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.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Support Pancreatic Cancer Awareness and Research

Carly Roop RD, CSO, is a registered dietitian at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center (JKCC). She provides nutrition education and support to patients while addressing nutrition-related side effects from chemotherapy and radiation. Dietitians at JKCC provide educational nutrition programs that are open to patients as well as the community.

This year, an estimated 43,920 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States and approximately 37,390 will die from the disease.

Pancreatic cancer is easily concealed; it may cause only vague symptoms that could be mistaken for many different conditions within the gastrointestinal tract. Unfortunately, there are no detection tools to diagnose the disease in its early stages when it the tumor can be surgically removed, this is one of the main reasons pancreatic cancer is a leading cause of cancer death.


Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Walk in Philadelphia

Building awareness for pancreatic cancer builds hope.

Join us November 3, 2012, for Purple Stride Philadelphia, at Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park.
Not only will you help support the fight against pancreatic cancer, but being active will personally help you fight against pancreatic cancer as well.

So grab your family, friends or dog and join our team, Together We Can Make Strides!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Focus On: Neuroendocrine Tumors

Join the Abramson Cancer Center and Caring for Carcinoid Friday, November 2 for a free conference about neuroendocrine tumors.

Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) form from cells that release hormones in response to a signal from the nervous system. Some examples of neuroendocrine tumors are carcinoid tumors, islet cell tumors, phechromocytomas and Merkel cell cancers.

Neuroendocrine tumors are often small and can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous).

Patients with NETs are treated at Penn by a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists who see more patients with gastrointestinal (GI) cancers in one year than many doctors see in their careers.

In addition, the Neuroendocrine Tumor Center at Penn offers patients:
  • A tumor board: A treatment planning approach in which the NET team reviews and discusses the medical condition and treatment options of a patient.
  • Nurse navigators: Specialty nurses available to guide patients through the appointment and treatment process.
  • A single point of contact.

Who Should Attend the NET Conference?

The Focus On Neuroendocrine Tumors conference is for people who are newly diagnosed, currently in treatment or long-term survivor of:

Gastrointestinal Tract NETs including:
  • Pancreatic NETs (hereditary or sporadic)
  • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (gastrinomas)
  • Insulinomas
  • Alimentary tract NETs (foregut, midgut or hindgut)
  • Functional (carcinoid syndrome)
  • Non-functional
Pheochromocytomas and Paragangliomas including hereditary and sporadic forms
Bronchial and Thymic Carcinoids
Hereditary Syndromes including:
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN)
  • Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1)
  • von Hippel–Lindau (VHL)
  • SDHB and SDHD mutations

Register for the Focus On Neuroendocrine Tumors Conference

The Focus on NET Conference is free, and open to the public.

Date: Friday, November 2, 2012
Time: 7:30 am to 3:15 pm
Location: Hilton Hotel, 4200 City Line Avenue, Philadelphia, PA
Registration: Register here for the conference

Can’t Attend In Person?

If you can’t attend in person, view the Livestream of the event, at , follow @PennMedicine on Twitter with the hashtag #NETsACC, or join Oncolink from 12:30 to 1:30 pm for a Webchat about NETs. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Life Worth Living: My BRCA Story

Carlette Knox is a BRCA-positive, breast cancer survivor. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy in 2010 as part of her breast cancer treatment. In 2011, she had a prophylactic oophorectomy (removal of her ovaries), to decrease her ovarian cancer risk. She founded the website Life Worth Living, where she shares her experience with breast cancer.  In this blog post, she talks about her journey.

In December of 2009, at the age of 34, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Cancer, unfortunately, had been a topic of discussion in our family for many years. My mother was diagnosed at the age of 35 and she experienced the devastating loss of her mother to this disease while growing up. We also witnessed 2 of my aunts lose their battles with cancer. I knew firsthand the impact this disease had on the women in my family; the need to attack this diagnosis head on was evident. I was introduced to the risk assessment program and with the help of a genetic counsellor underwent testing to determine my cancer risks. Receiving a positive BRCA result armed with me the knowledge needed to make informed treatment decisions, this is when my journey began.

It was March of 2010 when I had my bilateral mastectomy, learning about BRCA put into perspective my risk of breast cancer recurrence and ovarian cancer. My decision to remove the non-impacted breast tissue was supported by clinical trial data as well as my personal experience. Seeing the effects of this disease throughout generations of women in my family was not a tradition I was willing to keep.

It took me about 6 weeks recover from the surgery. It was not a comfortable experience, but what kept me going was the resilience to save my life! I started chemotherapy, undergoing 16 cycles, with the support of a great clinical team. When I felt like giving up they would encourage me to keep on going. The doctors and nurses along with the support of my immediate family and church members helped me to remain hopeful and full of faith which ultimately kept me going through this journey. After chemotherapy it was recommended that I also have radiation therapy since so many of my lymph nodes were positive, this was a walk in the park compared to the chemo. I finished up my treatment at the end of 2010 right before the New Year which was a blessing since my birthday is January 1st!

Research has shown that BRCA positive patients also have an increased risk of ovarian cancer. My gynecologic oncologist recommended an oophorectomy (prophylactic removal of the ovaries to decrease the risk of ovarian cancer). This was a very simplistic procedure done laparoscopically February 2011. While the procedure itself was minimally invasive the decision was not without much emotional turmoil on the inside. In my mind, this would change my landscape as a woman and at such a young age. Ultimately, after researching the effects of ovarian cancer, I embraced this option as a blessing not a curse.

