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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.

Conquest Garden photos (1).JPGFrom the gardens to the skybridge to our leading doctors and kind volunteers, there are many things that set MD Anderson apart and help our patients feel at home. 

Whether it's your first appointment or you've become an old pro, you're likely to appreciate these 17 unique features.

1. Our 69 aquariums. The 66 freshwater and three saltwater live coral reef aquariums in our clinics are home to 3,000 fish -- mostly cichlids, angelfish and rainbow fish. The largest freshwater aquarium, by the Pharmacy in the Main Building, holds 850 gallons.

2. The Observation Deck.
Located on the 24th Floor of the Main Building, the Observation Deck offers peace and quiet, as well as a scenic view of Houston. You're also welcome to play the piano up there.

3. Our volunteers. MD Anderson is fortunate to have more than 1,200 volunteers who contributed  193,921 hours of service last year. Stop by our Hospitality Centers for a cup of coffee and to visit with these caring individuals, many of whom are survivors or caregivers themselves.

4. Our pianos. Twenty-five of our volunteers play the piano in The Park and the Mays Clinic between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. They also play at the Rotary House each day. If you're lucky, you may hear our harpist or one of our two flautists as well.

5. Room service. Inpatients -- as well as their families, caregivers and friends -- can order whatever they want from room service each day from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Our classically trained senior executive chef comes up with the menu of fresh, cooked-to-order meals.  

QE_CT_Scans_047_master.jpgCT scans or CAT scans are a crucial part of the cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment process. A CT scan takes X-ray images from multiple angles. This allows your doctors to see where the cancer is located and determine whether the cancer treatment is working.

For many patients, CT scans can be a source of anxiety, especially if you've never had one before. Many patients call this "scanxiety," and while it's a perfectly normal feeling, knowing what to expect can help reduce feelings of nervousness.

Preparing for your CT scan
Before getting a CT scan, there are a few things you should do. Following these steps is essential to ensuring your care team gets the images they need to get a good look at your cancer.

Mays_Clinic_fountain_411_SkyKMCropFlat.jpgIt can take a while to learn all the ins and outs of MD Anderson. To help you get ahead and make your next trip to MD Anderson even better, we're sharing our insider tips.

Grab free coffee while visiting a Hospitality Center. 
Coffee is available in the cafeterias and the various coffee shops throughout campus, but you can find free coffee in our Hospitality Centers in the Main Building and Mays Clinic. Stop by and chat with our volunteers. Many of them are members of the Anderson Network and are cancer survivors themselves.

Find our Hospitality Centers.

Leave the babysitting to us.
Our Child Visitation Rooms offers free, safe, short-term child care of children ages 2 months to 12 years. Drop your kids off for up to two hours at a time, so they can play with toys and games or watch movies while you tend to the business of cancer.

carissa922.jpgBy Carissa Lucas

As a 25-year-old athlete with an almost perfect health history, my lymphoma diagnosis was a crushing blow. It happened so quickly that I almost didn't have time to process what was happening to me, until I found myself sitting in an infusion room a week later receiving my first round of chemotherapy.

I won't deny it: chemotherapy is tough. However I found some strategies that helped me cope.

Though everyone responds to treatment differently, I hope at least one of these strategies makes chemo a little easier for you.

iStock_000011745159XLarge.jpgWant to help a friend or loved one dealing with cancer? It can be hard to know exactly what you can or should do.
 
That's why we asked the cancer patients, survivors and caregivers in our Facebook community to tell us the most helpful thing you can do for a friend or loved one dealing with cancer. Here's their advice.

1. Visit. Cancer patients and caregivers are still people, and they want to see you, talk to you and laugh with you.

2. Listen. Ask questions to show you care, but let your friend or loved one lead the conversation.

3. Pray.

4. Find a way to help and just do it. Don't ask if there's anything you can do. Chances are your friend will just say thank you and won't ask you to help. Many of our Facebook fans suggested just doing something for friends with cancer instead of asking what they need.

