Cancer Blog

Here's our collection of cancer-related stories. We sift through a variety of stories and share the issues that we think matter to cancer patients, caregivers, healthcare providers and survivors. Learn about current events in the cancer community, human interest stories, and promising technology and treatment advances. Tell us what you think in the Comments section at the bottom of each post.

Note: The information contained in this service is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in the service is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment of any illness, condition or disease.



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Finding Financial Assistance for Treatment

by: cancercompass

When faced with a cancer diagnosis, there are a lot of thoughts and emotions that will may run through your mind. Unfortunately, one thing you may be concerned about is paying for treatment. Even if some aspects of your treatment are covered by insurance, there still might be out-of-pocket expenses that can make you nervous. As daunting as it may seem, money concerns do not have to stop you from seeking the treatment you need.

Financial assistance is available for cancer treatment and other services to people at various income levels and in many situations. First and foremost, let your doctor know if you’re worried about being able to afford treatment. He/she might have some suggestions as to what steps you can take immediately, and inform you of assistance available at your hospital or other nearby hospitals.

Here are a few other organizations that may be able to help:

Cancer Care: This organization has professional oncology social workers on staff that can provide free emotional and practical support for people with cancer and their caregivers. They also offer support groups, community programs and financial assistance. Financial assistance is only available to low-income individuals and families (view guidelines), but the other services are available to anyone.  

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society: This organization’s Patient Financial Aid Program provides a limited amount of financial assistance to help patients who have significant financial need and are under a doctor's care for a confirmed blood cancer diagnosis. The LLS's Co-Pay Assistance Program offers financial support toward the cost of insurance co-payments and/or insurance premium costs for prescription drugs. Patients must qualify both medically and financially for this program.

Veterans Administration:
If you served in the active military, naval or air service and are separated under any condition other than dishonorable, you may qualify for Veterans Administration health care benefits.

Assistance in Healthcare: This charitable organization was founded to assist patients and their families who have become financially distressed as a result of fighting cancer and other illnesses. Assistance in Healthcare provides funds to patients and their families to help defray their non-medical bills, including utilities, rent, transportation and living expenses for immediate family members.

Give Forward: GiveForward provides free online fundraising pages allowing friends and family to raise money directly for a loved one who is in need of financial assistance for cancer treatment, or any other serious illness. Users can easily set up their own page and share it with friends and instantly create a community of support.

To find more resources and support services, visit the National Cancer Institute for a list of organizations nationwide that provide emotional, practical and financial support services for people with cancer and their families.



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Get the Facts: Debunking Breast Cancer Myths

by: cancercompass

The Internet is a wonderful tool, but it can also lead to widespread (or just locally spread) panic. How many times have you taken to the Internet to investigate an ailment, or find out more information on a health-related topic? While online research can certainly help, the best bet is to listen to your doctor.

With so much dishonesty out there, cancer-related myths can run rampant, leaving people unsure of what’s true and what’s false.  In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Parade Magazine listed 10 breast cancer myths and the truth behind each.

Being aware of the facts can be useful to help catch breast cancer early, which can improve the chances of treating before the disease can spread. For example, take a look at myth number 4: Most people who get diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of the disease. The article notes that only about 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are hereditary. Therefore, even if your family does not have a history of breast cancer, it is still important to get screened and perform self-exams.

Other myths that are debunked might make you feel a little more comfortable with your diagnosis, such as fact number 8: Only about 5 to 10 percent of mammogram results require biopsies for further testing, and of those biopsies only 15 percent turn out to be cancer. Therefore, if your doctor suggests additional testing after a mammogram, it does not mean that you definitely have cancer.

Of all the myths, number 3 is probably the best one to recognize. That myth is as follows: A breast cancer diagnosis means you’re going to die. This is far from the truth. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate for stage 1 breast cancer is nearly 90%. The number decreases as the stages get higher, but even stage IIIA is as high as 67%.

I think that myth is extremely important to note, because with breast cancer, this is always hope, no matter what stage you are at when diagnosed. Take a look at the rest of the 10 Myths, and make sure you understand the real facts about breast cancer.



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Sports Bra Could Detect Early Signs of Breast Cancer

by: cancercompass

What will they think of next? That’s the question I had to ask when I saw this article about a futuristic sports bra that could detect the early signs of breast cancer.

According to the report, the bra was actually designed in 2007 by Dr. Elias Siores of the University of Bolton in the UK. The bra has gone through testing for accuracy and put through a clinical trial test on 650 subjects. It’s not on the market yet, but it might arrive soon.

