Category Archives: Blog

breast cancer awareness month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: 5 Proactive Ways to Show Your Support

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM). During this time of year, going “pink” — the color which represents breast cancer — helps raise awareness of the disease. This month-long observance is significant in raising funds for research into breast cancer’s cause, diagnosis, treatment, cure, and prevention. It also offers relevant information and support to those affected or has lost their fight.

With that said, if you really want to raise breast cancer awareness and make an impact, here are five things you can do.

  1. Host or Attend a Fundraiser

A superb way to make a difference this month is to host a fundraiser in honor of breast cancer awareness. There are hundreds of fundraising ideas you can try, and one of the most popular ways to raise money for BCAM is to have an old-fashioned bake sale. Sweet treats and pastries are a hit in every state, city, town, or community. You can even ask your friends, family, and co-workers to make baked goods and sell them alongside you.

If you are not interested in hosting a fundraiser, you can always attend one. Throughout October, there are many fundraising events for breast cancer awareness. With the help of the American Cancer Society, you can easily find events and volunteer opportunities in your area.

  1. Donate Money to Charity

Making a monetary donation is one other way to show your support during breast cancer awareness month. Before you donate, however, make sure to do your homework. Some larger charities have high administrative costs that consume donations. As such, research the charity before donating to make sure your dollars will be well spent.

  1. Donate Your Time

If you cannot make a monetary donation, consider volunteering instead. Many non-profit organizations offer fulfilling volunteer opportunities to those with the heart to help. Manpower combined with brain power is just as valuable as any monetary donation.

  1. Share Information on Social Media

Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are excellent for expanding the reach of a message and maximizing the potential for word-of-mouth. You can share trending articles about breast cancer on your feed, or remind your female friends and family about the importance of mammograms through direct messaging.

  1. Donate Your Long Locks

Losing hair is only one of the many struggles women will face while battling breast cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. The toll of this physical side effect can be very traumatic. Donating your hair to organizations that create custom wigs for cancer patients is a simple way to show your care and support.

A Final Word: Wear Your Pink

October marks the beginning of Fall and the anticipation for Halloween. But for those who have known the complexity of dealing with breast cancer, whether personally or through loved ones, the month holds an entirely different significance. If you are committed to showing your support and make a difference in the lives of breast cancer fighters, keep wearing pink and try one of the five things mentioned in this blog.

breath

Breath Test to Detect Stomach & Oesophageal Cancers

breath

There is a test that now measures the levels of 5 chemicals in the breath that has shown promising results for detecting cancers of the oesophagus and stomach in a large patient trial that has been presented at the European Cancer Congress 2017.  

Stomach and oesophageal cancer together, currently account for around 1.4 million new cancer diagnoses each year worldwide.  Both of these cancers are usually diagnosed late because their symptoms are ambiguous, or meaning that the five-year survival rate for these types is only 15%.  

New research of more than 300 patients has shown that the test could diagnose cancer with an overall accuracy of 85%.  An NIHR Clinical Trials Fellow from Imperial College London, Dr. Sheraz, under the supervision of Professor George Hanna, informed Congress that at present the only way to diagnose oesophageal and stomach cancers is with endoscopy, which is expensive, invasive and has some risk of complications with this method.

A non-invasive and first-line breath test could be used to reduce the number of unnecessary endoscopies.  This could also mean in the longer term that earlier diagnosis and treatment as well as better survival could be realized.

They based this trial on the results of previous research that suggested differences in the levels of specific chemicals as butyric, pentanoic and hexanoic acids, butanal and decanal between patients with stomach or oesophageal cancer and patients with upper gastrointestinal symptoms without cancer.  This research was targeted to test whether this chemical signature that seemed to typify cancer could be the basis of a diagnostic test.

The research team collected breath samples from 335 people at St Mary’s Hospital, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, University College London Hospital and the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.  Around 163 had been diagnosed with stomach or oesophageal cancer and 172 showed no evidence of cancer when they had an endoscopy.

