How Can I Help a Cancer Patient’s Caregiver?

Caregiving comes in many forms: nurturing a child, aiding an elderly parent through his or her final years or serving as a valuable support system to someone grappling with a serious illness. While all types of caregiving come with both their own pressures and rewards, the latter is often the most unknown and least often talked about—yet it can carry with it some of the greatest challenges. Cancer is among the many medical conditions that often necessitate a caregiver stepping in to help—with countless medical appointments, treatments, side effects and an overall major disruption to one’s routine, cancer patients often need all the help they can get. But, caregivers do as well. If you have someone in this role in your life and have wondered, “how can I help a cancer patient’s caregiver?” then this is the best time to ask that question. November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time when those who provided this valuable service are given just a fraction of the recognition they deserve. Apart from thanking the caregivers in your life, this is a good opportunity to also give them a bit more—as resources, knowledge, and support can be a lifesaving help for those who do so much to help others. 3 ways to give back to a cancer patient’s caregiver Introduce them to support groups: The American Cancer Society operates a comprehensive database of support groups for cancer caregivers. Connect them to these valuable resources so they can meet others with similar experiences. Research respite and adult care: Though many don’t realize it, cancer caregivers can and should take a break. Caring for...

New Approaches to Managing Cancer Pain

Pain management for cancer patients is one of the many unfortunate necessities of the disease. Whether it’s from the tumor itself, the treatment or a combination of both, pain is a severe reality for many cancer patients. While there have long been a number of drugs on the market that relieve pain, with the surge in the opioid epidemic, many people are looking for pain-management strategies that don’t involve an addictive medication or even any medication at all. Adding to the issue is the fact that many more people are surviving cancer, and living longer after a diagnosis, which has generated a new demand for pain relief. Fueled by continued research in the area, cancer pain management is a rapidly changing issue, with a number of promising new approaches in development. New Antibody to Reduce Bone Pain Bone pain is a common complaint from those whose cancer has metastasized into the bones, or who had a tumor in the bone to begin with. Prolia was the first drug approved for cancer-related bone pain, and was followed by Fosamax. Now, they may be joined by a new antibody that seeks to block a molecule called nerve growth factor, which signals to the brain that the body is pain. The antibody proved successful in a series of testing with mice and is now in clinical trials with humans. Cannabinoid for Cancer Pain Cannabinoid, a chemical used in marijuana, has also proven promising for its ability to suppress pain. For instance, a study out of the UCLA School of Dentistry found that cannabinoid reduced pain in rats; and because the researchers used...

CALM Therapy: Treating Depression in Cancer Patients

Depression is a common mental health condition affecting millions of Americans — and those who are facing serious health challenges, such as cancer, are at an increased risk of developing depression and related mental-health struggles. Thankfully, there is cancer mental health support available, including popular group therapy sessions, where patients can find vital support from others who are facing similar physical and mental obstacles. A new type of psychotherapy for cancer patients is also proving highly successful. Known as CALM therapy, the technique was recently studied by a team of researchers, who published their findings in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. In their clinical trial, the team found that three to six sessions of CALM therapy — which stands for Managing Cancer and Living Meaningfully — were able to lessen symptoms of depression in those with an advanced form of the disease. The results also suggest that the therapy approach can also stem the development of depression in those with advanced cancer. What is CALM therapy? This approach to psychotherapy for cancer patients involves three to six sessions, lasting between 45 and 60 minutes, over a three- to six-month period. The trial participants who attended the CALM therapy sessions reported less severe symptoms of depression than those who did not participate, and the symptoms continued to decline the longer the patients were attending the sessions. The sessions focus on issues including symptom management, communication with care providers, life changes, spiritual wellbeing and fears about the future. Patients are allowed to bring a caregiver to one or more of the sessions if they would like, and sessions can be led...

