By Jacqueline Mason
History buff is just one way to describe Stephen Swisher, M.D. He's also a husband and father of two, head of our Surgery division, an honored professor in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, and co-leader of MD Anderson's Lung Cancer Moon Shot -- our own history-making endeavor in the world of medicine.
How do you view your current role here?
I see myself as a surgeon but also as a division leader and an advocate for surgeons. I try to help communicate other surgeons' points-of-view at MD Anderson.
What influenced you to become a cardiothoracic surgeon?
No one in my family had a career in medicine. I became interested in medicine after I took a course in biology. The anatomy of the chest is particularly interesting and exciting to me. During my general surgery residency at the University of California at Los Angeles, a cardiothoracic surgeon and researcher I worked with influenced my decision to complete my fellowship in surgical oncology. Also, the chief of surgical oncology at that time, demonstrated to me the process of taking research findings and using them to improve surgery for cancer patients. That's something I've come to especially appreciate in my co-leadership of the Lung Cancer Moon Shot.
Results tagged “Lung cancer”
By Jacqueline Mason
The scan that showed Pamela Bowman's broken pelvis -- the painful result of an afternoon of ice skating with her grandchildren -- also revealed the tumor inside her lung.
Years earlier, Pamela had undergone adrenal surgery at MD Anderson. So when she received her lung cancer diagnosis, there was no doubt in her mind where she would go for lung cancer treatment.
"There's no place like MD Anderson," she says. "When you've got cancer, you need to go to the best."
Pamela's lung cancer treatment: Finding a home away from home
Pamela's local doctors in Jackson, Miss., had warned her that her surgery would be difficult and that her lung cancer prognosis wasn't good. At MD Anderson, though, she got a different message.
Andrews, better known as Kyssi, is usually late for her doctor's appointments. The 5-year-old cancer
survivor is a bit of a celebrity, and she's often stopped by other MD Anderson patients
who want to meet her or pose for a picture. Her positive perspective and unique
style have inspired thousands who face similar journeys.
Kyssi was diagnosed with a Wilm's tumor May 1, 2012. After undergoing chemotherapy, she rang the bell and entered remission. But not long after that, her Wilm's Tumor returned with metastasis to her lungs. Doctors said she had a 30% chance of survival.
Armed with a contagious smile and an ever-growing Hello Kitty clothing collection, Kyssi stayed strong through her lung cancer treatments: a surgery, frequent hospitalization and after her first chemotherapy didn't shrink the cancer, another nine rounds of an intense type of chemo commonly referred to as ICE. ICE is named for the initials of the drugs used: ifosfamide, carboplatin and etoposide.
By Tom Barber
In the four years since I completed lung cancer treatment, I've been dedicated to showing others that there is hope and the possibility of a wonderful life after lung cancer.
As the fourth of six immediate family members who have had lung cancer and the only one who has survived, I started this new life with the words "I can," my faith and the support of family and friends. I've had the privilege of working with MD Anderson's survivorship group and completing a couple of triathlons, a half-marathon and some other running events.
But in August, my cancer journey took an unexpected turn when I was diagnosed with melanoma.My melanoma diagnosis: A new chapter
During my lung cancer checkup, I asked the doctors to investigate a spot of concern to me on my upper torso. That spot turned out to be nothing.
But, once again, an incredibly skilled doctor at MD Anderson may have saved my life by finding a very small melanoma tumor on my shoulder. It was hardly remarkable. It was the size of a freckle.
I was devastated by the melanoma diagnosis, but I also was confident in my team and my ability to wage the war. Small seems to always be good where cancer is concerned. As a part of my melanoma treatment, I had a surgery to remove some skin and tissue, as well as the sentinel lymph node.
This Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, marks the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General's 1964 Report on Smoking and Health, the first major statement in the United States linking smoking to lung cancer.
With more than 200,000 people diagnosed with lung cancer each year in the United States and smoking contributing to 87% of lung cancer deaths and 30% of all cancer deaths, this landmark report and the 30 subsequent Surgeon General's Reports on smoking have greatly influenced what we do here at MD Anderson.
Here are four ways the Surgeon General's Report has impacted our work and -- and our cancer patients and their families.
1. We've hired more researchers focused on smoking and cancer.
"The 1964 Surgeon General's Report set the stage for extraordinary increase in knowledge and research on tobacco and cancer that's occurred since then," says Ellen R. Gritz, Ph.D., chair of Behavioral Science at MD Anderson and an author and/or editor for nine Surgeon General's reports on smoking and tobacco.
