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3 days ago · Music Facilitates Healing in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_723745729Article contributed by Erin Haefner

Music is a universal and beautiful thing. Some use music as background noise on their morning commute, some like to use it as a motivational tool while they exercise, and some study it, wanting to learn how it works. Music can also be used as a healing tool because it connects us with our emotions, and helps us reduce the stress of everyday life.

But how can music help those with cancer? Listening and/or playing music can be calming and relaxing. Music helps us express and communicate our emotions in a safe way to help us find peace, comfort, and closure. Specifically with cancer, it can help reduce anxiety. In my personal experience, I tend to be stressed a lot of the time. However, whenever I listen to one of my favorite pieces of music, I realize that what I need in moments of high stress and anxiety was to slow my mind down, and purely listen to the music being made before me.

Here are some ideas on how to use music as a coping mechanism:

  • Listen to a favorite song and think about why it means so much to you.
  • Watch a video online of an instrument you have always wanted to learn more about.
  • Check out some events put on by Mayo’s Center for Humanities in Medicine.
  • Play an instrument or bang on a drum, this will create a sense of control, as the player controls tempo, sound, and mood through their playing.
  • Ask your physician or primary care provider about Mayo’s Arts at the Bedside

On a personal note, music can also help find closure and peace after a death. Music has always been a very special part of my life. I have always been drawn to the way it has a huge emotional grip on me, and moves me to tears in many ways. I knew I was meant to be a music major when I went to my college’s Christmas concert when I was in high school. Each year, Luther College puts on a program called “Christmas at Luther.” In this concert, all five choirs perform, as well as the Symphony Orchestra. In addition to each ensemble performing two pieces, everyone participates in a few “mass pieces,” which are pieces everyone sings and plays on. The second to last mass piece of the concert is always a candle-lit piece. The only light in the entire auditorium is each choir member holding a candle. When I was a senior in high school, I went to the Christmas at Luther concert that year. The candle-lit piece was “The First Nowell,” which also happens to be my favorite Christmas carol. I am not sure whether or not it was the wonderful arrangement of the piece or the candles everyone was holding, but I couldn’t stop crying. I was so moved by the singing and the orchestra that I was a mess of tears. It was in that moment that I decided to become a music major, and study at Luther College. This past year’s Christmas at Luther, my choir sang a piece called “In This Place.” (Listen to the composer’s recording here). The lyrics to this piece are,

“In this place, I have been made new. I have been gifted jewels beyond price. In this place, greater dreams are given. I am made everlasting. In this place, I am light. In this place, in your sight. I am made everlasting. In your love, starting and ending. I will be carried softly to heaven. In your love, I am given beauty. I am made everlasting. You give the strength for me to hold. You are the hope that shines like gold. In this place, I am new. In your love, I am true. I will fly with angels to this place and be made everlasting. In this place, I have been made new.”

This piece is about death and dying. The lyrics embody a spirit going to a better place, where they can live again and thrive. The first time I listened to my choir’s rendition of the piece was the day we had to put my dog to sleep. By listening to this piece over and over again, letting the tears come and the emotion fall out of me, I was able to find closure and peace after a death.

Here is a good album of pieces to listen to about finding comfort and peace.  What songs bring you comfort and peace this time of year?

Talk with others about how music is healing for you in the Music Helps Me discussion on Mayo Clinic Connect.

Tue, Nov 19 2:15pm · Don't Push Yourself to the Point of Burnout in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_1385815337Article contributed by oncologist Edward T. Creagan, M. D.

Resiliency, stress, and burnout have become common topics in the corporate community.

Resiliency means that bounce back factor, that inner strength to overcome adversity, suit up, and get back into the arena despite the setbacks. Burnout has really reached epidemic proportions. So what do you do about this?

Everyone recognizes the importance of reasonable time management, which is actually self-management. But let me share with you the rest of the story.

Several close family acquaintances are commercial airline pilots. As part of mandatory training, at least once a year they go to corporate headquarters to be updated on technical aspects of navigation and also on the psychology and physiology of travel.

They shared compelling data that to be cognitively restored, you may well need one day of rest and recuperation for every time zone of travel. This isn’t science fiction. This is real.