The samples were analyzed with a technique called selected ion flow-tube mass spectrometry that is able to accurately measure small amounts of different chemicals in mixtures of gases such as breath.  They then measured the levels of the 5 chemicals in each sample to see which ones matched to the chemical signature that indicated cancer. The test was 85% accurate overall with a sensitivity of 80% and a specificity of 81%.  Not only was the breath test good at recognizing those who had cancer (sensitivity), but was also good at correctly identifying those who did not have cancer.

Since the cancer cells are different than healthy ones, they produce a different mixture of chemicals.  This then suggests that we may be able detect these differences and use a breath test to indicate which patients are likely to have cancer of the oesophagus and stomach, and which do not.  Validation of these findings is needed in a larger sample of patients before the test could be used in the clinic.

Researchers will continue with a larger trial using the test with patients given an endoscopy for gastrointestinal symptoms but not yet diagnosed with cancer, over the next 3 years.  This will assess the ability of the test to pick up cases within a group that is likely to contain only a small percentage of cancers.

Breath tests for other types of cancer, such as colorectal and pancreatic is also being worked on by the team, which could be used as first-line tests in general practice surgeries.

Dr Fredda Branyon

caffeine

An Antidote to Aging

antidote

I recently read an article touching on the subject of coffee being the latest antidote to aging, written by Alice Park and appearing in the Time publication. Other articles are reflecting some similar details but this one delved more fully into the issue.

They are finding growing evidence that the daily jolt of java might be a health habit, because of its ability to keep heart vessels clear and lower the risk of Type 3 diabetes.  It is also known for its cancer-fighting antioxidants. Well, now coffee appears to help combat “aging”!

A new study was conducted that focused on the cells of coffee drinkers and those who were non-coffee drinkers.  It was found that the older people who consumed more caffeine tended to have lower levels of inflammation, which is a culprit behind a number of chronic diseases associated with aging that includes certain cancers, joint disorders and even Alzheimer’s.  The individuals who drank five or more cups of coffee a day showed very low levels of inflammatory factors in their blood. After studying their gene activity, the scientists found that genes linked to inflammation were less active than the same genes in people who didn’t drink as much.

Caffeine turns off the pathway to inflammation nearly altogether.  When combatting cellular aging, that’s especially beneficial because inflammation isn’t regulated as well as it is in a younger body.  In aging, something is breaking down, and we are less effective at managing this inflammation, according to Mark Davis, director of the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection at Stanford University and one of the study’s primary authors. At that time caffeine seems to undo some of the disruption caused by aging.

The researchers believe the key will be to figure out when the inflammatory response starts to spiral out of control.  Then they may be able to get ahead of it sans coffee. They are also currently conducting another study that may help by hoping to analyze the immune systems of 1,000 people.  A reference range of inflammation at various life stages could tell people their risk of developing chronic conditions and then they might consider adding or keeping up with their coffee habit.

But, that second cup of java certainly can’t hurt now. That seems to be the number one trick to revving the embolism and getting us going in the morning. Now you can enjoy that cup (or two) of coffee without any more guilt! But please, no more than two cups. And oh, did I mention you should leave out the sugar? Try Stevia instead.

Dr Fredda Branyon

woman_lying_down

Body Scan Meditation & Cancer

Girl-Relaxing

Many people turn to stress-reduction techniques like relaxation breathing, guided imagery, meditation, aromatherapy and the body scan meditation practice, because having to deal with cancer is so stressful. Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) and body scan meditation is recommended to be done together by therapists, wellness counselors and stress reduction teachers to help keep muscle tension low, minimize pain signaling, decrease worry and alleviate some fatigue.  However, this may not be the right stress-reduction method for everyone.

