Holy Cross Cancer Blog

Cancer Patients and Survivors Travel to Tallahassee to Urge Legislators to Make Cancer a Priority

  • Posted Feb 20, 2014
  • hchadmin

Volunteers Met with Florida Lawmakers to Ask for Support for Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Funding, Statewide Quality of Life Advisory Council

Nearly 100 cancer patients, survivors and caregivers from across the state traveled to the state Capitol in Tallahassee on February 19 to meet with Florida lawmakers about the need to increase funding for the state’s breast and cervical cancer early detection program and to seek the creation of a statewide advisory council on quality of life issues.

In Florida, 15,480 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and each year 2,770 lose their battle with the disease. Those gathered at the Capitol called on Florida lawmakers to change this by taking steps to make the fight against breast cancer a priority. The visit was part of the annual American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Advocacy Day, which brought together cancer survivors and volunteers from across Florida.

“As a physician, I let my lawmakers know that if we’re going to eliminate cancer as a major health problem in Florida, the fight against this disease must be top of mind for our legislature,” said Michael Kasper, M.D., a radiation oncologist. “By making access to mammograms and Pap tests a priority, we could ensure that progress continues to reduce suffering and death from this disease.”

Specifically, the volunteers asked lawmakers to:
• Increase funding for the Mary Brogan Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program from $1.54 million to $2.4 million for the next fiscal year. The program provides mammograms and Pap tests for women who are underinsured or have no insurance.
• Increase funding for the King Biomedical Research Program and the Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program from $10 million each to $25 million each.
• Establish a statewide advisory council that would advise the Florida Department of Health and the state Surgeon General’s office on issues related to cancer patient quality of life issues.

While in Tallahassee, cancer advocates participated in a rally on the steps of the Historic Capitol building.

“We met with our elected officials as representatives of each individual diagnosed with cancer each day in Florida,” said Maureen Mann, volunteer chair of ACS CAN’s Florida Operating Committee. “Even in this tough economic climate, Florida’s legislature should commit to ensuring every woman has access to mammograms and Pap tests and that quality of life for cancer patients is assured so we can continue to look forward to new successes in fighting the disease.”

The 114,560 cancer diagnoses and 42,740 deaths in Florida can be prevented. Making sure all women have access to necessary early detection screenings, increasing funding for cancer research and creating a quality of life advisory council are effective ways to diminish the death and suffering caused from this disease.

Ban Cancer Concert - Saturday, March 15, 2014

  • Posted Feb 10, 2014
  • hchadmin

On Saturday, March 15, The Richard J. Fox Foundation in conjunction with Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale, Inc. will host and support this concert event in recognition of prostate and pancreatic cancer awareness.  The event is aimed at educating the public and raising awareness about these diseases.

‘BAN CANCER 2014‘, is an outdoor concert event to be held on Saturday March 15, 2014 beginning at 6:30 PM.  The event, to take place at Esplanade Park – Downtown Fort Lauderdale, will feature Blue Fire Band, Sovereign States, John Terry,  Roberto Perera, Terry Wollman, Melanie Taylor, Gianni Vancini, Greg Manning as well as other great performers.   In an effort to promote awareness of all cancers, the Richard J. Fox Foundation is teaming up with Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale, Inc. to host this concert event BAN CANCER.

Net proceeds from this fundraising event will be made in memory of Richard Mancuso, Fort Lauderdale’s 2012 Citizen of the year to the following: Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale and Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University Washington DC. The Richard J. Fox Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization benefiting prostate cancer research at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington D.C. Net proceeds raised at this event will go to support local screenings & public awareness at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale and Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University, Washington DC.  Your donation may be tax deductible. For more information contact: Ann Marie Fox | Phone: (954)260-9667 | ann.fox@richardjfoxfoundation.org


Esplanade Park - Downtown Fort Lauderdale
United States

Taking Steps to Prevent Cervical Cancer

  • Posted Jan 31, 2014
  • hchadmin

Did you know that, according to the American Cancer Society, approximately 12,000 American women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year, and approximately 4,000 will lose their lives to it?

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and Holy Cross Hospital would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to care for yourself, and your loved ones, by reminding you of the importance of preventive care. 

