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November 30, 1999, 12:00 AM

June 30, 2022

Cannabis for Cancer Pain Relief

Here's a good article about medical cannabis and its pain-killing properties for cancer patients. Hope this is useful.


April 28, 2020

COVID-19 Risks for Cancer about a study from Wuhan correlating COVID-19 deaths with prior cancer diagnoses--typek, stage, and so on. The finding showed that patients with lung cancers, metastatic disease, and blood cancers were most vulnerable. It's worth a look.


April 21, 2020


March 24, 2020

COVID-19 Risks for Cancer Patients

This article highlights the vulnerability of cancer patients to this new virus pandemic-- All the stuff that you wish you didn't need to know::


February 16, 2020

Juul's Marketing of Vaping to Kids is Predatory

The MA attorney general is tightening the screws on Juul for its targeting of kids as vaping customers. Her office has uncovered new info about how JUUL targeted and sold its addictive products to kids.

This company created the youth vaping epidemic. They cannot profit from it. We are suing JUUL.


February 11, 2020

Complementary Therapies Alone Do Not Save Lives

My research, as I was writing my books, told me that complementary therapies were exactly that--designed to be used alongside, NOT instead of, tradtional therapies. They do not offer curative effects. That message iss explained in a recent article from NBC News: Researchers who studied nearly 2 million medical records concluded that complementary therapies (herbs, homeopathy, and so on) neither cure cancer nor prolong life. In fact, reliance on them instead of treaditional therapies leads to a shorter life expectancy.  If you're considering complementary therapies, please read this article and click on the link for the research study that's referenced. This is a matter of life and death.


January 2, 2020

Flavored tobacco and vaping products have been politicized!

Sad but true: The Administration is pulling back on its commitment to curtail sales of flavored tobacco products, including menthol in particular, and is allowing continued sale of vape cartridges, which are known to have played a key role in the many vaping illnesses and deaths to date. Please don't let this decision, made for admittedly political purposes, take your attention off this important issue:



October 18, 2019

Help for Families of Kids with Cancer

A rock band has started a foundation to help families of pediatric cancer patients handle the costs they face beyond the direct  costs of treatment. The Tyler Robinson Foundation has raised nearly $10 million for grants to families to help them with housing, energy and utility expenses, treatment travel costs, and funeral and burial expenses.


This Washington Post article makes for good reading and may steer you to a source of help.



September 25, 2019

Fathers' Smoking during Pregnancy contributes to childhood asthma

New news: If you care about your child's future health, don't smoke around your pregnant partner:


Related image


September 4, 2019

Michigan banned flavored e-cigarettes, a positive role model

Michigan's governor ganned flabored cigarettesb by executive order to curtail an epidemic of serious lung illnesses among teens The products have been flavored and packaged like candy, but they can kill. Good news for all.



September 3, 2019

Vaping: The more we learn, the worse it looks

We're learning more about the dangers of vaping for human health:

FILE - In this April 11, 2018, file photo, an unidentified 15-year-old high school student uses a vaping device near the school's campus in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Teen health risks are itemized here:
The CDC is investigating 192 cases of mysterious lung illnesses in 22 states as of late August. 

The Washington Post reported on September 6 on an increased number of deaths attributed to vaping:

Vaping used to cut back on smoking increases relapse risk:

So if you're trying to stop smoking, try to avoid vaping too, and certainly keep your kids away from it as well!


August 14, 2019

Gene Therapy is now Legitimate in Medicare's Eyes

Here's some good news in terms of Medicare coverage for new gene therapies for patients diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma.


July 16, 2019

Vaping ISN'T Safer than Smoking, especially if You're Pregnant

This article speaks for itself: Vaping is as dangerous as smoking, especially if you're pregnant.

Chewing gum, anyone?


July 16, 2019

Rare But Important: Antibodies that Attacked Cancer now Attacking Patient's Brain

This is a curious but important finding:


June 12, 2019

Political Deceipt can Kill People

Senate leader Mitch McConnell favors the tobacco industry and prefers to help Kentucky tobacco companies over saving lives. He's introduced a bill that ostensibly, by name, looks like a good idea (restricting tobacco purchases under age 21), but buried in the bill are provisions that provide enormous loopholes for tobacco purveyors. You might want to tell your legislators you don't favor this bill, as described below in this link from a friend in Kentucky:



May 14, 2019

Smoking Before Conception: Don't!

