Friday, 31 August 2007

Amy tracks newest gizmos

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What's small, green and cute? Nah, not Kermit the Frog. It's the Renew Lancing System. I was just checking out Amy T's review of this and other cool/interesting new diabetes-related gadgetry on her site, Diabetes Mine.

The Renew Advanced Lancing System: it's sleek, small, and in cool colors - retro lime green and silver. But the name! "Renew Advanced Lancing System" - jeepers, couldn't they have thought of something a little catchier?? Anyway, it's a handy little self-contained, disposable lancing unit that contains twenty needles. Don't bother checking out the website, 'cause there's no info on there yet. Hmm...

Amy gives the thumbs-down to another newie: the DUO-CARE, a combined blood glucose and blood pressure monitor. The idea is okay, but the design: ugh. It takes the form of a huge and clunky wrist bracelet. Remember how guys in the 80s wore those enormous, square digital watches. It looks like that - times twenty! Interesting idea, but a loser, design-wise. (Mind you, if people will use the Exubera mega-inhaler, who's to say they won't buy this, too?)

We applaud Amy's view that diabetes gadgets need to lose the hospital-bed-pan-look. Keep searching for the coolest new stuff, Amy! And here's hoping your terrific letter makes it into the hands of Steve Jobs.

Tuberculosis + diabetes tougher to treat

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New research finds tuberculosis (TB) is more difficult to treat if the patient has type 2 diabetes. The study examined 737 Indonesians with tuberculosis screened for type 2. Nearly 15 percent had type 2, and initially, their TB was as severe as the non-diabetics. After two months of treatment, TB sputum tests were positive 18.1 percent for those with type 2 and only 10 percent in non-diabetics. At the six month mark, 22.2 percent of type 2s had positive sputum results compared to 9.5 percent of the non-diabetics.

The story in Reuters does not address why people with TB and type 2 diabetes do not respond as well to TB treatment. Tuberculosis is a serious infectious disease. Over one-third of the world carries the TB bacterium, and one in ten latent infections will progress to active TB disease. Untreated, active TB is a real threat, it kills more than half of its victims. Experts are examining how rising rates of type 2 are impacting TB control and prevention worldwide.

I just finished reading an excellent book about Dr. Paul Farmer's inspirational work treating tuberculosis in impoverished communities worldwide -- Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World -- masterfully written by Tracy Kidder. I wonder what Dr. Farmer has to say about people with type 2 and TB.

Parenting: your kids are ok, but you have diabetes

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Browsing diabetes-related books on Amazon recently, I came across this one: When You're a Parent with Diabetes: a real life guide to staying healthy while raising a family by Kathryn Gregorio Palmer. It caught my eye because 1.) it got very favorable reader reviews and 2.) it addresses a topic that is usually neglected - being a good parent when it's you with diabetes. When You're a Parent was published in September 2006 by Healthy Living Books.

Interesting, that. I mean, there are tons of resources out there about raising children with diabetes and keeping them healthy. This book addresses the needs of parents with diabetes who want to raise healthy happy children, but also have special health needs of their own to remember.

Top 100 Amazon reviewer Manny Hernandez has posted a review to the site and also this site, praising the book. Manny's a good authority, by the way: he has type 1 diabetes and has his own sites including, TuDiabetes and a blog AskManny. Busy!! According to Hernandez, Palmer is informative but never condescending, guiding parents through anecdotes on her own and others' experiences. Palmer covers the gamut from pregnancy to raising teens, adoption, and dealing with depression, diabetes complications, and communicating with your kids about your condition. Sounds like a good resource.

Islet transplants like low-cal

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Back in 2000, researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada transplanted islet cells in the livers of people with type 1, known as the Edmonton Protocol. Each islet transplant required several cadaver donors. The transplants worked for awhile, but approximately 80 percent of patients required insulin after a couple years. It was assumed the transplanted cells were rejected, but new research points to a new possible culprit -- fat.

Dr. Roger Unger and colleagues of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas performed the Edmonton Protocol in rats with type 1. Fat built up around the transplanted cells in only a month. The cells stopped producing insulin and the rats died after 15 weeks. Dr. Unger explained the liver creates fatty acids from food, and islet transplants in the liver are surrounded by too much fat. He proved his point by repeating the transplant in a separate group of type 1 rats, but this time the rats were on a strict diet. A third group of rats received leptin, a hormone involved in increasing metabolism and decreasing appetite. These rats had an improved response, although the Reuters story does not provide specifics. Here's the study abstract in Diabetes, but ya gotta pay for the full text article.

Bummer. You get an islet cell transplant, but still have to stay away from the Ben & Jerry's. A next step could be testing this theory in human islet cell transplants via a low-calorie, low-sugar diet following transplantation. Read more in Reuters.