Siefker-Radtke_088__master.jpgThis year, nearly 75,000 people will be diagnosed with bladder cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. The vast majority of people diagnosed with this disease are white men over age 55, but bladder cancer can -- and does -- affect men and women of all ages and races.

For many, blood in the urine will be the first tell-tale bladder cancer symptom. But many patients don't come to MD Anderson until their disease is late-stage and the bladder cancer has spread. And that, says, Arlene Siefker-Radtke, M.D., associate professor in Genitourinary Medical Oncology, can make it harder to treat.

Here's what Dr. Siefker-Radtke wants bladder cancer patients and caregivers to know so they can get the best treatment possible and boost their chances of beating this disease.

What factors make someone more likely to develop bladder cancer?
Tobacco use is one of the biggest risk factors for bladder cancer. That includes smoking, as well as every other kind of tobacco use, including snuff, dip and chew.

Chemical exposure also can increase a person's risk of bladder cancer. People who work around a lot of chemicals are more likely to develop bladder cancer.

Harley731.jpgBy Harley Hudson

I decided to keep a diary of my stem cell transplant experience so it might help others in preparing for their stem cell transplants. Here are the first two entries.

Day 0, 5:16 a.m.: The day of my stem cell transplant
That's right. Day 0. The day my family and I have been anticipating for over 465 days, since last March. And, oh what a day it is: my rebirthday, the day of my stem cell transplant, perhaps the most important part of my chronic lymphocyctic leukemia (CLL) treatment.

Somewhere in the U.S., a young man is in a collection center donating his O+ stem cells, which will be airlifted to MD Anderson and infused into my O- system.

His stem cells will engraft in my bone marrow and begin to produce stem cells that will become white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. His white cells will destroy what remains of my own white cells, healthy and unhealthy alike, and will become my cells. I will be reborn, given a new opportunity at life.

friends walking.jpgResearch shows that exercise is safe and beneficial for most cancer patients and survivors. In fact, in most cases, it is important to keep exercising during cancer treatment.

"Exercise has the potential to help reduce some of the fatigue experienced during and after treatment, especially if you're undergoing radiation therapy. And, it can help prevent weight gain commonly experienced during chemotherapy treatment," says Carol Harrison, senior exercise physiologist.

Exercise also has the potential to improve your psychological outlook and improve your quality of life. But you may need to make some adjustments before you exercise during cancer treatment.

"It depends on treatment, type of cancer and when you need to get back into what you were doing before," Harrison says.

Use this advice to help you get started.

victorhassid.jpgBy Victor Hassid, M.D.


Breast reconstruction and symmetry procedures following mastectomy are very personal decisions that breast cancer patients need to carefully consider.

Fortunately, patients have choices when it comes to breast reconstruction. There is no cookie-cutter approach, and patients need to discuss their options in depth with their physician.

Here are five of the most common breast reconstruction myths I hear.

Myth: Breast reconstruction must take place immediately after a mastectomy.
Some women aren't certain they want breast reconstruction and wait months or even years before having surgery. Patients still undergoing breast cancer treatment may want to wait until after they have completed radiation, as radiation can limit your options for reconstruction and affect the final result. However, other women want to have breast reconstruction when they have their mastectomy.

There is no right time to undergo breast reconstruction. The timing of your reconstruction should be up to you and your physician.

Rob.jpgBy Robert Matney

Once you've received a cancer diagnosis, you're faced with a series of sometimes urgent choices, including which type of cancer treatment you undergo. We make a personal and nuanced choice when we select treatment, and I believe that the best choices come from the best information about the best options.

After my melanoma diagnosis, I underwent surgeries to remove a wide area around the original site and 39 lymph nodes (sentinel node followed by those in the region). I was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma and needed to quickly determine what treatment to keep the cancer at bay. After much research, deliberation and discussion with family and doctors, I chose a clinical trial.  

Selecting the right clinical trial
After consulting my doctors at MD Anderson -- Patrick Hwu, M.D., and Merrick Ross, M.D., -- I decided that a clinical trial would help further future treatment for myself and others, and would also be a sober, smart choice based on the relative risks and successes of the available treatments.

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