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The CTCA blog

Unraveling the mystery of radiation therapy


The confusion and mystery that often surrounds radiation therapy has led to a number of myths and misconceptions. Some cancer patients, for example, mistakenly believe that radiation is painful or that it may make them radioactive, instilling fear or hesitation about undergoing the treatment. “Radiation may be scary to some patients,” says Dr. Marnee Spierer, Radiation Oncologist at our hospital near Phoenix. “They don’t understand what it is.

Busting myths: 7 common chemotherapy misconceptions


If you think you know all about chemotherapy, you may be surprised to hear that it no longer automatically causes severe nausea and vomiting. In fact, medical advances over the years have helped lessen chemotherapy’s impact on the body in a number of ways. “Chemotherapy has a very bad rap,” says Dr. Dennis Citrin, a Medical Oncologist at our hospital near Chicago. “While the cancer treatment itself has evolved for the better over the past few decades, its public perception hasn’t quite caught up. Educating patients about the facts is such an important piece of what we do every day.”

What are the signs of breast cancer?


If your tire goes flat, a warning sign may appear on the dashboard. If your smartphone battery is low, it may send you an alert. The human body has a similar alarm system. From hives and rashes to pains, fever and vomiting, your body has its own way of letting you know something’s wrong. Some signs are more subtle than others. Breast cancer is one disease that often causes a variety of more obvious signs and symptoms that may alert you to a potential concern to share with your doctor.

Study: Bad cell copies lead to most cancers


If you’ve ever relied on a copy machine, you know what happens when it goes on the fritz. Whether it's low on toner, has a paper jam or turns your original into something resembling an accordion, the results can ruin your work product. On a much more consequential scale, similar breakdowns occur in the human body, which is responsible for churning out billions of replicas of new cells every day.

Managing menopause and more with gynecologic cancer


With more and more gynecologic cancer patients living longer, cancer experts are putting an increasing focus on improving patients’ quality of life. For many, that means managing hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and other bodily changes most women don’t experience until later in life. That’s because for many women, even those in their 20s and 30s, gynecologic cancer treatments often cause a number of side effects—including symptoms of menopause.

What does a BRCA gene mutation mean for men?


With all the awareness around breast cancer these days, lots of attention has been focused on the risks posed by BRCA gene mutations. But many people mistakenly believe that BRCA is only a concern for women, even though men are just as likely as women to have a BRCA mutation. “Because men have a much lower risk than women of developing cancer due to a BRCA mutation, they are less likely to be tested for the mutation,” says Melanie Corbman, Genetic Counselor at our hospital in Philadelphia.

What's the Difference? B-cells and T-cells

Alan Tan, MD

When the body is invaded by bacteria, a virus or parasites, an immune alarm goes off, setting off a chain reaction of cellular activity in the immune system. Macrophages or other innate immune cells, such as basophils, dendritic cells or neutrophils, may be deployed to help attack the invading pathogen. Those cells often do the job, and the invader is destroyed. But sometimes, when the body needs a more sophisticated attack, it turns to its T-cells and B-cells.

Hormone therapy's role in cancer care


Hormone therapy in cancer treatment has undergone myriad advances since its 19th-century debut, when doctors found that removing ovaries had positive impacts on patients with advanced breast cancer. Today, blocking hormones or reducing their levels to stop them from feeding cancer cells is standard of care in treating several types of cancer. But what hormone therapy actually entails and how it works to slow or shrink cancer growth is still a mystery to many patients.

Is it safe to treat breast cancer during pregnancy?

Dennis Citrin, MB, PhD

Although not common, one in 3,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy, according to National Cancer Institute estimates. During pregnancy, a woman is already going through a lot of hormonal, emotional and physical changes. Adding a cancer diagnosis to the mix can cause fear and uncertainty for the future and the health of the baby. However, in most cases, it is safe to treat a mother for breast cancer when she is with child.