Today, I am physically and emotionally better than I could have ever imagined. I don’t look or feel like any of what I went through. It may sound a bit crazy, but I’m grateful for the journey. My faith is stronger and as a result of this life changing experience I’ve been able to embark upon yet another journey.

“Life Worth Living” is the realization of my passion to raise awareness, empower and support those impacted by cancer and to broadcast the message of hope aspiring them to live.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cancer-fighting Recipe: Not Your Mama’s Apple

Carly Roop RD, CSO, is a registered dietitian at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center (JKCC). She provides nutrition education and support to patients while addressing nutrition-related side effects from chemotherapy and radiation. Dietitians at JKCC provide educational nutrition programs that are open to patients as well as the community.
There are many things I look forward to with the start of fall, most notably is the arrival of the Honeycrisp apple.

The Honeycrisp was developed by the University of Minnesota from a Macoun and Honeygold cross (the Honeygold itself a cross between the Golden Delicious and Haralson), the new apple variety was introduced in 1991. Unlike the Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples that are made available all year long the Honeycrisp only appears in our markets from September until November. However, its unavailability is not the reason I get excited, it’s in the snap of this apple when you take a bite and its sweet-tart taste, that I look forward to as the days start to cool down.

Apples such as the Honeycrisp make a satisfying snack, but apples can also be baked for dessert, used in a sauce or soup or can even be part of the main dish. They are an excellent source of both insoluble and soluble fiber which has been shown to decrease risk of heart.

Apples are a rich source of phytochemicals which may play a role in fighting cancer, providing proof to the old saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Honeycrisp Apple Stuffing


1 tablespoon canola oil
1/3 cup diced onion
1/3 cup diced celery
2 cups dried bread cubes (or small croutons)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup diced Honeycrisp apple
1/4 cup golden raisins (or dried cherries), optional
2 tablespoons fresh chopped sage leaves or 2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1/4 cup vegetable broth or chicken broth


To make the stuffing: In a large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Scrape into a bowl and add the bread cubes, salt and pepper, apple, raisins if using, and sage. Lightly moisten with the broth, mix thoroughly and set aside.
Recipe obtained from

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How to Help a Friend Going Through Treatment for Cancer

Author and breast cancer survivor, Wendy Neilsen
Wendy Nielsen is a mom, a blogger and a breast cancer survivor. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, Wendy initially underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment that year, followed by a prophylactic oopherectomy in 2010. She currently takes a daily aromatase inhibitor and remains NED.

Wendy blogs at Wendy Nielsen and is the weekly health and wellness contributor at The Trend Tribe.

Do you need ideas on how to help a friend going through treatment for cancer? I’ve put together a list of things that helped me while I underwent treatment for breast cancer.


Knowing that your child is well taken care of in your absence is worth its weight in gold. When I was going through radiation treatment, I had to be at the hospital daily for a matter of twenty minutes. I’d get undressed, get zapped, get dressed, and go home. But, I couldn’t take my daughter with me to my appointment. She couldn’t be in the treatment room and I obviously couldn’t leave her alone in the waiting room. Offer up your babysitting services!

Food Delivery

Meals are important. I wasn’t so concerned with what I was eating but I worried about my husband and daughter going without a proper meal. There are so many awesome options, such as: 1) dropping off prepared meals from places like Dream Dinner that can be frozen and served later in the week or month. 2) recruit other friends and family to bring over homemade meals – including breakfast and snacks. Care Calendar is a great web-based system to help organize this effort. 3) grab a couple of extra pre-made salads, ingredients for simple dishes, fresh fruit and veggies, and some kid friendly snacks at your next grocery store trip and drop them on her porch.
Tip: Before purchasing or making food, consult with your friend to find out if there are any special dietary needs or restrictions.

Care Packages

It is really important to stay hydrated during chemotherapy treatment. I gulped down drinks like Gatorade and bottled water mixed with Emergen-C. A cute care package with a reusable bottle and a box of Emergen-C is a great gift idea. Throw in some trashy tabloid magazines – if that’s her thing – and you’re golden. Note: chemotherapy wrecks a person’s taste buds and certain thing – even bottled water – can taste really awful. You might ask first if your friend has any specific aversions.
House Chores

Both chemotherapy and radiation treatment can seriously wipe out a person physically. Walking up the stairs in my own home was extremely trying somedays. Offer up your services to vacuum their house, do a couple loads of laundry, walk the family dog, take their kids to the park, or take out the trash cans. Everyday chores can become quite overwhelming – don’t let them be.

Write it Out

A simple, well-written card is always appreciated. But what do you say? Tell her she is strong, that she is a fighter, and that her hair coming out means the drugs are working! Encourage her to believe in her treatments and the education of their doctors. Remind her of the support system she has and the love that surrounds them. Cheer her on, especially as she get closer to finishing treatment. Tell her that having a positive mental attitude makes a difference. These simple words work wonders! Still tongue-tied? Hallmark stores have cancer specific cards. Serious, religious, and funny ones. Believe it or not, there is one that suits your needs.

Expect Less and Don’t be Offended

Lower your expectations – at least temporarily. I was hardly myself going through treatment for cancer. The chemotherapy drugs zap all your brain power. It’s a phenomenon called “chemo brain” and it’s very real. I didn’t care about anything other than surviving until my next treatment. Try not to be offended if your friend doesn’t make the effort they once did.

