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Tue, Jan 14 4:25pm · Physical Activity as Medicine in Cancer Education Center

shutterstockArticle contributed by Tammy Adams, R.N.

As a kick start to 2020 I invite you to look at what you are currently doing to maintain your health and what you might add this next year.

In October of 2019, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) expert panel reviewed more than 1000 research studies and released updated recommendations for physical activity related to cancer prevention and survivorship. The evidence for the following benefits of physical activity was overwhelming:

30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week improved:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Quality of life
  • Physical function
  • Bone health
  • Sleep

Strong evidence also indicates that physical activity is associated with longer survival in breast, colon, prostate and possibly other cancers.

These findings led the panel to initiate a “call to action” for oncology care teams and primary care providers. These doctors were strongly encouraged to advise cancer survivors to become physically active and also refer cancer survivors to either healthcare provider supervised physical activity or to community or home programs. These are their suggested physical activity recommendations:

  • Moderate intensity of aerobic exercise 3 times a week, up to a total of 2.5 to 5 hours a week
  • Resistance exercise 2-3 times a week

Want to increase your physical activity?

  • Discuss with your health care provider
  • Be realistic in expectations- take into account your activity level prior to treatment
  • Start slowly to let your body make the changes it needs to accommodate
  • Recognize that creating a new habit takes time and commitment

The ACSM report also suggests that a supervised, tailored exercise program for 8-12 weeks is beneficial in managing side effects of treatment. These programs may be offered through your healthcare provider or through your community.

Examples include:

  • Cancer Rehabilitation with a Physical Therapist-A physical therapist will look at your cancer and treatment related physical limitations and devise an individualized plan. Limitations may be lymphedema, surgical or radiation scarring, site specific pain or others.
  • American College of Sports Medicine Moving Through Cancer exercise program registry may help you find an exercise program near you. Check out https://www.exerciseismedicince.org/movethruca
  • Livestrong at the YMCA-Support for Cancer Survivors includes cardiovascular exercise, strength training, stretching and balance work, http://www.livestrong.org. Watch for more details on this program in future weeks!
  • Silver Sneaker Programs-Instructors are trained in exercise for senior citizens, http://www.silversneakers.com
  • Mayo Clinic Cardio-Oncology Exercise Program-meet with a cardiologist that specializes in exercise prescription for cancer survivors. This may be a onetime visit or a month of unlimited exercise.
  • Mayo Clinic Slaggie Family Cancer Education Center in Rochester, MN offers a class entitled “Toolbox for Wellness: Physical Activity and Cancer”

Set a goal and share it with other members online in the Cancer: Managing Symptoms group. Research shows sharing fitness goals with friends helps you stick to your program and reach your goals big and small.

What are you doing for physical activity now? Have you found supportive exercise programs where you live? What can you do today to become more active?

Dec 12, 2019 · Cancer-Related Brain Fog in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_536001130Earlier this month I highlighted a presentation on cancer-related brain fog:


Since this presentation was not available at the other Mayo Clinic sites or electronically, I wanted to share the following key messages:

Cancer-Related Brain Fog

What is it?

  • Cancer-related cognitive impairment or difficulty with thought processes
  • Described as “slower thinking, easily fatigued or problems with memory”

What are some of the challenges of “brain fog?”

  • Difficulty learning new information
  • Takes longer to complete tasks
  • Multitasking is very challenging
  • “Word finding” may be a problem

What are some of the causes of “brain fog?”

  • The cancer illness itself
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Sleep problems
  • Pain/Mood challenges
  • Medications
  • Individual genetics and/or personal hormone fluctuations

What can you do about it?

First, recognize cognitive changes are very real! It is important to address the factors you can modify and have some control over. Having reasonable expectations is key!

  • Reclaim a sense of “control” through energy management, sleep habits, appropriate exercise.
  • Utilize memory aids such as a journal or notebook for lists, questions, and important information
  • Schedule “brain breaks.” Every hour, take a 10 minute break from what you are doing and relax.
  • Share your situation with people you trust
  • Listen to your body and get into the routine of doing something again.
  • Consider redefining your “new normal.”

What has been your experience with brain fog?  Are there any techniques that have been helpful?

Connect with others managing cancer-related brain fog and other symptoms in the online support group Cancer: Managing Symptoms.


