All Posts tagged cancer

Nipping Neuropathy in the Bud

Nipping Neuropathy in the Bud

If you’ve never heard of neuropathy, consider yourself lucky. However, if you are one of the 20 million Americans that suffer from this disease, you know how painful and irritating it can be. Neuropathy is a disease of the nerves in which the peripheral nerves (those in the arms and the legs) are damaged. This results in pain and numbness in the hands and feet. Additional symptoms include loss of ability to detect heat and cold, loss of coordination and proprioception, a pins and needles feeling, ulcers, gangrene, and changes in the skin, hair, or nail.

Neuropathy typically affects diabetics and cancer patients. Over time, the high blood sugar levels caused by diabetes can damage nerves. Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments can also damage nerves. Other conditions which may cause neuropathy include vitamin B-12 deficiency, alcoholism, kidney disease, liver disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, connective tissue diseases, injury, or infection.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for neuropathy. However, if the underlying cause is targeted, it can sometimes be stopped or reversed after a period of time. For those currently suffering from neuropathy, there are some steps you can take to deal with the disease. Follow these tips to make your neuropathy more manageable and less of a problem in your everyday life.

Tips for Coping with Neuropathy

1. Wear loose clothing. Tight socks, shoes, pants, gloves, or shirts can actually worse pain and tingling. Always wear soft, loose cotton socks and padded shoes to keep your feet comfy.

2. Quit smoking. A good health tip in general. However, in particular, cigarette smoke can affect circulation, which increases your risk of foot problems and amputation.

3. Eat healthy. Again, another obvious tip. A low-fat diet rich in meat and dairy as well as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help you feel better!

4. Massage your hands and feet. Massaging helps to improve circulation, stimulates nerves, and can temporarily relieve pain.

5. Avoid prolonged pressure. While it may be your go-to lounging position, avoid crossing your knees or leaning on your elbows for a long time. This can actually cause new nerve damage.

6. Don’t drink too much. Since too much alcohol can cause neuropathy, it makes sense to limit your intake of the drink.

7. Get in shape. To complete the obvious trifecta… studies show that regular exercises may help reduce neuropathy pain.

8. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. This therapy involves placing electrodes on the skin to help stimulate nerves.

9. Plasma exchange and intravenous immune globulin. This helps if you suffer from an inflammatory condition as it suppresses immune system activity. Otherwise, it won’t help.

10. Take medication. Over-the-counter pain medications can help you cope with pain. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe anti-seizure medications, anti-depressants, or capsaicin to help.


National Cancer Survivors Day

National Cancer Survivors Day

Today, June 7, is National Cancer Survivors Day! It is a time of celebration for the millions of people throughout the world who have battled cancer and come out victorious. Beating cancer is not easy – in fact, it’s one of the hardest things people have to go through in their lives. This day is meant to celebrate milestones and bring attention to the ongoing challenges of cancer survivorship.

As a part of that celebration, here are six tales from cancer survivors. Whether you are looking for a bit of hope for your own diagnosis, or just want to read some touching stories, these personal anecdotes will lighten your heart. Life after cancer can and does exist – and it is beautiful.

kathy harris

Kathy Harris – Breast + Lung Cancer

“I spent 2 weeks in the hospital depressed and crying until my doctor said to me, ‘You can do 1 of 2 things. You can sit here and cry and moan or you can take back your life and be strong and positive.’ I took his advice and I became stronger. I became positive.”

cancer survivor stories 2

Danielle Duran Baron – Liver Cancer

“I am constantly inspired by my new friends and their families, many of whom have taught me that there is dignity in suffering and beauty in death.”

michael turek

Michael Turek – Pancreatic Cancer

“Through all of this I kept a very positive and hopeful attitude. I have seven great kids who have been there for me, along with my dear friends, colleagues, and even strangers. I have made it to this point without too bad of an effect on my life!”

alyceia kimbrough

Alyceia Kimbrough – Breast Cancer

“I’ve come far since I decided to discard the anger and focus on helping to raise funds and find cures so people like my mother will never again have to say the words, ‘I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.'”

