Category Archives: Cancer Information

These articles are filled with information about general cancer topics such as prevention and resources.


There’s a word that’s unique to the cancer experience. Scanxiety.Most people are familiar with anxiety. There are many types of anxiety, including (but not limited to): generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, phobias, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome).Scanxiety is a form of situational anxiety or acute stress reaction disorder. Because of the nature of cancer, patients are already experiencing chronic stress, or the stress of demands that seem endless, with little hope in sight for long stretches of time. When you add an additional stressor to this, it can feel overwhelming, leading to physical symptoms of stress and anxiety for the patient, and his or her family members.The first time you experience scanxiety is when you suspect you have cancer and are in the process of having it diagnosed—or ruled out as a concern.Our StoryWhen Dan felt hard, enlarged lymph nodes, just above his left collarbone, we knew something was wrong. The soonest the doctor could see him was three days later. During that time, we looked at all the possibilities, and the most likely cause of his symptoms was cancer.Upon examining him, the doctor said, “I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I can tell you that it’s Read more…


Prostate Cancer

This past Sunday, we celebrated Father’s Day.  Our family had an annual get-together with my husband’s side of the family. I’m so thankful for the men in our lives. It got me thinking about how important men’s health issues are, and how little we hear about them. So, this post will be about men’s health, and specifically, prostate cancer. I won’t go into the science of the prostate. Instead, my goal is to encourage men to think about their risk factors and take preventive measures as well as be screenings.Mind the GapWe hear a lot about women’s health issues. Unfortunately, the life expectancy gender gap has been growing. This is the number of years one gender is expected to live beyond the other.In 1920, the life expectancy gender gap was only 1 year.By 2014, men were dying almost 5 years sooner than women.Why the Gap?Men’s Health Library lists the following as some of the reasons for this gap in life expectancy:Men die at higher rates than women from the top 10 causes of death and are the victims of over 92% of workplace deaths.A higher percentage of men have no healthcare coverage.Men make ½ as many physician visits for prevention.Men Read more…


X-RayAn X-ray is the most commonly used imaging scan for most people since it is simple, safe, and low cost. Doctors use x-ray to diagnose injury and lung issues, from bronchitis to lung cancer.An x-ray uses radiation in small quantities. The radiation (or x-ray) passes through the body, capturing an image. The rays are blocked by dense tissue, bone, and objects in the body. Radiologists look at the x-ray picture and send a report of their findings to the doctor.CT ScansCT stands for Computed Tomography. It’s a painless scan that combines the power of x-ray with computers to make images. The images are 360-degreecross-sectionall views of your body.Doctors often use CT scans when they want to see bone, soft tissue and blood vessels at the same time. It’s also okay for a patient who has metal in their body to have a CT. Because of this capability, it is a common scan for a cancer patient to have.CT scans often involve oral and/or intravenous contrast. This clear, tasteless liquid helps radiologists see certain things in the scan, such as lymph nodes, better. During the scan, you lay on a scanner table. The table will move you through the scanner, while Read more…


Undifferentiated, A Definition (1)A term used to describe cells or tissues that do not have specialized (“mature”) structures or functions. Undifferentiated cancer cells often grow and spread quickly.This is a somewhat scientific post. Keep reading because it’s very interesting.Tumor grade is different than cancer stage.After the doctor biopsies, suspicious tissue, he or she sends it to a pathologist. The pathologist then determines whether the tissue is malignant. Furthermore, they can tell what kind of cancer it is, as well as what the tumor’s stage is. Your doctor may also ask the pathologist to also check for specific mutations which can be treated using targeted treatments.When a pathologist looks at the cancerous tissue under a microscope, they assign a tumor grade. This is based on how similar the tumor cells and the tissue are to normal, healthy cells. They call tumor cells that are more like healthy cells, “well differentiated.” They call more abnormal the cells, “undifferentiated.” This is important because, in undifferentiated cancer, the cells are immature. In addition, undifferentiated tumors are likely to grow and spread quickly.Making the GradeThere are several ways to grade tumors, This is a popular method. Pathologists give tumors a grade of 1, 2, 3, or 4. Read more…


Not that long ago, cancer treatments were synonymous with losing your hair and suffering from nausea and vomiting. Now with the advancements in cancer research, it’s not uncommon for patients to go complete a treatment regimen without either of these issues.  One of these advancements is targeted therapy, also called targeted treatments. Targeted treatments “target” specific genes or proteins found in cancer cells These genes and proteins are related to cancer growth.Many different types of cells make up the tissues in your body, from your bones to your skin. Cancer cells are created when specific genes in healthy cells mutate or change. To learn more about how cancer cells are made, check out my post, C is for Cancer Cells.What is a Targeted Treatment?Your genes tell your cells how to make the proteins that keep your cells working. What happens if your genes change, or mutate? The proteins will change, too. This is when you get cancer cells growing and spreading out of control. Like zombies, they don’t know when to die.Targeted treatments “target” the mutations like a zombie killer. They try to normalize the cell growth by turning off signals that tell the cancer cell to grow or divide. Read more…


