December 2021 Notable News

If you are like pretty much everyone in the world, you are tired of hearing about viruses, but there is a type of virus that you’ll be glad to learn about. You’ll also be glad to learn that blood tests are detecting cancer, immune cells are communicating with each other, and researchers are taking steps to reduce disparities in healthcare. You may not care to learn that there is yet another link between obesity and cancer, but there is, and that probably doesn’t come as a surprise at this point.

A study in Australia shows that obesity could lead to 10,000 cases of thyroid cancer in the next ten years, reports The study found that one in five future thyroid cancers in the future will be linked to obesity levels today. The study shows the importance of preventing obesity in order to prevent cancer. The findings are especially troubling because the occurrence of obesity has doubled in Australia over the last 20 years. Obesity has been called a causal risk factor for thyroid cancer. Learn more about the study here.

Researchers have developed a new tool for determining the risk of breast cancer in black women in the United States, reports Black women are usually younger when diagnosed and are more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive or advanced forms of breast cancer. Black women are also more likely to die from breast cancer. The tool, called the Black Women’s Health Study Breast Cancer Risk Calculator, is an online questionnaire that uses information about a woman’s medical, reproductive, and family history. The new screening tool is a step toward reducing the disparities in care for black women. Learn more about the risk calculator here.

Scientists have discovered how immune system cells communicate with each other to identify and eliminate tumors, reports The information could help improve the number of patients who are able to benefit from immune therapies and could lead to the development of vaccines that could increase the survival rate for several cancers. Learn more about the findings and how the cells communicate with each other here.

A California company has developed a simple blood test that could detect up to 50 different kinds of cancer, reports The test, called Galleri, can even reportedly detect pancreatic, ovarian, and esophageal cancers, which are generally hard-to-detect. The test detects whether cancer signals were or were not detected and could lead to early detection of cancers. The test does not diagnose cancer and is not meant to replace regular recommended screenings but could help detect cancers that don’t have screening tests. The test doesn’t have full Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval yet, and it’s meant for people at high risk for cancer. Patients can expect to pay $950 for the test which isn’t covered by insurance. Learn more about the Galleri test here.

Believe it or not, some viruses can help to fight diseases like cancer, reports Oncolytic viruses are able to target and destroy cancer cells all while leaving healthy cells alone. Viruses outnumber all other life forms combined, and they infect every form of cellular life. The oncolytic viruses are known as specialists in that they are selective in the type of organisms they infect, and because they kill cancer cells and don’t harm normal cells, they could provide a key to new cancer therapies. Learn more about the potential cancer fighting viruses here.

Let’s hope that in 2022 the viruses that are making headlines are the cancer-fighting kind. Wishing you health, peace and hope in 2022 and beyond. Happy New Year.

7 Things People with Cancer Need to Know About Infection

Everyone living with cancer understands the dangers of their disease. But did you know that infections cause, or are involved in, about 60% of all deaths for cancer patients? This is because many cancers, and many cancer therapies, can weaken your immune system. As you enter each phase of treatment, your doctors will prepare you for what to expect, but here are 7 things every patient with cancer — and those around them — need to know about infections. 

1. Know if you’re at risk, and when.

 Almost 20 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year, and nearly all cancer patients are likely to be immunocompromised at some point (or points) of their disease course. Hematologic cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma can weaken the immune system themselves, and certain solid cancers are related to diseases that weaken the immune system, like AIDS.

But even if your disease doesn’t impact your immune system, the treatment might. Most patients undergo treatments with chemotherapies, which attack the fast-dividing cells of the cancer, but also bone marrow that manufactures immune cells. Similarly, common treatments for blood cancers involve destroying and replacing bone marrow to reboot the immune system. Your doctor will inform you if you enter a treatment phase that requires extra caution and vigilance.

2. Understand the dangers of infections for the immunocompromised.

Patients with cancer may have unique challenges from infections that people with fully functioning immune systems may not. The most obvious issue is your body can’t mount its usual defense, leaving you unable to fight off what would be otherwise routine illnesses. Also, you are susceptible to certain types of pathogens, like certain fungal infections and hospital-acquired infections, that a healthy immune system would block early.

Importantly, your body’s common tools against infection — fever, inflammation, increases in certain easily-detected immune cells — are often the telltale signs of an infection. If they don’t occur normally, it’s easier to miss red flags of early disease, when treatment is often easier.

