Saturday, May 20, 2017

Lung Cancer Warning Signs

The Big Picture

Lung cancer is the top cause of cancer deaths in both men and women. But this wasn't always the case. Prior to the widespread use of mechanical cigarette rollers, lung cancer was rare. Today, smoking causes nearly 9 out of 10 lung cancer deaths, while radon gas, pollution, and other things play a smaller role. Newly developed drugs provide new hope for those diagnosed today.

When Smoking Is the Cause

Cigarettes are packed with cancer-causing chemicals. They also disarm the lungs' natural defense system. The airways are lined with tiny hairs called cilia. To protect the lungs, they sweep out toxins, bacteria, and viruses. Tobacco smoke stops the cilia from doing their job. This lets the cancer-causing chemicals build up.


Lung cancer begins quietly. There are usually no symptoms or warning signs in the early stages. As it gets worse, you may notice:

o A cough that won't go away
o Chest pain, especially during deep breaths
o Wheezing or shortness of breath
o Coughing up bloody phlegm
o Fatigue

Can You Get Checked?

A type of scan called spiral CT may pick up early lung cancers in some people, but it's not clear whether it finds them early enough to save lives.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that heavy smokers ages 55-80 get a CT scan every year. The same goes for those who used to smoke a lot and quit less than 15 years ago.


If your doctor thinks you might have lung cancer -- for instance, because you have a long-lasting cough or wheezing -- you’ll get a chest X-ray or other imaging tests. You may also need to cough up phlegm for a sputum test. If either of these tests suggest that you could have cancer, you'll probably need to get a biopsy.

What Is a Biopsy?

Your doctor will take a small sample of the suspicious growth, usually with a needle, for examination under a microscope. By studying the sample, a pathologist can determine whether the tumor is lung cancer, and if so, what kind.

Two Main Types

Small-cell lung cancer is more aggressive, meaning it can spread quickly to other parts of the body early in the disease. It is strongly tied to cigarette use and is rare in nonsmokers. Non-small-cell lung cancer grows more slowly and is more common. It's responsible for almost 85% of all lung cancers.

What's the Stage?

Staging describes how far someone’s cancer has spread. Small-cell lung cancer is divided into two stages: "Limited" means the cancer is confined to one lung and maybe nearby lymph nodes. "Extensive" means the cancer has spread to the other lung or beyond. Non-small-cell lung cancer is assigned a stage of I through IV, depending on how far it has spread.

Early-Stage Treatment

When doctors find non-small-cell lung cancer before it spreads beyond one lung, an operation can sometimes help. The surgeon may remove the part of the lung that has the tumor, or if necessary, the entire lung. Some people get radiation or chemotherapy afterward to kill any remaining cancer cells. Surgery usually doesn’t help with small-cell lung cancer because it probably has already spread before diagnosis.

If It's Advanced Lung Cancer

When lung cancer spreads too far to be cured, treatments may still help people live longer and have a better quality of life. Radiation and chemotherapy can shrink tumors and help control symptoms, such as bone pain or blocked airways. Chemotherapy is usually the main treatment for small-cell lung cancer.

New Treatments

Targeted therapy plus chemotherapy may help, if other approaches don’t work. One type prevents the growth of new blood vessels that feed cancer cells. Others interrupt the signals that prompt lung cancer cells to multiply, as shown in the image here.

Immunotherapy works with your immune system to fight advanced cases of non-small-cell lung cancer. It doesn’t work for everyone, but when it does, the results look strong. You’d also get chemotherapy.

Joining a Study

Clinical trials help doctors explore promising new treatments for lung cancer. Ask your doctor if there’s one that you could join, what to consider, and how to sign up.

Quitting Helps

Being diagnosed with lung cancer can be a shock. If you smoke, or used to, it’s not too late to make healthy changes. Research shows that people who quit smoking after learning they have lung cancer do better than those who keep smoking.

