experts.jpgNo matter where you are in your cancer journey, you're likely curious about cancer prevention and treatment. Or, maybe you're trying to figure out how to manage an unexpected side effect or whether or not you can exercise during cancer treatment.

Whatever the case, you're sure to find wisdom, guidance and hope in the insight of our doctors and other experts, many of whom shared their expertise here on Cancerwise and in our Cancer Newsline podcast series in 2014.

Below, we've pulled together some of the most helpful insight and advice our doctors and other experts shared this past year. We hope you find something here that helps or inspires you in your cancer journey.

Immunotherapy: Unleashing the immune system to attack cancer
We're making great strides in immunotherapy, a new way of treating cancer that targets the immune system rather than the tumor itself. And, this innovative approach, developed by Jim Allison, Ph.D., professor in Immunology, will open doors for treating all types of cancer. Learn more in this podcast with Allison and Padmanee Sharma, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Genitourinary Medical Oncology and Immunology.

Understanding the new HPV vaccine
Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new vaccine targeting nine types of HPV, including five that haven't been covered by other vaccines. And, for those who get the vaccine, that means even better protection against cervical cancer, oral cancers and other cancers linked to HPV, says Lois Ramondetta, M.D., in Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine. Find out what you should know about the new HPV vaccine.

Want to make life a little easier for someone facing a cancer diagnosis? Or, just not sure what to say or how to make them smile? According to our patients, survivors and caregivers, it's not as hard as you might think.

This past year, our bloggers and members of our Facebook community shared plenty of great suggestions on what to say and how to help cancer patients and caregivers. Here's some of the best advice they shared in 2014.

19 ways to help someone with cancer
Most cancer patients are used to people saying, "Let me know if I can help." But if you really want to help someone dealing with cancer, you may have to take matters into your own helping hands. And, that doesn't always require much time or money. We recently asked the cancer survivors, patients and caregivers in our Facebook community to share the most helpful thing you can do for a friend or loved one dealing with cancer. Read their advice.

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best of hope.jpgThroughout the past year, our cancer patients have shared stories of their challenges and trials while revealing their determination, spirit and strength. These stories give us all what we could always use a little bit more of: hope.

Here are some of our most inspiring stories of hope from 2014.

Infant leukemia survivor reflects on the hospital that raised me
A few months after 9-month-old Ivana Camarillo was diagnosed with infant leukemia, she received a cord blood transplant. Now, at age 15, she's helping other kids with cancer.

"Most people wonder why I do this and why I haven't just left cancer in my past," she says. "My answer is simple: I believe you should never forget where you came from." Read her story.

How a CML clinical trial and Gleevec saved my life

Mel Mann was a 37-year-old major in the U.S. Army when he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia. But he found hope in a phase I clinical trial for ST1571, now known as Gleevec. Sixteen years later, Mel is MD Anderson's longest living Gleevec patient. Read his story.

GillianKruse1216.jpgBy Gillian Kruse

My acute myeloid leukemia (AML) diagnosis came completely out of the blue for me. During the Thanksgiving holiday in 2010, I got my first annual physical in a few years simply because I'd recently started my first full-time job with benefits after graduating from college. In less than two weeks, what started as some slightly concerning bloodwork results turned into "You have an appointment at MD Anderson tomorrow morning."

Much of the afternoon and evening after I received my AML diagnosis was a blur for me, but I distinctly remember sitting on the floor in my living room and staring at the Christmas tree. We'd just put it up a few days earlier, and I wondered if that was the last time I'd get to do so.

My first days at MD Anderson for AML treatment
MD Anderson was all decked out for the holidays when I arrived for my first appointment -- trees in the waiting rooms, wreaths along the skybridge, paper snowflakes in the pharmacy. I still felt fine, though somewhat overwhelmed to be here amongst so many people who looked so sick when I didn't feel any different than I had a week earlier. I also was a little overwhelmed to be here  -- of all places -- during the holidays.

My doctors were all reassuring, kind and thorough. They helped me understand AML, and the whole team made sure my family and I understood my treatment plan. I enrolled in a clinical trial for my first round of chemotherapy, and then spent five days as an inpatient wondering how the treatments would affect me. My hair didn't fall out overnight, and I didn't have nausea, so I was hopeful that this cancer thing would be just a small hiccup and I'd be back at work in January.