Thankfully, disease prevention begins with a variety of factors including understanding the risks. According to the National Cancer Institute, risk factors for cervical cancer include:

Lack of regular Pap tests - The Pap test helps doctors find precancerous cells. Treating precancerous cervical cells often prevents cancer.
Weakened immune system - Women with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection or women who take drugs that suppress the immune system have a higher-than-average risk.
Age - Cancer of the cervix occurs most often in women over 40.
Exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV)  - Women who have had a higher-than-average risk of HPV infection have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
Smoking cigarettes - Women with an HPV infection who smoke cigarettes have a higher risk of cervical cancer than women with HPV infection who do not smoke.
Using birth control pills for a long time - Using birth control pills for five or more years may increase the risk of cervical cancer among women with HPV infection.
Having many children - Studies suggest that giving birth to many children may increase the risk of cervical cancer among women with HPV infection.
Diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure - DES may increase the risk of a rare form of cervical cancer in females exposed to this drug before birth. DES was given to some pregnant women in the United States between about 1940 and 1971.

While controlling physical risk factors is obviously a great way to help prevent any disease, so is maintaining a healthy spirit. For example:

Remaining optimistic. Research shows that happiness and a positive attitude are associated with lower rates of disease.
Controlling stress. Stress relievers like deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises and keeping a journal, can be helpful in controlling the impact stress has on your body.
Doing everything in moderation. Don’t try to do too much at one time – make sure to have time for proper nutrition, sleep, work and play.
Creating a network. Maintaining a close circle of family and friends can provide you with emotional support when you need it.

Lastly, getting annual physicals and tests from your Primary Care Physician (PCP) is key in sustaining your health and helping prevent diseases. Finding a PCP is easy! Just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions. Visit HolyCrossMedicalGroup.com for our list of Primary Care Physicians.


Holy Cross Hospital Nurse Among Select Group Trained in Clinical Trials

  • Posted Jan 16, 2014
  • hchadmin

Janet E. Copen, BSN, RN, OCN, CCRP at the Michael and Dianne Bienes Comprehensive Cancer Center at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale was among one of 50 competitively selected professional nurses and cancer program administrators across the nation to recently receive specialized training in clinical trials.

Copen attended a comprehensive two-day course held at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York which was created through a five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute and led by three major medical centers: Mt. Sinai Medical Center, the University of Pennsylvania and the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

A distinguished faculty of researchers, educators, authors and leaders in the field addressed such topics as clinical trial design, essential elements of a protocol, ensuring quality in clinical trials, marketing clinical trials and developing an infrastructure to support clinical trials. Ongoing monthly consultations will be held following the workshop with follow-up at six, 12 and 24 months after the course.

To learn more about clinical trials at Holy Cross, visit http://cancer.holy-cross.com/cancer-clinical-trials

Winter Oncology Symposium

  • Posted Nov 19, 2013
  • hchadmin

Saturday, January 25, 2014
Holy Cross Hospital • Sister Innocent Conference Center
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Holy Cross Hospital’s Michael and Dianne Bienes Cancer Center in collaboration with the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center present the Winter Oncology Symposium 2014, featuring the latest advances for benign and malignant hematologic diseases, women’s cancers, genetics and survivorship.
This symposium will feature the latest advances for benign and malignant hematologic diseases, women’s cancers, genetics and survivorship.

Learning Objectives
• Discuss the current method of evaluation and treatment of benign and malignant hematologic diseases and women’s cancers (including gynecologic and breast)
• Review the evolving management and identification of genetic linkages in the screening and treatment of patients with high risk breast and other cancers
• Describe management options for Breast Cancer Survivors related to bone health, fitness, mental and sexual health

Please register for this FREE symposium at: https://www.holy-cross.com/2014-winter-oncology-symposium.
For more informtaion, please call Gwenn Shapiro at 954-351-7833.


The Cancer-Cardiology Connection

  • Posted Nov 14, 2013
  • hchadmin

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States after cardiovascular disease; the survival rate of all types of cancer has improved in the last 25 years from 50 percent to 68 percent as a result of more successful anticancer therapies by oncologists. There are currently over 12 million cancer survivors. This, however, comes with a price, as cardiac toxicity stemming from oncology treatments is a common adverse effect. It has resulted in more interaction between cardiologists and oncologists.

Cardiac Toxicity

Adverse effects include direct toxicity to the cardiac muscle cells (myocytes) from chemotherapy, resulting in defects in contractility of the heart and ultimately leading to congestive heart failure of varying degrees. Another source of toxicity is radiation therapy, which can cause valvular problems and pericarditis. Other drugs used in cancer treatment can also cause blood pressure and lipid abnormalities. There are situations in which more than one agent is used, therefore increasing the possibility of cardiac toxicity.

