University of Pennsylvania Health System

Focus on Cancer

We are happy to announce the launch of our new Abramson Cancer Center website.

Please stay connected to our Focus On Cancer blog by visiting us there.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Free Skin Cancer Screening in Philadelphia

Have you been screened for skin cancer?

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and dermatologists at Penn Medicine want to spread the lifesaving message of early skin cancer detection and screening by offering free skin cancer screenings in Philadelphia.

Date: Saturday, May 19 2012
Time: 8 am to Noon
Location: Department of Dermatology at the Ruth & Raymond Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, 3400 Civic Center Blvd., First floor, Suite 1-330S (South Pavilion), Philadelphia

Know the Facts about Skin Cancer

  • More than 2 million non-melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed annually.
  • Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are the two most common forms of skin cancer, but both are easily treated if detected early.
  • Current estimates are that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer.
  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults aged 20 to 29.
  • The American Cancer Society recommends a skin cancer-related checkup and counseling about sun exposure beginning at age 20.

Register for this free skin cancer screening sponsored by Penn Dermatology and Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center by calling 215-662-2737.

Appointments are required and space is limited.

Want to learn more about skin cancer and melanoma? Register for CANPrevent Skin Cancer, a free conference about skin cancer prevention sponsored by the Abramson Cancer Center.

Screening Colonoscopies Save Lives

Ursina Teitelbaum, MD, is a Penn Medicine assistant professor of medicine and medical oncologist specializing in gastrointestinal cancer, caring for older adults and symptomatic management of cancer patients.  In this first of two posts, Dr. Teitelbaum discusses the importance of colorectal cancer screening.

It is an exciting time to be a gastrointestinal oncologist, because of the array of advances in detection, prevention and treatment of colorectal cancers available today. 

In February, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported the best evidence to date that colonoscopies, a colorectal cancer screening test, can actually prevent cancer deaths. Early detection has always been a goal of colonoscopy because colorectal cancers that are caught early are more amenable to surgical cure.  The premise of this study, however, was that the removal of precancerous polyps during colonoscopy might prevent the cancer from ever occurring. This prospect seemed to be realized by the finding of a greater than 50 percent decrease in death rate from colorectal cancer among patients who had a screening colonoscopy.

Decreasing the incidence of colon cancers in addition to detecting early colon cancers before they have an opportunity to spread is an incredible achievement in the existing screening programs.  Colorectal cancer is among the most common of all cancers diagnosed today, with more than 140,000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States. Roughly 100,000 cases are colon and 40,000 are rectal cancers.  These can be very lethal cancers, with more than 50,000 people dying yearly from colorectal cancer.

I work closely with gastroenterologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and other medical specialties in the multidisciplinary care of colorectal cancer patients at Penn Medicine. All of us work relentlessly to bring the most aggressive and individualized care plans to every patient.  I also personally explain the rationale for each therapy and how to manage the side effects and symptoms of the cancer and the treatments for them.

Patients with early stage or locally advanced colon cancers often meet with me after their surgery to determine if they can benefit from postoperative (adjuvant) chemotherapy to enhance their chance for cure.  I like to call it an “insurance policy” for increasing the chances that the cancer won’t come back.  The chemotherapy regimens in this postoperative setting are quite tolerable and do not involve extreme nausea, fatigue, or hair loss.

But even when colon cancer has spread outside the original location and is considered stage IV cancer, there are many treatment modalities available including innovative clinical trials for colorectal cancer, biologic therapies and immunotherapies.  Penn uses advanced molecular profiling of every patient’s individual cancer to help personalize the therapy. 

In my next post, I will talk about how Penn Medicine takes a personalized approach to cancer treatment.

Learn more about the Abramson Cancer Center’s Gastrointestinal Cancers Program.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Why Laughter Really is Good Medicine

Christine Wilson, cancer survivor, shares her experiences from the Humor, Heart and Hope Symposium held this spring and sponsored by the Abramson Cancer Center and Cancer Support Community of Philadelphia.

