Casey rings the victory bell after completing cancer treatment at Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville

Surviving Breast Cancer (Part 4)

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Casey’s Story: Ringing the Bell

Casey is a two-time breast cancer survivor who is sharing her experience during her proton therapy treatments at Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville. Catch up on her story first by reading parts one, two and three of her blog series.


There is something about ringing that bell at Provision CARES Proton Therapy Center.

After my final radiation therapy treatment, my friends, family and co-workers gathered around me  as I rang the bell three times, symbolizing an end to treatment and a new beginning to a cancer-free life.

Victory.  Celebration.  Gratefulness.

It takes time to actually realize that the most difficult journey in my life is really going to be over soon and it will be time to be well again.  I remember my brother Pete telling me at this exact time last year, “Winter never lasts forever and Spring never skips its turn.”  I thought about his words every single day.

Something very valuable I learned during my journey:  choose your providers very carefully.  Do your research in every way possible.  As a Care Coordinator, I would always tell a prospective patient that they owed it to themselves to learn about and evaluate several  treatment facilities before choosing where they would receive their care.  This thought process served me well during every step of my journey.

Without the care of Dr. Brig and his amazing staff at Brig Center for Cancer Care, my surgeon Dr. Danielle Duchini and the entire staff at Provision CARES Proton Therapy, I would not be where I am today.  I am well on my way to health and wellness and beating breast cancer.

I will be forever grateful to so many people and hope to pay it forward for as long as I can.


Provision CARES Proton Therapy would like to thank Casey for sharing her story. Please visit our website to learn more about the benefits of proton therapy for breast cancer and read other patient success stories.

Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Lung Cancer awareness efforts focus on smoking prevention

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Lung Cancer Awareness Month is dedicated to educating the public about the prevalence of the disease in the United States, and providing resources on prevention, screening and treatment.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), lung cancer will kill more than 140,000 people in 2019, making it by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. It is the second most common cancer in both men and women (not counting skin cancer). For men, prostate cancer is the only cancer more common, while in women breast cancer is more common.

Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. The ACS reports 80% of lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking.1 However, non-smokers can also develop the disease. This could be caused by exposure to radon, secondhand smoke, air pollution, asbestos, diesel exhaust or other chemicals.

PREVENTION IS KEY

With such a high percentage of lung cancer cases linked to smoking, efforts to reduce the prevalence of the disease are largely focused on kicking the tobacco habit.

“Smoking continues to be the #1 most preventable cause of death and disease in the U.S.,” says Kerri Thompson, Public Health Educator for the Knox County Health Department (KCHD) in Knoxville, Tenn. “It kills so many people and it’s something that can be prevented.”

Thompson spearheads KCHD’s tobacco prevention programs, which focus on three main areas: Youth Prevention, Secondhand Smoke Reduction and Smoking Cessation (quitting). Through educational programs designed to teach children about the dangers of smoking, KCHD hopes to dramatically reduce tobacco product usage in our next generation.

“We’re trying to change the trajectory so, hopefully, we can have an impact on lung cancer,” Thompson notes. “Having (our youth) not use tobacco or not be addicted to nicotine in the first place is really key to addressing the huge impact that smoking has on society.”

Knox County’s programs aimed at youth education actually have a trickle-down effect, impacting its Secondhand Smoke Reduction and Smoking Cessation efforts, as well. Children tend to share resources they receive in school with their parents in hopes they will then try to quit. One of these resources is the Tennessee Tobacco Quitline. This is a free service that offers personalized support from counselors who are trained to help you kick the habit. More resources to help you quit smoking can be found at Smokefree.gov.

When it comes to quitting, Thompson says relapse is common, so persistence is very important. “When someone quits smoking, on average it takes seven to 10 times for someone to quit for good. Many people think since they’ve been smoking for years, the damage is already done, so what’s the point in quitting.” However, if there’s one thing she hopes people take away from Knox County’s education and prevention efforts, it’s this – “It’s never too late to quit.”

LUNG CANCER SCREENING CAN SAVE LIVES

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), risk factors for lung cancer include tobacco use, secondhand smoke, family history, HIV infection and environmental risks like exposure to asbestos, radon  or other substances. If you believe you may be at risk for lung cancer, you should start by speaking to your doctor. A general practitioner can perform an assessment, then offer advice for your next step. This could be a referral to a pulmonologist or oncologist, or a prescription for nicotine replacement therapy. Since early detection is so important, at-risk individuals may also benefit from a lung cancer screening.

