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Your Post-Thyroidectomy Diet

Thursday May 1, 2014

If you are having a thyroidectomy, you may be concerned about your diet following the procedure. As many of you know, my husband is being treated for thyroid cancer and just underwent a total thyroidectomy. While researching the internet, he found conflicting information about what he could and couldn't eat after having the surgery. One site said he would be on liquids for two weeks, while another said even liquids could be hard to swallow. It wasn't exactly the most encouraging information, to say the least.

You should know that every person recovers from surgery differently. While one one person may struggle to eat, another may be munching on pizza the same day. It varies. Learn more about what you can expect after having a thyroidectomy.

Your First Chemotherapy Appointment: What You Need to Know

Wednesday April 30, 2014

Chemo day. No one looks forward to it, but it is a necessary evil in cancer treatment.  For the first timer, chemo day can bring on anxiety, apprehension, and fear. Before having cancer, no one really tells us what it's like to have chemo and even though our doctors go over what's going to happen, it still feels like we are walking into uncharted territory. Moments like these can jump start the autonomic nervous system, sending that fight or flight response into overdrive for some.

I can tell you that your first chemo day can be a little scary. You don't really know the routine yet and will likely only recognize your oncologist -- if you see him or her before your session. After the first few sessions, you will learn the routine (vitals, IV catheter, blood draws, then infusion). You will see familiar faces in the form of other patients and oncology nurses. You may have already made a few chemo friends by then. Chances are that chemo day won't be anxiety filled like it was on the first day. Once you go a few times, it becomes a little easier. It's never something you look forward to, but you will become less anxious about it.

If you are a first time chemo patient, check out this reader FAQ about having chemo for the first time. It gives an overview about what to expect and can help you become more prepared for your first day.


Why Your White Cell Count is Important During Cancer Treatment

Wednesday April 30, 2014

"My oncologist always talks about white blood cell counts and how they can be dangerous to my health. I have tried asking my doctor questions about it, but I just don't understand his answers. Can you explain in simple terms what it means to have a white blood cell count and how it affects my health?"


Lorraine's question is common -- sometimes its hard to understand the correlation between white blood cell count and chemotherapy, especially if you don't have a medical background. A white blood cell count is critical for treatment. When it falls too low, treatment may need to be temporarily halted. During periods of nadir (when it falls after being administered chemotherapy), you may experience side effects and become at high risk of developing infections. Special precautions may need to be taken to prevent this, from avoiding areas where you may be exposed to germs to taking special medication to boost white cell count. Learn more about low white cell counts during chemotherapy. 



Alcohol and Your Cancer Risk: How Much is Too Much

Wednesday April 30, 2014

It's no secret that consuming alcohol can increase your risk of developing several types of cancer. Experts warn us of the risk, but often don't elaborate on how much alcohol actually increases our risk. Is it a daily wine glass? Or a 12 oz bottle of beer? What about liquor?

I have taken the confusion out of "moderate alcohol consumption" in the article "How Much Alcohol Increases Your Risk of Cancer". Learn how much is too much based on gender and also by alcoholic beverage. I think you will be surprised about what experts consider to be excessive amounts of alcohol.

More About Alcohol and Cancer


Combating Chemo Brain with Brain Games

Wednesday April 30, 2014

If you have gone through chemotherapy and are experiencing problems with memory and focus, know you are not alone. It is estimated that up to 75 percent of people treated with chemotherapy experience a condition called mild cognitive deficit, also known as chemobrain. Don't let the name fool you, though. Research shows that the cognitive fog may be caused by many factors, not just chemo. The medical and research community is quite conflicted about the causes of the condition. We know cancer many cancer patients are experiencing it, but just don't have concrete evidence as to why it happens and how to treat it.

Recent small studies have shown that playing brain training games may help improve cognitive function in those affected by cognitive deficit after chemo. While the studies are small, the results are encouraging. Using brain games/puzzles to help boost memory, focus, and increase attention span is not a new theory waiting to be proven. Brain training games have been shown to delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease and increase focus in children with ADHD.

There are many brain training games available online and through apps for your wireless device. I tested about 10 different apps for the iPhone and found 4 apps that meet my high consumer standard. 2 of the apps were used in a research study about cognitive deficit after chemotherapy and results were promising. While these apps won't turn you into an Einstein level super genius with a photographic memory, they may help improve cognitive function. Top 4 Brain Games Apps for People with Chemobrain


Will Cancer Treatment Make You Feel Worse?