Passing the VO2 max test

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Jennifer Ordoñez, a Newsweek journalist who is also a Type 1 diabetic, reported on her experience at a triathlon training camp geared for diabetics. After reading her report, I was curious as to why hypoglycemia would cause a diabetic to fail the VO2 max test.

Nobody likes failing tests - especially when it comes to something as important as VO2 max. VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen a person uses while exercising at their limit for one minute. If you are in shape, your muscles will use a lot of oxygen to create energy. The prime source of energy for the body comes from blood sugar. When Jennifer took her VO2 test her blood sugar was falling and she failed. Apparently when blood sugar is falling the body puts itself into energy lockdown which compromises even conditioned athletes VO2 max.

Hypoglycemia causes muscles to fatigue quicker. Muscle fatigue is the result of inadequate oxygen availability. Prevention of hypoglycemia is one of the major objectives of adequate blood sugar when you are about to work out. By maintaining optimal blood sugar, you can assure a better level of exercise performance. I know better than to tell you what to do. But as a friendly reminder: make sure you've fueled up adequately before you hit the gym or the open road to work on your VO2 max.

Bicycling to bring a cure closer

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In two weeks, Bernard Farrell will be riding in the Bike the Miles annual fundraiser to support Dr. Faustman's research to cure Type 1 diabetes. His participation is especially intrinsic because it is one day away from his 35th anniversary of becoming a Type 1 diabetic.

Bernard plans to raise $10,000 for Dr. Faustman's research. Last year he raised $7,500. The entire event raised a whopping $301,000! All of this funding is going toward the human trials to cure Type 1 diabetes. After discovering that the insulin-producing islet cells of the pancreas are capable of regeneration, Dr. Faustman now needs to test her treatment, already known to be safe in humans, to see if the effects are as positive as they were in the animal model.

It goes without say that this is terribly important for Bernard as much as it is for every man, woman and child touched by Type 1 diabetes. Bike the Miles is an annual event that was started by Susan Root and Jacqueline Fusco in 2004. Both, Susan and Jacqueline, have children who are Type 1 diabetics. Please visit Bernard's site to support his ride and the drive to cure Type 1 diabetes!

Influenza vaccination recommended for people with diabetes

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Aaaahh ... fall will soon deliver golden trees, crisp autumn air, piles of fallen leaves begging to be jumped in, and the stick of the flu vaccine.

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) recently issued a report calling for greater influenza vaccination rates among Americans with diabetes. Turns out more than 50 percent of the 21 million people with diabetes do not receive an annual influenza vaccination. This is contrary to the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and the American Diabetes Association.

According to Dr. William Schaffner, NFID's vice president, the impaired immune systems of people with diabetes can result in a higher risk of serious complications from influenza, including impaired blood sugar control. Annually, this infectious disease strikes up to 60 million Americans and kills an average of 36,000 people -- more than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined. Over 10 percent of deaths linked to influenza and pneumonia are due to diabetes. There are studies citing the benefits of the vaccine for people with diabetes, including reduced hospitalization and death by 72 percent for those with diabetes 18 to 64 years of age, and 80 percent less hospital admissions for children and adults with diabetes.

I'm just speculating, but lack of awareness, lack of access to an affordable vaccine or just plain philosophical disagreement with the need for the vaccine (among other factors) may all play a role in the low influenza vaccination rates for people with diabetes. Just an example, my parents both have type 1, and my mom will stand in line for hours to get a shot (she was hospitalized for influenza in her pre-diabetes days), while my dad always refuses -- he's never had influenza. Read more at Infection Control Today.

MedCo strengthens hold on diabetes market

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Ever heard of MedCo Health Solutions? It's not a household name like the big pharmaceutical companies Novo, Glaxo etc. However, MedCo, which happens to be in the prescription benefit management business, is a large and powerful company. Now it's about to become even larger: the company is poised to pay $1.5 billion for PolyMedica Corporation, the nation's biggest supplier of diabetes-related products.

According to a Forbes report on the deal, PolyMedica has nearly one million patients using its products. Its product line includes Liberty Healthcare brand, blood glucose test kits and meters, lancet kits, insulin and the like. The Forbes article says the move is basically a smart one on the part of MedCo: it can cash in on the growing demand(14.5 % growth, annually!) for diabetes supplies. MedCo's chief exec, David Snow, told Forbes he anticipates the purchase could make his company (indirectly) the supplier of diabetes treatment products to half of all insured Americans with diabetes.

Factoid: ads for PolyMedica star "Cocoon" and "Seinfeld" actor Wilford Brimley.

The corn's alright: industry group rejects HFCS findings

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Yesterday I posted on the latest indicator that high fructose corn syrup is harmful and maybe even linked to diabetes risk. Naturally, the American Beverage Association vigorously rejects the report.

