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Recently by Julie Penne

help_patients_in_need_and_donate_blood.JPGThe MD Anderson Blood Bank is grateful that it has an adequate supply of blood and platelets for our patients for the coming few days.

Not all blood banks are so fortunate.

Blood banks in the Northeast that provide blood products to cancer centers and hospitals affected by Hurricane Sandy are running low. Because power is spotty, transportation difficult and residents focused on rebuilding, local blood drives have been cancelled and it could be some time before they gear up again.

The MD Anderson Blood Bank has not been called upon to assist with blood supplies elsewhere yet. But if our blood bank can maintain its own reserve for the coming months, it will not need to locate blood products from other regions which may be running short.

Honor someone you love
If you would like to honor a patient or donate in thanksgiving for a survivor, please donate blood or platelets through MD Anderson's Blood Bank. Or if you prefer, you can wait a few weeks --  closer to the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays--  and give. 

reconstructive plastic surgery Art Hill.JPGThe last thing on 64-year-old Art Hill's mind while hiking Machu Picchu this fall is the microvascular muscle flap on his scalp.

But for Jesse Selber, M.D., assistant professor in MD Anderson's Department of Plastic Surgery, it's a reminder that robotics may one day improve outcomes in reconstructive plastic surgery.

Hill was diagnosed in March 2011 with melanoma at the peak of his scalp. When surgeons went deeper and wider to remove more surrounding tissue, it was vital to cover the palm-sized area.

Not only did Hill want to get back to his family and business in Boerne, Texas, but he also needed radiation treatment.

Hill is among the first patients anywhere -- not just MD Anderson -- to have portions of his latissmus dorsi (the large muscle under the arm that wraps around to the back) harvested robotically and transplanted microsurgically.

MD Anderson is all about new ideas.

For more than 70 years, we've been developing and researching new drugs, combinations, diagnostic tests, techniques and technologies for our patients and others around the world.

But where we draw the line is directly endorsing a company or a company's product or service.

For that reason, you might be a little confused about some buzz regarding a skin care product called Nerium, and a vague connection to MD Anderson.

It's suggested that the product, which is featured on multiple social media channels, the product's website and at in-home sales parties, was discovered by an MD Anderson researcher.

scienceofimprovement.jpgAsk survivors to place a value on a future free from cancer, and they will say it's priceless.

Put the question to a growing number of faculty and employees, and many will point to a wide range of initiatives designed to define, measure, share -- and improve -- the value of MD Anderson care.

"Value is defined as cost of care as a function of the desired outcome -- achieving the best possible outcome for the patient's cancer at the lowest cost necessary to achieve that desired outcome," says Randal Weber, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Head and Neck Surgery.

Known as the "science of improvement," this new dimension of research is helping prepare MD Anderson for an era of health care laws, reduced reimbursements, tougher competition and a mandate for public transparency.

Such research and data also can drive policy, improve care and enhance patient satisfaction.

Working in partnership with MD Anderson's quality and performance improvement groups, the Institute for Cancer Care Excellence has launched initiatives to look for ways to eliminate waste, reduce costs, quantify quality care and increase revenues.

Moonstruck at MD Anderson

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WallyandLinda.jpgA surprise hospital visit from her childhood baseball hero put Linda Lindquist over the moon.

Just three days after surgery at MD Anderson to remove a large tumor in her abdomen, Linda was shocked one morning when she answered a knock at her hospital room door.

Instead of her sister, a nurse or food server walking in, her all-time favorite baseball player who had come a half-century out of her past strode through the door with a keepsake in hand.  

Wally Moon starred for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1959 to 1965. Now 81, the former National League Rookie of the Year and three-time World Series champion came to Houston from his home in Bryan, Texas, to meet Linda when he heard about her surgery and abiding support as a fan.

Moon brought Linda a baseball and signed it at her bedside to take the place of a foul ball he hit into the stands where she sat as an 11-year-old with her father in 1960. When the foul ball came down, it bounced hard off her seat and hit Linda in the small of the back. When it came to rest behind her, a fan in the next row grabbed the souvenir. She always felt that ball was hers.

The surprise visit to MD Anderson was cooked up by Linda's sister, Mary Lee, her brother, Bill, and the author of Moon's biography.

Cowles copy.jpgWhen patients are being prepared for surgery, the last thing on their mind is the risk of a fire in the operating room.

At MD Anderson − and a small, but increasing number of institutions nationwide − patients should know that there are people like Charles Cowles, M.D., who think about safety issues such as operating room fires every day, and dedicate themselves to making them an even rarer occurrence than they already are.

