American Cancer Society Updates Colon Cancer Screening Recommendations

iImage credit: Chinnapong / Shutterstock.com

Colorectal Cancer is the fourth most common non-skin cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death due to cancer. Generally colorectal cancer most impacts those over age 50, but recent studies have revealed that the number of cases in young people has increased 51 percent since 1994. Andrew Wolf, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Virginia says, “We don’t know why it’s going on, but it’s increasingly clear that it is happening.” Most of the nation’s 140,000 annual cases and 50,000 deaths from colon and rectal cancer still occur among people over age 55, but the share of cases involving younger adults is concerning.

Some researchers believe the consistent rise in colon cancer in younger Americans is the result of poor diet and obesity. Whatever the cause, the result of recent studies has led the American Cancer Society to reevaluate its long-standing guidelines on colon cancer screening.  While the overall costs and benefits of earlier screening remain a topic of debate within the cancer care community, the message that early screening is important rings true. David Weinberg, chairman of medicine at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia says, “The bottom line is that if you regularly participate in colon cancer screening, you have a reduced risk of getting and dying from colon cancer.”

The American Cancer Society (ACS) is now recommending that all adults at average or low risk get screened for the disease at the age of 45, instead of 50 as it previously recommended. Those in good health, at average risk, and who have a life expectancy of more than 10 years should continue screening through the age of 75. Men and women at high risk, such as patients with a family history of colorectal cancer, may require a more aggressive screening program.

A colonoscopy has long been the most common form of testing a patient for colorectal cancer but is a procedure that many avoid or delay. New prescreening solutions are now available which can alleviate the discomfort of the pretest requirements. Several other tests are available by prescription, including stool tests that can be administered at home, eliminating the time spent in a clinic or hospital and the risk of bowel perforation and complications from anesthesia.

The professional staff and Oncologists at Gettysburg Cancer Center (GCC) understand the importance of prevention as well as treatment of cancer. With Medical Oncology, Radiation Oncology, Diagnostic Imaging and an onsite laboratory and pharmacy, GCC offers comprehensive screening and treatment options.

stethoscope

TNM Staging System

When you’re diagnosed with any kind of cancer, it’s important for both you and your doctor to understand where your cancer started, how far along it’s progressed, where it’s located, whether it has spread, and how it affects different parts of the body. For these reasons and to get a better understanding of your cancer, your doctor will need to use diagnostic testing to determine the cancer’s stage.

Here’s an overview of cancer staging:

What Is Cancer Staging?

Cancer staging is a medical examination used to find out how much cancer is in the body, where it’s located and whether it has spread. Using physical examinations, imaging scans and other test results, the doctor examines the cancer and how far it has progressed. This level of progression is known as the cancer’s stage. By determining stage, your doctor is better able to gauge your outlook and plan the best avenue of treatment to eliminate or reduce your cancer.

Why Is Cancer Staging Important?

Not only is cancer staging important to doctors in conducting research on cancer treatments in general, but it’s also essential to your individual case. By understanding your cancer’s stage, location and potential course, your doctor can:

  • Make a treatment plan based on what will work best for you personally, including surgery type, radiation or chemotherapy and follow-up care
  • Predict the possibility of the cancer returning after your initial treatment
  • Explain your diagnosis and its details fully and clearly with you and the health team that will treat you
  • Predict your chance of recovery
  • Compare different treatments among people with the same diagnosis

What Is the TNM Staging System?

While there are a few different types of cancer staging systems, doctors most commonly use the TNM staging system to understand and describe a cancer’s stage. Developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer, the TMN staging system is used to answer the following key questions based on the categories of tumor, node, and metastasis:

  • T: The tumor category focuses on the primary or original tumor, seeking to determine how large it is and where it’s located.
  • N: The node category is used to determine whether the cancer affects or has a chance of affecting the lymph nodes. Has it spread to the lymph nodes? If it has, where has it spread, and how many nodes does it impact?
  • M: The metastasis category is used to tell the extent of the cancer’s growth. Has it spread to other parts of the body? Where and how much?

Each category has a different set of notations to describe the exact conditions of the cancer’s circumstances. The TNM system also helps to determine whether any specific tumor markers or biomarkers make spreading more or less likely.