Professional opportunities and obligations afforded me the opportunity to travel to Europe recently for an intense two-week tour involving five major cities and multiple contacts with professional and civilian colleagues. It was rewarding yet emotionally draining, especially exposure to some aspects of the Holocaust.

The flight from Western Europe back to Minnesota was approximately eight hours with travel through several time zones. That means approximately seven days to get back on target. Instead, you push the envelope and pretend you’re not tired. What can you do?

  • Set one day of recovery for every time zone means exactly that. If you’re not up to speed, you make mistakes. For example, I typically put my car keys in my valise. While preparing for a presentation and walking to the venue, I didn’t do this. Guess what? When I got to my car that evening, the keys had disappeared. I hadn’t followed my routine. Later, I found the keys.
  • You’re creatures of habit. You have a normal circadian rhythm, and you need to be aware of time zone changes.
  • You need to recognize that if you’re not physically fit prior to such trips, your recovery may be protracted and extended.

So the bottom line is clear: You’re mortal. You can only push yourself so far before your ability to function at a high level becomes impaired.

Whether you are changing time zones or just under pressure and may be approaching burnout, what do you do prevent burnout?

Chat with others on ways you are managing cancer symptoms in the Cancer: Managing Symptoms group.

Mon, Nov 4 1:38pm · Acupuncture Information in Cancer Education Center


Article contributed by Mayo Clinic acupuncturist Sara Bublitz, L.Ac

What can acupuncture treat?

Acupuncture can treat a myriad of conditions.  It not only treats physical symptoms but helps with mental and emotional support as well. The World Health Organization [Who] published an official report listing 31 symptoms, conditions and diseases that have been shown, in controlled trials, to be effectively  treated with acupuncture. The top conditions treated with acupuncture on the WHO list are:

-Chemotherapy-induced and postoperative nausea and vomiting

-Dental pain

-Headaches, including tension headaches and migraines

-Labor pain and pregnancy support

-Low back pain

-Neck pain


-Menstrual cramps

-Respiratory disorders, such as allergic rhinitis

How does acupuncture work?

While there is not one mechanism of action for how acupuncture works, studies show that it releases endorphins [the body’s natural pain killers], reduces inflammation, increased circulation and relieves pain.  It also relaxes the central nervous system and helps relax the fight or flight response within the body [also called the sympathetic nervous system] and allows the body to go into rest and digest stage [the parasympathetic nervous system response] which may help patients with anxiety, depression and insomnia by allowing for a sense of calm.   Recent studies show that acupuncture is also working on the connective tissues, nerve bundles, muscles and fascia to relieve musculoskeletal conditions.


The risks of acupuncture are very low if you have a competent, licensed acupuncture practitioner using sterile needles.  Acupuncture is virtually painless. Common side effects may include soreness and minor bleeding or bruising where the needles were inserted. Single-use, disposable needles are now the practice standard, so the risk of infection is minimal.

Choosing a practitioner

If you’re considering acupuncture, take the same steps you would to choose a doctor:

-Ask people you trust for recommendations.

-Check the practitioner’s training and credentials. Most states require that non-physician acupuncturists pass an exam conducted by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Licensed acupuncturists have at least three to four years of training with at least 2,500 hours and a Master’s Degree or a Doctorate in Acupuncture.  Physicians that receive acupuncture certification have 300 hours of training.  Certified acupuncture Chiropractors have 100 hours of training.

-Interview the practitioner. Ask what is involved in the treatment, how likely it is to help your condition and how much it will cost.

-Find out whether your insurance covers the treatment or if it is an out of pocket expense.

How often should one get treatments?

Acupuncture treatments work in a cumulative fashion.  The more treatments one receives, typically, the better results they will obtain.  It is recommended that patients try at least six sessions to see how they will respond.  It is recommended to have treatments once a week or every two weeks for the first few sessions with the goal of spreading sessions out to a maintenance plan, depending on the condition.  Chronic, degenerative disorders may need regular acupuncture to keep symptoms at bay, whereas acute conditions may only require one to six sessions without continued maintenance.  As a general rule, the more recent the condition, the faster you will respond to acupuncture. 

How often should oncology patients receive acupuncture care?

