Stomach cancer survivor back on her feet after heated chemotherapy clinical trial

Faye Hood was training for a half-marathon in 2017, when the active then-70-year-old received a stomach cancer diagnosis. While she put her half-marathon goals on hold for stomach cancer treatment, she knew it was exercise that helped her stay otherwise healthy and made her a strong candidate for an aggressive clinical trial involving heated chemotherapy — also called hyperthermic intraperitoneal perfusion with chemotherapy (HIPEC). “I know my doctor wouldn’t have recommended me for the study if I wasn’t strong enough for it,” she says. Coming to MD Anderson for stomach cancer treatment Faye had been shocked to learn that she had stage IV stomach cancer. She thought the symptoms she’d experienced – bloating and other bowel troubles – were just part of aging. She quickly decided to seek treatment at MD Anderson. She had learned of the hospital’s reputation through family and friends, and it was only about four hours from her home in Pineville, Louisiana. Faye doesn’t remember the details of her first visit to MD Anderson in September 2017, but she does remember the way MD Anderson made her feel. “We walked in the door, and there was just such a welcoming atmosphere,” she says. While at MD Anderson, Faye met with oncologist Mariela Blum Murphy, M.D. They discussed her health history and scheduled an endoscopy to ensure she had an accurate diagnosis. Following the endoscopy, she made plans to undergo nine cycles of chemotherapy and have a surgical consultation. Choosing a HIPEC clinical trial to treat stomach cancer Faye met with Brian Badgwell, M.D., a stomach cancer surgeon, to discuss the next phase of her treatment....

9 things to know about neuroendocrine tumors

About 12,000 people will be diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumors — sometimes called carcinoid tumors — each year. But what exactly are these tumors, where are they typically found and are they cancerous? We spoke with neuroendocrine tumor specialist Daniel Halperin, M.D., to learn more. What are neuroendocrine tumors, and where are they usually found? While the name “neuroendocrine” implies that these tumors involve both nerve cells and hormones, they are mainly thought to come from endocrine cells. The “neuro-” is more of a quirk of history. Basically, neuroendocrine tumors are cancers that can develop anywhere endocrine cells are present. Endocrine cells help regulate various body functions, such as growth, reproduction and metabolism. They are distributed throughout the body, but the most common places for tumors to develop from them are in the lungs, small intestines and pancreas. Are all neuroendocrine tumors cancerous? The short answer is yes. In some of the older systems for classifying neuroendocrine tumors, pathologists would describe them as either “benign” (non-cancerous) or “malignant” (cancerous), based on the appearance of the tumor cells under a microscope. Unfortunately, those terms did not always accurately reflect whether the tumor would metastasize and behave aggressively or not. Now, all neuroendocrine tumors are considered malignant. There are just shades of gray in terms of how aggressive they are. Some spread really easily. Others do not. But we consider all of them cancer. What are the most common symptoms of neuroendocrine tumors? We tend to see neuroendocrine symptoms in two categories: Hormonal: These include severe diarrhea, severe gastric ulcers, or uncontrolled blood sugar that respond poorly to treatment. The hormones produced...

Why I chose MD Anderson for skull base tumor treatment

Until a few years ago, my father was the only person in my family who’d ever had cancer. In 1997, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. My dad developed the disease in his lungs after working in the electrical services industry for 20 years. By the time he was diagnosed, the cancer had already spread to his brain. My father died of complications of mesothelioma in 1999, at age 50. I’ve worked in health and education for most of my professional life, so as far as I know, I’ve never been exposed to asbestos. I never thought I’d receive a cancer diagnosis of my own. But life can change in a moment. Mine did in October 2017. My skull base tumor diagnosis I’d been seeing my family doctor for about nine months to treat what I thought was a stubborn sinus infection. But it kept getting worse, even after several rounds of antibiotics and oral steroids. I couldn’t breathe out of the right side of my nose. I was getting bad headaches, too. My doctor referred me to an ear, nose and throat specialist. He ordered a CT scan and an MRI, which showed a growth in my sinus cavity. The next day, he ordered a biopsy. It took two and a half weeks and several different medical labs to get a concrete diagnosis. When the results finally came back, my ENT gave me the news: I had esthesioneuroblastoma, also known as olfactory neuroblastoma. It’s a rare type of skull base tumor that starts in the sinus cavity and grows toward...

Inflammatory breast cancer survivor finds hope in clinical trial

I’m the kind of person who follows my gut. So, when I looked up my symptoms online and thought I had inflammatory breast cancer, I kept pushing to get tested, even when my doctor told me no. When I went to get fitted for bras in 2016, the woman who measured me pointed out that my left breast was “huge” compared to my right one. I figured everyone has a little asymmetry and brushed off her comment. Several weeks later, I got an infection after my cat scratched my chest. My doctors diagnosed me with cat scratch fever, but it didn’t get better with antibiotics. My left breast was still swollen with lots of pain for weeks. I did my own research, and the symptoms pointed me to inflammatory breast cancer. I told my doctor in my hometown of Columbus, Nebraska. He suggested I try a different antibiotic for 90 days. My gut told me that wasn’t right, and I pushed for a biopsy. Three days later, my doctor confirmed that I had inflammatory breast cancer. My inflammatory breast cancer recurrence I had chemotherapy followed by a simple right breast mastectomy at my local hospital. I had no evidence of disease but still needed chest wall radiation after surgery. In August 2018, PET and CT scans revealed a recurrence. My daughter was pregnant and due that December. She asked my doctor if I would live to see my granddaughter. He said that my cancer was stage IV and that I didn’t have much time. I decided then to get a second opinion. Going to MD Anderson eased my anxiety I...

Sharing hope is the most important part of my job as a nurse navigator

When most people hear the word “cancer,” they usually react with fear or distress. That’s why I’m so glad to work as a nurse navigator at MD Anderson League City: because I get to empower patients with knowledge to hopefully reduce those feelings. My job is to be the first point of contact between MD Anderson and patients who’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer. That can be a very scary time. So, I do my best to put people at ease — both by meeting them wherever they are emotionally and by giving them solid, accurate information to use. That way, they can make the best possible decisions about treatment with their families and care teams. Planning ahead for consultations My job requires me to be a good investigator. That means finding out patients’ hopes and expectations, and identifying any financial or family issues that might hinder their treatment. Many times, I’m able to connect people with local resources before they even get here, which can make their first visits much less stressful. I also obtain patients’ medical history and review it with them, so I can get a sense of where they are before that first visit. I educate them about their diagnosis, too, so they have a better idea of what to expect once they arrive. My goal is to coordinate as much as I can in advance, so that both patients and their care teams feel fully prepared for those initial consultations. Top-notch treatment, closer to home The thing I like best about MD Anderson is that nurses actually have a seat at the table...