September 2016 - Life Credit Company

IBM’s Supercomputer Helps Provide Assistance for Cancer Patients

For decades, IBM has revolutionized the way computers have interacted with our society, and that work is now reaching into the realm of cancer treatments. The technology giant’s supercomputer, known as Watson, is now in the process of being groomed to provide assistance for cancer patients, physicians and many others working to fight the disease. Watson was first developed nearly 20 years ago as a supercomputer that combined both analytical abilities and a capacity for understanding human language. Watson is fed information, which it processes, organizes and retains, and then uses that data to analyze problems, create hypotheses and draw conclusions. From its early days of seamlessly answering volumes of “Jeopardy” trivia, Watson progressed to functioning as a call-center operator and even a hotel concierge. Now, Watson’s creators are upping the ante, setting their sights on using the supercomputer as a clearinghouse for cancer info. Through a partnership with MD Anderson Cancer Center, Watson is being programmed with a wealth of information about the center’s leukemia patients — from their demographic info to specifics on individual doctor visits and their lab work and scans — as well as extensive journal articles and more about the disease. The computer then generates recommendations for physicians about possible diagnoses and plans of action. It’s a pioneering process that Watson’s backers are hoping to expand to other hospitals and specialties. The Watson team envisions the program ultimately functioning as a comprehensive oncology advisor — one that uses its vast base of knowledge about the disease to provide targeted and individualized treatment plans for cancer patients. Such an ambitious project is, of course, not...

Art Therapy Offers Support for Cancer Patients Through Expression

We can all likely remember the freeing fun we had coloring pictures, painting and making creative artwork as children. The soothing nature of art is not just for recreation — art therapy is now being used as a real option in the fight against cancer. A cancer diagnosis is accompanied by an often-overwhelming amount of stress: anxiety about one’s future, worries over medical bills and concerns about day-to-day logistics of managing a medical crisis. Support for cancer patients exists in many forms, with simple creative activities increasingly being sought to offer a peaceful reprieve from the pressures of a fight against cancer. What the Research Says There is a wealth of evidence that suggests the healing power of creative-arts therapies. For instance, the National Institutes of Health conducted a study that found such therapies reduced anxiety and depression, as well as physical pain, for cancer patients. The research, which involved nearly 1,600 patients, suggested that art therapy was similar in its impact to traditional stress-reducing activities like yoga and acupuncture. Overall, study participants who undertook art therapy reported a better quality of life than patients who did not. With a more positive outlook, patients are empowered to face their disease head on, which can have resounding results on their health. Art Therapy in Practice There are many options for people looking to incorporate art therapy into their treatment plans. The American Art Therapy Association offers a comprehensive listing of more than 5,000 art therapists around the nation. People looking for services can search by their home state to read profiles of each therapist. Many states also operate their own...

Ways Spirituality Can Provide Help for Cancer Patients

Spirituality is often a taboo topic, which many people avoid talking about out of uncertainty regarding others’ feelings on the subject. However, for some people facing a cancer diagnosis, spirituality can provide help for cancer patients through comfort and peace in a time when it is needed most. According to a report in the Washington Post, having faith in a higher power can have real results for people dealing with disaster. For instance, those who relied on spirituality in the trying days following Hurricane Katrina had better mental-health outcomes than those who didn’t report strong ties to their faith. That stat continued a few years later after floods hit South Carolina; those who “surrendered” to spirituality were found to be more resilient and better able to cope. Spirituality can also be a help for cancer patients, many of whom are left wondering after a diagnosis why they were afflicted, what their future holds and what will happen to them and their families if the worst happens. Some of the anxiety over not having answers to those tough questions can be alleviated by spirituality, as such faith typically dictates that a higher power, not us, is in charge. Giving up the control, then, may make some people more at peace with their diagnosis, lowering stress levels, which can even contribute to better health outcomes. Some people, however, are turned off by the idea of spirituality, perhaps mistakenly associating it with religion — an area that can be politically or morally charged. It’s an important distinction to make, as religion is traditionally a communal exercise, while spirituality is a more individualized...