Displaying items by tag: Detection and Diagnosis - Facing Cancer Together Facing Cancer Together invites anyone to join the conversation as we connect stories and lives of people touched by cancer. http://facingcancertogether.witf.org Wed, 21 Mar 2018 19:55:04 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb What you can learn from Angelina’s choice http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/expert-journal/what-you-can-learn-from-angelina-s-choice-6713 http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/expert-journal/what-you-can-learn-from-angelina-s-choice-6713

Angelina Jolie’s revelation that she had both breasts removed to prevent breast cancer is focusing attention on genetic testing and the choices patients face when they get the result. What does the news mean for you?

Jolie is in a very small group of women with a genetic mutation, BRCA1, which made it very likely she would develop breast cancer at some point. She said her doctors estimated her risk at 87 percent, far more than a woman’s average risk of 12.4 percent.

Jolie’s mother died of ovarian cancer at age 56. Her cancer was caused by the same genetic mutation. When she learned that she too carried the breast cancer gene mutation, Jolie decided to have a preventive mastectomy and breast reconstruction. She estimates the surgery lowered her risk to five percent.

It is a drastic choice for an extreme circumstance. In the aftermath, Jolie is being praised as courageous and brave and for making her medical choice public in an Op-ed piece in The New York Times.

genetic-dropperAs one of the world’s most glamorous and influential women, Jolie has certainly raised awareness of the seriousness of carrying the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, and of the importance of genetic testing to give some women potentially life-saving information.

But genetic testing—and preventive mastectomies—are not for women of average risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Testing may be appropriate for people who are likely to have inherited a mutation, who have a personal or family history of cancer, or who have specific types of breast cancer.

At Lancaster General Health, we have partnered with the University of Pennsylvania to offer a Cancer Risk Evaluation Program on-site. We provide a comprehensive evaluation of your family history to see if it’s likely that you inherited a mutation. You will be counseled so that you can give informed consent to the test and how the information will be used. And you will receive a risk-reduction plan, regardless of whether you have the mutation or not. The program is staffed by two genetics counselors and directed by a medical oncologist.

Remember, more than 99 percent of women do not have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, which cause only five percent of all breast cancers. They are not like Angelina Jolie. They will not face the choices she had to make.

randall-oyerWe must make sure that Jolie’s revelation helps the right women—those in the high-risk category. And even these women need to proceed with caution because preventive mastectomies may not be the best option in all cases.

Randall A. Oyer, MD, is the medical director of the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Risk Evaluation Program at Lancaster General Health and the Ann B. Barshinger Institute. He is a hematologist/oncologist with Hematology-Oncology Medical Specialists in Lancaster.

(Angelina Jolie photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Expert Journal Fri, 07 Jun 2013 16:39:11 +0000
Self-diagnosis using the Internet 

 http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/cancer-and-treatments/self-diagnosis-using-the-internet-111612 http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/cancer-and-treatments/self-diagnosis-using-the-internet-111612 Self-diagnosis using the Internet 

(Lancaster) -- Many times, the first thing a person does when experiencing some unusual medical symptoms is head to the Internet.

But using a search engine may not always be the best way to diagnose an ailment or health-related issue.

witf's Megan Lello spoke with Dr. Paul Conslato, medical director for Lancaster General Medical Group, about how to responsibly read through diagnoses online. Dr. Conslato says that some independent learning on symptoms that they are experiencing is usually a good idea.

Listen to their conversation:


self-diagnosis-internetDr. Conslato says, “The reality is, a more informed patient usually leads to a more productive engagement where the physician is acting as a partner in finding a solution to a person’s healthcare needs,” he explains.

But, with every potential innovation in healthcare there are some downsides. What he sees on an infrequent basis is a heightened concern about symptoms.

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“An e-Patient is someone that is empowered, engaged, equipped, and enabled,” says Christine Amy from Aligning Forces for Quality --- South Central Pennsylvania. Amy works to help people become better so-called “e-Patients” by using technology to stay informed about their health.

Amy highlights some of the characteristics of an engaged patient in this video.

