New Revelations about Chronic Pain May Aid Cancer Patients

Constant Pain and the Brain
Constant Pain and the Brain

Brain scans are revealing new insights into the nature of pain and why some people develop chronic pain after trauma while others recover. According to a recent AARP article, neuroscientists at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago have discovered that:

  • Exposure to constant pain causes the architecture of the brain to change.
  • Increased interaction between two specific areas of the brain, the medial prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens, increases the probability that chronic pain will develop.

It is hoped that brain imagery may eventually lead to new techniques for chronic pain management and relief that might also help cancer patients mitigate the pain of the disease and certain treatment protocols. Until that day, the most effective pain management currently available is a holistic mind-body approach that emphasizes function over pain relief.

Pain medications are still a “first line of defense;” but “at best, people get about a 20 to 30% reduction in pain from opioid pain medications,” pain expert Dr. Richard Rosenquist of the Cleveland Clinic explained to AARP, citing the additional risk of dependence as further reason to look for other solutions to pain management.

“Now I want to know what people would like to do that they can’t do because of their pain. Then we can look for ways to help them manage the pain and do what they want to do,” Dr. Rosenquist told AARP.

The focus on function holds merit for cancer patients who must often find ways to perform everyday tasks despite their pain as they care for themselves and their families. Adopting the view “if it works for you, use it,” Issels cancer treatment specialists recommend that their cancer patients take a holistic approach to managing pain and employ a combination of pain management techniques.

Next time: Techniques for managing cancer pain

Cancer Caregivers Must Also Take Care of Themselves

Care Giver Resting
Care Giver Resting

In focusing their energy and attention on taking care of a spouse or family member with cancer, those providing their loved one with care often fail to look after their own health needs. Battling cancer can be an exhausting and frustrating fight.

The daily struggle against cancer is both physically draining and mentally exhausting for both the cancer patient and family caregivers. Caregivers often feel it is selfish to take time to address their own needs, but family caregivers must take care of themselves in order to care effectively for a loved one with cancer.

To prevent burnout and maintain the energy needed to support the cancer patient, family caregivers must see to their own health needs. The 24/7 nature of cancer care means that family and friends must step up to support cancer caregivers and be willing to step in and provide caregivers with regular breaks for rest, relaxation and recreation away from their care giving duties.

If you’re a caregiver or a member of a cancer patient’s support community, consider these tips for caring for cancer caregivers:

  • Get regular exercise.
  • Practice good nutrition.
  • Manage stress with deep breathing exercises, yoga or mind-body techniques.
  • Plan fun things to look forward to during care giving breaks.
  • Spend time with friends doing things you enjoy.
  • Prepare yourself for what’s to come by educating yourself about cancer, cancer care and cancer treatments.
  • Join online caregiver support groups.
  • Look beyond your family and friends for additional support.  Many community groups, churches and healthcare agencies offer support groups, direct aid and/or resources for cancer patients.

Practicing Sun Safety Critical for Skin Cancer Survivors

Melanoma Prevention
Melanoma Prevention

Surprising results of a new Yale University skin cancer study found that more than 25% of people who had survived malignant melanoma never use sunscreen. An even greater number of skin cancer survivors ignore advice to wear hats, long sleeves and slacks to protect their skin from additional sun damage and possible cancer reoccurrence. Perhaps most shocking was the admission by 2% of those surveyed that they had used a tanning bed after recovery from skin cancer.

On average, skin cancer survivors are more careful about protecting themselves from sun exposure than the general population. According to the study, 32% of cancer survivors always wear sunscreen, nearly twice as many as other adults. However, despite a risk of future melanoma that is 9 times greater than the norm, cancer survivors were as unlikely as their non-cancer peers take other preventive measures. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, melanoma kills 9,000 Americans each year.

University of Texas cancer researcher Mary Tripp told USA Today that it is not unusual for skin cancer survivors to let down their guard:

“When someone is first diagnosed, they are practicing sun protection, but as the years go by, maybe they tend to fall back on their old habits. A lot of melanoma survivors have told me that it is very important for them to maintain a normal outdoor lifestyle.”

If you have survived malignant melanoma, there’s no need to give up the outdoor activities you love; but it is smart to take measures to protect yourself against the return of skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation offers these guidelines:

  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • For everyday use, sunscreens of SPF 15 should offer adequate protection. For extended outdoor activity, choose a water-resistant sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.
  • For best protection, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every 2 hours.

