Monday, February 23, 2015

"The Emperor Of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer" Premieres March 30 on PBS

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

A three-part, six-hour documentary series based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning cancer biography written by Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center debuts on PBS stations March 30 and continues on March 31 and April 1. Read more about the series, here.  
The novel was a winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize and can be rented or purchased online, here (or check your local library!). A description of the book can be found below.

The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence. Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with—and perished from—for more than five thousand years. The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out “war against cancer.” The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist. From the Persian Queen Atossa, whose Greek slave cut off her malignant breast, to the nineteenth-century recipients of primitive radiation and chemotherapy to Mukherjee’s own leukemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is about the people who have soldiered through fiercely demanding regimens in order to survive—and to increase our understanding of this iconic disease. Riveting, urgent, and surprising, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments. It is an illuminating book that provides hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer. (Source)

Cancer and Genetics (slides available for download)

In case you missed our Cancer and Genetics lunch & learn last Thursday, the slides are available below or for download, here! Enjoy and please share. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sowing the seeds of recovery: Gardening and Cancer

Photo Credit
Studies have shown gardening may be effective in alleviating depression associated with cancer and even in reducing breast cancer risk.

We wanted to share these studies with you prior to the launch of our 3-part Gardening series with Dino next Friday, February 20 at 12:30 pm. We hope you find these articles informative. Please bring any questions you have to our gardening expert and workshop leader, Dino. There is still space open so RSVP by calling 310-314-2555 or by filling out a form online.

Gardening and depression

In an online survey of 41 gardeners living with cancer, 80% of participants said that gardening helped to reduce stress and anxiety, and helped to take their mind off treatment. This study was conducted by Macmillan Cancer Support and the the National Gardens Scheme (NGS).

Macmillan's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Maher, says:

"... It's so important that we bust this myth that cancer patients should 'rest up'. So many patients and professionals still believe that it is necessary to rest during and after cancer treatment. However, we know that doing moderate physical activity such as gardening on a regular basis actually helps to significantly reduce the impact of side-effects of cancer treatment such as depression, fatigue, bone thinning, muscle wasting and heart damage ..."
Gardening and breast cancer

A study published in the International Journal of Cancer and funded by Cancer Research UK found that gardening, doing housework and walking the dog can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by up to 13%. 

In 8,000 women examined by researchers, those who were most active were 13% less likely to get breast cancer than those who were inactive. Women who were moderately active were 8% less likely, providing further evidence for the beneficial effects of maintaining an active lifestyle.

Personal story: gardening restores the body and soul

This personal anecdote stems from Mayo Clinic's Living with Cancer blog. This story is shared by Nurse Sheryl Ness, and focuses on the benefits she has experienced through gardening. Here is an excerpt from her article: 

"... Having a garden in your life can be restoring. It gives you something to care for, celebrate, and later on, gives back by producing flowers, fruits or vegetables to nourish your body and your soul. A great idea is to also include aromatic plants such as lavender, rosemary, mint and other herbs to give your senses a treat as well ..."

Nurse Ness' full article is available, here.

Thank you for reading! Do you have a story about how gardening has improved your life during or post-cancer? Please share in the comments below.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Taste and Learn: Benefits of Drinking with Chocolate

One of ChocoVivo's many delicious creations
This month, we are so excited to be welcoming Patricia Tsai and Alex Conn, founders of ChocoVivo, who will be leading a workshop (a taste & learn!) on the health benefits of - as you may have guessed - chocolate. Yum!

We had the opportunity to chat with Alex before the workshop kicks off on February 26th. Quick plug: there is still space open in the Drinking with Chocolate workshop so don't forget to RSVP by calling 310-314-2555 or at! 

Alex, how long have you been exploring the benefits of chocolate? 

I have been working on chocolate since the mid-90s. We filed our patent in late 1990! 

What will CSC members learn from this workshop? 

They will learn (at least) 3 things: 
1) what is good chocolate
2) how we study the medical effects and use of plants
3) issues with the current ("colonial plantation") food chain from a health perspective

What are some of the benefits of incorporating chocolate into the diet, particularly for those with cancer?

There is no short answer to this question. It really depends on the type of cancer - stage and treatments. Ethnomedical and modern medical ideas are different. I will elaborate further during the workshop. 

For more information about this fascinating topic, please feel free to peruse the articles linked below. If you have any questions for discussion, please comment below and we will do our best to pass them on to the workshop leaders Patricia and Alex. 

LIVESTRONG: 5 things you need to know about chocolate and cancer Can Eating Chocolate Prevent Cancer?
NYU Langone Medical Center: True or False: Eating Dark Chocolate Can Lower Your Risk of Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease