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August 1, 2022 Cancer Treatment

Multiple myeloma is a form of cancer that affects your blood. This disease presents itself in various ways, from bone pain to mental fog. Knowing the symptoms is one of the best ways to catch the disease early on, making it easier to diagnose and treat.

At Hunterdon Oncology and Hematology, LLC, our team of renowned experts helps you when you’re suffering from a blood disorder or cancer. Leading our team are five hematology and oncology specialists. Our team offers cutting-edge treatments when you find yourself with multiple myeloma.

What is multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that affects the plasma cells in your blood. These cells are a type of white blood cell, and they’re an important part of your immune system.

Your plasma cells help your body fight off foreign invaders, such as bacteria or viruses that could harm you. They do this by producing antibodies, which are able to detect and eliminate most pathogens that get into your body.

Multiple myeloma happens when your plasma cells mutate into cancerous cells. These cells then migrate into your bone marrow, where they clump together and push out your healthy plasma cells.

These cancerous plasma cells then make abnormal proteins instead of antibodies, which leads to complications and uncomfortable symptoms. Multiple myeloma is a rare form of cancer, but it’s just as dangerous as any other form of the disease.

8 common symptoms of multiple myeloma

In the early stages of multiple myeloma, you may not have any symptoms at all. However, as the diseased plasma cells begin to accumulate in your bone marrow, you may suffer from numerous symptoms.

The symptoms you experience depend on how advanced the disease is. Eight of the most common symptoms of multiple myeloma include:

  1. Bone pain
  2. Weight loss
  3. Excessive thirst
  4. Extreme fatigue
  5. Brain fog
  6. Nausea
  7. Constipation
  8. Frequent infections

You may also notice that you’re bleeding more easily than normal, or bruising frequently. The decrease in healthy plasma cells prevents production of adequate platelets in your blood. Platelets are a vital component of blood clotting, which is why their absence makes you bleed more easily.

You may experience all of these symptoms or only a few. It depends on how much bone marrow is affected by the cancerous plasma cells and in which parts of your body.

When to seek treatment

It’s hard to believe, but you may not actually need treatment right away with multiple myeloma. For instance, if the disease is moving slowly and you don’t have many symptoms, our team simply recommends monitoring you to evaluate your condition.

If you’re exhibiting signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma, you should seek treatment from our team as soon as possible. At our facility, our team of oncology specialists evaluates your symptoms and uses diagnostic tools like lab testing or a bone marrow biopsy.

The team offers several treatments based on the severity of your disease. They may include chemotherapy, radiation, or immunotherapy. They also provide corticosteroids and stem cell therapy or bone marrow transplants to ease your symptoms and control multiple myeloma.

If you’re exhibiting signs of multiple myeloma, don’t hesitate to call our office in Flemington, New Jersey at 908-788-6461, or schedule an appointment online with one of our expert doctors today.


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June 1, 2022 Cancer Treatment

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, there are a number of treatments available. Among the most common treatments is chemotherapy, used for a variety of cancers at many different stages of the disease. Preparing for chemotherapy is vital to getting through these treatments successfully.

At Hunterdon Oncology and Hematology, our team specializes in a variety of cancer treatments, including chemotherapy. Leading our team are five expertly trained oncologists and hematologists, who help you understand your cancer and get you the advanced treatment you need to fight it.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses very strong chemicals to kill cancer cells growing in your body. Many of the drugs used in chemotherapy are considered cytotoxic, which means they target and kill rapidly growing cancer cells.

There are many different drugs used in chemotherapy, some that have been around for a long time, and some that are newer. Chemotherapy can be used as the only form of treatment for your cancer, or it may be combined with other therapies like radiation to give you a better prognosis.

Chemotherapy works systemically — meaning it travels throughout your body, killing any cancer cells that have spread from the primary tumor. This is how chemotherapy differs from other treatments, such as radiation and immunotherapy.

Chemotherapy is delivered in several different ways, including through an IV infusion or in pill form. There are also chemotherapy creams that are applied topically, injections, and wafers that are placed in your body at the tumor site through surgery.

The way you receive chemotherapy is highly dependent on your specific type of cancer.

How to prepare for chemotherapy

Preparing for chemotherapy is half the battle. This form of treatment is daunting, and often leaves your body drained. However, by preparing ahead of time, you’ll be ready for the side effects when they hit, and your experience may be a little better than if you weren’t in the know.

