Open Up: The Truth About Oral Cancer

Author: Rohan Walvekar, MD, Co-Director of ENT Services at UMC

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Oral cancer will be responsible for over 10,000 deaths and will affect over 50,000 people in the United States in 2018.

These numbers may surprise you, because, in general, oral cancers are not thought of as commonly occurring; however, Louisiana is one of the states with highest incidence of oral and pharyngeal cancers in the United States.

What is the rate of these cancers in Louisiana?

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April honors Oral Cancer Awareness, and is a good time to learn about the signs, symptoms and treatment of oral cancer, as well as the importance of early detection.

What are oral cancers and why should we care about these cancers?

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Oral cancers are cancers that affect parts of our mouth such as the gums, tongue or palate. They are most commonly caused by tobacco use and alcohol consumption. There is a new threat called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV-16) that can also cause certain types of oral and oropharyngeal cancers.

These cancers are important because they have a devastating effect on a person’s ability to communicate with the world around them by affecting speech and swallowing, breathing and appearance; treatment, which is most commonly involves surgical removal, may also have an serious impact on these functions that are so vital to us.

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Surgical management is the ideal treatment for oral cancers but comes with the possibility of a disfiguring operation (e.g. removal of jaw bone or tongue affecting appearance or speech) and loss of function.

Early detection of oral cancer plays a vital role improving quality of life and function by limiting extent of surgery and consequently side effects of treatment.

In addition, it’s important to note that early-stage tumors (i.e. tumors detected at an earlier stage of the disease) have better chances of cure (5-year disease-free survival: 60-80 percent) as compared to cancers diagnosed when they are too large or advanced (5-year disease-free survival rates: 30-40 percent).

Unlike other types of cancers that may miss detection until they are too advanced; oral cancers can be diagnosed earlier with inspection and a biopsy – both of which can be easily done during an oral cavity examination by an expert in the clinic or at a cancer-screening event.

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Patients who notice a sore, ulcer or growth in the mouth that has not responded to treatment or a lump in the neck (oral cancers can spread to lymph nodes in the neck) that does not go away either after treatment or spontaneously in 2-3 weeks, should get check by an oral cavity expert such as an ENT surgeon or Head & Neck Cancer Surgeon.

The slogan that the Head Neck Cancer Alliance (OHANCAW) promotes –“All you have to do is open your mouth” is a testament to how a simple cancer screening can save lives and improve outcomes for oral cancer patients who are diagnosed early.

Get screened – promote screening – save lives!

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Click here to learn more about our Cancer Services and future screenings.

To make an appointment with an ENT, visit our website here. 

About Dr. Walvekar

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Rohan R. Walvekar, MD, earned his doctoral degree from the University of Mumbai. After graduating in 1998, he completed a residency in Otolaryngology and Head Neck Surgery at the TN Medical College & BYL Nair Charitable Hospital, Mumbai, India, with triple honors. Subsequently, he completed two head neck surgery fellowships, and trained at at the Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, which is India’s most prestigious cancer institute, catering to over 5000 new head neck cancer registrations a year. After completing an Advanced Head Neck Oncologic Surgery fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh, he became an Assistant Professor in Head Neck Surgery within the Department of Otolaryngology Head Neck Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Medical Center, prior to joining the LSU Health Sciences Center in July 2008. His clinical interests are head neck surgery and salivary endoscopy. His research interests include evaluating prognostic markers and clinical outcomes of head and neck cancer therapy and treatment of salivary gland disorders.

The Link Between Diet, Obesity and Cancer

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A diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and good sources of protein are important for good health, but did you know that what you eat can also affect your risk for cancer?

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The good news is that diet and obesity are things that can be controlled through healthful choices and a greater understanding of how our bodies process certain foods.

The link between cancer and diet is the topic of the UMC Cancer Center’s next Breast Health Lunch Lecture, presented by Adam Riker, MD., F.A.C.S. Dr. Riker is an LSU Health New Orleans surgical oncologist and Oncology Service Line Director at UMC.

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The free lecture takes place from 12 – 1 p.m. in the UMC Conference Center, on the first floor of UMC, 2000 Canal Street. Lunch will be provided, and a Q&A will follow.

During the lecture Dr. Riker will share a wealth of information, including the basics of cancer, how many people develop cancer, and most importantly, why people develop cancer.

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According to the World Cancer Research Fund, one of the biggest risk factors for cancer is being overweight or obese. Eating food that is high in fat or sugar can lead to weight gain, and there is strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of 11 cancers.

