By Katherine Sharpe, MTS
Recently, in a meeting, a representative from another patient advocacy organization made a comment that caught my attention. He said, “People vet their plumbing company more than they do their hospital.” I reflected on this comment and for many people that is probably true. The Better Business Bureau has long offered “grades” on businesses, based on certain criteria. But with about 5,000 hospitals nationwide, how do you know which are the most trustworthy and are best to give treatment?
What is accreditation?
One way is through accreditation. Accreditation, simply put, is a formal process to show that a hospital meets certain standards. The standards are designed to improve the safety and quality of care provided to patients and encourage continuous improvement efforts within a hospital.
The standards focus on how patients receive care, what kinds of rights patients have, and hospital functions that are essential to providing safe, high-quality care. These might include things like clinical ethics (the making of “right” decisions in the delivery of health care), infection control and prevention, how the building is managed and maintained, and how patient information is managed. Accreditation standards are usually seen as cutting-edge yet achievable for hospitals.… Continue reading →
By Fadlo R. Khuri, MD, FACP
As a physician focused on the treatment of patients with cancer, many of whom face a potentially incurable disease, I make 3 promises to my patients:
1) We will always tell them the truth.
2) We will always do our very best for them, placing their interests and those of their families above all others.
3) We will never abandon them.
These are important words to relay to a patient, particularly those who are considering participating in clinical trials. The question, then, is, “Why should cancer patients participate in clinical trials?”
Cancer clinical trials are one of the most important methods we have to move the field forward. After all, it was through clinical trials that we have developed cures for childhood acute leukemia, Hodgkin disease, and testicular cancer, how we developed long-term highly effective therapies for chronic myeloid leukemia and breast cancer, and how we created personalized genetic therapies for lung cancer, melanoma, and other diseases. Cancer clinical trials also let us know how patients are feeling about their care, and can improve approaches for the treatment, prevention, and cancer screening tests for cancer patients.
One of the first things I do as the treating physician is to complete a history and physical exam of the patient.… Continue reading →
[Ed. note: This guest post by Lygeia Ricciardi of the Office of Consumer eHealth, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, US Department of Health and Human Services, explains how the Blue Button can help you access and use your healthcare records.]
Wouldn’t you like to have key information about your health or the health of a loved one safely and easily accessible via mobile phone or computer?
Think of Blue Button as an easy way for you to get your health records securely and electronically. It won’t magically fix everything, but it’s paving the way for a more personalized, convenient, and higher quality healthcare experience for patients and their families by putting vital information at their fingertips.
The Blue Button symbol is now appearing on health-related websites nationwide. Click it to get key information from your personal health records securely and electronically from your doctor, insurance company, pharmacy, or lab. You can check your information, share it, and use it to manage your health… and make your life easier. [more]
What can you do with electronic access to your health records?
Accessing your records online lets you check that they are accurate and complete, and make corrections if needed, particularly to critical information like allergies, medications, and medical conditions.… Continue reading →
By Susan M. Gapstur, PhD, MPH
Do you enjoy an occasional, or even a daily, glass of wine, beer, or other drink that contains alcohol? Many adults do. Indeed, 37% of adults in the U.S. report drinking low to moderate amounts, which is, on average, up to 1 drink per day if you are a woman, and 2 drinks per day if you are a man. Another 28% of adults drink more each day, which is considered heavy drinking. A drink of alcohol is generally defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.
Modest Benefit but Many Risks Associated with Alcohol Drinking
While low to moderate alcohol consumption is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, drinking too much alcohol can increase risk of high blood pressure, heart failure, sudden death and stroke. Overall, alcohol consumption is one of the top 10 contributors to sickness and death from injuries, motor vehicle crashes, homicides and suicides, sexual assaults, sexually transmitted infections from unsafe sex, falls, birth defects, depression, disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, and sleep disorders.
Additionally, there is a lot of evidence that drinking alcohol increases the risk of several cancers.… Continue reading →
By Ted Gansler, MD, MBA, MPH
Ed. note (10/10/13): Dr. Gansler has an update to this blog, originally published 4/18/13.
In an interesting update on this topic, Science magazine recently published results of a “sting operation” intended to identify bogus journals. A journalist from Science fabricated an intentionally bogus article about a fictitious anti-cancer drug, with errors so obvious that, “Any reviewer with more than a high-school knowledge of chemistry and the ability to understand a basic data plot should have spotted the paper’s short-comings immediately.” Shockingly, the vast majority of journals that received this article failed to notice these obvious flaws and agreed to publish it… for a fee. For more details, see http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6154/60.full.
