Posts tagged ‘cancer’


Choosing health insurance? A physician shares these 5 tips

September 15, 2014 | by

While health care reform has led to an increase in the number of people signing up for health insurance, many people remain uninsured or are not taking full advantage of the health benefits they now have. Still others are finding that, although their premiums are affordable, they aren’t able to see the doctors they want.

Health insurance form

Joseph Alvarnas says insurance should do more than fit a price point. Access to doctors and best care matter, especially for cancer patients.

Just because health care is more accessible than before, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s less confusing, says Joseph Alvarnas, M.D., director of Medical Quality and Quality, Risk and Regulatory Management at City of Hope.

“You have to realize we’re in un-navigated waters,” Alvarnas said. “We’re here to serve not only as health care providers, but educators. We need to empower people to be active participants in their care.”

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7 tips for managing cancer pain: First, control it early

September 4, 2014 | by

There’s more to cancer care than simply helping patients survive. There’s more to cancer treatment than simple survival.

pain illustration

Cancer patients should report their pain to their caregivers, and enlist their doctors to help them manage it. Pain does not have to be part of daily life, even during cancer treatment, says City of Hope’s Betty Ferrell and other experts in palliative care.

Constant pain should not be part of conquering cancer,  insists Betty Ferrell, Ph.D., R.N., director of nursing research and education at City of Hope. She wants patients and caregivers alike to understand, and act on, this principle.

Ferrell, an international expert in palliative care, and her colleagues have spent years investigating pain management and the barriers that prevent patients from receiving the help and medication needed to manage their pain. Overcoming these barriers starts with understanding that pain management is vital. Even when people are fighting cancer, their day-to-day lives should not hampered by physical pain.

“Patients and caregivers need to understand that pain is important,” she said. “Pain has a tremendous impact on quality of life. There is an urgency. If pain is not controlled, their lives are out of control.”

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Most women forgo breast reconstruction after breast cancer, study finds

August 22, 2014 | by

Undergoing reconstructive surgery may seem like a forgone conclusion for survivors of breast cancer, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. A new study has found that most breast cancer survivors who undergo a mastectomy decide against surgical reconstruction of their breasts.

Breast implant

Only 42 percent of women opt for breast reconstruction after mastectomy, a new study finds. One reason cited was a fear that breast implants would prevent detection of a recurrence; a fear that experts say is unwarranted.

The reasons for such a decision vary, according to the breast reconstruction study published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery. More than 48 percent of those who decide against reconstruction say they don’t want to undergo additional surgery, almost 34 percent say reconstruction isn’t important and 36 percent  cite a fear of breast implants.

In fact, only about 42 percent of women choose reconstructive surgery after their mastectomy.

Not only is Laura Kruper, M.D., director of the Rita Cooper and J. William Finkel Women’s Health Center, unsurprised by the number of women who forgo reconstruction, she finds the number of patients who do choose surgery encouraging.  » Continue Reading


For bone marrow transplant patients, outcomes and data matter

August 22, 2014 | by

Nearly four decades ago, City of Hope began its bone marrow transplant program. Its first transplant reunion celebration was a single patient and his donor, also his brother.

BMT Reunion 2014

City of Hope has performed nearly 12,000 hematopoietic cell transplants, and has the best outcomes in the nation. Here are some of our survivors at the 2014 BMT reunion.

This year, City of Hope welcomed hundreds of hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) recipients to the annual bone marrow transplant/HCT reunion. Since the program’s inception, City of Hope has performed more than 12,000 hematopoietic cell transplants, for patients ranging in age from less than 1 year old to more than 79 years old.

The reunion of bone marrow transplant patients, one of the highlights of the year for City of Hope, underscores the close relationships that City of Hope caregivers have with their patients, even those who have been free of their cancer for decades. The outcomes for the program underscore the importance of those relationships and the high level of expertise provided here: They are among the very best in the nation. » Continue Reading


Aspirin might reduce risk of breast cancer recurrence for obese women

August 20, 2014 | by

An aspirin a day might help keep breast cancer away for some breast cancer survivors, a new study suggests.

Aspirin closeup

A new study indicates that aspirin and similar painkillers could reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence in obese and overweight women. More research is warranted, experts say.

Obese women who have had breast cancer could cut their risk of a recurrence in half if they regularly take aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, called NSAIDs, report researchers from the University of Texas in Austin. The results of the NSAIDS study were published recently in the journal Cancer Research.

A City of Hope expert says the researchers’ conclusion makes sense. Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., R.N., director of the Division of Etiology at City of Hope, said the study echoes some of the findings of her own research on obesity. » Continue Reading


Quality: City of Hope makes Becker’s ‘great oncology programs’ list

July 24, 2014 | by

To be a great cancer hospital, you need a great oncology program. Just ask City of Hope – and Becker’s Hospital Review.

When it comes to oncology programs, City of Hope ranks.

