Whether you have an upcoming CT scan or are expecting news from your doctor, waiting can cause anxiety, worry and stress. You might have trouble sleeping or feel impatient with your loved ones. All of this is completely normal. Here at MD Anderson, we call that scanxiety.
The good news is there are many ways to deal with scanxiety. To help make the waiting game a little easier, we asked our Facebook community how they cope with the stress or anxiety before an important scan or appointment. Here's what they had to say:
- Pray. Many of our patients and caregivers said they found comfort in prayer. Because they feel a loss of control, praying allows them do what they can and then let go of those anxious feelings.
- Have faith and confidence in your care team. Know that our doctors and the rest of your care team will take care of everything. That's their job.
- Listen to your favorite music. Whether you're in the waiting room, in your car or at home or work, music can help you escape from the realities of cancer, or find the strength and determination to face them head-on.
- Find humor. Nothing eases tension like laughter.
Continue reading 10 ways to ease stress and anxiety during cancer treatment.
By Jaymee Fiskum
I wasn't the only one diagnosed with anaplastic large T cell lymphoma small cell variant (ALCL) in May 2013. My entire family took on my cancer journey as if it was their own.
Because of them, I consider myself lucky -- as weird as it may sound. I have so much support in my life. It motivated me to fight harder. I couldn't let myself down, but I couldn't let all of them down either.
How my family helped me cope with ALCL
Each one of my family members played a huge part in my cancer journey.
After my doctor told me I had ALCL. In September 2013, I began six cycles of chemotherapy, followed by a stem cell transplant. I was very fortunate enough to have my sister as my donor. Who would've thought letting her borrow my clothes all those years would pay off?
Continue reading How my cancer journey became my family's cancer journey.
By Angela Young
When Samuel Loftin's blood work showed an unusual level of liver enzymes, a gastroenterologist near his Alabama home recommended an ultrasound of his liver. When that test was negative, the doctor ordered an MRI, which showed two suspicious liver lesions, as well as an abnormality in his spine. Samuel's doctor said it was probably cancer and that spots on his spine meant it might have spread to his vertebrae. Samuel was referred to a nearby cancer center.
"My doctor set up the appointment, but it was three weeks away. I just couldn't wait that long," Samuel says.
He called MD Anderson and got an appointment right away at the Mary Ann Weiser Suspicion of Cancer Clinic. Created in 2001, the clinic is named for a former MD Anderson doctor who wanted to focus on detecting cancer at its earliest stages. Weiser always was looking for a challenge, according to colleagues.
"When patients try to come here without a clear diagnosis, it can be difficult for them to come in the front door," says John Patlan, M.D., in General Internal Medicine. "Dr. Weiser's goal was to make it easier for them."
After Weiser died in 2006, Patlan took over leadership of the clinic. Two years ago, the clinic received additional funding, and now it has a dedicated workspace in the Internal Medicine Center and a second doctor, Michael Perdon, M.D., in General Internal Medicine.
Patlan works in the clinic three days a week, and Perdon takes over on the other two days. Veronica Smith, a nurse practitioner, works full-time, and Maura Polansky, a physician assistant, works in the clinic one morning a week. Together, the team sees 15 to 20 concerned, but hopeful, new patients each week.
Patlan estimates they spend three or four hours with each patient beyond the initial one-hour clinic visit. That includes coordination of multiple diagnostic studies and phone calls to the patient and to other doctors.
Next-day appointments for Houston patients
Often, patients who live in the Houston area are surprised they can get an appointment at the Suspicion of Cancer Clinic the day after they call. When they arrive for their first appointment, Smith, the nurse practitioner is usually the first provider they see, and they share their fears with her.
"Dealing with the unknown causes them so much anxiety," Smith says. "Some patients say they feel better even if they find out they do have cancer."
Continue reading How our Suspicion of Cancer Clinic helps patients.
By Barbara Kielaszek
My cancer story began over 40 years ago when my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sadly, my grandmother waited too long to see a doctor. Even though she had a double mastectomy and showed her courageous spirit during her cancer journey, the cancer had spread and my grandmother died within a few years.
About the same time my grandmother received her breast cancer diagnosis, my mom found a lump that turned out to be breast cancer. She underwent a mastectomy of her left breast. Ten years later, Mom found a lump in her right breast followed by another mastectomy. It's been 30 years since Mom's second mastectomy -- and she's been cancer-free ever since then.