Secondhand Smoke

While smoking is the top cause of lung cancer, it is not the only risk factor. Breathing in secondhand smoke at home or at work also appears to raise your risk. People who are married to someone who smokes are 20% to 30% more likely to get lung cancer than the spouses of nonsmokers.

Dangerous Work

Some jobs make lung cancer more likely. People who work with uranium, arsenic, and other chemicals should try to limit their exposure. Asbestos, which was once widely used in insulation, is a known cause of lung cancer. It’s rarely used now, but workers who were exposed years ago are still at risk.

Radon Gas

This natural radioactive gas is found at higher than normal levels in certain parts of the U.S. The gas can build up inside homes and raise the risk of lung cancer, especially in people who smoke. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. You can’t smell or see it, but you can use a simple test kit to find it.

Air Pollution

It causes far fewer cases than smoking, but air pollution is still something to avoid. Experts think that pollution from cars, factories, and power plants may affect the lungs like secondhand smoke does.

What Else Puts You at Risk

o A family history of lung cancer
o Drinking water that's high in arsenic

Lung cancer does happen to people with no well-known risk factors -- including those who've never smoked. Researchers don't know why. It seems to happen to women more than men. And one type, adenocarcinoma, is more common in nonsmokers than smokers.


Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women. But if you don’t smoke and you avoid other people’s smoke, that will greatly lower your odds of getting it. If you smoke, do whatever it takes to quit. It often takes several tries to kick the habit, so keep trying. It’s worth it, and will benefit your whole body.

Inspirational Quote – May 20, 2017

“Some people are hurting so bad you have to do more than preach a message to them. You have to be a message to them.”

I interpret this as meaning that sometimes when we are called upon to be there to support, comfort or encourage a friend in need, words aren’t enough. Although we mean well and can all verbalize the platitudes that we all use at these times, you know what, maybe all they need is to know is that we ourselves are conveying a message of comfort and hope just by being by their side when they most need to know we are there for them. Be prepared to be a message of hope when you need to be and, hopefully, when we are in need, they will be the message of hope for us.

Why Stories Matter

"Storytelling, recognized in every society as a way of making sense of cultural roots or social reality, is an elaborate form of metaphor, and memoir is its masterpiece: life stories enable us to share insights and enhance mutual understanding in a social, political, psychological and spiritual sense. Memoir is revolutionary precisely because, when shared, it's a way towards the truth." In this essay, Paul Tritschler skillfully demonstrates how sharing our human stories can connect us, change us, even save us. As common travelers on this earth, we are more similar than different, kept apart by our own mental barriers. Here, Tritschler shares two experiences from his journey where he learned about empathy, altruism, joy, and sacrifice from strangers who broke down barriers with little more than their human spirit.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Inspirational Quote – May 19, 2017

“As you breathe in, cherish yourself. As you breathe out, cherish all beings.”

I can just picture this can’t you? Breathing in life-giving air to nourish our bodies and, just a tad more important, keeping us alive. Then breathing out and picturing with our mind’s eye our very breath of life being expelled and set free to enhance and nourish everyone and every living thing around us. A precious gift freely given from us to whoever needs it most. What a gift eh?

A Conversation with Carl Cheng: The John Doe Company

"My grandfather was the mayor of Canton and on my mother's side there were even more distinguished figures." All that was wiped in the Cultural Revolution and when Carl was five his family emigrated to the U.S. taking up farming in the San Fernando Valley. Cheng's story is fascinating. He now focuses on public art. "The potential of public art is to make us value what we have." He calls himself, the John Doe Company. It's far more than being cute; it expresses a much deeper perspective.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

How to Tackle Your Cravings with Mindfulness

By Deborah Yip

Our bad habits and addictive behaviors—like smoking, overeating, or constantly using technology—hurt well-being and public health. A new book shows how mindfulness can help.

