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alvarez MD.JPGInflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is the most aggressive form of breast cancer. Symptoms for this rare type of breast cancer often include itching, dimpling of the skin of the breast, and a pink, red or dark-colored area of the breast. As a result, IBC is frequently misdiagnosed as a rash or infection.

Because IBC is very fast growing, it's crucial that IBC be treated as quickly as possible and by specialized experts.

MD Anderson established the world's first IBC clinic in 2007 to treat women who've been treated before as well as those who are newly diagnosed. MD Anderson's doctors see more IBC patients than any other center in the world.

Ricardo  H. Alvarez, M.D., is a breast medical oncologist in the Morgan Welch Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Program and Clinic.

Sujit Prabhu.JPGBy Sujit Prabhu, M.D.

Brain surgery requires precision and excellent judgment on part of the neurosurgeon for good patient outcomes. We neurosurgeons try to remove as much of the brain tumor as possible and return patients to their full functional capacity.

The most common type of brain surgery for a tumor is a craniotomy. On average, this operation, takes four to six hours. Below, I've answered some common questions about brain surgery. 

How do you decide if a brain tumor patient needs surgery?


The decision depends on the patient's brain tumor symptoms, the tumor location and the type of tumor, if known. In a small number of patients with certain benign tumors no surgery is required. In most instances, however, we make the decision to operate at the initial visit and schedule the operation within seven to ten days.   

What are the pre-operative procedures and medications for a craniotomy?

shah cw.JPGBy Shalin Shah, M.D.

Regardless of where radiation fits into your cancer treatment plan, you may have questions about what you'll experience during radiation therapy.

Here are a few things you should know about radiation.

How radiation works
Receiving radiation is similar to receiving a very strong x-rays.

Advances in radiation therapy allow us to pinpoint cancerous cells with amazing accuracy.

The goal of radiation is to kill the cancerous cells to both shrink a tumor and to prevent it from growing and spreading. We try to avoid normal tissue at the same time.

Common radiation myths
Patients often ask if radiation will make them glow in the dark afterwards. The answer is no.

Mark Lewis MD.JPGBy Mark Lewis, M.D.

Individuals with a history of cancer in their family often seek out testing to learn if they, too, carry a gene that might indicate a future cancer diagnosis.

That's certainly true for me. My father, a non-smoker, was diagnosed with a very rare lung cancer when I was 8 years old.

When I got older and began researching facts about my father's cancer, I learned that in my family there exists a cancer syndrome called multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN-1) syndrome that makes us more likely to develop tumors on our endocrine glands.

I've had non-malignant tumors in my pituitary and parathyroid glands, as well as my pancreas.

I get screened every year to make sure my tumors are behaving. Because I'm an oncologist, I can keep a vigilant eye on my own health. I can also share this information with my children when they get older because it's possible that our family history could play an important role in their health, and they'll want to share that information with their own doctors.

degroot213.jpgBy John de Groot, M.D. 


Ever heard of gliomas? These primary brain tumors arise within the brain, but we don't know the cell of origin.

There are multiple grades of gliomas -- grade II, III and IV, with grade IV being the most malignant. 

Grade IV tumors are called glioblastoma. They are the most aggressive and are very infiltrative - they spread into other parts of the brain quickly. Glioblastomas don't metastasize outside of the brain.  

Glioblastomas can occur in any lobe of the brain and even the brain stem and cerebellum, but more commonly occur in the frontal and temporal lobes. Below, I've answered some common questions I get about glioblastoma.

ana C.JPGMelanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. And, although many cases of skin melanoma can be prevented, it's becoming increasingly common in the United States, especially among young adults.

MD Anderson is working hard to combat melanoma through our Moon Shot Program.

Below, Ana M. Ciurea, M.D., assistant professor in MD Anderson's Department of Dermatology and associate medical director of MD Anderson's Cancer Prevention Center, answers questions about skin melanoma.

What is melanoma of the skin?

Melanoma of the skin originates in the cells that make melanin, the substance that gives the skin its color. Sometimes these cells change, often due to damage from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial light. Over time, this can result in melanoma.

