Monthly Archives: August 2011

Creating One Magic Law to Make Patients Our True North

By Rebecca Kirch

“We don’t beat the Reaper by living longer.  We beat the Reaper by living well.”  Professor Randy Pausch, who died from pancreatic cancer at age 48, made this declaration in a commencement address shortly after enjoying a remarkable and viral reception to his “Last Lecture” at Carnegie Mellon in 2007.  His sage words still resonate today, and, in my view from my role with the American Cancer Society, capture so eloquently the heart and soul of what most patients, survivors, and families facing cancer really want. Sadly, that’s not the case for many patients and survivors who endure untreated pain, breathlessness, fatigue, nausea, depression, and stress as a result of cancer and its treatment.  Which got me thinking…what would be that one magic law to boost quality of life and prevent suffering so that our health system delivers truly patient-centered and family-centered care? [more]

“Quality of life” may mean different things at different stages in people’s lives. For some it might mean adequate pain control, for others, it might mean still being able to do the things they are used to and enjoy doing. However someone defines it, we know that “living well” is vitally important to people who are facing serious illness like cancer.  So our magic bullet bill would need to start from the fundamental premise that quality of life –  addressing physical symptoms and emotional concerns — should be an essential part of the conversation every time a cancer patient in active treatment or survivor being cared for in follow-up sees his or her doctor.… Continue reading →

Will a vitamin a day keep cancer away?

By Marji McCullough, ScD, RD


Editor’s note: Dr. McCullough added the following statement 12/20/13 in response to new studies being released:

Recent findings on multivitamin supplements published after the posting of this blog deserve mention. In 2012, the results of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a daily multivitamin supplement were published, showing a small but statistically significant lower risk of all cancers combined in male physicians followed over 11 years.  The supplement included 30 nutrients at levels similar to that found in a regular diet in the United States (≤100% recommended daily allowance (RDA)).  The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently updated their review of vitamin and mineral supplements for the primary prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD) and found there isn’t much evidence that multivitamins or supplements help prevent cancer or CVD. But they add that a small benefit from multivitamin supplements on cancer in men was found, based on this study and an earlier RCT in France. The study in France found lower rates of cancer in men, but not women. The authors speculate that this may have been due to worse nutritional status – a generally less nutritious diet in the men – but more research is needed.… Continue reading →

Funding the Best Science Helps Us All

By Otis W. Brawley, MD, FACP

From time to time, I encounter advocates for research in certain diseases. These are people who want better answers for a specific cancer. Oftentimes these folks or a relative has had that particular cancer.  They often ask, why is so little money spent on pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, or even lung cancer?   Why can’t we spend more? These are reasonable questions, and I want to try to address them in this piece. 

First I caution against what I call “disease Olympics.”  This is when advocates for one disease try to increase funding for their disease by decreasing funding for another disease. I have often seen this in my 25 years as an oncologist, researcher, and scientific administrator. I would point out that 90% of the grants that are submitted and judged worthy of funding to the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, and other research-funding organizations are not funded due only to a lack of money. I believe the wise advocate tries to get more money for all cancer research and does not try to undermine another disease in favor of the disease that he or she is interested in. [more]

The second reason to support the best scientific ideas as judged by the rigors of scientific peer review is that we can often benefit multiple diseases by funding the best science.  Indeed, one can argue that funding the best ideas in, say, lung cancer and not the better scientific idea in another cancer could possibly hold back the advancement of lung cancer research.… Continue reading →

Cancer Caregivers, Don’t Forget Yourselves

By Greta Greer, MSW, LCSW

Taking care of someone you love who has cancer is one of the most important roles you’ll ever have. It could also be the most difficult one.

Stress is one of the most common challenges that caregivers face, especially those caring for someone with cancer. It’s not easy learning to balance all your regular responsibilities, help your loved one, AND take care of your own health and well-being.  

As a result, caregivers often ignore their own physical and emotional health. It could be because they have less time, are too stressed, have less money, feel guilty for taking time for themselves, or simply forget.  Whatever the reason, it puts caregivers at much higher risk for health problems than people who aren’t in a caregiving role. [more]

You may be surprised to suddenly realize that it’s been ages since you spent a day out with friends, had a good night’s sleep, or simply enjoyed an entire meal without interruption.  And what’s going on with those tight muscles, wandering thoughts, or uncomfortable feelings?  

If you don’t know, it’s no wonder!  The more caregiving tasks and regular responsibilities you have to juggle – job, kids, parents, meals, finances, insurance and a hundred other important tasks-the easier it is to lose track of yourself  in the midst of it all.… Continue reading →