In the interest of balance, here's the opposing argument courtesy of the ABA's website. "There is absolutely no unique link between soft drinks sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and diabetes, in children or adults. In fact, it is a stretch of the imagination to link the laboratory findings of this unpublished in vitro study with the occurrence of diabetes in humans." Ooh, "unpublished." Ouch. Nice veiled barb, there.

The statement goes on in some detail, basically saying if the harmful reactive carbonyls occur naturally in a number of foods, why single out HFCS?

Well, you can't blame them for defending themselves. But I laughed at the following: "Singling out any one food, beverage or ingredient as a unique cause or contributor to diabetes is simply not supported by science." I dunno. A study led by a professor of food science at Rutgers. Sure sounds like science to me...

Lobbying the feds don't come cheap

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The American Association of Diabetes Educators has spent big bucks this year ensuring its point of view gets across to our representatives in the federal government. The AADE spent $375,000 on lobbying in just the first half of 2007, according to a Senate disclosure form that has been picked up by the media. The law requires that such disclosures be made public. Members of the organization include big Pharma names like Eli Lilly, Novartis and Merck.

The AADE is, obviously, a member organization for diabetes educators, with advocacy in Washington - for professionals and patients - coming as an additional service. The government-run site Healthfinder lists more about the AADE if you're interested. Given the amount of money involved, I'm surprised how little attention this has attracted on the Web. Many news services have featured the disclosure, but only in brief. What I'd like to know is: what issues were the AADE lobbying for and against?

Vegetable fiber a first-rate diabetes defense

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We could all benefit from added fiber in our diets. However, it seems the type of fiber consumed is important too. A new study concludes that vegetable fiber is a good defence against type 2 diabetes. The study comes courtesy of researchers at the University of Sydney, Australia, who found that adults eating five grams of vegetable fiber daily were 24 percent less likely than other adults to develop the disease. People over the age of seventy enjoyed a thirty-one percent risk reduction.

The study tracked the eating habits of more than two thousand people over a ten year period. Wow. The researchers also reported that those whose diets contained fiber from mainly cereal or fruit sources did not fare so well - they had a higher risk for type 2 diabetes than those getting lots of fiber from veggie sources. The reason could be that foods high in vegetable fiber produce smaller fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels than would cereal or fruits. Lead researcher, Alan Barclay, says legumes are the best fiber source of all.

The results have been published in the latest Diabetes Care.

Heart Attack Grill owner won't go changin'

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Oh, ho, ho. This is too funny. Thanks, Fox News. According to that worthy network, the owner of the Heart Attack Grill of Phoenix, Arizona, won't be changing his fat-laden menu. Nope. Jon Basso - who likes to call himself "Dr. Jon" - seems to see himself as a sort of last bastion of American manhood, standing strong against the forces of heart healthy eating. To him, heart healthy means pointless political correctness, and he don't like it!

All the main dishes at the Heart Attack Grill are proudly cooked in lard. In addition, other foods contain dangerous trans fats. But Basso says he won't cut them out just to (in his words) "meet societal tastes." When you go out to eat, opines Basso, you should go to have fun and "eat to the fullest. And don't worry about what people are telling you." Pure lard, says Basso, gives meat a "taste worth dying for." That's why Basso's Quadruple Bypass Burgers are staying on the menu. It's about freedom, people.

Basso has just published a book: The Heart Attack Grill Diet. Good Lord.

Click here to read a transcript of Jon "Heart Attack" Basso's interview with Fox host Neil Cavuto.

Fall into fitness with these autumn exercise tips

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April showers bring May flowers, but September brings cooler weather just right for the outdoor exercise routine. The American Heart Association recommends getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days a week, and fall is a great time to rededicate yourself to a consistent fitness routine.

Take advantage of what fall has to offer:
  • Community education classes tend to follow the school year. Try something new with a friend.
  • Brisk air and crunchy leaves invigorate the senses on a fall hike.
  • Work fitness into your kid's routine by walking while you wait for them at practice.
  • Enjoy your favorite fall TV shows -- on a treadmill or exercise bike!
Find more fall fitness tips at WebMD. What about you...what do you love about working out in the fall?

Kids teach parents to do CPR

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A recent study found that a 30-minute training DVD could teach adults to perform CPR just as well as the conventional class, which often took three to four hours. Now, researchers out of Denmark have found an innovative way to get parents to learn CPR...let their kids teach them. During the study, 7th graders watched the DVD at school and practiced CPR on mannequins. Then they took the materials home to their parents with instructions to teach their families how to do the method. Students taught an average of 2.5 people each, and health experts are hopeful that new methods such as this one may reach larger groups of people.

If you're interested in learning CPR at home, check out CPR Anytime for Family and Friends, as well as an infant version for new parents.

Health care really has gone to the dogs

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A dose of Rover might just be the perfect medicine for heart patients. Research, reported by the American Heart Association, has found that spending time with a dog helps heart and lung function by lowering blood pressure, diminishing the release of harmful hormones, and decreasing anxiety.