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Dr. Riker’s lecture will explore why having too much sugar in our diets is not only dangerous, but potentially deadly, the effects of wheat, flour, gluten and process foods (most of which contain flour and wheat) on our overall health, the effects of dairy consumption and the most common pesticide/herbicide in the U.S. food chain and its impact on the vast majority of food consumed in the U.S.

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In the second half of his lecture, Dr. Riker will drill down on how our body processes food, especially sugar and wheat. Sugar is linked to insulin resistance, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Gluten, a protein in wheat, has been linked to a number of ailments, including inflammation, intestinal disorders and autoimmune disorders.

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He will discuss the dietary guidelines in the food pyramid and affect on childhood and adult obesity.

The Standard American Diet

1970: 2,077 calories

1990: 2,343 calories

2010: 2,590 calories

Additionally, “I’ll focus upon the striking increase in obesity and diabetes (and other health problems) as a result of the U.S diet and then discuss what we can do about it, in order to live a healthy, happy, fulfilled and cancer-free lifestyle,” Dr. Riker said.

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Problematic Pancreatic: What to Know About Pancreatic Cancer

Author: Jennifer Gnerlich, MD, UMC Surgical Oncologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgery at LSU Health New Orleans

More people are being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer now than ever before. Currently, cancer of the pancreas accounts for 7 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States. This year, an estimated 53,670 adults will be diagnosed with this disease, and more than 43,000 of them will die. (Source: American Cancer Society)

November kicks off Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month at UMCNO’s Cancer Center, so our staff is working to get the word out about this disease.

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Here is what you should know:

  • Most people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer between the ages of 55 years old and 85 years old.
  • Men and women are equally affected by pancreatic cancer.
  • The number one risk factor for pancreatic cancer is smoking and tobacco use.
    • Please call the American Lung Association’s Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNGUSA (586-4872) if you need help in quitting tobacco use and smoking, or phone us at UMC at (504) 702-5178. 
  • Individuals with BRCA mutations (associated with breast cancer) have an increased risk of pancreas cancer.

There is NO screening test for this disease. You need to be aware of the possible presenting symptoms of pancreatic cancer, which include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • New onset of pain in the upper abdomen/belly or back pain
  • Indigestion or upset stomach not relieved with Tums or Pepcid
  • Pale, smelly, floating, or light colored stools that may look oily in the toilet
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • New diagnosis of diabetes, especially in people over 50 years old
  • New diagnosis of clots in veins or arteries
  • Pancreatitis

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If you have any of these symptoms, please see your primary care physician or contact the Cancer Center Monday through Friday at (504)702-3697 for an appointment.

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Getting checked is important. Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of 8%, but with appropriate care that survival can be as high as 27%. Treatment will usually include a combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

Just as every person is unique, so is his/her pancreatic cancer. This is why every patient is discussed at a multi-disciplinary tumor board where a panel of experts in fields such as medicine, radiation, surgery, radiology, and pathology can discuss the case and determine the best treatment for that individual.

If you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer or want additional information, please contact the UMCNO Cancer Center as soon as possible.

About Dr. Gnerlich

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Dr. Gnerlich is a board-certified surgical oncologist specializing in upper gastrointestinal cancers in the pancreas, bile ducts, liver, stomach, esophagus and retroperitoneal sarcomas. A fun fact – While Dr. Gnerlich was completing her undergraduate degree, she was scouted to go into professional acting. She loves to run half-marathons, especially at Disney World. Dr. Gnerlich is excited to join the staff at UMC because of the “great team we have here.” She hopes to bring new procedures like HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy) to UMC for patients with certain types of cancer that have spread throughout the abdomen.

To make an appointment with Dr. Gnerlich or one of our cancer specialists, please contact (504)702-3697 or (504) 702-5700.

 

 

Hidden Scar Surgery: It’s No Secret

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Scars on your soul

Scars on your skin;

Some on the outside

Some are within;

Some have a story;

Some are unwritten;

Some you can see

But most are quite hidden.

-EP

Each year, more than 400,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer that requires surgery, and each year, these women carry with them burdens of fear, sometimes hair loss and, most noticeably, surgical scars.

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When considering breast procedures, many are unaware of the number of surgical options that are available: mastectomies, lumpectomies, reconstruction and, now, Hidden Scar Breast Cancer™ Surgery – a minimally invasive approach aimed to help women restore their self-image and begin the emotional healing process.

UMC New Orleans is among the first of hospitals in the Greater New Orleans area to offer this procedure, which is an advanced approach that hides incision scars and minimizes the daily emotional reminder of a breast cancer diagnosis for patients.

