Monday, July 31, 2017

Socialization with Cancer Survivors Matters During Chemotherapy

A new study published by Network Science suggests that social interaction may be crucial for the success of chemotherapy in patients with cancer. The authors found that patients were more likely to achieve 5-year survival if they interacted with other patients during chemotherapy who also survived for 5 or more years.

On the other hand, patients had a slightly increased risk of mortality if they interacted with patients who died in less than 5 years, according to the study. “People model behavior based on what’s around them,” said lead author Jeff Lienert. “For example, you will often eat more when you’re dining with friends, even if you can’t see what they’re eating. When you’re bicycling, you will often perform better when you’re cycling with others, regardless of their performance.” The authors aimed to determine how social interaction affects patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Is it safe to exercise when having chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy can be notoriously difficult, not only emotionally but mentally and physically as well. Being diagnosed with cancer can come as a real blow to patients and their families. However, while rest and recuperation is needed, don't feel that you need to give up your former active lifestyle. Engaging in regular exercise can improve your strength and help your body build up its defenses against further infection.

People with certain types of cancer or having particular treatments may need to avoid some types of exercise and there are some situations where you need to take extra care. For example, people with stomach or other digestive system cancers or cancer that has spread to the bone should not do heavy weight training. If movement causes pain, rapid heart rate, and an increased shortness of breath avoiding or reducing physical activity is advised. However, exercise is not only safe and possible during cancer treatment, but it can improve how well you function physically and your quality of life, with some studies showing that it can help speed up recovery after treatment. Mr Jonathan Krell, consultant oncologist at Leaders in Oncology Care and one of London Medical Concierge's network of doctors gives advice on how best to stay active when going through chemotherapy.

1. Exercise can help Partaking in regular exercise increases muscle strength, joint flexibility, and general conditioning, all of which may be impaired by surgery and some therapies. Exercise is known to improve cardiovascular function and elevates your mood, offering a drug-free relief for feelings of depression when going through chemotherapy. Exercise also helps to control weight, and gaining weight during and after treatment can increase the risk of the cancer reoccurring.

2. Finding your own level is important Too much exercise can make you tired but so can too little. Therefore, finding your own level is important but you shouldn't push too hard. Research shows that exercise can help with the side effects of cancer treatment such as pain, tiredness and sickness and can also improve your mood, reduce anxiety and improve quality of life. More importantly, research into some cancers such as breast cancer shows that exercise and a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of a person's cancer coming back after potentially curative treatment. 

3. Build up gradually "If you are having treatment or have recently finished, it is fine to start exercising if you feel like it. How much you do really depends on how fit you are generally. If you've never done much exercise, you'll have to build up your level gradually. If you do too much one day, you may feel very tired and sore the next day. Something important to remember is that you don't need to feel that you always have to do more exercise than yesterday; little and often is more effective than lengthy workouts every day and some days you will have more energy than others.

4. Enjoy it "Each patient's exercise programme should be based on what is safe, effective and enjoyable. You should take into account the type of cancer you have, your cancer treatment, your stamina, strength and fitness level. What may seem like a small amount of exercise for a healthy person may be a lot for someone going through cancer.

6. Try half an hour "Try to do about 30 minutes of physical activity throughout the day, this can include walking, gardening and other general household chores, such as vacuuming, do these regular activities at a higher level of intensity in order for your fitness level to improve.

7. Mix it up As your fitness improves you'll be able to up the level of exercise and activities you do. You could try long walks, cycling, yoga or light gym work. Listen to your body and work at your own pace, and if you experience sickness, dizziness or pain stop exercising immediately. If your treatment is making you feel especially tired, try exercising for a shorter amount of time and at a lower intensity, or leave exercising until the following day instead.

8. But listen to your body Your fitness and energy levels will fluctuate throughout the different stages of your treatment cycle. For example, immediately after treatment you are likely to feel tired and unwell and it's advisable to stick to light exercising or leaving it until the next day. Studies have shown that exercising can improve your energy levels and help you feel less tired, but listen to your body, don't put pressure on yourself to exercise and do what you feel comfortable with."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) Can Cause Baldness, But What Is It?

When you start losing your hair, you have questions. First and foremost: What's making this happen? While modern medicine has given us many ways to fight balding, our understanding of what causes male pattern baldness is still a little, well, patchy. That's not good news for any of us, considering that by age 35, around two thirds of American men will be dealing with some degree of hair loss, according to the American Hair Loss Association. By age 50, it's up to 85%. Here's what we do know: your chances of keeping your hair hinge on how sensitive you are to something called Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). If you've Googled male pattern baldness, you've probably seen those three letters. But unless you're a doctor, you were probably as confused as we were at first. So let's break it down: Here's what we know about DHT, and what it's doing in your body—and to your scalp.

One of the popular myths about balding is that it’s a sign you have more testosterone than other guys. Strictly speaking, that’s not correct. You can have as much testosterone as ‘80s Arnold Schwarzenegger, but what really matters is how much of it converts to DHT. “DHT is a modified, more active form of testosterone,” explains Joshua Zeichner Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC. “In your body, testosterone is transformed into DHT, which exerts stronger effects than testosterone itself.” In fact, DHT is estimated to be five times more potent than the regular stuff. So even if you’re a low-testosterone kind of guy, if your body is converting it heavily, you’re in trouble.

Let’s get one thing clear: DHT isn’t all bad. In fact, without it we wouldn’t be men in the first place. DHT helps develop our genitals in utero—meaning it makes us boys in the first place. It’s a “sex steroid,” so it also does the heavy work during puberty, lowering our voices and putting hair on our chests. How do we know DHT is linked to balding? First, hairs plucked from the scalps of balding men test higher for levels of DHT. Second, when we decrease levels of DHT in the body, we see hair loss slow or even reverse—more on that in a minute. Here’s what we think DHT is doing. As hair on the scalp goes through its normal cycle of growing and shedding, DHT makes the follicles miniaturize. That means they get thinner—and shorter, because the growing cycle doesn’t last as long. In some cases, the growing cycle becomes so brief that new hairs don’t even poke through the skin. Plus, the thinning of the hairs makes them easier to shed. The result is classic “male pattern” baldness, the kind of balding that produces what the American Hair Loss Association calls a “horseshoe” shape, with hair growing from the temples and around the back of the head. So if we know DHT is to blame for male pattern baldness, why haven’t we fixed this problem? Well, in some of our bodies, head hair and DHT co-exist in peace.

But others of us are born with a genetic sensitivity to this particular sex steroid. A 2017 study from the University of Edinburgh identified 287 genetic regions that contribute to male pattern baldness. It was the largest genetic analysis of bald men to date, and could provide targets for drug development. But there's still much more work to be done to link which genes are interacting with DHT in what ways. Until we’re able to pinpoint or modify the “baldness gene,” what’s a man to do? “Medications such as finasteride target the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT,” says Zeichner. “By lowering the levels of DHT, the drug helps maintain or enhance regrowth of hair on the scalp.” You know finasteride as Propecia. It’s also sold under the brand name Proscar. Rather than working on the hair follicles themselves, it inhibits the 5-AR enzyme, the one responsible for DHT conversion. A single milligram dose of finasteride can lower DHT levels by 60%, and the American Hair Loss Association says it stops the progression of hair loss in 86% of men taking it in clinical trials. 65% of them experienced increased hair growth. 85% of us will suffer by age 50, but 86% of us can stop balding—at least for as long as we take the drug. Until we can reprogram our genes, those might be odds you want to take.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Is Yoga Helpful for Breast Cancer?

One of the most important things you can do to help yourself as a breast cancer patient or survivor is to exercise. But when you’re dealing with nasty side effects like severe nausea, fatigue, sleep disturbances and joint pain, exercising can seem like the most difficult thing to get yourself motivated to do. Nevertheless, virtually any kind of physical activity will help, and many doctors are now recommending that breast cancer patients take up yoga as their primary source of physical activity.

From helping ease the shock of your initial diagnosis to getting you stronger post-treatment, yoga offers a gentle form of physical activity, breath work and meditation exercises that can be tailored to your specific needs without taxing your body more than it can handle. Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glazer, a researcher at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute who completed a study evaluating yoga’s impact on breast cancer survivors in 2014, says “yoga is an excellent option for patients. Part of what it’s helpful for is that in addition to the physical benefits, it appears to reduce fatigue and improve mood. And those are really important, because when women are going through a very stressful time in their lives, an intervention that helps with mood as well as fatigue and inflammation is really a good thing.”

The study included 200 women, some of whom performed hatha yoga, a style of gentle, restorative yoga, for 12 weeks, while the others were assigned to a control group that did not practice yoga. Participants were between two months and three years post-treatment, and three months after completing the classes, patients in the yoga group reported 57 percent less fatigue than their non-yoga counterparts. Inflammation in the body also dropped by 20 percent among those who practiced yoga. One of the most interesting findings, Kiecolt-Glazer says, is that a “dose-response relationship” seems to exist for breast cancer survivors who are using yoga to exercise and relax. This means that the more yoga the women in the study did, the bigger the improvements they saw. “That was partly a proof of concept because it would make sense that if something is good for you, doing it more within reasonable limits should show greater benefits. And that’s what we were able to show,” she says. Why exactly yoga is able to do this is still a “million-dollar question, ” Kiecolt-Glazer says. “We don’t know the particular mechanisms for it, but there’s certainly data from other studies that meditation by itself is useful, that breathing by itself is useful and there’s some mouse data showing that stretching may reduce local inflammation, so our best guess is that all of it probably matters.” Before you start a yoga practice, it’s best to consult your doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough for it. You should also take some time to find a high-quality instructor who has experience working with breast cancer patients.

If you’re dealing with certain side effects, you'll need to take extra care. Neuropathy – a condition in which nerve damage caused by chemotherapy or radiation treatments can cause pain, numbness or tingling in the extremities – can affect your balance. Osteoporosis, a side effect of some treatments, and bone metastasis, when cancer has spread to the bones, can both make your bones brittle, so you need to be careful not to hurt yourself further when doing yoga. An experienced instructor can help you navigate these additional concerns. reports that certain types of more strenuous yoga can put you at higher risk for developing lymphedema, swelling of the arm or trunk that results from a build-up of fluid after lymph nodes have been removed, so some yoga instructors tell patients to wear a compression garment when practicing. Still, a restorative yoga practice is usually a very safe option for most patients, especially when it’s led by an experienced instructor. Carol Krucoff, a yoga therapist with Duke Integrative Medicine and co-author of “Relax into Yoga for Seniors: A Six-Week Program for Strength, Balance, Flexibility, and Pain Relief,” says which poses and breathing techniques you begin with will likely be dictated by “where you are on your cancer journey. If you’re having active treatment, then energy level is going to factor into what would be most useful. And if you have a port,” a device that allows the doctor to infuse chemotherapy or draw blood without having to stick a needle in your arm every time, “that’s going to affect what you can do.”

You’ll need to communicate with your yoga instructor to find ways to work around these obstacles and limitations. That said, Krucoff says “breathing, meditation and relaxation are useful anywhere along the journey, including when people are actually sitting there having their chemo.” She says a teacher of hers encouraged cancer patients to “meditate on the actual chemo substance, not thinking of it as a poison, but thinking of it as a nectar that’s going to help the body reestablish health.” The findings of a 2012 study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine seem to corroborate the use of this approach; study participants who used a program of pranayama, or yogic breathing, alongside their chemotherapy treatments experienced an increase in quality of life, a decrease in depression and anxiety, and a reduction in sleep disturbance and fatigue. When you’re ready to move, Krucoff says yoga can offer just the right amount of gentle physical activity. “If you’ve been cleared for activity, there are many exercises – stretching and opening the chest, supported back bend poses – that can be very helpful.” Gently stretching the arms up along a wall and moving slowly until you feel a gentle stretch may be helpful for regaining limb functionality after surgery where scar tissue may develop and limit your range of motion. She also recommends using props or working with a physical therapist or oncologic surgeon to make sure your form is safe with regard to where your incisions were and how they’ve healed. No matter how you approach it, Krucoff says the dividends that yoga practice can pay during treatment for breast cancer are many. “Cancer is a very interesting predicament, because many people feel like they’re fighting themselves and say, ‘I’m going to beat this thing!’ But this thing is also themselves, so there can be this sense of betrayal, so there we go to some of the principles of yoga.

Just learning to love yourself as you are, and make peace with all parts of yourself,” is part and parcel of a yoga practice and a powerful aspect of using it during your cancer journey. Krucoff says establishing a regular breathing practice and using guided imagery can help you come to a more peaceful place. And even if it’s very gentle, yoga is still considered a form of physical activity. For cancer patients here in the Western world who may only think of exercise as striving and sweating and achieving big goals, Krucoff says yoga is the opposite of this and a good way for breast cancer patients to develop a new relationship with a changed body. “The idea in yoga is we move to a point of challenge, where we feel like we’re being challenged, but we do not strain. So we find that balance between effort and surrender. That balance between courage and caution. That balance between doing and undoing.”

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Tips For Packing & Traveling With Your Wig

Pack Wigs Inside Out — Keep the delicate strands of your wig safe from friction (which can cause frizz), as well as dust and debris, by turning it inside out before placing it in your luggage. You can also pack it in a zippered plastic bag to keep it free of moisture, or if you have extra room, a shoe box, which will help prevent it from being crushed.

Pick Up A Plastic Wig Stand — One of the best ways to keep a wig looking beautiful is to store it on a wig stand, however, plastic stands are usually too large to pack in your luggage. Instead, pick up a portable wig stand for use in your hotel room to help reduce the amount of daily maintenance your hair piece needs away from home.

Bring The Right Products – Even under daily care, wigs require special hair care products. These often aren’t available in the average store. Fill travel sized containers with your current daily maintenance products.

Be Prepared For Any Weather – To save yourself from running around last minute looking for a quick fix, carry everything you may need so you never find yourself with out. Bring along your wig comb, brush, and spray, as you should never borrow someone else’s. And check the weather before you leave, especially for locales where there might be high wind or bright sun. You’ll need a wide-brimmed hat, scarves or wig clips to keep your hair piece in place.

Pack An Extra Cap – Wig caps work wonders to keep your hair in place but they snag easily, especially when you are on the go. If possible, carry one or two extra, and keep a small, travel-sized bottle of baby powder on hand to keep your scalp cool and dry, especially in hot weather.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Woman develops cancer treatment that offers hope to ailing dogs

Millions of cats and dogs get diagnosed with cancer each year, and a new treatment is helping to change their prognosis. The revolutionary veterinary cancer treatment is called VetiVax and it uses the animals tumor cells to create a personalized treatment to help fight the disease. The treatment helps trigger the immune system of the pet to help it recognize the tumor as foreign. It's being used to help dogs, cats and horses combat cancer.

The company behind the treatment, Torigen Pharmaceuticals, was founded by UConn alumna Ashley Kalinauskas four years ago. "This is my passion, this is my drive," she said. "Were changing how pets are treated and this is a modality that can be considered when a pet is diagnosed with cancer." Kalinauskas said her graduate professor at Notre Dame, Mark Suckow began research on tissue vaccines in 2004. When his dog Sadie was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, she said he came up with this method to try and fight the disease. "She had tumors growing almost all over her body and the veterinarian's prognosis was take her home, enjoy her over Christmas and right after the holidays we're gonna have to put her down," Kalinauskas said.

"He took a portion of Sadie's tumor, created it into the personalized treatment, gave it back over a series of three weeks and he noticed the tumors started to recede." In two and a half years, Kalinauskas said 150 animals have been treated with VetiVax. "We have unproven safety and unproven efficacy at the moment; however, what we do know is the animals have a favorable outcome after being diagnosed," she said.

One of those animals is a Yorkshire Terrier named Chloe whose owner Linda Levy told FOX61 since she's been given the treatment, she's had no signs of cancer. "Unfortunately, we all know that the terrible thing of having a dog is that you know you're going to see them go before you," Levy said. "You just want them to have the best possible life and treatment if they get sick and I feel like I've been able to find that for her." Kalinauskas works at a dedicated laboratory space in Farmington through the UConn Technology Incubation Program.

Her team members are also located in Minnesota and Arkansas. The company works with veterinarians to treat animals around the country. The cost of VetiVax is $1200. VetiVax can work for solid tumors including Melanoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, Fibrosarcoma, Soft Tissue Sarcoma, Hemangiosarcoma, Hepatocellular Carcinoma, Nasal Carcinoma, Osteosarcoma, Mast Cell Tumors, Basal Cell Carcinoma and Transitional Cell Carcinoma. "It's our belief that 10 years from now us as humans will start as our first line of defense with immunotherapies followed by the heavy hitters if it doesn't work with chemotherapy and radiation," she said.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th of July!

Wishing you all a Safe and Happy Independence Day! Thank you to all those who serve to protect our freedom!