asco-logoWe have all seen patients whose distress is off the charts, or off the Distress Thermometer (NCCN). They sit in our offices, dazed and seemingly so depressed that we ask the mandatory question: “Are you thinking of hurting yourself?” Some patients just shake their head, not making eye contact, and even though they say they aren’t going to hurt ...

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Recently, a group of researchers in the World Health Organization (WHO) released a study that caused a bit of a kerfuffle. The group, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), published a paper classifying processed meat as a carcinogen. What’s processed meat? According to the authors, it’s “meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.” That includes products ...

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shutterstock_125549408 Invading, spreading and destroying: Terrorism is cancer. A malignant growth, it corrupts healthy cells, yielding fear, pain and death. It lays waste to resources and lives. Every place, every organ of every society, is threatened. Nonetheless, just as we are winning the battle against other cancers, disease-by-disease, year-by-year, we know how to destroy this illness. It will take time and research. We must ...

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A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that two-thirds of cancer drugs considered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the past five years were approved without evidence that they improve health outcomes or length of life. (This study closely corroborates and acknowledges the findings published last year by John Fauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Elbert Chu of MedPage Today.) Follow-up studies showed ...

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I sit at my desk in a cubicle with high ceilings and an open entryway.  It is dark except for the somewhat eerie glow of light emitted by CRT monitors.  With concentration and some sense of urgency, I methodically plow through the queue of studies to be interpreted.  Some are marked STAT, some not.  I address the former first. Our ER is a busy one.  Many cases come from that department.  ...

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Last year, I retired from full-time practice and moved to a new area. At about the same time, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, and because she was in good health prior, she had relatively little contact with the health care system as a patient. Before our move she worked as a part-time school nurse, so we were able to share provider horror stories from different perspectives. Since we moved ...

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The big story recently is that the American Cancer Society issued an updated guideline recommending that women undergo mammography less frequently than before. This announcement was denounced on both “sides” of the perennial debate. Those in the “mammograms save lives” camp are outraged that a scientific society dedicated to cancer prevention and treatment would issue a proclamation that seems to run counter to the notion that “early detection saves lives.” Those in ...

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asco-logo I am superstitious, and I freely admit it. I don’t use the word “cure” with patients until the 5-year scan has come and gone cleanly. I don’t celebrate the scans showing tumor response until I see them myself and make sure I am not mixing up the new scan with the old. And one of my most closely held superstitions ...

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shutterstock_214083967 “Isn’t she … isn’t she pretty in pink?” - Psychedelic Furs, Pretty in Pink October in New England. The sky is a brilliant blue, the leaves on the trees are turning impossible shades of orange, yellow, and red. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so in addition to the brilliant fall colors all around, people are wearing pink clothing and pink ribbons, and products on ...

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Recently, the clinically positive results from the CLEOPATRA oncology trial were released, showing that pertuzumab, when added to docetaxel and trastuzumab as first-line chemotherapy, produces an average survival benefit of 15.7 months in HER2 positive breast cancer patients. That good news notwithstanding, the authors calculated that Genentech’s price for adding pertuzumab to gain one quality adjusted life year is a breathtaking $713,219. In dry academic language, the ...

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