We function throughout the day thanks to habits that are nearly automatic: wake up, brush teeth, make coffee. Transforming behaviors into habits saves our brains from having to exert extra effort to make decisions, and this can work to our benefit: Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps broke world records by fine-tuning his habits, for example.
But what about those other habits—like smoking cigarettes, stress-eating, or constantly checking our social media—that may be holding us back?
In his new book, The Craving Mind, psychiatrist and Yale School of Medicine psychology professor Judson Brewer makes a case that mindfulness and meditation can help you identify and counter everyday cravings that lead to recalcitrant bad habits, and even addictions. Brewer, also director of research at the Center for Mindfulness in the University of Massachusetts Medical School, guides us through various addictions (to cigarettes, technology, distraction, and even love) and explains how we can hack our brains to break them.

Our habits and addictions

Habits can be described as automatic behavioral loops, involving triggers, behaviors, and rewards. For example, one may feel stressed (trigger), eat junk food or smoke a cigarette (behavior), and feel better (reward). When you attain (and, later, anticipate) the reward, your brain releases dopamine in a neural process that lays down a memory of that behavior and helps you “learn” to execute that behavior next time to attain the reward. This process is called reward-based learning.
In everyday life, Brewer explains that reward-based learning can reinforce a diverse array of inconvenient habits. Doctors may learn to respond to patients’ suffering in a self-protective way by emotionally distancing themselves (which erodes patient care). We can get in the habit of ruminating, constantly checking our phone notifications, and distracting ourselves, to the point that these behaviors become addictive. With tobacco use and unhealthy eating habits as leading causes of preventable death worldwide, and the rise in accidents due to texting while driving, habits can be dangerous.
Addiction is defined as “continued use, despite adverse consequences” (which, in the context of this book, doesn’t include more serious substance use disorders). How is it that even when someone is fully cognizant of how harmful their habits are, they continue to act on them? Brewer explains that reward-based learning is the very powerful mechanism that forms and reinforces habits. When we have an uncontrolled relationship with our habits, we can experience inadvertent cravings for reward and become blind to how these habits are hurting us over time.
Though the study of addictive behavior emerged in Western psychology in the 19th century, it has in fact been observed for thousands of years. Brewer and his colleagues have mapped reward-based learning onto the Buddhist concept of “dependent origination,” which describes the nature of craving and how it leads to continued suffering. Since Buddhist tradition teaches mindfulness to help people understand craving and suffering, Brewer suggests that mindfulness may also help free us from our modern bad habits.

How can mindfulness help?

Brewer touts the mindfulness skills of curiosity and attentiveness as key to tackling bad habits. Being more mindful can help you clearly see the outcomes of your behaviors and assess whether the behaviors are helping or harming you. Being aware of the outcomes can help you recognize your blind spots and realize how they are perpetuating the same harmful habits. Once you are no longer caught up in your cravings, you may begin to direct your behavior toward more helpful rewards.
In a randomized clinical trial, Brewer showed that a mindfulness-based program helped smokers quit at twice the rate of the gold standard “Freedom From Smoking” program from the American Lung Association. In the mindfulness program, smokers were taught formal and informal practices, including breath awareness, loving-kindness, and attention to habit triggers and actions. Smokers reported being more aware of why they smoked, what behaviors they might substitute for smoking, and how disgusting cigarette smoke actually smelled and tasted.
The study also found that among all informal practices, the one associated with the greatest reductions in smoking was RAIN, in which people are encouraged to:
  • Recognize/relax into what is arising
  • Accept/allow it to be there
  • Investigate bodily sensations, emotions, thoughts
  • Note what is happening from moment to moment
Practicing RAIN helped smokers to approach their smoking as observers, distancing them from their habit in a way that allowed them to become disenchanted and eventually quit—a strategy that may help in conjunction with medication-based treatment plans.
Brewer also advises against brute-forcing habit change. Instead, when faced with a craving for the old reward, be curious about how you feel and why you feel that way. Being too concerned about overcoming the habit and too emotionally invested in progress and relapses could hinder true attentiveness, he explains. Being in the moment and watching things unfold are more impactful than trying to coerce oneself into quitting.
When you do this, Brewer says, one of the things you might start to recognize is the difference between excitement and joy as rewards. Joy is open and arises from being curious and attentive, while excitement—like how you feel after excessive online shopping—is more restless and leaves an urge for more. Uncovering the subtler pleasures of joy versus excitement through mindfulness can help you choose the path to joy more often (and, with it, good habits).

