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How Cancer Survivors Are Picking Themselves Up And Moving Past The Worry

Thank God television and movie script writers are starting to “get it.” Cancer, “The Big C,” doesn’t always kill people, or maim them, or steal their dreams. Lately there have been new TV shows acknowledging cancer as part of life that many can live through. There’s a new movie coming called 50/50 about a young adult man with cancer (important to acknowledge it in this age group!). I hope he doesn’t die in the end. But from the preview, it’s clear he talks to people about it – including young women he is trying to date. It’s a comedy. On Showtime on cable TV there’s a series, The Big C, where actress Laura Linney plays a teacher with melanoma and a year to live. The good news is they had a second season!

My point is there are now nearly 12 million cancer survivors. Three of work them at Patient Power (one is me, almost 61, one is in her 50’s, one is just 18). More and more of us do not have just months or a year to live. We are true survivors. We have to start watching our cholesterol and taking baby aspirins, we have to watch our weight, plan for retirement or manage a fixed income. For the young one, it’s plan for college. We have to think about who we might vote for in the next election. We are LIVING! Maybe for a full lifespan, maybe not, but living each day with purpose.

Yes, it’s true there could be “another shoe” that drops, Read more »

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

Encourage Earlier Mammograms For Women With A Family History Of Breast Cancer

Somewhere along the line I learned to encourage women with a family history of breast cancer to begin getting mammograms at an age 10 years prior to when their mother was diagnosed and to encourage their daughters to begin getting mammograms at an age 10 years prior to when they themselves were ever diagnosed.

I learned this prior to the discovery of BRCA genes.  It was a trend that had been noted among women with strong family histories.  The new study (see full reference below) in the journal Cancer verifies that genetic breast cancers show up earlier in the next generation – on average by 8 years.

The study from MD Anderson looked at 2 generations of families with the BRCA gene to assess the age at diagnosis.  Using the pool of 132 BRCA-positive women with breast cancer who participated in the high-risk protocol at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Gen 2), 106 women could be paired with a family member in the previous generation (Gen 1) who was diagnosed with a BRCA-related cancer (either breast cancer or ovarian cancer).

The median age of cancer diagnosis was Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

What Makes A Great Oncologist?

I had a WOW experience yesterday when I accompanied my wife to interview a new doctor for her.   As some reader may know she is being seen by specialists at MD Anderson Medical Center in Houston for Stage IV lung cancer.   She has not had a local oncologist for the past 6 years…but she does now.   And we both love this guy!

You need to understand that I have been very underwhelmed by the local oncologists I had met up till now.   I am sure they were clinically proficient…but as a group not a one could muster a smile….or any sense of interest or curiosity in my wife’s medical condition.  I held out little hope that this new doctor would be any different.

After being ushered into the exam room, a Physician’s Assistant came into the room to get smart about my wife’s history and records (which she brought).   Three things surprised me about the PA.  1) She was incredibly thorough actually reading the radiology reports and reflecting with my wife on what she learned, 2) her empathy – as she read the reports she actually used terms like “bummer” when she read how my wife developed pneumonia during her treatment, and 3) she faithfully summarized the results of her review to the doctor before he came in.  In other words – the PA listened and heard what my wife shared with her!

Now enters the doctor.   He has a warm smile on his face while he extends a hand to my wife and me.  He says just enough for us to know that he has talked to the PA.  He asks my wife to sit on the exam table and does a physical exam (also a rare event these days). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Mind The Gap*

Nutraceuticals, False Advertising, And Misuse Of M.D. Anderson’s Name

Thumbnail image for dontmesswithtexas.jpgThe premier US cancer hospital and research center in Houston released a statement today distancing themselves from a Dallas company claiming an endorsement of their water product by The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center:

Recently, you may have heard or read about a company that sells Evolv, a “nutraceutical beverage,” which is being promoted in part based upon testing done at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, but also is being mistakenly viewed as endorsed by M. D. Anderson. M. D. Anderson conducted limited chemical analysis of the product to evaluate its anti-inflammatory activity for a fee at the request of the manufacturer. No efficacy or toxicity data were generated at M. D. Anderson nor was the product tested on humans. Moreover, M. D. Anderson does not have any involvement with the company, the product is not produced by M. D. Anderson, and M. D. Anderson does not endorse the product or recommend its use.

The current text on Evolv’s website an Evolv fan site is that:

Evolv’s nutraceutical beverage with Archaea Active is tested by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

The statement as listed is not exactly wrong; it’s just not complete. Nothing there about what the product was tested for, but the implication is that it gained some healing power by passing through the hallowed halls of M.D. Anderson. I also have no clue as to whether it was tested for archaea (formerly archaebacteria) or if it has the capacity to amplify DNA.

Of course, my blogging about this is going to give the company publicity (a very, very small amount). Evolv is not just water but it is sold by a multi-level marketing company. I already knew to put one hand on my wallet when I dialed up their website. The header has the quote from Mary Kay Ash, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something,” which rotates with others from her and Zig Ziglar who, no doubt, did not authorize their association with the company.

But water? The next multi-level marketing craze?

I don’t think this holds water.

Now if we could only get M.D. Anderson to address this other misuse of their name.

Note added 10 September 2009: This comment from EvolvHealth’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mr Jonathan Gilliam, brought to my attention that I had the incorrect website for the company (as corrected above). The actual website should be Currently, their product page lists the M.D. Anderson claim as follows:

Our active ingredient has been tested by the MD Anderson Cancer Center of the University of Texas. Evolv will be released in Fall 2009

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

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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