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'cancer' posts

What you should know about multiple myeloma

Recent news about the health of the distinguished journalist, Tom Brokaw, has focused attention on multiple myeloma, a malignant disease of the bone marrow. Myeloma is characterized by an uncontrolled growth of marrow plasma cells, which normally produce antibodies for our immune system. In its advanced stages, the overgrowth of these cells and their associated proteins can cause anemia, painful bone destruction, and kidney failure.
 
Until about 10 years ago, advanced myeloma was uniformly fatal with a typical survival of about 3 years. Recent years, however, have seen a remarkable improvement in treatment possibilities for myeloma. This began with the discovery that autologous stem cell transplantation could produce complete remissions and longer survival. In addition, a variety of chemotherapy drugs administered in combination with corticosteroid drugs, now produce responses in up to 80% of patients. This means about 80% of patients are surviving longer than 3 years after chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplant.
 
Not all patients with myeloma require chemotherapy. Myeloma can exist in an early stage for years. This is called smoldering myeloma. Chromosome analysis is routinely done on myeloma cells and allows us to identify patients with more aggressive forms of the disease, and those requiring treatment due to signs of organ damage or bone pain.
 
The Swedish Cancer Institute has been a participant in clinical trials leading to the development of some of the effective new treatments for myeloma. We are currently participating in a study of pomalidomide, a newly approved agent, for patients with relapsed myeloma. Another study offers an investigational drug, MLN9708, for newly diagnosed patients.
 
While the new drugs are more effective and better tolerated than previous chemotherapy, all  ...

Education programs after cancer

At the Swedish Cancer Institute, we understand that completing treatment for cancer presents a new set of circumstances. For this reason, we offer free education programs to help patients explore these questions with others who are preparing to complete or who have completed cancer treatment.
 
In these eight-week groups you will have the opportunity to:
  • Make peace with the impact of cancer treatment
  • Reduce the stress cancer places on relationships
  • Overcome the fear of recurrence
  • Renew hope and increase resilience
 In a safe and supportive environment, individuals who are preparing to complete or have completed cancer treatment are invited to sign up for these practical life-skills classes. We will gently explore life after treatment and share plans for survivorship.
 
ACT – After Cancer Treatment: What’s Next?
An eight-week group designed for men and women to learn practical life-skills to help rebuild after active cancer treatment is ...

When a mole is more than a mole

As a general surgeon, I am often asked to evaluate a patient with an abnormal mole (pigmented nevus) or one that has been biopsied, revealing a premalignant or malignant growth.  It is not uncommon for the patient to tell me they either were totally unaware of the lesion or dismissed changes in the lesion over time. 

All skin cancers are not alike, and melanoma, a malignant cancer of pigmented skin cells (melanocytes), is by far the most dangerous of the group, accounting for over 75% of skin cancer deaths in the United States.  This amounts to about 48,000 melanoma related deaths world wide per year. 

Found early, when the lesion is superficial and small, cure rates are high, but as the cancer progresses, it invades deeper into the skin, and becomes far more likely to spread far from where it started.  It is for this reason that  ...

Breast Cancer Survival Guide: Physical & Clinical Updates

A diagnosis of breast cancer sets into motion a whirlwind of appointments, tests, surgeries and possibly chemotherapy and radiation treatment. A new study reviewed the timeline between surgery and initiating chemotherapy for different subtypes of breast cancer and found a survival advantage when chemotherapy was initiated within 30 days of surgery. Although treating within the 30-60 post-surgical window did not show a statistically significant survival advantage, there is a trend towards better outcomes. Exceeding 60 days post treatment had a negative impact on survival. The clinical impact of timing is most relevant for patients with stage II and III breast cancer, triple negative breast cancer and HER2-positive tumors.
 
Treatment for breast cancer can be exhausting and take a toll on the physical health of patients as treatment ends and they begin post-treatment life. Cancer survivors are at an increased risk of poor health, depression and physical disability. Approximately one third  ...

5 things to know about cancer screenings

Cancer causes 580,000 deaths a year in the United States. One in eight women will develop breast cancer and one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetimes. However, many deaths can be prevented when cancer is detected at an early stage. Cancer screening and risk assessment tests are the tools we use to find cancers early.
 
How do we find early cancers?

Some cancer screenings can be done yourself at home at essentially no cost or risk. This includes regular self-examination of the breasts, testicles and skin. Home fecal occult blood testing can also be done to screen for colorectal cancer. Additional information on cancer screening and self-examinations can be found on websites such as www.cancer.org or www.webmd.com.

 
Other screening requires medical interventions. There is good evidence that well-targeted screening saves lives. However, screening tests such as mammography, colonoscopy and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) are  ...

Why I'm a cancer doctor

I was traveling last week.  After the stewardess pointed out the exits, the broad shouldered gentleman stuffed into the seat next to the seat I was stuffed into, decided to make some small talk. “What kind of work do you do?” 

“I am an oncologist,” I said, and prepared myself for what I knew was coming next.  There are only two responses to “I am an oncologist.”  The first is, “what’s that?”  (The word oncology is code.  In the 60s it was politically incorrect to say “cancer”.  Even today, patients and clinicians stumble around the word, preferring terms like malignancy, neoplasm, tumor, or just lump.  Cancer care was entering the dawn of an era where not everyone was going to die and was soon to become a new specialty, so the word “oncology” was coined to avoid saying the “C word.”  But when someone doesn’t know the code word you have to be direct.  “I am a cancer doctor.”)

If the second question isn’t asked first, it is asked next.  It isn’t really said like a question, it’s more like a statement with a question mark.  Sometimes the statement is one of wonderment, but as often as not it is pity.  “Why did you decide to be a cancer doctor?”

Cancer is a fascinating disease.  It is the closest thing, in this life, that we will get to immortality.  Take cancer cells, put them in a test tube and take care of them right and those cells can be grown forever.  Take our normal cells and care for them the same way and they will be dead in two weeks.  We do research on cells harvested from cancer patients 20 years ago.  Besides being mortal our normal cells respect the space of other cells ...

Resolve to give the gift of comfort and warmth all year long

The holiday season is the perfect time to give back to the ones we love, our community, and those who have yet to enter our lives. For many of us, small, simple acts of kindness are easiest to introduce in our efforts to give back, especially when we are busy getting back to work or school in the new year. Thankfully, giving back doesn’t mean you have to give up a huge amount of your time!

One unique way to make a huge impact in our community is by using your hands, heart, and brain, together—to knit! The Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) has been lucky enough to have the support of community members near and far who have donated thousands of knitted hats for patients undergoing cancer treatment. These donations come at prime time during the holiday season but act as gifts all year long!

During chemotherapy, many patients experience hair loss. With the loss of hair, many patients experience low self-confidence, heightened sensitivity to fabric and weather conditions, and limited flexible income to purchase headwear.

With the support from our patients, caregivers and community, the SCI has been able to provide free knitted hats to patients undergoing treatment for over nine years. Knitting hats is fast, and provides both literal and figurative warmth directly to patients at a time when they may feel most vulnerable during their treatment. If you’re an experienced knitter, or someone who wishes to learn how to knit, or would love to knit for a cause, join a Knit for Life group at either the SCI First Hill or Issaquah campus.

This network of volunteers uses knitting as a healing experience to enhance the lives of cancer patients, their family members and caregivers during treatment and recovery. The group provides a supportive environment for beginners and experienced knitters. All knitting materials are provided ...

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