This is a striking message: It's not just maternal smoking that damages embryos.


April 30, 2019

Healing in Cancer's Aftermath: The Return of Joy

Jan and her husband Pierre had relocated to a small non-commercial community from Europe, where they both held powerful corporate jobs. Before either had gotten re-established into the American job market or gotten robust health insurance in place, he was struck with a brutal cancer. 

Jan cared for him for about a year before he died, trying to set up her own consulting business during that difficult period to sustain the family's finances. At the time, they had a three-year-old daughter, and Jan was pregnant with their second child, who was born 10 days after Pierre's death. 

Needless to say, Jan's formerly ideal life immediately fell into personal and financial chaos. As a single mother, she struggled to establish a steady income while caring for her two young children, one of whom developed a costly chronic health condition. After 8 years, Jan decided to move out of the family house and moved into a rented high-rise condominium that had on-site recreational facilities for the children. Her business was getting traction, and she was beginning to heal from what had been a multi-faceted ongoing trauma. Their life was stable. In light of her history, stable looked pretty good.

Then, lo and behold, she met Dirk, a widower who had never had (and always wanted) children. Before long, they all bonded, and three days ago Jan and Dirk were married. The most moving moment was when her nine-year-old son reflected on the marriage and declared with delight that he'd "finally have a father, just like everyone else." The first weekday after their wedding, the happy couple filed adoption papers so Dirk would legally become the children's father. All four family members are now over the moon with joy.

Healing for Jan was a long haul. that took time, vision, and psychological strength. It's a miracle that PTSD didn't take her down at several stages of the process. Now, her joy as she has reached the other side, is palpable and contagious. Hers is an inspiring story of taking control in the aftermath of cancer caregiving.


March 1, 2019

Watch out for Robot-Assisted Cancer Surgeries

STAT News has reported an FDA warning about the use of robot-assisted surgeries in cancer surgeries. Surgeons may suggest them as allowing smaller incisions and potentially faster recovery, but the FDA reports that both safety and effectiveness may be compromised. Check out the FDA warning before agreeing to have your surgeon mobilize a robot on your behalf.


February 14, 2019

Persistent Hot Flashes Reveal Higher Breast Cancer Risk

If you have experienced persistent multi-year hot flashes upon reaching menopause, you might be facing a significant elevated breast cancer risk, according to recent research at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California. The study was described in a January 2019 Medscape article. This finding makes ongoing cancer screenings particularly important for menopausal women.


February 13, 2019

Youth Smoking is Rising Precipitously

If you have a young smoker in your household, heads up: Despite information about the toxicity and addictive potential of all forms of smoking, the Centers for Disease Control report that youth smoking is on the rise, particularly in terms of e-cigarette usage. Around 40% of youth smokers are using more than one smoking product (that is, cigarettes plus vaping, for example). Youth smoking has risen fast enough in the past few months that the FDA has declared it to be an epidemic and is considering taking vaping products off the market.


January 12, 2019

U.S. Cancer Mortality Rates are (Mostly) Declining

According to STAT News (January 9, 2019), the most recent data from the American Cancer Society (ACS) reveal that the U.S. cancer death rate declined 27% between 1991 and 2016. While cancer still remains as the second highest cause of death, reduced smoking and gains in early detection have combined with new treatments to fuel that drop.


The good news includes a narrowing in racial disparities. Yet the ACS anticipates over 1.7 million new U.S. cancer cases in 2019, with more than 600,000 deaths. Mortality associated with cancers that relate to obesity (pancreatic, liver, and uterine) have risen, and lung and pancreatic cancers continue to have high mortality because of problems detecting them early. Liver cancer incidence early in this period was  triggered by opiod abuse and hepatitis C infections, but obesity has become the prmary driver of this particular cancer.


November 29, 2018

Early Stage Prostate Cancer: A Tool to Help in Choosing Treatment

For men diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer that hasn't spread, the choice of whether to watch-and-wait, have surgery, or implant radioactive seeds can be a real dilemma. A relatively new online tool can help understand the choices that many other men have made. The tool is based on medical records of over 5,000 men and was validated with more than 2,500 patients with new diagnoses. It was demonstrated to have remarkable accuracy and to be a productive tool to help men prepare for the treatment choice discussion with their urologist. The highlighted article provides more information and a link to find the tool.