The healthcare industry is just starting to incorporate electronic medical records, patient portals, and apps into their practices. And, although it is just the beginning, Dr. Karen Jones, an Internist & Medical Director for Quality and Innovation at WellSpan Health, says that the future is not too far out in changing how care is delivered and received. Watch the video here.

“For me, the most exciting part of the Digital Age in health care is the potential we have to help people understand and have more control of their health care,” says Dr. Jones.

And, check out this video to learn more about how medical apps are streamlining care and are helping patients become more engaged in their care.

Where do you turn for information about a diagnosis or symptoms you're experiencing? Do you feel that doing some research before a visit with your doctor makes it a more meaningful interaction? Please share your thoughts in a comment below.

Cancer and Treatments Mon, 03 Dec 2012 15:41:00 +0000
Study: no increased risk of heart problems from breast cancer radiation http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/research-and-clinical-trials/study-no-increased-risk-of-heart-problems-from-breast-cancer-radiation-111312 http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/research-and-clinical-trials/study-no-increased-risk-of-heart-problems-from-breast-cancer-radiation-111312 Study: no increased risk of heart problems from breast cancer radiation

(Philadelphia) -- New breast cancer research finds no increased risk of heart problems after certain types of breast cancer therapy. Smaller studies have previously raised concerns about heart damage when women with cancer opt for radiation treatments.

heart-docDr. Charles Simone of the University of Pennsylvania Health System is the study's lead author.  He says the study looked at the heart health of women more than 25 years after radiation treatments.

"It should really continue to be a standard option for women," Simone says. "This study hopefully should reassure many women that, at least for cardiac outcomes, there's no appreciable increased risk with radiation therapy."

Simone says patients in the study underwent extensive testing, including blood sampling and imaging.

He presented the findings at the American Society for Radiation Oncology's Annual Meeting.

Research and Clinical Trials Thu, 15 Nov 2012 17:14:00 +0000
Telemedicine: Improving efficiency and outcomes http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/expert-journal/telemedicine-improving-efficiency-and-outcomes-103112 http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/expert-journal/telemedicine-improving-efficiency-and-outcomes-103112 Telemedicine: Improving efficiency and outcomes

Telemedicine is a new option to improve efficiency and outcomes for services when time or availability to reach a patient is important. It is a system that works between two computers to allow a physician and patient to see and talk to each other without being in the same location, much like video chat.


Telemedicine can be used for patient care such as emergent treatment of stroke patients with Tele-Stroke, evaluation of patients at long-term care facilities and urgent care centers known as, Tele-Triage, as well as monitoring of critically ill patients known in Tele-ICU. This advanced form of treatment provides improved quality and efficiency of care, better availability of specialists, and wide spread critical care in geographies that do not have specialty services.

With advancements in technology like telemedicine, stroke cases in which the time it takes for a neurologist to join a care team can affect the patient's chances of a positive outcome. While neurologists are always on-call they spend critical time in transport. When stroke alerts are initiated from multiple sites, even more time is wasted with the duplication of efforts in a critical time. In many cases there is a three-hour window from the onset of a stroke to intervention to deliver common treatments, including travel to the hospital. Many times, the three hour window has passed by the time the patient is evaluated.


When a stroke is suspected, protocol dictates that the patient should be transported to a stroke center. This may mean a helicopter flight or other costly transportation. If a neurologist performs an assessment using telemedicine at the point of admission, patients that do not need stroke care are not transported benefiting the patient and the payer, and patients who do need stroke care can be treated promptly.

Different than Tele-Stroke, Tele-Triage works by putting small portable devices at first access locations like urgent care, walk-in clinics and pharmacies. The camera has the ability to “call” the Tele-Triage center staffed by a physician, nurse, or appropriate clinical person. When patients arrive at the urgent care center or other location with a health issue that may need more care than can be provided on-site, such as a burn or wound or serious infection, they can access the Tele-Triage Desk at the host hospital and determine a course of action in the coordination of patient care.


In many cases, the availability of Intensivist physicians that specialize in critical care may be required to cover several hospitals. Indications are that outcomes are better when an intensivist is involved. The use of telemedicine has made this possible.

Telemedicine provides a mechanism that allows these limited resources to be in remote or in multiple places at the same time. This application requires that all the information needed by the doctors is provided in all supported locations and that the specialists and the remote doctors are connected by processes and operate as a unit providing better coordinated, quality care to patients.