The best news, is that it doesn't take much time with a furry friend to see results. In the study, hospitalized heart patients spent just 12 minutes with the dogs -- so even short-term exposure to dogs has beneficial physiological and psychosocial effects on patients.

Personally, I can attest that dogs are a great comfort ... they make people happier, calmer, and feel more loved ... this has to be a huge help when you are scared and not feeling well.

Should defibrillators be required in every school?

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I didn't realize this, but there's a nationwide campaign to put portable defibrillators, or AEDs, in every school. Proponents want the defibrillators in place to protect kids who may suffer a cardiovascular event, as well as adults in the school building. But a recent study out of Seattle questions the logic of spending $1000-$3000 on the equipment in every school, when there may not be a need.

Researchers found that few cardiovascular events happen among school aged children as it is, and that an AED would most likely be used on adults who happened to be in the building. They also found that those adults were more likely to be in junior and senior high schools (for sports programs, etc.) so AEDs may not be required at the elementary level.

On the other hand, no one really knows when and where a heart attack may strike, and wouldn't it be tragic if it happened in a building that didn't acquire an AED to cut costs? It's a tough decision for those who balance the school budgets...what do you think?

Nexium and Prilosec are under review after being linked to heart troubles

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Food and drug officials in the USA and Canada are reviewing the long-term effects of common stomach drugs Nexium and Prilosec to determine their safety. The drugs have been linked to heart problems, though officials are saying that preliminary studies show little risk, and therefore doctors should continue to prescribe the medication.

An investigation was launched when a study found that long-term users of the drug were at high risk for heart attacks, heart failure and heart-related sudden death. However, a link does not mean causation, so consumers shouldn't be concerned just yet. Nonetheless, the news is expected to lead to lower sales.

Isn't it time to snuff out candy cigarettes?

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I'll admit, when I was a kid, I was allowed to eat candy "cigarettes," those little sugar sticks with red tips that came in a box that looked like a pack of cigarettes ... or the gum that had powder under the wrapper so you could blow on it to create puffs of smoke. That was back in the day, and now that the dangers of smoking are so well known, I had assumed that these candies were no longer manufactured.

No such luck! Candy and gum resembling tobacco products are still available -- as I quickly found out when my 5 year old (who thinks smoking is gross) thought it was so cool to find a candy pack and tell me that he had cigarettes.

My thought is that these candies are undermining nationwide efforts to prevent tobacco among youth. However, I also have to admit that eating these candies never enticed me into becoming an actual smoker. Never, not once, did I ever have the urge to try a cigarette regardless of my exposure. Still, I believe for the most part that it does give the message that tobacco is cool and fun.

What do you think about candy-tobacco products?

Red yeast rice: A scam?

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You may have heard of red yeast rice as a simple way to lower your cholesterol. After all, that's what some manufacturers want to believe. But don't fall for it -- it's a scam. What's more, many red yeast rice manufacturers have been spiking their product with statins to make them seem more effective.

If you're interested in lowering your cholesterol, there are better ways to do it than wasting your money -- exercising and eating well will do more for your health than any so-called miracle cure will.

A little heavy? You can still have a healthy heart

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The focus these days is focused so strongly on outward appearances that it's becoming more and more common for people to end up waifish and thin but not healthy. Believe it or not, being within the recommended weight range on the scale doesn't necessarily equal good health -- what really matters is how you get there.

Did you know that you can drastically reduce your risk of heart disease just by adding 10 minutes of activity to your daily life? You'll most likely lose a few pounds in the process, but the key is that your heart will get stronger, among other things.

There's no such thing as 'light' cigarettes, according to Health Canada

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On the heels of news that light cigarettes are just as bad for your health as regular ones, Health Canada is looking at banning the light, mild and ultra-light labels on cigarettes here. And tobacco companies aren't planning on fighting it -- they're on board and ready to change their labels.

I think this is an excellent idea. I personally know several people who smoke cigarettes labelled light and while they know that smoking is bad for them, they incorrectly feel better about their choice because it's light. However, I doubt that changing the label will be the thing that makes them quit smoking, but you never know. What do you think?

Four simple things ...

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If you're worried about your heart, and even if your not, improving your health both today and in the long-run is as simple as taking four small steps. That's it. Only four changes. Want to know what they are? Here they are, courtesy of Fitsugar:
  • Eat at least 5 servings of fruit and veggies a day
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day
  • Maintain a healthy weight, and healthy BMI of between (18.5 and 24.9)
  • Don't smoke, or quit if you do
Ok, the last two might be a bit of a struggle for some, but if you do the first two, the last two should follow. These really are the most important things you can do for your health. What do you think?

