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Minorities Less Likely to Get Genetic Testing

It is an accepted truth that the availability of and access to affordable health care can have a significant impact on cancer patients’ care and health outcomes. Unfortunately, that means that many Americans are falling through the cracks. Minority communities statistically live in lower socioeconomic conditions, with less access to health care than white communities. High co-pays, medication costs and prohibitive hospital bills can discourage cancer patients from receiving the best care possible. While cancer financial assistance programs exist to help cancer patients navigate the financial burdens of cancer, the disproportionate impact of cancer on financially disadvantaged communities continues to be a serious challenge. A new study from the Yale University Cancer Center found that black and Hispanic women with breast cancer were less likely than white women to undergo a genetic test that can help doctors create an action plan. The report focused on Oncotype Dx, which helps doctors understand the genetic impact of early-stage breast cancer, information that can determine whether chemotherapy or other approaches would be most effective. The test can also suggest if the patient is at a high risk for recurrence once the cancer cells are eliminated. In a study of 8,000 Connecticut women, more than 51 percent of white women who would be good candidates for the test received it, compared to just 47 percent of Hispanic women and 44 percent of black women. The disparity was also present for women who didn’t fall within the guidelines for the test but received it anyway — 21 percent of white women, and just 9 percent of black and Hispanic women. While the test itself...

Certain Cancers Can Crave Sugar

Just as some humans have more of a sweet tooth than others, it turns out some types of cancer cells may crave sugar more strongly than others. The connection between sugar intake and cancer has long been the focus of research aimed at providing help for cancer patients and those at risk — and a new study shows just why it should be. According to a report featured in Nature Communications, the sugary appeal of sweets may be putting people at increased risk for cancer growth and recurrence. Researchers at University of Texas at Dallas sought to investigate if there are any differences in sugar dependence among two types of lung cancer: adenocarcinoma (ADC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SqCC). During their work, the scientists discovered that a protein involved with sugar transport was present at much higher levels in SqCC than ADC. That elevated level increases the cells’ “appetite” for sugar, the researchers found, and fuels cell growth. The scientists also found high dependence on sugar in other types of squamous cell cancers, including esophageal, cervical, head and neck. So how can this information provide help for cancer patients? First, the data has prompted researchers to consider new therapies, including one that would inhibit levels of the protein that carries glucose. In initial tests with such an inhibitor, researchers found slowed — though not completely halted — growth of SqCC. Scientists are now in the midst of organizing a large animal study on lung cancer using a sugar-restricted diet. Depending on those outcomes, scientists could use the data to develop new recommendations — which can offer dietary help for...

Insurance Isn’t a Cure All for Financial Help for Cancer Patients

Many people think that, as long as they have health insurance, they’ll be protected should a medical crisis like cancer occur. Unfortunately, they’re wrong. There is still a need for financial help for cancer patients. Being insured is not a guarantee that medical costs associated with cancer treatment will be covered. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network found in a new report that cancer patients with health insurance still face exorbitant out-of-pocket costs for everything from copays to out-of-network fees. The report revealed that cancer patients in the country paid about $4 billion in out-of-pocket costs in 2014. When it comes down to individual patients, the average payment was $6,000 for patients who are insured by their employer, or $10,000 for those on an Affordable Care Act plan. Many patients may seek a lower-premium plan to cut down on costs, but such programs often end up costing the patients more over time, as the insurance company expects patients to contribute more for individual visits and procedures. Plans that placed a cap on out-of-pocket costs significantly decreased the financial burden on patients, the report also found. Financial help for cancer patients not only improves their stress levels and emotional well-being but can actually lead to better physical outcomes. Research has found that physical health is closely linked to mental and emotional health; the more stress someone is under, the more likely he or she is to suffer from physical complications. Similarly, when one’s mental emotional outlook is positive, that reflects in their body, including in its capacity to fend off cancer. The power of financial health is at the...

Cancer Patients Can Find Motivation Through Bad Feelings

Many people who have experienced a cancer diagnosis grapple with depression, fear and anxiety, as they struggle through the physical, mental and emotional toll of cancer. A patient may feel hopeless after receiving poor test results, worried about medical bills and stressed about the disruptions cancer can pose for one’s personal and professional lives. Patients confronting these challenges should actively seek help. From cancer financial assistance to individual or group counseling, resources abound to alleviate some of the pressures of cancer. However, new research shows that these negative emotions that are a side effect of cancer may actually not be all that bad. A study from Concordia University and University of Toronto found that feelings of anger and guilt inspired cancer patients to make changes in their lives that ultimately benefitted their overall heath and well-being. Researchers surveyed 145 breast cancer survivors and tested their saliva samples for a year, focusing on cortisol levels, linked to stress and mood. Throughout the study, they examined the women’s changing moods, amount of activity, cortisol levels and other factors. Ultimately, they reported that women who reported negative feelings initially were later more likely to make positive choices regarding their health and physical activity. Researchers suggested that our bodies are programmed to adapt to emotions like guilt and fear with positive decision-making. “Although negative emotions have a bad reputation and have been linked to disease, they are also ‘designed’ to produce adaptive behaviors,” Concordia researcher Dr. Carsten Wrosch told Science Daily. Many women who were struggling with these emotions committed themselves to developing new goals and actively strove to meet them through diet,...

Blood Test Can Provide Help for Cancer Patients in Remission

Help for cancer patients may be coming quicker than ever before, thanks to a medical breakthrough. Nearly half of all people in remission from lung cancer will experience a recurrence. That’s why that population was chosen as the target demographic for a study that sought to prioritize early detection of cancer recurrence. What did the study find?  The research was led by scientists at Francis Crick Institute in London, who used samples from patients’ lung tumors to develop a unique genetic analysis of each patient’s cancer. Once the tumors were removed, researchers drew blood from the patients every three months and analyzed the samples for traces of cancer DNA, which could suggest that a tumor was re-growing. The method ultimately was able to tip off 13 out of 14 patients who did eventually see a recurrence. While other tests and scans would have likely been able to pinpoint the return of cancer, the blood test was able to pick it up when a tumor was just .3 cubic millimeters in size. That means the news came up to a year ahead of any other detection method. Interpreting the results The speed at which the blood test can alert a patient to the recurrence can ensure help for cancer patients is provided swiftly, lessening the likelihood that a tumor will grow unnoticed. Early detection is key when it comes to catching and treating cancer, so researchers are hailing the test as a significant breakthrough. The team that pioneered this method also saw another milestone with the genetic-testing portion of their research. In that portion of the work, the researchers found...