Doctors stage a patient’s cancer at the time of diagnosis. Doctors determine the extent of your cancer, such as how large the tumor is, and if it has spread, using x-rays, lab tests, and other tests or procedures .  This is called the “stage” of your cancer. By staging the cancer, your doctor can determine among other things, how aggressive the cancer is and how aggressive the treatment will have to be.Most staging systems include information about (1):Where the tumor is located in the bodyThe cell type (such as adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma)The size of the tumorWhether cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodesWhether cancer has spread to a different part of the bodyTumor grade, which refers to how abnormal the cancer cells look and how likely the tumor is to grow and spreadThe most commonly used system of staging is the TNM System.The most common place to see this is on a pathology report.What is the TNM System?T stands for tumor. Numbers (and sometimes the letter X) accompany the T.X means the main tumor can’t be measured. O means that it can’t be found. Numbers 1-4 indicate the size and extent of the primary tumor. The higher the number, Read more…


The Lymphatic SystemYour lymphatic system is part of your circulatory system AND your immune system. It’s a network of vessels and lymph nodes that make up your body’s drainage system.These vessels move excess fluid that’s been collected from all over the body back into your blood stream. Once the fluid enters the lymphatic vessels, it is known as “lymph.”The word Lymph comes from the Latin word lympha, meaning, water.As these fluids move through the tiny lymph nodes, Harmful organisms and cancer cells are trapped and destroyed by the lymphocytes. Those lymphocytes are then added to the lymph which flows from the nodes, back into the bloodstream.Unfortunately, the lymphatic system is also notorious for transporting cancer cells around the body, also known as metastasis.Doctors call it called lymphoma when cancer begins in the lymphatic tissue. Leukemia is related cancer in the bone marrow and blood.What’s a lymph node?A lymph node is a small, kidney bean-shaped organs. They contain B and T cells (lymphocytes) which are part of your adaptive immune system. (see Immune System)LymphadenopathyIt’s called lymphadenopathy when one, or more, of your lymph nodes, become enlarged. This usually happens when you have an infection, or in response to inflammation. When many the enlarged lymph nodes are Read more…


What is your immune system?The immune system is your first line of defense against infections, both viral and bacterial, as well as other diseases. The immune system, which is made up of special cells, proteins, tissues, and organs.How does it work?Your immune system works through a series of actions known as the immune response. This response attacks invaders including organisms and substances that attack and your body’s systems and cause illness and disease.Three Types of ImmunityAdaptive ImmunityThis type of immunity is very active, developing throughout our lives as we are exposed to various germs and diseases, as well as when we are vaccinated. Adaptive immunity involved the parts of our immune system that are in our blood.Most people know that their blood is made of white and red cells. The white blood cells are part of your immune system. They are also known as leukocytes.There are two basic types of leukocytes:PhagocytesPhagocytes are cells that destroy invading organisms. The most common type of phagocyte is the neutrophil. Neutrophils fight bacterial invaders.LymphocytesLymphocytes are created in the bone marrow. If they stay in the bone marrow to mature, they become B lymphocytes (think B for bone marrow). B lymphocytes produce antibodies.  Antibodies are Read more…


Most people experience fatigue at some point in their lives, and we all know what it’s like to feel tired, but it usually doesn’t last long. Once you sleep or even just quietly rest for a while, the fatigue goes away and you feel refreshed.Cancer takes fatigue to a whole other levelThe first cancer treatment that doctors prescribed for Dan was a targeted treatment called, Tarceva. It’s considered an easier treatment than traditional chemotherapies. Yet, within a week, Dan felt completely drained.  “It’s like you’re a car that isn’t running on all cylinders,” he says. “It always feels like bedtime. You fool yourself into thinking, ‘I’ll just go to bed and rest up and then I’ll get up and do it.’” Dan chuckled. “Sure you will.”Traditional ChemotherapyTwo years into his cancer journey, Dan’s doctor put him on a traditional chemotherapy, and things went from bad to worse. Taking a shower, using the bathroom, even eating, were exhausting. After a chemotherapy appointment, he would spend days in bed, only getting up when he absolutely needed to.It became a cycle. He had no strength and no endurance. It only got worse with time because he didn’t exercise much.His muscles atrophied.He had no strength Read more…


One of the things we learned early on in Dan’s cancer journey was that even if a treatment worked, eventually, it wouldn’t. Cancer cells become drug resistant.Our StoryWhen doctors first diagnosed Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, they perscribed a targeted treatment called, Tarceva. The treatment worked well for 18 months before the cancer in his body became drug resistant and again progressed.After that, he volleyed back and forth between targeted treatments, immunotherapy, and traditional chemotherapies. He would take each treatment until the cancer again became drug resistant.Then, the doctors would put him on a new drug. This is something that’s often difficult for people to understand.Once a treatment works, why can’t you use it indefinitely? There are several reasons for this.Remember in yesterday’s blog on cancer cells, we learned about the ways that cancer cells are different from healthy cells? As these cells mutate, they act more and more abnormal. One of the ways they differ is that the cells can become drug resistant to the chemotherapy treatments that we rely on the kill the cancer cells.One form of drug resistance in chemotherapy is similar to the way we become drug resistant to antibiotics after taking antibiotics repeatedly, inappropriately, or for long Read more…

Buy Facing Cancer as a Friend Today!

 

Sign up for my FREE Newsletter!

Recent Posts

Badges

 
Featured on BlogHer.com

IWSG Badge

Check out Past Blog Posts HERE