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iStock_000011519043Small.jpgBy Brian M. Bruel, M.D.

Some cancer patients believe that pain is simply a part of cancer treatment, but pain is usually very treatable.

About one-third of cancer patients experience pain as a cancer treatment side effect. The severity and duration of pain differs widely from one patient to the next, depending on disease type, course of treatment and many other factors.

The best way to treat pain is to find the combination of treatments appropriate for each person's condition. It may even be possible to treat your cancer-related pain without medications.

How to alleviate pain during cancer treatment
Below are several ways to alleviate cancer-related pain alongside the medical treatment your doctor may prescribe. As with any symptom or side effect, it's important to discuss your pain with your physician so he or she can identify the best treatments for you.

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By Janet Tu, M.D.

You might forget an appointment, or where you last saw your car keys. Or you might struggle with remembering the name of an acquaintance you run into at the grocery store. Sometimes after chemotherapy, people experience side effects of cancer treatment including "foggy" moments or lapses in memory that can be frustrating, particularly since it can linger for a few months to long after chemotherapy is complete. Chemobrain can be challenging, but there are methods to help you cope.

Keep a calendar
Between work, family and social engagements, we all have a lot on our plates. Chemobrain can make keeping up with dates and appointments even more difficult. Spend time entering important dates in your calendar and check it regularly. Similarly, make lists of tasks you need to accomplish and cross them off when you've completed them.

erikaevans21314.jpgBy Erika Evans

You're getting ready to go to the hospital for your stem cell transplant. You've made your list, you've checked it twice. You're ready.

But there's nothing like the wisdom that comes from experience. I underwent an umbilical cord blood transplant as a part of my acute myeloid leukemia (AML) treatment. Here are five things I wish I would have known before checking in.

1. Bring walking shoes.
You've heard this thousands of times: You'll walk a lot with the nurses. This is no exaggeration.

Each time you complete a lap, you'll get some sort of paper recognition from a nurse.
Display these tokens on your door.

Many times when I felt too tired or sick to walk, I looked at my door and saw what I had already accomplished. This helped me feel better, either by reminding me of my strength or reassuring me that it was OK to take a day off. Plus, the signs on your door may help motivate other patients.

nurse with patient.jpgPreparing for chemotherapy may cause you anxiety, but talking to fellow cancer survivors can help. 

We asked our Facebook community for advice on preparing to start chemo during cancer treatment. Here's what our patients suggested:

Pack a bag.

  • Bring warm clothing layers in case you get cold. Pack jackets, sweatshirts, scarves and warm socks. At MD Anderson, we have blankets available for all patients and a bed or recliner available depending on what type of chemotherapy you'll receive.
  • Bring something to do. Patients recommend books, laptop computers or tablets. We provide television and Internet access for our patients. Many patients also suggest listening to music that makes you feel good.
  • Include healthy snacks or chewing gum.

Kamat_Cysto_184_small.jpgby Jacqueline Mason

If you've been in the dark about advances in cancer surgery, look no further than the emerging field of minimally invasive operations aided by fluorescence.

New technologies make it possible to highlight and eradicate more cancer cells in real time using fluorescent dyes and endoscopic instruments with filtered light. Patients hardly can tell the difference from traditional surgery, especially when they're spared future recurrence from otherwise hidden cancer cells.

While fluorescence isn't appropriate for every case, surgeons in Urology and Gynecologic Oncology are especially excited about two new uses.

New hope for bladder cancer patients
H. Barton Grossman, M.D., clinical professor in Urology, helped prove the effectiveness of fluorescence cystoscopy as principal investigator of a large, randomized study of bladder cancer patients in 2007.

quit_smoking_how_to_curb_the_urge.JPGThis 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.

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This past year, we recorded more than two-dozen audio podcasts with our doctors on groundbreaking research, prevention insight, and the latest cancer diagnosis and treatment options.

Here are five of our best Cancer Newsline podcasts recorded in 2013. Download and listen to one or all of them to find out what you need to know about cancer.

Cancer and teeth
It's not uncommon to experience ulcers, dry mouth and other oral conditions before, during and after cancer treatment. Mark Chambers, D.M.D., professor in Head and Neck Oncology, talks about why it's so important to pay attention to your oral health and what you need to know no matter where you are in your cancer journey. Listen to the podcast.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer basics
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the seventh most common cancer in the United States. And, it's often misdiagnosed. Jason Westin, M.D., assistant professor in Lymphoma/Myeloma, talks about Non-Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms to watch for, as well as diagnosis, treatment options and clinical trials. Listen to the podcast.