Adam I. Riker, MD, FACS, LSU Health New Orleans, breast surgical oncologist at UMC New Orleans, has been recognized as a Hidden Scar trained surgeon.

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 “In many instances, the incisions cannot be seen at all, as it is hidden in the inframammary fold of the breast,” Dr. Riker said, “and in select cases, the nipple can be completely preserved. This technology is exciting because it allows me to truly hide, as best as possible, the incisions that must be made for a particular breast operation.”

Breast cancer can be traditionally removed with a mastectomy procedure (in which all of your breast tissue is removed) or a lumpectomy procedure (in which only part of your breast tissue is removed).

With a Hidden Scar Approach to these procedures, Dr. Riker can place an incision in a location that is hard to see, so that the scar is not visible when your incision heals. As a result, you have little to no visible reminder of the surgery.

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The Hidden Scar approach can be performed for a nipple sparing mastectomy or a lumpectomy procedure. Patients who undergo the Hidden Scar approach do not have a higher risk of cancer recurrence than patients who undergo any other type of technique.

You may qualify for Hidden Scar Breast Cancer Surgery based on the size and location of your tumor, your breast shape, and your breast size.

To learn more about Hidden Scar Breast Cancer Surgery and other Services we offer for patients with cancer, visit www.umcno.org/hiddenscar

Have Your Cake…and Your Hair, Too!

UMC Offers FDA-Cleared DigniCap Scalp Cooling System to Minimize Hair Loss During Chemotherapy

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For patients recently diagnosed with cancer, it often feels like there is much to lose: time, energy, money, perhaps hope. Hair doesn’t have to be among the mix. Because of the DigniCap scalp cooling treatment, cancer patients across the United States are undergoing chemotherapy and seeing less hair loss. Now patients at University Medical Center New Orleans can do the same.

If you’re a patient looking to have your cake, and your hair, too, here’s what you need to know:

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How It Works

The DigniCap scalp cooling treatment is a proven approach to reduce chemotherapy-induced hair loss that has been used successfully by tens of thousands of patients worldwide. The reduced temperature results in a reduced blood flow to the scalp area so that less chemotherapy reaches the hair cells. Hair cells are therefore not exposed to the full dose of chemotherapy and may be able to survive the chemotherapy treatment. In addition, cellular metabolism within the hair cells is slowed down.

As a result, hair is less likely to fall out.

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How It Feels

We sat down with one of our patients, and the term she used was “pain-free.” The DigniCap is designed to comfortably fit patients’ heads and comes in varying sizes. Although it can get a little cold at times, most patients tolerate scalp cooling with DigniCap® scalp cooling system very well because the system cools the cap down gradually from room temperature. The cap temperature never drops below freezing to help make the treatment more comfortable for patients.

Common Side Effects

Side effects, as a result of the DigniCap, are minimal. They include feelings of coldness, headaches, scalp pain and/or light-headedness, which is rare. Your doctor can provide a pain reliever if you develop a headache.

What It Costs

Scalp cooling costs roughly $350-400 per treatment. The number of treatments required is determined by a patient’s physician.

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How You Can Receive Treatment

For more information, or to express your interest in being treated with the DigniCap scalp cooling system, contact the UMCNO Cancer Center at (504)702-3113 or visit www.umcno.org/dignicap.

Mammo Is Ammo: How Early Screening Saved My Life

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Author: Tamira Armwood, Breast Cancer Survivor, University Medical Center New Orleans

I clung to the words like I do to my rosary when I pray: tightly. What was supposed to be a routine mammogram screening at age 40 turned into a quick discovery of a mass on my right breast. Immediate emotions of fear and worry consumed me. But then a moment of relief came: After the biopsy, we determined the mass was benign.

That was July 2014, but the start of my journey against cancer did not begin until six months later.

Fast-forward to January at my follow-up appointment. My radiologist performed another biopsy, but this time, the results were not so favorable. “Stage 2 Breast Cancer,” she said, which means the cancer inside of me was growing, but still contained in the breast and nearby lymph nodes.

Because of the cancer’s aggression, a treatment plan was immediately created.

I can’t remember any thoughts that weren’t concerned with my own disbelief.

I couldn’t have cancer. I have no family history of it! Did she really just say those words? How am I going to tell my daughters? What if I don’t make it?

I prayed for strength, courage, wisdom, hope and support, and the amount of each of these needs I received from my husband and daughters was nearly two-fold. Like me, they had no certainty of what was going to happen. Unlike me, fear was not their focus but, rather, the fight.