Cowles is chief safety officer for MD Anderson's Perioperative Enterprise and an anesthesiologist. As a former firefighter and paramedic with the Beaumont, Texas Fire Department for 14 years, Cowles brings a unique perspective to the role.

Cowles reports that there are roughly 550-650 surgical fires nationwide annually, many which result in severe burns, disfigurement or death. Most patients are unaware of the risks and many surgeons and nurses are not formally trained in handling a fire emergency, he says, but the good news is that the issue is gaining attention nationally.

AFIG_Surgical_Fire.jpgToday, as National Fire Prevention Week winds down, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is announcing a new initiative to reduce the risk of fire in the operating rooms.

All this week Cowles and his team have been giving training sessions, running drills and calling attention to the risks of fire in an OR. He says the operating rooms host components of the "fire triangle" that can spark surgical fires any time these elements are present. They include:

  • Ignition source (laser or cautery device)
  • Fuel source (surgical drapes, alcohol-based skin preps)
  • Oxidizers (oxygen, nitrous oxide)
Removing any of these elements eliminates the risk of fire in the operating room.

Cowles reminds patients that the risk of fire is rare but encourages them to be aware of the risk and ask questions of their doctor, including:

pinklighting.jpgAs the sun goes down over Sugar Land and Katy, Texas, this Saturday, Oct. 1, the soft pink lights and the live music will come up.

To honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the MD Anderson regional care centers in Sugar Land and Katy will host free, family-friendly events at community venues well known for their great shops and restaurants.

The teams from both regional care centers will be on hand at the events to hand out free pink glow necklaces and other giveaways, greet visitors and answer questions about breast cancer and MD Anderson in the community.

In Sugar Land, the Plaza and fountain in Sugar Land Town Square will be awash in soft pink light while the Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra performs a free concert. In the spirit of the evening, the musicians will wear pink and dedicate a special piece of music to honor survivors, patients, caregivers, family members and those who have been lost to breast cancer.



Out west, MD Anderson's Regional Care Center at Katy will light Heritage Square in LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch pink. Austin singer and songwriter Bekah Kelso will give a free performance of her "folk-hop gypsy" music, with the stage and seating area aglow in soft pink.



The events each start about 7:00 p.m., so bring your lawn chairs or blanket to listen to some great live music and then meet the teams from the regional care centers.

MD Anderson's two other regional care centers in Bay Area and The Woodlands will have their pink lighting events later in October. Watch Cancerwise for more information on the events or become a fan of any or all of the Facebook pages for the regional care centers in Bay Area, The Woodlands, Katy or Sugar Land.

Proud to Be Number One

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The survey may list MD Anderson as the number one hospital for cancer care in the nation, but the honor is shared with every patient, survivor and caregiver who has walked through its doors for care.

For the fifth year in a row, US News & World Report's annual "Best Hospitals" survey ranked MD Anderson the nation's best hospital for cancer care. This is the eighth time in the last 10 years that MD Anderson has been honored with the top ranking. Since the survey began in 1990, the center has been in the top two.

MD Anderson also was ranked number three among Houston metropolitan area hospitals in another portion of the survey.

MD Anderson now offers some patients with newly diagnosed, early breast cancer a new treatment option at two of its regional care centers.

Accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI) is available at MD Anderson Regional Care Center in Bay Area and MD Anderson Radiation Treatment Center in Bellaire. Also known as brachytherapy, the technique may be an alternative to the current standard of care, which is four to six weeks of daily external beam radiation after lumpectomy.

APBI directly treats the area in the breast at highest risk for recurrence, while minimizing the dose to the healthy breast tissue. It reduces the number of radiation treatments dramatically, from four to six weeks of daily treatments to approximately five days of
twice-daily treatments.

With APBI, the breast surgeon inserts a small tube or balloon-like device into the lumpectomy cavity and inflates it to fill the small, hollowed out area of the breast where the tumor once was. Richard Ehlers, M.D., a breast surgeon who cares for patients at MD Anderson Regional Care Centers in Sugar Land and Katy, says the devices come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes to suit the needs of each patient. He adds that coordination of care between the surgeon, radiation oncologist and patient is vital.

Once the patient recovers from surgery, she will see her radiation oncologist for planning and treatment, which will take eight to 10 days. Elizabeth Bloom, M.D., who brought the technique to MD Anderson Radiation Treatment Center in Bellaire in 2008, says a tube or catheter carries the radioactive pellet or seed into the implanted device in the breast cavity. The seeds are left in place for five to 10 minutes -- about the length of a typical radiation treatment -- and then removed when the patient leaves the center. The patient returns twice a day for treatment for five days.