In many of his neuroimaging studies, Brewer hones in on one region of the brain: the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), which typically activates during self-referential brain activity such as craving. His work shows that mental states such as meditation, concentration, joy, and wonder are associated with decreased PCC activity, lending compelling evidence that mindfulness may help unshackle the mind from out-of-control habits.
Given that many health concerns are fueled by habits and addictions—and certain racial, socioeconomic, and other demographic groups disproportionately face these health concerns—it’s critical to find better solutions that help people change their behavior. Although Brewer’s book gives us a compelling argument that mindfulness is a helpful practice that may be palatable to a wide range of people, some barriers still exist for certain groups. Nonetheless, his work has led to the creation of two mindfulness smartphone applications, Craving to Quit and Eat Right Now, that help people take control of and overcome their smoking and eating habits and may make mindfulness practice more widely accessible.
And, for those of us who may not have serious addictions but simply can’t put away our cell phones, his book gives us yet another reason to practice mindfulness.

Inspirational Quote – May 18, 2017

“Everything flows and nothing stays.”

This is so, so true, not just for us, but for everything. Every human being, every living thing, the earth, the seasons, absolutely everything is moving constantly second by second. Nothing is the same as it was only a moment ago, including us. How many times have you revisited somewhere you lived or visited previously and were taken aback by the way it had altered since you last saw it? The same with people isn’t it? You meet someone you haven’t seen for years and silently think “My goodness they’ve got older” not realizing they’re thinking the same about you! There is nothing we can do to slow or halt this natural process which has been going on since the beginning of time, so much better just to go with the flow don’t you think?

Gratefulness: An Opportunity to Practice

Each moment as we go through our day, we are practicing habits of mind and being. Too often, we unconsciously end up practicing habits that are unhelpful for us. Resentment, fear and projection become habits that end up being hurtful, but with a change in perspective, gratefulness can be incorporated into our day as a practice. Br. David Steindl-Rast, Benedictine monk and teacher of grateful living, suggests that even in the trouble that life may bring, there are opportunities to practice gratefulness so as to open to life in profound ways. "Gratefulness, like mindfulness or yoga, is an awareness practice and a way of training, deepening, and directing our attention," says Kristi Nelson, who works with Br. David as executive director of Read on to learn a simple practice to use even when there are difficulties in life.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

How to Handle a Toxic Relationship

By Christine Carter

When a relationship is causing you stress and suffering, follow these five steps to find more peace.

Last week, I had lunch with a friend. As we were walking out, she mentioned that she had to see someone who hadn’t always been kind to her, a relationship that caused her more stress and suffering than anything else. She’d been avoiding the meeting, but now it looked inevitable.
“She just makes me so anxious,” she said, gritting her teeth. I’ve been there myself. Lots of times. Some relationships, though toxic, seem impossible to avoid. Perhaps you have a constantly criticizing mother-in-law, or a neighbor who seems emotionally stuck in seventh grade. Maybe it’s a boss who belittles you when he’s stressed—or someone who is so under your skin you hold entire conversations with them in your head.
If you, too, have struggled with a toxic relationship, I hope this little instruction manual will help you.

