What is normal?

qLet’s normalise a few things right now:

  • There is no “right way” to make sense of what a cancer diagnosis means in anyone’s life
  • We can’t expect everyone to react in a similar way, or say the same things as anyone else – each person is unique and of course their response to their cancer treatment will be individual as well;
  • It’s very common for people to feel confused, disbelieving or angry when newly diagnosed, but this is not true for everyone;
  • Sometimes our bodies even respond to the stress and shock with physical responses – headaches, nausea, diarrhea, sighing, poor sleep patterns etc; and
  • Often people look forward to the end of treatment, but sometimes folks feel fearful, uncertain, or more emotional than they did during the treatment.

Blog by Clare Manicom, Oncology Social Worker

Creamed root gratin

Another recipe for the tough times. This is pure comfort food for when you feel like nothing else.

gratin

500g potatoes, peeled and chopped
a generous cup of celeriac, peeled and chopped
1 small parsnip, peeled and diced quite small
1 small chopped onion
1 clarge carrot, peeled and very thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and the same of black pepper
1 teaspoon low salt stock powder
Soya milk to cover

Bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are very soft. Drain and mash or blend to a smooth puree.

Pile into an oiled, overnproof dish, splash with a little olive oil and soy sauce and bake in a hot oven (200 deg C) until golden.

Serve hot, sprinkled with parsley or chives.

Yummy!

THANKS TO DR ROSY DANIEL, WHO HAS GENEROUSLY SHARED THE CANCER LIFELINE RECIPES WITH US. THIS RECIPE IS FOR THE TOUGH TIMES, FOR USE WHEN YOU ARE VERY ILL, DURING TREATMENT, WHILE THE APPETITE IS POOR AND THE WEIGHT LOW.

Buddies for life!

bhf circleBuddies For Life is a bi-monthly lifestyle magazine, published by Word for Word Media in association with the Breast Health Foundation, for breast cancer patients, their families and friends. It was launched in June 2011, and 22 issues have been published to date with many more to come.

The glossy print and online magazine aims to educate, encourage and provide support. An array of medical professionals and experts write supportive and educational articles for the magazine on topics such as treatment, health and wellness, diet, fitness, sexuality, new advances and psychological advice that will assist those affected by cancer to understand the disease and treatment.

The content is essential reading written in a style that simplifies terminology. Super Survivor is featured on the cover of every issue and the breast cancer survivor’s story is told. On the Chemo Couch is another platform for survivors to share their unique story.

In keeping with the aims of the Breast Health Foundation, each issue contains a section dedicated to the early detection and awareness of breast cancer.

Oncology Buddies, supported by CANSA, is a new section within the magazine catering for other cancer awareness, early detection and various support groups.

Buddies For Life is available in print at hospitals, private clinics, oncology practises, Buddies for lifemammography units, radiology centres and support groups. Medipost courier the distribution of the print magazines to all the various distribution points.

A digital version is also available on www.buddiesforlife.co.za and yearly subscriptions are offered.

bu

 

The Breast Health Foundation is one of the partner organisations in the Advocates for Breast Cancer (ABC)

Keeping cool in the tough times

Two-Coolers-RecipeIt is hard to imagine feeling hot and bothered in our chilly winter weather, but cancer treatment can play havoc with our normal body temperature.

And even if you are not feeling the heat, you can always do with a fruity vitamin boost!

Two Coolers
When you feel hot and bothered or sore try these to soothe and refresh.

Strawberry and Citrus Sorbet

Fresh juice of 2 big oranges
Fresh juice of 1 pink grapefruit
Fresh juice of 2 tangerines
Zest of 2 organic oranges, finely grated
10ozs (250g,2 cups) fresh strawberries or raspberries, cleaned
5 tablespoons maple syrup

Whizz together in a goblet blender or food processor. Pour into a shallow dish and freeze for 2-3 hours. Break into chunks and process again (using a sharp blade) until smooth and creamy. Return to the freezer for 30 minutes before serving. If you want to leave it longer in the freezer put it into little ice-lolly moulds at the final freeze and get them out as you feel the need.

For a change with added food value, try adding:

4ozs (100g, ½ cup) plain silken tofu
2 tablespoons more of maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Include frozen bananas at the final whizz stage before the second freeze.

Frozen Bananas

The simplest soother ever! Just peel ripe, firm and perfect bananas, wrap them individually in kitchen wrap/film and freeze overnight. Nibble on them whenever you fancy something cool and creamy. Don’t keep them in the freezer for too long, just do a few at a time.

