Patient Care

10 facts about brain tumors that you might not know

May 22, 2015 | by
brain tumor awareness

May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month. Help spread awareness of this disease by sharing these facts with family and friends.

Doctors often recommend preventive screenings for several cancers, based on hereditary or genetic factors, but brain tumors aren’t one of them.

Primary brain tumors, which originate in the brain rather than spreading from another location, seem to develop at random, and doctors have little insight into who might develop one. Further, such tumors don’t even have obvious symptoms until the disease is already advanced.

In fact, most people know little about brain tumors. So here we shed some light on, and raise awareness of, a disease that is rarely discussed, but should be. » Continue Reading

The Health Disparities Movement: Looking back, looking ahead

May 21, 2015 | by

“Of all forms of inequality, injustice in the health care system is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Health Disparities movement

CCARE helps underserved populations learn more, live healthier and receive better care.

By the time the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke those words in Chicago in 1966, the Civil Rights Act had been passed, the Voting Rights Act was the law of the land and the March on Washington was a 3-year-old memory. Yet King clearly recognized his work was far from complete. He knew he needed to advocate for what’s been called “America’s forgotten civil right.”

At about the same time, a group of psychologists gathered at the Swampscott Conference in Boston, where they began to shift their thinking from individual practice to the still-new realm of community psychology. It wasn’t enough, they realized, to treat a single patient when his or her community may be in crisis. A broader view was needed, one that examined social justice, diversity, empowerment, citizen participation … and yes, prevention and health promotion.

» Continue Reading

Supportive care innovator Matthew Loscalzo on City of Hope: ‘We’re unique’

May 20, 2015 | by

Matthew Loscalzo, administrative director of the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center and executive director of City of Hope’s Department of Supportive Care Medicine.

Eight years ago, Matthew Loscalzo surprised himself by accepting the offer to become City of Hope’s administrative director of the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center and executive director of the Department of Supportive Care Medicine. At the time, he was administrative director of the Science of Caring Department he had founded at UC San Diego, and he loved it. He thought it would be his last professional gig.

But City of Hope made him the proverbial offer he couldn’t refuse. “It took a lot of chutzpah for them to have this vision,” Loscalzo said in a New York accent as thick as cream cheese. Armed with best-in-show credentials, he directed the organization of a department in a way no other cancer center had dared to conjure.

Loscalzo’s success in establishing and sustaining the department is only the latest of his remarkable achievements, which have been recognized recently with two prestigious awards. In October, he received the Noemi Fisman Award for Lifetime Clinical Excellence from the International Psycho-Oncology Society. This year, he received the Holland Distinguished Leadership Award from the American Psychosocial Oncology Society.

“I get recognition because my team is smarter than I am,” Loscalzo, L.C.S.W., was quick to acknowledge. “I work with a bunch of people who are fantastic.” » Continue Reading

‘Chemo brain’ catches many patients unaware; new program can help

May 19, 2015 | by
chemo brain and cancer

Few patients are prepared for the cognitive side effects of cancer treatment, known as “chemo brain.” A new City of Hope program is helping solve that problem.

The mental fog that patients can experience after undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer has a name: “chemo brain.”

“Many patients report hearing or reading about chemotherapy-related cognitive deficits, but few are actually prepared to deal with these changes,” said Celina Lemon, M.A., an occupational therapy doctoral resident in the Department of Rehabilitation Services.

With Lemon’s guidance and the support of the Department of Rehabilitation Services, occupational therapists at City of Hope implemented a program over the past year to help patients cope with the cognitive dysfunction that can occur during or after cancer treatment.

Nearly 200 patients have benefited so far.

The “chemo brain” program initially targeted those who must undergo an “autologous” stem cell transplant, which uses a patient’s own bone marrow. Before such a transplant, a patient’s immune system is typically suppressed by high-intensity chemotherapy, which has been known to contribute to cognitive decline. Since then, the program has expanded to any patient who qualifies for cognitive therapy after being assessed.

» Continue Reading

Meet our doctors: Surgical oncologist Hans Schoellhammer on skin cancer

May 17, 2015 | by

In the U.S., there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate and lung, according to the American Cancer Society. Each year, 5 million people are treated for skin cancer. Here, Hans Schoellhammer, M.D., assistant clinical professor at City of Hope | Antelope Valley community practice site, shares his tips on skin cancer prevention, plus information on new skin cancer treatments.

Surgical Oncologist Hans Schoellhammer

Hans Schoellhammer of City of Hope | Antelope Valley discusses skin cancer treatments and awareness.

What are the latest treatments, advancements and research involving skin cancer, specifically melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer?

This is a very exciting time in melanoma research and treatment. Surgery to remove the primary melanoma and to stage nearby lymph nodes with a sentinel lymph node biopsy is still the main treatment, but the Food and Drug Administration has recently approved a number of new medications. These drugs help treat melanoma that is too locally advanced to be removed by surgery or that has metastasized to other parts of the body.

Some of these new medications, such as ipilimumab or nivolumab, allow our own body’s immune system cells to be more active, helping them attack and destroy melanoma cells. Other medications, such as vemurafenib, are targeted therapies that affect melanoma cells that have specific mutations, again leading to melanoma regression and increased overall survival. » Continue Reading

Why an annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion? It inspires us

May 15, 2015 | by

For almost four decades, blood cancer survivors who received bone marrow, or stem cell, transplants have returned to City of Hope to celebrate life, second chances and science. The first reunion, in 1976, was a small affair: spaghetti for a single patient, his brother who served as his donor and those who took care of him, including Stephen Forman, M.D., Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation.

bone marrow transplant

Stephen Forman addresses patients and media on May 1, 2015, at the 39th annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion at City of Hope.