Written by Safa P. Farzin, MD,
Associate Chief Medical Officer & Director of Critical Care at PinnacleHealth


Related links:
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Expert Journal Wed, 31 Oct 2012 17:51:42 +0000
How medical apps are streamlining health care http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/cancer-and-treatments/how-medical-apps-are-streamlining-health-care-102512 http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/cancer-and-treatments/how-medical-apps-are-streamlining-health-care-102512 How medical apps are streamlining health care

“When I think about the ways that doctors are accessing medical applications and patient data now, I think of keywords like value and convenience,” says Dr. Michael Ripchinski, Chief Medical Information Officer and Family Physician at Lancaster General Health. “It is valuable for them to have access to record electronically so they can can continue to deliver care for patient even in the off hours. And, it is convenient that they don’t have to travel back to office to initiate or continue care for their patients.”

medical-apps-chartDr. Ripchinski says that a lot of physicians on his staff are using cell phones and tablets to find patient info quickly and to be able to interact with their chart on the go. This allows them to deliver more efficient care and to be more connected with the medical information in their record. Medical apps also provide quick access to reference materials that can be used to diagnose a patient during a visit. Scroll down for the video.

As a family physician, he says that he will oftentimes prescribe apps for his patients to use at home. He highly encourages them to access their own medical chart, which is one of the biggest ways in which they can engage in their health care. It also increases the chart’s accuracy. For others, he will prescribe wellness or fitness apps that can track exercise, diet or sugars. He says that using apps has helped his patients improve their health care because apps are easy and fun to use.

health-appsDr. Adelle Kurtz, a Family Physician with Partners in Family Health PC, says, “There have been more studies recently on lifestyle, If someone watches more than four hours of TV per day, they are more likely to die early. If a person eats more sodium than they should, they are more likely to suffer sudden death. So, if they can track blood pressure, sodium, exercise- they’re going to live longer.” She highlights the fact that most apps are inexpensive and many are free. A ranking system will help a person decide what might be worth trying, and if a certain app doesn’t fit your needs, it is easy to delete and download a different one. Look below for a list of Dr. Kurtz’s favorite apps.

“For those people who are hesitant to try apps, I will show them an app in the office and show them how easy it is to access. It shouldn’t be scary to use apps because it provides great information to them,” Dr. Ripchinski says.

apps-mobileDr. Adelle Kurtz's list of favorite apps:

Blood Pressure Companion app
Salt Tracker app
Brainy app
Heart Rate Monitor app
Weight Tracker app
Glucose Buddy app
Diabetes app
SuperTracker online tracker

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Cancer and Treatments Wed, 31 Oct 2012 13:24:00 +0000
Code Pink http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/expert-journal/code-pink-102612 http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/expert-journal/code-pink-102612 Code Pink

Cancer is the epidemic of modern times. Unlike other diseases that have plagued people throughout history like tuberculosis and polio, we haven’t yet discovered a vaccine against it. One of the most common manifestations of this disease is breast cancer, which affects not only one in eight women, but also thousands of men in the United States.

In fact, only lung cancer is more destructive. And if someone you love gets breast cancer, it will cost more than just their health: treatment typically costs between $50,000 and $100,000, the latter of which is more than twice the annual median U.S. income. Early detection is the key to surviving breast cancer, so share this graphic with people you love to help them learn stuff about beating cancer before it has a chance.


Expert Journal Fri, 26 Oct 2012 13:16:32 +0000
Capitol fountain turned pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/cancer-and-treatments/capitol-fountain-turned-pink-for-breast-cancer-awareness-month-101512 http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/cancer-and-treatments/capitol-fountain-turned-pink-for-breast-cancer-awareness-month-101512

(Harrisburg) -- The fountain behind the State Capitol is roaring with pink-colored water this month in an effort to raise breast cancer awareness.

pink fountain 300x170It's been a tradition during October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Pennsylvania First Lady Susan Corbett says the pink water serves as a reminder of the importance of early detection through self-exams, check-ups and mammograms.

