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Talking to kids about cancer

What do I tell my kids?” 

This is often the first question I’m asked by a parent with a new cancer diagnosis.  One of the most important things for parents to remember is that they know their children better than anyone else and they love them more than anyone…they can trust themselves to do this well.
 
Beyond that general reassurance, however, there are some practical tips for talking with children about a cancer diagnosis. 
 
Prepare for the conversation 
 
Think about your goals for the conversation.  What does your child need to know?  How you can help your child understand what’s going on?  How do you want your child to feel after the talk?  Who should tell your child you have cancer and can the person talking to your child stay relatively calm?
 
When and where should I have this conversation?  You don’t have to wait until you have all the answers.  Be prepared to ...

Guest Column: Select the Right Cancer Treatment

In the second of his three-part Seattle Times guest column series, Swedish Cancer Institute Medical Director for Naturopathic Services Dan Labriola, N. D., guides readers through their options when selecting a cancer treatment approach. In the column, Dr. Labriola examines how patients can weigh the benefits and risks of multiple treatment options, approved therapies vs. clinical trials, how to seek a second opinion and what to do if it is different from your initial evaluation. In his final installment set for next Sunday, Dr. Labriola will discuss survivorship, including complementary and alternative medicine strategies.

Style '14 Fashion Show Benefit

Northwest Hope & Healing, a non-profit organization supporting women battling breast cancer, is hosting the 12th Annual Fashion Show at the Showbox in SODO on Thursday, May 1, 2014.
 
More than 30 breast cancer survivors will be modeling spring looks from several Seattle boutiques. Proceeds from this event benefit the Northwest Hope & Healing’s Patience Assistance Fund at the Swedish Cancer Institute, which helps provide everyday basics such as groceries, childcare and emergency rent for women battling breast cancer.
 
Northwest Hope & Healing has been supporting Swedish Cancer Institute patients since early 2000 and is deeply rooted in our community. We are proud to support this event and hope to see many of you there!

To Mammogram or Not to Mammogram? A note on recent studies

A Canadian medical research study has recently been published questioning the value of doing screening mammograms on women in their forties. The article has spurred controversy because the results contradict multiple other similar research studies which showed that women in that age group who get regular mammograms actually are spared death from breast cancer more often that women who are not invited to screening.

Some problems with the methods of Canadian study, published in the journal BMJ, were pointed out by a scientist at the University of Washington, Judith Malmgren, who has worked with Swedish Medical Center doctors to see how women in their forties have fared in our system. Click here to read Dr. Malmgren’s letter to the editor of BMJ.

There are two ironic features to the Canadian study. First, the authors say it is okay for women to not get screening starting in their forties “when adjuvant therapy for breast cancer is readily available.” This means that it is okay to diagnose breast cancer later because you can mop up bigger and more advanced cancers with treatment like chemotherapy, radiation and bigger surgery. But at Swedish, we do not think that many women prefer more severe therapy rather than earlier detection.

Secondly ...

Is it ok to laugh with cancer?

“Is it okay to laugh?”

The question caught me off guard for a moment, then its meaning sunk in.  She was really saying, “Cancer is serious stuff, my breast has been cut on and radiated, and you’ve given me cancer fighting poisons in my veins. My hair has fallen out, food tastes funny, and I’m on a first name basis with the muzak at my insurance company. I’ve done my crying, but is it appropriate to laugh at it all?”

I remembered back to an intimidating nurse critiquing a tape of my very first patient interview during my second month of medical school. Her eyes were sharp and piercing and her brow furrowed as she watched the tape. Half way through she stopped it, turned it off, and said, “You are flippant…. I don’t much care for it.” My heart sank, and then she continued without a smile, but with a twinkle in her eyes, “but it works for you, so don’t mind me and keep on doing it.”

I believe that humor is therapeutic. Of  course, that is not a new idea. The saying, “laughter is the best medicine” did not originate with Readers Digest. The biblical record states, “A merry heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit drieth bones” (Proverbs 17:22). I don’t know that a merry heart will add time to a cancer patient’s life, but I know that it will add life to the time that they have.  

We don’t know a lot about the physiological effects of humor. It does ....

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 ...
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