Does the image of a roomful of 200 cancer survivors and caregivers doubled over in laughter seem unlikely?

At the Humor, Heart and Hope Symposium held this spring, there were a lot of laughs. The symposium, sponsored by the Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center and the Cancer Support Community of Philadelphia (formerly the Wellness Community), focused on the value of humor and its role in overcoming adversity.

The Positive Power of Humor

Joel Goodman, Ed.D, founder of The Humor Project, an organization whose mission is "to make a positive difference in the world by helping people to get more smileage out their lives and jobs," opened the program by talking about the positive power of humor.

Life, he said, throws all of us "pop quizzes," the unexpected events such as a cancer diagnosis or loss of a loved one that brings with them stress and anxiety. Even in the most difficult of times, Goodman says, humor is a "way of bumping us into the here and now," and "an ally against that stress."

Goodman encouraged the audience to find humor in everyday life and to "invite the childlike perspective," the ability see the situation as an eight year old would. Tell jokes, or if you can't remember them, find buttons or bumper stickers that are funny, or just spend five minutes a day looking for the humor that is all around you--and learn to laugh at yourself.

Goodman finished by asking the audience to read the words he wrote, OPPORTUNITY ISNOWHERE. Depending on your perspective, that phrase can be broken down as Opportunity is Nowhere, or...Opportunity is now here.

Laughter is Good Medicine

Leslie Gibson, RN, a cancer survivor, spoke about laughter as good medicine, and the body of research that supports the idea that laughter has physical as well as emotional benefits.

She said studies show laughter can improve heart function and reduce blood pressure, and that laughing affects the same part of the brain that responds to chocolate, caffeine, opiates and sex.

Gibson recalled her own childhood in which she was teased by her peers because she was in her words, "short, fat, and wore glasses," and the words of a kind shoe repair man, who urged her to get the kids to laugh with her--not at her. To cope with her own diagnosis of thyroid cancer, she played jokes on her surgeons and her husband to, in her view, humanize the situation.

Gibson concluded her talk by saying, "Laughter doesn't cure, but it does help us find the hope. We need to look for the magic in every day, in everything that is around us. Don't let cancer take away the joy in life."

Balancing Stress with Humor

Humor Project Co-Director, Margie Ingram, picked up on that theme in her talk on HUMOResilience and how to tickle stress before it tackles you. She began by urging the audience to "optimize optimism." We all need to seek what she termed, "intentional balance." A diagnosis of cancer threatens that balance by putting us onto a high stress plane for an extended period of time--a situation that triggers both negative physical and emotional responses.

Humor helps us come down from that high stress plane--gives us time to relax and recover.
The final speaker, Michael Pritchard, put into practice what the previous speakers had advocated--he made the audience laugh at him and at themselves. An accomplished professional comedian as well as a writer and social worker, Pritchard began by saying that "Fear is the little dark room where negatives are developed," and quoted Gandhi's maxim that there is "more to life than just increasing the speed."

Sometimes, Pritchard said, we have "to let our souls catch up," and humor provides those opportunities. He brought the audience to laughter with his perfect characterizations ranging from crying infants to teenage boys and girls engaged in phone conversations. He ended by saying that "Humor heals the human spirit as well as the body."

Learn more about The Humor Project.

Learn more about the Cancer Support Community and its many programs for patients and caregivers.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

How to Eat Well With Head and Neck Cancer

After a head or neck cancer diagnosis, pain caused by the tumor or from surgical procedures or treatment can make chewing and swallowing difficult. 

Altering the consistency of your food and carefully selecting food items can make a big difference in your ability to eat and aid in making sure your body receives adequate calories, protein and other nutrients. 

It is important to maintain good nutrition during this period to aid recovery and healing as well as prevent complications that may impact treatment. 