3. Protect yourself to avoid infection.

The best defense against infection is to not get one. Living through the pandemic has likely made you familiar with some common tools and strategies to minimize exposure to infectious diseases: wear the right mask, wash your hands frequently, and avoid contact with sick people and crowds. Vaccines can be important armor against infections, especially if you are not yet immunocompromised — but may become so later in treatment. (Your doctor can guide you on which vaccines to update.)

If you are already immunocompromised, it’s important for those around you with healthy immune systems to get vaccinated. They become your first line of defense.

If your white blood cell counts are low, you are considered neutropenic. Neutropenic patients should avoid hiking, where you risk exposure to molds growing in natural environment that might be dangerous. Similarly, avoid construction sites, which tend to aerosolize dirt — increasing the spread of dangerous pathogens.

4. Know the signs of infection.

Sometimes getting sick may be unavoidable. Infections may present differently in immunocompromised patients, depending on the type of infection, immune status, and how far a disease has progressed. But there are signs to watch for: 


This is the number one red flag, though it can be hard to interpret. When patients with low white blood cell counts have a fever it’s called febrile neutropenia. Because of the danger in developing a blood infection that escalates to life-threatening sepsis, patients will often be placed on broad-spectrum antibiotics immediately when presenting with a fever, though more accurate treatment. Fever, however, can also be a sign of cancer progression. 

Respiratory symptoms.

Things like shortness of breath or difficulty breathing can be signs of lung infection and pneumonia. 

Acute pain.

As with many symptoms, pain in the chest or abdomen are not necessarily signs of infection, but need to be investigated in immunocompromised patients 

Weight loss.

Weight loss is associated with serious infections like tuberculosis, which may be slow to show symptoms in patients with compromised immune systems. 


Another symptom that can have many causes.

5. Have a plan.

Don’t let the signs of infection catch you off-guard. The point at which you’ll be most at risk of infection is often predictable — for example, when white blood cell counts have dropped just after chemotherapy. This can help you prepare and stay vigilant.

Typically, doctors will advise blood cancer patients with signs of infection not to go to an emergency room — mixing with a general population of acutely ill patients could expose you to other dangerous pathogens. 

But that doesn’t mean to ignore symptoms or avoid care — if you wait until you experience drops in blood pressure or spiking fever, the outcomes could be worse. Instead, many oncologists recommend you call your cancer clinic, where your potential infection can be addressed by your doctors in a controlled setting. It’s understandable that patients will not want to be admitted too early, but early treatment tends to give better results. Make a plan with your specialists before you wind up in harm’s way. Speak with your family members so they know how to help you if you are in need. And know where you need to go.

6. Stay safe in the hospital.

The most common infections for immunocompromised patients are from opportunistic pathogens. This can include hospital-acquired infections, which is why most specialists will help you try to avoid the hospital if possible.

But sometimes it’s unavoidable. In these cases, you will most likely be transferred in from your cancer center or — after a phone call to your specialist — directly from home, avoiding the ER. Often, this means you will be in a dedicated cancer ward, intensive care, or otherwise segregated from people with normal immune systems. In any event, health care providers will be wearing masks and other protective gear to prevent exposing you to new pathogens. Hospitals also have additional safety protection like HEPA air filters and rigorous protocols to prevent contamination.

7. Be ready for the fight.

Clinicians will often use empiric antimicrobial therapy for cancer patients showing signs of infection. Under this approach, doctors begin the process of testing for the specific pathogen, but simultaneously start the patient on a broad-spectrum antimicrobial therapy while waiting for the results of testing. If testing can identify a specific cause, the doctors can switch to a more directed therapy that is appropriate for the specific illness.

If they can’t, there is still a chance the signs of infection will resolve, sometimes without ever finding a specific diagnosis. Those patients may have endured additional suffering, remained at elevated risk for new infections in a hospital setting, or encouraged antimicrobial resistance by treating a pathogen with an inappropriate treatment course. In the worst-case scenario, failure to identify the right pathogen may lead to worse outcomes for the patients.

The good news is that diagnostic testing is improving, and there are novel, highly accurate tools to help doctors get their patients on the most appropriate therapeutic course faster. This means directed treatment for more patients, earlier in the course of disease, for better outcomes with less antimicrobial resistance. 