Be a Friend

Offer to go to her chemo sessions – and do it. I didn’t always engage in conversation during treatment but it was always great to know I had someone there by my side. Especially the first time because it was the scariest and definitely the last because it should be a celebration!

Encourage them to find a support group of patients also being treated for the same cancer. There are so many fantastic online support groups and many hospitals offer group services. It helps immensely to discuss thoughts, feelings, and experiences with someone also going through the same thing.

Twitter is another fantastic source for finding current patients and survivors. I highly recommend the weekly #BCSM Twitter chat on Monday at 9pm/EST.

A simple phone call, voicemail, or email just letting them know you are thinking of them. A potted plant, flowers, or a homemade card left on their porch step is always a sweet surprise.

On a very personal note: While I was going through treatment I insisted to everyone, including my closest friends, my parents, and other loved ones, that everything was fine and that I was managing. This was not always true. I didn’t want to burden others with my needs. I didn’t want to make them feel uncomfortable with my disease. I wanted to ease their worries and fears and pretend all was fine. Really pay attention, she might need your help but is afraid or uncomfortable to ask for it.

From this cancer survivor’s perspective, you just want to feel like you aren’t alone. Like you haven’t been forgotten. Cancer and its treatment can be very isolating because your peers aren’t experiencing the same thing.

If you have any questions or worry about what may or may not be acceptable – please email me at

Monday, October 22, 2012

Shoe Shop to Benefit Breast Cancer Research at Penn

On Wednesday, October 24, 2012, from 5 to 8 PM (ET), QVC© will air the 19th Annual QVC© Presents “FFANY Shoes on Sale®,” a charitable shoe sale to benefit breast cancer research and education.

This October, the multimedia retailer will once again join the Fashion Footwear Association of New York (FFANY) to offer more than 125,000 pairs of shoes from over 90 brands at half the manufacturer’s suggested retail price* with net proceeds benefitting breast cancer research and education institutions, including the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

Since its first broadcast in 1995, QVC Presents “FFANY Shoes on Sale” has sold over one million pairs of shoes and has donated more than $38 million to the cause. Of that money, $3.7 million has gone to breast cancer research at Penn Medicine.

"The QVC funds have enabled investigators within the breast cancer program to develop new initiatives and projects that build upon the outstanding research already underway within the program,” says Angela DeMichele, MD, MSCE, associate professor of medicine and breast cancer researcher at Penn. “These initiatives include both specific research projects, and more recently, development of resources that facilitate multidisciplinary collaboration between basic scientists and clinical researchers within the Program, with the goal of bringing basic discoveries to the clinic."

In addition to the scheduled broadcast on October 24, shoppers can contribute to the cause by purchasing the “Shoe of the Day,” offered each weekday from 7 to 9 AM (ET) on QVC during the month of October. They can also shop the online collection offered on where additional styles can be found, beginning October 1 and continuing throughout the month, while supplies last.

Breast Cancer Research at Penn Medicine

Penn’s Breast Cancer Research Program brings together investigators from diverse disciplines and focuses their collective energies on understanding, preventing and treating breast cancer.

The breast cancer research program features a broad cross-section of interactive investigators involved in many areas of breast cancer-related research.

Learn about breast cancer research at Penn in the following areas:

Learn more about breast cancer treatment at Penn Medicine.

*Manufacturer’s suggested retail price is based upon supplier’s representation of value. No sales may have been made at this price.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Eat Healthy and Save Money With This Harvest Recipe

Carly Roop RD, CSO, is a registered dietitian at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center (JKCC). She provides nutrition education and support to patients while addressing nutrition-related side effects from chemotherapy and radiation. Dietitians at JKCC provide educational nutrition programs that are open to patients as well as the community.
The standard American diet is made up of 62% processed foods; these are packaged foods that are convenient to eat, inexpensive and have a very long shelf life.

However, there are hidden costs to lifetime of eating this way, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. One of the first obstacles we face in trying to help our clients to eat healthier is cost, especially for someone who receives food stamps. It is understandable to see why someone might opt to use their food stamps on a frozen dinner or peanut butter and jelly over fresh carrots, spinach, and broccoli.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has recognized that many Philadelphia families struggle to put food on the table, regardless, if it is healthy or not. In an effort to help these families eat healthier, they have initiated the program Get Fit Philly. One of their goals is to ensure that all Philadelphians live within 1/4 mile of a supermarket, farmers' market, or healthy corner store.

Many farmers’ markets accept Access cards/food stamps and one way that this program is incentivizing people to use their food stamps at their visit their local farmers’ market is by offering Philly Food Bucks; these are coupons that can be redeemed for $2 worth of fruits and vegetables for every $5 you spend at a participating farmer’s market.

Taking time to plan your meals and make and stick to that grocery list is a great way to start saving money.

Here is a favorite fall recipe to get you started.

Harvest Millet Recipe

This recipe is full of cancer fighting ingredients. It contains millet, a small yellow grain with a sweet, mild flavor. It is a good source of fiber and protein, which will keep you fuller on fewer calories. Just one cup of dry millet yields 3 cooked cups; it comes packaged as well as in bulk. Butternut Squash is more than decoration; it is an excellent source of vitamin A, beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C and fiber. Walnuts contain omega 3 fatty acids, which fight against heart disease and are abundant in Gamma-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E that may help fight against breast, prostate and lung cancer.