Our team assists you on prep steps to take before you start chemotherapy. Some of the ways you can prepare include:

Bring entertainment

Chemotherapy sessions can be very long — several hours in some cases. Bring a laptop to watch a movie, or cards to play with your companion. This helps to pass the time and takes your focus off of the actual treatment.

See your dentist

Making sure your dental health is in check helps prevent complications from chemotherapy. You should see your dentist within six months of starting chemotherapy to ensure there are no infections in your mouth to worry about.

Pack a bag

Bring a bag along with things such as a blanket, water, and a small snack to help you through long chemo sessions. Bring anything that brings you comfort while you’re receiving the treatment.

Prepare some meals

You may not feel well after your chemotherapy session, so it’s important to meal prep ahead of time. This way, if you’re not feeling well enough to cook, you still have something to eat when you get home.

Pick up any medications

Get your home medications at your pharmacy before you begin your chemo. This ensures that you have all the medications you need available, since you’ll likely be wiped out from your session.

It’s also important that you bring someone along with you if you can. This person not only provides companionship, but also helps with any questions you may have or note taking you need during your chemotherapy session.

Why preparation is important

Your chemotherapy session may be anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, depending on your specific treatment plan. This takes a lot of time out of your day, and you might be tired afterwards.

Getting things in order before your chemotherapy session is important for a number of reasons. Because of the strength of the medications, you may experience a number of side effects that can affect you for a few days, which include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Mouth sores

These side effects don’t last forever, but can continue for the duration of your chemotherapy treatments. Getting prepared for this ahead of time helps you cut down on side effects, and gets your home ready if they do hit, so you’re comfortable.

Side effects aren’t the only reason why preparation is important. If you’re receiving chemotherapy, it’s likely a huge aspect of your treatment plan. Knowing what to expect and understanding the medications gets you mentally prepared to go through the rounds of treatment that you’ll need.

If you’re in need of chemotherapy, our team can help. Don’t hesitate to call our office in Flemington, New Jersey at 908-788-6461, or schedule an appointment online with one of our expert doctors today.


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October 1, 2021 Cancer Treatment

Cancer is a disease that affects many different areas of your body, and sometimes requires very invasive and uncomfortable forms of treatment. One of the common types of cancer treatment is chemotherapy. If you’re familiar with this treatment, you might know that it often leads to hair loss — that is, until now.

At Hunterdon Oncology and Hematology, our team members treat many different types of cancer. Our practice consists of five specialists, all of whom are experts in oncology and hematology conditions and treatments. One of the very special treatments they offer is known as scalp cooling.

Why chemo causes hair loss

Your hair is something you might take for granted — that is, until you’re faced with cancer and chemotherapy. One of the best known side effects of this type of treatment is alopecia, or hair loss.

So why does chemotherapy lead to lost hair? You first have to understand that your hair is constantly growing, because it’s made of cells that multiply rapidly, which is why you need a haircut every few weeks.

Chemotherapy is a type of treatment that uses powerful drugs to attack cancer cells at the source. The problem is, the drugs also attack other cells that grow rapidly, including your hair cells.

After several treatments of chemotherapy, you may notice clumps of your hair falling out from your head. You may also lose hair in other areas of your body like your arms and legs.

How does scalp cooling therapy work?

In order for your hair to grow, you need an adequate blood supply to your hair follicles. The scalp cooling system uses scalp hypothermia to reduce and restrict blood flow to the hair follicles. This helps reduce hair loss, because the cells become less active without the proper amount of blood circulating to them, and therefore less attractive to the chemotherapy agents.

The cool temperatures also work to lessen the amount of chemotherapy medications that are able to reach the hair follicles. The medications are introduced into your bloodstream and run all throughout your body, wherever the blood takes them.

By reducing the amount of blood flow that gets to your scalp, you’re also reducing the amount of chemotherapy drugs that have access to your hair follicles. This, in turn, helps reduce the amount of hair you’ll lose during treatment.

The three stages of treatment

At Hunterdon Oncology and Hematology, our team uses the Paxman Scalp Cooling System to help you avoid hair loss during your treatment. This system works very well, and is implemented using three specific stages during chemotherapy. These stages include:

1. Pre-cooling stage

The first stage of the scalp cooling treatment starts 30 minutes before your chemotherapy treatment. However, if you have very thick hair, you’ll need to start the therapy 45 minutes before your chemo treatment.

2. Infusion cooling stage

The second phase of the scalp cooling treatment happens during your chemotherapy treatment. The length of this phase varies widely, as it depends on how long your chemotherapy session lasts.

3. Post-infusion cooling stage

The last stage of this therapy occurs after your chemotherapy session is finished. The cooling cap is left on for about 90-100 minutes after your treatment is finished. You may be moved to a different area after your treatment to undergo this last phase of the scalp cooling therapy.

After 90 or so minutes, the cap is removed. Before you get up and move around, you should allow your scalp temperature to adjust to the ambient temperature.

The great thing about our scalp cooling system is it’s very versatile — meaning you’re able to get up and walk around with it on, and even head to the restroom if you need to.

If you’re undergoing chemotherapy and are interested in learning more about our scalp cooling treatment, call our office in Flemington, New Jersey at 908-788-6461, or schedule an appointment online with one of our amazing doctors today.


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July 14, 2021 Cancer Treatment

Cancer is a ruthless and exhausting disease, especially after you’ve been through several rounds of treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation are two very well-known treatment options, but what happens when those don’t do the trick, or aren’t warranted for your type of cancer? At that point, a clinical trial could be just the answer you’ve been looking for.

At Hunterdon Hematology Oncology, our staff members are willing to do whatever it takes to get you the type of treatment you need. Our team of five expert oncologists and hematologists participate in several types of clinical trials to get you the most up-to-date treatment options for your condition.

What are clinical trials?

There are many different types of cancer, each with its own specific treatment approach. However, the type of treatment you receive is highly dependent on how early the cancer was caught, along with other factors like your overall health.

Cancer research is constantly evolving, meaning treatments also evolve as more information is learned about each disease. This is where clinical trials come in to help when you have exhausted other options.

Clinical trials are research-based study groups that use the best and most effective treatment option for a specific type of cancer, but add in another component to hopefully yield even better results. This not only includes a trial of different medications, but it may also include therapies such as radiation or chemo.

Because research is constantly evolving, there’s literally a trial for just about any type of cancer you can think of. Many of these trials focus on later stages of cancer that are harder to beat; however, clinical trials exist for earlier stages as well.

Are you a candidate?

Now that you know what a clinical trial is, how do you know if you’re a good fit for one? This is a decision you need to think carefully about, as it’s about your life and your health. Our doctors are available to answer any questions you have and give you information on the latest clinical trials, as well as benefits and complications from each.

Here are a few guidelines to help you determine if a trial is right for you:

  • Having a specific type of cancer
  • Being in a specified stage of that cancer
  • Being in a certain age group
  • Having genetic changes in your tumor
  • Looking at your past medical history

The trial may also take into account your current health status, as the drugs and treatments might not be good for you if you aren’t healthy enough. They may also need to know what types of treatments you’ve tried in the past, and the results those treatments had.

Because there are so many different types of clinical trials for cancer, each one has its own set of criteria in order for you to participate. If you’re accepted into a trial, it’s a chance for you to receive treatment that you might not get anywhere else.

Pros and cons of clinical trials

Just like any other form of treatment, clinical trials have pros and cons you should weigh before you make your decision. Your health is very important, so making sure the pros outweigh the cons is your best chance at getting the results you want.

Clinical trials offer a lot of hope to those who are dealing with difficult types of cancer. Some of the benefits of these trials include:

  • You get the newest, most advanced treatments
  • Our team follows you very closely
  • You’ll be the first to benefit if it’s effective
  • Your results can help others in the future

The chance to get to try a new treatment with promising results may draw you toward a clinical trial, but unfortunately there are cons to consider as well. Some of the negative aspects of clinical trials include:

  • The side effects could be worse than what you have
  • You might not see any results
  • You usually have to undergo more testing than normal
  • You may incur additional expenses with a trial
  • Your insurance may not cover the trial

Sometimes, the original treatment yields better results, but that’s why the trials are in place. You should always weigh your options with our team before making a decision.

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and haven’t had success with your treatment, call our office in Flemington, New Jersey at 908-788-6461 to schedule an appointment with one of our amazing doctors today.


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June 24, 2021 Cancer Treatment

Strange symptoms that come out of nowhere are scary, especially when you think of all the conditions it could signal. However, you most likely aren’t ready when the doctor tells you it’s cancer. Along with being stunned, you’re wondering where you go from here.

At Hunterdon Hematology Oncology, our staff is ready to help you with the next steps in your treatment. Our team consists of board-certified oncologists and hematologists who specialize in many types of cancer and help you start the targeted treatment you need.

