Articles Posted in Cancer

cigsmenthols-300x227The Biden Administration will ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars with new regulations to be issued within the next year — actions that Big Tobacco is expected to battle but which proponents say could have big health benefits for those who have been targeted to buy and use these products.

Smoking is a leading cause of death in this country, and especially among African Americans, with critics saying cigarette makers have exploited communities of color, the poor, and LGBTQ people with flavorings to popularize damaging goods. As the Washington Post reported of the announced plans of the federal Food and Drug Administration:

“[Its] menthol ban would reduce health disparities between white and black smokers. About 85% of African American smokers use menthol cigarettes, three times the rate of white smokers, and their rate of quitting smoking has not declined as quickly as it has for whites. As a result, black smokers suffer disproportionate rates of disease and death. Similarly … the effort to remove menthol and flavorings from small cigars [is] a way to prevent young people from starting the smoking habit and helping them quit. The small cigars are increasingly popular with young smokers; more high school smokers now use small cigars than cigarettes.”

cig-150x150President Biden, who lost a son to the disease, has a personal commitment to fighting cancer. He has made improving Americans’ health a top priority of his administration, calling for trillions of dollars in government spending in this area. He also has said he wants his officials to be at the fore in slashing at racial inequities in health care.

These are big reasons why the NAACP, along with a leading black doctors’ group and other activists have called on Biden and Xavier Becerra, the head of the federal Health and Human Services agency, to take the steps, finally, to ban menthol flavorings in cigarettes. The Washington Post reported on the latest developments in this long-running campaign:

“Menthol is the only flavor allowed in cigarettes; others were prohibited by a 2009 law. The FDA has said it will respond by April 29 to a lawsuit stemming from a citizen petition filed seven years ago that sought a prohibition on menthol in cigarettes. Within the agency, there is strong support for banning both menthol cigarettes and small cigars, which are popular with young people, according to several administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue. The White House is weighing whether to take the first steps to ban menthol. President Biden is almost certain to be involved in the decision …”

waitingroom-2-300x202Patients packed in their doctors’ waiting rooms in pre-pandemic times may have looked around and wondered: Why are there so many seniors here receiving medical care?

It isn’t just age that gets older Americans in numbers to treatment for illness or injury or preventive care — it’s also, of course, their qualification at 65 for government-supported medical insurance, aka Medicare. That, perhaps, unsurprising conclusion has been affirmed by Stanford doctors and researchers in newly published research. The study also offers important insights on delayed treatment and the crucial role played by health insurance.

The work involved running down a hunch of Dr. Joseph Shrager, a cardiothoracic surgeon who wondered why so many older patients he saw were diagnosed with lung cancer at age 65 — and not, say, at 61, or 64? He discussed the observation with colleagues who concurred in their curiosity about Medicare eligibility and its role in disease diagnosis. As the university news service reported of the insurance hypothesis:

cancerexam-300x225One consequence of the coronavirus pandemic may be showing up in tragic fashion: Cancer specialists say they are treating a wave of advanced cases in which patients might have benefited from earlier care had fear of Covid-19 infection not kept them away from doctors’ offices and hospitals.

The information about the harms of missed appointments, especially for important cancer tests and screenings, is, at present, more anecdotal than quantifiable in hard data, the New York Times reported. But the newspaper quoted doctors across the country reporting this:

“While it is too early to assess the full impact of the delays in screenings, many cancer specialists say they are concerned that patients are coming in with more severe disease. ‘There’s no question in practice that we are seeing patients with more advanced breast cancer and colorectal cancer,’ said Dr. Lucio N. Gordan, the president of the Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, one of the nation’s largest independent oncology groups. He is working on a study to see if, overall, these missed screenings resulted in more patients with later-stage cancers.”

gofundme-300x130Modern medicine may be providing patients with significant improvements in key treatment areas, but the cost of care has become so crushing that online campaigns for charitable medical aid have become heartbreakingly common in the United States.

A team of researchers from institutions across the country reported that the well-known GoFundMe website, between May 2010 and December 2018, had provided a platform for more than 1 million aid appeals — with 281,881 of these (26.7%) created to cover individuals’ health care–related costs.

Most of the fund-raising sought to assist cancer patients, with individuals suffering trauma and injuries, or neurological disorders trailing in number of campaigns. As the authors observed in their published study of these pitches:

colorscreen-300x168An important federal advisory group has joined with medical specialists in recommending a change in the age at which patients should start screening for colorectal cancer, to age 45 and not the current 50 years old.

Earlier detection of bowel issues could save lives, the U.S. Protective Services Task Force (USPSTF) has decided, with the influential medical group issuing a draft screening guidance and posting it online for public and expert comment.

Clinicians have reported for a while now that they are seeing more cases of colorectal cancers in younger patients, and their treatment might have better outcomes if it could be started earlier, too. As the New York Times reported:

medjournals-300x196They are a unique combination — august publications in science and medicine that  harken back for centuries yet now inform 21st century practitioners about the latest advances in their fields. And now these leading scientific journals say the present moment  forces them to abandon their prized political neutrality to oppose the science denialism of the incumbent leader of the free world.

This is an unprecedented and uncomfortable development for the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, Scientific American, and Lancet Oncology (a journal for cancer specialists). They have never taken a political stand of this kind in their histories, dating to 1812 for NEJM, 1845 for Scientific American, and 1869 for Nature.

Their editors say they would much prefer to stay out of presidential endorsements  and to keep their focus on publishing important, rigorous research and peer-reviewed information about advancements in the fields of science and medicine.

abe-150x150Boseman-150x150The world has received painful reminders about the adage about decision making that also applies to digestive health: “Always listen to your gut.”

Movie fans are mourning the tragic and early death of the brilliant actor Chadwick Boseman. He was 43 and battled colon cancer with courage, including as he starred as the “trailblazing Marvel superhero ‘Black Panther,’ “as well as “real-life icons Jackie Robinson in ‘42,’ James Brown in ‘Get on Up’ and Thurgood Marshall in ‘Marshall,’” the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Japanese, in the meantime, dealt with sadness and uncertainty as Shinzo Abe, their nation’s longest serving prime minister, announced he would step down from office due to a relapse of ulcerative colitis, the bowel disease that led him to resign after just a year during his first stint in office, the New York Times reported.

handout-200x300It may be surprising that the questions went unasked before. The outcomes may be less than shocking. But patients, in a new and nationally representative survey, have told hospitals to bug off  with their relentless grubbing for donations from the people they care for.

Doctors and ethicists long have been wary of the huge energy that big hospitals and major academic medical centers sink in to soliciting donations and how institutions’ policies and practices for fundraising may sully public perceptions that medicine is about money and not science or compassionate care, the New York Times reported.

And while medical philanthropy has become an important and central concern of many hospitals and academic centers, driving big and booming “advancement” operations and wrapping doctors into dollar-raising moves, researchers had not delved until now into patients’ thinking.

cancerlungscreen-300x217Tens of millions of Americans who have not kicked the harmful smoking habit or who have only recently done so may want to keep a watch on the work of a blue-chip advisory group as its medical scientists consider how much lung-cancer screening best benefits tobacco users.

The panel is seeking expert comment on its proposal for a greater number of older smokers and recent quitters to undergo low-dose computed tomography. That is a diagnostic procedure that combines X-rays and computers to give doctors a better look at patients’ lungs with multiple views and cross-sectional images.

The U.S. Protective Screening Task Force — which advises the federal government on preventive care and issues recommendations that can affect patient costs and insurer coverage for procedures — says more patients should have tomography than the panel recommended in 2014 when it last considered evidence on it.

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