Body scan meditation involves the person lying flat on the floor on their back and in a quiet space.  While closing your eyes you focus on breathing in a slow, steady fashion with the voice of a therapist or teacher guiding your attention to parts of your body from your head to your toes.  When you are directed to tighten the muscles of your face and with an exhale of breath slowly releasing the tension, it is the PMR part that comes into the therapy. You would then tighten the shoulder muscles, bring your shoulders to your ears, exhale your breath, and then release the tension.  You will continue this until reaching the muscles of your feet, curling up your toes, then releasing the tension with an exhale of breath. Progressively tightening and releasing the muscle groups while breathing in a controlled fashion is the goal so that your whole body can become fully relaxed.  This is sometimes called fully relaxing into the ground and is to feel comforting to your body and mind.

woman_lying_downIf this works for you it’s great, but some people with a cancer diagnosis may find the body scan meditation actually worsens their anxiety.  Stress from cancer originates with the body and by turning your attention to the body, your mind may hyper-focus on every single ache, twinge, tingle or other type of pain.  When this happens, the mind may get trapped into thinking about everything that is wrong with the body and may increase worry about where the cancer cells currently are, or if the cancer will come back to one body part or another.  Having a quiet room might actually magnify the worry about cancer because there are no distractions from thinking about your body that either has, or used to have, cancer.

It is possible to make this relaxation technique of body scan and progressive muscle relaxation work even while dealing with cancer by actively thinking about what is working in your body.  If you can take in a deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth, pull your shoulders down out of your ears, stretch your neck and make circles with your wrists and ankles while exhaling to release the tension in the joints, your body might still be able to use this technique.  Things that your body is still able to do while reminding yourself of that regularly, may be helpful for your mental well-being.

Walking practice, if you are able, is another way to enjoy the relaxation benefits of body scan meditation or PMR.  Take advantage of the wind, birds, trees, grass and squirrels while taking a walk to distract your mind from cancer thoughts.  Just moving the body is a distraction, so pay attention to it from head to toe and think about walking tall with good posture. Notice the movements of your arms and feet as they make contact with the ground.  Breathe slowly with purposeful inhales through your nose and exhale through your mouth.

Stress is not easy to manage when you have cancer and it may take multiple activities to get the benefits you are reaching for.  Just feeling a little less stressed is something worth working for, especially when dealing with cancer.

Dr Fredda Branyon

halloween

Top 10 Best Halloween Candy (Yummy and Guilt-Free)

halloweenIs healthy Halloween candy fiction or a legitimate possibility? The truth is, candy can never come close to the nutritional benefits of kale, but not all sugary sweets have scary nutrition facts.

Here is a list of the healthiest (or least guilt-inducing) favorites you, your kids, and trick-or-treaters can enjoy without worrying too much about weight gain and cavities.

  1. Hershey’s Special Dark

Hershey’s is famous for their array of chocolate bars, but the classic Special Dark is a crowd favorite because of its rich, velvet-like taste and antioxidant properties. The best part is, two miniatures has only 88 calories and 5.2 grams of fat.

  1. Peanut M&Ms

These colorful, button-shaped chocolates with real peanuts contain fiber, protein, calcium, 4.7 grams of fat, 9.1 grams of sugar, and 93 calories for every seven pieces.

  1. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

This Halloween classic scares most parents, but minimizing consumption to two minis only has 88 calories, 9.2 grams of sugar, and 5.2 grams of fat. Choose dark chocolate for extra antioxidants.

  1. Kit Kat

“Have a break, have a Kit Kat” because a two-piece bar boasts only 70 calories, 9.2 grams of sugar, and 3.6 grams of fat.

  1. Dum Dum Lollipop

With delicious flavors like blueberry, cherry, grape, and even butterscotch and cream soda, there is much to love about Dum Dum Lollipops. One pop has 20 calories, 4 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of fat.

  1. Tootsie Pop

A student study from Purdue University concluded that it takes about 364 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop — which is a lot of licks for something that only has 60 calories and 0 grams of fat (center included). However, be mindful of the sugar content since there are 10 grams in a single pop.