Common symptoms of cancer

Cancer isn’t something you probably worry about on a normal basis; however, there’s always a risk, especially if you have a family history. And there are many different types of cancers that can affect just about any part of your body.

While some types of cancer seem to come out of the blue, others may fester for a while. The tricky part is, many other less severe conditions may also cause similar symptoms. It’s important to understand changes to your body, and some common symptoms of cancer, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Skin changes
  • Fevers without cause
  • Unexplained bleeding

You also want to be on the lookout for other symptoms such as cuts or sores on your skin that don’t seem to be getting better. In addition, if you’ve had a cough for a while, or feel like there’s a frog in your throat that doesn’t seem to go away, you want to let our doctors know.

Of course, many of these symptoms could be due to something minor, but if you experience any change in your health, it’s best to let our doctors know as soon as possible, in case it’s a sign of cancer. The earlier the diagnosis, the better your chances of beating the disease.

What to do first after being diagnosed

When our doctors tell you it’s cancer, a thousand things probably run through your mind. You might find it hard to believe, or already feel grief in knowing there’s really something wrong. Although cancer isn’t what you want to hear, knowing how to proceed helps you get treatment faster, increasing your chances of survival. Here are a few things to do after your diagnosis:

1. Stay calm

Although this step seems impossible, it’s very important to keep your mind straight. Panicking only allows fear to take over, which leads to anxiety and possibly depression. Keeping yourself calm allows you to take in the diagnosis and begin figuring out a game plan.

2. Form a care team

This is a very important step, as it not only involves your doctors, but also family and social workers who provide necessary support. These people on your team are the ones who are going to stick with you throughout your cancer journey, so making sure you have a good group of people is vital.

3. Discuss treatment options

Whether your treatment starts out easy or is aggressive, discussing your options helps you to decide on something that works for you. Chemotherapy and radiation may be scary, but knowing there’s something out there to help you beat this terrible disease can be reassuring.

4. Learn about your cancer

The best thing you can do is research the type of cancer you’ve been diagnosed with. This helps you understand not only the treatments you’ll be given, but also what to expect each step of the way. You may also find support groups for your specific cancer, which helps you through the dark times during treatment.

5. Take care of yourself

After you take it all in, make sure you remember to care for yourself. There are a million thoughts going through your head, but getting lost in everything isn’t good for your health. Remember to take time during the day to eat, get enough sleep, and give yourself an opportunity to grieve if you need it.

So what next?

After your initial diagnosis, a lot is going to happen. Our team of oncologists and hematologists help you form an initial treatment plan. This plan may involve many things, including medications, diet changes, and chemotherapy.

It’s important during this time to make sure you’re not only taking care of your physical health, but your mental health as well. A cancer diagnosis can take a toll on you, especially in the first few months. Keep your support team close, and ask for help when you need it.

Some cancers are harder to fight than others, and our expert team of doctors treat you and your specific disease with all of the latest technologies.

If you need help navigating a cancer diagnosis, call our office in Flemington, New Jersey at 908-788-6461 to schedule an appointment.


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February 10, 2021 Cancer Treatment

Fighting cancer is a full-time job all in itself, and the treatments can be harsh and physically draining. You’ve probably heard about chemotherapy and radiation therapy as treatment options at your appointments, but have you ever heard of immunotherapy?

At Hunterdon Oncology Hematology, our goal is to help you fight off cancer with the most up-to-date treatments. Our esteemed team of doctors specializes in many forms of cancer treatment, including immunotherapy, which fights your cancer with your own immune system.

What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps your immune system fight off cancer cells in your body. The term immunotherapy encompasses several forms of treatment that essentially boost your immune response to better find and kill cancer cells.

Your immune system is made up of white blood cells, along with tissues and organs within your lymphatic system. One purpose of your immune system is to seek out and kill abnormal cells within your body that could potentially turn into cancer.

The problem with cancer cells is that they’re able to avoid your immune response in a number of different ways. One way is by changing their genetic code to be less visible to your immune system.

Cancer cells are also able to alter cells around your tumor, which makes it harder for your immune cells to find and attack them. They’re very good at disguising themselves.

Types of immunotherapy treatments

Our team offers many different forms of immunotherapy. Each one has a specialized way of helping your immune system attack the cancer cells that are making you sick. Some of the types of therapy we offer include:

Immune checkpoint inhibitors

There are checkpoints in your immune system to make sure you don’t constantly have an exaggerated immune response when you don’t need it. Immune checkpoint inhibitors block those checkpoints to allow your immune cells to overwhelm the cancer.