By Lindsey Garner

No matter how you like to get your heart rate up and work up a sweat, exercising for at least 30 minutes every day can help lower your chances for many common cancers. If you're looking for ways to get your 1/2 hour in, check out how some of our busy employees stay active.

Triathlon training
"I like to exercise with a triathlon coach to prepare for my long distance races. It helped me prepare to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run 13.1 miles for IRONMAN Texas 70.3 and IRONMAN Florida 70.3. Now I'm training for my second IRONMAN Texas 140.6, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike course and a 26.2-mile run. Having a coach helps provide me with the discipline I need to improve my swimming, cycling and running. I get better results and my workouts are challenging." -- Corinna Perez, fitness center liaison

Moderate cardio and fitness classes
"I recently had a baby, so I've been focused on moderate cardiovascular exercise, like working out on an elliptical machine, walking, moderate jogging and core strengthening exercises. I also enjoy exercise classes that are fun and upbeat, like Zumba, night club cardio and step aerobics."-- Kimberly Tripp, director, Acute Care Services Administration


tr_121214.jpgBy Jacqueline Mason

When he's not in scrubs, Thomas Rahlfs, M.D., is apt to be wearing a Japanese hakama with a traditional katana at his side, reminiscent of a samurai warrior. For Rahlfs, department chair for Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, martial arts is more than a hobby. It's a way of life.

Born in Midland, Texas, Thomas Rahlfs, M.D., knew from an early age he wanted to be a doctor after reading Doctor Dolittle stories in the third grade.

But he also was drawn to martial arts following a trip to Japan with the Boy Scouts in 1971 for the 13th World Scout Jamboree.

"I was fortunate to watch martial art master Mas Oyama give a demonstration with his karate students," Rahlfs says. "That's what lit the fire in me. It looked really cool."

Rahlfs found a way to combine his interests when he joined Duke University's karate club while earning his bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, in biomedical engineering.

He moved to Houston for medical school, anesthesia training and clinical residency with Baylor College of Medicine and accepted his first faculty appointment with Baylor in 1986. He went on to earn Baylor's Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching based on the consensus of residents he supervised at Ben Taub Hospital.

From Golden Apple to global winner
Karate became such an influence in Rahlfs' life that at one point he explored the relationship between Western medicine and the traditional Chinese practice of acupuncture for pain control.

cancer_vaccine_02 var.jpgYesterday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new vaccine targeting nine types of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), including five types that haven't been covered by other HPV vaccines.

To better understand this new HPV vaccine, known as Gardasil 9 or HPV 9, and what it means for preventing HPV-related cancers, we spoke with Lois Ramondetta, M.D., in Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine. Here's what she had to say.

What is the new HPV vaccine, and what does types of HPV does it guard against?

This is the third FDA-approved HPV vaccine. The previous HPV vaccine, known as Gardasil, only protected against four strains of HPV. This one protects against nine different strains of HPV that have been linked to several types of cancer, including cervical cancer, anal cancer, penile cancer, oral cancer and head and neck cancers

This is great news for cervical cancer prevention. Whereas Gardasil was expected to prevent 70% of all cervical cancers, the new HPV vaccine will prevent closer to 90% of cervical cancers.

Keep in mind that these vaccines only work to prevent HPV. So, if you already have HPV, you can't get the vaccine to treat the HPV or to prevent HPV-related cancers.

Margaret Row, M.D.By Lindsey Garner

A self-proclaimed acute care junkie, Margaret Row, M.D., can be found in our Emergency Center most Thursdays taking care of patients. In her other role as vice president of operations for the MD Anderson Cancer Network, she helps expand our standard of care throughout the world through clinical partnerships.

What was your first job?
I started delivering newspapers when I was 7 for my father's weekly newspaper, The Lemmon Leader, in my hometown of Lemmon, South Dakota. Over the years, I did everything from managing subscriptions and bookkeeping to writing features and editing.

Do you visit South Dakota much?
We try to go as much as possible in the spring and summer. My husband, Jim, and I own 200 acres in Deadwood. It's our family getaway. We like to be outdoors hiking and riding all-terrain vehicles, and I like riding with Jim on his motorcycle.