About Patient Empowerment Network (PEN)

Founded in 2009, Patient Empowerment Network (PEN) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working on behalf of cancer patients and care partners. For more than a decade, we’ve been improving treatment outcomes and health equity for cancer patients and care partners at every step of their journey. PEN was founded by a chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patient, and over time we’ve dramatically expanded the cancer types for which we provide resources and support. Here’s a closer look at our origins, mission, programs, and goals for the future.

Origins and Vision of PEN

Unfortunately, a cancer diagnosis can overwhelm both patients and their loved ones. The need to take control after cancer diagnosis provided the seed, and the idea for PEN was born. With patients and their families in mind, we embarked on a path toward empowering them to ask the right questions at the right time for improved care. With this empowerment, patients and care partners built their health literacy to make informed choices in shared decision-making along with their care team.

PEN Mission

With that vision in mind, we penned the mission statement to guide the work ahead. Our mission is to fortify cancer patients and care partners with the knowledge and tools to boost their confidence, put them in control of their healthcare journey, and assist them in receiving the best, most personalized care available to ensure they have the best possible outcome.

How PEN Is Different

So how does PEN differ from other cancer advocacy organizations? At PEN, we take patient education a step further; we educate, then ACTIVATE cancer patients and their care partners to become shared-decision makers with their healthcare teams. By insisting on the most current and personalized care available, empowered patients achieve better treatment and health outcomes.

PEN Programs

With a wide array of content, our programs enhance patient health literacy to enable shared decision-making and to provide informational and educational resources to empower patients and care partners at every step of their cancer journey.

In 2020, we adopted the Path to Empowerment Framework to guide us in empowering patients and care partners along this journey. We know not everyone’s experience with cancer is the same, there are commonalities. Based on the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Experience Map, we have outline six commonalities. Within the framework’s six categories, you’ll find easy-to-understand and reliable information.

Path to Empowerment Framework

The Future of PEN

We are on track to serve over 200,000 patients and care partners in 2021. And in the future ahead, we aim to continue empowering patients and their families with knowledge to improve their treatment and health outcomes; build key strategic partnerships to expand into additional disease areas, expand the reach and visibility of PEN content; and locate and build additional funding resources. With these goals in mind, PEN can continue fortifying a sustainable future of serving and empowering patients and care partners toward optimal care and health outcomes for all.

5K Path to Empowerment Race Bib

Which Lung Cancer Treatment Is Right for You? What You Need to Know Guide

Download This Guide


Download This Guide

Baked Avocado Tacos

Baked Avocado Tacos from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.



  • Oil for spraying pan and avocados
  • 2 large, ripe avocados, seeded and peeled
  • ¾ cup (175 mL) panko bread crumbs
  • ½ tbsp (7 mL) chipotle rub
  • 10-12 corn or flour tortillas

Slaw & Sauce

  • 5 oz (150 g) radishes, trimmed
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into thirds
  • ½ lime
  • ⅓ cup (75 mL) fresh cilantro leaves
  • ½ cup (125 mL) 2% plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • ⅛ tsp (0.5 mL) salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Spray pan with oil
  2. Cut the avocados into slices. Lay the avocado slices on a cutting board.
  3. Combine the panko and rub in one tray. Lightly spray the avocado slices with oil. Dip 4–5 avocado slices at a time in the panko mixture and coat on both sides.
  4. Place the avocado slices on the pan and bake for 10–12 minutes, or until they’re light golden brown and crispy.
  5. For the slaw, grate the radishes and carrot into a small bowl.
  6. Zest the lime to measure ½ tbsp (7 mL) and set it aside. Juice the lime. Grate the cilantro. Add the lime juice and 1½ tbsp (22 mL) of the cilantro to the mixing bowl. Toss to combine.
  7. For the sauce, combine the Greek yogurt, lime zest, salt, and remaining cilantro in a small bowl.
  8. Transfer the pan from the oven to a cooling rack. Wrap the tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds, or until warmed.
  9. Spread the sauce onto the tortillas. Place 2 avocado slices on each tortilla and top with slaw.

History of Avocado

Experts believe that avocados – from the Persea americana tree – originated almost 10,000 years ago in the South Central state of Mexico called Puebla. And researchers think that domestication of the avocado tree to grow avocados occurred around 5,000 years ago. Along with its value as a food source, avocados were also prized for their perceived ability to provide mythological powers in ancient Aztec culture. Avocados were later introduced in the 1500s to the people of Europe by Spanish explorers who encountered them in North America, Central America, and South America.