If you can find sugar-free carob drops (try health food shops) melt them like chocolate in a ‘bain-marie’ (double saucepan) and dip your bananas in for an iron fortified, luxurious treat.

THANKS TO DR ROSY DANIEL, WHO HAS GENEROUSLY SHARED THE CANCER LIFELINE RECIPES WITH US. THIS RECIPE IS FOR THE TOUGH TIMES, FOR USE WHEN YOU ARE VERY ILL, DURING TREATMENT, WHILE THE APPETITE IS POOR AND THE WEIGHT LOW.

Keeping the balance

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting a series of recipies that will help you as you go through treatment. The Cancer Lifeline recipies are divided into three phases:

  • Tough Times, for use when you are very ill, during treatment, while the appetite is poor and the weight low.
  • Clean Machine, for detoxification of the body, post cancer treatment, or to kickstart a holistic health creation programme.
  • Eat Right, to set the right style of eating for the rest of your life to generate optimum health.

The recipies have been created by celebrity chef and nutrition consultant, Jane Sen, for the nourishment and healing of people with cancer. The recipies are part of the Cancer Lifeline Kit by Dr Rosy Daniel, which she has generously shared with us.

balance

Making an impact

The Breast Course for Nurses: who we are and what we have done over the last 12 months     

We have run several courses over the last 12 months:

Cape Town, South Africa – 15 nurses trained
Lilongwe, Malawi – 26 nurses trained
Windhoek, Namibia – 30 nurses trained
Ongwediva, Namibia – 30 nurses trained
Harare, Zimbabwe – 257 health care providers trained
Johannesburg, South Africa – 42 nurses trained

An account of each course can be found on the blog: http://www.jennyedge.co.za and Facebook page: www.facebook.com/breastcourse4nurses

blog 2The course is constantly evolving and I want to highlight some of the new changes we have made this year.

The major challenge we have addressed is allowing the course to run independently.

I have learnt a lot about teaching through the whole process.  The course was set up along the principles of the flipped class technique.

blog 2.1Unlike teaching at school, the participants on the courses are very varied and most are experts in their own areas.  We were constantly faced with the challenge of having large numbers of health care workers with vastly differing levels of knowledge about breast cancer and differing needs from the course.  In Zimbabwe, we were asked to extend the training to include doctors.  We met the challenge by dividing the 2 day course into 3 day long modules:
Module 1 was capped at 80 students and aimed at primary health care workers, breast cancer advocates and registered nurses.
Module 2 was capped at 50 participants and was aimed at registered nurses from the clinics, oncology sisters and doctors.
Module 3 was capped at 30 participants and was aimed at oncology sisters and doctors.  It allowed us to teach biopsy techniques.

blog 2.2We were also asked to have a “train the trainers” day. In many ways, the request ran against our aim to equip nurses to be self sufficient in their learning.  (The principle behind PEP is that health care workers should educate themselves with the material provided.)  Nevertheless, we blended the 2 approaches and Prof Woods and I ran a day in which we looked at different teaching modalities and tried to apply them to the course.  We defined “teaching” as the “sharing of understanding”
The result was that Module 1 of the Breast Course for Nurses was entirely taught by the nurses who attended the train the trainer’s day and studied the book (Breast Care).  I was immensely proud!

In Johannesburg, we took a different approach to deal with the challenge.  The course was run at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital by Dr Sarah Nietz and her team.  I wasn’t there at all.  I understand that 45 nurses completed the course.  The faculty were entirely local.

blog 2.3

Many thanks to everyone who has been involved with the Breast Course for Nurses.  If you wish to become involved, run a course or know more, please contact us.

Dr Jenny Edge, Founder and director of Breast Course for Nurses (PBO No.: 930050375)

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/breastcourse4nurses

Blog: www.jennyedge.co.za

Email: lieskewegelin@gmail.com

 

 

The Breast Course for Nurses: who we are and what we do

Regular readers of this blog will know that the Cancer Alliance is a collective initiative by South Africa’s main breast cancer organisations. We will be introducing each of our partners over the next few months. Today, meet Breast Course for Nurses. This blog was written by Dr Jenny Edge, Founder and director of Breast Course for Nurses.

     

It is an indisputable fact that women who are diagnosed with breast cancer at an earlier stage have a much better outcome than those diagnosed at a later stage.  Breast cancer screening programmes are well established in high income countries.

The modality of screening used is generally mammographic screening.

There has been a lot of debate about why women are diagnosed late in low income settings.  Do they present late because they are scared or cannot afford to access the health facility?  Do they present with symptoms that are not recognized as cancer by the health care worker (generally a nurse in a primary clinic)?  Do they get lost in the journey of diagnostic tests?

