Category Archives: Dealing With Cancer

Breast BFFLBag® Video

Dr. Elizabeth explains the carefully chosen contents in the Breast BFFLBag®.  

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Dr. E Demonstrates the Benefits of the Elizabeth Pink Surgical Bra®

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Dr. E demonstrates the benefits and features of the Elizabeth Pink Surgical Bra® in this short video.

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Supporting a Partner with Cancer

July 16 - 41633398Many people don’t know what to do when their spouse or significant other receives a cancer diagnosis. What should they say? How should they act? How can they be supportive, compassionate, helpful and strong?

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Does Time to Surgery Matter?

female surgeon with scalpelWhen 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…)

Exercise and Cancer Outcomes

Last week, I received a call from a woman who I consider a business genius. Her exercisefriendship 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…)

What to Expect on the Day of your Breast Surgery

There are so many things to think about when facing breast surgery or any in-patient BreastBag_websurgical 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…)

For Breast Cancer Prevention, More Exercise is Better

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 Multi-ethnic group of mature women (50s) exercising in gym, lifting hand weights.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!

Breast Surgery and Medical Testing: Understanding What’s Going On

Doctors examining medical testsWhen 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…)

Spotlight on: FORCE

FORCE logo Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) is the nation’s only nonprofit organization dedicated to families facing hereditary breast, ovarian and related cancers. (more…)

Combination Drug Therapy More Effective on Melanoma

melanoma skin cancer on woman arm with sun in the backgroundMy 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:

  • About 73,870 new melanomas will be diagnosed (about 42,670 in men and 31,200 in women).
  • About 9,940 people are expected to die of melanoma (about 6,640 men and 3,300 women)

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!

DOs and DON’Ts: Pre-Surgery Prep

DrelogoWhen 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…)

BFFL Co Making A Difference

DoubleBreastBfflBag_nooilWe 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!

Spotlight on: Breast Reconstruction Guidebook

Breast Reconstruction Guide 3coverIn 2006, when making my decision about prophylactic mastectomies, there was one book that was essential in teaching me what I needed to know and what I had no idea was even possible.

Kathy Steligo’s Breast Reconstruction Guidebook is now in its third edition and is even wiser and more comprehensive. (more…)

Medical Test Results: When is a Positive a Negative?

LearDepositphotos_45110613_xsn how to decode medical test results in our blog on the Huffington Post!

Spotlight On: Bright Pink

My routine visit with a gynecologist in the spring of 2013 turned out to be anything but routine.

I had just moved back to New York from North Carolina (where my husband Johnny was stationed on active duty with the US Marine Corps) and was meeting with my new gynecologist, Dr. Nabil Khoury. After reviewing my personal and family history, (more…)

When Dealing With Illness, Don’t Go It Alone

We can all agree that going through tough times in life can be made easier when you have the moral support of a significant other, friend, or family member. Not surprisinIn the Waiting Roomgly, this is especially true when facing illness. This applies not only to visiting a friend with the flu—it also comes into play when the stakes are much higher. (more…)

Spotlight On: The Silver Lining

The Silver Lining coverHow many times have we heard the old adage: “In every cloud, there is a silver lining”? It’s hardly the thing to say when someone has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. But after Hollye Jacobs received this news at age thirty-nine, she decided to use her knowledge of the “practical” matters associated with the disease to help others. (more…)

Breast Cancer Concern for the African-American Female Population

Young African BusinesswomanBFFL Co is featured in the Huffington Post! Read our blog concerning the troubling statistics regarding breast cancer in this demographic. (Read)

Is a Vaccine Against Breast Cancer Remotely Possible?

Medical ampoules and syringeMaybe. Recent studies have shown that a new breast cancer vaccine is safe to administer to people.

The studied vaccine essentially causes an increase in the body’s immune cells that attack mammaglobin-A (a breast cancer-related toxin also known as MAM-A). A research team (more…)

Need a Holiday Gift for a Breast Cancer Patient?

Do you need the perfect holiday gift for a friend or loved one facing cancer surgery? You want to show caring for your friend and sensitivity toward the challenge she faces. A BFFLBag® is a thoughtful, helpful, uplifting and comforting gift!

Watch this video from a patient thrilled with the Breast BFFLBag® she received from the Cancer Spa Day at New York’s Manhattan JCC.

 

Cancer and the Holidays

Caring for a loved one with cancer is particularly challenging during the holidays. Here are some common-sense tips to help you navigate the next six weeks with grace, joy and peace. (We first published this two years ago, and it was so popular we decided to do an update.) 

ThanksgivingTurkeyHolidays and special occasions are meant to be joyful times that create lasting memories. Many people enjoy reuniting with family and friends to celebrate traditions during these times. However, for the person who is caring for a loved one with cancer, it can be challenging to balance caregiving responsibilities while preparing for family get-togethers, parties, and other events. By planning ahead and using the tips discussed here, caregivers and their loved ones can find ways to get the most out of these special times.  (more…)