Monthly Archives: September 2007

Breast Cancer Awareness Is More Than A Month

As I write this, it is about 5:30AM and I am sitting in the airport in Cincinnati waiting to continue my travels to Chicago.  I am the victim of what the airlines call an “irregular operation,” which for me means the plane bound for Chicago was pulling away from the gate when I arrived from the first leg of my trip from Harrisburg.


I have been on a bit of a road trip, giving talks in several different cities over several different days.  It has been hectic, but rewarding and enjoyable, even if the rigors of travel make it somewhat more complicated than I would prefer.


As a result of this tumult, I haven’t had time to do any formal research or reading in preparation for a blog this week, but I have seen the headlines about the continued reduction in deaths from breast cancer. 


And that has made me think that, although breast cancer awareness month may be coming up in October, in fact this has been a breast cancer awareness year.  Although much of the news has been good, there has been some that is not so good as … Continue reading →

Access To Care And The American Cancer Society

Today is a momentous day for the American Cancer Society as it launches its nationwide initiative to call attention to the need for quality, affordable health care for all Americans.


It is the type of day that could go down in the history books of the Society as marking a watershed moment for the organization, for non-profit voluntary organizations, and possibly for the country.


Today is the day the Society is making a commitment to bring the issue of health care access to the top of its agenda, making a substantial commitment of resources—both financial and otherwise—to put a spotlight on access to health care, especially as it relates to cancer prevention, early detection and cancer treatment.


The most immediately visible part of the campaign is the commitment of the Society to spend its entire advertising budget of $15 million dollars on the topic of access to care for cancer patients.


This campaign, which the Society describes as “emotional,” will include the stories of real people who have faced real problems getting treated for cancer.  It humanizes an issue that sometimes can be very abstract, highlighting not only those who have no insurance, but … Continue reading →

Education Makes A Difference In Cancer Survival

There are so many practical factors that one has to consider when looking at what can influence outcomes for cancer diagnosis and treatment.


For example, this past June my colleagues at the American Cancer Society reported the significant impact health insurance can have on the stage of breast and head and neck cancers at the time of diagnosis.  The findings were clear: if you have insurance, you have a better chance of finding the cancer earlier when treatments can be more effective and the chances for survival are better.


Whether you have insurance, where you live, the volume of patients treated with a specific type of cancer at a particular hospital and/or by a particular doctor are just a few of the elements that can make a difference on what you can expect with respect to finding cancer early and treating it effectively.


Now, add another factor—education—to the list of things that can predict whether you will die from cancer.


A report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute this week shows that your race and your educational status have significant impacts on your chances of dying from cancer.  We have known for … Continue reading →

A Weighty Question: Surgery For Obesity?

To operate or not to operate, that is the question.


No, I am not talking about treating or curing a cancer.  I am talking about preventing it.


As much as I may not have been prepared to accept the findings, the reality is that two articles and an editorial in a recent New England Journal of Medicine strongly suggest that bariatric surgery may not only be an effective way to treat obesity, it may also significantly decrease the risk of cancer.


At the outset, let me state my bias: I have not been a believer that doing surgery to decrease your weight if you are morbidly obese is the best way to approach obesity in this country. 


This bias in no small part is a result of my early years of medical training, when as a young intern and resident in internal medicine I had to deal with the fallout of surgery performed to either shrink the stomach or create an internal bypass to help people lose weight.


The surgeries were complex, the patients were morbidly obese, and the medical fallout was awful.  Serious postoperative complications and what we called “metabolic derangements” were … Continue reading →