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Nearly 12 Million Cancer Survivors In The U.S.

The number of cancer survivors in the United States increased to 11.7 million in 2007, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Women survive more often, and survive longer, according to the report.

There were 3 million cancer survivors in 1971 and 9.8 million in 2001. Researchers attributed longer survival to a growing aging population, early detection, improved diagnostic methods, more effective treatment and improved clinical follow-up after treatment.

The study, “Cancer Survivors in the United States, 2007,” is published today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

To determine the number of survivors, the authors analyzed the number of new cases and follow-up data from NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program between 1971 and 2007. Population data from the 2006 and 2007 Census were also included. The researchers estimated the number of persons ever diagnosed with cancer (other than non-melanoma skin cancer) who were alive on Jan. 1, 2007. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Cancer Survivorship And Fear

I had breakfast this morning in Las Vegas with my friend, Dave Garcia. Dave is a pit boss on the graveyard shift at the Belagio Hotel where they made the modern-day “Ocean’s 11″ buddy movie from 1960. Dave is also a 52-year-old chronic lymphocytic leukemia survivor. He reached out to me online and we have been friends since soon after his diagnosis in 2002.

Dave is a father of two young kids. He dreams of seeing them grow up. But, understandably, he worries. Some days more than others. Today was his day to see his oncologist and get the latest blood test results. Would his white blood count (WBC) be in the normal range? If so, his third round of treatment was still working. If not, he might be headed to a stem cell transplant, short-term disability, and living in another city for weeks or months.

As  you can imagine, Dave was on pins and needles today. He would be against more chemo because he worries about the toxic drugs killing cancer cells but weakening him in the long run. Dave admits his blood pressure goes up on these days.

Dave is not alone in his fear. For millions of cancer survivors, while each day is special, some days are anxiety producing. For me it’s when I have a strange ache or pain. I rarely tell Esther, but I worry. For almost everyone it’s on days when we are having a “checkup.” The worry is, is this the day another shoe will drop? Fortunately, that hasn’t come for me yet and I hope it never will. I am happy to say Dave just texted me. His worry today was unfounded. The WBC was normal. He was given a pass at least for a few more months. We hope forever!

At another meeting today in Las Vegas there was a discussion about information for cancer patients. Nurses ticking off all sorts of facts and admonishments to patients. The nurses feel they are doing their job of education quite well. Some patients would say maybe not so well. How come? Fear. For us it is not clinical routine. It is our lives on the line at diagnosis or at a checkup. We often don’t hear so well in those moments. Dave may not have heard so well today. Only one word counted: “Normal.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*

Life Insurance Companies And Cancer Survivors

I have always heard that Northwestern Mutual Life (“The Quiet Company”) was a grade-A company. And for years I have been happy to have a disability insurance policy and a term life one with them. I got those policies back in the early 1990s, and it was a good thing I did.

In 1996 my health changed. I was diagnosed with leukemia. I knew I was very lucky to have insurance in place because, as many told me: “You’ll never get insurance now.”

Now fast-forward 14 years, and 10 years after receiving treatment in a phase II clinical trial. I have no evidence of disease and have not had any evidence for nine years. The drug therapy I received in a trial has now been approved by the FDA and in Europe as the standard of care. People are living well with this leukemia and it is extending life — some people may even be cured.

So I asked the insurance company to consider giving me the ability to change my policy, to take advantage of lower rates and optimize my coverage for a longer life. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*

The Cancer Journey: Take Control Of Your Illness And Treatment

I love this – a website that could’ve ONLY been created by cancer patients. From ThinkAboutYourLife.org:

Find empowerment: Anything you can do to feel like you are taking control of your illness and treatment will help you. Think About Your Life was developed by cancer survivors. We have used the tools on this website in our own experiences, and we hope to inspire you do the same.

This website provides easy-to-use tools for each stage of the cancer journey to help you:

  • Process your thoughts and feelings: Elizabeth shared the “Good Day, Bad Day” tool with her family to tell them how they could help her throughout treatment.
  • Take control and make decisions: Amanda used her “One Page Profile” with her doctor to discuss the impact of treatment on her life.
  • Think about the “what now” and the “what next”: The “Hopes & Fears” tool helped Susan think about the next few months of her life after treatment.

I learned about the site from its creator, Amanda George, who commented on a recent post about person-centered health. Hot diggety. Don’t you just love how the Internet lets us connect with each other and share ideas?

*This blog post was originally published at The New Life of e-Patient Dave*

For Cancer Survivors, Yoga May Ease Sleeplessness And Fatigue

People who’ve been diagnosed cancer can be heartened by the results of a study that will be presented June 5 at the upcoming American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting. The researchers found that the practice of yoga helped cancer survivors improve sleep quality and reduce fatigue.

The lead researcher, Dr. Karen Mustian, professor of Radiation Oncology and Community and Preventive Medicine at the University of Rochester in New York,  followed 410 patients who had already completed treatment for cancer but who experienced sleep disturbance that required medication. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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