Research shows that weekly sessions are beneficial for treating nausea and vomiting as well as for pain management.  It is also recommended that patients continue with care after receiving cancer treatments as to help support the body during the healing stage. Maintenance would be every three to five weeks.

Acupuncture options at Mayo Clinic:

Outpatient- The patient will need a referral form their Rochester Mayo Clinic provider to be seen for acupuncture in the outpatient clinic. Insurance may cover treatments.

Inpatient- The patient will need an order from their provider or nurse to receive hospital inpatient acupuncture.  Insurance may cover treatments.

Rejuvenate Spa within the Healthy Living Program- no order is required.  The patient may call the spa as needed for a session and it is an out of pocket cost.  Insurance is not accepted at this location.

To hear Sara talk about how acupuncture can help with cancer treatment symptoms watch this acupuncture video.

Chat with others on ways you are managing cancer symptoms in the Cancer: Managing Symptoms group.

Mon, Oct 7 2:19pm · Letting Go of the Past Can be Hard in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_223317898Article contributed by Erin Haefner

We have all experienced pain at some point in our lives. Whatever pain we have experienced, it can be hard to let go. A good way to cure this pain is to let go of the past. Trust me, it is a lot easier said than done. I have a few tips on letting go:

  • You can’t change the past. You just can’t. But, you can change the future. When you put your past behind you, that gives you room to open your mind to the future. New opportunities lie ahead, and can only be fully taken advantage of if you are in the present; focusing on what you can do now that will benefit you in the future.
  • A favorite quote of mine from Abraham Lincoln:

“You cannot now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.” My interpretation of this quote is that everything will all be well in time. I have found whenever I am very sad or angry, it doesn’t last forever. With time, I have laughed again, smiled again, and had fun again. Sorrow does not last forever.

  • You have survived 100% of your worst days. Keep up the good work. With each passing day, you are getting stronger and stronger. Each bad day comes and goes, and you are still standing.
  • My family and I always like to remind each other of this quote: “Where are you? Here. What time is it? Now. What are you? This moment.” – Dan Millman. This always reminds me to be present and live in the present moment – and not worry about the past or what I could have done differently. This also helps me to focus on goals I want to achieve in the future. What can I do NOW, HERE, and in THIS MOMENT that will benefit my future goals?

What are your tips and tricks to let go of the past?

Wed, Sep 25 12:52pm · Cancer Affects Your Body, But it Affects Your Emotions and Feelings, Too in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_98332214Article contributed by Cancer Education Center staff; Jeri Lensing and Angela Young

Your attitudes, emotions, and moods can change from day to day, and even from hour to hour. You may feel good one day and terrible the next. Know that this is normal and that, with time, most people are able to adjust to a cancer diagnosis and move forward with their lives.

Once you learn that you or a loved one has cancer, you may no longer feel safe. You may feel afraid, exposed, weak, and vulnerable. Such feelings often last through treatment. Anxiety and sadness are common, too.

It’s normal to worry, especially at certain times, such as when waiting to start treatment. “The worst time for me was waiting for that first chemo treatment,” said one patient. “Once it was over, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, I was OK. I actually felt better because I was finally doing something about the cancer.”

Many people with cancer use one or more kinds of alternative or complementary therapies. And they often don’t tell their doctors about these decisions. The best approach is to look carefully at your choices. Talk to your doctor about any method you are using or thinking about trying. There are many complementary methods you can safely use along with standard treatment to help relieve symptoms or side effects, to ease pain, and to help you enjoy life more. Even if they aren’t fully tested, you can choose methods that don’t usually cause harm and won’t interfere with your cancer treatment.

Here are examples of some complementary methods that some people have found helpful and safe when used along with standard medical treatment:

  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a technique in which very thin needles are put into the body to treat a number of symptoms. It may help with mild pain and some types of nausea.
  • Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy is the use of fragrant substances, called essential oils, distilled from plants to alter mood or improve symptoms such as stress or nausea.
  • Art therapy: Art therapy is used to help people with physical and emotional problems by using creative activities to express emotions.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a treatment method that uses monitoring devices to help people gain conscious control over physical processes that are usually controlled automatically, such as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, sweating, and muscle tension.
  • Labyrinth walking: Involves a meditative walk along a set circular pathway that goes to the center and comes back out. Labyrinths can also be “walked” online or on a grooved board following the curved path with a finger.
  • Massage therapy: Massage involves manipulation, rubbing, and kneading of the body’s muscle and soft tissue. Some studies suggest massage can decrease stress, anxiety, depression, and pain and increase alertness.
  • Meditation: Meditation is a mind-body process in which a person uses concentration or reflection to relax the body and calm the mind.
  • Music therapy: Music therapy is offered by trained healthcare professionals who use music to promote healing and enhance quality of life.
  • Prayer and spirituality: Spirituality is generally described as an awareness of something greater than the individual self. It’s often expressed through religion and/or prayer, but there are many other paths of spiritual pursuit and expression.
  • Tai chi: Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art. It’s a mind-body system that uses movement, meditation, and breathing to improve health and well being. It’s been shown to improve strength and balance in some people.
  • Yoga: Yoga is a form of non-aerobic exercise that involves a program of precise posture and breathing activities.

Again, there are some safe complementary therapies out there that can help you feel better. But there are other treatments that can hurt you. Before investing your money and time in any non-traditional medicine, please talk to your doctor about whether or not it may help you in your fight against cancer.  Especially if it is something you would take orally, such as a supplement.

Connect with others talking about emotions, feelings and mood related to living with cancer in the Cancer: Managing Symptoms group.


Mon, Sep 16 3:15pm · Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month in Cancer Education Center


September is Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month.  Gynecological cancers are cancers of women’s reproductive organs and include cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal and vulvar cancer.

Some signs to watch for include:

  • pain or pressure in the pelvis that won’t go away and you don’t know why it is there
  • feeling too full, too fast – and not because you ate too much food
  • unusual vaginal bleeding – a longer or heavier period than normal (for you) or bleeding that comes after menopause

If you notice unusual symptoms for two weeks or longer, please consult your doctor.  It may be nothing, but it is a good idea to get checked out.

Watch this short video to learn more about lifestyle, screening and symptoms related to gynecological cancers.

Connect online with other women living with a gynecologic cancer in the Gynecologic Cancers support group on Mayo Clinic Connect.

Mon, Aug 19 1:35pm · Millennials and Generation Z: How to Stay Active in a Growing Age of Technology in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_187400009Article contributed by Erin Haefner

I was recently reading an article on the American Cancer Society’s website titled, “Obesity-Related Cancers Rising in Young Adults in the U.S., Millennials have about double the risk of some cancers compared to Baby Boomers at same age.” And I was shocked at what I was reading. Something that stuck out to me was this: “The increasing risk of obesity-related cancers in younger generations has the potential to halt or reverse the progress we’ve achieved in reducing the death rate from cancer in the last 20 to 30 years.”

What this boils down to is that more and more people under the age of 50 (millennials and younger generations) are at greater risk to get an obesity-related cancer, and something needs to change. The world of technology is constantly evolving, taking our motivation, energy, and healthy lifestyle away. As a member of Generation Z myself, I feel compelled to share some tips on how to stay active in a world that is changing around us.

