A Little Known Side Effect with a Huge Impact

“First, there was achiness, a pain that never went away. Then, her right arm and hand began to swell, a little at first and then a lot. Then Rebecca Thomas, a breast cancer survivor five years out from surgery, chemo and radiation, was hospitalized with a raging infection.

“ ‘The swelling wasn’t bad at first and I didn’t think much of it,’ said the 65-year-old food service worker from Seattle, who was diagnosed with cancer in 1988. ‘But I got a [cut] on my finger and bacteria got in there and I ended up with a very bad case of cellulitis. It got at least three times the normal size, my whole hand and arm. After that is when the trouble really set in.’

“Thomas’ ‘trouble’ was lymphedema, a condition that impacts millions of U.S. cancer survivors every year, particularly patients who undergo lymph node dissection as part of their treatment, like actress and ‘lymphedema ambassador’ Kathy Bates.


Acupuncture Reduces Hot Flashes in Breast Cancer Survivors

“Acupuncture may be a viable treatment for women experiencing hot flashes as a result of estrogen-targeting therapies to treat breast cancer, according to a new study from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Hot flashes are particularly severe and frequent in breast cancer survivors, but current FDA-approved remedies for these unpleasant episodes, such as hormone replacement therapies are off-limits to breast cancer survivors because they include estrogen. The results of the study are published this week in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

” ‘Though most people associate hot flashes with menopause, the episodes also affect many breast cancer survivors who have low estrogen levels and often undergo premature menopause, following treatment with chemotherapy or surgery,’ said lead author Jun J. Mao, MD, MSCE, associate professor of Family Medicine and Community Health. ‘These latest results clearly show promise for managing hot flashes experienced by breast cancer survivors through the use of acupuncture, which in previous studies has also been proven to be an effective treatment for joint pain in this patient population.’ “


After Prostate Cancer, Start Walking: Walking Routine Improves Health-Related Quality of Life

“Walking at an easy pace for about three hours every week may be just enough physical activity to help prostate cancer survivors reduce damaging side effects of their treatment, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study.

” ‘Non-vigorous walking for three hours per week seems to improve the fatigue, depression and body weight issues that affect many men post-treatment,’ said Siobhan Phillips, lead author of the study. ‘If you walk even more briskly, for only 90 minutes a week, you could also see similar benefits in these areas.’

“Phillips is a kinesiologist and an assistant professor in the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The paper will be published April 16, 2015 in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship: Research and Practice.

“This is one of the first papers to investigate how different intensities and types of physical activity affect the health-related quality of life of men after prostate cancer treatment.

” ‘This study shows that you don’t have to engage in high-impact, vigorous activities to improve your quality of life after a prostate cancer diagnosis,’ Phillips said. ‘Since many prostate cancer survivors might find vigorous activities hard to stick with, the good news is that simply focusing on walking more may be enough to make them feel better.’ “


Androgen Deprivation Therapy Has Lasting Impact on Function

“For patients with prostate cancer, androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) has a lasting impact on physical function, according to a study published online March 24 in Cancer.

“Shabbir M.H. Alibhai, M.D., from the University Health Network in Toronto, and colleagues examined the impact of ADT on physical function and quality of life over 36 months. They enrolled 87 men with nonmetastatic  who were starting continuous ADT, and two control groups matched by age and education (86 prostate cancer patients without ADT and 86 healthy controls).

“The researchers found that in both control groups there was an initial improvement in the six-minute walk test which then stabilized, while there was no change for ADT users (P = 0.0030). In control groups, grip strength remained stable, but there was a sharp decline in the ADT group by three months, which then remained stable to 36 months (P = 0.0041). Over 36 months, Timed Up and Go scores declined gradually in the ADT group and did not change in control groups (P = 0.0001). In all groups, the aggregate mental quality of life was stable. Declines seen in the first year of ADT use were independent of age and generally persisted during 36 months.”


Heart Health After Cancer: A Growing Concern

“Nearly 15 million people are living after a cancer diagnosis in the United States. This number represent over 4 percent of the population, an astonishing figure. And a growing one, as reported last year by the ACS and outlined by the NCI’s Office of Cancer Survivorship.

“As cancer patients survive longer they face additional health problems. Radiation to the chest, chemotherapy, antibody therapy and hormone changes can affect blood vessels and heart function in the short term and long, during treatment or years later. But millions affected – and their physicians – remain insufficiently mindful about the risk of heart disease.

“It’s the kind of problem a person who’s had cancer, or a doctor who’s prescribed generally helpful treatment, may not want to think about.

“Years ago, heart complications of cancer treatment didn’t garner so much attention says, Dr. Javid Moslehi, a cardiologist who leads a program in cardio-oncology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN. The emerging field involves cardiologists, oncologists, scientists and others who study the long-term effects of cancer treatment on the heart.”


No Long-Term Anxiety or Distress Associated with Low-Dose Computed Tomography Screening

“Examination and review of several studies that evaluated patient-centered outcomes for individuals undergoing low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) screening for lung cancer found that screening does not appear to significantly influence overall health-related quality of life or result in long-term changes in anxiety or distress, but that positive results in the short-term, do increase distress levels.”


Cleveland Clinic Study Shows No Increased Risk of MDS After Radiation for Prostate Cancer

“A study published Wednesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute is providing encouraging news to prostate cancer patients who need radiation therapy.

“The findings of the study, conducted at the Cleveland Clinic, shows that those men have no greater risk for developing myelodysplastic syndromes, or MDS, than the general population.”