1 cup of millet
3 cups of water
2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ½ inch pieces
1 med. onion, thinly sliced
3 tbsp. olive oil
¼ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1/3 cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 Tb. dried parsley


Place 1 cup of millet and 3 cups of water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Cover pan and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the millet is tender. Drain off any remaining liquid.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large roasting pan, combine butternut squash, onion, olive oil, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir well so all vegetables are coated. Roast until vegetables are slightly browned (around 25 minutes) stirring occasionally. Add vegetables and cranberries to the saucepan with the millet and reheat. Stir in pecans, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Patient Perspective: From Surviving Breast Cancer to Motherhood

When 26-year-old Melissa Brown was diagnosed with breast cancer, preserving her fertility was not her foremost concern. Recently engaged, she and fiancé Steve Mohler were planning their wedding. And her mother, Gail, had recently suffered a third relapse in her 20-plus-year battle with cancer. But on the advice of her oncologist, David H. Henry, M.D., Vice Chair, Department of Medicine at Pennsylvania Hospital, she decided to become familiar with Oncofertility.

Melissa had a special connection to Dr. Henry, her mother’s oncologist. “My mother left me many things, and one of the greatest things was Dr. Henry,” she said. “He made sure to advise me on nearly every aspect of how cancer and treatment would affect my life. Without him, I would never have been directed to Dr. Gracia and I probably would not have children today.”

Clarisa R. Gracia, M.D., M.S.C.E., is the Director of the Fertility Preservation Program at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center (ACC). A leader in the specialized field of Oncofertility, the Program draws from Penn Medicine’s long history of excellence in both women’s health and cancer care.

For sisters Melissa and Jessica Brown, Penn’s Program brought about a high point in the Brown family’s difficult struggle with cancer. The Brown women provided constant support to one another, no matter what hardships the disease threw at them.

Briefly told, when Melissa’s breast cancer diagnosis coincided with her engagement plans and with her mother’s relapse, Melissa and Steve decided to move up their wedding date, ensuring that Gail could attend. Jessica was the one who cut Melissa’s hair to make a wig for her special day.

Later, Melissa and her mom embarked on side-by-side chemotherapy infusions. When Gail passed away the month after Melissa finished her treatment, Melissa was holding her hand.

And after Melissa opted to have a bilateral mastectomy, Jessica decided to do the same to lower her own risk of breast cancer in the future.

Less than two years after her initial diagnosis Melissa was in remission, but was dealing with the void the disease left her. “Cancer stripped me of so much,” she said. “My mother, my breasts, my hair, my twenties, my immune system, and my fertility. I was just learning how to cope.”

It was Jessica who saw a way to give Melissa and Steve a chance at a new beginning. Over dinner she offered to be their gestational carrier. Working with Dr. Gracia and Penn’s Fertility Preservation Program, Jessica was implanted with embryos frozen with Dr. Gracia’s help at Penn Fertility Care, prior to Melissa’s cancer treatment. Luck was finally on their side, and Jessica became pregnant with her sister’s twins.

Fertility preservation is becoming a part of larger cancer treatment conversations. From improving IVF outcomes to preserving eggs and ovarian tissue through cryogenics, ACC programs are giving young women with cancer access to new fertility treatment options—and helping them fulfill their dreams of becoming parents.

Melissa is now cancer free and enjoying motherhood. She is continually grateful for the care she received by her physicians at Penn Medicine and her sister. “I love every moment of being a mom and am soaking in everything I can.”

Watch a video about fertility preservation at Penn. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Eye Witness News 3 in Connecticut reports on family's Basser Research Center experience

Eye Witness News 3 in Connecticut reports on Kate Berges’ families experience with BRCA, noting Berges attendance at the Philadelphia opening of Basser Research Center for BRCA.

For the latest information on BRCA research,  screening and clinical trials from  The Basser Research Center for BRCA, visit the official webpage.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Let Penn Help You Manage the Stress of Cancer

As many people living with cancer integrate mindfulness into their treatment and recovery, studies show they experience a variety of positive benefits including: improved psycho-social functioning, reduction in stress symptoms, less fatigue and better sleep, deep physical relaxation, and an opening of compassion for themselves and others.

The Penn Program for Mindfulness teaches people with cancer and their loved ones how to manage the stresses of life with powerful mindfulness-based tools. Penn's mindfulness programs will teach patients and their families how to actively manage the range of challenges they may face in life while learning to enhance well-being, improve relationships, and increase productivity.

The Penn Program for Mindfulness is hosting two events for people with cancer and their loved ones.

Living with Mindfulness: Managing the Stress of Cancer (A 4-week series)

This program is for people affected by cancer and the people that love them. During the four week program, a series of mindfulness tools including meditation, movement, guided imagery, and deep relaxation methods will encourage participants to set aside time from treatment and other day-to-day activities to find peace and freedom from unnecessary emotional reactions created by automatic "what if" thinking.

Dates: Thursday mornings beginning October 25 through November 15, 2012
Time: 10 am to Noon
Location: 3930 Chestnut Street, 3rd Floor; Philadelphia, PA 19104
Cost $95
Please register by October 18, 2012

A Day of Mindfulness Meditation for People Affected by Cancer

Join us for a Mindfulness retreat. This retreat is specifically for people affected by cancer and the people who love them. You will practice a series of mindfulness tools including meditation, movement, guided imagery, and deep relaxation. Portions of the day will be held in silence.