The holidays can be difficult when you or a loved one is undergoing cancer treatment. But while your usual traditions may be interrupted, the holiday spirit can still be found.
We asked several survivors how they coped with cancer during the holidays and what advice they had for patients undergoing treatment during the holidays.
Here's what they had to say.
on what makes you happiest about the holidays
"Life has changed, and every holiday provides me with a deeper appreciation for being given another year. Cancer hasn't changed the way I celebrate holidays, but it makes being around family and friends much more special.
By Andrew Davison
I lost my dad to lung cancer. Thirteen years later, I was diagnosed with the same illness that took his life.
The difference was that he smoked two packs of cigarettes day, and I did not.
While I did smoke occasionally in my early 20s, I have been active and healthy for most of my life. But whether a person smokes or not shouldn't matter in how we approach lung cancer patients. Through my lung cancer treatment journey, I've learned we need to end the stigma surrounding lung cancer.
My lung cancer diagnosis
Almost four months ago, I was riding on top of the world, literally. In the midst of a five-hour mountain bike ride at a ski resort in Colorado, I crashed. I was a little banged up and went in to get checked out. After a few stitches and a chest x-ray, I was cleared to go home with a bag of ice and some ibuprofen.
Two hours later, while grilling at a summer BBQ, I missed a call from the clinic. The doctor left a voicemail saying that, after a second review, the radiologist had noticed a spot on the upper apex of my left lung. He said it was probably nothing, perhaps even just some scar tissue, and that I should schedule a CT scan. I turned to my wife and said, "There is no way that is good news."
Suzan Shughart had an extra reason to celebrate on her 60th birthday: It was also her last day of lung cancer treatment at MD Anderson.
It was a day she'd thought might never come. Less than a year earlier, doctors had told Suzan she had 18-24 months to live.
"My brain just said no," she says. "I've got four children. I've got grandchildren. I have a lot of living to do."
A mysterious lung cancer diagnosis
When Suzan had first received her cancer diagnosis, her doctors were stumped. Her test results showed both large and small cell lung cancer, not in her lung but in her chest.
Her doctor suggested that she start treatment and, said that if that didn't work, she could seek a second opinion at MD Anderson. But Suzan decided to skip the first step, instead heading to Houston, home to MD Anderson and one of Suzan's sons.
At MD Anderson, doctors spent a whole day examining Suzan. Then, for the next 30 days, they performed different tests on her, trying to find the best way to defeat her cancer.
Eventually, Suzan received her lung cancer diagnosis: a high-grade neuroendocrine carcinoma, an anterior mediastinal tumor attached to the pericardium, a double-walled sac that holds the heart and aorta. Her treatment was to include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. After undergoing surgery, she was able to return home to Arizona to have her chemotherapy administered.
by Miriam Smith
But two years later, Reba felt an excruciating pain worse than ever before. Her lung cancer had returned in a large mass wrapped around her ribs. Local doctors said this tumor -- which was at stage 4 -- was inoperable. They recommended she seek a second opinion at MD Anderson.
"I knew I needed something major," Reba recalls. "I was facing death." She got to MD Anderson as quickly as she could.
Undergoing lung cancer treatment at MD
Reba remembers her first visit to MD Anderson as being surprisingly warm.
"From the time I came through the door, everybody was fighting for me," she says. "They were going to do everything possible to make me well. And I knew no matter what, I was going to the best place in the world."
Anne Tsao, M.D., associate professor of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, and David Rice, M.D., professor of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, determined that the tumor could be removed if they replaced part of Kennedy's rib cage with an artificial one.
by Michael Keating, M.D.
This ambitious and innovative program seeks to significantly reduce the mortality rates for several cancers -- including melanoma, triple-negative breast, high-grade serous ovarian, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), lung and prostate -- and ultimately find cures for these and other cancers.
Over the last year, the Moon Shots Program provided a tremendous boost to cancer research. My colleagues at MD Anderson and I have spent the last 12 months collaborating to make significant advancements for our patients as well as those patients not yet diagnosed.
Meaningful progress made in the
The Moon Shots Program became a reality after MD Anderson's president Ronald DePinho, M.D., issued a formidable challenge to our doctors and researchers: to develop a comprehensive action plan to significantly increase survival rates of cancer patients in the near-term and accelerate cures in the long-term.
During these last 13 years, I've learned that my body is stronger than I ever thought possible.
My lung cancer diagnosis
The x-ray in 2007 was just a part of my semi-annual follow-up. Everything had looked great just six months earlier, and I was hopeful and confident that all my tests would be clear once again. But the usual time to hear the results had come and gone.
