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experts.jpgNo matter where you are in your cancer journey, you're likely curious about cancer prevention and treatment. Or, maybe you're trying to figure out how to manage an unexpected side effect or whether or not you can exercise during cancer treatment.

Whatever the case, you're sure to find wisdom, guidance and hope in the insight of our doctors and other experts, many of whom shared their expertise here on Cancerwise and in our Cancer Newsline podcast series in 2014.

Below, we've pulled together some of the most helpful insight and advice our doctors and other experts shared this past year. We hope you find something here that helps or inspires you in your cancer journey.

Immunotherapy: Unleashing the immune system to attack cancer
We're making great strides in immunotherapy, a new way of treating cancer that targets the immune system rather than the tumor itself. And, this innovative approach, developed by Jim Allison, Ph.D., professor in Immunology, will open doors for treating all types of cancer. Learn more in this podcast with Allison and Padmanee Sharma, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Genitourinary Medical Oncology and Immunology.

Understanding the new HPV vaccine
Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new vaccine targeting nine types of HPV, including five that haven't been covered by other vaccines. And, for those who get the vaccine, that means even better protection against cervical cancer, oral cancers and other cancers linked to HPV, says Lois Ramondetta, M.D., in Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine. Find out what you should know about the new HPV vaccine.

By Lindsey Garner

No matter how you like to get your heart rate up and work up a sweat, exercising for at least 30 minutes every day can help lower your chances for many common cancers. If you're looking for ways to get your 1/2 hour in, check out how some of our busy employees stay active.

Triathlon training
"I like to exercise with a triathlon coach to prepare for my long distance races. It helped me prepare to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run 13.1 miles for IRONMAN Texas 70.3 and IRONMAN Florida 70.3. Now I'm training for my second IRONMAN Texas 140.6, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike course and a 26.2-mile run. Having a coach helps provide me with the discipline I need to improve my swimming, cycling and running. I get better results and my workouts are challenging." -- Corinna Perez, fitness center liaison

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Moderate cardio and fitness classes
"I recently had a baby, so I've been focused on moderate cardiovascular exercise, like working out on an elliptical machine, walking, moderate jogging and core strengthening exercises. I also enjoy exercise classes that are fun and upbeat, like Zumba, night club cardio and step aerobics."-- Kimberly Tripp, director, Acute Care Services Administration


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Dollarphotoclub_60743674.jpgBy Eric Tidline, Social Work Counselor

Cancer-related fatigue is one of the most common issues patients face. Even among patients who have completed cancer treatment, fatigue is one of their foremost concerns.

Fatigue describes a physical and/or mental state of being tired and weak. Physical fatigue and mental fatigue are different, but they often exist together, which can make the experience even more frustrating.

However, it is often possible to curb cancer-related fatigue. Although it may sound counterintuitive, moderated exercise is the number one treatment for cancer-related fatigue.

For some, walking, weight lifting and cycling are great ways to exercise. But if you aren't ready or aren't able to participate in such activities, you might find progressive relaxation exercises helpful. Progressive relaxation is one type of exercise that is often gentle enough to meet most people's needs.

What is progressive muscle relaxation?
Progressive muscle relaxation is based on the idea that the body responds to anxious thoughts by tensing muscles, and the tense muscles add to the anxiety, creating a cycle of stress.

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.

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