• Understanding breast cancer treatment at Stage IV

    Stage IV breast cancer is also known as advanced breast cancer or metastatic breast cancer. Instead of treating breast cancer at the source of the tumor, physicians take a systemic approach to care for patients at stage IV of the disease. Here is what you need to know about stage IV breast cancer and how it is treated.

    What are the characteristics of stage IV breast cancer?
    At stage IV, breast cancer has metastasized beyond the breast tissue and the lymph nodes near the breast to other parts of the body. Some of the organs that are often involved when breast cancer spreads are:

    • Bones
    • Liver
    • Lungs
    • Brain

    Because the cancer is now in more than one part of the body at stage IV, your cancer care team will need to treat the disease in all of the parts of the body that are affected.

    What is systemic care?
    Systemic care for cancer means that the treatments are targeted at the body as a whole, instead of being focused on the localized site of the cancer. For stage IV breast cancer, this means not only treating cancer at the site of the tumor in the breast but instead taking a broader approach to care.

    Some of the systemic treatments used for stage IV breast cancer are:

    • Hormone therapy
    • Chemotherapy
    • Targeted drug therapy

    Often, women receive a combination of these systemic treatments. Although stage IV breast cancer is usually not considered to be curable, these treatments can stop the progression of the disease and help women live longer.

    Are localized treatments still used?
    In some instances, localized treatments can be combined with systemic care to achieve the best results. For example, your physician may recommend surgery to remove a tumor or radiation of a specific affected location in order to boost the effectiveness of systemic care.

    Good Samaritan Hospital provides comprehensive cancer care in San Jose, combining the very latest discoveries in medical advances with compassionate support from a multidisciplinary team of specialists. Contact us today at (888) 724-2362 for more information about our cancer care program and to get a referral to one of our cancer specialists.

  • What to expect at your first mammogram

    Mammograms are a key part of preventive care for women. Starting at an age that is recommended by your physician based on your personal needs, you should have regular mammograms so that your breast tissues can be examined for abnormalities that could indicate breast cancer. If you have never had a mammogram, it’s normal to be a little nervous about what to expect. Here is what you need to know.

    Arriving at the screening facility
    When you arrive for your mammogram, you will be checked in for your appointment. The technician who will be performing your mammogram will ask you some questions about your health to ensure that it’s safe for you to have a mammogram. It’s important to let the technician know if you could be pregnant.

    You will be given a smock that ties in the front to wear. Many women prefer to wear pants or a skirt on the day of their mammogram so that they can easily remove their tops while leaving their bottoms on.

    Getting your mammogram
    When you enter the room in which your mammogram will be taken, your technician will place one of your breasts on a flat plate and position it so that a clear picture can be taken. Another plate will be lowered from above to compress the breast. Some women experience mild discomfort at this point, but as the video explains, the process is over quickly.

    You need to stand every still and hold your breath for a few seconds while the image is taken. Then, the plate will lift, allowing your technician to place your breast in a different position for another photo. This process will be completed on both breasts until the technician has all of the necessary pictures.

    Getting your results
    Your technician will tell you when you can expect to get the results. They will be provided to your physician. You may also get a letter in the mail.

    Your results may say that your breasts are all clear, or they may advise you to have a follow-up mammogram or biopsy to explore a suspected issue further.

    The Breast Care Center at Good Samaritan Hospital provides comprehensive breast health care, including mammograms, ultrasounds, and biopsy procedures. For a referral to our breast health team in San Jose, call (888) 724-2362.

  • How to tell when a mole is cancerous

    Most moles are harmless, but it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on them. If the appearance of a mole changes or if you develop any other suspicious-looking growths on the skin, your doctor can perform a thorough skin exam to check for melanoma. In the event that you are diagnosed with skin cancer, Good Samaritan Hospital’s Comprehensive Cancer Program offers superior, patient-focused care.

    Know how to spot skin abnormalities

    There’s an easy way to know if a mole is abnormal or not. Compare it to the ABCDEs of skin cancer.

    Asymmetry: If you compare the two halves of a potentially cancerous mole, they might not match.

    Border: The borders of a harmless mole are even and smooth. Melanomas often have uneven borders that might look notched or scalloped.

    Color: Harmless moles are typically a uniform color. Moles that have multiple colors or shades should be examined by a doctor.

    Diameter: Potentially cancerous moles might be small initially, but they may later grow larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser.

    Evolving: Harmless moles stay the same over time. If a mole begins to evolve in appearance, it’s time to see a doctor.

    Perform a skin self-exam

    Doctors generally recommend performing a skin self-exam once per month and having a skin cancer screening during your annual exam . After bathing, stand in front of a large wall mirror and have a handheld mirror handy. Keep the ABCDEs of skin cancer in mind while you examine the following areas:

    • Fronts and backs of the legs and arms

    • Tops and undersides of the hands and feet

    • Between your toes and fingers

    • Face, shoulders, neck and scalp

    • Behind the ears

    • Front and sides of your torso

    • Back and buttocks

    You may need to have a partner or family member help you check areas that are hard to see. Make a note of any moles you see and keep track of their appearance over time.

    Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose provides unique cancer care services, including our Survivorship Program. Our highly trained physicians and nurses choose to work at our hospital because of our unparalleled reputation for putting our patients first. Call us today at (888) 724-2362 and let us know how we can help you live life well.

  • Testicular cancer: Screenings and symptoms

    When testicular cancer is diagnosed before it has spread to other areas of the body, the prognosis is usually quite favorable. Unfortunately, many men don’t know how to recognize the potential signs of testicular cancer and they may delay seeking medical care. Here at Good Samaritan Hospital, our cancer care team is dedicated to giving our patients the best possible outcome. During Testicular Cancer Awareness Month this April, we encourage men throughout San Jose to become better informed about their risk factors, and the signs and symptoms of testicular cancer.

    Screening for testicular cancer

    Health screenings are intended to find medical problems as early as possible. These exams and tests are performed when patients do not have symptoms. Health screening recommendations differ from one organization to the next, and they are subject to revision. For instance, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force does not recommend routine screenings for testicular cancer, but the American Cancer Society does. Consider asking your doctor if you should be screened regularly based on your risk factors. Men may also choose to do regular self-exams. Your doctor can explain how to perform a self-exam.

    Signs and symptoms of testicular cancer

    If you notice any abnormalities of the testes, it’s a good idea to see your doctor. Most often, testicular cancer produces a painless lump on a testicle . Other signs and symptoms include the following:

    • Enlargement of one testicle
    • Aching pain in the scrotum or lower belly
    • Early puberty in boys
    • Breast enlargement
    • Breast soreness

    Signs of metastasized cancer

    When cancer has spread beyond its point of origin, it is said to have metastasized. The symptoms of advanced cancer will vary, depending on the specific areas the cancer affects. Here’s a look at some of the possible areas and their associated symptoms:

    • Lungs: Shortness of breath, chest pain
    • Brain: Headaches, confusion
    • Liver: Abdominal pain
    • Abdominal lymph nodes: Low back pain

    Your doctor should know about all of your symptoms, even if they don’t seem to be related to each other.

    For cutting-edge cancer treatment technology, caring specialists and private cancer treatment areas, look no further than the Comprehensive Cancer Care program at Good Samaritan Hospital . Our dedicated Oncology Unit goes above and beyond to give you the care you deserve. Call a nurse in San Jose at (888) 724-2362 or visit us online to read about our exclusive patient amenities, including our health library, massage services, music and guided imagery.