Medical Properties of Avocado

Avocados are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and healthy fats – including vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, vitamin E, potassium, monosaturated fatty acids, lutein, and zeaxanthin. The oleic acid contained in monosaturated fatty acids in avocados are linked to lower inflammation in the body and positive effects on genes associated with cancer, and potassium supplied by avocados is connected with reduced blood pressure. Avocados are touted for being heart-healthy with studies linking them to reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The fiber supplied by avocados – with 75 percent being insoluble fiber – aids in maintaining a healthy digestive system. Even the fat contained in avocados assists in the body’s absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K and with antioxidants like carotenoids. The carotenoids of zeaxanthijn and lutein in avocados have been connected to reduction in degeneration of eyesight and lower rates of cataracts. Avocados also contain glutathione, which aids in function of a healthy immune system.

Surprising Facts About Avocado

An average size avocado contains 9 grams of fiber, which is the most among all fruits. Avocados actually belong to the same plant family as cinnamon – Lauraceae, commonly known as laurels. Avocados contain more potassium than bananas – weighing in at 975 milligrams per avocado compared to 544 milligrams of potassium per banana. Avocados were known as alligator pears in the U.S. until the U.S. Department of Agriculture renamed them as avocados. The summer of 2017 was especially memorable in the history of the avocado when over 3 million avocado toast photos were uploaded daily to Instagram.

See all recipes from the Cook & Learn series here.

Lo que necesita saber antes de elegir un tratamiento contra el cáncer

Lo que necesita saber antes de elegir un tratamiento contra el cáncer from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Dr. Jones:

Hola, Soy Doctor Jones y soy oncólogo y investigador. Me especializo en el cuidado y tratamiento de pacientes con cáncer.

Hoy, vamos a hablar sobre los pasos para acceder una atención personalizada y la mejor terapia para tu cáncer específico, y eso empieza con algo que se llama las pruebas del biomarcador.

Antes de empezar, quiero recordarte que este video tiene la intención de ayudar a educar a los pacientes de cáncer y sus seres queridos y no debería ser un reemplazo por consejo de su médico.

Empecemos con lo básico. Como si no hubiera dos huellas dactilares son exactamente iguales, no hay dos cánceres de pacientes son exactamente iguales. Por ejemplo, conozcamos a Louis, y otro paciente mío, Ben.

Los dos tienen el mismo tipo de cancer y fueron diagnosticados a casi el mismo tiempo. Pero cuando se ve de cerca, sus canceres se ven muy diferentes. y por lo tanto se deben de tratar diferentemente.

Podemos mirar más cuidadosamente al tipo de cáncer utilizando pruebas de biomarcadores, que busca mutaciones genéticas específicas, proteínas, anormalidades cromosómicas, y/u otros cambios moleculares que sean únicos a la enfermedad del individuo.

A veces llamado pruebas genéticas o pruebas genómicos. Las pruebas de biomarcadores pueden ser administrados a través de varias maneras. Como a través de un examen de sangre o un biopsia. Como se administran las pruebas dependerá de tu situación especifica.

Los resultados podrían ayudar a tu equipo de atención medico  entender como tu cáncer pueda comportarse y ayudar a planear el tratamiento, y pueda indicar si una terapia dirigida puede ser apropiada para ti. Mientras decidiendo si las pruebas de biomarcadores sean necesarias tu medico también tomará en consideración la fase de tu cáncer en el momento del diagnosis.


Cierto. Mis resultados de las pruebas de biomarcadores mostraron que tenia una mutación especifica de gene y que mi cáncer pueda responder  bien a terapia dirigida.

Doctor Jones, ¿puede explicar como la terapia dirigida es diferente al quimio?

Dr. Jones:

Buena pregunta. A través de los últimos años, las investigaciones han avanzado rápidamente en desarrollar terapias dirigidas. Lo cual ha dado paso para opciones mas efectivas y mejores resultados para los pacientes.

La quimioterapia sigue siendo una herramienta importante para el tratamiento de cáncer. Y trabaja a través de afectar la habilidad que tiene una cedula de cáncer para dividir y crecer. Y ya que las cedulas de cáncer típicamente crecen mas rápidas que las cedulas normales, la quimioterapia tiene mas probabilidad de matar a las células de cáncer.