T-cell transfer therapy

This therapy is also known as adoptive immunotherapy or immune cell therapy. With this type of treatment, one of our doctors extracts the immune cells located within your tumor. In the lab, the best immune cells are separated from the rest and altered to make them attack cancer cells more aggressively. The lab grows a large amount of these T-cells, and then infuses them back into your body to fight off your cancer.

Immune system modulators

This type of immunotherapy increases your body’s own immune response to enhance the fight against your cancer cells. Essentially, this helps your immune system to not only seek out your cancer cells, but also to attack and kill them in large quantities.

Monoclonal antibodies

These antibodies are formulated in a lab and are made to detect specific parts of the cancer cells. In addition, antibodies can transport drugs and radioactive therapy to the cancerous tumor.

Treatment vaccines

These vaccines help to protect your body against diseases that cause cancer. The vaccine stimulates your immune system to protect your body and cells from being taken over by cancer cells.

The type of therapy that our doctors suggest depends on treatments you’ve already tried, along with the type and stage of cancer that you have.

Cancers immunotherapy can help treat

Immunotherapy is a very versatile treatment, meaning it can be used for a lot of different types of cancer. Of course, it may not be right for everyone, so discussing the treatment with one of our doctors is essential to finding out if it’s right for you. Some of the cancers that this type of treatment can help include:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Cervical cancer
  • Colon cancer

Immunotherapy doesn’t stop there; in fact, the list of cancers it can be used to treat goes on well beyond the above list. Like many other cancer therapies, though, it can have side effects. If our doctors are suggesting this type of treatment, it usually means that they believe the benefits considerably outweigh the side effects of the treatment.

If you think immunotherapy may be what you’ve been searching for, call our office in Flemington, New Jersey at 908-264-1798 to schedule a consultation. You can also reach out to us by using our online booking tool.


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June 9, 2020 Cancer Treatment

Like many people, you may be concerned about your breast health, and how your wellness affects your family, loved ones and friends. We share your concern. As part of a comprehensive breast program, Hunterdon Hematology Oncology (HHO) combines a comfortable, supportive environment with first-rate, comprehensive diagnostic and treatment resources… all conveniently close to home.

A Coordinated Approach to Breast Care

At HHO, we take a coordinated approach to breast care, for both well care and breast cancer care. A highly skilled team of breast specialists from different medical disciplines provides diagnostic testing, treatment, surgery, psychosocial support, education and rehabilitation. This team also collaborates with family practice physicians, gynecologists, radiologists, oncology specialists, plastic surgeons, pathologists and counselors to ensure that the care you receive is the most comprehensive it can be.

Hunterdon Hematology Oncology, a part of the Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center, is a full-time care partner, providing surgery, reconstruction alternatives, radiation and chemotherapy, support and counseling every step of the way. A full-time, dedicated Nurse Coordinator experienced in breast health issues remains in contact with you, keeping you informed about test results. She serves as liaison if further treatment and evaluation are necessary, coordinating appointments in an expeditious manner. She is there to hold your hand every step of the way.

The First Step in Breast Care is Imaging

Before a regimen of care can be formulated, a clear evaluation or diagnosis of the condition of the breast must take place. And this involves imaging – a picture of what is going on within the breast. This can be done at Hunterdon Women’s Imaging.

Breast Imaging Tests

The most commonly used breast imaging tests at this time are mammograms, ultrasound, and breast MRI.

Routine Mammogram

A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray of the breast. It can detect a breast lump nearly two years before it can be felt. A routine mammogram is the main reason most women are referred to the breast program at HHO. Screening mammograms evaluate breast health in women with no symptoms, and are used for those who seek routine breast evaluation. Diagnostic mammograms are used to diagnose breast disease in women with symptoms of a breast problem: dimpling, or a change in texture of the skin of the breast, a lump, or discharge from the nipple.

Digital Mammogram

Digital mammography is the most advanced technology to date for detecting breast cancer. The digital mammography procedure is essentially the same as standard film mammography, but uses a computer and digital image instead of film. Digital mammograms allow the image to be acquired and displayed immediately, reducing the time that the patient must remain still. This expedited process provides the patient with a more convenient and comfortable mammogram. In addition, a digital image can be enhanced and altered to be seen more clearly and to make a more accurate diagnosis. This image manipulation eliminates the need for a woman to repeat her mammogram if the first image is deemed unusable.

