Posts tagged ‘los angeles’


Long-term issues for breast cancer survivors are often overlooked. Many breast cancer survivors encounter delayed side effects-such as heart problems, nerve damage, osteoporosis, and secondary cancers that can continue or emerge 10-15+ years after treatment ends, according to a survey by Cancer Support Community.

The survey-which was funded by Susan G. Komen for the Cure found that many survivors feel that social and emotional issues are some of the hardest side effects to handle. About 90% of survey respondents said they had at least one delayed physical, psychological or social issue that was moderate to severe. Fatigue, sexual dysfunction, and sleep issues were most frequently cited in the survey. Almost 25% of respondents said they experienced depression, which is about twice the national rate.

Although 96% of respondents said they wanted a survivorship plan, just 10% said they received such plans, which summarize the tests and treatments patients have received, side effects to expect, lifestyle changes to make, and where patients should seek follow-up care.

Many cancer centers have launched “survivorship” centers to address this issue, but about 85% of breast cancer patients are treated in community settings that do not have such resources, the Wall Street Journal reports. Beginning next year, the American College of Surgeons plans to require survivorship plans and distress screenings for facilities to receive accreditation.

Beck, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 11, 2011


October 19, 2011 at 7:16 pm Leave a comment

Decision Making Resources for Transition from Treatment to Hospice

For cancer patients looking for a resource to help with the decision making process to either continue treatment or go on hospice, please see the following list of resource recommendations.

  1. Prepare a list of questions and meet with your physician. If your physician agrees that it is appropriate to consider hospice, make an appointment to meet with a hospice agency. If possible have family present at both meetings. For a list of referrals to hospice agencies contact the social worker at Ronnie Lippin Cancer Information and Resource Line.
  2. Use the booklet, Hard Choices for Loving People by Hank Dunn which helps with discussing this type of decision. This is a decision making tool that is not cancer specific and has been helpful for many patients.
  3. Read the article called, Do It Your Way by Kathy Gurland in “A Women’s Health” magazine. It focuses on the decision making process and breaks it down from a self empowering standpoint. Although it is not specific to the decisions for stopping cancer treatment or starting hospice care, it could be helpful as a general framework for cancer patients because it includes the comprehensive steps to be considered when making any serious decision.

March 7, 2011 at 11:42 pm Leave a comment

Breast Reconstruction

Under certain circumstances, the treatment of breast cancer may require complete removal of the affected breast (a mastectomy), or rarely, both breasts (bilateral mastectomy). If a patient agrees to a mastectomy, she may choose to have breast reconstruction afterwards. This usually is performed by a specialist, a certified plastic surgeon, and sometimes involves more than one operation.

There are various options for breast reconstruction. One option is the placement of an implant. Implants are not permanent and sometimes only last about 10 years and then need to be replaced. If the decision is to have an implant, it is important to discuss with the plastic surgeon the type of implant most suitable for a patient’s particular anatomy, as well as the potential complications and duration of placement. Besides an implant, other options are available involving more complex types of breast reconstruction designed to produce a more “natural” look for certain patients. Abdominal flaps and similar techniques are usually offered to younger individuals who can handle the much more extensive surgery, and for the most part results in more natural-looking breasts. However, not all types of reconstruction are appropriate for everyone, and certain medical factors need to be taken into consideration with regard to recommending the specific type of procedure. Also, it may be advisable to obtain consultations with more than one plastic surgeon.

One of the most complete photo books showing reconstruction is “Reconstructing Aphrodite”.

Another great resource for helping cancer patients learn about their choices for breast reconstructive surgery is Living Beyond Breast Cancer, which has offered free scheduled educational teleconferences on the topic Breast Reconstruction: Understanding Your Options.

Additional websites for information on reconstruction are: , for young breast cancer patients wanting reconstruction. A daily blog about breast cancer research, resources, psychosocial issues, etc. , the National Breast Cancer Coalition website. Look at Position Papers to find information about reconstruction. ,Dr. Susan Love’s website showing some of the photos and stories from the book “Show Me”. Some of the techniques in that book are outdated but considered to be quite informative. ,a link with newer reconstruction techniques although not available everywhere and not everyone is a candidate.

And offering the “no reconstruction option”; checking out other options is always a good idea.

For additional referrals to information and resources regarding breast reconstruction please contact the social worker, at 877-RLC-2120, to get the help you need.

February 4, 2011 at 12:16 am 1 comment

Hospital Discharge Planning Options, Skilled Nursing Facility, A Resource

I received a call from a patient, we’ll call her Lisa, about planning for discharge from the hospital after an upcoming cancer related surgery. Lisa is 83, lives alone, finished chemotherapy, and was now dealing with the additional treatment of her cancer. She requested referrals for personal caregivers because she thought she would choose to discharge to home from the hospital. After speaking with her about her present living situation it appeared that discharging to a skilled nursing facility was a much better choice. There she would receive nursing care and physical therapy rehabilitation. Her goal was to return to a state of independent living and the physical therapy available at a skilled nursing facility would help her regain the strength to do so. Lisa liked the fact that a skilled nursing facility is covered by Medicare, 100% for the first 21 days. I emailed her the list of skilled nursing facilities close to the hospital from where she was being discharged, and recommended, if possible, she visit them before making her decision. I let her know which facilities seemed to be the most popular, but encouraged her to choose the location at which she felt most comfortable.  Lisa was very appreciative for the guidance which seemed to help alleviate some anxiety about her plans after surgery. Lisa’s situation is an example of how an open discussion with a professional medical social worker can make a seemingly difficult situation easier and less stressful. Her choice to make these decisions in advance turned out to be more efficient than planning after hospital discharge.

