Tag Archive for: cervical cancer

Cancer Patient Profile: Linda Ryan

As a survivor of thyroid cancer, adenocarcinoma in situ of the cervix, and seven cancer recurrences, our PEN Gynecological Cancer Empowerment Lead Linda Ryan has learned a lot about cancer treatment and about life. She’s discovered the value of self-education, clinical trials, and friendships among many other things. 

Linda’s first cancer experience occurred in 2002 with her thyroid cancer diagnosis. She received successful treatment and then two years later, as a result of a routine pap exam, she was diagnosed with stage 0 adenocarcinoma in situ of the cervix. Linda had a hysterectomy and no other treatment. And then seven years later, she found a lump on her neck that her doctors diagnosed as thyroid cancer recurrence. She had a radical neck dissection scheduled but found some lymph nodes in her groin area ahead of her surgery date. The sense of urgency for treatment increased considerably after the physician assistant knew Linda didn’t have thyroid cancer.

Linda learned that the standard of care option had a 15 percent response rate for her diagnosis, and the clinical trial was seeing  a 31 percent response rate. She chose the clinical trial since it increased her chances by 16 percent. She traveled from Florida to Houston for treatment, and she did that for eight rounds every three weeks and then had no evidence of disease.

Clinical trial participation wasn’t something that Linda would have known to ask about initially, but she’s participated in a few trials. Patients can find all clinical trials on clinicaltrials.gov. “It’s important for patients to ask their doctors about trials and to do research on trials, knowing that they may not be eligible for certain ones if they don’t have certain cancer mutations or other treatment factors. Trials are available to patients in community settings and not just teaching institutions. I feel like I’m using them and getting the benefit of kind of cutting-edge medicine that isn’t available. So I think it’s important for people to seek out trials and educate themselves if there is something available for them.”

One key piece of advice from Linda is don’t give the cancer any more power than it deserves. “So I think it’s important to always remember you’re in charge, and you’re more powerful than the cancer. The words you use to talk about your cancer are very important. So knowing that when I exercise, I feel stronger than the cancer, even if I’m not lifting weights, but I’m moving.” She also recommends using mental exercises or spiritual practice as a way to keep your personal power during your cancer journey and to keep excessive anxiety at bay. 

At the beginning of her cancer journey, Linda asked her doctor if she could keep running. Her doctor advised her to keep moving as much as she could. A group of Linda’s friends decided to host a 5K in her honor. “The goal was just to get our community moving and to hear that message of the importance of exercise. And it gave me a lot of mental strength.”

Reflecting back on the initial 5K event, Linda and her friends set out with specific goals for the event. They wanted the community to hear their message and wanted 300 people to participate in the first race. They were simply overwhelmed with joy when 900 people registered. They only needed 300 people to register to cover the expenses. The large event turnout meant that they had plenty of money left to donate. 

And we had a small amount of money at that time, but we thought, “Well, we can do something good with this money.” And so we created a 501(c)(3) charity, and it became an annual event and an event for our small town in Florida to land, and Central Florida really embraced it. Fast forward to 2020, right before the pandemic we had 6,000 participants. It was just us five women running it. We all had different talents and decided it was time for someone else to take it over.”

Up until the time that the new organization took over in 2023, Linda’s efforts with her friends gave a little over $2 million. “So many good things came out of it, we’ve touched so many lives of people living with a cancer diagnosis and going through that process. But in addition to what the beneficiary money went to, the event united our community.”

While Linda was enduring her cancer journey, her whole town was looped in on what was happening with her. “When I would have a recurrence, I’d be in the grocery store in tears, because someone would know it was just like everyone knew. And so lightning in a bottle was such a great way to describe it. And then the other thing is because there aren’t a lot of recurrent cervical cancer survivors, especially six, seven-time survivors, I’ve been able to, hopefully, be a voice for other women.”

Linda has formed an educated opinion about cancer information. “Having more information can help all of us patients make better decisions and more informed decisions and talk to the doctors about things that they weren’t necessarily thinking would be specific to you. But getting more information can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes the more information we have, we can fall down rabbit holes and our cancer might not be this exact mutation, and we might read something on the Internet that isn’t necessarily relevant for our own situation. Make sure to talk with your doctor about information that you find.”

