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Q.

What is the difference between leukemia and lymphoma?



A. Leukemia and lymphoma are both hematologic malignancies, or blood cancers. We define leukemia as a cancer originating from white blood cells in the bone marrow. Typically, those cancer cells are circulating in the bloodstream. Lymphoma is a cancer that originates from white blood cells in the lymph nodes. Between them, there are more than 50 different types of blood cancers. Diagnosis and treatment is based on the type of white blood cell, site of origin, proteins expressed on the surface of the cell and the genes that are mutated within that cancer cell.



Q.

I found a small trace of blood in my stool. Do I have colorectal cancer?



A. While bleeding is often one of the earliest indications of colorectal cancer, blood in your stool can be a symptom of several conditions. You should see your doctor right away to get an accurate diagnosis. Others signs of colon cancer can include a change in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea; a very narrow stool; the feeling you have not completely “emptied” after passing stool; unusual stomach or gas pains; unexplained weight loss and fatigue. Screenings are vital in preventing colon cancer as polyps can be removed early, before they become cancerous. We also know that regular exercise and a low fat, high fiber diet also play a key role.



Q.

When is radiation used to treat cancer?



A. Radiation therapy (RT) is an integral part of treatment for many malignancies, including lung, breast, head and neck, brain as well many cancers involving the gastrointestinal, reproductive and urinary systems. Patients often receive RT following surgery or in conjunction with or following chemotherapy. In some cases, RT is the sole form of treatment. Exciting advances in radiation technology are allowing us to more precisely define the size, shape and location of tumors, while reducing the length of treatments. This spares more healthy tissue and minimizes side effects, such as fatigue or skin changes, which typically diminish once treatment has ended. At NYOH, we recently renovated our Amsterdam location at Riverfront Center and opened a new Clifton Park office to provide patients with the latest radiation treatment options in an convenient, community location.



Q.

Should I be taking nutritional supplements to prevent cancer?



A. While many people take nutritional supplements, whether they actually prevent cancer is still unclear. In part, this is because supplements are not subject to the same rigorous testing as traditional medical treatments. If you are deficient in certain nutrients, a supplement can be helpful. However, it is important to remember that the best way to get the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your body needs is through a balanced diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Always discuss any nutritional supplements you are taking with your physician, as some can prevent certain prescriptions from working effectively.



Q.

What is immunotherapy?



A. The term immunotherapy, as it applies to cancer treatment, can include many different types of treatments that work by altering the immune system’s response to cancer cells. Recently, some very exciting immune therapies have been developed that appear promising for many different cancer types. Some have received FDA approval for difficult to treat cancers, including lung and melanoma. These newer immune therapies typically work by targeting interactions between a patient’s own immune system cells and cancer cells, by activating the immune system to work more aggressively or for a more sustained period in attacking cancer cells. Since immune therapies work by augmenting a patient’s own immune system response to cancer, they tend to produce fewer, and less severe, side effects than standard chemotherapy drugs. At NYOH, our clinical research program is currently participating in multiple immunotherapy trials and research studies for different types of cancer.



Q.

"I noticed a breast lump. What should I do?"



A. If you detect a change in your breast such as a lump, unexplained nipple discharge, or change in the contour or texture of the skin you should contact a physician for an examination. Although some breast changes can be the result of breast cancer, many are due to an assortment of benign causes. Breast changes may be evaluated by a variety of physicians including primary care physicians, gynecologists, surgeons, or oncologists. Additional studies such as mammogram and ultrasound or biopsy may be ordered. Normal breasts have a variety of appearances and textures. Some women find monthly breast self exams helpful in identifying what is normal for them and what represents a change from their baseline. It is important to engage in age and risk level appropriate breast cancer screening as recommended by your physician.



Q.

"Does Cancer Run in Families?"



A. A thorough family history is one of the best tools in the early detection and prevention of certain diseases, including cancer. The occurrence of some types of cancer such as breast, ovarian, uterine, colon and/or rectal among individuals and their family members may suggest the possibility of a genetic mutation being passed from one generation to the next. Although genetic testing cannot predict precisely whether an individual will develop cancer, it can be an important tool in determining risk and facilitating medical and lifestyle decisions that may prevent cancer or help detect it earlier. Factors that help determine whether individuals should consider genetic testing are the ages at which they, and/or their family members are diagnosed with cancer, the number of close relatives with the disease and the types of cancer they’ve experienced.



Q.

"Why isn’t there a cure for cancer yet?"



A. Some cancers can be cured, kept in long term remission or treated and controlled as chronic diseases. There are hundreds of different diseases that are classified as “cancer”. They can be caused by a variety of viruses, acquired or hereditary gene alterations, environmental exposures, lifestyle choices and other factors. Since the term cancer includes so many different diseases with different causes, there will not be just one cure. Modern oncology drugs are being developed to target specific cell abnormalities in different types of cancer and significant progress has been made for certain lung cancers, leukemias, kidney cancers and melanoma. Ongoing research is needed to continue improving cancer care. New York Oncology Hematology offers a wide range of clinical research trials that have led to important advances in cancer care and allow patients to receive some of the newest drug treatments.