Wednesday April 30, 2014

Don't you just love it when friends and family give medical advice, even when you don't ask for it? When it comes to cancer, it seems like everyone has an uncle or boss who was diagnosed with the exactly same type of cancer as you. This revelation in conversation is usually proceeded by a highly descriptive horror story that involves medical mistakes or the tale of an untimely demise. Either way, when you have cancer, friends and family are going to share their "expert" medical advice and opinions. Sometimes the advice is good and supportive, other times, maybe not so much.

What I heard most often was how treatment was going to make me feel terrible and make me wish I had never started it. When I received an email from a reader who was experiencing such advice from her support people, I was reminded by how overwhelming it could be. In the email, the reader expressed how her friends were trying to persuade her to seek natural cures for her breast cancer on the grounds that "chemo would make her feel like she was going through a slow and painful death". Read my response about chemo and how it affects your life...

Today, I have become a pro at fielding the medical advice of my loved ones who aren't in the medical field. I just smile, nod, and try to see their good intentions. Sometimes I will make a joke like "You need to quit watching old episodes of Grey's Anatomy" to divert the conversation to another topic and many times, it works. How do you cope with unwanted medical advice? Learn your responses in the "Comments" section below.


Using Sunscreen in a Tanning Bed: Does It Make It Safe?

Wednesday April 30, 2014

Around May of each year, emails start pouring in from readers who want to know how to get a "safe" tan. Recently, a young woman wrote to ask whether using a high level SPF sunscreen in a tanning bed would make tanning beds any safer. Right off the bat, I would like to stress that using a tanning bed is never safe. There has been countless research on the subject and it all concludes that tanning beds greatly increase your risk of skin cancer and melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. Avoid tanning beds -- there are much healthier ways to get that sun-kissed glow than tanning.

Some may think that using sunscreen in a tanning bed may help reduce the risk, but they're mistaken.  Even if you used a high level SPF, you likely wouldn't tan and may actually burn. Here's why.


Thyrogen 101

Wednesday April 30, 2014

If you have undergone treatment for thyroid cancer, you may dread follow-ups to check for recurrence. It's not the scans or even the radioactive iodine therapy (if needed), but the effects of "going hypo". I have heard patients describe being hypothyroid as "pure hell" and feeling like a "long and torturous death". I have witnessed it firsthand in my husband, who has been treated several times for recurrent thyroid cancer. By the 4th week of being hypo, he literally could drive or go to work during the last follow-up process. His reflexes slowed considerably, his vision became blurry, and he couldn't concentrate or remember anything. By the 6th week (a few days before his whole body scan), he stayed in bed for most of the day because of fatigue and muscle pain.

Thankfully, Thyrogen is available and there is no shortage. For those who are unfamiliar, Thyrogen is a synthetic TSH that allows thyroid cancer patients to still take their daily thyroid meds while preparing for a whole body scan. If you take Thyrogen before a scan, you do not experience the effects of being "hypo". My husband will be receiving Thyrogen for the first time in a few weeks and we are both thrilled that he can continue taking his Synthroid.

Now, if only modern medicine could create a low iodine diet alternative.... !

To learn more about Thyrogen, click here.


Sunscreen: Separating Fact From Fiction

Wednesday April 30, 2014
Did you know that skin cancer is the most diagnosed type of cancer in the United States? It's also one of the most preventable types of cancer! Sunscreen is the key to preventing skin cancer, but people just aren't applying it like they should. Either they make a common mistake when applying it, not applying at all, or not reapplying it. A few minutes of sunscreen application is worth the effort!
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation floating around about sunscreen. The bottom line is that ALL people need to use it to protect their skin, regardless of your race, hair color, and family history. Take a few minutes today to learn about sunscreen!
Read more about sunscreen:

Brain Tumor Symptoms

Monday March 31, 2014

When you have chronic headaches, it's natural to think of the worst. A brain tumor is often the first possible cause that enters a person's mind, but they are usually wrong in most cases. Contrary to popular belief, headaches usually aren't an initial symptom of a brain tumor, although people with brain tumors do suffer from headaches as their condition progresses. What are the symptoms that raise red flags for doctors? Read more about brain tumor symptoms to find out...

Read More About Brain Tumors

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