"When they walk past the pink fountain, I hope they think of their mothers, their sisters, their daughters, their wives, and ask them, 'have you had your annual mammogram?' It's a reminder that this is an illness that we can fight," Corbett says.

The recent ceremony marking the coloring of the fountain also recognized the 20th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition.

The Lancaster County-based group advocates for breast cancer patients and raises funds for research.

Related stories:

Click here for breast cancer patient resources at the PA Breast Cancer Coalition site.

Watch the video below to hear personal stories shared by breast cancer survivors.

Cancer and Treatments Mon, 22 Oct 2012 21:26:00 +0000
New PHC4 Report: Multiple breast cancer procedures decline, Preventive procedures on the rise http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/research-and-clinical-trials/new-phc4-report-multiple-breast-cancer-procedures-decline-preventive-procedures-on-the-rise-102212 http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/research-and-clinical-trials/new-phc4-report-multiple-breast-cancer-procedures-decline-preventive-procedures-on-the-rise-102212 New PHC4 Report: Multiple breast cancer procedures decline, Preventive procedures on the rise

Harrisburg, PA - October 9, 2012 - While the number of Pennsylvania women undergoing surgery for breast cancer at hospitals in the Commonwealth remained fairly constant over the past decade, the number of women who had both a mastectomy and a lumpectomy in the same year dropped significantly, according to new figures published today by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4). The report also indicated that the number of women electing preventive surgery increased from 2002 to 2011. This latest PHC4 report is being released in conjunction with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October).

PHC4 records show that 10,977 Pennsylvania women received surgical treatment for breast cancer in hospitals within the state in 2011, compared to 11,074 in 2002. However, 3,173 of those had only mastectomies, an increase from 2,696 in 2002. The number having only lumpectomies also rose from 6,843 to 7,200. The number who had both types of surgeries, however, declined 60 percent, from 1,535 in 2002 to 604 in 2011.

surgery-cancer“By providing the latest information on trends in treatment, this report can be a resource for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer as they discuss options with their physicians,” said PHC4 Executive Director Joe Martin. “The data show that the number of women undergoing breast cancer surgery was consistent from 2002 through 2011, but that there are far fewer instances of a women having both a mastectomy and a lumpectomy in the same year and fewer instances of multiple lumpectomies in the same year. This improvement in efficacy and efficiency of treatment is sparing women the physical, mental and emotional toll of multiple surgical treatments.”

Women sometimes choose preventive surgery before they are diagnosed with breast cancer, because of a genetic predictor, a family history, or a personal history with the disease. That number climbed dramatically from 94 women in 2002 to 455 in 2011.


Mr. Martin noted the increase in prophylactic or preventive procedures saying, “While there have been anecdotal reports in recent years of an increase in prophylactic mastectomies, this report contains new empirical evidence that women are increasingly turning to preventive procedures.”

Among the other key findings in Surgical Treatment of Breast Cancer in Pennsylvania, 2002-2011:

  • Women ages 60 and over accounted for 58% of the breast cancer surgeries in the state in 2011, while women under age 40 comprised just 3%.
  • While the number of women having breast cancer surgery declined by only 97 between 2002 and 2011, the number of hospitalizations declined by 1,400, mostly because fewer women were hospitalized multiple times in the same year for lumpectomies.
  • In 2011, 84 men had surgical treatment for breast cancer in PA.
  • Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) paid an average of $6,109 for an inpatient mastectomy in PA in 2010. Medicaid FFS paid an average of $8,445 for an inpatient mastectomy. Medicare and Medicaid fee-for-service paid for about 28% of all inpatient mastectomies in 2010, which amounted to $5,667,495.

PHC4 is an independent state agency charged with collecting, analyzing and reporting information that can be used to improve the quality and restrain the cost of health care in Pennsylvania. Copies of the free report can be downloaded from PHC4’s website at http://www.phc4.org.

Research and Clinical Trials Mon, 22 Oct 2012 15:11:25 +0000
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to host public town hall meeting 10/22/12 http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/cancer-and-treatments/the-leukemia-lymphoma-society-to-host-public-town-hall-meeting-10/22/12-101912 http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/cancer-and-treatments/the-leukemia-lymphoma-society-to-host-public-town-hall-meeting-10/22/12-101912 The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to host public town hall meeting 10/22/12

Harrisburg, PA – The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) of Central Pennsylvania announced today that it will host a Town Hall Meeting open to the public.