As for patients navigating their cancer journeys, Linda feels it’s important for patients to be empowered and to handle their cancer journey how they want to go through it. “Some patients may want someone else directing everything, but that’s their choice. Some people only tell their spouse. I think caregivers need to respect what the patient wants. That doesn’t mean the patient doesn’t need a reminder from time to time that they need to get up and put a smile on once in a while. I wouldn’t want to be the caregiver. It’s so hard for them, since they can fix the cancer.”

Last November, Linda had a scan that showed no evidence of disease, but she remained on pembrolizumab (Keytruda) as a precaution. “I receive it every three weeks through my port, but it’s super easy. I don’t have side effects. It’s 30 minutes. It’s not life-changing at all. So I hope to be on it for a really long long time, and I get scans every three months. I feel great.”

Though she never could have imagined enduring two types of cancer and seven cancer recurrences, Linda remains grateful for the good things that have come from her journey. “My prayer the last two years was, ‘Please let me live and use me as however I need to be used to help other people.’”

June 2023 Notable News

June brings many challenges for cancer patients and new knowledge can help fight the disease. Insurance companies have taken the fight to the supreme court to try to avoid paying for cancer screening tests. A shortage of two cancer drugs is having a significant impact on cancer patients in the U.S. Obesity has been found to be a rising risk factor for cancer, affecting men and women differently.

Survey Finds Majority of Cancer Patients and Survivors Would be Less Likely to Get Recommended Screenings if Costs Were Added

Thanks to a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires evidence-based prevention and early detection at no cost to patients with private insurance, we’ve seen improved access to recommended services that detect disease when it is less costly to treat, and chances of survival are greater reports American Cancer Society. A new ruling in the case Braidwood v Becerra, in the US District Court in Texas, is threatening that access for patients. Patients surveyed said that a cost between $100 to $200 for preventative tests would be a burden to them financially and would be a barrier to getting those lifesaving tests. The cost increase incurred can either be from annual screening or lifesaving treatments. Cancer patients already face challenges in finding a provider due to cost. A patient navigator is also a beneficial service for cancer patients and has been shown to help influence better outcomes. The cost of the navigator can be prohibitive for patients. Insurance cutbacks are a matter of life and death for many cancer patients. Click here for more information.

Carboplatin, Cisplatin Chemotherapy Drug Shortages Delaying Some Cancer Treatments in New York

We’re really in an unprecedented situation in the cancer field, said Dr Richard Carvajal, a medical oncologist who helps run Northwell Health Cancer Institute. Carboplatin and cisplatin shortages are delaying treatment, forcing doctors and patients to make tough choices, according to Carvajal reports CBS News. These two drugs are used in 10 to 20% of cancer patient treatment in New York. Doctors are having to give lower doses or fewer doses of this chemotherapy to patients. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network released a study that found 93% of cancer centers in the U.S. are experiencing this shortage reports CBS News. In January, a large plant in India had quality control problems with much of its supply causing this shortage. Doctors must choose who gets treatment and who does not. The FDA is trying to get the cancer drugs sent from China to help correct the shortage. Patients should talk with their physician about their best option. Click here for more information.

Women and Men Face Different Cancers- Depending on Where Fat Falls

To investigate the links between cancer and obesity among men and women, Rask- Anderson and other researchers turned to the UK Biobank, a biomedical database with genetic and health information from more than half a million participants across the UK reports New York Post. The research has shown that all cancers are influenced by obesity except for brain, cervical, and testicular cancers. Obesity causes men to be more at risk for breast, liver, and kidney cancers. For women, obesity causes them to be more at risk for gallbladder, endometrial, and esophageal cancers. An increase in fat accumulation in the abdomen makes women more at risk for esophageal cancers. An increase in total body fat in men cause a higher risk for liver cancer. Postmenopausal women are at a higher risk for breast cancer when they are obese. Obesity is the fastest growing risk factor for cancer. Click here for more information.

Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors: What Patients Should Know

Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors: What Patients Should Know from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What ovarian cancer risk factors should patients know about? Expert Dr. Ebony Hoskins explains common risk factors and shares advice for patients to ensure their best care.