Quality counts. Becker’s Hospital Review has chosen City of Hope for inclusion on its 2014 list of “100 Hospitals and Health Systems With Great Oncology Programs.”

The health care publishing industry stalwart, described as the “leading hospital magazine for hospital business news and analysis for hospital and health system executives,” recently selected City of Hope to its 2014 edition of “100 Hospitals and Health Systems With Great Oncology Programs.”

The inclusion on the list likely comes as no surprise to City of Hope patients and their families, but outside recognition of top quality is always welcome. In offering its list, Becker’s Hospital Review includes this important note: “Organizations cannot pay for inclusion on this list.”

That’s an important distinction, one that isn’t always true for many such lists. » Continue Reading


Cancer expertise matters. Just ask ex-lymphoma patient Christine Pechera

July 22, 2014 | by

Eleven years ago, lymphoma patient Christine Pechera began the long road toward a cancer-free life.

Christine Pechera unveils 2014 City of Hope Rose Parade Float Rendering at the Wrigley Mansion.

Former lymphoma patient Christine Pechera unveils 2014 City of Hope Rose Parade Float Rendering at the Tournament of Roses – Wrigley Mansion. Her second opinion at City of Hope ultimately led to her remission.

She had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and told by doctors elsewhere that her lifespan likely would be measured in months, not years. Refusing to give up, she came to City of Hope for a second opinion. There, she received her first encouraging words. She began treatment soon after watching the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, an event that she’d watched as a child and that she thought she might never see again.

After undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and an autologous stem cell transplant – a procedure using her own stem cells – Pechera returned to health, only to relapse in 2005.

She can still find the YouTube video pleading for help in the search for a matching bone marrow donor. Because she was Filipino, matches were hard to come by; her search was even featured on “Nightline,” highlighting the need for more diversity among donors. Finally, a man in Hong Kong – who never saw the video or “Nightline” – was identified as a match.

His stem cells – and the expertise of City of Hope’s lymphoma experts – saved Pechera’s life. The journey that began with a poor prognosis at another institution brought her back to the Rose Parade on January 1 of this year. This time, the former lymphoma patient rode on City of Hope’s float, paying tribute to the fact that the dream of being cancer-free can be within reach, even in some of the toughest cases. » Continue Reading


Each day is special for cancer survivors (w/VIDEO)

July 16, 2014 | by

The best measure of success in the fight against cancer is in lives saved and families intact, in extra days made special simply because they exist.

Yuman Fong, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery at City of Hope, understands what precedes that special awareness. When cancer strikes, one minute a person may feel healthy and young, he says, and in the next, they’re wondering how many years they have left.

In those situations, expertise matters. Commitment to research, knowledge of new therapies, unrelenting dedication to quality and improvement all play a role in the best possible cancer care. City of Hope has those factors. But the best measure of cancer care is cancer outcomes – and City of Hope has those, too.

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Her breast cancer diagnosis was grim; a second opinion saved her life

July 15, 2014 | by

At 29, Kommah McDowell was a successful young professional engaged to be married to her best friend. She worked in the financial services sector and kick-boxed to keep in shape and to relax. Then came the diagnosis of triple-negative inflammatory breast cancer, a rare and very aggressive form of breast cancer. She was told she had a 5 percent chance of living two years. Here’s her story …

breast cancer

Kommah McDowell, a breast cancer survivor, serves as a mentor for black women who recently completed breast cancer treatment and are transitioning into the follow-up stage of their care.

For seven months, McDowell had been visiting her primary care doctor every other week complaining of pain, tenderness, swelling and a lump in her right breast. She was assured it was only a benign cyst that would go away – she was too young to have cancer. Finally, at McDowell’s insistence, the “cyst” was removed. During that surgery, the doctor found cancer.

“Unbelievably, the medical staff was not familiar with the type of cancer,” McDowell said. “They just knew it was cancer and the best course of action was to remove it immediately. Fortunately, I was able to go to City of Hope for a second opinion and treatment.” » Continue Reading


Tamoxifen or exemestane after breast cancer? It’s trade-off, expert says

July 14, 2014 | by

The well-known drug tamoxifen might not always be the best choice for premenopausal women who have undergone treatment for breast cancer and face a heightened risk of recurrence. A new study suggests that the aromatase inhibitor exemestane, or Aromasin, works slightly better than tamoxifen in preventing cancer recurrence.

A new study finds aromatase inhibitors might be more effective than tamoxifen in preventing breast cancer relapse in premenopausal patients.

A new study finds that aromatase inhibitors might be more effective than tamoxifen in preventing breast cancer relapse in premenopausal patients.

Five years of tamoxifen is considered the standard of care for pre-menopausal women with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer; aromatase inhibitors are often used in post-menopausal women.

But in a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine, nearly 93 percent of women on the aromatase inhibitor exemestane remained free of breast cancer after five years. About 89 percent of women on tamoxifen remained free of breast cancer over the same amount of time.   » Continue Reading