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5 days ago · The Power of Art in Cancer Education Center


I was reading a research study in the February edition of CJON (Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing) entitled “Artist Impact.”  The study included an artist that painted in the same area that patients were receiving chemotherapy.  They measured how relaxed or anxious patients were, their level of social interaction with their caregivers and other patients in the room as well as emotions they experienced.  In one part of the study, the artist would talk to the patients, asking for input on her painting – what color to use, should I add a bird?  In another part of the study, the artist painted while wearing headphones, not engaging with people in the room.  In both instances, patients had a favorable response.  As you can predict, there were more positive responses when she was speaking with people in the room.  Patients reported they felt calmer and more relaxed.  They enjoyed the distraction and the social interaction it created.  They also said they would recommend it others.

I thought this was a great idea.  Art and music are proven to have calming effects on people in a wide variety of settings.  Try watching a movie that has music playing in the scene, then mute it – we don’t even realize the power and enhancement of the music.  We are aware of it, but much of the effect seems to happen on a subconscious level.

It got me thinking about how a person could replicate this study for themselves.  One idea is to bring music along to listen to, even just for part of the time.  It may have a greater soothing effect than you realize.  My other thought was to try something artistic – whether it be something you already enjoy at home, or going to a business that hosts art events.  In the Rochester area there are a couple local businesses where a painter leads you through the process or you use a stencil to create an image.  Another thing that is popular now – adult coloring.  You could buy a coloring book, markers, crayons and color away!  Buying new crayons evokes nostalgia for childhood – the sharpened points and the smell too.  Coloring is soothing; it’s creative.  You need to focus on the task at-hand, which makes it harder to think about your worries.   How do you relax and what activities calm you?

Wed, Feb 6 3:26pm · Energizing Movement in Cancer Education Center

We can take all the encouragement we can get! Having someone to keep accountable to helps me to stay motivated!

Thu, Jan 31 2:42pm · Brain Fog Detective in Cancer Education Center

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Article contributed by Cancer Education Center staff member Lonnie Fynskov, R.N.

“Now why did I go in this room?” Probably we have all had those moments where our focus changes quickly and we cannot remember our reason for going to a specific location. Usually that is a signal we are attempting too many things at one time. However, for some people it may seem to be a constant way of life while going through cancer treatment. This frustrating situation is commonly referred to as “chemo brain” or “brain fog” and it refers to the mental cloudiness that is frequently experienced before, during or after treatment for cancer.

There are numerous tips that can help compensate for this mental fog. Making a to do list, minimizing distractions, staying well rested are all tried and true ways to keep our brain from being over-stimulated but is there anything to prevent it? That is a challenging question because brain fog or chemo brain may have many different causes.

What if there was an activity that is helpful for maintaining your brain function regardless of the cause? How do you feel when you learn that activity is exercise? For some of us, exercise was not the answer we were hoping to hear. However, the idea of protecting our brain function may just be the motivation that will get some of us moving.

In 2013, the American Psychological Association, published the findings of a study that was done with adults ranging in age from 19 to 93. They found that as little as one 15 minute episode of exercise made a positive impact on the participants’ mood and reaction time related to working memory or brain function. This study was done with healthy participants but would it provide the same outcome with people currently experiencing or at risk for chemo brain? Even though that was not the focus on their study, perhaps it is time to be your own detective. After all this is an antidote that is usually free from side effects, free of charge and available to everyone. It seems like there is not much to lose and possibly a significant amount to gain. What has been your post-exercise experience?

Thu, Jan 24 2:50pm · Energizing Movement in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_595969619Exercise during cancer treatment?  Can I? Should I?  Maybe this is a question you have asked yourself.  Patients have a variety of thoughts about exercising during treatment, which can be influenced by your activity level prior to diagnosis.  Some people are accustomed to having a regular, even vigorous workout habit prior to diagnosis.  Some individuals have little to no activity.  You may feel like exercise is a part of your life you want to continue at your current level.  You may feel inspired to add a health benefit to your lifestyle.  Or be anywhere on the continuum of activity.