Trust Gettysburg Cancer Center

From your initial diagnosis and staging to treatment, follow-up care and everything in between, Gettysburg Cancer Center is here to provide the expert, compassionate care and home environment that will make you comfortable and confident in your cancer treatment. Contact us today for more information.

Genetic Testing for Cancer, is it the Right Decision for You?

Image credit: Ravil Sayfullin / Shutterstock.com

Knowing something is almost always better than not knowing. Cancer will impact one in three people over their lifetime; a statistic that suggests that contacting the deadly disease is a matter of random chance. Knowledge that one is in the “more likely to get” column can be seen as good news, resulting in closer monitoring and additional testing that could potentially lead to earlier discovery and therefore an increased chance of treatment and survival.

Most cancer risks are directly related to personal behaviors such as using tobacco or over exposure to the sun or other cancer-causing substances and activities. Family cancer syndrome (inherited cancer) can occur when inherited gene mutations that are passed from generation to generation increase the odds of contracting the disease. Only about 5% to 10% of all cancers are thought to result directly from gene mutations inherited from a parent.

Family history of the same type of cancer; cancers developing at earlier ages; multiple family members contacting identical or rare cancers or cancers experienced in multiple generations are some cancers thought to be indicative of family cancer syndrome. Cancer occurrence within close relations is more cause for concern than those in distant relationships. For some rare cancers, the risk of a family cancer syndrome is relatively high with even one case. Some types of cancers have no known mutations linked to an increased risk and others may have known mutations, but no way to test for them.

Genetic testing can be performed by either a blood or cheek swab sample and do not detect whether a person has cancer; testing indicates whether a person carries a change in one of their genes which can increase cancer risk. Most people will not benefit from genetic testing for cancer, but those who have a strong indication of family gene mutations may be able to take actions that lower the risk of the disease.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the most common genes involved in hereditary breast and ovarian cancers and a positive connection to these genes can also indicate a higher risk for other cancers, but nearly 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of the disease. No genetic test can determine whether a person will develop cancer with certainty.

The results of genetic testing can be beneficial in making medical decisions for cancer treatment, additional screening and prevention. Selecting the correct test and interpreting the results accurately can be complex, and the decision to have the test may impact personal relationships with other family members. For these reasons, the decision to undergo genetic testing is a very personal one, and one that should be made after considering all unique circumstances.

woman hiding under bed covers

Signs and Symptoms of Cancer

Cancer comes in many forms and can manifest in many places throughout the body. When it comes to cancer detection, a variety of signs and symptoms could signify a presence. While a cancer sign is a signal that’s evident to others — such as weight loss or skin changes — a cancer symptom is something patients feel themselves — such as weakness, pain or appetite changes.

Because cancer is a group of various conditions that can occur in different areas and different stages, signs and symptoms will appear in different parts of the body, affect each person differently and coincide with either multiple other symptoms or very few.

While the presence of these signs can sometimes point to cancer, having a symptom does not necessarily mean you have cancer — most of the time, in fact, they can be caused by other problems. If you’re experiencing any possible signs and symptoms of cancer and think you may need an early cancer diagnosis. Here’s what you need to know about how cancer affects the body.

How Does Cancer Cause Signals?

Cancer can cause almost any sign or symptom in any part of the body — the symptoms depend on the type of cancer, where it’s located, what stage it’s in, how big it is and what effect it has on tissues and organs. If the cancer has progressed and spread, symptoms can be felt in various places in the body at once.

When cancer grows, it begins to put pressure on the blood vessels, nerves and organs it touches, causing certain signs and symptoms based on the affected area. Sometimes, the disease causes immediate and noticeable symptoms even in its early stages when it’s small — especially in critical areas like the brain. In other circumstances, however, cancer begins in places where it won’t show symptoms until it has progressed significantly — like the pancreas.

By putting a strain on the immune system and the body’s energy supply, cancer can also have more generalized symptoms affecting nerves, muscles, and metabolism. Some symptoms may not look like they’re linked to cancer, while other symptoms that look like cancer signs may not be from cancer at all.

General Cancer Symptoms and Signs

While cancer causes many types of signs and symptoms dependant on a variety of factors, most cancers show the following signals:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pain and aching
  • Changes in skin appearance

Other symptoms specific to cancer type are various and differ based on the stage, location, and type.