Dr. Hoskins is a board-certified gynecologic oncologist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and assistant professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology at Georgetown University Medical Center. Hoskins sees women for gynecological malignancies, which include the treatment of endometrial, ovarian, vulva, vaginal and cervical cancers.


“…understanding the risk factors for ovarian cancer by also understanding the cancers that we know that we don’t have a screening for.”

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Dr. Hoskins, what are the risk factors for developing ovarian cancer?

Dr. Ebony Hoskins:

So, risk factors for developing ovarian cancer, I mentioned this, is genetics, could be genetics. So someone with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer, a BRCA mutation, Lynch syndrome. We also see it in women who are of later in age. Women who’ve had numerous ovulation cycles. Those are some of the risk factors. And I think the difference with, say, ovarian cancer is we don’t have a known precursor lesion to look for, to detect it early, if you will.

So it’s a little bit different than, say, some other cancers like a cervical cancer or colon cancer, where we can kind of find an early lesion and prevent it, with ovarian cancer we don’t. So these risk factors are kind of risk factors, but not necessarily diagnostic of it, if you will. So my activation tip would be understanding the risk factors for ovarian cancer by also understanding the cancers that where we know that we don’t have a screening for.

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July 2022 Notable News

July brings important advances in cancer research that can lead to better patient outcomes. Research has shown that adult cancer survivors have an increased risk in developing heart disease and heart related complications. More studies are needed to determine why black leukemia patients are having worse outcomes than white leukemia patients of the same age. A portable screening test is bringing early diagnosis of cervical cancer for women in lower income and more isolated areas.

Adult Cancer Survivors have Higher Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Than Those Without Cancer, Study Shows

Adult survivors of cancer have a higher risk of heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases (CVD) later in life than adults without cancer, according to results of a large study led by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers reports MedicalXpress.com. Cancer patients that have used treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation to the chest area are at a higher risk because of the damage it causes to the heart. These patients have an increased risk for heart failure and stroke. With the advances in treatment, cancer patients are living longer which makes it more likely to have heart disease. The causes of this damage are oxidative stress, inflammation, and cardiac toxicity from treatments, on top of the regular risk factors of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. It is important to teach prevention of heart disease to cancer patients due to their increase risks. Find more information here.

Black Leukemia Patients Have Higher Risk of Death Than White Counterparts

The new study, which looked at outcomes or patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), highlights an urgent need to understand racial and ethnic differences, as well as the inequities in diagnosis, treatment and care between Black and White patients reports UPInews.com. AML is a rapidly progressing cancer that requires treatment immediately upon diagnosis, making the findings of this research even more important. Black people with this cancer have and increased rate of early death and a lower rate of long-term survivability than white cancer patients of the same age. Black cancer patients are underrepresented in clinical trials and research, studies have been primarily focused on people of European descent. Treatment delays and providing lower quality of care also play a role in these results. More research with a more diverse study group is urgently needed to improve patient outcomes. Find more information here.

Easier, Early Cervical Cancer Testing to Save Lives

Prevention and the HPV vaccine is helping to reduce the numbers of women dying with cervical cancer, but new portable screening kits and new types of lab tests will improve diagnosis and earlier treatment of the disease reports MedicalXpress.com. Cervical cancer is the fourth common cause of cancer for women, and it is highly treatable if diagnosed early. Most deaths occur in women from lower income countries that have limited screening available, there can be delays getting results and delays to treatment. If a woman is diagnosed in an advanced stage of cancer, time makes a big difference in survivability. Scientists have developed a portable screening kit called Elevate. This kit requires little training and women can collect it themselves, the results are returned in one day. The kit uses DNA to look for HPV, the virus that can cause cervical cancer. Elevate is being used in isolated areas where medical care is difficult to get to, as well as for women that are too busy to get the care they need. Find more information here.

