We’ve all heard the old saying “you are what you eat.” In recent years however, it’s become increasingly evident that when is just as important as what, or how much, you consume.
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We’ve all heard the old saying “you are what you eat.” In recent years however, it’s become increasingly evident that when is just as important as what, or how much, you consume.
You just had breast cancer surgery, and your doctor wants you to follow it up with chemo. But your son’s wedding is in six weeks. What should you do?
In a previous blog, we wrote that prolonging the Time to Surgery (TTS) from diagnosis reduces the overall survival for women with breast cancer.
How long after surgery you should start chemo, or the Time to Chemotherapy (TTC) is another commonly asked question, and many recent studies are attempting to provide answers.
Although there isn’t universal agreement on the optimal TTC, there is agreement that time matters, and that women for whom chemo is recommended shouldn’t wait too long before starting treatment. (more…)
When diagnosed with breast cancer, many women describe feeling pressure to “get the cancer out, FAST! ” Others, however, seem slightly annoyed (because of the excellent prognosis for early stage disease) with their diagnosis and would rather not change their plans. They’ll ask, “Can I still go on my cruise?” so that they can enjoy some time before treatment starts. In some cases, doctors have reassured patients that taking a few months to make a decision is perfectly fine, while others have discouraged any delay in surgery and/or treatment. (more…)
This past July, the New York Times published an article entitled, “Americans Are Finally Eating Less”. The article explained how, after decades of bad diets and increases in obesity, our country’s eating habits had finally begun to improve and calories consumed were declining for the first time in over 40 years. Obesity rates had stopped rising for adults and children, and had actually decreased for younger children.
Good news, right? Not good enough, apparently. A subsequent Times article (published this month) tells a completely different story. Despite our country’s best efforts to fight obesity, including a major campaign by Michelle Obama, the share of Americans in that category has edged up.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what has caused the apparent reversal in progress. However, logical reasoning might indicate that, if lower calorie consumption has not led to a sustainable decrease in obesity, perhaps calorie consumption is not the problem.
Under the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, chain restaurants are required to publish the calorie content of their meals. The federal government has improved the requirements for school lunches, and many schools have completely removed soda machines from their hallways. Some states (such as Berkeley, California) have even begun to tax sugar-sweetened beverages. While these are certainly steps in the right direction, they don’t mean that Americans are stocking their fridges with fresh fruits and vegetables and replacing soda with water.
Calories are not the villain here. Understanding how to fuel our bodies in a healthy way is the key to fighting obesity and improving overall health. Fried chicken, for example, is packed with salt, saturated fat and unhealthy calories. On the other hand, an avocado is loaded with healthy fats which the body can use. The same is true of almonds and other tree nuts. While high in calories, these foods (when eaten in moderation) provide nutrition and energy that evens out blood sugar levels and fuels the body in a healthy way.
The fact of the matter is: When certain foods become unavailable or restricted, they often gain traction as ‘forbidden fruit’ and become all the more appealing. Restricting or taxing soda doesn’t mean that people acquire a deeper understanding of the health risks associated with it. If people want sweets or fast food, they don’t have to look far to find it. If soda isn’t available, there are plenty of substitutes. The prevalence of “low fat” cookies and desserts only fools people into thinking that they are making a better choice. In fact, this can lead consumers to eat larger portions of these products when, in fact, they generally contain higher levels of sugar to offset the decreased fat. Hardly a good choice.
Where is the data coming from?
These figures are released every two years by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, considered by many to be the gold standard for federal health data. The numbers show that about 38% of American adults were obese in 2013 and 2014, up from 35% in 2011 and 2012. Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, said that the trend is “very unfortunate and very disappointing”. She added, “Everybody was hoping that with the decline in sugar and soda consumption, we’d start seeing a leveling off of obesity.”
Some of the most startling numbers were among minorities. From 2011 to 2014, 57% of black women were obese, the highest rate of any demographic. The next highest were Hispanic women (46%) and Hispanic men (39%). Of white women and men, 36% and 34% were obese, respectively.
Obesity and breast cancer
For women, the dangers of obesity (particularly post-menopause) include a possible increased risk for breast cancer. Fat cells produce estrogen and cause inflammation, which is considered a contributor to the development of breast cancer. Maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising regularly can lower the risk.
It seems that, within only six months, our nation’s health situation has deteriorated from promising to discouraging. There are no quick fixes here. Until more Americans become better educated about how what they eat affects their overall health, the fight against obesity will be hard won.
The flu season is upon us, and we all cringe at the potential disruption it can bring to our busy lives. While there is no way to completely guard against the flu, there are things you can do to minimize the risk: (more…)
Last week, I received a call from a woman who I consider a business genius. Her friendship is a gift, and she offers a wealth of experience not only in business and finance, but also in travel, hobbies, and relationships. She is a “self-made “success who embodies the vital ammunition of hard work and the type of focus that’s necessary to complete the toughest challenges.