Seek an Early Cancer Diagnosis With Gettysburg Cancer Center

If you’re concerned about displaying any signs and symptoms you think might be related to cancer, Gettysburg Cancer Center is here to help you every step of the way. With our expert service and compassionate care, we provide a family-friendly environment and a full range of solutions — from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up care with many options. Reach out today to make an appointment.

Availability of Oral Chemotherapy Drugs on the Rise

Image Credit: ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com

When we think about chemotherapy (chemo) treatment for cancer, more often than not we harbor visions of intravenous (IV) injections of chemicals with complicated names, usually being administered in sterile medical environments with the patient surrounded by attending oncology professionals. But advances in chemotherapy drugs over the past decade are quickly changing the perceptions most of us have developed about chemotherapy and how it is administered. The fact that chemotherapy is available in oral (pill) form for numerous types of cancer is a surprise to many. In fact, an estimated 30% of cancer drugs in development are oral, and the trend is increasing.

With cancer survival rates consistently increasing over the past decade, cancer is becoming a chronic illness for cancer patients. The ability to receive extended cancer therapy protocols at home and by mouth is beneficial in time, convenience and cost that accompanies typical IV administered treatments. Oral anticancer medications (OAMs) have become available to treat many different cancers, including lung, leukemia, colorectal, kidney, and prostate and have been shown to be as effective as other forms of treatment. “The efficacy of chemotherapy pills … are similar to the traditional intravenous therapy, with research showing that the overall survival with oral chemotherapy is the same as patients would have with traditional intravenous chemotherapy,” says Dr. Hannah Luu, California-based oncologist and CEO and founder of OncoGambit.

However, OAMs shift much of the responsibility for proper administration from attending medical professionals to the patient and family members. Dr. Luu cautions, “Chemotherapy pills have the potential to cause the same serious toxicities as intravenous chemotherapy. If used incorrectly, they can potentially have fatal outcomes. It’s important for patients to be aware of their treatment plan and take their chemotherapy drugs accordingly. It’s even more important that the patient doesn’t take the missed pills with the next dose.”

Doctor appointments are still necessary with the use of OAMs, to perform regular scans or blood tests to ensure the medication is working safely and effectively. Handling of these oral medications requires careful attention as well as consistent adherence to the treatment regimen. Not skipping doses is critical to effective treatment.

A recent study showed that both providers and patients face barriers from insurance carriers on the use of OAMs. Some insurers cover OAMs as a prescription drug benefit, rather than a medical procedure. Delays in getting approval may be labor intensive and take several weeks. Out-of-pocket costs can vary and may require additional administrative support to overcome.

Gettysburg Cancer Center, a leader in oncology care across south central Pennsylvania since 1989, is dedicated to providing all-encompassing oncology and hematology programs and a complete range of diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care for patients. For more information call (717) 334-4033.

Immunotherapy Drug Is Providing Exciting Results in the Treatment of Lung Cancers

Image: Sebastian Kaulitzki / Shutterstock.com

Alex was in his early 40s when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. A non-smoking, healthy man, who exercises regularly and eats relatively well is not who most people think of when they think of lung cancer.  However, people exactly like Alex are the new faces of lung cancer diagnoses. Alex is also one of a select few who qualified for a new targeted therapy drug recently approved by the FDA.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death globally, causing 1.7 million deaths a year. In the United States, it is expected to kill more than 154,000 people in 2018, but recent studies are producing credible progress in finding new drugs that, when combined with more traditional chemotherapy, are greatly improving the survival rates among lung cancer patients. The findings are dramatically changing the way physicians are treating lung cancers. “What it suggests is that chemotherapy alone is no longer a standard of care,” said Dr. Leena Gandhi, a leader of the study and director of the Thoracic Medical Oncology Program at the Perlmutter Cancer Center at New York University Langone Health.

So far, four drugs called checkpoint inhibitors, which unleash the patient’s own immune system to kill malignant cells, have been approved by the FDA. “I’ve been treating lung cancer for 25 years now, and I’ve never seen such a big paradigm shift as we’re seeing with immunotherapy,” said Dr. Roy Herbst, Chief of Medical Oncology at the Yale Cancer Center.