Trina C

Trina C - Mesothelioma

“People who went through this with me, saw me at my worst, and now they’re seeing me at my best. It’s been a miracle. Something so horrible has turned into something so good.”

howard tolchin

Howard Tolchin – Brain Tumor

“If you saw me right now, you would never know I had any type of problem. A cancer diagnosis is NOT a death sentence. My wife and I are living proof. I had a brain tumor, I had lymphoma, I had lung cancer, and I’m still here.”


How to Tell if Your Mole is Cancerous

How to Tell if Your Mole is Cancerous

Now that the sun has come out of its hibernation, it’s time to start being aware of how it can affect your skin. While the sun may feel amazing and is crucial for your body, too much of it can lead to severe problems such as skin cancer. Since May is Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month there’s no better time than now to start examining that mole to see if it is cancerous.

Many skin cancers emerge from existing moles or in the form of new moles, so it is important to constantly monitor your skin. Skin cancer and melanomas sound scary, but they are actually quite treatable if caught early enough.

Remember, only a doctor can diagnose your mole as cancerous! If you have any doubts or are afraid to go to the doctor, ask your home health nurse for more information. He or she can examine the area in question and recommend what you should do. If necessary, your nurse can help you get in contact with a dermatologist. Our nurses are trained in recognizing signs of skin cancer and may be able to help alleviate your fears.

One easy way to remember the signs of melanoma is the acronym ABCDE. Here are a few tips for you to determine whether or not your mole is cancerous:

A – Asymmetry


Normal moles should be mostly symmetrical, meaning that if you divide the mole in half, both sides look similar. If you notice that your mole is not symmetrical, it may be a sign of melanoma.

B – Border


A normal mole should have a smooth, even border. Melanomas tend to have a jagged edge and look very uneven.

C – Color


Normal moles are generally a solid brown color without any variations or different colored areas. Melanomas, however, can have a variety of colors throughout the mole, including brown, tan, black, red, white, or blue.

D – Diameter


Normal moles don’t usually get too large, staying smaller than the diameter of an eraser on a pencil (about 1/4″). Melanomas can begin small but usually grow in size and are typically larger than a pencil eraser.

E – Evolving


Normal moles typically don’t change too much over time. Melanomas usually evolve, which is how all of these signs become noticeable. Other changes that can occur include size, shape, color, elevation, bleeding, itching, or crusting.

When examining your skin for cancerous moles, use a full-length mirror to assist you. Begin either at the top or bottom of your body, and be sure to check crevices between toes and fingers, as well as behind your knees and groin. Keep track of any moles you already have so that you can know if they begin to change over time. Taking photos or measurements helps to verify any changes that occur. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends performing a head-to-toe examination of yourself at least once a month. Your nurse or home health aide can assist you in this examination – just ask!


World Cancer Day

World Cancer Day

February 4 is World Cancer Day, which means it is time to talk about cancer. The disease is all around us, yet it lurks in the darkness, a sometimes silent killer. 585,720 people died from cancer in the United States in 2014, with 1,665,540 new cases being diagnosed. Another frightening statistic: 40 percent of people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Many people do not even realize they have cancer until it is too late to be treated effectively.

While cancer certainly seems scary, it is not a death sentence. If caught early enough, most forms of cancer can be treated before they get any worse. Some cancers, such as breast, skin, thyroid, and prostate cancer, have relatively high five year survival rates. In fact, you only have a 0.8 percent chance of dying within five years if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Some forms of cancer are more treacherous, however. Pancreatic cancer has one of the worst survival rates, with only six percent of patients living past the five year mark. Other deadly cancers include lung and brain cancer.

The best defense against this disease is knowledge. You can take steps to lower your risk by eating healthy, exercising, and avoiding known carcinogens. You can also be aware of risk factors and whether or not you are genetically predisposed to be at a higher risk. While there is no guaranteed way to stop cancer, you can still do your best to prevent it.