Excessive weight loss during treatment and recovery may result in frequent hospitalizations and poor outcomes. For this reason, it’s important to choose foods that require little to no chewing and that don’t cause choking.  The food may not look as appealing as you are used to, but with the right seasonings, it still can be very flavorful.  In addition, sprinkling dried herbs such as parsley can enhance the eye appeal and taste.

Dietitians work closely with speech and swallowing therapists to determine patients’ nutritional needs and appropriate food and liquid consistencies. Those with head and neck cancer should seek support from a registered dietitian to make they are receiving the proper nutritional needs during treatment.

Learn more about nutrition programs at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center, or how to meet with a registered dietitian at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital.  Learn about nutrition services offered at the Abramson Cancer Center.

Watch videos to learn more about head and neck cancer treatment options offered at the Abramson Cancer Center.

Watch for upcoming recipes on this blog that are modified for smooth creamy textures.

Debra DeMille, MS, RD, CSO is a nutritional counselor at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center. Debra has worked at Pennsylvania Hospital since 1988 with the last 12 years specializing in oncology. Debra guides individuals receiving chemotherapy and radiation as well as addressing survivorship issues including the use of integrative therapies.

She conducts cooking programs and group counseling sessions for cancer survivors.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cancer and Older Adults: Meeting a Unique Challenge

Dana Marcone DeDonato, MSW, LSW, is a geriatric oncology social worker at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital and is the coordinator for the Living Well Program.

According to the Administration on Aging, older adults make up the fastest growing segment of the population.. Older adults are more likely to have chronic illnesses that can affect their functioning and their ability to handle stress. These include heart disease, impaired kidney function, memory, vision and hearing loss, as well as poor nutrition and appetite, which may lead to unintended weight loss.
And cancer affects older adults more than any other age group.

Older adults face unique psychosocial issues when confronted with a cancer diagnosis. These issues can be overwhelming for patients and families and can have a negative impact on their well-being and the ability to successfully manage their cancer care.

The Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital recognizes that older adults with cancer may require specialized care to support them and their families and has created the Living Well Program to meet their needs. The Living Well Program helps older adults use the coping skills they have developed through years of living to help them face cancer with strength, dignity and the ability and desire to make decisions about their own health care goals and treatment.

For many older people, maintaining independence is an issue of paramount importance. However, their disease or treatment may interfere with their ability to function independently and may impact their decisions and desires about treatment. Additionally, the social networks of older adults may be diminished, as a result of death and illness, which can lead to loneliness, isolation and depression.
The Living Well Program at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center provides expert symptom management and support for older adults with cancer.

For some older adults, decisions about how to pay for treatment may be just as important as decisions about the treatment itself. Many older adults live on fixed incomes and may not be able to afford the additional expenses incurred as a result of illness like medical bills, prescriptions and transportation costs.

In addition to planning for their future, it can be helpful for older adults to think about the goals of their cancer care, which can include getting rid of the cancer, living longer, reducing cancer-related symptoms and maintaining function and quality of life. It is important they to talk to their doctor about their goals and expectations for the future so that treatment plans can best meet their needs and help achieve their goals.

National standards for cancer care in older adults(1)have been developed and emphasize the importance of multidisciplinary teams to help address some of the unique issues that have been detailed above. For more information about the Living Well Program, please contact Dana Marcone DeDonato at 215-829-6379 or

(1)Hurria, A., Denlinger, C.S., Extermann, M., Holland, J.C., Karlekar, M.B., McKoy, J., … Walter, L.C. (2012). National Comprehensive Cancer Network: Senior adult oncology: Clinical practice guidelines in oncology. Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, 10(2), 162-209.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Treating Pain In Cancer Patients

Tanya Uritsky, Pharm D, is a clinical pharmacy specialist in pain management and palliative care at Penn Medicine. In this blog, she discusses the role of pain management in cancer care. 

I wear a button on my lab coat that has the word “pain” encircled with a red line through it. I wear it because I am affectionately known as the “No Pain Girl.”