In the trial, patients with metastatic nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who received the drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda) plus chemotherapy had improved overall survival and progression-free survival compared with just chemotherapy alone.  The results from the KEYNOTE-189 clinical trial were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Chicago on April 16 and published concurrently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

One of the main factors in the high rate of death due to lung cancer is that the disease is most often undetected until it has spread to other organs of the body. Lung cancer is the second most prevalent form of cancer in men and women and the top cancer killer among both sexes. In addition to the encouraging results from immunotherapy drugs, a newly discovered protein is showing promising results in detecting lung cancer earlier, providing new advanced treatment options to patients at the earliest stages of the disease. “The use of CKAP4 as a biomarker could change current practices regarding the treatment of lung cancer patients, and the diagnostic accuracies may be markedly improved by the combination of CKAP4 and conventional markers,” says Yuichi Sato, Division of Molecular Diagnostics, Kitasato University.

While the news of earlier discovery and new treatment options is very good, reducing risk factors for the disease remains the best approach to avoiding cancer. Exposure to tobacco smoke is one of the leading causes of lung cancer. Smoking marijuana and using electronic cigarettes may also increase the risk of lung cancer, but the actual risk is unknown. People who work with asbestos in a job such as shipbuilding, asbestos mining, insulation, or automotive brake repair and who smoke have a higher risk of developing cancer of the lungs. Exposure to radon has been associated with an increased risk of some types of cancer, including lung cancer. Having your home tested for the presence of Radon is a good and economical method for reducing the risk. Some people also have a genetic predisposition for lung cancer. People with parents, brothers, or sisters with lung cancer could have a higher risk of developing the cancer themselves.

Understanding cancer and how to treat it is constantly evolving toward the day when a cure is discovered. The cure is not here yet, but treatment options have greatly improved in recent decades. The treatments and methods used in clinical trials are promising in every environment in which they are tested. For more information on advancements in cancer detection and treatment, visit https://gettysburgcancercenter.com/.

What is Your Cancer Stage and Why is it Important to Know?

 

Image: Chinnapong / Shutterstock.com

One of the many new terms that patients hear when receiving a cancer diagnosis is “stage”. Along with a long list of other medical terminology used by caregivers to describe cancer, the stage of cancer is used to describe the level at which the cancer has progressed. The stage of cancer will determine where the disease is located, if or where it has spread, what other parts of the body it may have affected, and the patient’s estimated survivable rate. The stage is the most credible indication of the cancer’s progression at a given period of time and is determined by patient procedures and tests such as physical examinations, imaging scans, biopsies, blood tests, surgery or other genetic testing. Even though this is extremely important information, nearly half of the patients diagnosed with cancer in the past two years are unaware of their disease’s stage.

The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) recently released the latest edition of its cancer staging manual with new and updated staging for many types of cancer. Most cancer treatment centers started using the updated manual on January 1, 2018.

The specific stage of cancer can be determined by tests conducted prior to diagnosis or after a surgery has been performed. It can provide answers to questions concerning the size of the primary tumor, whether it has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body and if the cancer is more or less likely to spread. The cancer’s stage will help determine the specific course of treatments, establish the likelihood of recovery, the estimated time to recovery and permit the patient to develop a roadmap for the challenges that lie ahead.

Most types of cancer have four stages:

  • Stage 0 is the stage that best describes cancer that is still located in the place it started and has not spread to nearby tissues. This stage of cancer is often highly curable, usually by removing the entire tumor with surgery.
  • Stage I cancer is usually a small cancer or tumor that has not grown deeply into nearby tissues. It also has not spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body and is often referred to as early-stage cancer.
  • Stage II and Stage III refers to larger tumors that have grown more deeply into nearby tissue and those that may have spread to the lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body.
  • Stage IV indicates that a cancer has spread to other organs or parts of the body and is sometimes called advanced or metastatic cancer.

Understanding your cancer stage will provide critical insight on your future treatment options, the time and direction of recovery and ultimately your likelihood for survival. It is important to be informed about all aspects of your disease so that you can be an active and well-informed participant in your own care.

A Cancer Diagnosis Does Not Mean Life is Over

GCC April Blog Image 2

In life it has been said that there are truly no absolutes. With time, all things change, nothing is forever the same. It is an outlook filled both with prospects of hope and dread but singular in its certainty. “Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes”, said Hugh Prather, author, lay minister, and counselor.