Two Types of Cardiac Toxicity

One type of cardiac toxicity is caused by direct action on the heart's left ventricle, causing heart failure as a final result. This is a direct effect from drugs of the anthracycline type, like doxorubicin, and its effect is nonreversible and generally dose-related.

A mediated cardiac toxicity is caused by monoclonal antibodies, such as protein kinase inhibitors (KI) like Herceptin. This adverse effect is reversible and not dose-dependent; outcomes are more favorable than in the other type.

An integration between clinical oncology and cardiology is essential to detect early signs of toxicity. This collaboration involves cardiac testing, such as echocardiography or nuclear cardiology, which facilitates the decision to delay or modify treatment as needed. The use of cardiac protecting agents (i.e., beta blockers, ACE inhibitors or ARBs, or diuretics) becomes necessary as soon as any cardiac dysfunction is detected. These therapies are also useful once heart abnormalities are present.

Direct communication between oncologists and cardiologists is vital in reaching a common goal: a cancer-free, heart-healthy patient. Be sure to discuss cardiac toxicity with your physician.

Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is one of the few facilities in the nation dedicated to minimizing cardiac toxicity during cancer treatment and cardiovascular risks during cancer survival. Click to learn more about Holy Cross' Cardio-Oncology Clinic.

Inspiration from a Breast/Melanoma Cancer Survivor

  • Posted Jul 30, 2013
  • hchadmin

Every now and then, we like to share some of the feedback we receive from our cancer patients....

"I am writing to express my gratitude for the professional, sincere, care I have received during my sessions with Dr. Christina Austin-Valere (Oncology Social Worker).

I am a “Breast/Melanoma Cancer Survivor!” During my “survival period I have been fighting, or attempting to fight for my life. Dr. Christina Austin-Valere has made such a huge difference for me in my plight...Dr. Christina has made me feel more whole as an individual, more capable, and after 76 years on this planet, confident! This is huge since I am endlessly put down! She offers the utmost degree of professional care possible! She is the epitome of professionalism, caring, kindness, ever ready to assist---nothing is too much for her!---this is spite of being involved in a stressful area of care.

I just wanted to share my extraordinary experience---in a trying situation, i.e. breast/melanoma cancer recovery. I could not have asked for more! Please tell her thank You for me, she is wonderful!!!

I thought you would want to know of the professionalism and caring that is generated by your staff. Well done! I feel blessed to have Dr. Christina Austin-Valere giving me her wonderful words of encouragement, and care. Dr. Christina Austin-Valere is the very best!!! She has a true sensitivity and concern for those that she is assisting! I can only hope/pray that other cancer victims are as blessed as I have been."


       Patricia C. 

Lymphedema after breast cancer

  • Posted Jul 02, 2013
  • hchadmin

Patient receiving lymphedema treatment Imagine you have just overcome one of the most difficult challenges of your life. But after being told you have breast cancer and going through all of the tests, surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy, you find out your challenges are not over.

Because your lymph nodes were removed to make sure the cancer did not spread, you are now at risk of developing lymphedema. In fact, you have stage 0 lymphedema, which means that at any time your arm could swell. This risk does not go away; you have this for the rest of your life.

So what is lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a condition in which the body is unable to properly transport fluid, called lymph fluid, from the tissue back to the bloodstream. This lymph fluid is rich in protein and can be drained only by the lymphatic vessels.

Lymph nodes are like filters along these lymphatic vessels. When lymph nodes are removed, these vessels are disrupted and so is the flow of lymph fluid. The fluid backs up into the tissues, and the limb swells. Use of medications such as diuretics is not recommended because they only get rid of the water, not the protein. This can make the swelling more dense and harder to control.

How is lymphedema treated?
Lymphedema can be successfully managed. The treatment depends on when the treatment begins. If treatment is sought early, close monitoring, exercise and daily manual lymph drainage (similar to a light massage) can be performed to maintain control.

If treatment begins in the later stages, complete decongestive therapy will be required. Compression bandages are usually applied daily to reduce the bulk of the swelling. Once the limb has reduced in size to a manageable level, it is maintained by wearing a compression garment. Lifelong management requires commitment but can be achieved in as little as 15 minutes per day.

To learn more about the Comprehensive Lymphedema Management program at Holy Cross Hospital, call 954-492-5738.  

