Issue Introductions

A Spring to Crush Stigmas

April 2019 Vol 5 No 2
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
Co-Founder, Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators® (AONN+)
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Oncology Navigation & Survivorship®
University Distinguished Service Professor of Breast Cancer
Professor of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Co-Developer, Work Stride: Managing Cancer at Work
Johns Hopkins Healthcare Solutions
Breast cancer survivor

We’ve got a lot to talk about in this issue of CONQUER, so let’s get down to it.

Exactly what should a patient with cancer be eating while undergoing their cancer treatment? An article on nutrition will help you learn what are likely your best food choices. And don’t just eat healthy during treatment; make this a permanent change. Especially if in the past your favorite lunch or dinner was drive-through fast food. Whatever you can do to gain a sense of control is a positive thing—choosing smart foods is something you have control over.

Anal cancer. Here’s a taboo topic rarely discussed in an elevator, or anywhere in public. It doesn’t even get discussed in many households in private. We need to get it “out there”: it is often diagnosed late because of the resistance to discuss it. Page, the patient who wrote this article, has a great sense of humor, which helps us cope when discussing sensitive subjects. So Page, think about this one: “Just don’t sit on it; get it checked!” That’s my contribution to your humorous way of discussing what no doubt was life-altering for you.

Read the moving story of a patient diagnosed with leukemia while visiting his family in the United States. He was blessed to find a cancer center that offered Charity Care for his treatment. He is grateful to this country and the care that saved his life.

Triple-negative breast cancer is becoming more common and it usually occurs in young women. This young patient emphasizes the importance of paying attention to our bodies. She did and is a survivor probably thanks to doing just that. I felt sad when I read her experiences, though. She likely didn’t have a navigator to help her know what to expect in the form of side effects and how to cope with them. No one should be surprised at work by hair falling out in clumps. This illustrates the value of having a navigator for education and support. Furthermore, young women with triple-negative breast cancer should undergo genetic counseling and testing, because they fit the clinical profile for carrying a breast cancer gene mutation. So, if you have this cancer, make sure you are referred to a genetics specialist.

Our seasoned breast cancer nurse navigator Sharon Gentry provides helpful tips in her article on how to gain control over aspects of your life while receiving cancer treatment.

We are approaching bathing suit weather, with lots of TV ads about weight-loss programs. Avoiding or reversing obesity isn’t just for walking down the beach without wearing a tent dress or a large Hawaiian shirt to camouflage your not-so-small figure. Obesity is a primary contributor to about 40% of cancers today. If you are a survivor, you will want to get your weight under control to avoid recurrence, and for family members who are helping to take care of you during treatment, make sure they read this article, too. Preventing cancer is far better than having to treat cancer. Small, consistent changes work best. Nagging never works.

Finally, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in this country. For decades, people got diagnosed, treated, and most then died, because the cancer was caught too late. Today, this can be prevented with a CT scan for people at risk. So why aren’t more people getting lung nodule screening done? I call it “death by stigma.” They are often concerned about being looked down upon, because of the stigma associated with lung cancer and smoking, yet some people who never smoke get it. A CT scan doesn’t hurt. Unlike colonoscopy, it is noninvasive and doesn’t even require the infamous bowel prep. Read this article, and if you meet any of the risk criteria, get the scan. If you have friends who would benefit, pass this article to them. But remember, no nagging.

So enjoy the birds and the spring. Get outside and do some power walking! Take a bag of carrots for a snack. And reflect on this issue of CONQUER. Then do someone a favor and pass it on.

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Last modified: April 26, 2019

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