 For free information about skilled nursing facilities and questions to ask when seeking their services, click here.

 For a list of Los Angeles based skilled nursing facilities, click here.

Phyllis Ruja Tell, MSW
Manager, Ronnie Lippin Cancer Information & Resource Line | Toll Free: 877-752-2120

December 30, 2010 at 11:26 pm Leave a comment

Prothesis, A Breast Cancer Resource

A breast cancer diagnosis may require surgery as a treatment option which can mean the loss of one or both breasts. Following a mastectomy or partial mastectomy, the need to make a decision for breast reconstruction and external breast prosthesis is an extremely personal one. Speaking with your physician and other breast cancer survivors can provide helpful information while making a decision. Women consider breast prosthesis, also known as breast forms for several reasons; to gain symmetry when wearing clothing, to protect surgical scars, to keep a bra from shifting under clothing, and to balance posture and shoulder weight. There are several types of breast forms including silicone, non-silicone, partial, attached, fabric and more. If you’re the crafty type homemade bosoms are also a prosthesis option as well. A “mastectomy bra” does not exist and breast prosthesis and bras are sold separately. One reason is that it would not be possible to wash a bra and prosthesis together. It is best to buy both at the same time so they can be fit together.

For those women who choose to get external breast prosthesis following a breast cancer surgery, there are several resources available to help obtain these forms. Private medical insurance, Medi-Cal and Medicare often may cover the cost.

Click here for a listing of resource referrals that provide assistance for getting breast forms.

If you have any questions regarding breast prosthesis or other cancer related questions, please contact me at Ronnie Lippin Cancer Information and Resource Line at 877-752-2120 or online at . I’m here to help.

August 6, 2010 at 9:24 pm Leave a comment

Hair Loss (Alopecia) and Wig Resources

Chemotherapy can damage hair follicles while killing cancer cells in the body, resulting in hair loss (alopecia). Currently, there is no known prevention for hair loss due to chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy affects individuals differently, even if they are taking the same drugs, producing hair loss in some while not in others. Hair may begin to fall out 2-3 weeks following the start of chemotherapy.

Preventatively, you can try to protect your hair from falling out by using a mild shampoo and patting it try with a soft towel. Hair loss in clumps often occurs from brushing and rubbing it with a towel after bathing. There is no guarantee that this will reduce or stop hair loss from chemotherapy but some patients have found it helpful.

If you do begin to lose your hair you may decide to cut it short, shave it off, get a wig and/or wear head scarves. There are several resources that provide wig information including free wigs, head scarves and turbans, as well as hair loss education.

CancerCare offers wigs at no charge.
800-813-4673 |

Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization provides wigs to low-income women.
800-221-2141 |

Network of Strength offers wigs for women with limited resources.

Crickett’s Answer to Cancer provides wigs and head coverings and provides education on wig care.
717- 843-7903 |

Team Pink at Pink Barette provides free wigs and also makes custom natural hair wigs for sale.
678-927-1896 |

Cancer Foundation for Personal Appearance offers hair loss education and hair piece assistance
877-711-9600 |

National Alopecia Areata Foundation Ascot Fund provides scarves in a color and pattern of choice
888-884-3653 |

The Curechief Foundation provides free curechiefs to patients
866-868-CURE |

The Wig Program at Tower Cancer Research Foundation refurbishes donated wigs for cancer patients in their treatment center.
310-285-7242 |

For a listing of local resources from RLCIRL available in Los Angeles County click here.

If you have any questions related to wig and scarf resources please contact me at 877-752-2120 or visit me online at

Phyllis Ruja Tell, MSW
Manager, RLC Information and Resource Line (RLCIRL)

July 29, 2010 at 12:33 am Leave a comment

Leaving a Legacy, A Resource for End of Life

Leaving a legacy for family and friends is one way for a cancer patient with terminal cancer to leave their memory. Creating a legacy about one’s life that reflects accomplishments, cherished memories, and dreams is a valuable gift to family and friends. It can also help ease personal sorrow associated with leaving them behind.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has a great resource with information for creating a legacy including video diaries, scrapbooks, writing letters to loved ones and many more ideas. It also includes suggestions on leaving a legacy for a child. For more information on leaving a legacy click here. allows you to create beautiful videos from still camera photos. A step above the generic PowerPoint slideshow, leaving a photo video is another idea for leaving a legacy for your loved ones.

Imemories allows you to convert all types of media (old home movies, camcorder videos, photos, etc) onto a DVD. You simply mail the media to them, they upload it and you edit online and create your own dvd with all your favorite home videos and pictures.

Here are some more ideas on creating and leaving a legacy:
Collect and organize photos, letters, papers, etc.
Write down or record family stories
Collect and write down your favorite recipes
Record special family celebrations and traditions
Keep a journal
Hold a family reunion or gathering to capture recent photos
If you are a musician make a recording
If you are an artist, create a project that your loved ones can work on with you for you to leave behind
Making a recording so people can listen to your voice
Make a family tree and create a photo pedigree showing your ancestors

For more information about creating a legacy contact the social worker at Ronnie Lippin Cancer Information and Resource Line at 877-752-2120 or online at

Phyllis Ruja Tell, MSW
Social Work Manager,
Ronnie Lippin Cancer Information and Resource Line
A telephone/internet outreach patient support program
at Tower Cancer Research Foundation

July 21, 2010 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8 other followers