In 2013, we shot videos covering everything from groundbreaking research to wisdom from our patients and caregivers to MD Anderson's hidden gems and major milestones. We even recorded our first music video.

Here are our five most-watched videos from the past year.

"Hold On" -- a message of hope for cancer patients
One of our doctors, Greg Lizee, Ph.D., has written and recorded a song of hope called "Hold On." We've dedicated the song to all those touched by cancer.

Watch Dr. Lizee's "Hold On" music video:



Moon Shots Program 1-year milestones
When we launched our Moon Shots Program in Sept. 2012, we vowed to significantly reduce cancer deaths for several cancers and ultimately find cures for these and other cancers. Learn about the progress we've already and what's ahead for our efforts to end cancer.

Watch the Moon Shots Program 1-year milestones video:

tennis shoes

No matter where you are in your journey, cancer can raise more questions than answers. But by doing your research and adhering to the adage that "knowledge is power," you can make your cancer journey more manageable.

Here's some of the most helpful advice and insight shared by our doctors and other experts in 2013.

4 common myths about cancer doctors
In getting to know his patients, Nikesh Jasani, M.D., has learned that there are a lot of misperceptions about oncologists. Find out what he wishes more patients knew.

CT and MRI scans: Tips for coping with stress
Do upcoming MRI or CT scans cause you to lose sleep and interfere with your daily life? Good news: it is possible to manage this so-called scanxiety. Learn how to reign in scanxiety.

DiNardo.jpgAt MD Anderson, we're constantly looking for innovative new ways to provide the best possible cancer treatment options for our patients as we work toward our mission of Making Cancer History®. To help with this, we've enlisted a cognitive computing system powered by IBM Watson.

This technology, known as Oncology Expert Advisor™ (OEA), will soon be used by our doctors and researchers as part of our Moon Shots Program, starting with our fight against leukemia. Ultimately, we hope to use the OEA in all of our clinics to help our patients regardless of their cancer type.

By pulling together and analyzing vast amounts of information from patient and research databases, the OEA is expected to help our care teams identify and fine-tune the best possible cancer treatments for our patients, while also alerting them to problems that arise during a patient's care. The OEA is also expected to help our researchers advance new discoveries in our fight against cancer.

We recently spoke with Courtney DiNardo, M.D., assistant professor in Leukemia, who's been testing the OEA before it debuts in our leukemia clinic. Here's what she had to say.

What are the benefits of using the OEA to organize and collect data about our patients?
The OEA can extract patient information from various data sources and synthesize all available medical records into a clear, concise and accurate synopsis. It can analyze clinical information, medical history, as well as leukemia-related information, such as specific genetic and molecular features, and look at all available information in the context of published evidence-based guidelines and available clinical trials.

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By Erin Buck, Ph.D., and Martha A. Askins, Ph.D.

 

When parents are faced with changes to their appearance or bodily functioning as a side effect of cancer and cancer treatment, they often struggle with what to tell their children. To protect their kids emotionally, parents sometimes delay or avoid talking to children about cancer treatment.

 

But that can lead to confusion, isolation and anxiety for children. These conversations can be helpful for both kids and parents.


Here is our advice for talking to your kids about physical changes resulting from cancer.

 

When should I talk to my children about physical changes?

Timing of the conversation depends on your child's development and maturity. School-aged kids and adolescents benefit from preparing for a parent's surgery weeks to months in advance, but very young children tend to benefit from a shorter preparation time span. 


It may not be possible to give your child the optimal amount of time to prepare, so make the most of whatever time you do have. Just remember: advance preparation is key.

Harley.jpgBy Harley Hudson

If you are wondering what it's like to be in a clinical trial, I have an answer: It's different from other types of leukemia treatment.

I have been through every drug available to treat my chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), all of them infusions taking up to six or seven hours. I have had cancer treatment side effects ranging from insomnia to hair loss and a few reactions in between. I know chemotherapy. I have friends with other types of leukemia who have been taking a pill for several years. I was jealous, but not anymore.

My clinical trial for CLL treatment
ABT-199, the trial drug I am on, is a pill. It's nice not having to sit in a recliner to get an infusion for a whole day. What isn't nice is the requirement that I take the pill at exactly 8a.m. every day within 30 minutes of a low-fat breakfast.

Every morning no later than 7:25 a.m., I head to the hotel breakfast room and choose oatmeal, dried cranberries, granola and brown sugar, although what I really want are sausages and waffles. I sometimes supplement that with a slice of brown bread and jam -- no butter.

Yeah, it is a boring breakfast, but the selections are very limited for a low-fat breakfast. I'm back in my room in time to take the bright yellow pill.

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