Q.

"What is Chemotherapy and how does it work?"



A. Chemotherapy is the use of medications to destroy rapidly-dividing cancerous cells. These medications can be administered orally or intravenously and generally involve a combination of drugs depending on the type of cancer being treated. The side effects of chemotherapy vary not only with the type of drugs being administered but, from patient to patient. While hair loss is among the more commonly recognized side effects, it doesn’t happen to everyone. And, it certainly shouldn’t influence treatment decisions. The best approach to chemotherapy is understanding its benefits in treating cancer, being informed as to possible side effects and working closely with your oncologist to minimize any adverse reactions. Remember, not everyone experiences side effects and for those who do, they generally subside once treatments have ended.



Q.

"So what’s this radiation thing all about?



A. This is one of the most important discussions we have with our patients when radiation therapy is recommended. It sets the stage for reducing anxiety and empowering patients to be well-informed about technologies and therapies and, the expertise of NYOH physicians and staff. We anticipate the myriad questions and concerns such as, “Will I glow?” (No, patients are not radioactive following treatment.) “Who delivers treatments?” (Highly trained radiation therapists.) “What does it feel like?” (The equipment emits a buzzing sound when in use but patients do not experience any taste, touch or visual sensations.) At NYOH we are committed to making sure that patients fully understand the benefits and risks associated with their treatments – a process known as informed consent – and provide them with the one-on-one support they need during every phase of care.



Q.

"Why isn’t there a cure for cancer yet?"



A. The main reason is that cancer is not just one disease, but many diseases. Cancer can arise in many organs (e.g. breast, lung, colon, etc.) and each of these is very different from the other, due to the specific genetic mutations which give rise to each individual malignancy. In fact, lung cancer, for example, represents more than one disease. We have made great strides in cancer research to identify what specific factors lead to a tumor developing in a particular patient and attempting to design a treatment that is specifically tailored to that individual. However, much work remains. This is the goal, so called personalized cancer care, which will eventually lead to a cure for the many different kinds of cancer.



Q.

"What can I do to reduce my risk of cancer?"



A. There are things we can do to reduce our risk for cancer. Among the most important- if you’re a smoker- quit! Smoking is not only associated with lung cancer, but head and neck cancers, esophageal cancer and bladder cancer, as well. To reduce the risk of skin cancer, reduce sun exposure by using sun block and avoiding tanning booths. Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, along with a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, may also help reduce the risk for some cancers. Screenings and early detection for many common cancers can be curative, and in the case of colon cancer, preventative. Have a colonoscopy at age 50; men should undergo rectal exams and consider PSA screenings. Women should undergo mammograms and PAP smears. Finally, know your family history and talk to your physician about screening recommendations.



Q.

"Does Cancer Run in Families?"



A. A thorough family history is one of the best tools in the early detection and prevention of certain diseases, including cancer. The occurrence of some types of cancer such as breast, ovarian, uterine, colon and/or rectal among individuals and their family members may suggest the possibility of a genetic mutation being passed from one generation to the next. Although genetic testing cannot predict precisely whether an individual will develop cancer, it can be an important tool in determining risk and facilitating medical and lifestyle decisions that may prevent cancer or help detect it earlier. Factors that help determine whether individuals should consider genetic testing are the ages at which they, and/or their family members are diagnosed with cancer, the number of close relatives with the disease and the types of cancer they’ve experienced.



Q.

"What can I do to reduce my risk of cancer?"



A. There are things we can do to reduce our risk for cancer. Among the most important- if you’re a smoker- quit! Smoking is not only associated with lung cancer, but head and neck cancers, esophageal cancer and bladder cancer, as well. To reduce the risk of skin cancer, reduce sun exposure by using sun block and avoiding tanning booths. Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, along with a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, may also help reduce the risk for some cancers. Screenings and early detection for many common cancers can be curative, and in the case of colon cancer, preventative. Have a colonoscopy at age 50; men should undergo rectal exams and consider PSA screenings. Women should undergo mammograms and PAP smears. Finally, know your family history and talk to your physician about screening recommendations.



Q.

"What is Chemotherapy and how does it work?"



A. Chemotherapy is the use of medications to destroy rapidly-dividing cancerous cells. These medications can be administered orally or intravenously and generally involve a combination of drugs depending on the type of cancer being treated. The side effects of chemotherapy vary not only with the type of drugs being administered but, from patient to patient. While hair loss is among the more commonly recognized side effects, it doesn’t happen to everyone. And, it certainly shouldn’t influence treatment decisions. The best approach to chemotherapy is understanding its benefits in treating cancer, being informed as to possible side effects and working closely with your oncologist to minimize any adverse reactions. Remember, not everyone experiences side effects and for those who do, they generally subside once treatments have ended.



Q.

"I have recently been diagnosed with cancer. Why is it important that my oncologist be involved with a research program?"