No one ever wants to be told they have cancer. The emotions of that moment cannot be fully understood until you have experienced it. For those born decades ago when such news brought little more than a prognosis of certain death, the diagnosis can elicit strong emotions of remorse, anger and depression. The lifetime probability of being diagnosed with cancer is 39.7% for men and 37.6% for women. “There is no denying that cancer is devastating news, but it does not mean your life is over. Millions of people cope with cancer every day. You are not alone.”

For Catherine, in 1999 and at age 31, life was good. Married with a good career, her life appeared to be tracking in a mostly positive direction. An examination to ferret out an explanation for a few minor health problems brought news that her life was about to change forever. Triple negative breast cancer wasn’t even known in 1999. The only certainty after the news was she needed chemotherapy as well as surgery and radiation to stem the progress of the disease. “My memories of that period in my life are that of anxiety underpinning and coloring everything I said and did,” says Catherine. “I was at a very low ebb at this stage and my family weren’t sure how we could overcome this, as all of us were flailing around trying to make sense of this terrible period in our lives.”

Planning a normal future beyond the cancer diagnosis is pre-empted by the promise of months or even years of invasive treatments, drug protocols, clinical trials and the accompanying continuing life-maintenance issues. Taking out the trash, mowing the lawn and getting the kids to soccer practice suddenly takes on a different perspective and position in life’s scale of importance. However, planning for and visualizing a future can be the very act that can assure and expedite recovery. After fourteen years, Catherine received news that her cancer was out of remission.

“I figured that this must be the beginning of the end as I was lucky to get nearly fourteen years remission. This time around, I was told my tumor was triple negative breast cancer. I was horrified and terrified on reading the statistics. I could not think past a month at a time, and holidays and family events were all abstract events. Again my mind went into a tailspin as I tried to deal with my worst fear. I then realized I probably had triple negative breast cancer before but didn’t realize how aggressive it was back in 1999 and I survived. What is not to say that this can happen again?” She is approaching her 50th birthday and no longer thinks of the future. “I have opened myself to all possibilities and am letting life happen. One of my goals was to start blogging once I felt well again and hopefully bring hope to some of my fellow triple negative breast cancer survivors.”

As a teenager in 2015, Chandler Bankos was diagnosed with advanced, stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. An athletic and seemingly healthy seventeen year old, Chandler’s news that he had cancer wasn’t made any easier by knowing that the most common age of diagnosis of this cancer is between 20 and 40 years of age. A positive and outgoing personality, Chandler found help and treatment at the Gettysburg Cancer Center in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. There he found experienced professionals who are dedicated to treating not only the science of his disease but the personal emotional conditions that often accompany a cancer diagnosis and regiment of treatment.

Chandler speaks of his year-long experience with cancer treatment. “If I had one thing to take away from this past year, it’s to never turn back and keep looking forward. To everyone who walked with me, fought with me, prayed for me and supported me, thank you. Today, I am officially done with everything pertaining to my fight. I completed my final surgery and I am proud to say: I am clear, I am healthy and I am moving on. I can now focus on living my life and enjoying everything it gives me. Life can be short, life can throw you around,but it all depends on how you take those negatives, and build yourself up.”

For Catherine and Chandler, cancer diagnosis didn’t mean their lives were over. Through all the pain of treatment and the turmoil it brought, they moved forward in their belief that a new life of joy and accomplishment was just beyond the struggle against their disease.

Limit Exposure to Harmful Ultraviolet Rays to Lower Your Risk of Skin Cancer

GCC April Blog Image 1

The most common type of cancer diagnosed each year in the United States is skin cancer. Most skin cancers are the result of too much exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet rays. In recent decades people have become aware of the cause and have taken steps to avoid over exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun or from tanning beds and tanning lamps.

There are three types of skin cancer.  Basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of cancer, presents itself as a recurring and sometimes bleeding sore.  Squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common type of skin cancer, begins in squamous cells (thin, flat cells) that are most commonly found in the tissue on the surface of the skin. Neither of these skin cancers spread to other parts of the body and can generally be successfully treated with surgery, radiation or topical chemotherapy.

Melanoma, which originates from pigment-producing skin cells (melanocytes), is the least common but potentially deadliest form of skin cancer. Melanomas can develop anywhere on the skin, but are often present on areas of the body which receive the most exposure to sunlight. The National Cancer Institute estimates about 87,110 new melanomas were diagnosed in 2017.

