Swedish News Blog

Subtle, early symptoms of head & neck cancer

Namou Kim, MD, FACS

Namou Kim, MD, FACS
Medical Director, Swedish Head & Neck and Reconstructive Surgery

Patients often ask me how long they have had the cancers that they are consulting me for. This question is not intended to shift any responsibility nor accountability, but patients are genuinely trying to understand what they could have done differently. Although the treatment course would not have changed regardless, there were probably some early subtle symptoms that patients might have ignored:

Winter 2014 Life to the Fullest Newsletter from Swedish Cancer Institute

Jolyn Hull

Jolyn Hull
Health Education Specialist, Swedish Cancer Institute

The Winter 2014 Life to the Fullest newsletter has hit the stands and this issue is packed with helpful hints and resources. Written by three health education interns at the Swedish Cancer Institute, the focus of this issue is to offer assistance in becoming your own advocate and discusses what resources are available to you and your family. The newsletter also discusses ...

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in Head and Neck Cancer

Joseph C. Sniezek
Cancer of the oropharynx (throat) has undergone a drastic and dramatic change over the last decade.  In the past, most throat cancers were linked with prolonged cigarette smoking and alcohol use.  Now, the occurrence of throat cancer is rising and 80-90% is likely caused by an infection with Human Papillomavirus (HPV).  Many high-profile personalities, including actor Michael Douglas, have recently revealed that they have experienced HPV-related throat cancer.

What causes HPV-related Oropharynx cancer?

Infection with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is known to cause genital warts and lead to various genital cancers, but now it appears to also cause the majority of throat cancers.  The types of HPV that lead to throat cancer are generally sexually transmitted, though some researchers believe that even kissing may result in HPV transmission.   The time period from HPV exposure to the development of a throat cancer is often decades. Although the cancer may be slow-growing, it is important to have annual check-ups with your physician and dentist who can assess your oral health appropriately. 
 
How is HPV-related Oropharynx cancer treated?


HPV-related throat cancer can ...

Summer 2014 Cancer Community Walks & Runs

Brian Aylward, BS, CHES

Brian Aylward, BS, CHES
Health Navigator

Each year, the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) partners with local and national organizations in an effort to help spread awareness of cancer, associated treatments, and resources available in our communities.
 
Summer 2014 is no different. We’ve signed on to take part in more events than ever before—and we want you to join us! As an active patient, survivor, family member, friend or advocate, your voice and participation matter.
 
American Cancer Society Relay for Life
These overnight community fundraising walks help raise money to fund cancer research, education, and support services like Hope Lodge®, Road to Recovery®, Look Good, Feel Better®, and Reach to Recovery®, all American Cancer Society-run programs. The Swedish Cancer Institute patients gain access to these programs throughout the Swedish network. There are several Relay for Life events going on in the Puget Sound. The Swedish Cancer Institute is taking part in:

Is it ok to laugh with cancer?

Jeffery C. Ward
“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 ....

Resources and social support for dealing with cancer

Brian Aylward, BS, CHES

Brian Aylward, BS, CHES
Health Navigator

Here at the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI), we understand that individuals cope in their own unique ways, and that receiving personalized education and support is important in the healing process. For this reason, the SCI is devoted to providing complementary supportive services for newly diagnosed patients, those undergoing treatment, and those who have completed treatment, as well as their caregivers.

The SCI offers programs that promote education, hope, and healing. Many of these programs are offered free of charge, while others are offered on a sliding scale. These integrated care programs include:

  • American Cancer Society Patient Navigation: The American Cancer Society Patient Navigator helps patients find resources related to financial assistance, transportation, access to wigs and prosthetics, and much more.
  • Art Therapy: Art therapy is a confidential, supportive, and individualized experience for examining health issues through visual and verbal self-exploration.
  • Cancer Rehabilitation: Cancer rehabilitation integrates medical management of cancer treatment-related side effects with a variety of exercise therapies.
  • Health Education: The Swedish Cancer Education Centers offer complementary educational materials, innovative learning opportunities, and patient education classes.
  • Genetic Counseling and Testing: Genetic testing is available for individuals to determine their risk for developing certain cancers.
  • Massage Therapy: Massage therapy may help with cancer-related pain, fatigue and nausea.
  • Naturopathic Medicine: Combining modern science with natural remedies, naturopathic doctors are available for consultation and treat¬ment through coordination with the patient’s oncologist.
  • Nutrition Care Services: Nutritionists are available to help patients and caregivers make healthy dietary choices during cancer treatment.
  • Psychiatry: Psychiatrists help patients and caregivers maintain the emotional and mental well-being needed to cope with stresses of cancer.
  • Oncology Social Work: Licensed oncology social workers provide patients and caregivers ongoing counseling and assistance.
  • Support Groups: Support groups for patients and caregivers are offered weekly, creating an environment for people to share their feelings with others going through similar experiences. 

Patients often hear that it’s important to find a strong support system during and after treatment; this may include a partner, sibling, parent, child or close friend. These are ...

Cancer control and survivorship

Dan Labriola, ND

I recently attended the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG) meeting, a consortium of research institutions doing clinical trials on cancer. The conference highlighted how new research will remarkably affect cancer survivorship, quality of life (QOL), integrative care and our ability to predict and provide needed services more accurately and with greater cost effectiveness for cancer survivors. The tools for implementing cancer control are evolving quickly.

Here are some highlights from the meeting:

  • Biomarkers, which are any human characteristics that are measurable including everything from gene expression (or over-expression) to pain surveys, can potentially predict long term survival as well as the specific services that will most benefit patients.
  • Symptoms that are increasingly predictable by biomarker assays include fatigue, insomnia, pain, anorexia, nausea, depression and others. This means that we will soon be able to better predict the patients who will be affected by these problems and deliver interventions much earlier and more effectively.
  • Patient satisfaction is frequently not related to treatment outcome. Factors such as QOL and survivorship are important.
  • Lung cancer patients suffer inordinately high, long-term QOL deficits. Many of these respond well to interventions but interventions are frequently not provided to patients with lung cancer.
  • Symptom clusters ...
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