Matthew Ballo, M.D., a radiation oncologist at MD Anderson Regional Care Center in Bay Area, has been treating women with APBI since August. He says that, while the treatment rapidly is becoming a standard of care, it is not suitable for every patient. Ballo says the best candidate for the technique is a woman more than 50 years old, who has a relatively small tumor and has disease that is confined to the breast.

The facilities in Bellaire and Bay Area participate in research studying recurrence, survival, side effects and how the treatment compares to the traditional form of radiation. MD Anderson's Proton Therapy Center on the main campus also has a new protocol open using proton therapy to deliver partial breast irradiation.

To learn more about APBI, listen to the audio interview on the topic with Ehlers and Bloom. This podcast is one of a large and growing library of educational interviews from MD Anderson that also is available for downloading at no charge on iTunesU.

We all give gifts and remembrances at holiday time because we want to share the spirit of giving and caring.

This time of year, the MD Anderson Blood Bank is asking for a very personal gift, one that doesn't cost anything but is so vital to the lives of hundreds of MD Anderson patients.  

The need for blood or platelets remains tremendous every day at MD Anderson, regardless of the holidays. Each day, patients require about 150 units of red blood cells and 500 units of platelets; MD Anderson is the largest blood transfusion center in the nation. A donation of either blood or platelets can keep patients' blood counts on track so they can continue lifesaving treatment, recover from stem cell transplants or have innovative surgery.

MD Anderson's Blood Bank on Holly Hall near Almeda, about a mile south of the Texas Medical Center, offers free parking in front of the building, easy access and a comfortable location to give blood or platelets.  It's open Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. - 7 p.m., or weekends from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. The last appointment for platelet donation is one hour before closing. There also is a donation center that is open during the week on second floor of MD Anderson's Mays Ambulatory Clinic Building at 1220 Holcombe.

Please call 713/792-7777 to make an appointment to donate platelets or ask questions about giving blood or sponsoring a blood drive. You need not call to schedule an appointment for blood donation, but one is recommended for platelet donation because it can take up to two hours. Please click on the link above for directions, eligibility requirements, donating in the name of a patient and other information.

A donation of blood or platelets can touch the lives of three MD Anderson patients.

MD Anderson's Institute for Cancer Care Excellence recently published an analysis of anticipated health care reform legislation in the noted journal CANCER and, along the way, illustrated why its research is vital to the future of MD Anderson and the cancer care community.

The review article, which appeared online Nov. 8 in CANCER, outlined the many implications of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Reconciliation Act on Cancer Care Delivery. Signed into law last March by President Obama, the two health care reform acts open insurance coverage and ensure access to health care services to millions more Americans.

While the authors write that the true impact of these reforms will not be realized for several years, the cancer care community should anticipate changes in the short-term related to quality reporting and measurement, health care delivery systems and payment structures. They also outline what reforms mean for cancer-specific interests such as hospital re-admissions, prevention services, molecular diagnostics, clinical trials and professional education and call on cancer care providers to  engage in ongoing discussions about quality reporting and care delivery.   

Read the full article in CANCER.

MD Anderson's Institute for Cancer Care Excellence, created in 2009, has been at the forefront of cancer patient care, exploring outcomes, delivery and cost of multidisciplinary care but there is much work to do. Led by Thomas W. Burke, M.D., executive vice president and physician-in-chief; Thomas W. Feeley, M.D., vice president for medical operations and head of the Division of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, and Ron S. Walters, M.D., associate vice president for medical operations and informatics, the Institute for Cancer Care Excellence will play a crucial role at MD Anderson in developing the next generation of cancer care delivery systems, keeping patients the focus of care, enhancing safety and delivering care at a reasonable cost.

Beauty_barber_shop.JPGLike the patients who frequent it, the new Beauty/Barber Shop at MD Anderson is now a more beautiful place.

As part of the Alkek Hospital expansion project, which added nine inpatient floors to the existing building, patients can come to a larger, brighter and more attractive location for free haircuts, shampoos, shaves, scalp massages and wig fittings or stylings. It's also more accessible, now that it's on Floor 6 of Alkek Hospital.

The new shop, which opened last week, has been designed like a salon with five styling stations, two shampoo bowls, two stationary hair dryers and plenty of display room for wigs, scarves, turbans and other accessories. The shop is open and airy with windows looking out toward Reliant Stadium and the Texas Medical Center, and the wood paneling, pendant lights and rain-beaded glass add to a spa-like atmosphere.

The Beauty/Barber Shop is staffed by two certified cosmetologists who have worked at MD Anderson for many years and every day witness the lift that a shampoo or styling can bring a patient. Volunteers -- many who are survivors -- also work in the shop, helping patients with their choice of scarves or wigs.

The Beauty/Barber Shop is a program of MD Anderson's Department of Volunteer Services. All services are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis.


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