World Cancer Day

Cancer affects millions of Americans each year, resulting in pain, suffering, and death. Learn more and spread awareness by taking this quiz.

world cancer day awareness quiz


Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Lung Cancer Awareness Month

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, which means it’s time to focus on one of the world’s deadliest cancers.

Lung cancer forms in the tissues of the lung – usually in the cells that line air passages. Abnormal cells form, which then begin to grow uncontrollably. These cells do not behave as normal lung cells and do not develop into healthy lung tissue, which means they interfere with proper functioning of the lung. This may in time deprive the body of fresh oxygen, leading to noticeable symptoms. Symptoms of lung cancer range from coughing up blood to fatigue, which is why many people are not diagnosed with the disease until it has already progressed to a later stage. Over 50 percent of people are diagnosed at a late stage in the disease, with a mere 15 percent being diagnosed when treatment is most effective.

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone who develops lung cancer is a smoker. Around 10 to 20 percent of people with lung cancer have never smoked. Other non-smoking risk factors include asbestos, radon, industrial substances, radiation exposure, air pollution, tuberculosis, genetics, and military service.

Additionally, while many people think  breast cancer is number one cancer killer of women, they are mistaken. It is actually lung cancer, and has been lung cancer since 1987. In fact, twice as many women die from lung cancer each year as from breast cancer! It will actually kill more women in a year than breast, ovarian, cervical, uterine, and vaginal cancers combined.

To learn more about lung cancer, please take our quiz below. It’s important to learn the statistics so you know your likelihood of contracting the disease. It is also important to recognize the symptoms so that cancer can be diagnosed early before it spreads.

Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Lung cancer will kill more Americans this year than the next four most deadly cancers combined. Learn more and spread awareness by taking this quiz.



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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

It’s that time of year – pink is everywhere. From neon pink shoes during football games, to rose lights glowing in the northern entrance of the White House, it is nearly impossible to forget about Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The color pink has become a trusty symbol of all things breast cancer. However, for many, it is all about flashing color instead of actually learning about the disease. While awareness of breast cancer has increased exponentially from the pink campaign, often times facts and figures are left out of the awareness equation. For example, did you know that breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in American women when you exclude cancers of the skin? Or that breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among US women – losing out the number spot to lung cancer. Let’s not forget about men that are diagnosed with breast cancer, because there are 2,150 of them each year. Unfortunately, 410 of these men will die each year – many because they did not realize they had breast cancer until it had progressed to other parts of the body.

Test your knowledge of breast cancer and how it affects women (and men) by taking our informative quiz. Do your part in learning more about the disease so that we can form a well-educated public that knows the causes, symptoms, and treatments for breast cancer as well as other diseases.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer affects thousands of Americans each year. Learn more and spread awareness by taking this quiz.


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Daily Dose of Aspirin May Reduce Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Daily Dose of Aspirin May Reduce Pancreatic Cancer Risk

New research suggests that regular aspirin use may reduce the risk of developing pancreatic cancer by half.

The study, which was published by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health, focused on 30 hospitals from across Connecticut between 2005 and 2009. Scientists used 362 pancreatic cancer patients as well as 690 controls.

Each participant took a low-dose of aspirin, between 75 to 325 milligrams, on a daily basis. The results showed that the earlier a person started taking aspirin regularly, the greater their risk for pancreatic cancer was reduced.

Those who had taken the medicine for six years or less had a 39 percent reduced risk of developing the disease. Those who had taken it for more than 10 years had a 60 percent lower risk.

“The thought that there’s something that could lower the risk of someone getting pancreatic cancer is remarkable and exciting to me as a physician who has patients who have gotten — and died from — pancreatic cancer,” said CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook. “There’s very little we can do for most people that get pancreatic cancer.”

Currently, pancreatic cancer has a five year survival rate of only five percent, and claims 40,000 Americans each year. Having a new way of preventing the disease is crucial, since early detection is unlikely to make much difference in lifespan.