Oct 29, 2019 · The Air We Breathe: Inhale Your Future, Lung Event November 5th and 6th in Cancer Education Center

Mark your calendar for this timely event! Check out the inflatable, educational lung display and also learn from the experts on numerous relevant topics. Presentations will include the latest information on vaping, e-cigarettes, tobacco use, radon, lung cancer, screening lung health and more.

Please join us at 125 Live, located at 125 Elton Hills Dr. NW, Rochester Minnesota on November 5th, 3:00pm-6:00pm or the Mayo Clinic Slaggie Family Cancer Education Center, Gonda Building, Lobby Level, November 6th from 10:00am-2:00pm.   The complete schedule is listed below.


Connect with others talking about lung conditions in the Lung Health, Lung Cancer and MAC & Bronchiectasis groups.


Oct 16, 2019 · Technology and Cancer in Cancer Education Center

Wonderful insight about the HIPPA regulations! Thank you for sharing, Scott.

Oct 15, 2019 · Technology and Cancer in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_427841137At work, I spend a good portion of my day on the computer. The last thing I want to do when I get home at night is sign on again. However, when I was one of the primary caregivers for a family member, technology became not only a time saver, but also an emotional support tool.

When my father-in-law was going through treatment for AML, he ended up being hospitalized about 100 miles away from his home community. Many of his long-time friends and distant family members were not able to travel to see him but were understandably concerned about his health status. This prompted tons of emails and phone calls asking for updates as well as wanting to express loving concern. After trying to keep up with these overwhelming communication requests, I finally set up a Caring Bridge site and sent the link out to a mass distribution list of family and friends. When returning home at the end of each day, I would take about 15 minutes and write a Caring Bridge entry that would include any new updates with the treatment plan, the highlights of the day and thoughts that my father-in-law wanted to share with all those who were offering support. The next morning, we would print off the new comments that had been posted, bring them up to the hospital room and read him the words of encouragement people had shared. It was a beautiful ritual…having an evening quiet time to reflect and share the important moments of the day, and the morning reading of well wishes and admiration for the way his life had made an impact on theirs. It felt healing and sacred for us as a family, and cathartic for me as the journal writer.

I have heard other ways that people have utilized technology when they are in a caregiver role. One person told me they used it to Skype or Facetime with distance relatives. Another caregiver said they would be lost without their health tracker tool for appointments, medication reminders, insurance, etc.

There have been times when I have complained about the seemingly constant need to be engaged with technology but I will also admit sometimes using technology means caregiver support is as close as our fingertips. Members of Mayo Clinic Connect find it helpful to connect with others caring for family members in the Caregivers group.

Are you using technology to help with all the demands of caregiving? What has been most helpful for you?


Sep 6, 2019 · Cancer Information: Too much, too little or just the right amount? in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_334064462 stress

Everyone has their own unique way of dealing with the stress of a serious diagnosis.  We often talk about the “fight or flight” response as our body’s way of responding to a situation that feels threatening to us.  Most of our current threats do not require us to physically fight an aggressor, but we will find other ways to either take on the problem or try to run away from it. Sometimes we may not even recognize what we are doing is related to the stress we are experiencing. That may be the case with the amount of information we seek related to a cancer diagnosis and the treatment options.

My husband and I had very different responses to a new diagnosis of AML in our family.  I immediately starting scouring the literature to find out everything we could possibly learn in order to get the best possible outcome…my fight response. My husband, on the other hand, read absolutely nothing and relied on the healthcare team to provide him with the necessary information…his flight response.

In our situation, it seems like the right road was probably somewhere between each of our individual behaviors.  It’s true, I learned a lot about the most current treatment options and prognosis, but as my husband pointed out, my anxiety about the situation frequently went up after reading additional information on the internet. The information I learned did, however, help us prioritize how we wanted to spend our time and energy during an aggressive treatment regime for an equally aggressive cancer. My husband wanted to “get his mind off it” and felt the healthcare team were the experts and would provide us with information we needed as we needed it. We both were trying to manage our anxiety over the diagnosis in our own way, which was completely opposite of each other!