The NCI says the most effective type of screening is a low-dose spiral Computed Tomography (CT) scan. In its National Lung Screening Trial, the NCI studied people between 55 and 74 years old who had smoked at least one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or more. They compared low-dose spiral CT scans with another type of screening, chest x-rays. Researchers observed a 20% lower risk of dying from lung cancer in people who received low-dose spiral CT scan screenings.2

Fortunately, there are resources available to help people get screened. The American Lung Association (ALA) offers an online quiz to help you determine whether you are at risk. The ALA can also help you find information about insurance coverage and screening facilities near you.

In an effort to make lung cancer screenings more accessible, CHI Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, Tenn. brings low-dose CT scans into the community with its Breathe Easy mobile lung CT coach. The bus serves counties from three different states in the Southeast.

PROTON THERAPY AS A TREATMENT

Given the serious prognosis of lung cancer, it’s important to evaluate all your treatment options before making any decisions. Treatment for lung cancer is based mainly on the type (non-small cell vs. small cell) and the stage of the cancer. Other factors like a person’s health and lung function should also be considered. Treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Doctors and scientists have been studying the results of proton therapy in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). One study in particular showed that patients with Stage 3 NSCLC who were treated with proton therapy experienced lower rates of lung and esophagus inflammation compared to patients treated with traditional (x-ray/IMRT) radiation.3

Proton therapy for lung cancer treatment is non-invasive and usually painless. Physicians provide doses of radiation to specific areas, controlling the depth of the protons emitted and reducing the impact on the surrounding tissue. Provision CARES Proton Therapy uses a technique known as pencil beam scanning, which provides precise dose of radiation to targeted areas, resulting in a decreased risk of side effects. Proton therapy decreases the risk of damage to healthy tissue and organs surrounding the cancer. This is because the unique physical properties of protons allow the radiation dose to better conform to your cancer, avoiding unnecessary radiation to nearby areas. This is especially important for lung cancer treatment because the tumor may be close to your heart, healthy lung and other critical organs.

Since each cancer diagnosis is unique, we encourage anyone seeking treatment options to speak with one of our Cancer Care Experts to see if proton therapy is right for you.

 

Sources

  1. American Cancer Society. What Causes Lung Cancer? Read More
  2. National Cancer Institute. National Lung Screening Trial. Read More
  3. National Cancer Database Analysis of Proton Versus Photon Radiaion Therapy in NSCLC. Read More
  4. American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Lung Cancer. Read More
  5. Proton Beam Radiotherapy and Concurrent Chemotherapy for Unresectable Stage III Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer Final Results of a Phase 2 Study. Read More
  6. High-dose hypofractionated proton beam radiation therapy is safe and effective for central and peripheral early-stage non-small cell lung cancer: results of a 12-year experience at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Fractionation 10 for PBT vs 6-8 weeks for IMRT. Read More

 

National Radiologic Technology Week honors radiation therapy and medical imaging professionals..

How Radiation Therapy and Medical Imaging help shape cancer patient experience

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Every year in early November, the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) celebrates National Radiologic Technology Week. It’s an opportunity to recognize the crucial role that medical imaging and radiation therapy professionals play in patient care and safety. The celebration takes place during the week of November 8, which is the day Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen discovered the x-ray in 1895.

The Radiologic Technologists (R.T.s) at Provision CARES Proton Therapy are an integral part of our team. They are educated in anatomy, patient positioning, examination techniques and radiation safety, allowing them to perform highly skilled and precise procedures. Most importantly, though, they are on the frontlines of caregiving during treatment. All of our R.T.s are passionate about Provision’s Culture of CARE, putting the patient’s comfort, safety and overall experience first.

To show our appreciation for the Radiologic Technology (Rad Tech) staff at Provision, we’re taking a closer look at the industry to which they’ve devoted their lives, and how their jobs help shape the cancer patient experience.

WHAT IS RADIOLOGIC TECHNOLOGY?

Following Roentgen’s discovery, the x-ray gained popularity as a way to diagnose and treat illness in the early 1900s. The x-ray machine remained the primary tool of medical imaging until the 1960s and 1970s, when newer procedures like computed tomography, mammography and sonography became commonplace in the healthcare industry1. The x-ray is also a traditional tool used for radiation therapy to treat cancer. In the 1950s, however, proton radiation therapy for cancer treatment was introduced. Since then, studies have shown proton therapy avoids unnecessary radiation to nearby healthy tissue and organs, reducing the risk of side effects2. There are now more than 30 proton therapy centers in the United States.

