By Clayton Boldt
Sexual intimacy problems are one of the most common
long-term side effects that cancer patients face. In a survey of MD Anderson cancer
patients, almost half of men and women said they had new sexual intimacy problems
after treatment. Common sexual intimacy problems include:
- Erection problems in men
- Vaginal dryness and pain in women
- Loss of sexual desire
Leslie Schover, Ph.D., professor in Behavioral Science and Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine, answers common questions
about sexual problems affecting cancer patients and how to address them.
Why do cancer patients often experience sexual side effects?
A major cause of these issues is physical damage or
changes from cancer
treatment. Radiation or surgery in the pelvic area can make sex painful or difficult, and
may damage blood vessels or nerves critical for male performance.
In women, chemotherapy may cause premature menopause, and
hormone therapies can be linked to pain during sex.
Continue reading Q&A: Sexual intimacy problems in cancer patients.
By Debra Ruzensky
As a registered dietitian at MD Anderson, I know that nausea
and other side effects of cancer and treatment make eating difficult, if not
impossible. Even though our doctors, nurses and mid-level providers do a great
job of educating our patients and caregivers about these possibilities, it is
hard to prepare for them.
I didn't realize just how hard it can be, though, until I became
my husband's caregiver during his B-cell
lymphoma treatment, which included chemotherapy
and a stem
Diet challenges after
My husband Bob is a fighter and a very compliant patient. But the chemo
leading up to his stem cell transplant caused nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
and throat sores. Together, they made it almost impossible for him to eat
and drink enough for over a month. He lost about 25 pounds -- mostly muscle.
Continue reading Caregiver/dietitian: Helping my husband gain weight after chemo.
By Trevor Mitchell
Picking up the phone to order a nutritious, freshly prepared
meal that's delivered by an attendant wearing a tuxedo might seem more common
at a four-or five-star hotel than a cancer center. But it's a luxury our
patients have enjoyed for more than 15 years.
The days of traditional hospital food on pre-prepared trays
brought to all patient rooms at the same time are long gone, says Mohammad
Tekrouri, associate director of Room Service. Room Service programs like ours
that provide efficient, high quality, cooked-to-order culinary options have
become essential to ensuring a better patient experience.
"Patients prefer to be in control of their dining experience
because there are times when they're resting, the medical staff is in the room,
or they simply don't feel like eating," Tekrouri says. "Our service offers them
the flexibility to order food when they feel like it at multiple times
throughout the day."
A personalized touch
When cancer patients are admitted, they receive a brief orientation from
our room service staff. They're given menus and told how to place their orders.
Room Service is included in each patient's stay and is available 365 days a
year, from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Family members also can order meals for a
"Patients and family members eating together can encourage
the patient to eat and offers convenience for those who can't leave their loved
one even for a minute," Tekrouri says.
Continue reading Room Service offers our cancer patients culinary creations and care.
Rashe Bowie hadn't been working at her current company very
long when she and her colleagues played Two Truths and a Lie during an offsite
meeting. When it was her turn, she shared her son's name, that she'd been in
pageants growing up and that she was undergoing chemotherapy.
The lie, they guessed, was the chemo part. But the lie was her
"I'm undergoing chemo for breast cancer, and this is a wig
I'm wearing," she revealed.
"They were in total disbelief," recalls Rashe, who was 37 years
old at the time of her diagnosis.
The company's CEO told Rashe to take time off if she needed
But she has yet to accept that offer. A single mom to a high
school senior, Rashe never missed a day of work while undergoing 12 rounds of chemotherapy
and 30 rounds of radiation.
Continue reading Working and parenting through chemo and radiation.
By Karen Fore
As a volunteer with CanCare and myCancerConnection, MD Anderson's one-on-one program that connects cancer patients and caregivers with others who have been there, I talk to a lot of other multiple myeloma patients. Most ask about the stem cell transplant process and my experience.
Here's what I tell them.
What to know about autologous stem cell transplants
A transplant infuses health cells -- also known as stem cells -- into a cancer patient's body to replace damaged cells.
Stem cells for transplants can come from three sources. I had an autologous stem cell transplant, which means cells from my own bone marrow were used. Some people undergo an allogeneic transplant, which means they receive stem cells from a donor. Some patients receive umbilical cord blood instead. Not all patients are eligible for a stem cell transplant.
To help kill some of the cancerous cells and get the body ready to accept the new stem cells, most patients need very strong chemotherapy. For me, this was the strongest chemo I had, and the idea was daunting.
Continue reading Autologous stem cell transplant survivor: What to expect.
By Mariana Torrado
No one expects to hear
she has breast cancer two months after turning 30. I didn't.
I danced flamenco,
exercised frequently, was neither overweight nor a smoker -- and I was only 30!
How could this happen to me?
My unexpected breast cancer diagnosis
After feeling a second
of pain -- a small pinch -- in my left breast, I noticed a large bump. I was in
shock, scared. I reached out to my OB-GYN right away.
A mammogram, an
ultrasound and a biopsy later, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.
I was in shock. I had two
cousins (sisters) with breast cancer in their 30s, an aunt with breast cancer,
a cousin who died from brain cancer, and two cousins and an uncle with melanoma. But I'd never expected to have cancer, not
Continue reading Facing a BRCA1 mutation and breast cancer at age 30.
By Debra Ruzensky
In 2013, my role at MD Anderson changed when my husband was diagnosed with stage three diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Now I wasn't just a registered dietitian. I was a caregiver, too.
Seeing a new side of MD Anderson during lymphoma treatment
Every three weeks, my husband was admitted at MD Anderson for five to six days. Each time, I moved into his hospital room with him. I worked here during the day and went up to his room in the evenings. I ate here, showered and dressed here, heated my meals in the family lounge and made my morning cup of coffee here.