However, research on using aspirin as a preventative measure against cancer is still in the early stages. For now, doctors warn that the side effects of taking aspirin, such as gastrointestinal bleeding, are not worth the risk.

“Aspirin is not a risk-free substance,” said Dr. Harvey Risch, a professor of epidemiology who led the research. “If people are already using low-dose aspirin for cardiovascular disease prevention, they can feel good that most likely it’s lowering their risk for pancreatic cancer.”

Scientists are hopeful that aspirin can offer a new route not only for cancer prevention, but for cancer treatment.



Dementia May Lower Risk of Dying From Cancer

Dementia May Lower Risk of Dying From Cancer

A new study shows that elderly people who show symptoms of dementia but do not yet have Alzheimer’s have a 30 percent lower risk of dying from cancer.

Completed by Dr. Julian Benito-León of the Complutense University in Madrid, the study looked at 2,627 participants who were over 65 years of age.

The participants were given tests to assess their memory and thinking skills at the beginning of the study and then again after three years. The seniors were divided into three groups: those whose scores were declining the fastest, those whose scores improved, and those who were in the middle. Each participant was followed for an average of about 13 years.

During the course of the study, 1,003 participants died, 34 percent of which were a part of the fastest decline group. 21 percent of the fastest decline deaths were due to cancer.

In comparison, 29 percent of the deaths in the other groups were caused by cancer.

Even when variables were adjusted for factors such as smoking, diabetes, and heart disease, patients in the fastest decline group were still 30 percent less likely to die of cancer.

“We need to understand better the relationship between a disease that causes abnormal cell death and one that causes abnormal cell growth,” Dr. Benito-León said. “With the increasing number of people with both dementia and cancer, understanding this association could help us better understand and treat both diseases.”

Unfortunately, scientists still don’t understand the exact link between the two diseases. The study does help discount one one theory that seniors with Alzheimer’s disease simply failed to report their cancer symptoms, however.

The study joins the growing research that connects neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. A 2013 report showed that Alzheimer’s patients were half as likely to develop cancer and cancer patients were 35 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

Photo by fechi fajardo


Finnegan Roessler Replenishment Blood Drive

Finnegan Roessler Replenishment Blood Drive

We have some sad news today. A cousin of one of our nurses has been diagnosed with a rare type of childhood cancer. Two and a half year old Finn is fighting strong and is currently receiving platelet transfusions at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Finn’s family is hosting a blood drive to help replenish some of the supply he has used. The blood drive will be Sunday, March 9, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the SNPJ Lodge in Bulger. For directions, please click here.

To show your support for Finn and others like him, please contact Heather Santek at 724-255-6321 or or Bobbi Jo Roessler at 724-796-1786 or Appointments are strongly encouraged.

Click here for a printable version of this flyer to share with family and friends.


Stop Sitting! It Could Be Disabling You!

Sitting Leads to Disability

Photo by Akash_Kurdekar

A new study completed by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine showed that the risk of disability in people over 60 increases when they sit too much. For every additional hour spent sitting, the risk of being disabled increases by 50 percent! In fact, sitting has been linked to heart failure, type 2 diabetes, death from cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

But before you get too worried, remember that this is an easy problem to fix. Simply get up and get moving! If everyone in the country spent three fewer hours a day sitting, the national life expectancy would be increased by two whole years. Experts recommend to get up at least once an hour for 10 minutes to keep your blood flowing. There are some easy changes you can make that will not dramatically alter your lifestyle:

  • If you are watching TV, get up and walk around the house when a commercial comes on.
  • When you are working in front of a computer, get up and walk around every hour.
  • When you go to grocery store or mall, park in a space that is far away.
  • When you get up to have glass of water or for a meal, walk around the house or office.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator, if you are able.
  • Walk to the mailbox every morning to collect the mail.
  • Offer to walk your neighbor’s dog.
  • Join a mall-walkers club.
  • If you have a treadmill, walk on it while you watch TV or read the newspaper.