  1. Jolly Rancher

These sweet, fruity candies are a long-time favorite of kids and adults alike. Two hard candies have a combined 47 calories and 8 grams of sugar.

  1. Twizzlers

This licorice-like candy has no actual licorice content, which sometimes causes potassium levels to temporarily drop. You can enjoy two Twizzler sticks for less than 100 calories and 0 grams of fat.

  1. Three Musketeers

These candy bars consisting of chocolate-covered, fluffy, whipped nougat are light enough to snack on with no guilt. But stop at two because while they have less than 50 calories, the 8 grams of sugar makes them more of an indulgence.

  1. Dark Chocolate Raisinets

Although dried fruits are known to be high in sugar and calories, they can also increase your nutrient intake and supply your body with antioxidants. The dark chocolate and raisin combination has 67 calories and less than 3 grams of fat per 42 pieces (snack-size bag).

A Word of Advice

As trick-or-treat fast approaches, it is important to indulge with caution because sugar has addicting properties that can cause health risks when eaten in excess. If you are a parent, it is best to limit the number of sweets your child consumes, and to ensure they brush their teeth after snacking. As a final step, prevent cavities and tooth decay by making routine visits to your family dentist.

old_sick_woman

Statins & Diabetes

old_sick_woman

Most older women are prescribed statins that have high levels of blood cholesterol, but the effects of the drug have not been well-studied in this group as it seems was done in other groups.  There is currently a new study from Australia that find older women taking statins to lower cholesterol may have a significantly higher risk of developing diabetes. This research was conducted by a team at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Australia and is published in the journal Drugs & Aging.

More than 8,000 women aged 75 and over and taking statins had a 33% higher chance of being diagnosed with new-onset diabetes in the study.  Dr. Mark Jones, the lead author of the UQ School of Public Health says that statins are highly prescribed for this age group and there are few clinical trials studying how they actually affect these older women.  The majority of research is on 40 to 70 year old men and not the women.

This class of drug is designed to lower blood cholesterol, which is mostly made in the liver.  By reducing liver production of cholesterol is also helps the liver to remove cholesterol from the blood.  The body does need cholesterol, but if there is too much of it in the blood it can lead to a buildup of plaque in the walls of arteries that is a risk factor for stroke and heart disease. These are the leading causes of death for men and women in the United States.

To reduce or prevent unhealthy cholesterol levels we should start with changing our diet and increasing physical activity.  Dietary and lifestyle changes may be enough to keep some people’s cholesterol levels in check, but medication may be needed for others, especially if they have other risk factors for heart disease.  Several medications to lower cholesterol in the blood are available, but the ones most recommended as a cholesterol lowering drug linked to a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke are the statins.

There was a 10-fold increase in statin use by people aged 45 and over in the U.S. from 1988-1994 to 2005-2008.  There was also a corresponding drop in people with high cholesterol over this period, which may or may not be due to increased use of statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs.  In a 2015 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) it concludes that fewer than half of people in the U.S. that are eligible to take cholesterol-lowering medications, are actually taking them.

Dr. Jones and his colleagues analyzed data on 8,372 women born between 1921 and 1926 who took part in regular surveys as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health.  They were free of diabetes at the start of 2003 and the team assessed statin exposure based on prescriptions dispensed between 2002 and 2013. Upon following 10 years, the team found that 49% of the women had filled prescriptions for statins and 5% had begun treatment for new-onset diabetes.  

It was revealed through statistical analysis that statin exposure was linked to a 33% higher risk of developing diabetes.  Up to 51% risk increase was shown for the highest dose of statin usage.

The team was most concerned to find this dose-response effect between statin use and risk of diabetes, as over the 10 years of study most of the women progressed to higher doses of statins.  Doctors and their elderly female patients should be aware of these findings and Dr. Jones urges those elderly women taking statins to be carefully and regularly monitored for increased blood glucose to ensure early detection and management of diabetes.  