In hindsight, my husband would say he appreciated knowing the statistics for his father’s prognosis because it helped him ask some of the difficult questions that are frequently hard to raise. Similarly, I would agree that some of the information I found was very valuable for us. But, many of the articles I read were very dismal and increased our anxiety. It became more challenging to see what was going right in the moment rather than what could possibly go wrong in the future. So for the two of us, it may have been more helpful to just formulate the questions that were most significant for us and ask the oncology care team or have them point us in the direction of helpful research articles. Everyone is different and the best way to lessen our stress or anxiety is also different, even within families. It’s important to know what works best for you.  How much information is helpful to you when learning about a serious diagnosis and how do you like to get that information? Have you had experiences that worked well or worked poorly?

Aug 13, 2019 · Don't let sex be forbidden topic after cancer in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_1229663731While you were growing up, how many of you were taught that discussions about sex were inappropriate for casual conversation? For some of us, the topic was not only absent from social conversation, but also in our families. Obviously, this has nothing to do with the importance of sex and intimacy in our lives but more to do with our cultural background and a discomfort related to openly talking about highly personal issues. Unfortunately, that same discomfort may interfere with getting helpful information regarding changes in sexuality that frequently occur with various cancer treatments.

Several cancers or their treatments have the potential to impact sexual function and response. Any of the following cancer-related situations may lead to changes in our sexual response:

  • The presence of surgical scars or removal of reproductive organs
  • The inability to reach an orgasm
  • The experience or fear of pain during intercourse
  • A lack of desire for sex
  • An increase in fatigue related to the diagnosis or its treatment

As healthcare providers, we know sexual concerns may be difficult to discuss. But frequently there are suggestions that can help. In the past, some people have told me that with a new cancer diagnosis, so much information was given that thoughts of sex didn’t even surface in their minds. Others said it was one of the first things they thought about but were too embarrassed to ask questions. Others said that during treatment, they were either so sick or tired that it wasn’t a concern. Once they were feeling stronger, however, sexual problems were a significant concern for them and their partner. Yet even then, they were hesitant to mention it to their healthcare provider.

Our need for intimacy and closeness doesn’t stop with a cancer diagnosis. Getting the information and support you need to live life to its fullest is important. Everyone’s situation is different regarding when and how you like to receive information. Some may want to have open conversations that are initiated by either person in a relationship or with their healthcare provider when a troubling situation occurs. Others are more private and prefer brochures or visiting a reputable website that provides reliable information.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about what would work best for you if you wanted information about your sexual concerns. If you prefer conversations with a healthcare provider on the subject of sex and intimacy, when is the best time for this to happen? Is it when making decisions regarding treatment options, during treatment or perhaps at follow-up appointments? Thank you for providing input on this important topic.

Jul 2, 2019 · Cancer. Work. Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of that… in Cancer Education Center


For many people when they first hear a diagnosis of cancer for themselves or a loved one, work accommodations are not among the first thoughts that enter their mind. Usually our mind will race through a variety of concerns such as:

  • Am I going to survive?
  • What do I tell the kids?
  • How hard will it be to tolerate the treatment?
  • How expensive is this going to be for our family?

Once the reality of treatment starts, however, some of those work-related questions may start surfacing:

  • How much do I need to share with my employer about my cancer diagnosis?
  • Is my job status secure?
  • What happens if I just can’t put in the hours and energy that are needed for the job?
  • Is there any one I can talk to confidentially about my concerns?

Thankfully, the American Disability Act provides significant support for employees with a serious diagnosis. Employers are required by law to provide reasonable work accommodations for any employee with a disability and, yes, impairments caused by cancer or its treatment would be included in that category.

For example, accommodations could include changing the number of hours worked or adapting your weekly schedule. Or another example may be making adjustments to the work space such as furniture changes, parking locations or office technology to make it more comfortable or possible to continue working during and after treatment.

There are a variety of reasons someone may continue working during their cancer treatment. Perhaps work brings a sense of normalcy to life during a time that feels very unsettled. Or work colleagues may provide a wonderful emotional support system to help deal with the challenges of treatment. Maybe it is a financially-based decision. All of these reasons, and others, are valid.

Talking with your healthcare provider is a good way to get a realistic idea of what challenges treatment may bring to your day-to-day activities. If you want specific information related to cancer and employment, http://www.cancerandcareers.org/ and also http://www.cancer.org/ provide a wealth of information. Perhaps you have already navigated the world of work and treatment. Were there conversations or factors that helped you decide how best to handle that situation? What worked for you? Please share your wisdom with the group.