Patients I meet almost always comment on this button and request one of their own. Although these buttons only come in large batches, which tend to be pricey, I know that these patients consider the thought of “no pain” to be priceless.

But another common response to my button is, “No pain, no gain.” I am aware that most of the time this statement is made in casual conversation on an elevator or in a stairwell, but over the past year and a half at Penn, I have found it means so much more than a casual interaction. 

Treating pain in patients with cancer is, for me, associated with providing relief when pain prevails despite great effort.  I’ve created relationships filled with hugs, tears, and unbelievable gratitude and affection in the face of such affliction and uncertainty.

Pain is often a symptom that opens a door for me. The presence of pain is frequently associated with other consequences that can be physically apparent, like nausea or vomiting. Sometimes it may not be so obvious, like depression or anxiety. In treating pain, adverse effects of the drugs can create other symptoms that need to be addressed. Patients may question the meaning of the pain, leading to very real fears such as “Is my disease worse? Will I ever work again?”

I recently made a friend. She is my patient, but our relationship over the past few months makes her seem more like my friend.  When I recently saw she was returning for a potentially curative treatment, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to stop by her room.

When I did, she immediately started to cry. I thought, “What did I do?” Before I could complete that thought, she jumped up and hugged me. She said: “Tanya, you were able to do what no one has been able to do in 10 years. With your help, I was able to live again. Thank you.” 

This is the reward for treating pain in patients with cancer – restoring quality of life and functionality.  It is so much more than medications.  It is a therapeutic relationship.  It is a bond of trust.  It is listening when patients do not feel that they are being heard. 

With all of the medications, the adverse effects, and the treatments, it can be easy to get wrapped up in it all.  But with pain, like the button I wear, there is so much more than meets the eye. What I have come to realize is that what can be gained from the interaction with these patients, is what is truly priceless.

Learn more about Penn’s Symptom Management and Palliative Care Program.
Learn more about cancer pain management on OncoLink.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Revolutionizing Head and Neck Surgery with TORS

Transoral robotic surgery (TORS) was invented and developed by the pioneering team of Bert W. O'Malley, Jr., MD and Gregory S. Weinstein, MD at Penn Medicine

TORS uses the state-of-the-art da Vinci® Surgical System, which allows surgeons better access to the areas of the throat for the removal of cancers and benign lesions via a minimally invasive robotic approach.

Surgeons benefit by having improved access to the tight confines of the throat and patients benefit in the short term with a faster and easier recovery and, in the long term, by outstanding cancer results and improved swallowing results compared to alternative treatments.

Benefits of TORS can include:
  • Quicker return to normal activity
  • Shorter hospitalization
  • Reduced risk of long-term swallowing problems (most commonly seen with chemoradiation or traditional open surgery)
  • Fewer complications compared to traditional open surgery
  • Less scarring than traditional open surgery
  • Less risk of infection
  • Less risk of blood transfusion when compared to open surgery
  • No routine use of tracheostomy during surgery

In this video, Drs. O'Malley and Weinstein explain the TORS procedure, and how Penn Medicine is revolutionizing care for patients with head and neck cancer.

TORS patient, Cynthia Miller along with other Penn patients discuss how the TORS procedure changed their lives.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Philadelphia 5K Run/Walk for Myeloma April 28

Dan Vogl, MD is assistant professor of medicine at the Abramson Cancer Center. Dr. Vogl works with patients in the hematologic malignancies and bone marrow transplant program.

The Philadelphia Multiple Myeloma Networking Group (PMMNG) is holding their fourth annual Miles for Myeloma 5K Run/Walk  Saturday April 28 at 9 am on Martin Luther King Drive in Philadelphia.

Together with patients and their families, I’ll be there to help raise money to cure multiple myeloma.

The PMMNG is a fantastic group of patients and caregivers that provides support to the local myeloma community. Funds raised from this annual event support:

I am proud to be serving again as honorary co-chair for the event.

What is multiple myeloma?