Folic acid: not just for pregnancy

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Folic acid is an important nutrient for heart-health, some studies are showing. How do you know if you're getting enough? A diet full of fruits and veggies should mean your getting your daily intake, but if you suspect you might not, talk to your doctor. There are plenty of supplements out there that can help you get the folic acid you need. Or the answer might be as simple as adding cereal to your morning routine -- many of the options that line the cereal aisle can pack 100% of your RDI in Folic Acid.

Other good sources of folate include asparagus, broccoli, bananas, nuts, spaghetti and bread.

The worst cities for asthma

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Many people in my life suffer from asthma, myself included. It doesn't help that we live in a city of over a million people, but when I see the pollution that engulfs cities like Los Angeles, I'm grateful for the chance to see blue sky and not just a smoggy haze when I look out my window.

Everyday Health has put together a list of the worst cities for Asthma Sufferers. At the top of the list? Atlanta. Other cities that made the cut include Philadelphia, Raleigh, Knoxville, Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, Little Rock and Harrisburg. Strangely enough, LA only ranked 12th on the list -- I would have thought it to be #1.

Recipe Health Living: BBQ Beef or Chicken

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I've always loved BBQ beef. I'm not a red-meat eater anymore, though, so BBQ chicken will be my new love. Here's a recipe for either option. My mouth is watering already.


  • 1 1/2 pounds beef brisket (or other lean cut) or boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1 sliced onion
  • Combine all ingredients in a crock pot
  • Cook on low heat all day
  • Before serving, shred the meat using two forks in opposing fashion across the grain of the meat
  • Serve on whole grain bread, buns, or tortillas

Makes six servings, each containing approximately 181 calories, 10 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fat, 60 mg. cholesterol, 23 grams protein, 205 mg. sodium, and a trace of fiber.

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FTY720 could be a new weapon in the fight against leukemia

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Researchers from Ohio State University, Columbus, led by Daniolo Perrotti, have shown that a drug known as FTY720 prevents disease in a mouse model of many leukemias caused by BCR-ABL. Nearly all cases of chronic myeloid leukemia [CML-BC] and some cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia [ALL] are caused by changes to BCR-ABL. The drug also caused cells from human cell lines to die in vitro.
FTY720 does not directly target the BCR-ABL kinase, but instead activates phosphatase 2A (PP2A) which is a tumor suppressor that is inactivated by BCR-ABL. There were no adverse effects seen in the mice and no adverse effects in clinical trials for multiple sclerosis.

The authors believe that this study shows strong support for the use of FTY720 as a novel therapeutic for CML and ALL that is not responsive to current treatments with kinase inhibitors.

Cancer genes stay active in non-smokers, says study

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If you used to smoke but do no any longer, did you know that genes that have been 'activated' by your past smoking habit remain on even long after you quit?

This conclusion comes from a new study that is being published today. Researchers analyzed gene activity in the respiratory tracts of 24 smokers, non-smokers and ex-smokers and came up with the suggestion that cancer-related genes just don't "reset" once a smoker stops smoking.

Although those quitters can breathe a sigh of relief (literally and figuratively), the propensity for lung cancer does not automatically diminish once you stop smoking, although it may decrease over time (years and years).

There are so many reasons to quit smoking these days, and this this is yet another good one, even though it may suggest otherwise.

Asbestos-related cancer drug access becomes frustrating in Ireland

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An asbestos-related cancer called mesothelioma is a particularly deadly cancer that has little help these days from the global medical community (probably due to not being a highly popular cancer).

That doesn't mean a possible treatment should be put on hold, but that is the way some Northern Ireland cancer sufferers are probably feeling right now. A new mesothlioma drug called Alimta will make it to Northern Ireland sometime in the near future (just no this year), as it'll be the last UK region to receive access to the drug.

What's worrisome is that Ireland has a high rate of incurable lung cancer due to its history as a shipbuilding country where workers were regularly exposed to dangerous airborne particles, with some causing mesothelioma cases.

Doctors urged to apologize when they make a mistake

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According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, until recently, medical mistakes were rarely discussed and almost never admitted to patients due to physicians' pride and fear of malpractice lawsuits. However, that mindset may be beginning to change, as leading patient safety organizations call for full disclosure of medical errors and some hospitals change to an "honesty is best" policy.

Such organizations working for this change include the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and the National Quality Forum.

According to a study cited in the article, although all doctors say they want to be honest, fewer than half actually reveal serious errors that they have made. One of the biggest obstacles to disclosure is the fear of lawsuits and more than 30 states have passed 'apology laws' that bar apologies by physicians being used against physicians in court.

However, according to the article, most lawyers and doctors remain fearful and insurance companies usually insist that doctors break off all direct communications with patients after medical mistakes happen.

Low doses of radiation and breast cancer: A connection

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Studies are showing that low-dose radiation treatments may increase the risk of breast cancer. This may include diagnostic chest x-rays, as well as other treatments like radiotherapy for skin conditions. The findings aren't conclusive thus far but they warrant further investigation, according to this article.