Dr Fredda Branyon

ice_cream

Is Ben & Jerry’s Protecting the Environment?

ice_cream

Their ice cream sure is good but are they contributing to destroying our environment?  This ice cream icon started in Vermont in 1978 and claims to be as devoted to stewardship to the environment as it is to creating new ice cream flavors.  The friendly image propelled the brand into one of Unilever’s (their corporate owner) rising stars with revenues close to $600 million a year and growing.  They are, like many other corporate giants, actively supporting industrial dairy which is so damaging to the environment, the cows and the farmers that this system is destined to collapse.

They are still clinging to its Vermont heritage but Vermont is no longer home to an abundance of grazing cows producing rich, creamy milk that is used to make their premium ice cream. CAFO’s are becoming the norm and farmers are forced to grow their herds and increase milk production using artificial methods like feeding cows an unnatural amount of grain-based food, 24 hour confinement and increased number of milkings per day. Because of the price of milk now, the average-sized dairy farm in Vermont is operating at a loss of $100,000 a year. Farmers are only getting about $14 for 11.6 gallons of milk that costs them about $22 to produce. There is currently a petition by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to encourage Ben & Jerry’s to stop defrauding consumers and convert to organic.

The industrial dairy industry dumped 43 million gallons of milk in 2016 due to a massive milk glut.  This was the result of a 2014 spike in milk prices that encouraged many dairy farmers to add more cows to their farms.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data showed dairy cows increased by 40,000 in 2016 with a 1.4% increase in production per cow. This resulted in milk prices declining 22% to $16.30 with too much milk and nowhere to sell it.

Now we are at a point where dairy cows are dying at an alarming rate by suffering from burnout and disease. The U.S. dairy herds mortality rates are more than 10% a year, which is up from 3.8% in 2002.

The FDA has authority to require milk to be tested if evidence exists that drug residues may be in the milk supply.  Some dairy farms have been stopped by the FDA from selling their cattle for meat after drug residue violations; however, this does not typically extend to the milk.

Now the question is if Ben & Jerry’s will support farming the natural way!  Grass-fed dairy is a viable solution to the problems of industrial dairy.

  • When a cow eats corn and grain the pH of the rumen becomes acidic and destroys some flora and increases systemic inflammation that will inevitably shorten the cow’s lifespan and increases the risk of infection.
  • By raising grass-fed cows it requires fewer resources than growing grain crops to feed CAFO cows as well as fewer chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  • A 100% grass fed farm spreads manure over pastures naturally as the cows roam, and there is no need for environmentally destructive manure lagoons.
  • Grass-fed dairy farming works best with small herds and then helps also to support local economies and small farmers who can then claim a premium price for their premium dairy products.  

More than 200 dairy farms in Vermont have transitioned to organic and are returning their cows to a grass-based diet.  Purchasing your grass-fed milk and other foods from a local organic farm or co-op is one of the best ways to ensure you are getting high-quality food.  Try making your own grass-fed milk ice cream at home. The Campaign for Real Milk website can help you to locate a raw, grass-fed milk source near you.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Alcohol_and_Caffeine_Mixed

Alcohol, Caffeine & A-fib!

Alcohol, Caffeine

And exactly how do alcohol and caffeine affect someone with A-fib?  Danielle Dresden published an article that was reviewed by Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, CNE, COI, on this exact subject.  Those suffering from A-fib describe it as feeling like their heart could flop out of their chests while some feel about to pass out.  Still, others feel absolutely nothing at all.

The most common form of heart arrhythmia is called atrial fibrillation (A-fib), or irregular heartbeat that affects 2.7-6.1 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Appearing with a variety of symptoms, they do all have the same cause of irregular and rapid beating of the upper chambers of the heart. These episodes can be unsettling and uncomfortable but aren’t usually life-threatening. If untreated though, A-fib can lead to dangerous health conditions.