On May 1, 39 years after that first spaghetti dinner, the reunion brought 4,500 patients and their loved ones to City of Hope. Next year, the event will mark its 40th anniversary. Here, Forman reflects on the annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion, and why the long-running event is one of the highlights for the City of Hope community each year.

What’s the importance of the BMT Reunion?

The reunion is the highlight of our program as it emphasizes what research and exceptional nursing and physician care have accomplished to save the lives of patients who otherwise would have succumbed to their disease.

It’s a moment when we pause and recognize both what has been accomplished, but also the challenges ahead that remain. It emphasizes we are all connected to each other and the many joys in life that a patient is able to experience once they have been cured by their transplant.

We do the reunion mainly for the patients and their families, but in truth, we also do it for ourselves as it remains an inspiring event that we carry in our memory throughout the year, looking forward to each patient we care for joining us for next year’s reunion. » Continue Reading

Chemotherapy side effects: Breast cancer patient shares 6 coping tips

May 14, 2015 | by

Chemotherapy is an often-essential component of cancer treatment, attacking cells that divide quickly and helping stop cancer’s advance. But the very characteristics that make chemotherapy effective against cancer also can make it toxic to healthy cells, leading to side effects such as hair loss, nausea, loss of appetite, dry mouth and fatigue.

coping with chemotherapy

Tip 1 for coping with chemotherapy side effects: Take one day at a time.

Each patient devises his or her own ways of coping with such side effects. Here, former City of Hope breast cancer patient Argelia Villalvazo, 45, shares her tips. Now in remission, she made it through four rounds of chemotherapy by following this advice:

1. Take one day at a time.

Villalvazo acknowledges that few things can ameliorate the side effects of chemotherapy. That said, however, she always kept a positive attitude, taking one day at a time. “In my case, I had to take four chemo sessions, so I would tell myself: ‘One down, three to go,’ and so on. It helped keep the goal close at hand, and I would constantly remind myself that I could do it.” » Continue Reading

At City of Hope, patients are partners in transforming care

May 13, 2015 | by

When you want to understand how to enhance the patient experience, go straight to the source: The patients.

Since its establishment in 2008, City of Hope’s Patient and Family Advisory Council has helped improve the experience of patients and their families throughout the institution. El Concilio, the Spanish-speaking advisory council, has similarly helped improve services for Hispanic patients and caregivers. Zelia de Sousa, council chair (shown above)

Since its establishment in 2008, City of Hope’s Patient and Family Advisory Council has helped improve the experience of patients and their families throughout the institution.  Zelia de Sousa, council chair (shown above)

Patients and their families offer unique perspectives on care and services and can provide valuable insights about what is working well and what is not. That’s why City of Hope turns to them for advice.

Since its establishment in 2008, City of Hope’s Patient and Family Advisory Council has helped improve the experience of patients and their families throughout the institution. El Concilio, the Spanish-speaking advisory council, has similarly helped improve services for Hispanic patients and caregivers.

In the last six months, the Advisory Council has partnered with the director of security to add parking spaces and way-finding signage to the main campus in Duarte, California; collaborated with Volunteer Services to increase volunteer support and snacks in patient infusion areas; and advocated for expanded after-hour food options for families accompanying patients for treatment. El Concilio created maps for Spanish-speaking patients and their families and were integral in the development of City of Hope’s Spanish website.

» Continue Reading

Protect your family from the sun: 5 tips from a skin cancer expert

May 12, 2015 | by
children and skin cancer risk

Skin cancer expert Jae Jung, assistant professor in the Division of Plastic Surgery at City of Hope, shares her own tips on how to protect children from the sun.

Attention, parents! Only a few serious sunburns can increase a child’s ultimate risk of skin cancer. Further, some studies suggest that ultraviolet (UV) exposure before the age of 10 is the most important factor for melanoma risk.

Here skin cancer expert Jae Jung, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Plastic Surgery at City of Hope, shares her own tips on how to protect children from the sun – without putting a damper on a normal, fun childhood.

1. Keep infants out of the sun, and dress them in sun-protective clothing.

“For small babies 6  months and younger, I favor protective clothing and sun avoidance,” Jung said. For small children, Jung recommends physical sun blocks containing zinc and titanium, and sensitive skin formulas, which have minimal chemical ingredients.

2. Set a timer to help remind you to reapply sunscreen when spending time outdoors.

“Everyone is usually good about putting sunscreen on before going out, but it needs to be applied every 60 to 90 minutes, which is hard when kids are running around having fun,” Jung said. “I tell patients to set a timer to help them to remember to reapply.”

» Continue Reading

Barrett’s esophagus: A treatable step on the path to esophageal cancer

May 11, 2015 | by

Esophagheal cancer may not be on many people’s radar, but heartburn probably is. The latter can ultimately lead to the former.

Coffee and peppermint can lead to heartburn.

If the very thought of coffee and peppermint  makes your chest ache, you may to need to reassess your diet and lifestyle. These two, along with a host of other foods, can boost the likelihood of heartburn. Chronic heartburn can lead to Barrett’s esophagus, which can in turn lead to esophageal cancer. Treatment to stop the progression may be warranted.

More formally referred to as gastroesophageal reflux, heartburn occurs when stomach content makes its way back up into the esophagus, causing stomach acid to come into contact with the lining of the esophagus.

Many people experience heartburn every now and then, but for some people – especially those who are overweight, pregnant, taking certain medications or regularly exposed to smoke – the condition becomes a regular, even chronic, occurrence. Then, the condition becomes known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). That’s the condition that can begin a progressive inflammation that ultimately becomes cancer. » Continue Reading