatiguing effect of chemotherapy, and you have a recipe for reduced whole body strength and fitness. Enjoyable and regular exercise is a powerful antidote to the fatiguing impact of cancer and treatment.

In our cancer rehabilitation programs, we often hear survivors express fear that exercise might cause physical harm. Some of the participants in Dr. Cheville's study expressed a similar concern. When exercise is done with a good understanding of what is too much, what is too little, and how to modulate its intensity during cycles of treatment, exercise not only enhances physical and mental well-being, but also helps to reduce symptoms related to cancer and its treatment. In addition to fatigue, these symptoms include shortness of breath, pain, insomnia, malaise and reduced endurance.

The study showed...

Do self breast exams matter?

Self breast exams: to do or not to do?

Remember when there were monthly emails you could sign up for to remind you and your friends to do your self breast exams at home? Remember seeing the news anchors talking about their monthly self breast exams in an attempt to remind you to do your breast “due diligence?” What happened to self breast exams and are they still important?

Initially, self breast exams were recommended as a screening tool to help early detection of breast cancer. Unfortunately long-term studies have not confirmed that they actually live up to their hype. Two large studies looking at over 200,000 women in both Russia and China didn’t show any difference in breast cancer mortality after 15 years between the women who were performing routine self exams and those who were not. In fact, the women that were practicing self exams found more lumps and underwent more biopsies for benign reasons. Reviews of several other studies failed to show a benefit of regular breast self-examinations including no benefit of early diagnosis, or reductions in deaths or stage at diagnosis. Hence in 2009, the US Preventative Services Task Force advised that clinicians no longer recommend routine self breast examination as a screening tool for breast cancer detection.

Even though you don’t need to be doing a monthly self exam, you should...

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