We don’t have the answer to these questions.  The Breast Course for Nurses aims to educate nurses working in primary clinics and equip them with the skills to recognise normal changes to the breast and differentiate them from changes associated with breast cancer.  We teach clinical breast examination with an aim to identifying breast cancers at an earlier stage.

Does clinical breast examination work as a means of breast screening?

Clinical breast examination, as a screening modality, has been studied with mixed results.   A recent study carried out in Sudan showed that clinical examination does pick up breast cancer at an earlier stage than in the control population.1    In Canada, where clinical breast examination was compared to mammographic examination, the mortality from breast cancer, 20 years later, was similar in both groups although more cancers were diagnosed in the mammographically screened population2.

The Breast Course for Nurses is a combination of a self-learning program (PEP educations series) and a residential program that contextualizes the theory in the book, encourages networking amongst the participants and stimulates debate as to how to improve access to care.  The courses are taught by local faculty and no course is the same.

Does our method of transferring understanding work?  We will be doing various projects to look at the impact of running our course.

In the next blog, we will give details of the courses we have run over the last 12 months.

References

  1. Abuidris DO1, Elsheikh A, Ali M, Musa H, Elgaili E, Ahmed AO, Sulieman I, Mohammed SI. Breast-cancer screening with trained volunteers in a rural area of Sudan: a pilot study. Lancet Oncol. 2013 Apr;14(4):363-70. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(12)70583-1. Epub 2013 Jan 31.
  1. Anthony B Miller, Claus Wall, Cornelia J Baines, Ping Sun, Teresa To, Steven A Narod.. Twenty five year follow-up for breast cancer incidence and mortality of the Canadian National Breast. Screening Study: randomised screening trial. BMJ: g366 doi:10.1136/bmj g 366

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/breastcourse4nurses

Blog: www.jennyedge.co.za

Email: lieskewegelin@gmail.com

ABC - Advocates for Breast Cancer - Breast Course 4 Nurses

Those dreaded side effects!

sideeffects

The chemotherapy drugs cannot distinguish between cancer cells and normal cells of the body and will attack other rapidly growing cells such as hair,skin, nails, lining of the digestive system and bone marrow (blood cell lines).

Therefore there are various side effects associated with the therapy and  because each drug acts in a slightly different way, the side effects will also differ between different drugs.

Thankfully, like all drugs (including Panado and Aspirin), not every side effect is experienced by every person, and some side effects are experienced to lesser degrees in some people.

Many side effects may be unpleasant, but are not harmful. Some side effects may get worse and some may get better with each cycle of treatment. Others may develop during the course of the treatment.

Some side effects need to be treated and some can be managed by anticipating them and controlling them in advance which lessens their effect.

Some side effects are more serious and it is important to contact your doctor if you are worried.

The good news is that cancer cells divide more rapidly than normal cells and are therefore more likely to be killed by chemotherapy.

More good news is that normal cells are also more able to recover than cancer cells and therefore most side effects are not permanent and will reverse once the treatment is finished.

Blood cell counts are done each time a new cycle of chemotherapy is started. This is usually done the day before the next treatment or very early on the same morning of the treatment. Sometimes a blood test will be done mid-cycle depending on the patient or the combination of drugs used.

The most common side effects and some of the agents that cause them:

Nausea/Vomiting (FEC, AC> CMF, Xeloda)

Drugs that help prevent against nausea are given before the combinations that cause this. Medication is also given to take home for a few days after treatment too. Different drugs work for different people and it may be necessary to try more than one antiemetic before you get relief.  It is important not to give up – if the prescribed antiemetic is not effective, work with your doctor and nurse to find the one that works best for you.

Diarrhoea/ Constipation (all, but especially Xeloda, Vinorelbine)

The irritation of the lining of the bowel may lead to diarrhoea. This can often be managed with dietry changes but may require medication. Drinking lots of fluids is important to help replace losses.

Chemotherapy may cause some people to become constipated.  Others may become constipated because they are less active than before, because of diet changes, or from pain medication they may be taking.

Mouth sores and ulcers (all)

The cells lining the mouth may be affected and the mouth may be sensitive or develop small ulcers. Sometimes changes or loss of taste can occur which recovers once treatment is completed.

Lower blood cell counts (FEC,AC, CMF, Gemcitabine,Vinorelbine,)

This occurs because the chemotherapy drugs affect the bone marrow. The bone marrow makes white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. The levels of these blood cell counts are checked regularly during treatment.