La terapia dirigida, por otro lado, trabaja bloqueando mutaciones especificas, y previniendo que las cedulas de cáncer puedan crecer y dividirse.

Estas terapias más nuevas están actualmente siendo utilizadas para tratar muchos canceres de sangre, y a su vez canceres de tumores solidos. Mientras consideras los tratamientos es importante tener toda la información sobre tu diagnosis, incluyendo los resultados de los exámenes de biomarcadores para que puedas discutir tus opciones de tratamiento y metas con tu equipo de atención medica.


Exactamente. Doctor Jones me hizo sentir que tenia una voz en mi decisión de tratamiento. Discutimos cosas como  efectos secundarios posibles, como se ve el curso de tratamiento, y como puede afectar a mi estilo de vida.

Cuando te reúnes con tu equipo de atención medica, insiste que te respondan todas tus preguntas. Acuérdate, esto es tu vida, y es importante que te sientes cómodo y incluido cuando este tomando decisiones de salud.

Dr. Jones:

Y si no te sientes que tu voz está siendo escuchada, pueda que sea el momento para considerar una segunda o tercera opinión de un doctor que especializa en el tipo de cáncer que tienes.

Así que, ¿cómo puedes utilizar esta información para acceder tratamiento personalizado?

Primer, recuerda, no hay dos canceres iguales. Lo que pueda funcionar para el cáncer de otro,puede que no funcione para ti.

Después, asegúrate preguntar si la prueba del biomarcador es apropiado para tu diagnosis. Luego, discuta todos tus resultados de las pruebas con tu proveedor, antes de tomar una decisión de tratamiento, y pregunta si se necesitará repetir las pruebas a través del tiempo, para identificar biomarcadores adicionales.

Lo que escoges para tu tratamiento debe ser una decisión compartida con tu equipo de atención medica. Discuta cuales son tus opciones y metas de tratamiento con tu doctor.

Y por ultimo, pero no menos importante, es importante preguntar si una terapia dirigida o un ensayo clínico puede  ser apropiado para ti. Los ensayos clínicos puedan proveer acceso a nuevos tratamientos prometedoras.


Todos son buenos puntos, Doctor Jones. Esperemos que puedas poner a trabajar esta información para ti. Visite para aprender más consejos de como abogar para ti mismo.

Dr. Jones:

Gracias por estar con nosotros hoy.

Is There Value in Seeking a Second Opinion?

Is There Value in Seeking a Second Opinion from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Empowered myeloma patients, Honora Miller and Barry Marcus, share the importance of getting a second opinion and how to navigate if you are reluctant to ask for another physician to review your case.


Barry Marcus:

I sought out a second opinion right after my initial diagnosis, I knew very little about multiple myeloma when I was first diagnosed, and as I just mentioned, I didn’t have a lot of confidence in the doctors in my initial HMO, so I wanted to make sure just for myself and for the future, whether what they were proposing as a treatment plan made sense for me, and so I did seek out a second opinion and I was so glad that I did. It did give me a little bit more confidence in what the initial HMO was proposing because the doctor that I saw, said, Yeah, this is the correct thing to do for you. Now, since I’ve been with the same oncologist now for a number of years, I have gotten second opinions on things that he’s told me I wanted to do, and I did have to overcome my initial reluctance to do that for kind of fear of hurting his feelings or thinking that maybe he wouldn’t like me as much after that, but in speaking with many of the infusion nurses, they say it’s quite common and the doctors don’t mind at all, and it’s really something that I need to do to feel like I’m getting the best course of treatment.

Honora Miller:

I have found too that in speaking with people that same reluctance around not wanting to hurt feelings, but indeed the doctors themselves, I’ve have talked about it directly with my doctor, it’s so common at a practice. It’s just part of their world. Of course, we don’t know that and we’re trying to be sensitive, but they’re not concerned about it at all. In fact, even changing doctors, they don’t even blink at it because they’ve got so many patients that they don’t concern themselves when you decided to move on to a different doctor, ’cause I have changed doctors when I didn’t feel like it was the right fit, oncologists, and that has been a really good thing to do when I didn’t feel comfortable.