Ultrasound

The majority of lumps and abnormalities turn out to be benign, not cancerous. A way to determine if a lump is a benign cyst is to perform another imaging procedure called an ultrasound. Ultrasound works by sending high frequency sound waves into the breast. These sound waves produce a pattern of echoes that are changed into an image of the inside of the breast. Ultrasound is painless and can distinguish between tumors that are solid and those that are filled with fluid (cysts). It can also help radiologists evaluate lumps that can be felt but cannot be easily seen on a mammogram.

Breast MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast — or breast MRI — is a test used to detect breast cancer and other abnormalities in the breast. A breast MRI captures multiple images of your breast. Breast MRI images are combined, using a computer, to create detailed pictures. A breast MRI usually is performed after you have a biopsy that’s positive for cancer and your doctor needs more information about the extent of the disease. For some people, a breast MRI may be used with mammograms as a screening tool for detecting breast cancer. That group of people includes women with a high risk of breast cancer, who have a very strong family history of breast cancer or carry a hereditary breast cancer gene mutation.

Emerging Imaging Techniques

Newer types of tests are now being developed for breast imaging. Some of these, such as breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography), are already being used in some centers. Other tests are still being studied, and it will take time to see if they are as good as or better than those used today.

Molecular breast imaging (MBI), also known as scintimammography or breast-specific gamma imaging (BSGI), is a type of nuclear medicine imaging test for the breast. A radioactive chemical is injected into the blood, and a special camera is used to see into the breast. This test is being studied mainly as a way to follow up breast problems.

Positron emission mammography (PEM) is a newer imaging test of the breast that is very similar to a PET scan. A form of sugar attached to a radioactive particle is injected into the blood to detect cancer cells. A PEM scan may be better able to detect small clusters of cancer cells within the breast.

Contrast-enhanced mammography (CEM), also known as contrast-enhanced spectral mammography (CESM), is a newer test in which a contrast dye containing iodine is injected into a vein a few minutes before two sets of mammograms (using different energy levels) are taken. The contrast can help the x-rays show any abnormal areas in the breasts.

Optical imaging tests pass light into the breast and then measure the light that returns or passes through the tissue. The technique does not use radiation and does not require breast compression. Studies going on now are looking at combining optical imaging with other tests like MRI, ultrasound, or 3D mammography to help look for breast cancer.

Electrical impedance imaging (EIT) scans the breast for electrical conductivity. It’s based on the idea that breast cancer cells conduct electricity differently from normal cells. The test passes a very small electrical current through the breast and then detects it on the skin of the breast.

Elastography is a test that can be done as part of an ultrasound exam. It’s based on the idea that breast cancers tend to be firmer and stiffer than the surrounding breast tissue. For this test, the breast is compressed slightly, and the ultrasound can show how firm a suspicious area is.


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May 27, 2020 Cancer Treatment

If you were recently diagnosed with breast cancer, your head may be swimming and swirling with questions, that all boil down to this: What’s next? The breast cancer care professionals at Hunterdon Hematology Oncology, a part of the Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center, are able to answer that question in a uniquely powerful way. Hunterdon Hematology Oncology has an entire practice focused solely on breast cancer detection, treatment and eradication, and part of that charge will focus on answering your questions and putting your worries to rest.

First, a word about cancer survivability. “What are my chances, doctor? Am I going to survive?” And the answer today is very much more positive that it was 30 or 40 years ago. Today, the overall survivability rate for breast cancer is in the neighborhood of 70%. Scientific research and early detection techniques are improving the overall trends of both survival rate and quality of life, particularly for breast cancer.

Second, a few words about the treatment process for breast cancer. You may be confused about what you should do next, but the actual treatment process for breast cancer has a certain regularity about it: it usually requires radiation treatment or hormone treatment to shrink the size of the tumor, or chemotherapy, and/or surgery or some combination of these treatment modalities. It depends on the biology of the breast cancer tumor and varies by stage (I – IV).

A little more about cancer staging: Cancer treatment depends on the stage (severity of the tumor). Clinical stage is based initially on mammogram imaging and ultrasound imaging of the suspected tumor. Pathological staging is determined after surgery; after the tumor has been removed and a sample of lymph node tissue is taken. The cancer’s stage is based on the size of the tumor, and whether the lymph node is involved in (affected by) the cancer, as well as the grade of the tumor.

