All posts by Albert Mak MD

Discussing Cancer With Children

Explaining what cancer is to a child can seem like a daunting task; cancer can be a very emotional topic for some, and difficult to understand for others. Here, we have outlined a few tips for describing cancer to children depending on their age.

discussing cancer with children

Child Development At Different Ages:

First, it is important to acknowledge how children understand and interpret things according to their age:

  • 3-5: This is a time of verbal development; they are better able to communicate with those around them. It is also a time of increased imaginary play, and children this age may have a hard time distinguishing fantasy versus reality.
  • 5-9: At this age, children become better at forming relationships with people outside of the family. They still, however, want to be the center of attention and oftentimes will sulk, pout, or feel slighted when they are not.
  • 10-14: Now is the time when those outside relationships become even more important, and can have a bigger influence on their behavior and emotions. They are curious, enjoy learning, and have an easier time doing so because they are able move away from concrete thinking and think more abstractly.

 

Taking these developmental attributes into account, you can use them to better explain cancer, doctor’s appointments, treatments, and more to your children.

 

Explaining Cancer To Different Age Groups

These age groups are broken up a little differently, but follow the basic understandings of each age group listed above.

 

3-7:

  • Use simple terms to describe cancer: things like sick or ill, but reassure them that it is not like a cold or flu that is easily passed around.
  • Make sure they aren’t fearful of getting it themselves or concerned that they were in any way the cause of someone getting cancer.
  • On the younger side of this age group there is still a lot of fear that drives their thinking and understanding, so be sure to reassure them that symptoms, processes, hospital care, etc. is normal for something like cancer.
  • Because children over the age of 5 tend to form relationships with people outside of the family, it may be a friend, neighbor, school student, etc. that is struggling with cancer whom the child will ask about.

 

7-12:

  • At this age children will understand a more detailed explanation of cancer, because they have more experience with learning about the body, and being sick themselves.
  • Children this age may seek out information about cancer on their own; encourage them to share what they find with you so that you can discuss it together. This will help them not worry about any information they may find, and allow you to help them understand the healing and treatment processes better.
  • This age group is better able to feel empathy and may be concerned about their friends or family and their pain. Discuss ways you can be of help to those diagnosed with cancer and have your child help too.

 

Teenagers:

  • This age group will understand the details of cancer and will be interested in the effects, both in everyday life and on the body.
    • They will better recognize, without having to see for themselves, how cancer may affect someone’s daily activities.
  • They will better understand the correlation between cancer and its side effects, and how treatments can help/are necessary.
  • They may be concerned about physical appearance — hair loss, weight gain, etc. Help them come up with ways to make these potential side effects okay, and come up with suggestions on how to make their loved ones feel better about them too.

 

No matter the age group you are discussing cancer with, be sure to adhere to the following tips:

  • Be open and encouraging in conversation. Allow them to ask questions and encourage them to discuss their thoughts.
  • Be reassuring and understanding of their feelings and fears.
  • Share your feelings about the situation; let them know that you have thoughts, concerns, and emotions too, since you are a big example to them in their lives.
  • Be educated yourself — make sure you have researched specific kinds of cancer and are prepared to answer as many questions as you can.
  • Discuss schedules and treatments, especially if the person that has been diagnosed with cancer is someone who lives in the same house. Let the child know when that person will be gone and how they might be feeling when they come back.
  • Get help from others — hospital workers, therapists, teachers, friends, family, other cancer patients, and survivors.

 

Describing cancer to a child is never an easy thing to do. But it can be a little bit easier if you understand the different thought processes and developmental stages of a child. Do your research and be calm and helpful rather than overly emotional at the time of discussion.
If you have any other questions about cancer be sure to visit Pasadena CyberKnife for more information.

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Finding Joy in Times of Struggle: Therapeutic Influences for Cancer Patients

cancer patient

Cancer is an ongoing concern for many people. Though a definitive cure continues to elude our efforts, much has been discovered and developed with advanced forms of treatment that have increasing success rates. Yet, there are still emotional battles that many cancer patients must face. Sometimes, it can be hard to see the everyday joys you once experienced, but there is still sunshine and happiness that you can experience and that can uplift your spirits. Here are some therapeutic influences that can help bring more positivity into your life while undergoing cancer treatment.

 

Be Positive

A positive attitude can go a long way. Negative energy can have a damaging effect on your overall state, even when you’re not fighting cancer. Depression can be a byproduct of a cancer diagnosis, so if you find yourself losing hope or having depressed thoughts, then find someone to talk to. Psychiatrists are a great source of helping others fight depression through effective coping techniques and psychotherapy in addition to medication. Even if you do not experience depression, it’s helpful to maintain a positive attitude throughout your treatment. Focus your energy and your thoughts on a bright future beyond cancer. That being said, it’s okay if on occasion you just don’t feel like putting on a happy face. There are days where you just need to give in to your feelings, and that’s okay. Tomorrow is another day.

 

Relax

Stress and anxiety are common symptoms found in those with cancer. The stress of undergoing treatment, life with cancer, and medical bills can weigh heavily on your conscience. Find ways to help you find peace and relaxation. Activities such as yoga or stretching have been known to help others relax and wind down, but what matters is finding something that works for you. Reading, listening to music, watching a show, or just escaping out in nature are effective ways to relax.

 

Stay Healthy

Exercise is extremely therapeutic and it focuses your energy on creating a positive result: a healthier you. Your energy levels will vary depending on your diagnosis and method of treatment, but find a physical activity that creates exertion. You body needs additional strength, so a healthy diet is important as well. Be sure to replenish your body with healthy foods, filled with vitamins and minerals.

 

Get Involved

There are many inspiring stories of people diagnosed with cancer getting involved with organizations that fight cancer or raise awareness and support. Becoming involved with these efforts brings positivity into your life and allows you to be proactive in a righteous cause. You’ll become an inspiration for others while also finding inspirations for yourself. There are plenty of fundraisers, awareness campaigns, and organizations dedicated to fighting cancer and helping those diagnosed. Find one near you and sign up.

 

Get a Dog

A dog’s love is truly unconditional. A dog will support and love you when you need it most. In fact, doctors have conducted studies to see the positive effects a dog can have on cancer patients during treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. These dogs, known as therapy dogs, are able to increase the patient’s emotional well-being. According to the Executive Director of The Good Dog Foundation, Rachel McPherson, “The patients actually came for their chemo and radiation more frequently and it lowered their anxiety and stress.” All thanks to a canine friend to help and distract them.

 

Spiritual Support

Whether you’re religious or not, finding spiritual support can provide an uplifting and positive outlook in times of dire need. Spirituality isn’t necessarily about believing in God, though for many it certainly is; it’s about your beliefs, values, and discovering your place in this world. Some may find faith and solace within the walls of a church or talking with an ecclesiastical leader, while others may connect with the world by immersing themselves in nature or deep meditation. Cancer patients often take a deeper look at their own lives and existence; find a way to embrace your spirituality and you just may find strength you didn’t know you had.

 

Laughing

And then there’s the old adage, “Laughter is the best medicine.” Perhaps “best medicine” is a bit hyperbolic, but laughter is known to have many positive effects on the body. It can increase blood flow and some studies even suggest that laughter can help build up antibodies and boost your immune system.  In maintaining a positive attitude, laughter really is essential. By laughing you’ll provide an escape for your pain, anxieties, and stress. It can even help you sleep better, giving your body the needed rest and energy it needs the following day.

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Supporting Your Partner During Cancer Treatment

How to Support Your Partner During Prostate Cancer Treatment

Prostate cancer treatment supportProstate cancer doesn’t just affect the man diagnosed; the disease’s impact also extends to his partner, children, parents, and friends. As the partner of a man with prostate cancer, it can be hard to know how to respond and what to do to support your other half through his treatment and beyond. The diagnosis itself is terrifying for many partners. Physical and emotional healing after treatment can take a long time, and side effects may linger.

If your partner is diagnosed with prostate cancer, you can offer both practical and emotional support by gathering information, being present for doctor’s appointments, and encouraging your partner to get plenty of rest, eat right, and take good care of himself. You should know what to expect following your partner’s diagnosis. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too.