-Syndee Schwartz, Senior Physical Therapist
Rehabilitation Institute, Holy Cross Hospital


CPS-3 Update and Thank you

  • Posted Jun 25, 2013
  • hchadmin

We recently received the following update from the American Cancer Society's Sandra Sanson:

I wish to convey my sincere appreciation  to each one of you for your support of the ACS Cancer Prevention Study - 3  (CPS-3) and for all that you did personally in your role as a CPS -3 Community Champion.  The final CPS 3 enrollment  event of the Spring series took place on Friday June 7, 2013.   The outcomes for all of the Spring events are listed (in the image below). To achieve 100% goal there will be additional CPS-3 enrollment events this fall.  Again many thanks to you for all of your support and partnership on this historic undertaking."

Holy Cross Hospital would like to thank everyone who participated -- as you can see, we enrolled 195. 


Partners in Breast Health: An Overview

  • Posted Jun 11, 2013
  • By Holy Cross Administrator

Free mammogram advertisementCurrent national research indicates that one of every 3,000 screening mammography exams in women, 45-65 year of age will result in a diagnosis of breast cancer.

New data based on two years of providing a community-level breast cancer screening program suggests that these national statistics fall short when applied to a more diverse community comprised of Caribbean immigrants and first generation Americans.

Data gathered from more than 1,500 screening mammograms further indicates and supports that screening in this population needs to occur by age 35. It is suggestive that these findings may be generalized to other closed populations.

Delivering evidence-based interventions adapted from the Community Health Planning Guidelines, client level assessments; breast screening and breast navigation services, cancer diagnosis has been made at alarming rates far exceeding national statistics. Synergistic community partnerships between private and public health care partners and a diversified funding base has contributed to the success of this grass roots outreach program targeting minority women, especially those without insurance and living at or below 200% poverty rates. Strategic internal planning, sponsorship and collaboration within a private, community non-profit hospital has provided a seamless continuum of care for newly diagnosed patients.

To learn more about the Partners in Breast Health Program,
call 954-294-0582.

Kim Saiswick, RN, EdD, LMHC
Director of Community Outreach
Holy Cross Hospital


Below is a commentary from Maureen G. Mann, MS, MBA, FACHE, Executive Director of the Michael and Dianne Bienes Cancer Center at Holy Cross Hospital, urging lawmakers to oppose House Bill 169. 

"...I am a very involved volunteer with the American Cancer Society...so this particular bill causes me great concern. Please see the notes below and VOTE NO when this bill comes to the floor...

Oppose House Bill 169
Nicotine Products & Nicotine Dispensing Device

Originally, the intent of HB 169 was to prohibit the sale of nicotine products and nicotine dispensing devices (e-cigarettes) to minors. However, added amendment language would strip local governments of their ability to regulate all tobacco products and e-cigarettes, overturn existing ordinances, and block future opportunities to protect kids in the retail environment. For example, many of the product placement ordinances we currently have in Florida go beyond the minimum standards set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), requiring that ALL tobacco products are placed behind the counter at retail stores, not just cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. With the preemption language, the bill now does more harm than good in the fight to keep Florida’s children tobacco free.

Key Points
Many of the ordinances we currently have in Florida deal with product placement, requiring that all tobacco, not just cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, are placed behind the counter at retail stores. They are stronger than the minimum standards required by the FDA and are all meant to keep tobacco
products out of the hands of children.

In-store tobacco displays serve to increase product availability, visibility and brand awareness and stimulate trial and purchase of products.1 Product placement laws limit youth access to tobacco via illegal sales and shoplifting.
Proponents for preemption claim that we need a uniform state law that covers all businesses rather than a patchwork of local ordinances. The fact is retailers are used to complying with a variety of local laws, including zoning, traffic restrictions, health regulations and even alcohol sales. Tobacco regulations
are no different than other regulations that vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.        
Local governments are more flexible and responsive than state government in effectively dealing with emerging problems and finding innovative solutions. Local governments are closer to the community and have been more effective than the state or federal government in addressing the problem of
tobacco use.

My Position
State laws should serve as a minimum standard for a policy objective while allowing communities to enact stronger ordinances to protect their youth and residents in the most appropriate manner. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and our partners ask that you oppose HB 169 and prevent the dismantlement of effective local tobacco ordinances around the state."


About the Center

The Michael & Dianne Bienes Comprehensive Cancer Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is the Cancer Care Leader in Broward County. Dedicated to providing patients with precise diagnosis, the latest and most advanced treatment and aftercare options, we offer a multidisciplinary approach to care, a compassionate and spiritual healing environment, and an affiliation with the National Cancer Institute. We are also working together with Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center to provide South Florida residents with rapid access to specialized cancer care and genetics counseling.

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