You also might be wondering whether it would be worth it to go to one of those national treatment centers that advertise on TV. The answer is no. Research data indicate no difference in outcomes between national and local cancer centers. First of all, the therapeutic approach for treating breast cancer is standardized across the entire country. Second, HHO specializes in the treatment of breast cancer. HHO has a team of excellent breast surgeons who are dedicated to treating only breast cancer patients. Patients at HHO are assigned a Nurse Navigator who helps the patient coordinate care, navigate the entire process and answer any questions the patient might have.

Also, getting treated locally at HHO has certain advantages over going to one of these large national centers. While getting the exact same level of care and specialization found at a national center, HHO provides a level of personalized attention and care that is difficult to find at a larger center. Being local means that if any issues arise, if you need to come back to the hospital, we are right here and can see you immediately. We offer genetics counseling, and you can come in and out to see him/her very easily. If you need to come in to get a blood count checked, we are right here. Need extra hydration? Ditto. Feeling extra-nauseous? Come on in. We also offer an oncology-certified dietician, with whom you can arrange a visit pretty much any time you want.

And finally, there are actually certain disadvantages to using a large national cancer center. If anything detrimental were to take place, a patient using a large national center might find themselves needing to go to a local ER, and there will be nobody there who is familiar with the patient’s case or will understand what is going on. This can actually be detrimental to their care.

To learn more about Hunterdon Hematology Oncology’s cancer care treatment center NJ visit our breast cancer care page.


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October 30, 2019 Cancer Treatment

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, your head may be spinning with questions such as: How can I find out which cancer treatment center is best for my type of cancer? How can I locate the very best oncologist (cancer specialist) for my cancer diagnosis? What kinds of questions should I ask them? How should I go about choosing the best course of treatment when there are all sorts of options available? Let’s look at these questions, each in turn:

How to Choose a Cancer Treatment Center That Is Best for My Diagnosis

This question may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but it’s not really all that bad. It just takes a little bit of time and research effort, so start by relaxing and not worrying. Cancer care has improved so much that it’s nearly assured that you can find the best care available for your cancer diagnosis.

Start by asking around! Talk with friends, family, close co-workers, and especially your family doctor. Ask them if they can recommend any hospital or cancer treatment center highly, especially if they have some familiarity with your specific diagnosis. Your family doctor will probably know the most, but you never know.

Some important considerations to include in your search: First a very practical consideration: Is the hospital or cancer treatment center in-network for your health insurance? After all, unless you have unlimited resources, you don’t want to be left with a very large bill after treatment is completed. Then, locate a hospital or cancer treatment center, that has extensive (high volume) experience in successfully treating your specific cancer diagnosis. Generally, this will tend to be large hospitals (although not always) or a well-known cancer treatment center, like the Hunterdon Cancer Center at Hunterdon Hematology Oncology in Flemington, NJ!

Patients should make sure to ask whether the treatment center has access to the newest most precise medical options to treat their cancer. Further, its approach to treating your cancer should be multi-disciplinary, meaning that multiple kinds of cancer treatment specialists should work together as a unified team, focused jointly on treating your cancer with an approach that “passes muster” with all members of the treatment team. Here at the Hunterdon Cancer Center at Hunterdon Hematology Oncology in Flemington, NJ we focus on working as a team to offer you an optimal treatment experience.

One important-but-sometimes-overlooked factor to keep in mind is geography – i.e., distance. Some cancer treatments can potentially require a lot of visits to the treatment center. Some treatments require patients to come back to the infusion suite 2-3 times per week. Considering distance often turns out to be a big deal.

Finally, look for a hospital or center that is a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer treatment center, or one that is accredited by the healthcare-focused non-profit Joint Commission. Understanding the importance of these designations, Hunterdon Hematology Oncology is an affiliate of Fox Chase Cancer Center and also, as part of Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center’s Breast Program, has received full accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC).

How to Choose the Right Oncologist for My Cancer Diagnosis

Start with your family physician, who almost undoubtedly can refer you to one or more oncologists and/or surgeons who have extensive experience with your specific cancer diagnosis. Then, meet with at least two recommended oncologists/surgeons. Compare and contrast their recommendations. Find out whether they agree or not. If not, see another one (or two). Finally, meet once more with your family physician, who can help you sort through the options and select the right treatment and the right physician(s) for you.

