Meet the Newest Member of Our Team: Dr. Bishoy Faltas

Bishoy_Faltas_HeadshotWe’re pleased to announce that the Genitourinary (GU) Oncology Program is expanding! Dr. Bishoy Faltas joined us on July 1st as an Instructor in Medicine and as an Assistant Attending Physician. He will see patients with bladder, prostate, testicular, and kidney cancers.

Dr. Faltas may already be a familiar face and name because he completed his Hematology and Medical Oncology Fellowship here at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in 2015. Additionally, he recently finished a one-year research fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Mark A. Rubin and the Institute for Precision Medicine.

As part of the Genitourinary Oncology Program, Dr. Faltas will focus his research on urothelial carcinoma, the most common type of bladder cancer, and specifically on genetic mutations and drug-resistance. He has presented groundbreaking work on genomic alterations before and after chemotherapy and the potential clinical implications. He will also be building upon his prior research examining how patients with bladder cancer respond to immunotherapies.

He has already received numerous research awards for his work, is a member of the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network, and we are very excited to officially welcome Dr. Faltas to the GU team!

8 Tips to Combat Chemo-Related Sun Sensitivity

Sunblock Cream Reflect UVSummertime often means vacations and more time outdoors. This also comes with increased exposure to the sun – which isn’t such a “sunny” thing if you’re feeling sensitive to it.

A side effect of chemotherapy that many cancer patients express they feel the most is sun sensitivity. This “photosensitivity” occurs because agents in chemotherapy are radiosensitizers which help to impact treatment, but also increase the body’s sensitivity to UV rays (the radiation from the sun that reaches the earth).

A little bit of sunshine can be beneficial, since the sun provides Vitamin D for strong bones, but too much exposure during chemotherapy can be dangerous and increase your risk of sunburn. Here are 8 tips to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays during and after chemotherapy:

  • Chemo and the sun don’t get along. Photosensitivity can start immediately after your first treatment and last for a few months post-treatment. Several kinds of medications (for cancer and non-cancer alike) can also increase sun sensitivity; so ask your physician and pharmacist if you’re taking any medications that fall in this category.
  • Watch the clock. Avoid mid-day sun exposure when the sun’s rays are most intense. In most places, the sun is the strongest between 10am-4pm.
  • Pay to attention SPF. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and represents the theoretical amount of time you can stay in the sun without getting burned. It is important to use sunscreens with protection above 30 SPF and to make sure the SPF includes protection against both UVA and UVB rays (labeled as “broad spectrum”). These two different types of rays can both cause sunburn.
  • Lather up! Reapply sunscreen every two hours or even more frequently if you’re sweating or swimming.
  • Bald is beautiful, but protect your head. Wear a wide-brimmed hat in addition to sunscreen if you have lost your hair, and in general to help protect your ears, neck and face further.
  • Stylize with shades. Wear sunglasses with UV protection to protect your eyes any time the sun is out. If your wear prescription eyeglasses, consider getting transitional lenses so that you don’t have to worry about carrying an extra pair.
  • Cover-ups are key. Cover your exposed skin as much as possible. Wear long-sleeve shirts and pants so that your body is not directly hit by the sun. Many companies now make sun protective clothing which are light, breathable and offer excellent sun protection without the need for constant re-applying of sunscreen to the covered areas.
  • Don’t forget the small spots. Ears, eyelids, feet, and lips can be easily forgotten but need extra protection. Use lip balm with SPF to protect your lips, inquire with your oncologist or dermatologist regarding sunscreens for sensitive areas, and don’t forget to put sunscreen on your ears and top of your feet (two areas that are directly hit by the sun).

In the case of a sunburn, use cold compresses and aloe vera to ease discomfort. Contact your physician if redness persists or if your sunburn is severe.

Freedom from Cancer

Fireworks_Fourth of JulyThis Fourth of July holiday, we’re not only celebrating the red, white and blue that honors the independence and freedom of our country, but also freedom from cancer and the cancer “blues.” Feeling this sense of freedom may mean that you’re cancer-free or that you’re unwilling to let a cancer diagnosis define you.

To be cancer-free means that tests show no evidence of any cancer remaining in the body, a term coined “complete remission.” In some cases, it is possible to complete treatment but still have some evidence of the cancer. This is called “partial remission.”

At Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, many of our patients and their families experience a wide range of emotions during and after treatment for kidney, prostate, bladder and testicular (genitourinary or “GU”) cancers. Often, freedom from cancer is both something to celebrate and something that comes with an air of caution. That’s because the joy of being cancer-free may be accompanied by fear that the cancer may return.

Some cancers can and do come back after treatment. This is called “recurrence.” Recurrence can depend on several factors, including the type of cancer, whether it has spread from the original source and how the cancer responded to treatment. While there is no foolproof way to keep cancer from coming back, there are many things you and your healthcare team can do to monitor what’s going on in your body.

You may feel differently than you did before treatment, both physically and mentally. And that’s okay. It’s important to be in tune with your body and your new normal so that you can be mindful of any bodily changes.

It’s also important for cancer patients and survivors to lead a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating a healthy diet, being physically active (under the supervision of your healthcare team), and regularly following up with doctors’ appointments and routine medical tests. Cancer survivors can live very long and full lives, so routine medical tests and appointments aren’t limited to following up with your oncologist and getting scans and imaging tests. It’s important to also get regular physical exams and monitor other markers for diseases such as cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Routine follow-up tests may also identify the recurrence of cancer even before symptoms develop. Since cancer can come back in the same part of the body or in another part of the body, signs and symptoms may differ from those involved with your original diagnosis. For instance, an increase in fatigue, the development of new pain or worsening of existing pain, weight loss, urinary changes (including blood in urine), and other changes in the way you feel should be discussed with your physician, especially those that persist.

This Independence Day, as you enjoy time with your family, watching fireworks, and celebrating other traditions, take a moment to think about independence from cancer. Our support groups can help by providing a safe space and community for prostate cancer and kidney cancer survivors, patients and their families.

Have a wonderful holiday!

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