First, let’s talk about why you should consider some kind of movement during treatment.  Research supports that exercise is most often safe during active treatment, as well as beneficial for a variety of reasons.

  • Mental – Being active gives you a sense of self-control, improves body image, combats anxiety and depression and gives you a sense of accomplishment.  It also releases those feel good hormones – endorphins!
  • Physical – Exercise helps with fatigue, weight control, nausea, protects deconditioning of your heart and lungs, and helps to maintain muscle tissue.  Exercise and a healthy weight are important in reducing the risk for many cancer types.

If you are a person who has an active lifestyle already, just be sure to go slow and to be gentle with yourself and expectations.  If you are a person who is wanting to increase activity, start slow.  Whichever camp you come from, give yourself credit for what you are doing!  Don’t belittle your efforts.  Cheer and encourage yourself just as you would a friend.  The movement you choose to do should feel energizing.  Not too much that you are completely depleted, and not so little that you can hardly tell you’ve done anything.  As always, it is good to check with your doctor to see what is recommended and safe for you.

You may be interested in new fitness guidelines released by the Department of Health and Human Services.  The encouraging takeaway from the new guidelines is that it all adds up.  All your activity, even short increments, are beneficial and count!  The recommendations are for an average healthy, person and may need to be adjusted for a person receiving treatment. As always, it is good to check with your doctor to see what is recommended and safe for you.

We’d love to hear what you find to be energizing movement – even the small doses!

Dec 20, 2018 · Take a Moment to Embrace Gratitude This Season in Cancer Education Center

gratitude360707066Gratitude? Now? I speak to people every day in the Mayo Clinic Cancer Education Center who are living with a cancer diagnosis.

At first it was hard for me to imagine someone expressing gratitude while going through chemo, radiation or end of life conversations, but they frequently do.  Some say navigating these challenges actually brought clarity to the many things they appreciate in life.

In his book, “The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living” Dr. Amit Sood encourages us to focus on what went right within what went wrong.

Often, people will share how friends have walked with them and supported them during their treatment, or how grateful they are for medical advances, skilled health care providers and health insurance.  These are things that went right for them within what went wrong.

Hearing their stories motivates me to reframe life’s challenges by pausing and taking stock of what has helped me during difficult times.  The list is always longer than expected and it helps me focus on life’s blessings rather than frustrations.  It captures the positive parts of the experience which not only impact my present attitude, but hopefully will lead to future memories filled with gratitude.

Are there times when you’ve experienced a sense of gratitude within the midst of your cancer journey? Or perhaps it’s been a struggle to find something that is going right?  I would love to have you share your thoughts and perspectives.

Nov 29, 2018 · Learn about E-cigarettes in Cancer Education Center


What are e-cigarettes?  They are battery powered electronic cigarettes.  The device heats a liquid into a vapor to be inhaled.  Because it’s a vapor, it is often referred to as “vaping.”  The liquid typically contains vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol, flavorings, other additives, as well as nicotine.  There is a misconception that they are safe because they aren’t as harmful as cigarettes.  It may be true that e-cigarettes aren’t as harmful, but that does not equate to harmless.  They have been for sale in the U.S. for 12 years, not long enough for conclusive, longitudinal research to say how vaping is harmful to your lungs.  However, inhaling anything into your lungs, besides oxygen, carries a risk — even if it is an unknown risk.  One thing research is showing is e-cigarette users are at an increased risk for a heart attack.  If the person vapes and smokes, it further increases the risk.

You probably have seen someone using an e-cigarette or know someone who vapes.  An issue with vaping is it re-normalizing smoking behavior.  The population most affected by witnessing e-cigarette vapers are teenagers and young adults.  Studies show that e-cigarette usage among high school students increased by 900% from 2011 to 2015.  Another survey reported 24% of high school students had used an e-cigarette in the last 30 days.  Nicotine is highly addictive.  Human brain development continues to the age of 25.  Using nicotine while the brain is still developing has negative effects with one being it may lead the individual to other addictive behaviors.