  1. Give yourself a step goal for the day. I own a Fitbit and it has really helped motivate me to get 10,000 steps a day. Owning one, I have also found that I am more motivated to be active for at least 30 minutes every day, as the Fitbit tracks your activity level through your heart rate throughout the day. Walking is a simple, yet very beneficial form of exercise.
  2. Take the stairs. I just finished up my junior year of college and I lived on the 8th floor of my dormitory. On the ground floor there are practice rooms that the music majors of the building (me) could practice late at night without having to walk across campus when it was dark outside. Every day after classes, rehearsals, and lessons, I walked up the stairs to my 8th floor room. I also took the 8 flights of stairs whenever I would use the practice rooms, which was quite often. Of course, this was hard at first, but it just got easier and easier every day. I never had to wait for an elevator, and my legs have never felt better.
  3. Clean your house – often! I don’t know about you, but whenever I have ever dusted, vacuumed, swept, or likewise, I have always been a little winded after those tasks. Maybe it was the constant moving of my arms, or the weight of the cleaning supplies I was carrying, but it felt like a small workout. I was able to jam to some music, get exercise, AND have a nice, clean, and organized house in the end. It’s a win-win-win!
  4. Dance. When I was in high school, I used to be a dancer. I was on a dance team for two years and I loved every minute of it. We competed in tournaments and we put on recitals often. Now that I am in college, and have a full-time summer job, I don’t have time to participate in extracurriculars like that. But, whenever I have a free moment, even if it’s just for an hour or less, I dance. I find dancing to be a way to escape the world. I don’t care if I am bad, or if there is no organization to the dance I am doing, as long as I am having fun, I am dancing my little heart out. This is the time to dance when nobody is watching, because there IS nobody watching!
  5. Make an exercise challenge out of your favorite TV show or movie. I’ll be honest. Despite my busy schedule, I still somehow find the time to watch a lot of TV. One of my favorite shows, and a favorite of a lot of people’s, is Friends. I have been challenging myself to do an exercise whenever a character does one of their signature things. For example, if you are familiar with the show, here are some of the things I do for each of the characters:
    1. Monica: Do 25 jumping jacks whenever Monica says “I know!”
    2. Rachel: Do 30 sit-ups whenever Rachel talks about anything related to shopping or fashion.
    3. Chandler: Do a plank for one minute whenever Chandler is sarcastic.
    4. Phoebe: Run in place for the duration of one of Phoebe’s songs.
    5. Ross: Do 15 burpees whenever Ross says “We were on a break!” or talks about dinosaurs.
    6. Joey: Do 20 squats whenever Joey is eating something or talking about food.
  6. Do arm stretches at your desk. I am working here at Mayo Clinic this summer and I am doing a lot of sitting at a desk for hours. As much as I can, I am doing arm stretches while I sit. I also try to get up and move every chance I get, even if I am just walking to the bathroom. Check out some of Mayo Clinic’s tips on this!

I would love to hear how you stay active! Feel free to leave a comment down below.

Or head here to start a conversation.

Here are 7 additional links about Healthy Living:

Cancer prevention: 7 tips to reduce your risk

Exercise: When to check with your doctor first

Healthy habits that boost happiness

Office exercise: Add more activity to your workday

Desk stretches: Video collection

Sitting at your desk doesn’t have to be a pain in the neck

Standing workstation

Wed, Jul 24 4:24pm · Sunscreen Season in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_392637715The older I get, the more I think about the impact of sun exposure on my skin. When I was growing up sunscreen wasn’t really a “thing.” The only protection we had was zinc oxide and it was applied to very little surface area – mainly just the nose and cheeks. My father has had to endure multiple rounds of Mohs procedures. I picked him up after one of his appointments and it was very sobering to see all the bandaged areas on his face. It has motivated me to be more diligent about protecting my skin and my children’s. My kids complain about my insistence with their sunscreen application and the constant reminders (they may refer to that as nagging!) and I still help my youngest son in getting those hard to reach places. While I’m applying, he’s protesting and my response is always “You’ll thank me when you’re 40!” After my dad’s most recent Mohs procedure, he got a black eye based on the proximity of the area they were working on. I begged him to take a selfie and send it to all of the older grandkids. My dad is not big on selfies, nor sharing a less than photogenic moment. But, after a couple of days, he did honor my request and sent the pic to them with a funny caption of “you should see the other guy!” All of this leads me to sharing more tips on sunscreen use. Summer is in full swing and we are spending more time outdoors. Also, our days are longer and we are seeing more hours of sunlight. We all know that we are recommended to protect our skin with sunscreen.

Here are some interesting and informative things to think about.

Most people only apply 25-50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen. So how much should a person apply? Most adults need one ounce. A good visual to think of is how much you would need to fill a shot glass – that roughly equals an ounce.

You should apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

Make sure you get those areas that receive a lot of rays – shoulders, the back of your neck, the tops of your ears, your nose and your head, especially if you don’t have much hair. A wide-brimmed hat can also give extra protection.

Skin cancer also can form on the lips. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Remember, people of all skin colors are at-risk for sunburn and other harmful effects of UV radiation, so always protect yourself. Be especially careful if you have:

  • pale skin
  • blond, red, or light brown hair
  • been treated for skin cancer
  • a family member who has had skin cancer

Listen to this Mayo Clinic Radio Health Minute on melanoma risk factors.