where the tree of knowledge meets the field of study

Common Ground

May 9, 2018

Learning to sail your own ship

Author Anthony J. D’Angelo wrote, “In your thirst for knowledge, be sure not to drown in all the information.” No doubt cancer patients know this feeling all too well. Where exactly is that safe harbor between too much information and not enough?

To understand patients’ health information needs, researchers conducted narrative interviews with 127 people with breast, prostate or colorectal cancer and published their findings in BMJ Open. They discovered that in addition to providing patients with knowledge, information seeking gave them a much-needed sense of control. With the necessary information, patients felt less fearful and more confident about their treat...

April 26, 2018

It takes courage to work with uncomfortable feelings

(The second in a two-post blog series)

Fear, joy, anger, surprise, shame. Each emotion in this list is important and necessary when it comes to the human experience. There is no such thing as a good or bad emotion. Each serves a purpose. Yet frequently, we tend to ignore, deny or avoid emotions that cause discomfort. When you become aware of a difficult emotion, rather than dwelling on or avoiding it, consider these steps, which may help you to become more skilled at processing and regulating the emotion in a beneficial way:

  • Sit with the emotion and feel it fully.

  • Don’t judge or label the emotion.

  • Let the emotion wash through...

April 4, 2018

Pain, pain, go away 

Only 50% of cancer patients experience effective pain management. When traditional medicine alone can’t control your patients’ pain, you might consider a complementary therapy.

Researchers investigated the effectiveness of Chinese medicine warm compress (CMWC) on relieving cancer-related pain. They randomly assigned 62 patients with a malignant tumor and cancer-related pain to receive appropriate drug therapy based on the World Health Organization 3-step ladder for cancer pain relief. Doctors also gave the treatment group CMWC on back meridians and published their results in Medicine.

Patients experienced mild, moderate, and severe pain (n=19, 22, and 21, respectively) in...

March 22, 2018

Facing Difficult Emotions: Do You Stuff, Flee or Flip Out?

(The first in a two-post blog series)

What’s your go-to strategy when you’re feeling angry, sad, hurt, or afraid? Maybe you stuff these emotions down deep so they rarely surface. Perhaps you wolf them down with a supersize order of fries, or kill a few beers. Maybe you run, literally wearing down the tread on your shoes to escape. How about a Netflix™ binge, or gaming marathon?

When you’re living with cancer, you’ll probably spin through a wheel of emotions rivaling any amusement park ride. (Round and round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows!) During times of stress, some emotions (especially the more challenging ones)...

March 7, 2018

When cancer gets your patients down, who are they gonna call?

For busting cancer-related stress and anxiety, researchers examined the effectiveness of various eHealth applications.

Researchers recruited cancer-affected women from social media, patient internet platforms, and patient networks and selected 716 participants. They asked patients about their needs and wishes regarding psycho-oncological support and published their findings in JMIR Cancer. As the study authors noted, “psycho-oncological interventions must address specific needs and demands of cancer-affected patients to sustainably improve their well-being.”

Women preferred to receive psycho-oncological eHealth interventions from w...

February 23, 2018

Learn to manage thoughts to manage your stress

Living with stress is part of the human experience. It’s how we feel: “I’m so stressed out.”  It’s an outside force: “The stress is so intense.” It’s something we do: “I’m stressing about it.”

Your body reacts to stress both physically and emotionally. You can experience stress from your external environment (a powerful tornado, loud noise from a busy street, which interferes with sleep), your internal body (infections, recovering from surgery, injury), and your thoughts (emotional and psychological stress).

Take for example, the additional perceived stress of your own cancer experience. While your illness or its side effects may be stressing y...

February 7, 2018

Grappling with PTSD after a cancer diagnosis

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is no longer a term only familiar to health care professionals; it has become a fixture in popular culture. Sadly, the disorder has been sensationalized frequently for dramatic effect and the term continues to be over- and incorrectly used. There is still much to be learned about PTSD—especially among cancer patients.

In a recent study, researchers aimed to assess the predictors and course of PTSD in adult patients with cancer. Published in Cancer, the study was unique in several ways. It was the first cohort in the South-East Asia region, patients were evaluated using gold-standard clinical interviews and the...

January 24, 2018

(The second in a two-post series, Taking Control of Life With Cancer)

Since being diagnosed, do you feel as though someone else is in the driver’s seat?

Consider these ways you can take hold of the steering wheel while living with cancer:

  • Work with the present moment, rather than against it. Care for your mind and body as they are right now. At this moment, what can you do to bring yourself peace? Right now, what can you to help your body heal? Take a nap. Indulge in a hot bath. Grab a beer and sit on the front porch. Kick back to your favorite music. Treat your taste buds to some soul food.

  • Try to maintain as normal a routine as possible.

  • Carry a small notebook with you and mak...

January 17, 2018

Talk or knead it out, chill or work out: All can help to reduce fatigue

Whether it's talk or massage therapy, relaxation, yoga, aerobic training, or drugs, patients try many interventions to cope with cancer-related fatigue. A recent meta-analysis compared hundreds of studies to find the best nonpharmaceutical means to manage this common and challenging symptom.

Researchers compared 245 studies to evaluate which nonpharmaceutical interventions were most effective in reducing cancer-related fatigue. Relaxation therapy was effective during cancer treatment, but not as effective after treatment. Yoga was effective both during and after treatment, as were aerobic, resistance and combined aerobic...

January 10, 2018

Lean on me when you're not strong

Bill Withers had it right when he sang, “We all need somebody to lean on.” But can we assume patients with a strong social group at cancer diagnosis still have the support they need to carry on a year or two after surgery?

A total of 857 patients with colorectal cancer participated in the CREW cohort study, published in Psycho-Oncology. At baseline, 3, 9, 15, and 24 months postsurgery, researchers assessed social support and health-related quality of life. From baseline to 2 years, almost a third of patients felt their social support had declined and 8% reported very low levels of support. As a result, these patients experienced poor generic health and QoL,...

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