Date: Saturday, November 10, 2012
Time: 9:30 am to 4 pm
Location: 3930 Chestnut Street, 3rd Floor; Philadelphia, PA 19104
Cost: $85
Please register by November 8, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Breast Reconstruction Surgery After a Mastectomy

Many women with early-stage cancers can choose between breast-conserving surgery and mastectomy. A small number of women having breast-conserving surgery may not need radiation while a small percentage of women who have a mastectomy will still need radiation therapy to the breast area.

Mastectomy involves removing all of the breast tissue, sometimes along with other nearby tissues. In a simple or total mastectomy, the surgeon removes the entire breast, including the nipple, but does not remove underarm lymph nodes or muscle tissue from beneath the breast.

A modified radical mastectomy is a simple mastectomy plus removal of axillary (underarm) lymph nodes.

A radical mastectomy is an extensive operation where the surgeon removes the entire breast, axillary lymph nodes, and the pectoral (chest wall) muscles under the breast. This surgery was once very common, but a modified radical mastectomy has proven to be just as effective without the disfigurement and side effects of a radical mastectomy. Radical mastectomy may still be done for large tumors that are growing into the pectoral muscles under the breast.

For women who have a mastectomy, breast reconstruction is an option.

Do I need to have breast reconstruction?

It is never medically necessary to have breast reconstruction. This is considered an elective procedure, meaning you can choose to have it done or not. Some women choose to have a mastectomy (removal of all of the breast tissue) without reconstruction. Although it is considered elective, it is not considered solely cosmetic. Federal law mandates all insurance plans pay for breast reconstruction if a mastectomy is indicated.

Are all women candidates for breast reconstruction?

The vast majority of women are candidates for breast reconstruction. There are a variety of reconstructive options and you may not be a candidate for all types. You and your plastic surgeon will discuss which type of breast reconstruction best fits your situation.
What is the difference between immediate and delayed reconstruction?
Many patients prefer to have reconstruction done (or at least the process started) at the same time as their mastectomy for a number of reasons. If you have breast reconstruction done at the same time as your mastectomy this is called immediate reconstruction.

Delayed reconstruction is the term used if you choose to have the mastectomy done and then wait for reconstruction to be done months, or even years later. The majority of surgeries done at Penn Medicine are immediate reconstruction. With immediate reconstruction you are decreasing your overall number of surgeries, you may have a better chance at an optimal cosmetic result and for many women there is a psychological benefit to immediately pursuing reconstruction. You and your plastic surgeon will determine whether immediate or delayed reconstruction is the best option for you.

What are the major types of breast reconstruction available?

There are three major types of breast reconstruction. The first is a tissue expander implant reconstruction. The second uses all your own tissue, typically from the abdomen but the tissue can be taken from your buttock or thighs. The third, less common option is a combination of the two methods using your own tissue from the back, latissimus muscle (large muscle of the back), plus an implant underneath.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Five Reasons to Practice Yoga During Cancer Treatment

The practice of yoga during cancer treatment can be helpful on many levels. Yoga can help manage side effects of cancer including nausea and fatigue. Yoga can also promote better sleep and deep relaxation.

yoga for cancer
Many people think of yoga as a very physically challenging practice, which is not the case at all. In fact, the simple act of linking of your breath with gentle movement is the essence of a yoga practice. Also, working with a yoga practitioner who is trained to work with cancer patients is important because he or she can better understand the unique needs of someone who is undergoing cancer treatment.

If you are thinking about practicing yoga during cancer treatment, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider to learn if yoga is an appropriate activity, and safe for you to practice. Also, working with a yoga practitioner who is trained to work with cancer patients is important because he or she can better understand the unique needs of someone who is undergoing cancer treatment.

Here are five reasons to practice yoga during your cancer treatment, even if you have never done so before:

Yoga is a practice that becomes part of your everyday life.

Yoga does not have to be practiced in a studio or gym, but can be done in the comfort of your own home, or even during the course of your treatment. Some very basic movements along with instruction on breath work, called pranayama, can be practiced anywhere, anytime.

Yoga promotes peace and a feeling of well-being.

Yoga is about balance, in fact the word “yoga” means to “yoke” which means to unite. From diagnosis through treatment and into survivorship, yoga is a very supportive practice that can help to bring your mind and body into alignment to create balance in your life.

Yoga is something to look forward to.

Even if your yoga practice is ten minutes long, this is time out for yourself to help restore your energy and calm your mind.

Yoga allows you to become part of a community.

Many cancer centers, such as the Abramson Cancer Center, offer yoga programs for their patients. They are often smaller and more intimate classes with others who are going through treatment.

Yoga can help you to feel in control of your body, mind and spirit.

Linking breath and movement through the practice of yoga allows you to let go of negativity and reduce stress. It is your very own gift to yourself!

Do you practice yoga? Have you enjoyed the benefits of yoga during cancer treatment?

Fern Nibauer-Cohen is the associate director of program development in the department of radiation oncology at Penn Medicine. She received her certification to teach yoga from Yoga On Main in Manayunk, PA and has completed the level one certification of the “Teaching Yoga to Cancer Patients Program” from Integral Yoga. 

For more information about the yoga programs offered at the Abramson Cancer Center, contact Fern at 215-662-3919 or email her at

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Penn Program for Mindfulness

The Penn Program for Mindfulness provides powerful tools for coping and personal growth. Combining modern cognitive science with ancient mindfulness techniques, the program teaches people with cancer to change the way that they experience themselves and their world with skillfully applied mindfulness approaches to start anew.