Modern Radiologic Technology covers two main areas – medical imaging and radiation therapy. According to the ASRT, there are several practices in which an R.T. can specialize, including general radiography, computed tomography (CT), mammography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), radiation therapy and others.

In the medical imaging field, an R.T. is responsible for making sure the patient is properly positioned for a quality diagnostic image. Rad Techs in medical imaging are typically specialists, like Radiographers, Mammographers, Sonographers, MRI techs or CT Techs.

A Radiologic Technologist may also choose the radiation therapy path. Radiation Therapy is the administration of targeted doses of radiation to a patient’s body to treat cancer or other diseases. In this case, an R.T. would be a member of the Radiation Oncology team and could work as a Medical Dosimetrist or Radiation Therapist.

RADIOLOGIC TECHNOLOGY AT PROVISION

Radiologic Technology is part of the patient experience from diagnosis all the way through treatment and the cancer care experts at Provision can help coordinate each step of the process. Of course, radiation therapy is at the heart of what we do – treating cancer with proton therapy – and we are proud of the work our Radiation Therapists do and the passion they show for everyone who walks through our doors. Along the course of your treatment, you may also meet MRI Techs, CT Techs, Medical Dosimetrists and other radiologic specialists.

Radiation Therapy team from Provision CARES Proton Therapy NashvilleAll of these Radiologic Technology roles are highly specialized and require quality education and experience. Most importantly, though, each of our R.T.s believes in Provision’s Culture of CARE. It is our mission to respect the dignity and value of every person by providing an environment of compassion, sensitivity and thoughtful consideration.

The Rad Tech staff at Provision is also dedicated to increasing awareness about the benefits of proton radiation therapy. In fact, the ASRT Foundation recently recognized Justin Pigg, Manager of Radiation Therapy at Provision CARES Proton Therapy Nashville, with its International Speakers Exchange Award for his efforts to promote the sharing of research, best practices and professional development in the radiologic sciences. As a recipient of this award, Pigg presented “Technical Aspects of Proton Therapy” at a Radiologic Technology conference in Nova Scotia.

THE BENEFITS OF PROTON RADIATION THERAPY

Proton therapy for cancer treatment has become a trusted method for precisely targeting tumors and reducing the risk of side effects. The advantage of proton therapy is distinct from traditional radiation therapy because the timing and dosage of proton energy can be specifically controlled. Since a proton beam can conform to a tumor’s shape and size, maximum beam energy is deposited directly into the tumor, decreasing the risk of damage to surrounding tissue and organs. Protons have unique characteristics that prevent radiation from traveling beyond the tumor. Contrastingly, traditional radiation therapy deposits energy from x-ray beams along the entire path of the beam. Radiation is absorbed from the time the beam enters the body until it exits on the other side of the tumor area.

Provision CARES Proton Therapy uses the most precise form of proton therapy, called pencil beam scanning. Pencil beam scanning provides even greater customization and precision in cancer treatment. Physicians use a proton beam only millimeters wide to target the tumor area with the highest radiation dose, while controlling both the depth and the position of the beam and planning the exact point at which the proton beam stops inside the body. This means there will be no exit dose, sparing even more healthy tissue and organs from unnecessary radiation.

Proton therapy is beneficial for treating patients with a localized tumor where cancer has not spread to other parts of the body, or in situations where tumors cannot be removed with surgery. It may also be an option if a patient requires radiation therapy in addition to surgery or chemotherapy. We encourage you to speak with one of cancer care experts to find out if proton therapy is right for you.

Ultimately, Provision CARES Proton Therapy is passionate about caring for anyone who is fighting cancer. In honor of National Radiologic Technology Week, thank you to all of our Rad Techs who help us live up to that mission.

 

Sources:

  1. American Society of Radiologic Technologists. History of the American Society of Radiologic Technologists. https://www.asrt.org/main/about-asrt/asrt-history
  2. Baumann BC, Mitra N, Harton JG, Xiao Y, Wojcieszynski AP, Gabriel PE, Zhong H, Geng H, Doucette A, Wei J, O’Dwyer PJ, Bekelman JE, Metz JM. Comparative effectiveness of proton therapy versus photon therapy as part of concurrent chemo-radiotherapy for locally advanced cancer. American Society of Clinical Oncology poster session. June 1, 2019.