When I didn’t feel, I guess it was as a result of COVID, it kind of gave me like another lens to look at my relationship with my doctor and my comfort level, ’cause I’ve had several oncologists, several of them have moved on. Once I realized, okay, this is living with myeloma during COVID, do I feel comfortable with this oncologist being my doctor that I was realizing, no, okay, I need to switch doctors till I feel comfortable, and I did get a referral within the same practice of a different oncologist, and I’m so happy that I did that, ’cause it makes all the difference.

We communicate much more easily, and I feel like if anything goes on with COVID, like I could rely on him to make some good decisions around my health.

Barry Marcus:

One of the things that I’ve come to realize is that treating myeloma is just as much an art as it is a science, and there is no one-size-fits all for any patient, and if I get a suggestion from a second doctor, I bring it back to my primary oncologist, he’s been very accepting of it and willing to consider making some changes maybe that I got from seeking out a second opinion. So, I feel like I’ve been fortunate in that.

Read the Full PEN-Powered Activity Guide VI

How Does COVID-19 Create Sleep Issues for Cancer Patients?

Are you having sleep problems during the COVID-19 pandemic? A recent Swiss study showed that people’s sleeping hours are more regular during the global crisis, but self-reported sleep quality has decreased, according to Science Daily. Besides that, some groups like cancer patients are more likely to experience sleep deprivation during such challenging times.

There are several factors that might affect the sleep quality of people diagnosed with cancer. They include the diagnosis, cancer treatments, medical bills, and an uncertain future. Stress and anxiety due to coronavirus disease can also cause a disruption of everyday schedules. Sleep disorders themselves can worsen cancer symptoms, which creates a vicious cycle.

Cancer Survivors and Sleep Disorders

Getting a good night’s sleep can already be tough for cancer patients. Studies show that over three-quarters of people with severe disease have sleeping problems, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

The good news is today’s scientists and physicians have a better understanding than in the past about how sleep works and how to improve sleep quality.

Sleep provides many health benefits for overall physical, mental, and emotional health. This is especially true for people battling severe diseases like cancer. For example, it can boost your body’s immune system, which makes it more effective at fighting off cancer cells.

On the other hand, lack of sleep can have the opposite effect. This can weaken the immune system and slow down recovery from sickness or injury. Serious sleeping disorders can also create an imbalance of the cell-impacting hormones cortisol (stress hormone), and melatonin (sleep hormone).

Sleep: Its Influence on People Living with Cancer (video)

Other Effects

Besides affecting cancer cells and tumors, poor sleep can also have other negative effects related to:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack/stroke
  • Mental health
  • Sleep

One theory is that melatonin might be the root cause that affects these health conditions and episodes. However, more research is needed. The body normally produces more melatonin at night as it gets dark outdoors and the human body winds down for rest and repair.

COVID-19 and Sleep Problems

Fun Fact: The acronym COVID-19 stands for corona (CO), virus (VI), disease (D), and 2019 (19). There are various possible factors related to the global epidemic that might affect people’s sleep, even if they haven’t tested positive for respiratory disease:

Anxiety, Stress, and Depression

The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has become a global financial crisis that could cost the United States alone $16 trillion, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Quarantines, layoffs/furloughs, and school closures have caused stressful situations for people, and it’s even worse for those with severe diseases like cancer.

Even indirect factors like COVID updates have created more stress and duress. This is why it’s important to avoid reading or watching daily news after 7 PM or so. Negative news can affect your psyche and make it tougher to doze off at bedtime. A better option is good news.

Disrupted Daily Doings

The “new normal” during the ongoing pandemic might affect the quality of sleep. More stay-at-home time can cause wholesale schedules in daily schedules. That, in turn, can result in a sedentary lifestyle of sitting down and fewer gym workouts. This can negatively affect sleep unlike the option to make the right selection of mattress.

Blue Light

Studies show that blue light from sources like computer monitors, mobile devices, and fluorescent light bulbs can disrupt people’s sleep patterns.

Besides that factor, people might have more screen time during quarantines and lockdowns as they use their PCs/Macs, tablets, and smartphones to get COVID updates

and interact with friends and family. This can increase the risk of tossing and turning due to insomnia.

COVID-19, Sleep, and Cancer: It’s Complicated

As noted, several factors can negatively affect the sleep quality of cancer patients. When you add factors like a worldwide pandemic to the mix, this situation becomes ultra-complex.

Coronavirus and Sleep

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis isn’t just about the contagious virus itself, which makes it a whole lot more serious than a sleepless night when counting sheep and a warm glass of milk doesn’t seem to work.

