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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.  

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.

Neuropathy.jpgFor many of our patients, peripheral neuropathy is among the unexpected side effects of cancer treatment.

It's caused by damage to your peripheral nerves -- that is, the nerves that are farther away from your brain and spinal cord. Certain complications of cancer or cancer treatments can cause or worsen neuropathy. So can some health conditions, such as diabetes, alcoholism, AIDS, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis and carpel tunnel syndrome.

We recently spoke with Julie Walker, advanced practice nurse in Neuro-Oncology, about peripheral neuropathy. Here's what she had to say.

What causes peripheral neuropathy in cancer patients?

The nerve damage that causes peripheral neuropathy may be the result of many different factors, including some chemotherapy drugs using vinca alkaloids, platinum compounds, taxanes and thalidomide.

iStock_000019589751Small.jpgBy Brittany Cordeiro

The summer sun is shining. But as you head outdoors to enjoy it, be mindful. More than two million Americans will be diagnosed this year with a cancer that is almost totally preventable -- skin cancer. The primary cause of skin cancer is too much sun exposure.

"If you're a cancer survivor, you should take extra precaution," says Jeffrey E. Gershenwald, M.D., professor in Surgical Oncology and co-leader of our Melanoma Moon Shot. While the same sun safety tips apply to those with or without a history of cancer, survivors of skin cancer, including the most aggressive type -- melanoma --, are at increased risk of developing a second skin cancer or melanoma.
 
We asked Gershenwald what you need to know about sun exposure and sun protection if you're a cancer survivor. Here's what he had to say.

How common is melanoma as a secondary cancer?
The median age of diagnosis of melanoma is about 50. Of those individuals diagnosed, melanoma may or may not have been the primary cancer. Really, everyone is at risk for skin cancer.

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By Pam Schlembach, M.D.

Thanks to recent developments in the medical field, more and more people are surviving and thriving after cancer treatment. However, patients who undergo this rigorous process can experience uncomfortable side-effects years after treatment, such as lymphedema. While researchers are identifying solutions to these side-effects, patients need to know there are methods available to help them cope with lymphedema.

Lymphedema symptoms
Lymphedema occurs when the body's lymph system has been damaged or blocked.  It is typically caused by an abnormal flow of protein-rich lymphatic fluid into the arm or leg. The flow of lymphatic fluid flowing into the arm or leg should be equal to that flowing out. Lymphedema develops when the amount of lymphatic fluid entering the area is greater than what is coming out, causing blockage and swelling. It is most common in patients who are overweight, had axillary surgery and radiation, a large number of lymph nodes removed, or developed an infection after surgery.

Sleep.jpgBy Brittany Cordeiro 

Sleep is essential to life. 

But restless nights are all too common for cancer caregivers, who may be experiencing stress or caring for a loved one who is also suffering from disrupted sleep. 

"Sleep deprivation negatively affects a person's health and quality of life," says Diwakar Balachandran, M.D., MD Anderson Sleep Center medical director. It can cause moodiness, memory troubles and problems focusing. Chronic sleep loss also may lead to weight gain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. As a caregiver, it's important to get enough sleep so you can care for your loved ones. A healthy lifestyle and simple behavior changes can do the trick. Balachandran answered some common questions on getting a better night's rest. 

How do you know if you are getting adequate sleep?  
Studies show people live the longest if they get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. But some people may do well with less and some need more.

Ask yourself: "Do I feel rested when I awake?" And, "Do I feel alert during the day until it's time to go to bed?" If the answers to both questions are yes, you're probably getting enough sleep.

iStock_000003443440Small.jpgBy Brianna Garrison and Sarah Hines, social work counselors

"In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope. In other words, gratitude can help us cope with hard times."
― Robert Emmons

Gratitude is a conscious decision that allows us to gain perspective by viewing a situation through an alternate lens. Cultivating gratitude can help those affected by cancer cope.

While it can be difficult to feel grateful during cancer treatment, gratitude makes it possible to remain realistic about the negative impacts of a cancer diagnosis and still identify potential benefits or areas of personal growth.

Cancer patients, survivors and caregivers have told us they've used gratitude to find some of
the following benefits during their cancer experience:

  • Closer relationships with family members and friends
  • Reevaluation of priorities
  • Taking control of a personal health situation
  • Spiritual and personal growth
  • Setting and achieving new goals
  • Greater flexibility, patience, and resilience

iStock_000011750431Medium.jpgBy Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D.

It's that time of year ... when we resolve to lose weight, exercise more and eat more healthfully.

Changes like these can reduce our chances of developing cancer and improve our overall health and quality of life. But our experience and studies show that New Year's resolutions often fall by the wayside a few weeks into the year. We know what we need to do, and have good intentions, but most of us are not able to turn resolutions into reality.

If you're serious about making changes, consider the following tips.

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.

woman stretching.JPGBy Matthew T. Ballo, M.D. 

"Dr. Ballo, I want to go on your Road to Wellness Program."

I love it when I hear this from patients, but there's one problem. It's not exactly a program. It's just the starting point for helping patients get and stay healthy.

What is The Road to Wellness?

The Road to Wellness was designed to help cancer patients and survivors live a healthier lifestyle. It introduces the concept of cancer survivorship to patients receiving active cancer treatment, while promoting wellness, reducing stress and fatigue, and preparing patients for life after cancer treatment. The Road to Wellness does all of this through education aimed at exercise, nutrition, stress management and smoking cessation.

The Road to Wellness was designed to be rolled out in the Regional Care Centers in the Houston suburbs, but the strategies it uses are available to patients at our Texas Medical Center Campus as well.

woman sad.JPG

By Emily Weaver

 

Depression is a serious illness that can have a major impact on an individual's quality of life. In fact, 15-25% of people diagnosed with cancer also suffer from depression. This is more than double that of the general population. Studies show that mental health and social well-being can affect the success of treatment.

 

Distinguishing depression from normal sadness

Depression is more than just the normal feelings of sadness. Depression is a when an individual experiences at least one of the following symptoms for more than two weeks:


  • Feeling sad most of the time
  • Loss of pleasure and interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Nervousness
  • Slow physical and mental responses
  • Unexplained tiredness
  • Feeling worthless
  • Feeling guilt for no reason
  • Decreased concentration ability
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

pregnant belly.jpg

By Mindy Loya

Terri Woodard, M.D., says her practice at MD Anderson hasn't yet produced any babies.

But that isn't her only measure of success. It's been less than nine months since Woodard started offering consultations to patients who seek guidance on fertility testing and treatment options for fertility preservation through the Oncofertility Consult Service housed within Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine.

Along with Andrea Bradford, Ph.D., she's offering patients comprehensive resources for sexual health and reproductive function. Both services lead with conversations.

"Just having a conversation during an initial consultation doesn't commit anyone to fertility treatments or counseling sessions," Woodard says. "But it means a patient can make an informed choice about whether to seek further services, and it means a lot to patients to know they have options where their fertility and intimate relationships are concerned."

Starting the conversation about cancer and reproductive health
Thanks to advances in cancer treatments, patients are living longer. But those same lifesaving cancer treatments can take a heavy toll.

"We recognize that people don't just go back to being 'normal,' says Bradford, who points to the long-term impacts that chemotherapy, radiation, major abdominal and pelvic surgeries, and hormone therapies can have on patients' sexual function, body image and fertility.

But sexual and reproductive health aren't always high on a patient's list of questions for his or her oncologist. 

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