March 2022 Digital Health Round Up

Cancer screening is the best tool available in the fight against cancer. Thanks to technological advances, one company is using artificial intelligence to transform the future of cervical cancer screening. Rush Hospital in Chicago is also using an artificial intelligence system to improve colon cancer screening. Both cervical and colon cancer often do not present with symptoms in early stages, so screening is important. A company in Madison is using digital technology to analyze tumor biopsies, in turn allowing for more effective treatment options for providers and patients.

AI Transforms Cervical Cancer Screening

Health experts said the new technology could be instrumental in ensuring earlier detection of pre-cancerous cells and cancer cells and has the potential to save lives, reports Newschainonline.com . A hospital in the UK is piloting the technology using artificial intelligence that takes digital cytology images from cervical smear samples that test positive for HPV (human papillomavirus). The AI sorts through all the cell images and pulls out the images of abnormalities. The expert providers use these images to detect pre-cancerous and cancerous cells, allowing for earlier diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Find more information here.

Rush Deploys AI System for Colon Cancer Screening

The Medtronic GI Genius intelligent endoscopy system can help increase the ability to locate multiple polyps during a colonoscopy by 50 percent, resulting in enhanced diagnosis and treatment of digestive diseases, reports healthitanalytics.com . This Artificial Intelligence helps physicians find polyps that the naked eye cannot see, therefore catching the polyps before cancer can develop. Colon cancer is the second deadliest cancer. Rush Hospital in Chicago, Illinois is using the technology during their colonoscopies. Find more information here.

Madison Company Testing New Technology in Cancer Diagnosis

With three-dimensional imaging licensed from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, based on work from the lab of UW-Madison biomedical engineering professor Kevin Eliceiri, Elephas Biosciences can analyze live tumor samples to see how well they respond to therapies, reports Madison.com . This can help diagnose all types of cancer with solid tumors. These live tissue samples from the biopsies can be tested with different treatments to see which is most effective. Physicians can try the treatment on the tumor before using it on the patient; this could eliminate blind testing and provide better outcomes with less side effects for patients. Find more information here.

November 2021 Notable News

Cancer research has come a long way in the last half century. Each month there is an amazing amount of new knowledge. There’s new information this month about childhood cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and a couple of vaccines. The research and advances we learn about each month are due in large part to the programs and systems that resulted from the National Cancer Act of 1971.

National Cancer Act of 1971

Fifty years ago, a few days before Christmas, President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act of 1971, and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is commemorating the anniversary at cancer.gov. The act established networks of cancer centers, clinical trials, data collection systems, and advanced research. As an amendment to the Public Health Service Act of 1944, by signing the act, Nixon declared a war on cancer. The bill expanded the authority of the director of the NCI and made possible many of the present-day advances in cancer research. Learn more about the National Cancer Act of 1971 and the impact it has had over the past 50 years here.

HPV Vaccine

One of the accomplishments noted by the NCI is the HPV vaccine. The vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV) is reducing the number of cervical cancer cases by almost 90 percent, says bbc.com. Almost all cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV, and cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide. More than 100 countries are using the vaccine to help in the World Health Organization’s goal to eliminate cervical cancer. With such positive results in the United Kingdom, the hope is that the vaccine will have an even bigger impact in lower income countries. Read more here.

Covid-19 Vaccines

Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective for most cancer patients, reports usnews.com. In a study that included more than 1,000 vaccinated cancer patients, researchers found that the vaccines were effective in protecting cancer patients from severe Covid-19. Patients who had been treated with chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants, or corticosteroids had a weaker immune response, but still benefited from the vaccine’s protection. Cancer patients had similar side effects as healthy vaccine recipients. Get more information here.

Pancreatic Cancer Detection

Researchers have identified two additional symptoms of pancreatic cancer that could help with earlier detection of the disease, reports webmd.com. The newly identified symptoms are feeling thirsty and having dark urine, and they are associated with the most common type of pancreatic cancer. Other symptoms include problems swallowing, diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, abdominal swelling, tiredness, constipation, back pain, itching, loss of appetite, change in bowel habits, indigestion, abdominal pain, abdominal mass, nausea, flatulence, heartburn, and fever. Patients can have symptoms for up to a year before diagnosis. Get more information here.