Give Your Partner Practical Support

One of the most important things you can do as the partner of a man going through or about to begin prostate cancer treatment is to offer practical support. This means accompanying your partner to doctor’s appointments and treatment sessions, as long as he’s amenable to it. Ask questions, make notes, and be an advocate for your partner during his treatment. Often, you’ll pick up on things that your partner may have been too distracted to notice. Your partner may also need help with transportation, scheduling, filing insurance claims, and other mundane tasks related to treatment.

You can also help your partner by communicating with others in his life about his diagnosis. Many men prefer to keep a diagnosis of prostate cancer private, but if your partner wants to reveal his diagnosis and treatment progress to others close to him, he may need you to do the talking. Be prepared to help your partner talk with loved ones about his prostate cancer.

Support during prostate cancer treatmentBe There for Your Partner Emotionally

Prostate cancer and its treatment can leave emotional wounds as well as physical ones. Encourage your partner to discuss his feelings with you, but don’t be pushy about it. Remind him that he’s not less of a man because of prostate cancer, and that it can take some time for him to begin to feel like his old self again.

Know What to Expect

Knowing what to expect after a prostate cancer diagnosis can make it easier for both of you to cope. Depending on the treatment, your partner may face side effects including:

  • Temporary or ongoing erectile dysfunction
  • Low sex drive
  • Weight gain and muscle loss
  • Hot flashes
  • Brittle bones
  • Fatigue
  • Urinary incontinence or bowel problems
  • Infertility

Sometimes prostate cancer treatment can cause cognitive changes, too, including memory problems and trouble concentrating. Radiosurgery treatment through CyberKnife will leave patients with fewer side effects.

Take Care of Yourself

You won’t be able to support your partner if you allow yourself to become emotionally depleted, so take care of yourself, too. In addition to eating right, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep, take time for the hobbies you enjoy and the other people and things you love. Spend time with friends, talking about things other than your partner’s prostate cancer. Set aside time to relax each day.

It’s not easy supporting a partner who’s going through prostate cancer treatment. You can help by handling many of the mundane tasks associated with managing medical care, and by offering your partner a kind ear. Facing prostate cancer takes courage, but the two of you will win out in the end.

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Homes Remedies for Trigeminal Neuralgia

Could Home Remedies Help With Your Trigeminal Neuralgia Pain?

Home remedies for Trigeminal NeuralgiaTrigeminal neuralgia can cause what some sufferers have described as blinding pain in the cheek, jaw, forehead, eye, and teeth on one side of the face. Pain can affect both sides of the face, but this is very rare and pain symptoms will affect only one side of the face at a time. The shooting pains have been likened to an electrical shock and an episode of trigeminal neuralgia pain can last up to two minutes.

Trigeminal neuralgia treatment often involves medications or surgery. Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) can treat trigeminal neuralgia pain in a safe and non-invasive way by damaging the nerve responsible for the pain. It can take several weeks for SBRT to effectively relieve pain and symptoms can recur — although if necessary, SBRT can easily be repeated to achieve a more complete treatment. While you’re waiting for treatment to take full effect, you can try some home remedies to try and reduce trigeminal neuralgia pain by using heat, cold, or pressure.

Apply Heat or Cold to the Painful Area

Many people find relief from trigeminal neuralgia pain by applying heat to the affected area. You can do this locally by pressing a hot water bottle or other hot compress to the painful spot. Heat a beanbag or warm a wet washcloth in the microwave for this purpose. You can also try taking a hot shower or bath. If one is available, sit in a hot sauna.

Cold may also help relieve the pain, although you’ll obviously want to avoid this remedy if you’re one of the many trigeminal neuralgia sufferers for whom cold triggers symptoms. But if you think applying cold to the affected area might help relieve your symptoms until you can get SBRT or while you’re waiting for it to take effect, you can use an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel or pillowcase to numb the painful area. Keep the cold in contact with the affected area for about 30 seconds or until the area begins to feel numb. Some trigeminal neuralgia sufferers find that switching between the hot and cold compresses helps more.