What Questions to Ask Your Oncologist and/or Surgeon

In selecting your oncologist and/or surgeon, it is important to establish that he or she is board certified in your specialty area, how many patients they have treated with your kind of cancer, how many patients with this kind of cancer are seen at the center, and how many have you personally treated, and is there a multidisciplinary team that will work jointly to make decisions regarding the best kind of treatment for my cancer? Also, don’t forget to ask your oncologist if he/she can come to see you in the hospital if the diagnosis or symptoms/side effects of treatment result in an admission. The Hunterdon Cancer Center at Hunterdon Hematology Oncology works to make our patients feel comfortable and confident that they have made the right choice.

For surgeons, ask them: how many surgeries do you perform each year? (It’s important for a surgeon to have a minimum of 15 to 20 per year.) What are your complication rates? What is your 30-day operative mortality rate? (This is any death that occurred within 30 days after surgery, either in or out of the hospital.)

What Factors to Consider When Deciding on Your Cancer Treatment

A diagnosis of cancer can be very anxiety-inducing, but unless your cancer is very advanced, rushing immediately into the first kind of treatment that seems “right” can be a mistake. It is nearly always recommended to take a deep breath, let it out slowly, relax a tiny bit, and do some research.

The first consideration to weigh is the aim(s) of the treatment. These can include removing the cancer entirely or killing it entirely, stopping or slowing its rate of growth and spread, and/or palliative care (supportive care), i.e. managing symptoms and side effects. You need to have an in-depth discussion of these options with your physician and/or multidisciplinary team.

The next factor to consider is the type and stage of the cancer. From there the most important decision is deciding what treatment type best fits with your particular cancer situation. These options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, active surveillance, also called watchful waiting, palliative care, and participating in a clinical trial.

Another key consideration to weigh the risks and benefits of each type of treatment. Some factors to consider include the chances for a complete cure, the likelihood that the cancer may come back, short and long-term side effects, chances of living longer with and without treatment, and (importantly) the effect(s) of treatment on your quality of life and independence.

The Hunterdon Cancer Center team is here to guide you, offer our utmost support and provide detailed information to make these difficult decisions easier on you and your family. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.


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October 16, 2019 Cancer Treatment

There are some unusual and interesting differences between men and women when it comes to the phenomenon of lung cancer. Not that cancer is interesting. It’s not. It’s disconcerting, to say the least. What we’re talking about are some thought-provoking differences between men and women when it comes to the rate of lung cancer and to the mechanism of how it develops, that are forcing the medical/cancer research community to reach some important conclusions about women and lung cancer treatment. Here are some important differences between men and women when it comes to lung cancer:

  • The rate of lung cancer among women who have never smoked is growing (15% – 20%), while the incidence of lung cancer among men who’ve never smoked is declining (10%).
  • The rate of lung cancer among women due to smoking is around one-half that of men.
  • Receptors for the female sex hormone estrogen have been detected on lung tumors among women.
  • Scientists studied populations of mice who underwent ovariectomies (surgical removal of ovaries). When treated with estradiol, they developed lung cancer; when treated with anti-estrogens, the process was reversed.
  • There is a growing body of research evidence pointing to the conclusion that combination hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may slightly increase the risk of both getting, and dying, from lung cancer.

One of the critical, fundamental differences between men and women is the presence and relative prominence of hormones; namely, estrogen and progesterone. Researchers began to wonder about whether the role of hormones might be a critical factor behind these differences in rates of cancer. The research data collected so far indicate that lung cancer in women is, at least in part, driven or conditioned or affected by the presence of female hormones.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

In a study of 16,000 women, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHT) found that women with non-small lung cancer who are under a combined hormone replacement therapy (HRT) regimen, i.e. taking combined estrogen and progestin, are approximately 59% more likely to die from the disease. This effect was limited only to women who already had non-small cell lung cancer; it did not apply to women who did not have lung cancer or who had small-cell lung cancer.

Conclusions

Clearly, these results are very significant and important for every woman to know who has lung cancer, who has a higher risk for lung cancer (e.g. due to smoking), or who is considering HRT. The decision regarding what course to follow should be undertaken in close, intimate conversation with one’s doctor(s). There is no single “right” course of action to take, because it depends on one’s overall health, the nature of the condition being faced, and the risks of going in one direction versus another. The decision, while ultimately yours, should be an informed one, and that requires a frank, detailed discussion with your health team members. Contact us today to set up an appointment.




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Hunterdon Hematology Oncology is a community oncology group, dedicated to fighting cancer in this community and across the region. Our Doctors, Physician’s Assistants and Nurses work tirelessly. They fight hard so that you can win.




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