One afternoon, my office phone rang. My urologist was on the other end. He sounded straight, serious, concerned: There was a mass in my right lung. My heart began pounding in my ears. After surviving bladder cancer, I now had stage III non-small cell lung cancer.
Hearing "you have cancer -- again" is almost worse than hearing "you have cancer" for the first time. I had just finished treatment for the second recurrence of my bladder cancer. And, after facing more clinic visits, scopes, biopsies and major surgeries than most men my age, I was more than ready to move on and finally put cancer behind me.
But with a wife and a 3-year-old daughter at home, I couldn't let it beat my spirit. There was little time to feel sorry for myself.
Undergoing proton therapy treatment for lung cancer
On April 17, 2007, the tumor was removed along with the entire middle lobe of my right lung. But that wasn't the end of my lung cancer treatment. I made my way to MD Anderson, where doctors found cancerous cells in a lymph node. My diagnosis changed, and my idea of what treatment changed, too.
Dr. Ritsuko Komaki, M.D., and Dr. David Grosshans, M.D., thought I was a great candidate for proton therapy treatment. Knowing very little about the technology, I put all my faith into whatever I was told I needed. That August, I began weekly chemotherapy and daily proton therapy treatment for about seven weeks. When I was done, my family had a small party to celebrate the end of my treatment. It was a true milestone that I won't forget.
With a steady decline in traditional cigarettes, tobacco companies are looking for new ways to get people addicted to smoking.
Now, with the third largest U.S. tobacco company launching a massive campaign to promote electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, smoking may be on rise again. In fact, about 6% of adults have tried e-cigarettes, a number that has nearly doubled since 2010, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The e-cigarette is a smokeless electronic device that allows the user to inhale a vapor of liquid nicotine in order to imitate traditional
smoking methods. The new gadget is touted as safe and harmless by tobacco
companies, but our tobacco prevention and cessation experts tell a different
e-cigarettes are 'safe' are misleading
"We've been telling society for the past 30 years that they shouldn't smoke, and that tobacco is bad," says Paul Cinciripini, Ph.D., director of MD Anderson's Tobacco Treatment Program. "But tobacco companies are smart and have a good marketing strategy when it comes to promoting new products."
by Tom Barber
I have watched several friends and, now, a mother and two sisters at or near death from lung cancer. When my sister passed away this summer, I became a lung cancer patient caring for another lung cancer patient.
New questions surface when a cancer patient takes care of another cancer patient. During my sister's final phase, the big question for me was, "Am I looking in the mirror?" Would I go through what she was going through?
Approaching my sister, a fellow lung cancer patient
I never avoided my sister because of this fear of looking into the mirror, but I did have to redirect this distraction to make it through the really tough days without affecting my own recovery.
I simply trusted in an approach my father suggested before I went in to say goodbye to my dying mother several years ago.
I asked myself: How would I want to be treated? How would I want her to look at me? How can I make it a little better? How can I be sympathetic but encouraging?
It helps if you believe in miracles. You should. I do. They happen. I am proof.
By Tom Barber
I am one of four members of my family that have had lung cancer.
I was a primary caregiver to my oldest sister, who died many years before I received my lung cancer diagnosis.
Unfortunately, my second of two sisters to die of lung cancer said goodbye on June 13, 2013. Goodbye, sis. Love you. I am tired of this stuff.
Secrets of a cancer patient caring for a cancer patient
I have two really vivid and distinct cancer memories. Together, they helped me confront my second sister's lung cancer.
On how to be a cancer caregiver, I recall my father asking me how I wanted my mother to remember me just before I stepped into her ICU room to say goodbye. It was gently instructive and made me gather my courage and put a loving and peaceful look on my face as I approached my dear mother for the last time.
It has given me peace many times that she saw me filled with love for her and positive in my countenance to the end.
When a massive clinical trial about lung cancer screening shows a benefit to current and former smokers, why can it take so long to become accessible for most people?
A draft recommendation by a federal task force in favor of using low-dose CT scans to screen past and current heavy smokers for lung cancer provides insight about the time lag.
The recommendation says that low-dose spiral CT lung cancer screening is only appropriate for those who:
• Are 55 to 80 years old
• Have a 30-pack-year history of smoking (which translates to 1 pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years, 2 packs a day for 15 years, etc.)
• Smoke or have quit smoking within the past 15 years
companies expected to cover CT lung cancer screening for smokers
The task force carefully sorts the pros and cons of a preventive procedure before recommending for or against. Its rulings are highly influential, so both governmental and private health insurers tend to wait for its recommendations before deciding whether to pay for a procedure, Munden says.
The task force's recommended B rating for the procedure, subject to a comment period that ends Aug. 26, is significant. Right now, 95% of the people who want screening have to pay for it out-of-pocket, because only two health insurance companies cover it. Medicare and Medicaid don't reimburse for it, but the task force's recommendation is expected to change that.
"The implications are huge," says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson's Cancer Prevention Center. "Health plans, under the Affordable Care Act, are required to cover any screening or service given an A or B rating by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. They're not only required to cover it, but to cover it without any co-payment or deductible so the patient is able to get this at no out-of-pocket cost."
By Tom Barber
We did it.
With a good coach and you, my fellow cancer patients, as inspiration, I was able to complete the Long Boat Key Sprint Triathlon on May 5.
It was a beautiful place and a fun day I will long remember.
I was smiling the whole way, loving being a participant in the race, knowing it could end in a moment, but moving forward for the pure enjoyment of being part of it.
To experience something for the first time always yields the unexpected, worth the difficulty and work of doing it. This was that way.
Doing "normal" things: the path to normalcy
Many cancer patients are like me, wishing for life to be "normal" again. As obvious as it sounds, perhaps doing "normal" things is one of the pathways there.
By Bailey Heard
I met Andrew Heard at Baylor University in 2005. He was a seminary student who played on the Baylor football team, and I was a business major who cheered on the coed squad for Baylor.
We were set up on a blind date by mutual friends and married in 2007.
Andrew's history of Hodgkin lymphoma
From the moment I met Andrew, I was blown away by his intelligence and his drive.
One of the many things I found fascinating about him was that he'd already written a book about his cancer experience in high school.
By Tom Barber
I'm a 58-year-old lung cancer survivor.
A great thoracic surgeon at MD Anderson, Ara Vaporciyan, M.D., removed my large tumor by doing a lobectomy of my upper left lobe in August 2009.
I participated in a clinical trial for two-and-a-half years after surgery. It involved some painful injections and side effects, but nothing as bad as what many patients go through.
Now, I'm training for my first triathlon.
Lung cancer in my family
Three of my immediate family members have had lung cancer.
I was my oldest sister's primary caregiver until she died peacefully in my arms in 1995. So, I know what caregivers go through. How it changes the direction of their lives.
My next sister helped me a great deal with our oldest sister. Like me, she's now a lung cancer patient at MD Anderson.
By Sandi Stromberg, MD Anderson Staff Writer
Good news for non-small cell lung cancer patients undergoing a combination of chemotherapy and radiation: If you're experiencing side effects that challenge your ability to function well in your daily life, help may be on the way.
"Patients often start off with very few or no symptoms at diagnosis," says Charles Cleeland, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Symptom Research.
"Then from chemotherapy and radiation, they develop a constellation of symptoms that we've learned are associated with very aggressive cancer therapy. These can make treatment very difficult to tolerate and negatively impact the person's ability to function during and immediately after therapy -- and even into long-term, overall survival."
For lung cancer patients, these side effects can include fatigue, pain, disturbed sleep, lack of appetite and drowsiness. Researchers want to find treatments to reduce these symptoms and understand the biological reasons they occur.
Studying how to alleviate side effects
"We know that drugs like minocycline, an antibiotic used to treat certain infections, and armodafinil, a stimulant-like drug used to treat specific sleep disorders, have the potential to help our lung cancer patients," says Zhongxing Liao, M.D., professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology.
By Claudia Gertz, MD Anderson Staff Writer
When Barbara Pool was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer, she came to MD Anderson expecting to undergo seven weeks of radiation treatment. She and her daughter were pleasantly surprised, however, when the process only took four days.
This speedy treatment program called stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) delivers very high doses of radiation to small and well-defined tumors.
Pool is one of six lung cancer patients per day who go through stereotactic body radiation therapy and she is the 1000th patient to receive this type of radiation at MD Anderson.
Pool was diagnosed in May in her hometown of Odessa, Texas, and considered staying close to home for treatment. However, physicians referred her to MD Anderson, so she and her daughter, Debbie Staggs, followed their advice and traveled to Houston.
Upon examination, Pool was not found to be a good candidate for surgery due to several pre-existing health issues including emphysema, diabetes and a recent stroke. However, she was an excellent candidate for stereotactic body radiation treatment, due to the small size of the tumor in the upper portion of her right lung.
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