Use home pesticides with caution

Every fall my house becomes a mine field of spider webs. When I go out the front door, I immediately step face-first into a big, black, eight-legged bug. Yuck.

Whether it’s spiders preparing for the winter, or fleas and mosquitoes enjoying the wetter but still warm late-summer days, insects are just more bothersome in the fall.

I remember in my childhood my mother used to carry around a huge can of Raid and practically spray it in our faces when she saw a wasp or fly or spider.

Um, that’s not a good idea.

A recent study published in PediatricsContinue reading

The high cost of cancer

I’ve posted before about how expensive it is to be treated for cancer.

Recently, a patient posted on the health blog KevinMD about her experience dealing with not only the stress of metastatic ovarian cancer, but the struggle to stay afloat financially.

I am one of many people today “living” with cancer. I want to focus on the impact cancer has on my personal finances, and this is probably true for any chronic illness, not just cancer.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer at 51 years old. I really

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Cancer doctor’s fraud sends him to prison

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Dr. Farid Fata, the Michigan oncologist who has been on trial for bilking millions of dollars out of Medicare and other insurance companies.

Worse than the fraud is that he actually falsely diagnosed patients with cancer and/or treated them unnecessarily with expensive, harmful chemotherapy drugs.

The good news is that he has been sentenced to 45 years in a federal prison.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman this week heard stories of brittle bones and fried organs as patients chillingly described the effects of excessive chemotherapy at the hands of Dr. Farid

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Palliative care and hospice

hospice and palliative careFor the last few months, my family has been dealing with the reality that my 93-year-old father’s health is failing. Following a health crisis that resulted in his being hospitalized and no longer able to make decisions himself, my mother and siblings all agreed that he would not want any heroic, life-extending treatments.

He survived that hospitalization, however, and is now living in a memory care home. He is receiving excellent (and very expensive) around-the-clock care.

When he was discharged from the hospital, I made it known to everyone involved—his primary care doctor, the visiting home health nurse, and his … Continue reading

A horrific story of cancer treatment fraud

July 14—an update to this story: Cancer doctor’s fraud sends him to prison 

I read a news story out of Michigan yesterday that almost made me literally sick:

Whistle-blower: How doctor uncovered nightmare; Oncologist’s discovery leads to the downfall of a cancer treatment empire

[Dr. Farid] Fata’s Michigan Hematology and Oncology Inc. (MHO) was the state’s largest private cancer practice in 2013, with clinics in seven cities, its own pharmacy and diagnostic center, and 1,700 patients, virtually all of them assigned to Fata, the tireless physician. Those who needed proof of Fata’s dedication could look to the doctor’s work ethic

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Be informed – What is SPF?

An SPF (sun protection factor) rating is an estimate of how effectively a sunscreen product reduces the time it takes your skin to burn. For example, if it normally takes about 10 minutes in the sun for you to burn, a product with an SPF of 15 extends that time to burn to 150 minutes. SPF 30? Approximately 300 minutes.

Related post: First aid for sunburns

Keep in mind two things about SPF:

  1. It is not a super accurate measurement of protection. Different people with different skin types burn at different rates.
  2. SPF measures protection from UVB rays only, not
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Choosing a cancer treatment center

A group of researchers out of the University of Pittsburgh did an interesting study. They looked at over 400 magazine and TV ads for cancer treatment centers to see how marketers tried to attract patients.

What did they find?

Clinical advertisements by cancer centers frequently promote cancer therapy with emotional appeals that evoke hope and fear while rarely providing information about risks, benefits, costs, or insurance availability.

By far the most used phrases were about “hope, life, survival, extension of life, or cure.”

If you have cancer and want to find the “best” treatment, you might be attracted to … Continue reading

Tanning beds and skin cancer

tanning beds and skin cancerLast month a nurse posted this selfie on her Facebook page with the following message:

If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go! This is what skin cancer treatment can look like. Wear sunscreen and get a spray tan. You only get one skin and you should take care of it. Learn from other people’s mistakes. Don’t let tanning prevent you from seeing your children grow up. That’s my biggest fear now that I have a two year old little boy of my own.

I hope a picture is worth … Continue reading

Cancer risk and lack of exercise

Huh. Sitting down too much increases our risk of cancer.

A new study out of Sweden tells us that women who have sedentary jobs and don’t get enough exercise outside of work have the highest increased risk of breast and uterine cancer.

This study looked specifically at those two cancers, but other similar research has linked the lack of exercise to other types of cancer, as well.

And heart disease. And diabetes. And depression.

I don’t need a study to remind me that I probably sit too much in front of my computer and it would benefit me physically and … Continue reading

The cancer reimbursement wars

It’s another case in which the right hand of a behemoth government agency doesn’t know what the left hand is doing: In Cancer Wars, It’s Doctors vs. Hospitals

Colliding federal policies are fomenting a nasty money war that’s pitting community oncologists trying to treat patients in less expensive clinic settings against hospitals trying to woo patients in through costlier emergency departments.

The agencies under discussion are the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) [which both fall under the larger umbrella of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)], and their disparate … Continue reading

Better patient education for mammograms

I’ve mentioned in several posts that I think screening tests, especially mammograms, are used too widely in this country. Every woman over age 40? Every year? It’s overkill.

Even the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) only recommends a screening mammogram every other year between the ages of 50 and 75.

But most women still think the yearly mammogram is health care at its finest.

Related post: Screening mammograms—benefits vs harms

The British medical journal, Lancet, recently published a study that shows women who are better informed about the risks and benefits of screening mammograms are less likely to … Continue reading

Ken Burns films “Emperor of All Maladies”

I read a lot of medical and nursing history, and I loved the Pulitzer-prize winning book “Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” by Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD.

And I love the PBS films by Ken Burns, such as The Civil War and Baseball.

So I was excited to find out that Ken Burns has produced a new PBS documentary based on the book. The six-hour special, Emperor of All Maladies, will air in three, two-hour parts on March 30. March 31, and April 1.

For more about the book, here’s the … Continue reading

Screening mammograms – benefits vs. harms

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a short article on screening mammograms that included a spiffy infographic on the benefits vs. the harms.

Looking at the graphic I can easily see that if 10,000 50-year-old women are screened, 10 will be “saved”, but 940 will undergo an unnecessary biopsy and 57 will be overdiagnosed. (For copyright reasons I can’t reprint the graphic here, but you can view see it yourself by clicking on the above link.)

The author of the article explains:

Another possible harm of screening is overdiagnosis. This means finding something on a mammogram

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Tanning beds are dangerous to your health

Isn’t Florida known as the “Sunshine State”?

Then why do they have so many tanning beds?

That’s what I learned in a recent New York Times article regarding the dangers of tanning beds: Warning: That Tan Could Be Hazardous.

Here in the Sunshine State, there are more tanning salons than McDonald’s restaurants, CVS stores or Bank of America branches, according to a 2014 study by University of Miami researchers.

Interesting. I would have expected my city of Seattle (and yes, it is just as gray and wet as rumors say) to have more, but it doesn’t. And for that … Continue reading