Home remedies for Trigeminal NeuralgiaApply Pressure to the Painful Area

While many people find that a light touch — often as light as a gentle breeze wafting over their skin — can trigger trigeminal neuralgia symptoms, they also find that applying pressure to the area can help relieve symptoms. Use your entire hand to press on the affected area. You may need to apply a reasonable amount of pressure in order to get results.

Know Your Triggers

The more you know about what triggers your trigeminal neuralgia pain, the better equipped you’ll be to avoid those triggers and completely escape painful symptoms more often. Some common triggers include eating, talking, brushing teeth, cold, and light touches to the face. Things you wouldn’t expect can trigger trigeminal neuralgia pain, too. One woman reported that peppermint candy triggered her symptoms. If you can’t figure out what’s causing your pain, it may be helpful to keep a pain diary in which you record key details of your environment and activity in order to look for common threads among different symptom flare-ups.

While home remedies may not be capable of completely curing trigeminal neuralgia symptoms, they can be very useful for people who are waiting for treatment or who still have to make it through the recovery period in which symptoms gradually recede after SBRT. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, you’ll be glad to experience relief from your trigeminal neuralgia pain.

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Smoking & Prostate Cancer

Quit Smoking to Improve Your Prostate Cancer Treatment Outcomes

Smoking during prostate cancer treatmentAccording to the results of a new study, men who smoke during prostate cancer treatment are not only more likely to experience treatment side effects, they’re also more likely to experience a recurrence or even die from prostate cancer.

While men who have never smoked before in their lives run the least risk of experiencing prostate cancer treatment side effects, cancer recurrence, or death, the study found that even men who quit smoking right before beginning cancer treatment enjoyed better treatment outcomes than those who continued smoking throughout treatment.

Smoking Makes Prostate Cancer Treatment Less Effective

The study, performed by researchers from New York City’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and published in the journal BJU International, examined the effects of smoking history among a group of 2,358 patients who received external beam radiotherapy for prostate cancer between 1988 and 2005. 2,156 of the study participants had some kind of smoking history. Researchers divided the patients into four categories: never smokers, current smokers, former smokers, and current smoking status unknown. Even those participants who quit smoking right before beginning prostate cancer treatment were included in the “former smoker” category.

The researchers followed up with the study participants eight years after they received treatment. They found that patients who smoked during the cancer treatment had a 40 percent higher risk of relapse. Those who smoked during treatment were also twice as likely to experience prostate cancer metastasis and to die from prostate cancer, when compared to those who had never smoked.

prostate cancer treatmentPatients who were considered former smokers under the terms of the study also had a slightly elevated risk of cancer recurrence, metastasis, and death, but their risks were somewhat lower than those of patients who smoked throughout cancer treatment. Ten years later, only about 52 percent of patients who smoked throughout treatment had not suffered a recurrence of prostate cancer, while 63 percent of former smokers and 66 percent of never smokers were still in the clear.

While today’s patients can choose from a far wider range of prostate cancer treatment options, external beam radiotherapy remains one of the oldest treatments for the disease. There is no reason to believe that the impact of smoking on the efficacy of other prostate cancer treatments, like stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), would be any different than its impact on the efficacy of external beam radiotherapy. The study authors believe that smoking could contribute to the formation of more aggressive cancer tumors. They also speculate that smoking during cancer treatment could interfere with treatment by lowering oxygen levels within tumor cells, making them less susceptible to the effects of radiation.

In addition to an enhanced risk of cancer recurrence, metastasis, and death, current and former smokers involved in the study also experienced a greater risk of a range of urinary side effects. These side effects included urinary incontinence, urinary toxicity, bladder hemorrhage, and urinary retention.

If you want to improve your chances of a good treatment outcome for prostate cancer, you might want to consider quitting smoking. While researchers don’t yet fully understand the relationship between smoking and prostate cancer, new evidence suggests that smoking during treatment can make treatment less effective. If you’re a smoker who’s already been diagnosed with prostate cancer, it’s not too late — quitting smoking can still make a difference, even if you do it right before you start treatment.

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