When I received my own breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 55 I had two examples of tremendous heart, spirit and courage to follow. For me, that made all the difference.
My breast cancer diagnosis
I started getting annual mammograms after my mom received her second diagnosis. Each year, I almost expected to hear the words, "You have cancer."
That phone call finally came in June 2013. I had infiltrating ductal carcinoma.
Continue reading What a Houston breast cancer survivor learned from her family.
Often, cancer can put a strain on your relationships. Whether you're a patient, caregiver, family member or friend of a patient, it's emotionally tough for everyone. But those relationships can be what help you through your cancer journey the most. So, what can you do to stay close with your loved ones while dealing with cancer?
We asked our Facebook community what they do to stay connected with their loved ones during treatment. Here's what they had to say.
Continue reading 20 ways to feel closer to loved ones during cancer treatment.
In the 1980s, the American Cancer Society reported that 80% of kidney cancers were diagnosed in the late stages. Today, thanks to better screening methods, only about 40% of cases are discovered at the advanced stage even though patients may not have any kidney cancer symptoms.
At MD Anderson, we're continuing to make progress in improving kidney cancer diagnoses and kidney cancer treatment. We spoke with Eric Jonasch, M.D., associate professor in Genitourinary Medical Oncology, to find out more about kidney cancer treatment and research, as well as prevention and diagnosis. Here's what he had to say.
Who's at risk for kidney cancer? What signs and symptoms should people look for?
Those who have a first-degree relative, like a parent or sibling, who have had kidney cancer are more likely to develop kidney cancer. So are men, as this type of cancer is seen in men twice as often as in women.
In addition, the older we get, the greater our risk becomes. Most kidney cancer patients are over age 60. People who are obese, have high blood pressure or smoke also are more likely to be diagnosed with kidney cancer.
How is kidney cancer diagnosed?
Increasingly, kidney cancer is diagnosed incidentally, when a patient comes in for an unrelated complaint that requires a CT scan and the care team discovers a mass in the kidney.
Kidney cancer symptoms don't often show themselves, but patients whose cancer has progressed to a later stage may experience pain in the stomach or lower back, or blood in their urine.
Patients with kidney cancer also may experience unexplained high hemoglobin levels, unexplained uncontrollable blood pressure or unexplained and persistent weight loss.
Once the cancer is spotted through the CT scan, and there is no sign of spread to other organs, the surgical team may proceed directly to a surgical removal of the tumor. But if the tumor looks abnormal or like it has grown outside of the kidney, they may perform a biopsy to determine if it is a different cancer type.
Continue reading What to know about kidney cancer .
By Jami Mayberry
Wouldn't it be great if there were a cure for cancer? I am praying for that to happen in our lifetimes.
The only thing better than a cure for cancer would be to never get it. A vaccine would do just that. And fortunately, one already exists for cervical cancer and other types of cancer related to the human papillomavirus (HPV).
By getting your kids vaccinated against HPV, you can protect them from several strands of HPV that are known to cause cancer in both women and men.
With the HPV vaccine, I could've avoided cancer
Oh, how I wish they would have had the HPV vaccine when I was young. I would have gotten it, and it might have saved me from so much suffering.
You see, in May 2013, I was diagnosed with vulvar cancer, which may have been caused by HPV. The vaccine may have been able to prevent it. I have spent many hours thinking of how wonderful it would have been to have the vaccine as a child. While many people think of the HPV vaccine preventing cervical cancer, it also can prevent anal cancer, penile cancer, vulvar cancer, oral cancer, and head and neck cancers.
Continue reading Why I support the HPV vaccine.
By Vickie Sayed
My cancer story started in December 2013, when I was 36 years old. I was raising my 11-year-old son, busy with nursing school and just weeks away from my wedding.
I never thought the pain I first felt after a fall was a symptom of ependymoma, a type of spinal tumor.
My ependymoma symptoms and diagnosis
My journey started when I was getting out of the shower one day. I lost balance and fell hard right on my tailbone. I stayed on the floor for a couple minutes, trying to refocus myself. Over the next couple of weeks, the pain intensified, and I finally went to the emergency room. The doctors suspected it was caused by a herniated disc.
A couple of days later, the pain subsided, and life continued as usual.