Here’s the problem. Your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep during a pandemic probably isn’t related to the respiratory condition itself. Instead, it’s the effects of everyday life that have been turned upside-down because of the virus.

The effects of a global pandemic can include different factors related to work, school, and home. People can also experience emotional problems like worry, anxiety, and depression. Besides affecting your sleep schedule, it can even negatively impact your general health. So it’s a double-whammy.

COVID-19: The Importance of Sleep (video)

Stress and Sleep

While taking steps like picking a comfortable mattress can help you sleep like a baby, stress can have the opposite effect. In fact, insomnia can affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Stress triggered by stress hormones like cortisol can affect various biological processes, including sleep. If you’ve already received a cancer diagnosis, then a viral pandemic can make the situation even worse.

Pandemics and Sleep

The current pandemic can increase stressors and create an uncertain future due to the disruption of everyday life. This is due to extraordinary changes to daily life, including social distancing, virtual work, and home-schooling.

More Sleep for Cancer Patients During COVID Quarantines

Cancer survivors can take some basic steps to get more shut-eye during the current quarantines/lockdowns:

Sleep-friendly Environment

Dark, quiet, and cool rooms can all help to help cancer patients get a good night’s sleep during a global pandemic. It’s important to create a sleep-inducing environment that can help you fall asleep, and then cycle through the five sleep stages multiple times. If you dream you’re probably in ‘deep sleep.”

There are various steps you can take:

  • Minimize artificial lighting with options like night lights and dimmer switches
  • Clear your mind of everything and focus on falling asleep
  • End all daily news consumption before 7 PM
  • Use heavy curtains and blinds to block outside light
  • Avoid heavy meals, exercise, and caffeine/alcohol close to bedtime
  • Ditch all thoughts about the current COVID-19 pandemic
  • Use aromatherapy through sprays, diffusers, and massages at bedtime
  • Delay dealing with personal problems until the next day
  • Eliminate loud sounds and use sleep aids like noise machines
  • Do meditation, yoga, or light exercise to prepare for bedtime
  • Use self-mantras to help you doze off when your mind races
  • Lower the thermostat to about 65°F (18°C) to promote quality sleep


Dealing with the year-long COVID-19 pandemic can be tough enough. The predicament becomes even tougher for cancer patients who must also handle disease-related issues like cancer diagnosis, symptoms, and treatments. That’s why it’s so important for survivors to take steps to stay calm, boost their immune system, and get a good night’s sleep. Sleeping well can help you fight the coronavirus while you battle cancer.

Helpful Oral Care Tips For Cancer Patients

Around 80% of individuals undergoing myeloablative chemotherapy experience oral complications and conditions, according to professor in cancer and palliative care, Munikumar Ramasamy Venkatasalu. It is crucial for individuals with cancer and their caretakers to know how to sufficiently address conditions that may occur in all areas of health. In this case, it helps to know several helpful oral care tips to help patients maintain proper oral health.

Understand Common Oral Complications

Cancer patients often have a high risk of developing oral complications, as radiation therapy can cause direct damage and break down to salivary glands and oral tissue, according to the National Cancer Institute. Understanding some of the more common oral complications like fibrosis, tooth decay, and periodontitis can help you to spot any early symptoms so they can be nipped in the bud before they become exacerbated with time. Requesting a list of oral complications and their common symptoms from a dentist can help keep information fresh and easily accessible.

Schedule Veneer Cleaning Every Six Months

Veneers are often seen as a good option for cancer patients who have struggled with oral complications. However, just because a person has veneers, it does not mean that they are immune to cavities and gum disease. While veneers — especially porcelain ones — can last an average of 15 to 20 years, proper care and regular cleaning sessions can ensure they last longer. So for those with veneers, scheduling a cleaning session every six months is a must. A cleaning appointment also gives a dental professional an opportunity to give their client an update on the current state of their oral health.

Eat Bone-Building Foods

A good way to keep up a patient’s oral health and stave off any chemotherapy side effects is by ingesting more bone-building foods, according to Eating more foods that increase the presence of Vitamin D and calcium help keep jaws and teeth strong. Some of the foods that help make bones strong are dairy products and cruciferous vegetables. Other good bone-building foods are nuts like almonds and pecans, as they are a good source of magnesium and phosphorus. Seeds like chia, pumpkin and flaxseed are also good sources of calcium, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. So not only will a patient’s oral health improve, but other aspects of their health will be boosted as well.