Some people are more prone to melanoma than others; those with fare skin tone and high freckle density, red or light-colored hair and those with a family history of the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 60,000 early deaths occur each year worldwide because of excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. An estimated 48,000 of these deaths are from malignant melanoma. Early detection can be difficult but regular inspections of the skin for alterations in appearance can detect signs of the disease. Look for skin changes, such as a new spot or mole or a change in color, shape, or size of a current spot or mole; a skin sore that fails to heal or becomes sore of painful to the touch, or a lump that looks shiny, waxy, smooth, or pale. Others may bleed or appear ulcerated or crusty to the touch.

Melanomas that are undetected and untreated will spread to other parts of the body and may become life threatening if not caught and treated in the earliest stages. Surgery is often the first approach. Lesions and surrounding tissue are removed, and a biopsy is taken to determine if the cancer has spread into the lymph nodes. In less common cases, chemotherapy or immune therapy is warranted.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved the drug nivolumab for stage III melanoma. An adjuvant therapy for stage III melanoma, studies have indicated that the immunotherapy delayed recurrence of the disease with fewer side effects.  Awny Farajallah, MD, head of U.S. medical oncology for Bristol-Myers Squibb, says, “We’re very excited about the approval of adjuvant nivolumab. To date, 71 to 85 percent of stage III patients will have a recurrence, and this gives us an important additional option to bring those numbers down. Adjuvant therapy is an important part of our efforts to advance cancer treatment through immuno-oncology, with the ultimate goal of providing a potential cure.”

As with all cancers, lessening exposure to the risk factors is the best plan of action. Avoid sun burns. Wear clothing that protects exposed areas of the body. Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 20-30 and a 4 or 5-star UV rating. If you have a job that exposes you to constant sunlight, take all available precautions to minimize your exposure.

The Importance of Taking Care of the Caregiver

GCC March Blog Image 2

For cancer patients, receiving a diagnosis is often a time of fear, stress and trauma. The fear of the unknown, treatment processes and the disruption to life’s routines can be overwhelming. The experience is life altering, not only for the patient but also for family and close friends. For certain, life will never be the same for all involved.

While the initial focus and turmoil centers around the patient, the emotional impact on those who step up to be caregivers are too often overlooked. The dedication of time and resources to drive the patient to their frequent treatments, look in on them to monitor the therapies’ progress and extend their understanding and emotional support can be significant. Truly, no one fights cancer alone.

Being a caregiver can be very challenging. Many caregivers are close family and friends who are impacted equally by the diagnosis. The experience often creates a new role and unprecedented change for friend and family relationships. Feelings of confusion and stress accompany the changes in daily routines for all involved. Once relatively equal give and take relationships are now tipped more toward the cancer patient. Over an extended period of time this unbalanced set of emotional and physical needs can leave a caregiver feeling depressed and overwhelmed.

Educating yourself about the patient’s disease and the therapies and treatments they will be experiencing can help a caregiver cope with the challenges that lie ahead.  “I remember it was important for me to understand the kind of breast cancer my wife (Viola) had,” says Nathan Jones.  “It was triple-negative, so it was very aggressive. Because I had learned everything I could about Viola’s cancer, I understood that even though she wasn’t sick in bed or even in pain, her cancer was going to grow fast and we needed to be proactive.” Knowing and understanding is nearly always better and less stressful.

Many caregivers admit, usually in hindsight, that they took on too much. Accepting help from others and sharing feelings of being over taxed is never easy, but having someone assist with routine chores like cooking, cleaning, shopping and yardwork can relieve the pressure on a caregiver’s time, energy and feelings of inadequacy.  Focusing on your own needs, hopes, and desires can give you the strength to meet new challenges and understand conflicting feelings.

Support groups dedicated to caring for the caregiver are widely available in small group settings or online. Studies show that talking with others about what you’re dealing with is very important. It’s especially helpful when you feel overwhelmed or want to say things that you can’t say to your loved one with cancer.

Keeping a journal has been shown to help relieve negative feelings and stress. Share your journey with others who show interest.  Ken Owenson, caregiver and husband to a breast cancer patient says, “We find a lot of strength from sitting down with patients and giving them a place to vent some of their anxiety, and it also gives us a chance to clear our minds, too.  It’s not good to internalize it because that just makes it worse.”

For more information on how you can better manage your caregiver journey, contact the cancer care specialists at https://gettysburgcancercenter.com/contact-us/.