A. When an oncologist is involved with a research program, he/she must, by necessity, be in touch with the most updated information and be in regular contact with national and international leaders in the field. This guarantees that you will have access to the latest treatments, some of which might not be generally available for years. Furthermore, the standards required to maintain a research program guarantee the most experienced nursing supervision and the closest monitoring of side effects and disease status, whether it be improvement or progression. Lastly, you will be sure that when new treatments become available, your doctor, as a participant in a research program, will be among the first who is able to obtain these for you.



Q.

"I can’t believe I have cancer; how can I deal with this?"



A. Hearing the words, “The biopsy shows cancer,” is a traumatic experience for most people. Often, the first response is to shut down; you literally don’t hear any of the words that follow. But cancer is more treatable and curable than ever before. Follow your doctor’s recommendations which usually include a referral to a surgical or medical oncologist. Have a supportive family member or friend accompany you. Feel free to take notes so you can review what’s been discussed and make sure you “heard it right.” Gather information so you can be an active participant in the decision-making process but be selective. In this Information Age, there’s helpful, not-so-helpful, and just-plain-wrong information! Your oncologist’s practice may have on-site options for education and support through oncology certified nurses, therapists and support groups or can make recommendations to help you find the assistance you need. And always remember... You are not alone!



Q.

"What can I do to reduce my risk of cancer?"



A. There are things each of us can do to reduce our risk for cancer. The biggest thing is to not smoke. If you are a smoker, quit! Not only will it reduce the risk of lung cancer, but cigarette smoking has been associated with head and neck cancers, esophageal cancer and bladder cancer. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Melanoma, the most dangerous form, is rising in incidence at an alarming rate. Reduce sun exposure by using sun block and avoiding tanning booths. A healthy diet may reduce the risk of colon cancer and breast cancer. Eat five to seven vegetables and fruits daily as well as two to three servings of whole grains. Exercise regularly, at least three times per week. Maintain a healthy weight. Screening can also reduce the risk of some cancers. Early detection for many common cancers can be curative, and in the case of colon cancer, preventative. Have a colonoscopy at age 50. Women should receive a mammogram and PAP smear. Men should receive a rectal exam and consider PSA screening. Finally, know your family history: if several members of your family have colon, breast, or ovarian cancer, screening recommendations may be different for you.



Q.

"What is the role of PET/CT in cancer care?"



A. Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Computerized Tomography (CT) are both standard imaging tools that allow physicians to pinpoint the location of cancer within the body before making treatment recommendations. The highly sensitive PET scan detects the metabolic signal of actively growing cancer cells in the body and the CT scan provides a detailed picture of the internal anatomy that reveals the location, size and shape of abnormal cancerous growths. A PET/CT scan uses the advantages of both imaging techniques in one examination. The high-tech images of PET/CT scans also help detect the recurrence of cancer, revealing tumors that might otherwise be obscured by scar tissue resulting from surgery and radiation therapy, particularly in the head and neck. PET and CT are essential and powerful technologies in the detection and treatment of cancer.



Q.

"What is Radiation Therapy?"



A. Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy radiation from x-rays and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy, implant radiation, or brachytherapy). The goal of radiation therapy is to deliver enough radiation to kill the cancer cells while preventing damage to healthy tissue. About half of all cancer patients receive radiation therapy. It can be used alone or in combination with other treatments such as surgery or chemotherapy. The use of imaging technologies such as CT, x-ray, and ultrasound allows radiation to be more exactly shaped to fit the tumor.



Q.

"What is Chemotherapy and how does it work?"



A. Chemotherapy is the use of medications to destroy rapidly-dividing cancerous cells. These medications can be administered orally or intravenously and generally involve a combination of drugs depending on the type of cancer being treated. The side effects of chemotherapy vary not only with the type of drugs being administered but, from patient to patient. While hair loss is among the more commonly recognized side effects, it doesn’t happen to everyone. And, it certainly shouldn’t influence treatment decisions. The best approach to chemotherapy is understanding its benefits in treating cancer, being informed as to possible side effects and working closely with your oncologist to minimize any adverse reactions. Remember, not everyone experiences side effects and for those who do, they generally subside once the treatments have ended.


NYOH Role in Wellness

New York Oncology Hematology (NYOH) is the Capital Region's leading provider of community-based cancer care with more than 400 employees and nine sites of service throughout the Mohawk-Hudson Valley. With a distinguished history that spans nearly four decades, NYOH is renowned for its experienced team of board certified physicians, certified oncology nurses, laboratory technologists, radiation therapists and support personnel. NYOH is also home to state-of-the-art technology, cutting-edge research and equally important, a commitment to providing the most effective treatment for each patient in a supportive and caring environment.

Through its affiliation with US Oncology, the nation's foremost cancer treatment and research network, NYOH has access to the latest advancements in therapies, as well as best-in-class clinical and operational processes.

At NYOH we are proud of our longstanding reputation for excellence in cancer care and for the contributions we make - each and every day - to the quality of life and health in our community.

It's true - we really do deliver world class cancer care right here at home!




This general Information is not intended to provide individual advice. Please make an appointment with a physician to discuss you particular situation and needs.

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