Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month

Proton Therapy for Esophageal Cancer

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Content and information provided by Rebecca Bergeron, RN, BSN, OCN Director of Clinical Services for Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville

Spring is here, and as flowers and trees bring forth new life and color, we are reminded that positive change is possible. Likewise, innovative therapies that have emerged over the years are offering hope to not only have a stronger fight against cancer, but to reduce treatment-related problems during and after the fight. April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month and proton therapy is our spring season in cancer treatment. (more…)

National particle therapy conference boosts proton therapy’s profile

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Proton therapy got positive billing at the recent Particle Therapy Cooperative Group, as researchers from across the country presented findings that showed proton therapy reduced potentially life-altering side effects and improved survival rates for cancer patients.

The National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT) released a summary of the results, which included the findings of studies focused on esophageal, prostate and breast cancer. (more…)

Do your part to save your life…

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Nobody wants cancer, but in the U.S. one in every two men and one in every three women will get it at some point in their lives.

February is National Cancer Prevention month, and although there are no guarantees—we all know those who have developed the disease through circumstances beyond their control—science has shown us that many cancer cases are preventable through practical, healthy lifestyle choices.

The Harvard School of Public Health estimates up to 75 percent of cancer deaths in the U.S. could be prevented, while the American Cancer Society declares about 60 percent of American cancer cases to be preventable. (more…)

A special tribute…

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This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in Vibrant Life Magazine.

Patty sits in the waiting room chair, hair still boyish thanks to a recent round of chemo, divorced shortly before her diagnosis, mother of two young boys.

She is telling me about her experience with breast cancer. The surprising news. Juggling work and single motherhood. Her eyes spill, not with tears of sorrow or bitterness but thankfulness.

“I’m very independent, but I’ve had to learn to depend on friends and family. Cancer has helped me allow other people into my life,” she says. “Cancer has shown me the power of prayer. Cancer has taught me how to appreciate every single day.”

I would not have guessed, when I started my new job at a cancer treatment center earlier this year, that it would be such a happy place.

Each day patients, in various stages of illness, come to receive the therapy they hope will save their lives. None of them would choose to be here. And yet, again and again they express their gratitude for the simple gifts life brings.

Bob with esophageal cancer speaks of his daughter-in-law, who faithfully took him to daily appointments. Dennis, a prostate cancer patient visiting the center from out of town, is grateful for the employees who make sure his stay is as comfortable as possible and accommodate needed trips back home. Toni is grateful for the doctors and therapists who made her daughter laugh during treatment for a brain tumor. Melvin is simply glad to have his wife, treated for breast cancer earlier this year, alive and well.

Sharon, who works the front desk, is a stage 3 breast cancer survivor—and has the battle scars of a mastectomy, hysterectomy and radiation damage to her heart and lungs to prove it.

Still, she says, “If I had to choose between having cancer and not having cancer, I wouldn’t change anything. I don’t let the little things bother me. I’m a more caring person. I don’t worry about the future. I appreciate what I have right now.”

“You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you,” writes Sarah Ban Breathnack in her book, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy.

Indeed. Scientific research shows gratitude, and in particular the repetitive practice of it, improves a sense of well-being, relieves depression and other mental health disorders, improves sleep, lowers blood pressure—all contributors to better physical and mental health.

Thankfulness is linked to spiritual well-being too.

One study showed that gratitude served as a connecting factor between those who were spiritually inclined and also experienced positive impacts on their health. Another study from the Journal of Religion and Health bears the title: “Spirituality and positive psychology go hand in hand…”

At Provision, thankfulness is typically couched in faith. It’s not that patients haven’t done their share of questioning, been through dark days, wondered “why me?” It’s that, somehow, in that journey of their greatest fears they’ve found peace in not having all the answers, in being grateful for the moment, in trusting God with the rest.

As author Ann Voskamp writes, “When I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.”

 

Proton Therapy Extremely Effective for Esophageal Cancer

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When Bill Garland learned of his esophageal cancer, he knew nothing about proton therapy except that his doctors highly recommended the treatment. And he fully expected to suffer the same kind of side effects as traditional radiation—fatigue, site burns, loss of appetite. But Garland says he felt good most of the five weeks he underwent proton therapy, even though he was taking chemotherapy at the same time.

“I got the biggest surprise of my life—it didn’t bother me at all,” Garland, 80, says. “At church, there’s five men who’ve got cancer of different kinds. I was almost hesitant to tell them how I really felt, because they felt so bad.”

Garland discovered his cancer after being admitted to the hospital for internal bleeding. A tumor at the base of his esophagus turned out to be the culprit, and Knoxville medical oncologist, Tracy Dobbs, MD, recommended Provision Center for Proton Therapy, where he was treated with protons by Allen Meek, MD, board-certified radiation oncologist. “The esophagus is a difficult organ to treat with radiation therapy since it is so close to the heart, lungs, and spine,” said Dr. Meek. “Proton therapy allows us to only target the cancer cells, sparing surrounding tissues.”

“Because of (other) health issues, he was not going to be a candidate for surgery,” says Inez Garland, Bill Garland’s daughter-in-law, who accompanied him to doctors appointments as well as some of his treatments. “He did exceptionally great with everything,” she says. “He didn’t get nauseated, didn’t have any burns. He never had to get on liquids or anything. The people were so nice, everybody made us feel comfortable,” Inez Garland says.

The treatments ended in October, and Bill Garland is free again to enjoy his life and family of four children, 12 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

“It really worked for me,” he says. “I tell everybody about proton.”

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, Provision is here to help. Please call 1-855-566-1600 to speak with one of our Care Coordinators or visit ProvisionProton.com.

Esophageal Cancer Facts *

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 16,000 Americans are diagnosed with esophageal cancer each year. It affects men much more often than women. Middle-aged men who are overweight with a history of acid reflux (heartburn) seem to be at the highest risk. Because the disease often has no symptoms in the early stages, it is usually detected at a more advanced stage that is more challenging to treat.

The esophagus is a foot-long tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. Its lining has several layers. Esophageal cancer begins in the cells of the inside lining. It then grows into the channel of the esophagus and the esophageal wall.

A sphincter, a special muscle that relaxes to let food in or out, is on each end of the esophagus. The one at the top lets food or liquid into the esophagus. The one on the bottom lets food enter the stomach.

Acid Reflux Raises Risk

This sphincter also prevents stomach contents from refluxing (coming) back into the esophagus. If stomach juices with acid and bile come into the esophagus, it causes indigestion or heartburn. Reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are the medical names for heartburn.

If you have reflux for a long time, the cells at the end of the esophagus change to become more like the cells in the intestinal lining. This is called Barrett’s esophagus, and it is a pre-malignant condition. This means it can become esophageal cancer and needs to be watched closely.

Esophageal Cancer Types

The types of esophageal cancer are named after the cells where they begin.

Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of esophageal cancer in western societies, especially in white males. It starts in gland cells in the tissue, most often in the lower part of the esophagus near the stomach. The major risk factors include reflux and Barrett’s esophagus.

Squamous cell carcinoma or cancer, also called epidermoid carcinoma, begins in the tissue that lines the esophagus, particularly in the middle and upper parts. In the United States, this type of esophageal cancer is on the decline. Risk factors include smoking and drinking alcohol.

This is the most common type of esophageal cancer worldwide. In other countries, including Iran, northern China, India and southern Africa, this type of esophageal cancer is much more common than in the United States.

* (Esophageal Facts Source: mdanderson.org)