When she called to tell me that she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, her usual calm and confident voice sounded panicked. (more…)
Many women tell me that the worst part of being diagnosed with breast cancer is hearing that you need chemotherapy. The disease itself is bad enough, but having to deal with the side effects of chemo—hair loss, nausea, fatigue and months of trips back and forth to the hospital—just intensify their fears. However, there is a relatively new test that can be performed at the time of biopsy and diagnosis that can provide valuable information in tailoring a woman’s treatment plan. (more…)
There are so many things to think about when facing breast surgery or any in-patient surgical procedure. Besides packing for the hospital, you have to make sure that everything is in order for your return home. Although your doctor will explain the physical constraints you will face post-surgery, it’s difficult to know what you’ll be dealing with until you actually experience it first-hand. (more…)
It used to be unusual to see a man or woman with a tattoo, but not anymore. In fact, $1.6 billion is spent in the U.S. each year on tattoos, and 45 million Americans have them. Of that amount, a whopping 40% are adults age 26-40. Back in July, we posted a blog on how tattoo ink can be mistaken for the spread of cancer to the lymph nodes. However, on the flip side, tattoo ink can also hide potentially problematic moles by making it hard to evaluate them. (more…)
In Spanish, the word flake is a term of endearment for a thin person. When I was a teenager, my friend’s Colombian father used to call me “flakita”. But the word Flakka is anything but that. It’s the street name for a new designer drug that is highly addictive and extremely dangerous. (more…)
There’s nothing pleasant about sweating through your blouse during an elegant dinner party or having to get up in the middle of the night to change pajamas, but that’s precisely the sort of discomfort faced by many menopausal women. (more…)
As the new school year approaches and we’re bombarded with back-to-school sales and advertisements for everything from backpacks to paper clips, it’s time to focus on what your kids are going to be eating throughout their busy days. (more…)
It’s no secret that body fat increases postmenopausal breast cancer risk. Regular exercise is an integral part of breast cancer prevention and, further, exercise should play a key role in breast cancer recovery as well (we posted a blog on the subject last summer). But how much exercise is optimal for reducing breast cancer risk? According to a recent study, more seems to be better.
A clinical trial conducted in Alberta, Canada between 2010 and 2013 studied how different levels of exercise affected the body fat levels of 384 previously inactive postmenopausal women (aged 50 to 74 years) in both normal and obese body fat ranges. The participants were randomly assigned workout regimens of either 30 or 60 minutes per day for five days each week (with no dietary changes) and continued the regimens for 12 months. Body fat measurements taken before and after the trial showed that decreases in body fat were significantly higher in those women who participated in a higher volume, more intense exercise regimen (300 vs. 150 minutes per week).
Overall, the women exercising 300 minutes weekly lost 1% more body fat than those in the 150 minute group. An important finding, however, was that those exercising at the higher level did not lose significantly more weight. Many cancer studies focus on how weight affects cancer risk, but this study focused specifically on body fat levels.
Christine Friedenreich, PhD led the study along with her colleagues at Alberta Health Services in order to differentiate between how body fat, not just weight, could lower cancer risk. She said that general guidelines for exercise concentrate on lowering blood pressure and other heart disease-related measurements. But for cancer prevention, Friedenreich says, “We may need to exercise at higher volumes. So yes, doing 150 minutes of activity a week is good, but if you can do more, then from a cancer prevention perspective, 300 minutes is better.”
Since fatty tissue is the main source of hormones that can drive postmenopausal breast cancer, the study results are significant. Fat also plays a role in the body’s immune and inflammatory responses, both of which are involved in cancer. So when it comes to exercise and breast cancer prevention, upping your game could really improve your odds!
For some of us, the onset of summer brings a wave of anxiety about how we’ll look in shorts, sleeveless tops and….of course…..swimsuits. It’s hard to imagine being in a women’s clothing store without overhearing self-loathing comments such as, “I could never pull this off unless I lost 10 pounds”, or “I really need to go on a diet”. (more…)
When you’re facing breast surgery, there’s a lot of information to process. In addition to all the physical and emotional prep, there are myriad medical imaging and other tests that you may have to undergo. Here’s a list and explanation of the tests that could be necessary (more…)
Read our blog on The Huffington Post about how tattoo ink can be mistaken for cancer cells.
My best friend Kelly and I love to go running together. It’s great for both us, since it combines exercise and what we call “free therapy”. She loves the sun, and just feeling its warm rays brightens her mood. The problem, however, is that Kelly is also very fair-skinned—and the two don’t mix. This is compounded by the fact that, as a teenager in New Jersey, she belonged to the baby-oil and iodine club (that only those in their 40’s and 50’s remember now). Many of us are now suffering consequences from the choices we made back then, and these are showing up in the form of wrinkling, sun spots and, most unfortunately, skin cancers. Last year, what Kelly thought was a “beauty mark” on her cheek turned out to be a melanoma. It was removed, and left behind a scar to remind us that protection from the sun is not only wise, it’s also crucial to maintaining good health.
Skin cancers are on the rise and, according to the American Cancer Society, are by far the most common of all cancers. While melanoma accounts for less than 2% of skin cancer cases, the number of cases has been rising for at least 30 years and it causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths.