Those diagnosed with A-fib are about 5X more likely to have a stroke that can lead to permanent disability or death as it can weaken the heart muscles over time, which triples the risk of heart failure.  The risk of dementia also doubles.

Alcohol’s impact on the heart is a subject of ongoing discussion in the medical field.  Researchers believe it can have both positive and negative impacts. A positive with moderate drinking include raising levels of the “good” cholesterol, preventing platelets from forming blood clots and reducing the buildup of plaque in the circulatory system.

Negative effects of alcohol are high blood pressure, heart failure, weight gain leading to high blood pressure and enlarged heart.

Caffeine has many effects on the human body, according to the American Heart Association, but no links have been confirmed between caffeine intake and heart disease.  There is no link found between caffeine and arrhythmia, but reports indicate that drinking more than 5 cups of coffee each day can raise blood pressure. Many health experts believe there is a connection between caffeine, alcohol and A-fib that can trigger an attack.  Researchers are currently investigating the specific causes.

The thought is divided on whether or not people with A-fib can consume alcohol or caffeine safely.  The American Heart Association advises those with A-fib to avoid excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine.  A recommended general heart health guideline sets the limits of one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.  One drink is considered 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, according to the American Heart Association.  Other risk factors are age, obesity, genetics, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and European ancestry. There is a closer connection between obstructive sleep apnea and A-fib than any other risk factor.  Further potential causes include: certain medical procedures, emotional stress, physical stress, dehydration, sleep, hormones and exercise.

A heart-healthy diet can help those with A-fib, such as eating a variety of fruits, veggies and whole grains, protein sources as legumes, fish and poultry, intake of omega-3 as salmon, herring or trout, reducing sodium, avoiding saturated fats and foods that contain them, limiting oil, avoiding sugary beverages and not smoking and/or being subjected to secondhand smoke. Exercising regularly is essential for a healthy heart function. A very basic level of activity as 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise 5 days a week and muscle-strengthening activities twice a week is recommended by the American Heart Association.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Drug

Immune System Drugs for Multiple Myeloma

Drug

The immune system takes a real hit with multiple myeloma and makes it much harder to fight infections.  For this reason, your immune system is a focus in many of the mainstream treatments for multiple myeloma.  You might want to consult with your doctor to consider the different immune system drugs out there, what they do and how they work. You may also want to speak to an alternative physician to educate yourself on more natural ways to fight cancer.

Biologics are medicines that believed to help your immune system to control your myeloma. These drugs are made from living organisms and some can boost the immune system to help the body fight the disease.  Some suppress it to do the same thing and yet more destroy cancer cells directly or reduce the side effect of other treatments. We at New Hope Unlimited believe it is best to use your own biologicals to enhance the immune system.  But for the purpose of this article, I am reporting on what mainstream medicine is doing with a lot of synthetic drugs.

There are three medications taken as pills that is said to help your immune system point out and attack cancer cells.  They are also called immunomodulators or immune-modifying drugs.

These three are:

  • Thalidomide (Thalomid) that lowers the blood supply to cancers.  Prior to its use to treat myeloma in the late 1990’s, it was used as a sedative and nausea medication for pregnant women until it was found to cause birth defects.
  • Lenalidomide (Revlimid) is a stronger form of thalidomide and has fewer side effects, but it can still cause numbness, rashes and fatigue that thalidomide does.  They both have a risk of shortness of breath or seizures.
  • Pomalidomide (Pomalyst), the newest drug of this type, which was approved by the FDA for multiple myeloma, is similar to the others.  One big difference is that it has been found to be effect longer.

Common side effects of all three of these drugs include low blood counts, a “pins and needles” feeling or pain in the arms and legs and a higher risk of blood clots that can travel to the lungs from the leg.  There are even more side effects for each drug that your doctor will discuss with you.