How common is skin melanoma in the United States?
Since 1950, melanoma cases have increased by 600% in the United States, and death rates have risen by 150%. In recent years, there's been an especially disturbing trend of increased incidence in young adults -- especially women ages 20-30.The American Cancer Society projects that 76,690 new cases will be diagnosed in 2013, and about 9,480 people will die of melanoma this year.

buttefly in hands-CW.jpgThis is a continuation of yesterday's post on how pre-surgery visualization helped me.

Telling my surgical team about visualization
I didn't tell my surgical team about my new visualization practice right away.

I decided to bring it up during a surgery planning appointment. At the end of our visit, after we had discussed all of the medical aspects of the procedure, I mentioned the details of my request. "I'm very fond of integrative therapies because I believe in them, and I know they will help me heal better and faster," I said to my surgeon and nurse.

"But my surgical team has to be involved. Can you please help me?" I was relieved when they respectfully agreed to participate and put notes about my request in my chart.

guided imagery.JPGBy Jila Tanha

In July 2010, I was diagnosed with a serious disease that required three major surgeries over the course of a year-and-a-half.

Because I work in The Learning Center, you would think I would approach my own health with an "I know all that" attitude. Well, that didn't happen.

The reality of my diagnosis hit me, and anxiety took over.

I was facing three surgeries and wanted to do the right things to help my body prepare.

I wanted to heal quickly with fewer post-surgery complications.

patient ed learning center pic- final.JPGThe internet can make life easier, but the answers it gives you can be overwhelming when you're dealing with cancer.

So what's the best way to find the most reliable, accurate information? Through The Learning Center at MD Anderson. We'll help you find the latest information about general health, cancer and issues related to cancer and cancer prevention. All services are free.

A credible resource

The Learning Center staff provides information that's current and accurate from trustworthy sources, including scientific and medical databases.

hand holding heart shaped rock Cancerwise.JPGBy Liza Sanchez

I recently organized my closet, determined to find some old photos taken at the Houston Zoo during my childhood.

The photos evoke fond memories for me. In one of them taken in the late 1970s, I am proudly posing in front of the lion water fountain. That fountain is still a welcoming fixture in the zoo.

Years later, I find myself back in a place of wonder and discovery. I now volunteer at the Houston Zoo as a veterinary cardiac imaging specialist along with Jose Banchs, M.D., medical director for MD Anderson's Echocardiography Laboratory. We perform cardiac examinations on the primates such as chimpanzees and orangutans.

The animals' anatomies are very closely related to those of humans. So, volunteering at the zoo allows us to use our expertise to help out the primates. It also reminds me how important it is for us humans to take good care of our hearts.

Heart technology at MD Anderson
MD Anderson is one of only a handful of echocardiography labs in the world to use the latest techniques and ultrasound technology to evaluate our human cancer patients.

When we're dealing with cancer patients, the difference of a few percentage points in ejection fraction (the measure of overall heart function) can make a difference in treatment.

massage therapy for cancer patient blog.JPGBy Sat Siri Sumler, massage therapist, Integrative Medicine Center

It has been known for thousands of years that massage feels good, helps relieve pain, stress and other symptoms, and is safe if given by an appropriately trained professional.

Wondering how to find a massage therapist who will take your cancer-related concerns into consideration during your massage? Here are some tips to help you find a trained massage therapist who can address your cancer and cancer treatment-related needs.

1. Consult your oncologist.

To ensure coordinated and safe care, speak with your primary oncologist before having a massage. Your doctor can address any concerns. If your doctor thinks massage can be integrated into your care plan, ask him or her to request massage services for you from MD Anderson's Integrative Medicine Center through online consults.

Looking for massage therapy outside of Houston? Ask your doctor for a written order that you can give your local massage therapist.

How to quit smoking mary dewberry_final.JPGBy Mary Dewberry

In January 1989, MD Anderson went smoke-free. It happened the same month and year that I started working here.

Now when people see me, they think of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout (GASO) and saying no to tobacco. That's because for 23 years, I've helped coordinate GASO's logistics and direct people to resources here at MD Anderson during the event, which is held every November.

But for me, GASO isn't about trying to quit for one day or one week. It's about providing resources to help year-round.

Here are a few of the resources I recommend to those trying to quit.

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