Cost of Care for 3 Common Types of Cancer

While a cancer diagnosis of any kind brings with it a wealth of financial worries, not all types of cancer are the same — so the cost of cancer treatment can vary greatly. Costs depend on a number of factors, such as the method of treatment — radiation therapy versus chemotherapy versus surgery, or sometimes a combination of all of these approaches. Costs also impacted by the type of imaging needed, the extent of the medication regimen, length of hospital stays and level of home care required, as well as many other considerations. Despite many differences, the cost of cancer treatment is often very significant, no matter the type of cancer, which is why it’s important for patients to have an idea of total costs before starting treatment, so they can be prepared and also explore all of the options for financial assistance for cancer patients. Here are some of the projected costs for treatment of the most common forms of cancer: Breast Cancer  NCI predicts women diagnosed with breast cancer will pay a mean of $23,078 in the first year after diagnosis, followed by annual costs of $2,207. If the diagnosis ends up coming within the patient’s last year of life, the cost is a staggering $62,856. Prostate Cancer  For men diagnosed with prostate cancer, NCI estimates they will pay $19,710 for the cost of cancer treatment in the initial year, followed by annual costs of $3,201. If it is a late-stage diagnosis and the patient dies that year, the projected cost of care is $62,242. Lung Cancer  Lung cancer is among the more costly types of cancer....

How to Manage Neuropathic Pain during Cancer Treatment

Side effects of cancer treatment are varied, depending on the type of therapy, the individual diagnosis, and the person’s body; however, it’s fair to say most cancer patients will have to deal with some unfortunate side effects. The most known effects of chemotherapy are hair loss and nausea, but this treatment and others can cause a host of other negative physical impacts. Neuropathic cancer pain is one phenomenon associated with a number of chemo drugs. Neuropathy, which occurs after damage to the peripheral nerves, may present as numbness, tingling and burning in the hands and feet, numbness around the mouth, loss of sensation, constipation, physical disorientation, and weakness. Patients who have previously been treated with chemotherapy and those who have been diagnosed with diabetes, alcoholism or malnutrition are all at higher risk for neuropathic cancer pain. While each patient’s case is different, according to Healthline, there are a number of home remedies for neuropathic pain that may provide some relief, such as: Exercise: Regular exercise, to the extent that is safe and comfortable for patients, promotes proper blood flow, can reduce blood pressure and slow nerve damage. Warm bath: Warm water can help increase blood flow, which may decrease the symptoms of neuropathy. Essential oils: Chamomile and lavender are especially known to decrease inflammation and promote circulation. Meditation: Already used by many cancer patients, meditation can be particularly beneficial for helping patients to learn to overcome neuropathic cancer pain. Acupuncture: Stimulating pressure points can trigger the body to release chemicals that help it manage pain. Vitamins: Vitamin B, either in food or as a pill, is especially helpful for...

Better Skincare During Cancer Treatment

Looking your best can have you really feeling your best — and that’s particularly important for cancer patients. We all know how satisfying it is when our skin is smooth, our nails buffed and polished, and our hair perfectly styled but for those undergoing treatment for cancer, finding that fulfillment can be especially hard. Many patients encounter challenges and changes to skincare during chemo and other therapies to treat cancer. As the treatments attack and kill cancer cells, they are also affecting skin cells, the body’s first and most visible line of defense against the outside world. Rashes, dry and brittle nails, and itching skin are all common impacts on skincare during cancer treatments, along with the more well-known side effect of hair loss in chemo patients. In a way, changing skin health can be a good thing, as it signifies cellular changes, suggesting a treatment is heading in the right direction; however, for patients who are already battling serious side effects, disruptions to their lives and financial stress, having another thing to worry about will seem like anything but positive news. And while effects on skin health may seem a nuisance in the grand scheme of obstacles that cancer patients are facing, dry, cracked skin can be extremely painful as well as put patients at further risk of infection, meaning it’s important that they take skincare during cancer treatments seriously. There are ways that patients can promote skin health — before, during and after treatment. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center advises patients to begin a skincare regimen about one week before undergoing chemotherapy. The facility suggests using fragrance-free products, such...