Considering the prevalence of X-rays, I think this is fairly alarming. What do you think? Are these findings worrisome, or are the studies making a big deal out of something that's probably nothing?

Thought for the Day: Sit down and eat a family meal - of fruit

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I'm a huge believer in the power of foods to battle the ravages of cancer among other things. In a household I know of that contains a cancer survivor, the family gets together one time a week to have dinner around the dinner table. Sounds typical, right?

The only difference here is that everyone must eat several pieces of fresh fruit for dinner. No vegetables (those come on a different night) and no drinks besides water. Just fruit.

Amazingly, the kids in this family acclimated to the one-fruit-night pretty fast, and now they actually enjoy it. I thought it was a rather unique way to express the importance of fresh fruits on one's diet. After all, many believe that blueberries are one of the most potent anti-cancer foods there is. Why not get in the habit of eating them?
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Cancer survivor forced to remove wig for driving test

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At the University of Florida, where my husband works, spouses can get campus I.D. cards which allow access to recreational centers, swimming pools, a university lake, and more. A few years ago, I stood in line for my card. It was during my chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer, and I wore a blond wig topped with a ball cap. Once at the front of line, a college student employee told me to remove my hat so my photo could be taken.

I couldn't take my hat off -- it covered a partial wig made for use with hats, and the very top was made of soft cotton and no hair. I didn't want to be photographed wearing my clown-like wig. I didn't want to be photographed bald. I wanted to look as normal as possible during a time when I felt nothing of the sort.

I told the I.D. center staff of my situation and although these young people seemed a bit unsettled by my story, they complied. And I now have an I.D. that pictures me, my blond wig, and my pink hat. It looks nothing like me. My post-chemo hair came in dark and curly.

A young woman in England didn't have my good fortune when she was recently ordered to remove her wig during a driving test.

Hannah Marie Jones, 20, says she was humilated and driven to tears after being told she must remove her beanie hat for her driver's license photo. Her wig was stitched onto the hat and when she removed the hat, the hair came with it. Jones had told employees of her situation but security measures prevented anyone from making an exception.

Jones failed her driving test, but was told she can take her next one for free. She doesn't want a free test. She just wants an apology.

Survival Spotlight: Lesa feels compelled to make a difference for others going through cancer

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Lesa, How did you find out you had breast cancer?

I found out during a routine annual mammography. Something didn't look right and I was urged to follow up with a surgeon for a biopsy. The official word came from him a week later.

What types of breast cancer treatments were recommended?

The first surgeon recommended surgery and then treatment consisting of chemo and possible radiation. We went for a second opinion, and the oncologist and surgeon both recommended chemo first, followed by surgery. While I was considered a candidate for lumpectomy, it was suggested that my risk factors would be lowered to single digits if I opted for mastectomy. We decided on mastectomy.

How did you research breast cancer and breast cancer treatments?

Through networking with trusted sources, in addition to a great deal of reading and online research.

How did you tell your family?

In person with those I am closest too, and by email to extended family and friends. The email part was the easiest - you can type even when you're choked up.

Are you involved with any breast cancer support groups, fundraisers or breast cancer organizations?

Yes - I've found wonderful support through Young Survivors Coalition and Back in the Swing. I will be volunteering for Back in the Swing this fall, walking in the Komen Race for the Cure this September in Chicago, and plan to attend the YSC conference in February 2008.

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed with breast cancer?

Assemble a strong support team - close friends and family. Do everything you can to educate yourself on the subject to ensure that you will be able to make informed decisions. Seek out support groups and services available in your area. Try not to become discouraged - there are new treatment methods and options being developed every day.

What advice would your give the family members and friends of someone diagnosed with breast cancer?

Don't say, "if there is anything I can do".... do something, anything - sometimes a simple thing like washing someone's car or bringing dinner is so helpful.

As a breast cancer survivor, what thoughts do you have on surviving breast cancer and being a breast cancer survivor?

I feel compelled now to make this journey easier for another person diagnosed with breast cancer. My volunteer work is a result of that conviction, and I hope to do great things in support of survivorship.

Name other breast cancer related resources that you recommend:

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Number of Americans without health insurance on the rise, according to Census Bureau

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U.S. Census Bureau data released this week shows a rise in the number of American lacking health insurance. The Census Bureau data shows that 47 million people did not have coverage in 2006, up from 44.8 million in 2005. The number of children without healthcare coverage also rose to 8.7 million children up from 8 million.

The main reason for the increase is that employment-based coverage rates continue to fall. According to the survey, almost 59% of the uninsured worked during 2006. Adults aged 18 to 34 make up the largest portion of the uninsured.

I've watched beloved family and friends battle cancer and even with the best health insurance going, it was still an uphill battle. I can't imagine what it's like for those who don't have health insurance. Let's hope our country can figure this one out.