November 29, 2018

Which BRCA1 Mutations are Most Risky?

A breast cancer diagnosis is disturbing enough, but when you're told you have the BRCA1 gene, it's nothing short of terrifying. Apparently Myriad Genetics has had a huge BRCA1 data base for years and refused to share its contents with other researchers. Now a breakthrough study at the University of Washington has revealed that among all of the possible BRCA1 mutations, certain ones are far more risky than others and are more likely to warrant prophylactic surgery. If your family history gives you concern, take a look at this study and use it in conversation with your medical team. In particular:

"By deliberately causing every possible mutation of the kind that occurs most commonly in BRCA1, and tracking how cells growing in lab dishes respond, scientists at the University of Washington determined which mutations are pathogenic and which are benign, they reported on Wednesday in the journal Nature. They also made that call for more than 2,000 variants whose health consequences have been unknown, a breakthrough that promises to spare thousands of women the anxiety of not knowing if their BRCA1 variant is a ticking time bomb or nothing to worry about."

Take a look!


November 29, 2018

Youth Vaping: The FDA is Really Cracking Down

The FDA announced in September its commitment to force manufacturers of E-cigarettes to control youth access to their products, which are becoming almost epidemic in their impacts on teens. That action includes both financial penalties on manufacturers and retailer point-of-purchase controls, as well as inclusion of E-cigarettes in FDA youth tobacco control plans. 

The press release says, in particular: "One aspect of the agency’s plan will entail increased enforcement. The more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers announced today were part of a large-scale, undercover nationwide blitz to crack down on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors at both brick-and-mortar and online retailers, which was conducted from June through the end of August. The vast majority of the violations were for the illegal sale of five e-cigarette products – Vuse, Blu, JUUL, MarkTen XL, and Logic. These five brands currently comprise over 97 percent of the U.S. market for e-cigarettes."

This is an important milestone in the control of nicotine-delivery devices.




November 14, 2018

Youth Smoking Cessation = Cancer Avoidance

There are lots of resoruces about smoking cessation that can be helpful. The challenge today is to stop smoking and prevent nicotine addiction as early as possible, among teens and young adults. I've come across a new resource available online through a private faith-based university, Maryville University, which is offered as part of their health professions curriculum. The pamphlet focuses on smoking among college students. Posting the document here does not in any way represent an endorsement of their educational offerings, but it represents a sharing of a useful document that they have produced. 


November 11, 2018

Don't Necessarily Go For Less Invasive Cervical Cancer Surgery

Recently research (summarized in the New England Journal of Medicine) has revealed that less invasive cervical cancer surgery is not a good idea. Rates of recurrence are significantly higher than those for the total hysterectomy surgery that has been the recommended approach for many years. In addition, survival rates are significantly lower. If you're dealing with even an early cervical cancer diagnosis, it's worth reading up on the options and their implications. 

July 5, 2016

CRISPR: Gene Editing is Coming of Age

In my own formal reviews of cancer research grant proposals, I’ve heard reference to CRISPR. Time Magazine’s July 4 cover story sets forth a simple and compelling description of it that explains its power in changing the course of cancer and many other life-threatening diseases. Often diseases stem from the fundamental biology of our genetic code. Each time cells divide inside your body, there is the possibility of a mutation or error occurring. The normal body has a mechanism for correcting or eliminating harmful errors, but sometimes that mechanism doesn’t work. That’s where CRISPR comes in.

Very simply, it fits into the trend toward personalized medicine. Once scientists learn what section of a patient’s DNA has a mutation or flaw that is known to cause or allow cancer or another disease to thrive, CRISPR can be programmed to seek it out and make repairs. It uses an enzyme called Cas9 to find and snip out the bad DNA segment. Then some people’s bodies will repair the DNA on their own, or scientists can insert a corrected strip of DNA. 

This technique is influencing biological research, fueling new discoveries of how to turn cancer from an equal opportunity killer to a chronic disease. It’s controversial because it could be used to modify human embryos, so its use is carefully controlled.