But a few weeks later, not long after my wedding, the pain returned. My husband and I made four trips to the emergency room in one week. Each time, the pain intensified, but our questions remained unanswered. When the pain became crippling and I could no longer move, my husband decided it was time to call a neurosurgeon. An EMS team had to take me to the appointment the following day.
The neurosurgeon admitted me to the hospital and ordered an MRI, which showed a tumor between two vertebrae. A couple of hours later, I was undergoing surgery.
Continue reading Finding strength after my ependymoma diagnosis.
By Dianna Ray
I had a very short breast cancer treatment journey -- a scant six weeks from diagnosis to cure, thanks to early detection following a routine mammogram and the care I received at MD Anderson in the Nellie B. Connally Breast Center's Multi Team Clinic. I'm lucky to have been able to get all of my care in one place close to my home in Houston.
Early detection saved my life
I've been getting annual mammograms since my 30s because I have fibrocystic breasts, a common condition that causes benign lumps or pain in the breasts.
About 10 years ago, my doctor found an area of microcalcifications (a small cluster of calcium) and ordered a biopsy. Thankfully, everything was fine.
So, when the same condition presented itself again on my most recent mammogram in August 2014, I wasn't too concerned. But five days after the biopsy, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, a type of breast cancer.
Continue reading How MD Anderson made my breast cancer treatment journey quick .
A cancer diagnosis can feel lonely and overwhelming. But listening to the experiences of those who have been there before -- other cancer survivors -- can help.
We talked with four cancer survivors and caregivers and asked them to share their advice for those who've recently received a cancer diagnosis. Here's what they had to say.
Trust your care team at MD Anderson
"Know that you're going to have the best doctors in the nation that are going to be looking out for you. And it's not just the best doctors, it's a team. MD Anderson is the best in the world at having a team concept." -- Frank Mellen, B-cell lymphoma survivor
Watch Frank share more advice.
Keep living your life
"I continued with my life as I had lived it before. I do a lot of walking. I do a lot of reading. I used to do a lot of dancing. I think it's important to just keep living." -- Nancy Kahn, ovarian cancer survivor
Watch Nancy share more advice.
Continue reading Advice from four cancer survivors .
By Shane Scott
I had been married to the love of my life for about two years and we were just getting our feet on the ground when I received my testicular cancer diagnosis. It happened so fast. I went from having an ultrasound to having an operation the next week. After the surgery, we found out the testicular cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and I would need chemotherapy.
At that point, fertility was the last thing on my mind. I was so worried about beating cancer that I didn't think about how the chemotherapy could cause infertility. How do you look past a life-changing diagnosis and think about the future you may or may not have?
Once I learned about options for addressing infertility, though, the idea of having children was one of the main things that helped me make it through chemo.
My testicular cancer treatment
After my testicular cancer diagnosis, it seemed any news we got was not good. Despite undergoing chemotherapy five hours a day for five days a week, my tumor weren't shrinking. I also lost my hair and didn't have any energy. Then, finally on my third cycle of chemo we started to see some positive progress. I was ecstatic, but I knew my treatments were far from over.
Continue reading Facing infertility after testicular cancer treatment.
By Brittany Hurst
I did not realize how much I depended on my medical team until my second ovarian cancer diagnosis. During summer 2014, I spent a total of 70 days in the hospital. I spent 58 of them at MD Anderson.
I can honestly say that those days might have been some of the toughest days of my life. I have always been a happy person even in spite of my ovarian cancer journey, but that summer was physically and emotionally exhausting. I had a nasogastric (or NG) tube to help me breathe, underwent two surgeries and started chemotherapy again. I did not know when I would be going home, and every day I prayed it was that day. But I made it through that tough time, thanks to a lot of help from my family, friends -- and my nurses.
Coping with my second ovarian cancer diagnosis with help from nurses
Your nurses are with you 24/7 during a hospital stay. They are the ones you email if you have questions, and they are your lifeline to your doctor. They are constantly writing notes in your chart to update your doctors and are by your bedside at the press of the button.
I not only looked at my nurses as my caregivers, but I also felt as if they were some of my best friends. As I learned, having a great relationship with your nurses helps them know the best way to help take care of you. If it was time for one of my dreaded shots, I had certain nurses give them to me. If I was having a bad day, they made sure to get me out of the room. They were kind when I needed someone besides my family and friends to talk to, and they were stern when they needed to be.
Continue reading How nurses helped me through my ovarian cancer recurrence .