It was mentally difficult to "change hats." My eyes and ears were always in tune to his nutrition and the value it plays in treatment tolerance and recovery. Meeting some of the other caregivers on the floor and comparing notes was helpful, but at times it added to my worry and stress. I didn't want to hear any negative stories. I was trying to hold it all together and stay positive.
I had a great support system of family, friends, and coworkers praying and offering to help in other ways. The chapel was a special place for me to quietly sit and pray or just be calm. Sunday morning masses were also a huge comfort to me.
Continue reading My journey from MD Anderson dietitian to caregiver.
By Lori Baker
Hugh Lokey travels 497 miles each time he comes to MD Anderson for thyroid cancer treatment. Then it's 497 miles back home to Broken Arrow, Okla. He's been making the trip for five years, sometimes twice a month.
"It's been tremendously worth it," says Hugh, a 70-year-old Marine Corps veteran who's benefited from, and perhaps even survived because of, lenvatinib. This new thyroid cancer drug was tested here and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in February.
Like Hugh, the drug had a long journey, and each step was taken at MD Anderson.
New hope after decades with one treatment
Until recently, patients with radioiodine-refractory thyroid cancer had only one treatment option. And it didn't work for more than half.
Their fates took a turn for the better in 2006.
"In 2006, we began testing a drug called E7080 and found that several tumor types responded," says David Hong, M.D., in Investigational Cancer Therapeutics. "The response was particularly remarkable in thyroid cancer patients."
Continue reading Lenvatinib brings thyroid cancer patient hope.
By Bryan Frame
In 2011, I was diagnosed with aggressive metastatic prostate cancer. Because of this, my doctors had very little hope I would still be here four years later.
But after hormone treatments, injections, a radical prostectomy and lymphectomy to treat my metastatic prostate cancer, I'm still here. Not only that, but my doctor, Ana Aparicio, M.D., tells me I have reasons to hope.
Finding hope at MD Anderson after my metastatic diagnosis
Dr. Aparicio told me there are two immunotherapy treatments coming down the pike that could be game-changers for metastatic prostate cancer patients like me. They are in the last stages of clinical trials and are showing very encouraging results. Prostate cancer treatment is progressing at a very rapid pace. The longer I'm alive, the greater the chances that more therapies can benefit me.
Because of my prolonged successful time on hormone therapy, Dr. Aparicio indicated that I may respond well to other treatments.
Continue reading After a terminal, metastatic diagnosis: Planning a longer life.
By Stephanie Madsen
Three years after my large cell neuroendocrine cervical cancer diagnosis, I've defied the odds. The statistics gave me less than a 20% chance of surviving one year.
But I have yet to make it an entire year without cancer. I've hit the three-month mark and have even made it to eight months cancer-free. Soon, I'll lie on the cold, hard, metallic table while a machine takes pictures of my insides from head to toe. Then, I'll wait for my results. I'm hoping this time I'll be able to say I've been cancer-free for a whole year.
Praying to remain cancer-free
Once I learned that my life was not guaranteed, my prayers were taken to new heights.
Have you ever had a prayer so desperate it crashed loudly in the torrential storm of your spirit? A plea so full of depth, it couldn't be given an audible voice? One equally full of hope and fear? Lately, my prayers have been carnal cries or petitions that bring me to my knees.
Not one of my prayers ends without the utterance of a plea to remain cancer-free for the rest of my life here on Earth. I ask for my dreams to come to fruition.
"I'd love to grow old with my husband. Please allow me to experience motherhood. I want to watch my children grow into adults and have their own children. I ask that I live until I'm wrinkled, hard of hearing and gray."
Truth be told, I'm desperate.
Continue reading Large cell cervical cancer survivor: Thoughts on my annual scans.
Fatigue. Hot flashes. Thinning hair. The nagging feeling that something just wasn't right.
In 2010, Kimberly Hill began experiencing these symptoms, so she turned to doctors in her hometown of Knoxville, Tenn. They diagnosed the mother of three with thyroid cancer
. Kimberly, who was 40 at the time, underwent a thyroidectomy and radical neck surgeries for treatment.
But years later, the symptoms wouldn't go away. In fact, they increased.
"I was beginning to feel like a hypochondriac," Kimberly says. "I wasn't feeling better. I was getting worse."
When doctors wanted to perform additional surgeries, Kimberly refused. She conducted her own research and was impressed by the expertise of MD Anderson's endocrine cancer team.
A different diagnosis: stage 4 lymphoma
At MD Anderson, Kimberly received a new diagnosis stage 4 lymphocyte predominate Hodgkin's lymphoma
. The disease had spread to her lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow and throughout her gastrointestinal tract.
Continue reading After stage 4 lymphoma, a new lease on life .
By Linda Ryan
It's been almost four years since my cervical cancer recurrence, but my two sons, Matthew (17) and Ethan (13), never traveled with me to MD Anderson until my check-up last month. I planned my appointment over their spring break so we could fit in a few college visits in Texas. I knew it might be emotionally difficult for them to go to MD Anderson. So, I did my best to handle the visit the same way I handled my treatment. I tried to let them see and feel my confidence.
Not only were we there for my appointment, but they joined me on the visits with all of the wonderful people I've have met in Houston through my journey. Both boys agreed that it was cool to see my home away from home.
How our visit affected my sons
After our visit, I gave Matthew and Ethan a few weeks to digest the emotions associated with going my oncology appointment before asking them a few questions separately about the experience. They both agreed that MD Anderson was not what they expected.
They were both surprised and saddened by how many people -- of all ages, races and genders -- were treated at MD Anderson. Matthew said being there made him sad because he knew what the families he saw were going through.
Continue reading Traveling with my sons to MD Anderson .