What’s important is for people who care about cancer and cancer research to know that these kinds of developments are emerging from medical research that costs a lot and takes enormous time but offers significant hope for controlling conditions like cancer that stem from genomic errors.

July 14, 2013

If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is!

Recently there has been a nearly constant barrage of advertising on television from a for-profit hospital chain claiming very high cure or remission rates for "advanced cancers." These ads are appealing, featuring human interest stories that touch your heart and--if you're a patient or caregiver for a patient with such a cancer--may induce hope where it hasn't existed for some time. My message to you is BUYER BEWARE!

There have been several press articles that have revealed that this organization "cherry-picks" the data it uses and the patients it accepts. In other words, the data they are featuring aren't necessarily comparable to the data base of the national averages to which their survival rates are being compared. In addition, there have been a number of patients who were rejected for treatment because they didn't have an insurance plan or personal resources to pay enough to satisfy the organization's financial standards, or because their cancers were so serious that the odds of helping were limited. Cherry-picking means that they chose which patients to take and which patients to include in their comparative data. At a minimum, this practice is deceptive, or worse.

I have to admit that I haven't had direct experience with this organization or with patients they have treated, but the press coverage about their practices has been credible and concerning. Please don't let your sense of urgency to find a miracle cure let you be taken in by a healthcare organization that is driven as much by money as by the cause of healing you or a loved one. Make certain that their claims are legitimate, that their comparisons are valid, and that their physicians have the track record that you would want. Make sure they carry the important certifications by the National Cancer Institute. Search the internet. Ask around. Don't be taken in.

Every cancer patient deserves the respect to be safe from misleading advertising claims. Today most hospitals are advertising; healthcare is a competitive world, and advertising is an important promotional tool. But don't be taken in by false claims. Most likely, claims that look too good to be true are too good to be true.

November 30, 1999, 12:00 AM

A Long Good-Bye Beats None at All

No cancer patient or caregiver wants to say good-bye. It feels too much like giving in, and giving up, and the pain of doing so is indescribable. Yet so is the hurt left behind when there wasn't time to say good-bye.

Deborah and her husband knew from the moment of her diagnosis with mucinous lung cancer, nine months before she died, that surgery wasn't possible and that the odds weren't good for her. Only 56 years old, with four grown children and one only 12 years old, she had lots to live for. Her husband took the family off to a beach hideaway every month during her illness, so they'd have precious memories, they each cycled through the family homestead for visits, and she fought ferociously for survival.

Unfortunately Deborah reacted poorly to chemothereapy, and they were told that it wasn't working something like four or five months later. She was in constant pain, very weak, and nauseated 24/7 from the chemo. She and her husband followed medical instructions carefully, participated in support groups, investigated palliative care, and prayed. They didn't say good-bye, because it wasn't in their DNA to give up. They couldn't allow themselves to acknowledge that there wasn't anything more that their medical team or God could do on their behalf.

They didn't call in hospice until about five weeks before she died, and at that point Deborah was barely conscious or able to communicate. The hospice nurses worked as individuals, rather than as a team, and no one gave them advice about handling the dying process in a way that would make it easier for those left behind. The nurses didn't anticipate the need to prevent bedsores until pressed, and they didn't suggest ways to make good-byes happen.

Now her husband is alone, a single father to their last son. He can't fix the fact that there weren't any good-byes. He's torn the house apart, hoping to find a note from her, or a card, or a message that he can hold onto. He's desperate to talk with her again. But he's found nothing.

The morals to this story are twofold:

1. As he himself said, it's better to have the good-byes taken care of, regardless of whether it's on tape, or written, well in advance and in a form that allows family members to refer back to them over and over. If you don't need them, so much the better, but if the worst happens, there's a soothing resource for those left behind. He described the best case as resembling the Rolling Stones' good-bye tour, which has happened over and over again, and is just as good every time.

2. Call in hospice early, once you get the message that treatments aren't working. (You can do so within six months of anticipated death.) Then insist on their having a team leader and functioning like a team, instead of coming one by one without coordination. Insist that they prepare every family member for what's coming, including your patient, and that they provide coaching about how to handle the good-byes.

There's nothing wrong with having faith and praying for survival; in fact, many people find it invaluable to their cancer experience. Yet preparing for the contingencies and doing so early enough to work through your feelings and avoid aftershocks is a critical healing tool for those left behind.

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