Myeloma is a cancer of bone marrow plasma cells, which manifests in patients as low blood counts, painful bone lesions and fractures, kidney injury, and increased risk of infections. With several new medicines approved over the past 15 years, we can now routinely hope for many years of good quality life with the disease. However, we still do not have a cure, and improvements in therapy are certainly needed.

I became interested in multiple myeloma during my oncology training, and the focus of my career has become treating this difficult disease and researching ways to improve therapies.

Treating multiple myeloma at Penn

Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center has a great myeloma team.

Dr. Edward Stadtmauer, Dr. Brendan Weiss, and I focus on this disease, and we have a talented and dedicated group of nurse practitioners, chemotherapy nurses, research nurses, data coordinators, and staff, who all work hard to improve the lives of our patients.

Our current research program includes clinical trials for myeloma of completely new medicines, older medicines repurposed as anti-cancer treatments, exciting immunotherapy approaches using the body’s own immune cells to attack cancer cells, and improvements to bone marrow transplantation.

In addition, Dr. Weiss is expanding our research efforts to cover conditions that precede myeloma, like MGUS (monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance) and smoldering myeloma , as well as related disorders, like amyloidosis.

My own research has focused on improving currently available therapies for myeloma. This includes several ongoing clinical trials looking at ways to overcome resistance that myeloma cells can develop to some of our most effective therapies. We are actively working to understand how our treatments work, why some patients respond to them better than others, and how to make them more effective for everyone.

Support Miles for Myeloma

Events like Miles for Myeloma raise important funds to allow this important research to continue. Last year, more than 1,000 participants, volunteers, and sponsors raised more than $140,000 bringing the total raised by this event to over $400,000 since its inception in 2009.

My own research has been supported by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, so I have seen firsthand the effects of this kind of fundraising.

In addition, Miles for Myeloma is a lot of fun. The setting along the Schuylkill River is beautiful, the opportunity to be outside (hopefully in good weather) is wonderful, and the patients and families who participate are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. They also have snacks available and a raffle with some great prizes.

As is my tradition, I’ll be walking the 5K, since I have not run that far since college. I’ll look forward to seeing everyone there.

Register for Miles for Myeloma. Join the Penn Medicine / Abramson Cancer Center team by choosing “Join Your Team.”

You can find information about the Miles for Myeloma here.

Learn more information about the Philadelphia Multiple Myeloma Networking Group.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Proton Therapy for Prostate Cancer: Meet Frank McKee

When Frank McKee was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he wanted to find the best possible treatment to fight his disease. Frank did extensive research about prostate cancer treatments and learned about proton therapy for prostate cancer, the world’s most advanced form of radiation therapy.

"For me, I wanted to treat the cancer. I wanted to be done with it," Frank said. "And, I wanted to be done with it in a way that had a minimum amount of side effects and affect my life the least."

"That’s why I picked proton therapy."

In this video, Frank discusses his diagnosis, and why he chose proton therapy at Penn Medicine.

Learn more about proton therapy at Penn Medicine

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Finding Strength in Prayer and Proton Therapy at Penn

Dennis Dobie received proton therapy for cancer at Penn.
Dennis Dobie of Cherry Hill, NJ, is a retired mechanical engineer and urethral cancer survivor. In this article, he shares the story of his diagnosis, and how proton therapy at Penn’s Roberts Proton Therapy Center and his faith helped save his life. 
After my wife Ginny and I returned from a vacation in 2009, I realized it was time to deal with some health problems I had been ignoring because I did not wish to miss this “bucket list” trip. I had some pain in my right side, had lost about ten pounds, and had a loss in appetite.

My family physician ordered an ultrasound, which revealed a mass in the right side of my abdomen. This was followed by many tests, biopsies and blood work that resulted in a diagnosis of uretheral transitional cell carcinoma, an aggressive form of cancer, which had spread outside the kidney.

It was at this point I knew I was in real trouble. My wife and I bonded closer than ever after 45 years of marriage and vowed to battle this cancer together.