The event will take place on October 22nd from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at witf, 4801 Lindle Road, Harrisburg and will include a presentation from LLS Office of Public Policy staff, followed by an open discussion on current issues in PA including orally administered cancer treatment parity, federal issues affecting cancer patients, and engaging advocates to make a difference. (Click here for directions to witf)


LLS is committed to removing access barriers to coordinate, quality care for cancer patients in Pennsylvania. They are encouraging community members to come and share their thoughts about what matters to cancer patients in the central PA community. Attendees will gain valuable information about how advocacy and policy can make a difference.

“In this day and age, you can almost guarantee that at least one person you talk to during the course of your day has been directly impacted by cancer, or knows someone who has or had cancer….it could be a relative, friend, or co-worker. Until you’re in the situation, you have no idea of the challenges they are facing, not just physically and emotionally, but financially too,” said Lori Reese, LLS Central PA Board of Trustee and Advocacy Chair. “It is so important that we as a community learn the issues that cancer patients and their families are facing and how we can join together to make a difference in the treatment and care they receive. I think the Town Hall Meeting will be a great learning opportunity for us to have meaningful conversation about a disease that affects so many people in our region.”

caring-cancer-doctorThe mission of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and to improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to curing blood cancer. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provides free information and support services, including research, patient services and public policy advocacy, to name a few.

pa-capitolThe Central Pennsylvania Chapter annually holds a Lobby Day at the Capitol in Harrisburg. In February 2013, volunteers, patients, family members, and supporting organizations from across PA will come together to in Harrisburg to advocate for legislation that will ensure equitable insurance coverage for cancer treatment for patients in PA.

“We are engaging in a massive fight with cancer,” said Elizabeth Mihmet, executive director of the Central PA Chapter of LLS. “It’s about working together for a better and stronger commonwealth for our families.”

For more information or for to become an advocate, contact The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Central PA Chapter at (717) 652-6520 or at http://www.lls.org/aboutlls/chapters/cpa/.

Learn more about the event's discussion topics here.

Cancer and Treatments Fri, 19 Oct 2012 17:17:50 +0000
Doctors embracing the Digital Age http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/cancer-and-treatments/doctors-embracing-the-digital-age-101512 http://facingcancertogether.witf.org/cancer-and-treatments/doctors-embracing-the-digital-age-101512 Doctors embracing the Digital Age

“For me, the most exciting part of the Digital Age in health care is the potential we have to help people understand and have more control of their health care,” says Dr. Karen Jones, an Internist & Medical Director for Quality and Innovation at WellSpan Health.

The health care industry is just starting to incorporate electronic medical records, patient portals, and apps into their practices. And, although it is just the beginning, Dr. Jones says that the future is not too far out in changing how care is delivered and received.   Scroll down to watch the video.


“You have to have the right tool for the right situation. I would never tell someone that they have cancer over the phone or in an email. That needs to be face to face,” Dr. Jones says. She explains that although some situations call for a face-to-face conversation, helping a patient to understand the process and what to expect can be done with a tool that they can get on a smartphone or computer. She says, “This helps set them up for a more meaningful conversation when they do talk to a provider.”

“Health care today is complicated. It is not like the olden days when there was one doctor for the whole town. Now, we have a lot of specialization and places to keep track of,” she says.


She explains that electronic medical records are doing a great job in keeping physicians in the loop about patients’ care.  Connected physicians use smartphones and tablets along with apps, online tools and online medical records to deliver more efficient care.

Some things that we may see in the future might be virtual e-visits in which a patient can video chat with their physician instead of taking the time to drive to the doctor’s office and meet there in person. Dr. Jones says, “I think its very exciting and the opportunity is huge. I think we need to figure it out.”

Do you go online to access your medical information? Does your doctor use digital tools in their practice? What's exciting to you about health care entering the "Digital Age?" Please let us know your thoughts in a comment below.

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Cancer and Treatments Thu, 18 Oct 2012 16:45:00 +0000