Cancer and Stress

Exercising to Reduce Stress
Exercising to Reduce Stress

Whether you or a loved one has just been diagnosed with cancer or have been living with it for years, the importance of practicing healthy lifestyle choices is important now more than ever.

The Issels Treatment® has a proven track record of more than 50 years of long-term tumor remissions of standard therapy-resistant cancers. Whatever medical treatment you may be undergoing, learning ways to positively deal with stress related to the disease can vastly improve your quality of life.


Mild to moderate exercise (we’re not talking marathons) reduces blood pressure and keeps your heart healthy. The heart is a muscle after all. Walking or swimming for 20 to 30 minutes at least four times a week provides weight-bearing resistance and increases your heart rate. One easy way to stick with your exercise routine? Find a buddy to walk or jog with you.

Eat a Healthy Diet

It’s true. Eating the suggested six servings of fruits and vegetables a day can do wonders for your body. So you don’t feel completely cut off from your favorite foods, allow yourself to have a treat every once in a while. A glass of wine or a cup or frozen yogurt are good choices.

The Mind-Body Connection

Many holistic cancer treatments champion the mind-body connection. Doing activities that stimulate both have a two-for-one effect. Yoga or stretching exercises help regulate breathing while allowing you to focus on positive thoughts. Some experts recommend becoming involved in artistic expression – dancing, painting, writing, singing and the list goes on.

The bottom line, small changes can be the difference between living with joy or staying in fear of cancer.

New Strategies May Fast-Forward Search for Cancer Cure

Man Holding Film Reel
Man Holding Film Reel

Noted Chicago film critic Roger Ebert lost his battle with cancer yesterday after a long and public fight. For years, Ebert and fellow film critic Gene Siskel shared their passion for movies on PBS’ Sneak Preview, achieving cult status with their thumbs-up/thumbs-down review style. Ebert suffered from metastasized thyroid cancer that stole his voice but not his passion for film or life. Only two  days before his death, Roger blogged about the return of his cancer, vowing to continue writing.

Ebert’s fight illustrates one of the most frustrating aspects of searching for a cancer cure. It takes time to develop and approve new cancer treatments, time that cancer patients simply do not have. A new collaborative approach to fighting cancer pioneered by the celebrity-driven Stand Up 2 Cancer is changing the cancer research paradigm. (Click here to read Time magazine’s interesting article The Conspiracy to End Cancer.)

By creating and heavily funding collaborative dream teams that bring together top experts in cancer research, genetics, medical technology, oncology and pharmaceuticals, Stand Up 2 Cancer is encouraging an integrative approach to cancer research and treatment that may fast-forward the development of a cancer cure. Already partnerships between cancer researchers and Big Pharma have significantly shortened the time it takes to turn new research discoveries into drug treatments ready for clinical trail.

For 60 years Issels Integrative Oncology has fostered a collaborative approach to the treatment of cancer, enjoying remarkable success by applying an integrative approach to the development of new cancer vaccines and immunotherapy treatment protocols. Visit our website to find our more.


New Collaborative Research Initiatives Hold Promise for Cancer Cure

Cancer Research
Cancer Research

The provocative headline — How to Cure Cancer — on the cover of Time magazine’s April 1, 2013 issue was as intriguing as reporter Bill Saporito’s featured article, The Conspiracy to End Cancer. Saporito chronicles the radical multi-discipline, multi-institution approach to cancer research and cancer treatment development that is being spearheaded by Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C), a celebrity-funded cancer foundation that is funneling millions of dollars into a new style of cancer research that is not only changing our approach to this multi-faceted family of diseases but could significantly fast-forward efforts to develop a cure for cancer.

The cost of cancer is staggering. Despite progress in cancer prevention, detection and treatment, more than half a million Americans die from cancer every year, according to the National Cancer Institute; and another 1.7 million new cancer cases are diagnosed. Annual medical costs alone top $77 billion, and the cost of lost productivity by patients and family caregivers is more than $124 billion.

Part of the problem with treating cancer is that cancer is not a single disease, but many, possibly hundreds of different diseases. Adding to the complexity is the fact that cancer has no single pattern of attack or behavior, but many. While there are commonalities, there can also be vast differences in the way cancer and cancer treatments affect different individuals. The typically fragmented approach to medical research in which individuals and small teams working independently attack small pieces of the cancer puzzle and then jealously guard their discoveries has not proven effective against the breadth and scope of cancer. Stand Up to Cancer is changing the cancer research paradigm.

To be continued