Maintain Brushing And Flossing Every Day

Naturally, the best way to keep oral health up is by relying on good habits like brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing regularly. It is recommended that a patient’s toothbrush be soaked in warm water to help soften any bristles to avoid bruising gums that have become sensitive because of radiation therapy. Ask a dentist for special instructions on how to brush and floss to lower the risk of bleeding gums and infection.

Oral health is crucial to general health and overall quality of life. Therefore, cancer patients and their caregivers must be proactive in ensuring that good habits are maintained in order to keep away negative conditions. It is also recommended to keep in touch with the patient’s primary physician and dentist so that they may be able to catch any complications before they fully set in.

Cancer Awareness Calendar 2021


Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

Blood Donor Month


National Cancer Prevention Month

Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancer Awareness Month

World Cancer Day (February 4, 2021)

National Donor Day (February 14, 2021)

Rare Disease Day (February 28, 2021)


Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

International Women’s Day (March 8, 2021)

Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Day (March 3, 2021)

Kidney Cancer Awareness Month

Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month

Anal Cancer Awareness Day (March 21, 2021)


National Cancer Control Month

Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month

Minority Cancer Awareness Month

Minority Health Month

National Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Awareness Week (April 11-17, 2021)

Testicular Cancer Awareness Month

World Health Day (April 7, 2021)


Bladder Cancer Awareness Month

Brain Tumor Awareness Month

Cancer Research Month

Clinical Trial Awareness Week

Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Melanoma Monday (May 3, 2021)

Women’s Check-up Day (May 10, 2021)

Women’s Health Week (May 9−15, 2021)

Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month


Cancer Survivors Month

Cancer Survivors Day (June 6, 2021)

Men’s Health Week (June 14−20, 2021)


UV Safety Awareness Month

Sarcoma and Bone Cancer Awareness Month


Summer Sun Safety Month

World Lung Cancer Day (August 1, 2021)


Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Uterine Cancer Awareness Month

Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

Blood Cancer Awareness Month

MPN Awareness Day (September 9, 2021)

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day (September 21, 2021)

Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month


Breast Cancer Awareness Month

National Mammography Day (October 15, 2021)

Liver Cancer Awareness Month


Lung Cancer Awareness Month

National Family Caregiver Month

Carcinoid Cancer Awareness Month

Neuroendocrine Tumor (NET) Awareness Day (November 10, 2021)

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

Stomach Cancer Awareness Month

INSIST! Lung Cancer | Resource Guide

Download This Guide


Download This Guide

Should You Have Prostate Cancer Genetic Testing?

Should You Have Prostate Cancer Genetic Testing? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Should you ask for prostate cancer genetic testing? Dr. Nima Sharifi discusses prostate cancer genetics and shares his perspective on how testing can help ensure the best care for a patient.

Dr. Nima Sharifi is Director of the Genitourinary (GU) Malignancies Research Center at the Cleveland Clinic. Learn more here.

See more from The Pro-Active Prostate Cancer Patient Toolkit

Related Resources

Prostate Cancer Treatment Decisions: How Do Genetic Test Results Impact Your Options?

Prostate Cancer Treatment Decisions: How Do Genetic Test Results Impact Your Options?

Targeted Prostate Cancer Therapies vs. Chemotherapy: What’s the Difference?

Prostate Cancer Staging: What Patients Should Know



Dr. Sharifi:

I think it’s okay when you’re speaking with your physician to say that you’re concerned about the genetics of prostate cancer. You can ask about personalized medicine treatment options, and whether genetic testing would make a difference for treatments.


And you can also bring up the concern about family members, and that there may be an inherited or heritable component of cancer that could be passed down, for example, from one generation to the next and that could be shared among siblings. I think there’s nothing wrong with bringing that up. And I would suggest that if that’s a concern, that a man does bring that up with their physician.                                   


So, it turns out that there are certain germline mutations that can predispose to several different types of cancers.


For example, these BRCA mutations can predispose to developing prostate and perhaps more aggressive prostate cancer, but they can also predispose to developing breast cancer. So, if you look, for example, at members of a family who are related, you may see that certain cancers may develop in multiple family members. So, if you see that that – If you look at your family history and you see that that is the case, then you may want to think about genetic testing and perhaps to see a genetic counselor to talk about getting tested.