First stop: The OR

Surgery to remove the tumor was my first course of treatment, but my local urologist was not confident undertaking this extremely complicated and difficult procedure. He referred me to a specialist in urologic cancer at Penn Medicine, whom I met and would ultimately perform my surgery.

Emails to family and friends sent by my wife resulted in great support in terms of numerous get-well cards, notes, phone calls, suggestions for care and ways to deal with treatment, and most importantly, prayers.

Going into surgery I was very calm until I entered the operating room; it was the largest operating room I had ever seen. It finally dawned on me that this was major surgery!

The surgery took longer than expected, as the cancer had spread extensively from the ureter into my kidney, abdominal and pelvic cavities. Because of its location, not all of the tumor could be removed. I was to begin chemotherapy six weeks after surgery to deal with the remaining tumor.

Next: Proton Therapy For Cancer

Chemotherapy had removed 90 percent of the remaining cancer, and I was to continue treatment with radiation therapy. I met with a brilliant radiation oncologist, Dr. John Christodouleas who prescribed for me a new type of treatment available at Penn – proton therapy.

The Roberts Proton Therapy Center had opened only eight months earlier. It’s the largest and most advanced facility in the world to offer proton beam therapy for cancer.

I was the first urethral cancer patient at Penn to receive this therapy whereby carefully directed proton (nucleus of a hydrogen atom) beams kill cancer with very little adjacent tissue and organs damage.

After seven weeks of daily treatment and six more chemotherapy treatments weekly in conjunction with my proton therapy, I was cancer-free.

We met so many wonderful caregivers at Penn and made many friends there. I often look back and thank God for putting me with the best clinicians, a great hospital, and support from friends and family.

Today, I enjoy writing a self-published book called Prayer, Penn Health and Pond Scum. In it, I discuss my battle with cancer and how Penn Medicine, prayer, proton therapy, and diet helped me heal.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Physician Gets Proton Beam Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Robert Lustig, MD, is professor of radiation oncology at Penn Medicine, prostate cancer survivor and proton beam therapy patient.

At Penn, Dr. Lustig was able to have proton therapy for prostate cancer at the Abramson Cancer Center.

"I came in the morning, got on the table, had my treatment, and went back to work," recalls Dr. Lustig, who completed proton therapy for prostate cancer in June, 2011.

In this video, he discusses his diagnosis, and his choice to have proton therapy for prostate cancer.

Diagnosed with prostate cancer? Learn how Penn's proton therapy for prostate cancer can help you.

Learn more about proton therapy at Penn Medicine

Monday, April 16, 2012

Prostate Cancer Treated with Proton Therapy at Penn

Neha Vapiwala, MD, chief of the genitourinary service for Penn Radiation Oncology, discusses proton therapy for prostate cancer, available at Penn Medicine.

Proton therapy, available at Penn’s Roberts Proton Therapy Center, is an incredible new way to deliver targeted radiation therapy to many types of tumors, including prostate cancer.  Penn Medicine recently celebrated the second anniversary of the proton therapy center.

In this interview, Dr. Vapiwala discusses how specialists throughout Penn Medicine and Penn's Abramson Cancer Center, an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center, collaborate on developing innovative ways to enhance the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of genitourinary cancer through research and patient care.

Learn more about proton therapy at Penn Medicine

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spin for LIVESTRONG™ and the Abramson Cancer Center

Join the second annual Penn Club of New York Spinathon Wednesday, April 18 from 7 am to 7 pm in support of the Abramson Cancer Center and its patients and families. This year, there will be two Spinning locations available.

This fun and healthy event benefits the LIVESTRONG™ Survivorship Center of Excellence at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center. The goal is to have at least one Spin bike going the entire day in support of the cancer center, and those affected by cancer.