 

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Facts: 5 Common Myths Debunked

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One of the toughest parts about researching breast cancer online is trying to sort fact from fiction. The internet is full of half-truths, conflicting reports and flat-out myths about the disease. Provision CARES Proton Therapy is committed to our Culture of CARE, putting the patient experience first. So, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re debunking five of our most commonly heard myths. All of these breast cancer facts have been verified for quality and accuracy by our cancer care experts to help you make an informed decision about your healthcare.


MYTH: I found a lump in my breast, so I have cancer.

TRUTH: Lumps don’t always indicate cancer. Likewise, the absence of lumps doesn’t always mean you don’t have breast cancer.

While the most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump, most breast lumps are caused by conditions other than cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the two most common causes are fibrocystic breast condition and cysts. Fibrocystic condition causes noncancerous changes in the breast that can make them lumpy, while cysts are small fluid-filled sacs that develop in the breast.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) says lumps are more likely to be cancerous if they are painless, hard and have irregular edges. However, some breast cancers can be painful, soft or round. That’s why you should always check with your doctor if you notice any changes in your breasts.

There are many other symptoms of breast cancer, even if a lump is not detected. These can include swelling of the breast, skin dimpling, breast or nipple pain, nipples turning inward, red or flaking breast skin, nipples discharging fluids other than breast milk, and swollen lymph nodes under your arm or around your collar bone. The ACS recommends contacting your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.


MYTH: Breast cancer only happens to older women.

TRUTH: Breast cancer can develop in younger women, too, as well as men.

While your risk does increase with age, the NCI reports women in their 30s have a 1 in 208 chance of developing breast cancer. By the time a woman reaches her 40s, that risk has increased to 1 in 65. Overall, it’s estimated that 1 out of every 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer at some point in her life.7

Breast cancer in men accounts for less than 1% of cases in the United States. However, the ACS says male breast cancer is on the rise.1 Unfortunately, a higher percentage of men are diagnosed with advanced-stage breast cancer, likely a result of less awareness and fewer early-detection screenings.

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer and would like to learn more about proton therapy as a possible treatment, please visit our Proton Benefits page or contact a Care Coordinator.


MYTH: My family has no history of breast cancer, so I am not at risk.

TRUTH: While a family history of breast cancer does put you at greater risk, most women who develop breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease.1

According to the CDC, a family history of breast cancer may put you at higher risk for the disease, but is not indicative of whether you’ll actually develop cancer.2 In fact, the ACS says most women with one or more affected first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, children) will still never be diagnosed.

The CDC provides a table with examples of average, moderate and strong family health histories, along with suggestions for preventative measures each group can take. Regardless of your family history, the CDC recommends you get mammograms and other breast exams as recommended by your doctor, maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. As family history of breast cancer increases, genetic counseling becomes an option to test for hereditary breast cancer. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what screenings are best for you and when you should get them.


MYTH: A double mastectomy will eliminate my risk of breast cancer.

TRUTH: If the cancer is detected early enough, other treatment options can eliminate the cancer without removing the entire breast.

A mastectomy involves removing the entire breast and is typically performed when breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) is not an option. However, women with early-stage cancers can typically choose between the two types of surgeries. The ACS notes that while it’s normal for your gut reaction to be to “take out all the cancer as quickly as possible” with a mastectomy, the fact is that, most of the time, a lumpectomy combined with radiation therapy results in the same outcome.

Many patients at Provision CARES Proton Therapy choose to combine a lumpectomy with proton radiation therapy. Proton therapy for breast cancer treatment is non-invasive and painless, causing less cosmetic damage than conventional x-ray radiation. It is extremely precise and therefore more effective at targeting cancerous cells without causing damage to surrounding breast tissue. Because proton radiation has little to no impact on a patient’s energy level, quality of life during treatment is improved.

For women who do opt for a mastectomy, it’s important to remember that post-surgery treatment is still necessary. Even after removing the breast, there’s a small chance the cancer could recur on residual breast tissue or the chest wall. You should continue to perform self-breast exams and see your doctor on a regular basis.


MYTH: Antiperspirants and wire bras can cause breast cancer.

TRUTH: There has been no conclusive evidence linking antiperspirants or bras to breast cancer.