An article in the April 8 New York Times titled “Scientific Articles Accepted (Personal Checks, Too)” caught my attention. It describes the growing availability of free online medical journals that use questionable tactics to gather and publish research of questionable quality.
The article piqued my interest because the experiences of some researchers described in it are similar to my own. I am also an editor of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, one of the American Cancer Society’s medical journals, so I have an interest in the world of journal publishing.… Continue reading →
By Ted Gansler, MD, MBA, MPH
Most people’s impression of pathology is based on the forensic pathologists in TV shows such as “CSI” (or, if you’re my age, “Quincy, ME”). But for people facing cancer, there is another aspect of pathology to learn about – the testing that is done to find out whether an area of diseased tissue is benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).
Doctors often suspect that a person has cancer based on their physical exam findings and on the results of x-rays and scans. In the vast majority of cases, however, samples of cells (called cytology) or tissue samples (biopsies) must be tested to know for sure. And, if the tumor is cancerous, pathology testing will also determine what kind of cancer is present. This information is very important in guiding the treatment you receive, and in estimating your outlook for recovery and survival.
People receiving treatments for cancer usually get to know the teams of professionals who perform surgery and who prescribe and give their chemotherapy and radiation. On the other hand, you rarely meet the pathologists, technologists, and other laboratory professionals who test the biopsies, blood, and other specimens removed from your body. Learning about what they do with your samples can help you make informed decisions about your care.… Continue reading →
By James C. Salwitz, MD
What does personal medicine mean to you? A doctor who greets with your name and a smile? Caregivers who listen? Physicians who know all about your case and every treatment you have received? We all want doctors who truly understand us. In the near future, this personal understanding will go deeper than ever before.
The instructions for life lie in our chromosomes. Everything about the way our bodies are built is coded in our DNA. Every cell, muscle, nerve, and organ is constructed from genetic blueprints. Tall or short, brown eyes or blue, man or woman, it is all in our genes. Genes define much of who we are and what makes us different. We now understand that genes have a lot to say about the diseases from which we suffer.
Some genes make us resistant to illness. We all know families where everyone lives into their 90s. Other genes increase the risk of specific disease. How often have we met siblings with the same illness? DNA codes how our bodies fight disease or heal from injury. Hard wired in our chromosomes are instructions to make drugs work, fail, or produce side effects. The human genetic code is often the key to health and to disease.… Continue reading →
By Nathan Grey, MPH
For many years, global health has been associated with diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria. And rightly so. These diseases present significant threats to health around the world. But they aren’t the only major killers. In fact, they’re not even the leading killers anymore! Today, cancer claims more lives globally than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined, and the death toll from cancer is only going to grow.
How can this be? Well, there are two major factors that affect the growing impact of cancer around the world.
First, we’ve done a much better job of controlling diseases that used to kill people while they were still quite young. Vaccinations, new medications including antibiotics, and prevention programs (like providing bed nets to combat mosquitoes and malaria, and clean drinking water to curb a host of other water-borne illnesses) have led to people living longer. And as people live longer they are faced with the diseases more common to older age, such as cancer.
Second, when people live longer, there is a greater chance that they will be exposed to cancer-causing agents – like tobacco – at some point in their lives. Longer lives plus greater exposure to cancer-causing substances equals more cancer.… Continue reading →
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 →
By Ted Gansler, MD, MBA
An e-mail message that may have come into your inbox recently claims that dangerous levels of a cancer-causing chemical (benzene) are released from the plastic surfaces of automobile interiors. The e-mail recommends opening the vehicle’s windows to remove the benzene before using the air conditioner.
Although benzene is linked to leukemia, very little research has looked at whether the interior surfaces of cars release dangerous amounts of benzene, and the information that is available does not support the e-mail’s claims. [more]
Let’s break the message down and compare the claims with the facts.
Here is the e-mail message (this links to snopes.com, which is not affiliated with cancer.org or ACS)
And here’s a point-by-point comparison of the claims and the facts:
Claim: My car’s manual says to roll down the windows to let out all the hot air before turning on the A/C. WHY?
Fact: On a sunny day, the temperature in a parked car can be more than 40 degrees (Fahrenheit) higher than the outside air. Opening the windows is the fastest way to exchange the hot interior air with the cooler outside air. Once that is done, the air conditioner can make the interior cooler than the outside air.… Continue reading →