Date: Wednesday, April 14, 2012
Time: 7 am to 7 pm
Locations: Penn Club of New York, 30 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036 or
PedalNYC, 33 West End Avenue, New York, NY 10023

All are welcome – you do not need to be a Penn Club member to participate. The Penn Club of NY will also have silent auction items to bid on including a LIVESTRONG™ Trek Bike and Penn Medicine LIVESTRONG™ Challenge jerseys.

To reserve your time block (in 30 minute blocks) contact:
  • Penn Club Fitness Center - 212.403.6623 or email at
  • PedalNYC - 212.561.5435 or email
For more information, visit

Make a gift online (gifts should be made in honor of Penn Club Spin-a-thon), or mail in a gift using this form.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Benefits of Whole Grains

Whole grains provide many cancer-fighting benefits and help with bowel regularity, decrease spikes in blood sugar and make you feel fuller longer if you are trying to lose weight.

In this video, Debra DeMille, MS, RD, CSO, registered dietitian and nutritional counselor at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center discusses whole grains, the importance of whole grains, and how much whole grain cancer survivors should eat.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Oncolink's New Look – Improved Navigation for Cancer Information

Just in time to celebrate its 18th anniversary, OncoLink®, a free cancer information website developed by experts at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center has launched a redesigned website based on the search habits and feedback from patients, caregivers and health care providers who use the site.

Enhanced, interactive features provide access to the most up-to-date information on all types of cancer allows users to develop personalized survivorship plans and review the latest cancer research more easily.

Recent changes to the site include enhanced interactive tools for patients, including:
  • What's My Risk: A program designed to help users learn about factors that determine their personal risk of many types of cancer and what they can do to decrease that risk.
  • LIVESTRONG® Care Plan: Online tool that provides cancer survivors, their family members or their health care provider with an easy-to-follow roadmap for managing their health as they finish treatment and transition to life as a cancer survivor.
  • Clinical Trials Matching Service: A search tool that helps patients quickly learn about and evaluate research studies across the nation for which they may be eligible. A telephone matching service is also available.

The new site also offers a comprehensive section for healthcare professional, which includes:
  • Nurses Notes: Resources for nurses including patient handouts, newsletters and practice information.
  • Patient Education Center: Free handouts covering side effects, medications and procedures.
  • Conferences: Coverage of the annual scientific meetings of the oncology societies, and a calendar of global cancer-related meetings.
  • OncoLink University: Teaching guides for students at all levels and a core oncology-related course for medical students entitled MD2B.
Take a tour of the new and improved Oncolink.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Patient Thanks Penn for Expert Thyroid Cancer Care

Kristina Black was only 23 when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. In this video, she talks about her diagnosis, and how her team of experts from Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center helped her through treatment so she could once again "sweat the small stuff" in life.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Free Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Screening on April 27

The Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital is offering a free screening for oral, head and neck cancer from 11 am to 3 pm on Friday, April 27, 2012.

Oral, head and neck cancer refers to a variety of cancers that develop in the head and neck region, such as the oral cavity (mouth), the pharynx (throat), paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity, the larynx (voice box), thyroid and salivary glands, the skin of the face and neck, and the lymph nodes in the neck.

Common symptoms of oral, head and neck cancer

  • Red or white patch in the mouth that lasts more than two weeks
  • Change in voice or hoarseness that lasts more than two weeks
  • Sore throat that does not subside
  • Pain or swelling in the mouth or neck that does not subside
  • Lump in the neck

Later symptoms of oral, head and neck cancer

  • Ear pain
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing

The most effective prevention strategy continues to be the cessation of behaviors such as smoking, use of chewing tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption.  Eighty-five percent of head and neck cancers are related to tobacco use.  

Research has linked the increase of oral cancer incidence in young adults, a population traditionally at low risk, to the rise of human papillomavirus (HPV), a cancer-causing virus that can be transmitted through oral sex.

Date: Friday, April 27 2012
Time: 11 am to 3pm
Location: Pennsylvania Hospital, Otorhinolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery (adjacent to the Spruce Building) 811 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107

To register for this free event, call 800-789-PENN (7366).