Founded by Dr. Michael Baime in 1992 to help patients with serious health conditions cope with the stress, pain, and losses associated with illness, the program now benefits anyone who wishes to find a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling way to live. More than 99 percent of people who complete the Penn Program for Mindfulness say they plan to refer family members and friends.

Mindfulness Programs for People With Cancer

With the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn, the Penn Program for Mindfulness has created targeted programs to help individuals and families who face cancer. These programs will train patients and their caregivers to cultivate mindfulness skills to enhance their ability to manage the challenges associated with cancer, to strengthen their inner resources for coping and to find more depth and meaning in life.

The Penn Program for Mindfulness has taught more than 10,000 people to:
  • Manage difficulty and stress
  • Reduce depression and anxiety
  • Cope with trauma and loss
  • Increase focus and mental clarity
  • Improve communication in relationships
  • Find purpose, meaning, and beauty in life

What Benefit Does Mindfulness Provide?

An impressive and growing body of science supports our claims and the testimonials of our participants. Extensive research has demonstrated that mindfulness training improves mood and quality of life, increases working memory and resistance to distraction, and enhances emotional regulation. It is used as an effective treatment for a wide variety of medical and psychological illnesses and symptoms. More than ever before in our culture, people are turning to mindfulness and meditation for help with managing stress.

Learn about upcoming mindfulness programs, and how to register for mindfulness programs for people with cancer.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mesothelioma Prevention and Treatment Conference at Penn in Philadelphia

Join Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center and the Pennsylvania Lung Cancer Partnership for a day of information about mesothelioma and pleural disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention as well as a chance to meet others  at the 4th Annual Focus On Mesothelioma Conference.

Get information about mesothelioma and these topics:

  • Ask the experts
  • Diagnosis
  • Chemo and personalized therapies
  • Coping
  • Integrative medicine and wellness
  • Nutrition
  • Radiation therapy for mesothelioma
  • Research and clinical trials
  • Risk, screening and prevention
  • Robotic surgery
  • Symptom management

Who should attend?

Anyone who is facing a mesothelioma or pleural disease diagnosis as well as their loved ones, are invited to attend this conference.

Register for the Focus On Mesothelioma Conference at Penn

Date: Friday, October 12
Time: 7:30 am to 3 pm
Location: Hilton Hotel, 4200 City Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19131
Register: Registration is free.
Register for the 4th Annual Focus On Mesothelioma Conference here.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chemo In Louboutins

Susan L. Schwartz is a writer from London who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1996, and Hodgkin lymphoma in 2012. She is currently undergoing treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma at the Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia. You can find her blogging at Chemo in Louboutins.

Nobody wants to go through chemo. It’s not on anyone’s bucket, to-do or wish list. In fact, I was never supposed to even have chemo…but then suddenly, I woke up with an IV in my arm.

I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1996. It can grow very slowly and I was never treated. Then in 2012, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma as well – just lucky, I guess. Hodgkin lymphoma is curable…so here I am now.

I live in London but I chose to have my treatment at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital under the care of Stephen Schuster, MD. My family lives in Philadelphia and my father is a breast cancer surgeon here. Needless to say, when it came time to find an oncologist, I looked for the best…finding one each in Philly, New York and in London (I like opinions!).

As my situation changed from “watch and wait” to “treat immediately,” I chose to have my chemo in Philadelphia. This was going to be almost six months of “fun” and it only made sense to be not only under the watchful care of Dr. Schuster but also the daily care of my father and mother.

Even with a doctor in the house, I was totally overwhelmed as I’m sure everyone is. I did a Google search and found tons of info - all going on about the negatives of chemo. No one mentioned the positives. The positives of chemo? Yes, these drugs were going to save my life. That to me is a big POSITIVE. Yes, my hair might fall out, I would feel sick to my stomach but that would be par for the course.

Still, I was filled with fear – of death, of missing out on the future, scared for my parents, my boyfriend, myself. Did this mean I would never get to Machu Picchu, never see my wedding, never get home to London? Beneath the surface was a miasma of destructive thoughts bringing me to the point of insanity. There had to be a way to deal with it. But how?

Susan Schwartz in Louboutins
Mine was my shoe collection. I am a shoe person. There are bag fetishists, clotheshorses, jewelry hounds. I scrimp and save to buy works of art from the world’s top cordwainer: Mr. Louboutin. The silly thing is I don’t wear them! I always joke that I wish I had the life my shoes deserve…cocktail parties, dinners, soirees that get you photographed in Tatler, Vogue, Bazaar. They sit there in my closet, little statues gathering dust, looking beautiful without ever tripping any light fantastic.

As I packed my bags in London to come Stateside, I looked at those gorgeous, untouched gems and knew they had to come with me. If I were going to a cocktail party every two weeks, then damn it, I was going to dress for one. No sweats, elastic waistband or “comfortable” clothes, I was going to look and feel glamorous. This party was invitation only and the dress code was glam.

Now I understand that not everyone has a Louboutin obsession, but I do know that everyone must have a Louboutin equivalent – a something special that makes you feel fabulous inside and out. It could be the Target scarf you love to tie around your hair Jackie O style or the pair of earrings you wore at your wedding. Whatever it is, this is the time to get them out and feel your best – even when you want to throw up. Don’t wait.