Tell us something others would be surprised to know about you.
After learning how to sew in home economics, I sewed all my own clothes until I went to graduate school.

What words best describe you?
Determined and dedicated.

Were you always interested in being a physician?

I always had an interest in health care but not necessarily in medicine. During graduate school at Arizona State University, I became interested in practicing medicine while working with a cardiologist on my exercise physiology thesis.

holiday-gift-ideas.jpgFinding the right gift for your friends and family can be tough. It can be even tougher if they're undergoing cancer treatment or are caring for someone who is. After all, you may be trying to make the holidays extra special for them during a difficult time.

So, we asked our some of our bloggers -- who are cancer patients, survivors and caregivers themselves -- for their holiday gift recommendations. Here's what they said.

Books and magazines
"Days become long in the hospital, so a good book helps to pass the time and get your mind off of things," says Jennifer Martin, a melanoma caregiver. Books and magazines -- as well as tablets and other e-readers -- can be a great gift for patients and caregivers alike.

Wireless Bluetooth speaker or radio
Harley Hudson, a chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patient, used his wireless radio almost daily while he was in the hospital recovering from a stem cell transplant. The music helped lighten the mood and made him feel at home while staying in the hospital.

Dollarphotoclub_60743674.jpgBy Eric Tidline, Social Work Counselor

Cancer-related fatigue is one of the most common issues patients face. Even among patients who have completed cancer treatment, fatigue is one of their foremost concerns.

Fatigue describes a physical and/or mental state of being tired and weak. Physical fatigue and mental fatigue are different, but they often exist together, which can make the experience even more frustrating.

However, it is often possible to curb cancer-related fatigue. Although it may sound counterintuitive, moderated exercise is the number one treatment for cancer-related fatigue.

For some, walking, weight lifting and cycling are great ways to exercise. But if you aren't ready or aren't able to participate in such activities, you might find progressive relaxation exercises helpful. Progressive relaxation is one type of exercise that is often gentle enough to meet most people's needs.

What is progressive muscle relaxation?
Progressive muscle relaxation is based on the idea that the body responds to anxious thoughts by tensing muscles, and the tense muscles add to the anxiety, creating a cycle of stress.

ultrasound.jpgWe typically associate an ultrasound scan with pregnancies, but many doctors use them to take a look at a patient's organs, especially during cancer treatment.

An ultrasound is a painless procedure that uses sound waves to look at the internal organs. It is sometimes called a sonogram.

Follow instructions to prepare for your ultrasound
Ultrasounds for most body parts do not require any preparation.

But if you're getting an ultrasound of your abdomen (including the liver, gallbladder, spleen or pancreas), you need to take these steps:

  • Don't eat gas-producing foods for 24 hours before your ultrasound.
  • Don't eat or drink anything six hours before the ultrasound. Small sips of water are OK.
  • If you need to take oral medicine, swallow with a small amount of water. If you're having a pelvic ultrasound, make sure you have a full bladder before the test. Drink 32 ounces of liquid and don't urinate before the scan.
It's important to follow these instructions. Otherwise, your doctor may not get the images needed, and you may have to reschedule or repeat the ultrasound.

Carol Turni124.jpgBy Carol A. Turni

I never thought I'd hear the words: "You have breast cancer." But when I did, they turned out to be one of those moments that defined my life. At 44 years old and with two young daughters, my cancer diagnosis was a frightening and sobering call-to-action.  

Deciding to come to MD Anderson for breast cancer treatment

After my breast cancer diagnosis came the scurry of tests, surgeries, treatments and medicines at a hospital in the city where I live. But after a while, I realized things didn't seem right. My husband and I both decided it was time to seek breast cancer treatment elsewhere. 

That is how I found my way to MD Anderson, where I've received all of my care since then. I believe the corresponding change in my treatment course saved my life. I have consistently experienced the confidence and competency of my breast cancer care team. Their caring and the commitment to excellence is apparent. I am grateful.

My advice for traveling to MD Anderson
Traveling to MD Anderson isn't always easy, but it's worth it. Here are some tips that have made traveling for cancer treatment easier and more affordable for me:


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