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  • Beware of GOP Bill and Cancer Coverage

    Posted 3/24/2017 by hhill

      Sometimes politics just cannot be ignored. I realize that today's entry will have a pretty short shelf life of interest, but it seems vital this morning. As everyone knows, the planned House vote for repeal and replace the ACA has been delayed until today. The more details that are coming out, the more alarming the proposed bill seems to be.

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  • Cancer and Sexuality and Men

    Posted 3/23/2017 by hhill

      In keeping this series going a little longer, today's offering is the parallel Cancer Net article re men's issues. We all know that there are many biological and psychological differences between the sexes, and this speaks clearly and helpfully to problems faced by some men who have undergone cancer treatment.

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  • More on Sexuality

    Posted 3/22/2017 by hhill

      Actually today's entry is more specific, but a general title seemed more likely to attract interest. Many women after menopause struggle with the unfortunately-named vaginal atrophy. This describes the thinning of the vaginal wall that can result in less lubrication and more discomfort/pain with intercourse. Women who don't have a cancer history have more options in dealing with this than we do. The cancer catch, once again, is estrogen. Estrogen can play a role in breast cancer and some GYN cancers, and many women post cancer treatment are on estrogen-suppressing drugs (think tamoxifen or the AIs).

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  • Pathology

    Posted 3/21/2017 by hhill

      There is nothing that is more important in cancer care than an accurate pathology report. Everything follows from that; all treatment decisions are first based on that information. One of our pathologists told me years ago that each time she prepares a slide for her microscope, she pauses and offers up a prayer: Help me get this right.

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  • Sexuality and Cancer Treatment

    Posted 3/20/2017 by hhill

      This is another frequent topic, but one that deserves more attention than it usually gets in Cancer World. As we have discussed, concerns about sexuality are usually low on the list for meetings with our doctors. There are a number of reasons: the huge amount of information that needs to be addressed, the discomfort with the topic, the reality that there aren't a lot of good solutions. Or actually that there aren't a lot of solutions at all.

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  • Power of Music

    Posted 3/17/2017 by hhill

      We know about the healing power of music. I have surely listened in sad times, hard times, confusing times. I have not infrequently been moved to tears, sometimes surprised, by music. I haven't relied on it, however, to help with difficult decisions.

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  • Helpful Mobile Apps

    Posted 3/16/2017 by hhill

      Although I am a self-confessed skeptic of most technology, a technological philistine if you will, I have come around to be a fan of mobile devices. I can't imagine being without my phone, and I don't miss the days of frantically looking for a pay phone and hoping that I had some change in my pocket. That was particularly challenging when my beeper went off, and I was driving somewhere, and it often was really hard to find a place to return the call. I came later to my Ipad, but now I love that, too. I still like to read books in book form, but admit that the tablet is much easier at the gym and very much easier when traveling. No longer do I have to take up valuable suitcase space with half a dozen books for a long trip.

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  • Exercise Recommendations

    Posted 3/15/2017 by hhill

      Depending on your perspective and energy level, this report is either wonky or helpful. I know that I have written many times about the value of exercise. There is a lot of data suggesting that regular mild to moderate exercise can make the treatment months easier and may reduce recurrence risks for some cancers. Those benefits are in addition to the others we already know: weight management, cardio-vascular, general good health.

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  • HR 1313 This is Important

    Posted 3/14/2017 by hhill

      I met yesterday afternoon with a beloved patient who is a faithful reader of this blog. She commented on my "I am trying to stay away from politics" entries, and here is another one. This one, however, feels completely non-partisan and except for CEOs of insurance companies, I am hard pressed to imagine anyone who could favor it.

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  • Safety and Value of the Estring

    Posted 3/13/2017 by hhill

      As some of you know, the estring (estradiol vaginal ring) is a device sometimes prescribed to help with moderate to severe vaginal symptoms after menopause. This translates to treatment for vaginal dryness and discomfort/pain with intercourse (and sometimes just in the course of normal living). Since the estring works by slowly releasing estrogen directly into vaginal tissues, there are concerns about safety for women who have been treated for breast cancer, especially for estrogen positive breast cancer.

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Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215

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About the Blogger

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C is the Manager of Oncology Social Work at BIDMC. For more than thirty years, her daily work at BIDMC has been primarily focused on supporting women with breast cancer. A nationally known writer and speaker, she was the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation's first Hatcher Survivorship Professor. In 1993, and again in 2005, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through the standard treatments of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormonal therapy. These experiences have given her great credibility with her patients and transformed her life's work to her life. Ms. Schnipper lives gratefully with her husband in an ancient farmhouse outside of Boston and spends as much time as possible in a water front cottage on Mt Desert Island. Between them, they have five adult children and seven grandchildren; she claims biological responsibility for two and three of them.