Will this really help me conquer all those fears? I don’t know. I am just beginning this journey and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel – at least not just yet. Please stick with me and let’s get through it together.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Multiple Myeloma Awareness Walk October 6, 2012

Carly Roop RD, CSO, is a registered dietitian at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center (JKCC). She provides nutrition education and support to patients while addressing nutrition-related side effects from chemotherapy and radiation. Dietitians at JKCC provide educational nutrition programs that are open to patients as well as the community.

Staying active is key to the prevention of chronic diseases and it also plays a role in the prevention of cancer. Exercise can take many forms, this month I’m encouraging walking, especially for a cause! If you live in Philadelphia you can attest that there seems to be walk around the Philadelphia Art Museum, almost every weekend from April through November. These walks are a great way to be supportive and active at the same time, maybe even have some fun.

The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) is hosting a 5K walk in Fairmount Park, October 6. Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the white blood cells, which are part of the body’s immune system. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates 21,700 new cases of multiple myeloma were diagnosed in the United States in 2012. Multiple Myeloma constitutes as 1% of all cancers in caucasians and 2% of all cancers in African-Americans. It is more commonly diagnosed in men, and is a cancer that affects adults over the age of 65 years. This is not a curable cancer, but it can be treated. An impressive 90% of the total MMRF budget goes directly to research and related programming for multiple myeloma. Through research new treatments are being developed to allow individuals who have been diagnosed with multiple myeloma to live longer and more fulfilling lives.

Join Team Victory, the team’s founder has been an advocate for multiple myeloma since his diagnosis and received a transplant at Pennsylvania Hospital.

Sign up today!

A Survivor's Perspective: Rearview Mirror

Donna-Lee Lista
Donna-Lee Lista is a lung cancer survivor and an advocate for lung cancer research. In this blog, she talks about lung cancer research, and her hope for lung cancer research and treatment in the future.

When I see all that has transpired in the last few years regarding lung cancer research, I can’t help but hope that maybe all the work the advocates are doing has something to do with it. I want to believe we are making a difference and want to hope if we keep it up, we can see it through. Maybe it is a dream that doctors will completely cure lung cancer, maybe it is more realistic to strive for treatments that make it a chronic disease, but why not reach for the sun and if we have to settle on the stars that will be ok for a short while too? Once we get there, we re-group and keep on going.

My wish is that people will start feeling hopeful when all the latest research and development in lung cancer becomes common knowledge. I know that any cancer diagnosis is awful and not a club anyone wants to willingly join, but let’s face it, there are some cancers that offer a lot more hope than lung. But now, it won’t be so hard to find survivors to hold your hand through the ordeal because more are living longer and more are being cured. I recognize we have a lot to still accomplish, but compared to where we were, the train has really started to leave the station.

I know we are only at the threshold of a new world order for lung cancer, a precipice of sorts, and I understand there is a lot more to do. But, there is finally something to see in the rearview mirror, because we are moving ahead and that my friend is exhilarating!

Learn More About Lung Cancer Treatment at Penn

Join Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center and the Pennsylvania Lung Cancer Partnership for a day of information about lung cancer treatment and research, as well as, a chance to network with others at the 5th Annual Focus On Lung Cancer Conference.

Get information about lung cancer and these topics:
  • Ask the Experts
  • Diagnosis
  • Chemo and Personalized Therapies
  • Coping
  • Integrative Medicine and Wellness
  • Nutrition
  • Proton and Radiation Therapy
  • Research and Clinical Trials
  • Risk, Screening and Prevention
  • Robotic Surgery
  • Symptom Management

Register for the Focus On Lung Cancer Conference at Penn

Date: Friday, October 12
Time: 7:30 am to 3:15 pm
Location: Hilton Hotel, 4200 City Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19131
Register: Registration is free. Register for the 5th Annual Focus On Lung Cancer Conference here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lung Cancer Prevention and Treatment Conference at Penn in Philadelphia

Join Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center and the Pennsylvania Lung Cancer Partnership for a day of information about lung cancer diagnosis, treatment and prevention as well as a chance to meet others at the 5th Annual Focus On Lung Cancer Conference.

Get information about lung cancer and these topics:

  • Ask the experts
  • Diagnosis
  • Chemo and personalized therapies
  • Coping
  • Integrative medicine and wellness
  • Nutrition
  • Proton therapy for lung cancer
  • Radiation therapy for lung cancer
  • Research and clinical trials
  • Risk, screening and prevention
  • Robotic surgery
  • Symptom management

The day will feature:

5th Annual Focus On Lung Cancer: A conference for those diagnosed with lung cancer and their loved ones that focuses on treatment, and coping with lung cancer.
2nd Annual CANPrevent Lung Cancer: A cancer prevention series that focuses on lung cancer risk, prevention and screening.

Who should attend?

Anyone who is facing a lung cancer diagnosis as well as their loved ones, are invited to attend these conferences.

Those who are at risk, or who want to learn about preventing lung cancers are also invited.

Register for the Focus On Lung Cancer Conference at Penn

Date: Friday, October 12
Time: 7:30 am to 3:15 pm
Location: Hilton Hotel, 4200 City Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19131
Register: Registration is free.
Register for the 5th Annual Focus On Lung Cancer Conference here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

LiveSTRONG - It's More than Lance

In celebration of LiveSTRONG Day, Penn is highlighting the LiveSTRONG team at Penn Medicine. 

Sue Anne Clark physician liaison at Penn Medicine. An avid triathlete, she is the captain for the LiveSTRONG team at Penn Medicine. In this article, she discusses Lance Armstrong, cancer survivorship and her experience as team leader for the Team Penn Medicine/ The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia LiveSTRONG team.