When my treatment plan was established, my breast surgeon informed me I would need a lumpectomy performed to remove the lump from my breast. In addition, I would have to experience 18 weeks of chemotherapy treatment plus 33 days of radiation. The information, tests and costs were overwhelming, but then I meditated on Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to give you hope and a good future.”

What this told me was that I was not near my end.

In my diagnosis, there was hope. After my treatment, there would be a good future.

If there is anything this disease has taught me, it is how to embrace the little things in life.

On this journey, I experienced a great degree of setback: hair loss, excessive weight gain, nail discoloration, lymphedema and periods of extreme fatigue. What I gained, however, was far greater. After my diagnosis, I smiled more. I shared more information with family and, even, strangers. I got excited more. I displayed courage more.

In the most unexpected way, I have become more grateful for the little blessings this experience has given me. It has brought my family closer together, mended broken relationships and been a common cause for which we can all show passion and compassion.

If you are someone who has recently been diagnosed with cancer, my advice to you is this:

Know there is hope. Stay the course. Stand in Faith. And never quit.

I didn’t have a family history of breast cancer, but genetic breast cancers only account for about 15%-20% of all breast cancers. That’s why it’s so important to get screened.

Because of this mantra, I preserved through the fight.

Because of my annual mammogram, I became a breast cancer survivor.

Thank you so much for allowing me to share my story with you.

Tamira Armwood

 

For more information about mammograms at UMC, visit http://www.umcno.org/mammograms.

 

 

 

Breast Cancer: Survivorship Begins at Diagnosis

Support Group

Delia Young, RN
Nurse Navigator

UMC Cancer Center

Each year, 1 in 8 women in the United States will hear the devastating news that they have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Cancer is frightening for anyone. For women faced with breast cancer, the diagnosis is wrapped in a tangle of emotions and questions:

How will I get through this? Will it impact my family? Will it affect my relationships? Will I survive?

Steps to Survivorship

Every woman’s breast cancer journey is unique, but this holds true for all:

Survivorship begins at diagnosis.

From the start, it’s important to consider not only the immediate actions and treatments available, but also a complete plan that encompasses the entire breast cancer journey.

In UMC’s Cancer Center, we work to assist our patients with plans of care to help them navigate through treatment, providing a start- and endpoint and a way to see themselves outside of treatment.

One of the vital steps in survivorship is identifying support systems, whether it’s family members or close friends. Cancer treatments are long and exhausting, and many people need help coping with the process. At the UMC Cancer Center, we advise most patients to join a support group. Research indicates that people who belong to a support group are better able to cope with the stress of their disease. These groups can help patents see how people in similar situations are managing their care and experiences. Support groups can also be empowering because patients can assist someone else along their journey.

>> SUPPORT GROUP – Team Survivors: Breast Edition

Breast cancer survivors and their families are invited to join us for UMC’s supportive care program, Team Survivors: Breast Edition, every first Thursday of the month. Every month, we provide the opportunity to learn, share and discuss the different topics that affect breast cancer survivors. Our next group meeting will be on Monday, September 7, from 12-1 p.m. in the UMC Cancer Center Conference Room.

To RSVP, contact me – Delia Young, at (504) 702-3725 or Delia.Young@LCMChealth.org.

Life Beyond Breast Cancer

It doesn’t stop there. Once treatment has been completed, it’s also important that patients learn what to expect next – whether it’s prolonged side effect management post-treatment or overcoming social barriers to get reacclimated with their normal life routines.

Managing emotional, spiritual and physical health is essential. This includes healthy lifestyle promotions through diet, exercise, and mind and body relaxation techniques.

Another essential element is to give patients guidance on who they should follow up with and ensure they are set up with primary care providers for normal health maintenance screenings and surveillance.

All of these things provide a layer of support that helps to make breast cancer a little less scary.

A diagnosis isn’t the end.

There is life beyond this diagnosis and many avenues that lead to survivorship from breast cancer or any cancer.

>> FREE SEMINAR: A UMC Town Hall on Breast Health and Cancer

Please join us on September 16 for a FREE Town Hall on Breast Health & Cancer, taking place from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the UMC Cancer Center. Come to this FREE event to discover the comprehensive services that UMC provides for breast health, meet experts in the field of breast health, learn about the latest diagnostic and treatment options, hear stories of survivorship and gain insights on the role that diet, exercise and nutrition play and much more!

Click here to register.