E-cigarettes were originally marketed as a smoking cessation tool, but in 2015 more that half of vapers also smoked regular cigarettes.  There are successful, evidence-based and recommended smoking cessation options.  To learn more click here.


Meet others sharing about trying to quit smoking while undergoing medical treatment or talking about cancers in one of the many cancer groups on Mayo Clinic Connect. Share experiences, ask questions and find support from people like you.

Oct 11, 2018 · Ladies - Get Your Mammogram! in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_607144922October is breast cancer awareness month.  Maybe you have seen a little extra pink this month promoting support and awareness.  Preventive screening in the form of a mammogram is important!  Many women cite the discomfort of a mammogram as a reason they put the test off.  Here are some suggestions to help you.

  • Go to a facility that does many mammograms a day.  It is best to go to the same facility year after year so they can compare images to previous mammograms if needed.
  • Schedule your appointment when your breasts won’t be tender.  Breast tenderness can come just before and during your period.  It would be better to avoid those days.
  • Take an over the counter pain reliever 45 minutes before your appointment.  This can help you feel less discomfort during the procedure.
  • Being tense can worsen pain.  If you find yourself tensing up because you think it will be painful or you are nervous about results, take a couple of deep breaths and exhale slowly to reduce tension.  Also remember, most mammograms don’t lead to a cancer diagnosis.  Just like most dentist visits don’t lead to a cavity!
  • It’s brief!  Remind yourself of that.  The time your breast is actually compressed is seconds.
  • Newer machines make imaging more comfortable than ones used in the past.  That being said, newer doesn’t mean perfect – it means better!
  • Some discomfort is to be expected.  If you are experiencing pain, tell your technologist.  They may be able to improve your comfort for the next image.

Hopefully you find these tips helpful!  If you have more tips to share or have found one of the suggestions above to be helpful to you, please let us know!

Oct 1, 2018 · Caring for the Caregiver in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_770843521Article contributed by Jeri Lensing and Angela Young, American Cancer Society patient navigators

Being a caregiver can mean seeing to the daily needs of a friend or loved one, but also may include taking on additional roles, including managing finances, home maintenance, child care, laundry, grocery shopping and meal preparation. The joy of caregiving can quickly become overwhelming.  A caregiver may feel stress or become exhausted, which could also lead to potential health concerns. It is important that caregivers make time for themselves. Here are a few simple suggestions that are easy to implement and can be done on a daily basis.

  • Eating schedules can be challenging. When thinking about meals, rather than trying to find time to sit down for “three square meals” a day, it may help to redefine meals. Use energy-boosting snacks such as juice drinks, cheese and crackers, raisins, fruit and vegetables, peanuts or granola bars that are easy to bring with you when schedules are uncertain. If a friend asks what they can do to help, ask for prepared meals to put in the refrigerator or freezer, allowing you to heat them as time allows.
  • Exercise can be beneficial even in small doses, and does not require a gym or health club. If possible, consider taking a short brisk walk near the medical facility or in a park nearby while the patient is receiving a treatment or test. Walking a set of stairs can provide a good cardio workout. Seek out information or instruction on appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises that can be done in a small area, while sitting in a chair, or incorporated into daily tasks. As always, remember to consult with your health care team before beginning any strenuous activity.
  • Sleep will improve if you maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Try relaxation techniques, listen to your favorite music or visualize your favorite scenery as a way to relax. For some, a fifteen minute nap can be a better refresher than napping for an hour or two.

It is important to remind yourself that you are part of a team in caring for your friend or loved one. It is not just your responsibility. It is acceptable to let other members take the lead and to rely on their help and guidance. And remember that by taking care of yourself you are also taking care of your friend or loved one.

For information relating to caregiving for the caregiver, caregiver support groups, relaxation, nutrition, or exercise classes, please contact your American Cancer Society patient navigator or visit http://www.cancer.org and click on treatment and support.

Connect with other caregivers online on Mayo Clinic Connect in the Caregivers Group.