By 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.
Recently in Wellness Category
By Matthew T. Ballo, M.D.
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
- Slow physical and mental responses
- Unexplained tiredness
- Feeling worthless
- Feeling guilt for no reason
- Decreased concentration ability
- Thoughts of death or suicide
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."
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.
By Dave Balachandran, M.D.
Sleep is fundamental to life. From the smallest single cell organisms to living, breathing human beings, every creature on earth gets rest or sleeps. For humans, sleep is vital to our existence. The quality of our sleep can determine whether we live vibrant, healthy lives or are inundated with illness.
For cancer patients in particular, sleep quality may influence treatment outcomes. Poor quality sleep can influence the patient's prognosis and influence how well the body tolerates cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.
Studies show that almost 80% of cancer patients will complain about disturbed sleep during their cancer journeys. Cancer and cancer therapies have side effects that impair good quality sleep, leading to insomnia, daytime sleepiness and fatigue. Sleep affects immune function, and a lack of sleep may put patients undergoing cancer therapy at greater risk of infections.
Sleep help for MD
To help our cancer patients who struggle with sleep, MD Anderson established a Sleep Center in 2006. So far, we have seen more than 3,000 patients with a variety of sleep disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, excess daytime sleepiness and fatigue, restless leg syndrome and other complex sleep disorders.
By Pamela Schlembach, M.D.
If you ask a patient who has just completed cancer treatment how he or she is feeling, very often the answer you'll get is, "Great!" Most patients are relieved to be through with their treatment and are ready to get on with their lives.
Dig a little deeper, though, and patients usually will confess that they're feeling a little tired.
Unfortunately, fatigue is a common side effect of both chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Most patients will be tired at some point in their treatment and often for a few months after they're finished.
However, there are some things you can do to help minimize the effects of fatigue and give you more energy so you can get back to feeling like your old self as soon as possible. Here are some tips to help get your energy back.
By Sonia Byrd
One year ago, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, I had a double mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery two months later. My breast cancer diagnosis was a big shock, but once I got over that, I was ready to go on the offensive.
I realized that while I couldn't control having cancer, I could certainly control my journey. I decided I was going to be positive, and I truly believe that mindset played a significant role in my recovery.
For a lot of women diagnosed with breast cancer -- whether they get reconstruction or not -- their womanhood is challenged, and they wonder if they'll ever be able to get back to their former selves. I admit that I asked that of myself, and a year later, I can say with conviction: "Life does not end with a cancer diagnosis."
The experience that cemented this mantra for me is one I'll never forget.
How preparing for a
bodybuilding contest gave me support and confidence
A co-worker had recently participated in a bodybuilding fitness contest and, on several occasions in early 2013, encouraged me to compete as well. I politely declined.
During follow-up visits with my physicians, though, they routinely mentioned how well I looked. In response, I joked that I had been urged to enter this competition. I was pretty shocked when they said, "You should totally do it." Hearing that planted a seed, and I actually started to consider it. I spoke to my family and friends, who also encouraged me to enter, and I ultimately decided to go for it.
I admit that I originally thought of the competition as little more than a bikini contest, but once I started training, I realized it is much more than that.
For many of us, summertime means time outdoors by the pool or at the beach. But while you probably already know to use sunscreen to help protect your family from skin cancer, including melanoma, it turns out that many of us aren't using sunscreen correctly.
A staggering 75-80% of us will have contracted a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection by age 50. Although HPV infections don't always result in long-term health problems, this sexually transmitted infection can lead to genital warts and many types of cancer.
In fact, almost 100% of cervical cancer cases are attributed to HPV, which also accounts for a significant percentage of vaginal, vulvar and anal cancers. Increasingly, HPV is considered a contributing cause of oral cancers as well.
Luckily, the HPV vaccine can help significantly reduce many of these cancer cases. In fact, since the HPV vaccine was introduced in 2006, HPV infections have dropped by more than half among teenage girls ages 14-19, according to a recent study.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a good time to test your breast IQ. Find out how much you really know about what it takes to be on guard against this common disease.
Separate fact from fiction
Can you guess which of the statements below are true and which are false?
1. True or false? Breast cancer always comes in the form of a lump.
FALSE. Breast cancer in its earliest stages usually doesn't have any symptoms. When symptoms do appear, it's not always in the form of a lump. Be on the lookout for any of the signs below and report them to your doctor right away.
- Lump in your breast
- Swelling in or around your breast, collarbone or armpit
- Skin thickening or redness in or around your breast
- Breast warmth and itching
- Nipple changes or discharge
- Breast pain
By Ian Lipski, M.D., and Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D.
You know that feeling of being so wrapped up in a good book or great movie that you lose track of time or self? That's very similar to what hypnosis is like; it's a state of highly focused attention that allows a patient to concentrate on a self-created image so that the awareness of his or her current environment becomes less important and less clear.
In the context of cancer treatment, it involves the use of imagery and relaxation to reduce anxiety or pain or overcome some other obstacles.
Hypnosis within a medical setting involves a shift in consciousness precipitated by a self-induced concentration exercise. Medical hypnosis empowers patients who are faced with a perceived loss of control and generally improves satisfaction with medical procedures and the hospital experience.
Extensive research indicates medical hypnosis can decrease pain and anxiety and the amount of medications needed in the interventional radiology suite. It can also shorten procedure time.
For claustrophobic patients undergoing MRIs, it has been shown to decrease the non-completion rate for some scans. Relieving pre-operative anxiety has been shown to lower intraoperative anesthetic requirements for some surgeries.
Mind Over Hot Flashes: Part 1
By Leslie Schover, Ph.D., and Andrea Bradford, Ph.D.
Menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness, affect many women who receive chemotherapy, radiation to the pelvis, or surgical removal of the ovaries. These symptoms also affect women who were already postmenopausal at the time of their diagnosis, since survivors of several types of cancer (e.g., breast cancer, endometrial and ovarian cancers) are often advised to stop taking hormone replacement therapies containing estrogen.
Hot flashes are the most common symptom prompting women to seek treatment. Although estrogen replacement is the most effective solution, many women don't want to take hormone replacement. Also, estrogen is usually not recommended for survivors of hormone-sensitive tumors. Fortunately, several non-hormonal medications may help, including antidepressants like venlafaxine [Effexor], and the blood pressure-lowering drugs like clonidine, and gabapentin, whichare commonly used to treat neuropathic pain. Although they aren't as effective as estrogen, these drugs offer relief too many women.
Mind over menopause
Two new studies suggest that a form of psychological treatment called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) also can improve menopausal symptoms and quality of life in breast cancer survivors.
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- Healthier living for cancer patients: Embarking on The Road to Wellness
- Depression in cancer patients: What you should know
- Fertility, sexual function and cancer treatment: Help for cancer patients and survivors
- Sleep, cancer and cancer treatment: Understanding the link
- Cancer-related fatigue: Tips for cancer patients and survivors
- Bodybuilding: How a breast cancer survivor regained confidence
- Sunscreen and skin cancer prevention: 9 common mistakes
- Exercise for cancer survivors: A great way to boost your health
- HPV vaccine: A smart way to protect kids from cancer
- Take This Breast Test
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