This is the third year I have participated in Philly LiveSTRONG Challenge. This year, thousands of people came to support the foundation LiveSTRONG, founded by Lance Armstrong, a testicular cancer (seminoma) survivor. I was privileged to lead the 2012 Penn Medicine/ The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia team. Our team consisted of pediatricians, cancer researchers leading some of the most promising trials in cancer today, cancer survivors, families, friends, obesity battlers, and people who are there to take on the “challenge” and support survivorship. It’s such an honor to have these people on our team, and I am always inspired with their stories. Some of the programs that benefit from LiveSTRONG include programs for patients at CHOP. The Philly LiveSTRONG Center of Excellence is housed inside of the Abramson Cancer Center (UPENN).

“Pick a Fight” was the LiveSTRONG Challenge theme this year, as it was worn by more than 300 volunteers who donated their time to support many survivors and their families.

Team members can run or walk the 5k or 10k on Saturday. A teammate, who is not a cancer survivor but a survivor of another battle, obesity; started running and chose the LiveSTRONG challenge to be her first race. She lost 100 pounds in the past year with the help of the Penn Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Program.

Another team member challenged herself to the 10k. She finished with her son and mother giving her hugs and kisses, a common scene at the finish line at the LiveSTRONG. Another teammate (survivor) looked really good at the challenge. Her sister explained to us how she was giving a short time to live when first diagnosed, and now more than four years later, she is participating in the challenge to support a foundation that has always been near and dear to her heart, LiveSTRONG.  She chimed in “it really matters where you are treated, thanks to Penn."

Don’t “Pick a Fight” with our cycling team. On Sunday the cycling team took to some of the most challenging hills of Pennsylvania. The bike challenge was to take on 10, 20, 45, 50, 75, or 100 miles of Philly's countryside.

Their stories are all inspirational:
“I am a three-time cancer survivor, I figure if I stay upright and fit- I can let Penn Medicine take care of the rest!”

“I have my check-up at the cancer center this week, and I am hoping once I tell my doctor that I just rode 45 miles with my 14-year-old son. He can tell me not to come back for another five to10 years because everything looks great.”

“Proton therapy saved my dear friend’s life, and we are so honored to be a part of this team.”
“My mom had breast cancer and my dad had prostate cancer. They were both treated at Penn and I work at CHOP. This is the team I can represent the best.”

The Abramson Cancer Center Power Stop on mile 10 or mile 88 (on the way back), was sort of a homecoming for the team. Colleagues, friends, and family volunteers were there to support the riders along the route. They offered Reiki massages, food, medical assistance, bike mechanics, personal cheerleaders, and a DJ spinning the tunes! It was their support that kept the riders going to complete the challenge!

Lance Armstrong’s Visit to Penn Medicine

In 2010,  Lance Armstrong visited Penn Medicine to take a tour and meet some of the patients. I had always been indifferent regarding Mr. Armstrong but curious and was happy to take part of the visit.  I saw him in the moment of connecting with other cancer survivors. I was fascinated with his emotional intelligence, more so than his athletic feats.

I believe Lance Armstrong has helped change the way people look at someone with a cancer diagnosis and he has made a “huge difference in the lives of millions of cancer patients.”

I am a committed supporter of LiveSTRONG and its mission. I am consistently inspired by the courage of my LiveSTRONG teammates and I am really looking forward to seeing them again at the 2013 LiveSTRONG Philly Challenge and we invite you to join our 2013 team!

Watch Lance Armstrong’s visit to Penn Medicine in 2010 and see how he interacts with patients at Penn Medicine.

Check out photos from the LiveSTRONG Philly challenge. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

10 Must-know Facts About Breast Cancer

african american woman wearing a breast cancer ribbon
October is breast cancer awareness month, and it is a great time to support breast cancer research, and those women who are breast cancer survivors. It’s also a great time to remember to schedule your yearly mammogram.

Here are some more facts about breast cancer to keep in mind this month. 

  1. One in 8 women will develop breast cancer – or 12% of women.
  2. A gene mutation called BRCA1 and BRCA2 can increase the likelihood of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer. However, most breast cancer cases are sporadic, or have no known genetic cause.
  3. Obesity is a known risk factor for breast cancer. That’s because estrogen is carried in fat cells. The more fat cells that are present, the more estrogen is in the body. Women with high lifetime exposure to estrogen may have increased breast cancer risk.
  4. The mammogram remains the most important screening device in the detection of breast cancer and it probably saves thousands of lives every year.
  5. Immunotherapy, or personalized medicine at Penn uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Clinical trials at Penn for immunotherapy and breast cancer are promising.
  6. Women with cancer in one breast have a 3- to 4-fold increased risk of developing a new cancer in the other breast or in another part of the same breast.
  7. Caucasian women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than are African-American women, but African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer.
  8. Men can also develop breast cancer. About 1 out of 5 men with breast cancer have close male or female relatives with the disease.
  9. Symptoms of breast cancer can include anything from a change in the look or feel of the breast to spontaneous nipple discharge, or a lump. Know the symptoms of breast cancer.
  10. Wear pink proudly! The pink ribbon is an international symbol of breast cancer awareness. The first known use of a pink ribbon in connection with breast cancer awareness was in the fall of 1991, when the Susan G. Komen Foundation handed out pink ribbons to participants in its New York City race for breast cancer survivors.

Learn more about breast cancer treatment at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...