For a review of the coverage on this survey including the responses from the Bush administration, lawmakers and presidential candidates, please see the Kaiser Daily Health Report here.

Today, I am grateful

The following post is one of a series of posts appearing Monday through Friday on The Cancer Blog. This feature -- Today, I am grateful -- allows me to share with readers my appreciation for all the treasures in my life, both big and small. In my post-cancer world, I find It healing for my soul to be mindful of the good in my life. It is my pleasure to share my gratitude with you.

I thought my treatment was complete after one lumpectomy, four rounds of dose-dense chemotherapy, and almost seven weeks of radiation. But when I saw my oncologist one June day, several weeks after my radiation was over, he announced that there was more in store.

Less than one month prior to our meeting, my doctor had been to a big oncology conference, the one where astonishing findings about Herceptin were revealed. Herceptin is the targeted breast cancer therapy made for women like me, with an aggressive Her-2 positive disease. My tumor over-expressed a certain protein, and clinical trials turned up great news for me. Herceptin could cut my risk of recurrence by 50 percent.

My doctor was convinced -- I needed Herceptin. He gave me a few weeks to think about it. Any more time and I'd lose my window. Herceptin had to be given within six months of chemotherapy treatment, and I was nearing this deadline. My chemotherapy ended at the very beginning of March. It was the end of June.

I decided to accept Herceptin therapy. My first dose came on July 27, 2005. For the following 52 weeks, I reported every three weeks for my infusion of live-saving medication. On June 28, 2006, it was all over. This was the end of my treatment.

Today, I am grateful for Herceptin -- for its effectiveness, for its FDA approval, for its timely release into the hands of my doctor, for its role in helping to save my life.

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Armstrong visits South Korea -- for cycling and cancer awareness

One of the more vocal people for the abatement of cancer in any form has been world record-holder Lance Armstrong. The retired pro bicyclist just keeps on chugging when it comes to appearances and other events that detail people's struggle against cancer in any form.

The amount of money Armstrong has landed for cancer research is pretty staggering, a sign that he is indeed dedicated. For the first time ever, though, he is headed to South Korea to promote the Tour de Korea professional bicycle race.

But, he'll be doing more than that -- he's seeing cancer patients and donating equipment to help raise money for the Korean Make-A-Wish foundation for cancer patients.

R&B singer Toni Braxton does not have breast cancer

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Six-time Grammy award winning R&B singer and songwriter Toni Braxton wants everyone to know she does not have breast cancer, despite media reports stating the contrary.

"There has been a rumor circulating that I have been diagnosed with breast cancer," said the 39-year-old mother of two. "After feeling something uncomfortable in my left breast, I went in for a screening. I was very fortunate that they did not find anything and I am in great health."

Braxton, 39, encourages all women to attend annual exams and take precautions to prevent breast cancer.

All worries aside, Braxton is appearing five nights per week in her own Las Vegas show called Toni Braxton: Revealed, at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino.

Woman commits suicide after cancer diagnosis

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Receiving a cancer diagnosis is a huge shocker, and like grief, people respond in different ways. But I hope it's not common for people to respond like this woman in Quebec City, who committed suicide by setting herself on fire on the day her chemo treatments were set to begin. She burned herself beyond recognition in a car alongside two propane tanks. Next to the the vehicle, police found some personal affects and a suicide note.

Apparently, this is not unheard of, as people are often at risk of suicide after receiving bad news. Still, considering all the advances that are happening each day in the medical field, it's a shame that she couldn't stick around to have her hope and health restored. My thoughts go out to her family.

Geraldine Ferraro's thoughts on surviving cancer

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Many of us have heard of Geraldine Ferraro, who ran with Walter Mondale in a failed U.S. presidential bid in the 1980s. What you may not know is that Ferraro was diagnosed with multiple myeloma almost a decade ago.

Today, she is living a full life and has seen her cancer go into remission after being given not that long to live when her cancer was first discovered. She gives credit to the Velcade drug, which controls the blood cancer she has without the nasty side effects that can come from traditional chemotherapy.

Velcade was not available when Ferraro was first diagnosed, but she swears by it now, saying that her cancer is "a chronic disease instead of a death sentence." The one thing that concerns Ferraro is the cost, since each Velcade injection costs $1,000 -- putting it out of the reach of many Americans (and others).

Dual therapy for high-risk prostate cancer

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According to research carried out by Dr. Michael Dattoli, of the Dattoli Cancer Center, Sarasota, Florida, high rates of tumor control are possible over the long term in high-risk prostate cancer patients with combination treatment consisting of external beam radiation followed by brachytherapy. This research was reported in the journal Cancer.

According to Dr. Dattoli, despite perceptions that brachytherapy is inappropriate for patients at high risk of cancer progression, this study strengthens the rationale behind using brachytherapy for such patients.