1. Accept that you are in a difficult situation, dealing with a very difficult relationship

Your choices here are fairly limited, and, strangely, acceptance is always the best choice. You can judge and criticize the other person, but that will probably make you feel tense and lonely. Alternately, you could nurse your anxiety and despair that you’ll never be able to get along with them, which will make you feel stressed and sad. You can definitely deny their existence or pretend that they aren’t bothering you. You can block their texts and emails, and avoid every situation where they’ll turn up.
These are all tactics of resistance, and they won’t protect you. Ironically, these tactics will allow the other person to further embed themselves into your psyche.
What does work is to accept that your relationship with them is super hard, and also that you are trying to make it less hard. This gentle acceptance does not mean that you are resigned to a life of misery, or that the situation will never get better. Maybe it will—and maybe it won’t. Accepting the reality of a difficult relationship allows us to soften. And this softening will open the door to your own compassion and wisdom.
Trust me: You are going to need those things.

2. The other person will probably tell you that you are the cause of all their bad feelings

This is not true. You are not responsible for their emotions. You never have been, and you never will be. Don’t take responsibility for their suffering; if you do, they will never have the opportunity to take responsibility for themselves.

3. Tell the truth

When you lie (perhaps to avoid upsetting them), you become complicit in the creation and maintenance of their reality, which is poisonous to you. For example, they might ask you if you forgot to invite them to a party. You can easily say yes, that it was a mistake that they didn’t get the Evite, and did they check their spam folder?
But lying is very stressful for human beings, maybe the most stressful thing. Lie detectors detect not lies, but the subconscious stress and fear that lying causes. This will not make the relationship less toxic.
So, instead, tell the truth. Be sure to tell them your truth instead of your judgment, or what you imagine to be true for other people. Don’t say “I didn’t invite you because it would stress Mom out too much to have you there” or “I didn’t invite you because you are a manipulative drama queen who will find some way to make the evening about you.”
Instead, tell them your truth: “When you are in my home, I feel jittery and nervous, and I can’t relax, so I didn’t invite you to the party. I’m sorry that I’ve hurt your feelings.”
It takes courage to tell the truth, because often it makes people angry. But they will probably be mad at you anyway, no matter what you do. They almost certainly won’t like the new, truth-telling you—and that will make them likely to avoid you in the future. This might be a good thing.

4. If you feel angry or afraid, bring your attention to your breath and do not speak (or write) to the person until you feel calm

It’s normal to want to defend yourself, but remember that anger and anxiety weaken you. Trust that soothing yourself is the only effective thing you can do right now. If you need to excuse yourself, go ahead and step out. Even if it is embarrassing or it leaves people hanging.

5. Have mercy

Anne Lamott defines mercy as radical kindness bolstered by forgiveness, and it allows us to alter a communication dynamic, even when we are interacting with someone mired in anger or fear or jealousy. We do this by offering them a gift from our heart. You probably won’t be able to get rid of your negative thoughts about them, and you won’t be able to change them, but you can make an effort to be a loving person. Can you buy them a cup of coffee? Can you hold space for their suffering? Can you send a loving-kindness meditation their way?
Forgiveness takes this kindness to a whole new level. I used to think I couldn’t really forgive someone who’d hurt me until they’d asked for forgiveness, preferably in the form of a moving and remorseful apology letter.
But I’ve learned that to heal ourselves we must forgive whether or not we’re asked for forgiveness, and whether or not the person is still hurting us. When we do, we feel happier and more peaceful. This means that you might need to forgive the other person at the end of every day—or, on bad days, every hour. Forgiveness is an ongoing practice, not a one-time deal.
When we find ways to show mercy to even the person who has cost us sleep and love and even our well-being, something miraculous happens. “When we manage a flash of mercy for someone we don’t like, especially a truly awful person, including ourselves,” Anne Lamott writes, “we experience a great spiritual moment, a new point of view that can make us gasp.”
Here’s the real miracle: Our mercy boomerangs back to us. When we show radical kindness, forgiveness, and acceptance—and when we tell the truth in even the most difficult relationship—we start to show ourselves those things. We realize that we can love and forgive and accept even the most terrible aspects of our own being, even if it is only for a moment. We start to show ourselves the truth, and this makes us feel free.
And, in my experience, this makes all we have suffered worth it.
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Happy Couples Focus on Each Other’s Strengths

By Kira M. Newman

According to a new study, your ability to appreciate your partner’s strengths is linked to their well-being—and yours.