The company that is developing the bra, First Warning Systems, thinks that it could help remedy many issues with current screenings by detecting the tumors earlier and cutting down the number of false positives and negatives. The product may even be able to replace breast self-exams.

With breast cancer, early detection can be very important in terms of an overall prognosis. Also, finding the disease early can be helpful in terms of starting treatment before the cancer has a chance to spread. Find out more about breast cancer detection and diagnosis.

The details of how the bra works are a little confusing, but it has something to do with the science of “thermography,” where the bra can detect slight temperature changes that could signal the development of tumors. Watch this video to learn a little bit more about how the bra works.

The product could be on the market in Europe in 2013, but probably won’t be available in the U.S. until 2014. No word on how much this bra might cost.  But if it truly works, then I think that would make the product priceless!



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Seeing Pink

by: cancercompass

Everywhere you turn this month, people, businesses and communities are displaying their support for breast cancer by sporting pink. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and everyone from football players to garbage collectors are wearing pink with pride. 

These days, the pink ribbon is easily associated with breast cancer awareness, but that hasn’t always been the case. This got me thinking about the history of the ribbon and color, so I decided to do a little research.

According to Wikipedia, the first known use of the pink ribbon was in the fall of 1991, when the Susan G. Komen Foundation handed them out to participants in a New York City race for breast cancer survivors. The ribbon was inspired by the red ribbon for AIDS awareness, but the pink color was used because of its association with femininity.

In 1992, the ribbon was adopted as the official symbol of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Sometimes, a blue and pink ribbon is used to symbolize male breast cancer, which was designed in 1996.

This means the famous ribbon has been around for over 20 years, which makes sense as to why it’s such a familiar image these days. And, it seems like every year the pink extends to further reaching locations (such as the aforementioned garbage trucks), bringing awareness to the attention of more and more people every year.

Despite the positive message behind the pink ribbon, unfortunately some see it as a distraction, and say that it represents the commercialization of the disease. Most often, when corporations showcase the pink ribbon or color their products pink, they are not just bringing awareness to the cause, but actually donating money to research and support as well.

Those that highlight the pink color without actually fulfilling the promise of support are considered to be“pinkwashing,” a term derived from “whitewashing.”  If you see someone sporting the pink color, don’t be afraid to ask them how they are supporting the cause! While awareness is certainly a plus, it’s good to have an action behind the message as well, especially if that’s the claim.

Regardless, raising awareness and highlighting the cause is always a good thing. According to the American Cancer Society, the percentage of women getting annual breast mammograms and clinical breast exams has doubled over the last decade. So even if you’re just wearing pink to remind people of the cause or in memory of a loved one, kudos to you!

You can learn even more about the internationally famous pink ribbon here.  In the meantime, show your support as often as possible this October!



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Don’t Ignore the Signs

by: cancercompass

Whether you choose to listen or not, your body is often talking to you. Sometimes it is letting you know that everything is working properly (like being in a great mood after a solid workout), while other times your body might be sending warning signals.

A recent study concluded that when it comes to gynecologic cancers, there are five symptoms women ignore that could be important. Early detection can help lead to a more positive prognosis for many types of cancer, and therefore, it is always a good idea to take note of anything strange going on in your body, especially if it persists for more than two weeks.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be nearly 90,000 cases of gynecological cancers diagnosed in the U.S. in 2012. There are five main types of genealogical cancers – ovarian, uterine, cervical, vaginal and vulvar. Screenings are recommended for cervical cancer, but detecting the others might come down to listening to your body and making an appointment if you notice certain symptoms, or anything out of the ordinary.

In this study, 132 women ages 40-60 in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York City were given a list of eight symptoms of gynecological cancers. The list was not identified, and the participants had to simply take note of which symptoms would concern them the most. There were five symptoms that most women did not identify as possibly being due to cancer: vaginal itching or burning, back or abdominal pain, being tired all the time, having to urinate very badly or more often than usual, and bloating.

Since these signs are common, the women didn’t think they were a big deal. And, in many instances, these symptoms could be caused by something other than cancer. However, if you’re noticing these symptoms more than two weeks, it is a good idea to get checked out. Even if the explanation isn’t cancer, there could be something else going on that needs a remedy.

Cynthia Gelb, a health communication specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, made one really excellent point: “One key to recognizing when a common symptom might actually indicate cancer is for women to know what is normal for them.”

If something is going on that is uncommon for your body, then pay attention to what your body is telling you! Don’t be afraid to make an appointment with your doctor if anything seems amiss. And, if your body is speaking to you for more than two weeks, it might be time to listen.

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