Other drugs are:

  • The drug interferon boosts the immune system and encourages healthy cells to move toward the cancer cells to destroy them.  This drug is injected into the skin 2 to 3 times a week and you may feel flu-like symptoms after it’s given to you.
  • Monoclonal Antibodies are man-made and supposed to work on one type of target.  
  • Daratumumab (Darzalex) attaches to multiple myeloma cells and will kill them and signal your immune system to attack them. If one of the other treatments hasn’t worked, you will get this one.  There may be a reaction a few hours after getting the drug such as coughing, wheezing, trouble breathing, runny nose, headache or rash. If any of these happen to you, your doctor may need to adjust your dose or add another medicine with it to lessen or stop your symptom.
  • Elotuzumab (Empliciti) works much in the same way as daratumumab with the same reactions and side effects.  More side effects are weakness or numbness in your hands and feet and respiratory tract infection.

Some biologics are in development in clinical trials.  Your doctor might suggest you join in one of these to try.  They are adoptive T-cell transfers, which use the body’s T cells (white blood cells that help fight disease) to destroy the cancer.  Vaccines would work like more-common vaccines to jump-start the immune system to attack cancer cells.

Wouldn’t there possibly be a natural alternative treatment to build the immune system? Consult with your doctor as to the best drug that will fit for you. There are many options for edications listed above.

Dr Fredda Branyon

money_and_medicine

Financial Dangers of Cancer

Money is something that no one likes to talk about and it becomes even more stressful when you’re sick. When cancer comes our way, the financial challenges are too big for us to ignore. Survivors are nearly 3X more likely to file for bankruptcy than those without a cancer history, so it’s important to face our financial considerations up front.

money_and_medicine

Those facing cancer are usually so stressed out and fuzzy minded that they find it difficult to work.  After serious thought it might even be wise to consider doing a financial downsizing on your obligations to help you through the days ahead.  Some choices might seem humiliating, but by downsizing it might make your life simpler and even less space to have to deal with keeping clean and updated.  This may not be what you want, but it might help keep you financially afloat until you are able to return to work.

One of the most important things you can do is to anticipate your financial challenges when you learn you have cancer.  Some of the potential issues you will probably face are the need to take at least some time off work. You will still have co-payments even with health insurance, as some things just aren’t covered under most plans.  Those supplements and other complementary treatments that will help with side effects are most likely all out-of-pocket expenses and the experimental treatments that might be suggested aren’t covered by your insurance.

More help might be required for keeping your household going such as walking your dog and help with house cleaning and childcare.  If the facility for your cancer center is far from your home, you will need to factor in travel costs and possibly hotel rooms along with parking at the hospital and/or other places during your stay.

You can look for help at the following places:

  • Some of the big pharmaceutical companies will help with drug costs.  Get paperwork started before you start treatment. Ask the medical team about this right off.
  • Many non-profits are there to help cancer patients where you can get help with housing, transportation, housework, buying wigs, food, exercise coaching and complimentary therapies like massage and yoga.  Ask your medical team what’s available in your area. Use all options available to you.
  • Financial navigation coaches are provided at most large cancer centers that will help you pick your way through the confusing landscape of cancer care.
  • Help with drug costs can be utilized through the Partnership for Prescription Assistance at www.pparx.org.
  • Financial Treatment Project has just begun pilot programs in Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in Washington and Tufts University in Massachusetts.
  • The Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition brings many organizations together than help cancer patients.  Search by zip code to find things near you.
  • The CancerCare Copayment Assistance Foundation at www.cancercarecopay.org helps with co-payments as also groups at www.lls.org/support/financial-support/co-pay-assistance-program and www.healthwellfoundation.org.

If you still hate to talk about money try One Study at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4933128, where it found that cancer patients who filed for bankruptcy had a higher mortality rate than patients who did not.  Face your finances – it’s good for your health! Less stressed is important!

Dr Fredda Branyon