Low white cell counts (FEC, AC, CMF)– white blood cells help fight infection. If you have a severe infection and your white cell count is very low, it could be life threatening and may require hospitilisation. It is important to contact your treating doctor if your temperature goes above 38degC.

Low red cell counts (FEC,AC, CMF,Taxol, Gemcitabine)– red blood cells carry oxygen to the cells. If the count goes down you may become anaemic which will result in you feeling tired and breathless. If severe, you may need a blood transfusion.

Low platelets (Gemcitabine)– platelets help blood to clot. If the count goes down you may bruise easily.

Tiredness/Fatigue (all)

Fatigue is a common side-effect of chemotherapy and can range from mild lethargy to feeling completely wiped out.  It is not always due to a low red cell count (anaemia). It can be a deep tiredness that does not get better from sleep and tends to be worse at the beginning and end of a treatment cycle but may persist for 6 months to a year after treatment.

Hair loss (FEC,AC) Hair thinning (CMF,Taxol, Vinorelbine)

Some chemotherapy combinations (such as AC, FEC, CAF) make all hair fall out both on the head and the rest of the body.

Other combinations cause some hair to fall out so the hair thins out.

This can be upsetting but it is temporary- the hair will begin to grow back a few weeks after treatment has stopped. It may grow back different in colour or texture though.

Skin and nail changes (Taxol, Xeloda, Vinorelbine)

Skin may become dry and sensitive to sunlight and some drugs even cause rashes. Nails may also become brittle or discoloured.

Hand-foot  Syndrome (Xeloda)

The earliest symptoms of Hand-foot Syndrome is a painful sensitivity of the hands and feet. It may progress from sensitivity to redness and swelling on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.  The redness looks like sunburn and it may blister and in severe cases form sores.  The affected skin can also become dry and peel.  It is important to advise your doctor or nurse about any Hand-foot Syndrome symptoms, even if they are mild, as treating early can help prevent severe cases.

Eye problems (all)

Sore eyes, “gritty” eyes, watery eyes, infection in eyes(conjunctivitis), and blurred vision may occur in some people to varying degrees during their treatment.

Phlebitis (FEC, AC, CMF, Vinorelbine,)

Damage to the lining of the veins used in some chemotherapies can result in discomfort or burning sensation in the veins. This may last for some weeks. If venous access is difficult a port (a cannula inserted under a general anaesthetic)into a large vein in the chest) may be advised. If the vein is burning or painful during chemotherapy, please alert the chemotherapy sister.

Peripheral neuropathy (Taxol, Vinorelbine)

This is experienced as a numbness or tingling sensation in fingers or toes. In more severe cases it may be painful. It is most commonly seen in diabetics and in those who have had multiple courses as it tends to be cumulative. It may persist for a few months after completing treatment.

Allergic reactions (Taxol)

If this occurs, it usually happens with the first dose. If it occurs it will happen in the chemo room and not later at home. It is usually prevented by and easily treated with antihistamines and steroids.

Liver changes (Gemcitabine, Vinorelbine,Xeloda)

In many cases this is only noticed on the blood tests and goes unnoticed by the patient. It will go back to normal after treatment. In the cases of breast cancer that has already spread to the liver, the liver function may be affected by the cancer itself and may actually improve on chemotherapy.

Menstrual irregularity and infertility (all)

When women receive chemotherapy it can damage the ovaries and reduce the amount of hormones they produce, resulting in short-or long-term infertility (inability to fall pregnant).  The effects of ‘chemo’ on your hormones may result in:

♦          Menstrual periods becoming irregular or stopping completely

♦          Menopause-like symptoms, e.g. hot flushes and itching burning, or dryness

of vaginal tissues

♦          Vaginal infections are more likely

Menstrual function can start again up to 2 years after chemotherapy. The onset of menopause may also be brought earlier and fertility may be impaired. If a woman may want a baby after chemotherapy, it is a good idea to discuss this with the doctor before starting chemotherapy.

Remember that, chemotherapy is not a safe method of contraception and a safe contraceptive is very important during chemotherapy as the drugs would be extremely harmful to the foetus.

Cardiac failure (FEC, AC, CAF, Xeloda)

In very rare instances some chemotherapy can lead to heart failure. If your doctor thinks you are at risk a cardiac function test will be done before starting chemotherapy.

There are many other possible side effects of chemotherapy, many of which are extremely rare or mild and therefore not covered here but can be discussed individually with your doctor if you have concerns.

Frequently asked Questions:

“So just how bad am I going to feel?”