Rumors have swirled across the internet claiming underarm antiperspirants cause breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) says the basis of these claims is the aluminum-based active ingredient in antiperspirants. Some scientists have suggested that absorbing these aluminum compounds into your skin could increase your risk factor for breast cancer.4 Still, no clear link has ever been established between antiperspirants and breast cancer. In fact, the NCI even cites a study from 2002 that concluded there is no increase in risk for breast cancer among women who reported using an underarm antiperspirant.3

Another rumor making its rounds across cyberspace is that wearing a wire bra can increase your risk of breast cancer. This myth was debunked by a 2014 study published by the American Association for Cancer Research. According to the authors, it had been suggested in the media that bras impede lymph circulation and drainage, interfering with the process of waste and toxin removal.6 However, the study concluded that wearing a bra had no effect on your risk of breast cancer.


Sources:

  1. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2017-2018. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/breast-cancer-facts-and-figures/breast-cancer-facts-and-figures-2017-2018.pdf
  2. Breast and Ovarian Cancer and Family History Risk Categories. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/disease/breast_ovarian_cancer/risk_categories.htm
  3. National Cancer Institute. Antiperspirants/Deodorants and Breast Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/antiperspirants-and-breast-cancer-risk.html
  4. Darbre PD. Aluminium, antiperspirants and breast cancer.Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry 2005; 99(9):1912–1919. [PubMed Abstract]
  5. Mirick DK, Davis S, Thomas DB. Antiperspirant use and the risk of breast cancer.Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2002; 94(20):1578–1580. [PubMed Abstract]
  6. RayCC. Q and A – Bras and Cancer [Internet]. NY times; 2010 [cited 2013 Dec. 16]. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/science/16qna.html?ref=science.
  7. Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, et al. (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2016, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD,https://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2016/, based on November 2018 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, April 2019.

 

Educational and Cognitive Late Effects of Cancer Survivors

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By Marriah M. LCSW, Medical Social Worker at Provision CARES Proton Therapy, Knoxville

Cognitive health is just as important as physical health, especially following cancer treatment. Depending on your diagnosis you may have had chemotherapy or radiation, both of which may affect memory, concentration, or the ability to perform well in school or at work.  These side effects may last for a short time or they may persist for many years following treatment.  Additionally, it is important to know that you may not notice signs of side effects from your treatment until a while after treatment has ended. Side effects which occur a few months or even years after treatment are called late effects.

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Summer Camp Round Up for Kids (& Kids at Heart)

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Content and information provided by Marriah Mabe, LCSW at Provision CARES Proton Therapy.

For many kids (and kids at heart), summer camps are one of the best parts of summer and are often a normal part of childhood.  As most families who have experienced cancer can attest, normalcy during cancer treatment is extremely important. However, when a cancer diagnosis affects a child or parent in the family, summer camp might not be an option due to a child’s medical needs or the lack of extra finances to pay for traditional summer camps. Fortunately, there are many camps specifically designed for children with cancer, siblings, or even the whole family. The camp experience can provide positive benefits that will last long after summer ends. Camp attendance may help lessen feelings of anxiety, depression, or loneliness and increase self-esteem, body positivity or coping abilities.

Camps and retreats such as the resources listed here are specially curated to provide a fun week of activities away from the hospital and appointments, while allowing those in attendance to meet other patients, survivors, or family members, and learn that they are not alone. Camps will often have full time care for campers, with most of the overnight camps offering on-site medical facilities staffed with oncology providers who can administer chemo or other medical care if necessary. However, if you are on active treatment for cancer, you will need to discuss your desire to attend a camp or retreat with your oncologist. (more…)

Mediterranean Diet to Reduce Lung Cancer

Reduce the risk of lung cancer with Mediterranean diet

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Replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat impacts reduce risk of lung cancer

By Casey Coffey MS, RD, LDN

According to recent studies, benefits of polyunsaturated fats have been widely reviewed by looking at the relationship between dietary components of the Mediterranean diet and cancer risk, diabetes, cardiovascular events, and Alzheimer’s disease. Within these studies, the primary conclusion shows correlation between fat intake and risk associated with lung cancer.

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Remembering caregivers

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When someone is diagnosed with a disease such as cancer or Alzheimer’s, they do not suffer alone.

In fact, 39.8 million caregivers provide unpaid care to an adult with a disability or illness—or 16.6 percent of Americans—according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. For those who live with the one they’re caring for, the responsibilities become a fulltime job, with spouses or children or partners averaging more than 44 hours per week in meeting a wide-ranging set of needs. These can including everything from feeding and dressing to shopping and paying the bills. (more…)