Discussing your cancer pain and finding relief

As a cancer patient, your top priority is to survive, so you may not think about mentioning any pain associated with your disease or treatment to your care team. “Many patients aren’t aware of the medications and procedures that can improve their quality of life,” says Salahadin Abdi, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of Pain Medicine. Education and communication are key to ensure you get all of the cancer pain management help you need from your care team. Here, Abdi shares advice for discussing your cancer pain so that you can find relief. Speak up about your cancer pain It’s important to know you’re not alone in experiencing cancer pain. “Pain is very common, even in the early stages of the disease,” Abdi says. He advises patients not to wait to speak up. As cancer progresses, the pain associated with the cancer itself or the treatment becomes more significant. That’s why it’s important to notify your care team early on to ensure a better quality of life.   Include your family in cancer pain management Cancer pain affects not only the cancer patient, but also the patient’s family. Sometimes patients feel as though people don’t believe their pain exists so they feel isolated. “I like when patient and the caregivers come to see me together so that everyone’s on the same page, everyone is educated and understands cancer pain,” Abdi says. In addition, caregivers should stay open to what patients have to say. Showing compassion and just listening to them is part of the healing processes, Abdi says. Communicate your cancer pain management goals When meeting with your cancer...

Discussing your cancer pain and finding relief

As a cancer patient, your top priority is to survive, so you may not think about mentioning any pain associated with your disease or treatment to your care team. “Many patients aren’t aware of the medications and procedures that can improve their quality of life,” says Salahadin Abdi, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of Pain Medicine. Education and communication are key to ensure you get all of the cancer pain management help you need from your care team. Here, Abdi shares advice for discussing your cancer pain so that you can find relief. Speak up about your cancer pain It’s important to know you’re not alone in experiencing cancer pain. “Pain is very common, even in the early stages of the disease,” Abdi says. He advises patients not to wait to speak up. As cancer progresses, the pain associated with the cancer itself or the treatment becomes more significant. That’s why it’s important to notify your care team early on to ensure a better quality of life.   Include your family in cancer pain management Cancer pain affects not only the cancer patient, but also the patient’s family. Sometimes patients feel as though people don’t believe their pain exists so they feel isolated. “I like when patient and the caregivers come to see me together so that everyone’s on the same page, everyone is educated and understands cancer pain,” Abdi says. In addition, caregivers should stay open to what patients have to say. Showing compassion and just listening to them is part of the healing processes, Abdi says. Communicate your cancer pain management goals When meeting with your cancer...

Lung cancer survivor gets surgical cure after 19 years

At age 27, Nadine Beech was a picture of health and notably, a non-smoker. So when she was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer in 1997, she was in complete disbelief. Nadine’s doctor also didn’t initially detect the disease. “I started spitting up blood after a water skiing accident, and my doctor thought I had a bruised lung,” Nadine says. She saw several doctors in Kansas City, Missouri, before one discovered the 8-centimeter tumor on the lower lobe of her left lung. Nadine had a lobectomy, surgery to remove the cancerous lobe. Six weeks later, she jumped back into her fitness regime, earning three black belts, running a marathon and completing a triathlon. Nadine also quit her job as a bar tender and became a personal fitness trainer. “I was back on top of my game,” she says. But lung cancer returned two years later. Nadine’s lung cancer recurrence In 1999, Nadine visited her oncologist for a routine follow-up CT scan. But instead of leaving with a clean bill of health, she learned the non-small cell lung cancer had returned in her right lung. A New Zealand native, Nadine was discouraged and unsure where to turn. Then, her friend told her about MD Anderson where her father was being treated for lung cancer. “She told me I had to go there for lung cancer treatment,” Nadine says. At MD Anderson, under the care of Waun Ki Hong, M.D., Nadine learned she had three tumors in her right lung, each measuring less than 1 centimeter. Hong decided to not immediately treat her tumors, as they are known to grow slowly...

How a melanoma immunotherapy clinical trial helped me

I can’t quite explain what it feels like to get the cancer call. You can’t describe it unless you’ve heard those words. I don’t think that changes whether it’s your first or, in my case, third diagnosis. When I learned that I had stage III melanoma last January, my first thoughts were: how do I have stage III cancer? I eat more veggies before 10 a.m. than most eat all day. I teach cycling classes and exercise six days a week. I take pride in living a strong, healthy life. How could I have cancer again? My first two melanoma diagnoses My first cancer diagnosis came about five years ago. My son and I had just moved to Austin when I was diagnosed with stage II melanoma on my leg. After two surgeries, a sentinel node biopsy and a report of clear margins, I was directed to get a skin check every three months. I thought, “Easy. I can do that.” Two years later, in June 2013, a new mole appeared on my shoulder. I called my dermatologist immediately. That time, it was stage I melanoma. I thought, “Round two: here we go. I got this … again.” The cancerous area was removed, and 25 stitches later, I received a clear pathology report. I was ready to continue living a happy life. My “big cancer” But a year-and-a-half later, I found a swollen node under my arm on Thanksgiving. I immediately texted my dermatologist. We proceeded with a needle biopsy. Soon after, my surgeon called. This time, the cancer wasn’t outside my skin, but inside, in the nodes under...

How to dispose of unused or expired medications

Cancer treatment and its side effects can bring a lot of medications. But what should you do with unused or expired medications? Whether they’re chemotherapy drugs (such as vismodegib), high-potency pain relievers (considered controlled substances), or drugs that target specific defects on cancer cells (vemurafenib), it’s important to know how to properly dispose of these medicines. “The dangers of having unused or expired medications lying around the house are well-documented,” says Lori Bertrand, retail pharmacy manager at MD Anderson. “Every day, parents head to the emergency room or contact poison control centers because their children have accidentally ingested medications intended for someone else.” Here’s what you should know about disposing of your unused or expired medications. How to find an authorized collection location The first step in disposing of unused prescriptions is to identify an authorized collection location in your area. You can find one using this search tool on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) website or by searching for “authorized takeback locations” online. The DEA also sponsors a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day event twice a year, usually on Saturdays in April and October. During these events, you can drop off your unused and expired medications at police stations, fire stations and other local civic centers designated as official drop-off sites. Any type of unused or expired medication — including over-the-counter drugs such as cough syrup or antihistamines, and even veterinary medicines — can be dropped off on these days for proper disposal by law-enforcement personnel. Bringing prescriptions back to MD Anderson With the exception of controlled substances, such as codeine, oxycodone and tramadol, medications issued by...