This is impossible to predict.  Everybody is different.  Many people can continue working during chemo, but may find they need to take a day or 2 off after chemo before going back to work.  Remember your experience will be different from the lady sitting next to you in the chemo room, so don’t panic if you find you are having a harder time than she (or an easier time!).  Tell your doctor.  Often something can be done to make the next time better.  Some things  you may have to grin and bear.

“What about other medicines, drugs and supplements during chemotherapy?”

It is important to discuss this with your specialist any other drugs your are taking or additional drugs you would like to take.  This includes vitamins or dietary supplements, vaccines or immunizations, immune boosters and herbal medicines.  They may interfere with the effectivity of your chemotherapy treatment.  Whatever boosts you may boost your cancer cells too!!

Blog written by Ronelle Lovric http://www.capebreastcare.org

 

 

Tailor made treatment

Miko Kapidzic works at University of California San Francisco

Did you know that when you get chaemotherapy, you will get a treatment plan that is tailor-made just for you?

The type of treatment you’ll get will depend on the type of cancer, where exactly it is and the stage of development of the cancer. The oncologist will also take into account whether the cancer has spread, your general health and the purpose of the treatment –  to cure or to relieve symptoms.

Research into cancer treatments goes on all the time, and new treatment regimes are always being developed. What that means is that your experience of chaemo may be different to any one else’s.

So, what happens when you get chaemo? It may be administered directly into a vein, it may be given to you in the form of a pill, you may get an injection or it may be applied directly to your skin.

The most common form of administration is through a vein. A thin needle is inserted into a vein on the hand or lower arm. This needle is removed once the chemotherapy has been completed. Chemotherapy can also be given intravenously by means of catheters, ports and pumps. A port is a round plastic or metal chamber that is placed under the skin. It is connected via a thin tube to one of the major vessels in the chest cavity. This method is more permanent and can be used for as long as necessary.

Most patients receive chemotherapy as out-patients in the oncology unit and do not need to be admitted to hospital.

Chemo Q & A

http://www.thewhyfoundation.org/cancer-answers/cancer-treatments/what-does-chemotherapy-look-like/
Original colour photograph by Mary Elizabeth Gentle from the article by writer, Allison W. Gryphon, Stage 3a Breast Cancer Survivor: “What Does Chemo Look Like?”

 

How often is the chemotherapy given and how long does it take?

This is decided by:

  • the type of cancer.
  • the goal of the treatment — i.e. either curative or to relieve symptoms.
  • the different chemotherapy drugs.
  • how your body copes with the chemotherapy.

It can be given daily, weekly or monthly and given in cycles where treatment is alternated with rest periods. Just make sure that you stick to the schedule so that you can get the best results.

Can I take other medication?

It depends what you are taking. Make sure that you give your oncologist a list of any prescription drugs or over-the-counter medication you are taking so you can get the best advice for your specific situation. e.g. vitamins, allergy pills, indigestion aids, pills for colds and flu, aspirin, pain killers and any minerals or herbal supplements.

ADVOCATES FOR BREAST CANCER_what is chemo_what does chemo look like_south africaBlack and white photograph of a chemotherapy drip/cancer treatment - via The Why Foundation: "What Does Chemo Look Like?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~ original colour photographs by Mary Elizabeth Gentle from “What Does Chemo Look Like?” by Allison W. Gryphon ~

How will I know if the chemotherapy is working?

When necessary, you will be sent for examinations and tests which will help your oncologist determine how effective the treatment has been. Please ask your oncologist to explain these tests to you.

———————————————————-

 

Important questions to ask before you start:

When you are having treatment, it is sometimes difficult to know what to ask about — so here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Why should I receive chemotherapy?
  • What are the benefits of chemotherapy?
  • What are the associated risks of chemotherapy?
  • Are there any other methods of treatment available for my specific cancer?
  • What is the standard of treatment for my type of cancer?
  • Are there any ongoing clinical trials for my type of cancer?


Ask these questions about your TREATMENT SCHEDULE:

  • How many chemotherapy treatments must I get?
  • Which chemotherapy drugs/agents will I receive?
  • How will the chemotherapy be administered?
  • Where will the chemotherapy be given?
  • How long will each chemotherapy treatment take?

Ask these questions about the SIDE EFFECTS of chemotherapy:

  • What are the possible side effects of my chemotherapy?
  • When will the side effects start?
  • What side effects usually occur with my type of cancer?
  • Are there any side effects that need to be reported immediately?
  • What can I do to minimise the side effects?

To ask any more questions – or answer other users’ questions – join us on Twitter here or Facebook here!

TAKEAWAY:

A must-read by THE WHY FOUNDATION:

What Does Chemo Look Like?