For more information, call 215-829-6466

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Potatoes, Peas and Mint

Potatoes are a rich source of vitamin C and potassium. They contain lectins, which are proteins that have been studied for inhibiting tumor growth.

Mint’s phenolic phytochemical may help prevent cancer and peas which add a touch of sweetness to this as well as an assortment of cancer fighting phytonutrients.

Potatoes, Peas and Mint

  • 1 ¼ lbs baby red skin potatoes      
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 c. chopped mint leaves
  • ¾ tsp coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  1. Cook 1 ¼ lbs baby red potatoes in a pot of boiling water until easily pierced with a fork (11-14 min); drain.
  2. Halve potatoes.
  3. Simmer or microwave ½ cup fresh or frozen peas with water until tender (2-4 min).
  4. Drain peas reserving ¼ c of the cooking liquid.
  5. Using a food processor or fork, crush peas with 1tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of the reserved cooking liquid, gradually stir in the rest of the reserved cooking liquid until mixture is thick and chunky.
  6. Toss potatoes with pea mixture, 1/3 c chopped mint leaves, ¾ tsp salt and some freshly ground pepper.
  7. Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil.
Serves 4

To learn more about nutrition and cancer, make an appointment with a dietitian at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center or the Abramson Cancer Center.

Nutrition facts per serving: 145 calories, 4 grams of fat, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 231 mg sodium, 4grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber

Recipe from Martha Stewart Magazine(2011)
Nutrition information from David Grotto’s 101 Foods that could save your life.(2008).& The George Mateljan Foundation:  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month

April is Head and Neck Cancer Awareness month.

Oral, head and neck cancer refers to a variety of cancers that develop in the head and neck region, such as the oral cavity (mouth), the pharynx (throat), paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity, the larynx (voice box), thyroid and salivary glands, the skin of the face and neck, and the lymph nodes in the neck.

Common warning signs are:
  • Red or white patch in the mouth that lasts more than two weeks
  • Change in voice or hoarseness that lasts more than two weeks
  • Sore throat that does not subside
  • Pain or swelling in the mouth or neck that does not subside
  • Lump in the neck

Other warning signs that occur during later stages of the disease include:

  • Ear pain
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing

As a part of the Focus On Cancer video series, Focus On Head and Neck Cancers addresses head and neck cancer diagnosis, treatment, research and survivorship.

In this video, New Jersey State Senator Diane Allen, together with other patients from the Abramson Cancer Center discuss their diagnoses, and their decisions to come to Penn Medicine for their cancer care.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Personalized Radiation Therapy for Head and Neck Cancers

Alexander Lin, MD,  is a radiation oncologist at Penn Medicine who specializes in treating patients with head and neck cancer.

In this video, Dr. Lin discusses  personalized radiation therapy for cancer patients including intensity-modulated radiation therapy and proton therapy Dr. Lin also explains how the cancer team at Penn Medicine works together - under one roof - to create the best treatment plan for every patient.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Committing to Holistic Living

Thinking about making healthy lifestyle changes is often easier than making and sustaining those changes. A new program at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital is helping people who are ready to commit to a healthier lifestyle make the changes they need to meet their personal health goals.

The Holistic Living Challenge is a seven-week program that provides education and support for a healthy and preventive lifestyle. The program is based on holistic and traditional Chinese medicine principles for building health and preventing disease.

Participants are provided with simple and practical self-care strategies and receive on-going support for incorporating these strategies into their daily lives. Topics include:
  • Holistic overview
  • Movement
  • Breathing
  • Relationships
  • Sleep
  • Spirituality, purpose and meaning
  • Nutrition
  • Energy management

Dates: Every Tuesday, April 3 to May 15
Time: 2 to 4 pm
Location: Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital, 230 West Washington Square, Philadelphia, PA: First floor conference room

If you are ready to make lifestyle changes that promote health, balance and happiness, register for this free program by calling 215-829-6560 to learn more.
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