Here are the American Cancer Society’s estimates for melanoma in the United States for 2015:
I have written on this subject for years and it continues to be something I’m passionate about. With incidents of melanoma increasing, the medical community must grapple with the issues of diagnosis, treatment and, unfortunately, what to do when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. Obviously, prevention is key, and a crucial component in warding off this potentially deadly disease. That said, there is important melanoma research on evaluating new drugs and potential treatment modalities. While the drug names are lengthy and hard to spell (much less pronounce), the important message is that these new drug therapies show promise in dealing with melanoma. Good news for Kelly and for the thousands of others facing this growing health issue.
Specifically, a recent study has concluded that drug therapy using a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer cells by combining two drugs (rather than one) has proven to be more effective in slowing cancer growth and extending a patient’s progression-free survival period. The two drugs, called nivolumab and ipilimumab, led to better results compared to the use of ipilimumab alone– when given to previously untreated patients with melanoma that had spread beyond the original site (stage III or IV metastatic melanoma).
The double-blinded study (in which neither the researchers nor participants were aware of who was getting study drugs vs. placebo) was conducted using 945 patients. After a minimum of 9 months’ follow-up, disease progression was reduced by 58% when both drugs were used. Dr. Michael Atkins, deputy director of the Georgetown-Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, said the principal take-home message is that, “Ipilimumab can no longer be considered as standard first-line immunotherapy for patients with advanced melanoma. This clearly has important implications for the field and for our patients.”
Professor Roy Herbst, chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center said the combination treatment, which uses the body’s immune system to attack cancerous cells, could potentially replace chemotherapy as the standard cancer treatment within five years. “I think we are seeing a paradigm shift in the way oncology is being treated,” he said. Dr. James Larkin, a consultant at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, said, “By giving these drugs together you are effectively taking two brakes off the immune system rather than one, so it is able to recognize tumors it wasn’t previously and react and destroy them.” This results in a sort of “one-two punch” against advanced stage melanoma.
There is some downside, however. The combination drug treatment is expensive, raising concerns regarding relative value. Dr. Atkins said that judgment about whether the additional cost is justified will need to be withheld until it can be determined whether or not the combination treatment can reduce the need for other therapies. Also, there are some concerns regarding increased side effects (know as toxicity) when both drugs are administered, since treatment-related adverse side effects occurred in a greater percentage of the study group which received the combination therapy. However, the management of these side effects suggests that the combination therapy can be used safely in many cases.
While the study results provide optimism for the treatment of advanced stage melanoma, the positive results may not justify the high cost of the treatment. The fact remains–prevention is key. As we head into July 4th weekend, don’t forget to wear sunblock, a hat and long sleeves when out in the sun, because there’s nothing mood-boosting about skin cancer!
When you’re about to undergo breast surgery, there are many things to think about and plan for. But it’s difficult to really consider all of the parts of one’s life that the surgery will affect. You think about the obvious things, (more…)
We receive many letters of thanks for the products we offer from people who have used them or bought them for a friend or loved one struggling with cancer. We received this one recently, and were touched by the heartfelt gratitude and, more importantly, by the fact that our Double Mastectomy BFFLBag® and the BFFL Co Guide to Mastectomy were so helpful. This has always been our mission: To improve the patient experience. There’s nothing better than finding out we have done just that. Here’s what she wrote:
The BFFL Company Bag was delivered right on time. I have yet to open it since both my daughter and I are down with an ugly sinus infection, but I will be delivering it to her very soon. I just want you to know what a wonderful difference products such as this and your personal and kind help provide to cancer sufferers and their relatives. I would do anything for my daughter, but so far, except for accompanying her to appointments and doctor visits, I have been able to do little. This product – the thought of it, the hope of it, the kindness with which it was put together – has been so instrumental in providing a little relief to a grim situation.
I was especially impressed with your “The BFFL Co Guide to Mastectomy.“ For 25 years, I worked as an Instructional Systems Specialist – first for the U. S. Army and then the U. S. Coast Guard. Smaller service though it was, the CG, early on, was particularly good at realizing the great advantage of job aids, etc. Your Guide to Mastectomy is one of the best I’ve ever seen, and it even includes a video that I plan to watch.
Ironically to us anyway, my daughter is an oncology nurse, having devoted 13 or more years of her working career to chemo and now radiation. She knows how to care for drains – I don’t — but I will because your video and instruction and her skill set and teaching skills will make sure I get one thing out of this experience and that is how to care for drains. My daughter also got me through a very tough year as my husband struggled with pancreatic cancer. Of course, he ultimately lost that battle, but my daughter was why I could keep his multitude of meds straight and other visiting nurses who patiently taught me were why I could ultimately administer infused antibiotics through a Smart Port twice a day. If you’re me, you think you can’t do these things. If you’re my daughter you not only know you can but you know how to help other people to experience that they can, too. I know you must get accolades and praise all the time, but just wanted to add mine. I think you’re fantastic!!!!
Sheila Shepard, proud mother of the best oncology nurse in the whole world!