Our beliefs about our romantic partners matter—whether or not they are true to reality. Research has found that we’re more satisfied with our partners when we idealize them, and they will often work to meet that ideal.
A new study extends these findings by focusing on how we see our partner’s strengths. Personality strengths are part of people’s identity—and we often look out for these traits during the dating process: I want to meet a guy who’s funny, honest, and kind.
This research is some of the only work to explore how we perceive our long-term romantic partner’s strengths. It found that the more positive these perceptions, the more we feel satisfied, supported, and challenged by our partners—and the more they do, too.

Does seeing strengths make couples stronger?

The researchers asked a total of 159 heterosexual couples—one group of university students, and one group of adults—to identify their partner’s top three strengths and how much they appreciated each one and recognized its drawbacks. For example, you might admire a creative partner’s fascinating ideas, but be less enthusiastic about their organizational skills. The participants also filled out questionnaires measuring their well-being in the relationship, ranging from their level of emotional intimacy to their sexual satisfaction.
Overall, the researchers found that participants with a greater appreciation for their partners’ strengths reported more satisfying relationships and sex lives. They were more likely to feel that their partners supported their goals and helped them grow as a person. There was also some evidence that participants who appreciated their partner’s strengths were more committed and invested in the relationship, appreciated their own strengths more, experienced greater intimacy, and were more fulfilled in their psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
While appreciating our partner’s strengths seems to coincide with a healthy and enriching relationship, the researchers also wanted to explore what happens when we recognize the downsides of those strengths—like how our creative girlfriend can’t seem to keep the living room clean, or how our husband’s kind and giving nature leaves him drained.
Overall, the researchers found that participants who saw their partner’s strengths as more problematic felt less supported in pursuing their goals. Student participants who recognized drawbacks were less satisfied with their relationship and their partner’s behavior (e.g., how often their partner did things like show affection or express criticism), while adult participants experienced less intimacy, were less satisfied with their sex life, and had lower fulfillment of their psychological needs.
“Greater appreciation of partner strengths is an asset,” write George Mason University professor Todd Kashdan and his colleagues. “Too much recognition of costs associated with partner strengths is a problem in close relationships.”

How you see your partner helps shape them

So far, you may not find the results surprising: How we view our partners may be related to our own well-being. But could the beliefs in our own heads affect our partners, as well? That’s exactly what the researchers found.
When one partner saw more value or fewer drawbacks to the other’s strengths, the other partner had higher well-being in the relationship, including a greater sense of personal growth.
“Beliefs about each other define the shared reality of a relationship,” the authors write. Partners calibrate their behavior based on what is valued and recognized and what isn’t, Kashdan says. “Two people in a romantic relationship create scripts of how to behave, how not to behave, and what is ideal.”
Most of the findings from this study held up even after accounting for other factors that might explain them—like how grateful participants felt toward their partners, how positively partners responded to good news, and even how partners rated their own strengths. In other words, appreciating our partners’ strengths really seems to make a unique difference. (Men’s beliefs seemed to have a greater impact on women’s well-being than the other way around, though the researchers couldn’t say why.)
And there’s reason to believe that appreciation drives healthy relationships, rather than vice versa—a possibility that this correlational study can’t rule out. Seeing the good in our partners could give us hope for the future, by building confidence that we can handle stress, adversity, and life transitions together. For example, “a partner who is extremely fair, ensuring that everyone is treated equally at a family gathering, might be viewed as an ideal future parent, increasing the perceiver’s optimism about the future of the relationship.”
Admiring strengths may be one way that partners bring out the best in each other and grow together, the researchers write. “When somebody is aware and appreciative of another person’s strengths, communicates this, and provides opportunities for strengths to be used, this is when potential becomes realized.”