In addition, most patients were cured without incurring incontinence or impotence over the long-term.

Famous artist paints for a cause

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World-renowned artist Susan Rios is donating her time and artwork to a worthy cause: Breast Cancer. Her piece, called 'Feel the Hope', will be signed and sold at $49, with 100% of the profits going to breast cancer. Rios says that the painting was named by her former husband, who himself is battling cancer and is not expected to survive. The artwork and its title are meant to offer hope to those battling cancer.

Rios is a well-know painter whose work adorns the walls for the White House, as well the homes of many celebrities. I think it's great that she is offering some of her talent to the ongoing battle.

Thyroid Cancer Conference

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Attention Thyroid cancer survivors and patients: the Thyroid Cancer Survivors Conference is happening this fall in San Francisco on October 19-21. The conference will be an invaluable resource for those affected by the disease, and features many experts on the disease among its panel of speakers. The sessions won't just be about the science behind the disease -- there will be talks on coping skills, healing and general well-being. Past conference attendees have lots of good things to say about the experience, which you can read for yourself here.

For more information, visit the Thyca Website, or Email the conference organizers at

Self-collection of HPV testing specimens feasible according to study

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In a new study published in CMAJ, Dr. Gina Oglivie and colleagues explored the feasibility of women self-collecting specimens for HPV testing. They focused on women who might not make full use of screening programs such as women who were homeless or involved in the sex trade.

Nurses recruited women from women's shelters and alleys in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Of the 151 participants, almost 29% tested positive for high-risk HPV. The nurses were able to recontact over 80% of the patients who tested positive to refer them for further testing.

The authors conclude that self-collection of specimens is feasible for women who are at high risk of HPV infection.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

New type 2 medication study seeks participants

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Participants are being sought for a new study on the possible benefits of an aspirin-like medication for people with type 2 diabetes. The research, which is being funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, is aimed at determining if Salsalate, a drug that has been used for more than 40 years to treat pain associated with arthritis, can also be used to help manage diabetes.

Recent studies have linked chronic inflammation to the development of insulin resistance type 2 diabetes. To that end, researchers are looking for adults ages 18 to 75 whose glucose levels are not well controlled and who do not take insulin. Participants will be randomly assigned to either receive Salsalate or a placebo and will receive all medication related to the study at no expense to them. They will also be compensated for time and travel.

If you'd like more information, call 312-355-4442 and ask for Felecia Gilet.

CA school nurses balk at training non-medical staff

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Recently I posted on the California Department of Education's recent lawsuit settlement with the American Diabetes Association. CDE promised students would have access to legally-required diabetes care on campus. With a shortage of school nurses, CDE agreed caregivers could include trained volunteers. I came away from the agreement thinking, "Good! It may have taken a lawsuit, but problem solved." But this settlement is hardly a neatly wrapped package.

Liability drives many decisions. Now the California School Nurses Organization has advised school nurses to seek guidance from district lawyers before training volunteers. Nurses are concerned they could lose their licenses if they train non-medical staff. Executive Director Nancy Spradling stated insulin injections should be monitored by licensed personnel -- incorrect calculations can be fatal or trigger a coma. They've got a point.

Student diabetes care varies widely in California. With a student population of 22,000, Lake Elsinore Unified School District is doing a good job. They have eight nurses taking care of 70 students with diabetes. Last year, Palm Springs Unified School District had only 3 nurses for 24,000 students, requiring parents to visit district schools daily to inject children too young to handle the task themselves.

Arlene Mayerson, directing attorney with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (they represented the ADA in the lawsuit), stated California has one of the lowest nurse-to-student ratios. Perhaps a new certification for a 'School Diabetes Specialist' is on the horizon. Regardless, I hope the CDE figures out a solution to honor the settlement. I bet school districts across the country are watching -- the health of students with diabetes is at stake. Don't forget the nurses' concern. Beyond losing their licenses, no one wants to see a student with diabetes hurt or killed due to an improperly trained, unlicensed adult volunteer. Read the full story in The Press Enterprise.

Going the distance for diabetes

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Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with David Kliff, of Diabetic Investor. When diabetes came knocking on David's door - he took the higher road, literally, and many would agree he has made the most of it.

David created Diabetic Investor to share his opinion as a leading authority on the business of diabetes from the unique perspective of a diabetic. Along the way he has gained interest in leading-edge technologies and breakthrough medicines to enhance the treatment of diabetes. His research and his craft for controlling his diabetes has significantly impacted his health for the best - and it keeps getting better.

David is now a marathon runner. His training efforts have resulted in a resounding 45 pound weight loss, cutting his insulin dose substantially, and improving his overall health. He launched a blog to promote his participation in the New York City Marathon this November. Checkout Dave's Run for Diabetes, and show your support for his efforts to go the distance for diabetes - all 26.2 miles!