Gut Microbiome and Prostate Cancer

A new study shows that there might be a link between the gut microbiome and deadly prostate cancer, reports medicalnewstoday.com. Researchers analyzed different metabolites in the blood serum of study participants and found a connection between aggressive prostate cancer and three of the metabolites. The metabolites, phenylacetylglutamine, choline, and betaine, are either produced by the gut or found in some foods. The metabolites are mostly found in meat and animal products, but also in beans, nuts, and diet sodas with aspartame. Men with high levels of choline or betaine were two times more likely to die of prostate cancer, and men with high levels of phenylacetylglutamine were 2.5 times more likely to die of prostate cancer. Learn more about the study here.

Childhood Cancer Survivors

Childhood cancer survivors tend to have higher risk of lifelong health problems, reports medicalxpress.com. A new study shows that the type of cancer and how the cancer was treated can affect the type of health issues survivors will have later in life. Researchers found that people who were treated with chemotherapy and radiation were most likely to experience later health problems. The lowest risk was for people who were treated only with surgery. Researchers say the long-term health effects should be considered when discussing treatment options for young people with cancer. Learn more about the study and watch an animated video that explains the study in an easy-to-understand manner here.

Here’s hoping that we will have more preventive vaccines and life-saving measures before the passing of the next 50 years.

Patient Profile: Jennifer Maxfield

Patient Profile

Jennifer Maxfield

Cervical Cancer

Jennifer Maxfield describes herself as a very private person. It’s hard for her to share her story. It’s emotional and it’s out of her comfort zone, but she’s starting to get a little more comfortable with it because she likes the idea of helping others. “That my story may be beneficial for someone else down the road is kind of cool for me,” she says.

If heeded, her story really is likely to help others. Hers is a cautionary tale, because her cancer is one that may have been preventable. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016. She’d gone to the doctor on her lunch break for a routine gynecological check up and during the exam Jennifer recalls the doctor saying, “Whoah. That’s strange.” Her doctor brought some colleagues in to confirm her hunch and Jennifer was immediately referred to a cancer specialist.

A runner and avid tennis player, Jennifer was young and healthy and never expected a cancer diagnosis, but, “I’m healthy,” she says, “not diligent.” You see, it had been a few years since Jennifer had been to see a doctor. It had been long enough that even her boss noticed and it was at her boss’s suggestion that she’d gone for her exam that day.

The good news was that it was a relatively slow-growing cancer and it was isolated. Jennifer’s doctor felt positive that after treatment there would be no recurrence. She wouldn’t need chemotherapy and radiation, but she would need a radical hysterectomy. “It was the absolute recommendation,” Jennifer says. There was another surgery option, but due to the size of her cancer, the success rate was compromised and the cancer was likely to return and then spread. Neither Jennifer nor her doctor wanted to take that risk. Her surgery was October 2016, three months after diagnosis.

But, here’s the thing, Jennifer was 33 at the time she was diagnosed. She hadn’t yet had children and a hysterectomy meant she would not be able to get pregnant. That’s where it gets emotional for her. “That was the scariest moment when all my family left, when the doctor left and I was there coping with this drastic change,” she says. “It was a high price to pay.”

Jennifer doesn’t want anyone else to have to pay that price. She stresses the importance of going to the doctor for regular check ups, but she also emphasizes the need for awareness about the the human papillomavirus (HPV) which is the likely cause of her cancer. “It’s something kids can get vaccinated for,” she says. “You can prevent it.” Jennifer says she knows the vaccinations aren’t right for every family, but she hopes people will talk to their doctors and ask about the risks and possible prevention options for HPV.

Every once in a while the magnitude of what she had to give up strikes her, “but I don’t let myself get weighed down by that one thing,” she says. In fact, she says she feels really lucky and thankful for her family and her support network and she’s looking forward to her twin sister starting a family. “I’m hoping my sister gets pregnant,” she says. “I’d love to be an aunt.” She also hasn’t given up on motherhood. She and her sister are adopted so that feels like a very real option for her at some point.

In the meantime she sees her doctor every three months. At the two year mark she’ll do check ups every six months. She’s returned to running and tennis, she’s gone back to school, and she’s moving forward. “I just love my thirties,” she says. “I’m grateful for every single thing.”