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  • Insurance Worries

    Posted 11/17/2017 by hhill

      Just when we thought it was safe to stop worrying about the ACA/ObamaCare, we learn that it was a mistake to let down our guard. I try hard to keep this blog apolitical, but worries about medical insurance and our ability to pay for it cross any other political affiliations and opinions. Anyone who is reading this blog has concerns about medical insurance and likely believes that all cancer patients should have access to insurance, access to care, and (ideally) the freedom to focus on treatment and recovery and not on bills.

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  • Donating Biospecimens

    Posted 11/16/2017 by hhill

      This is probably a topic that you have not thought much about. If you have ever read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (and, if you haven't, you should do so), you are aware of the less positive parts of the system. Fortunately things have changed a lot over the decades since her contributions to science, but people still worry about ethics and privacy when considering donating body samples (usually blood, saliva, tissue, cells from a biopsy, etc.).

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  • Cancer Risk and Alcohol

    Posted 11/15/2017 by hhill

      This has been a well-covered concern and topic, but a new report has been issued that underlines the association between alcohol and cancer risk. Note that this study does not reflect data about alcohol and the risk of cancer recurrence, but a commonsense view would be that initial risk and recurrence risk may be related.

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  • Recurrence Risk Lasts and Lasts

    Posted 11/14/2017 by hhill

      This is not good news, but it is not surprising news. We have known that the recurrence risk for women with breast cancer, especially ER positive breast cancer, lasts for a long time. Unfortunately, rarely does a week pass that I don't meet a woman who is ten or twelve or even more than twenty years post diagnosis and now has a first recurrence. Most of us grow past the acute anxiety about our health, but it is reasonable that some uncertainty and caution linger.

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  • The Money Conversation

    Posted 11/13/2017 by hhill

      First, I am back and mostly glad to be home. Not so glad to have left 75 degree weather and glorious blue skies and some beach time. Cyprus turned out to be a beautiful and fascinating island; I would definitely recommend putting it on your list.

      And now back to work. Today's entry is about the difficult conversation regarding costs/prices that you should be having with your doctor. We all know that sex and money are tough and tricky topics, but they both sometimes need honest discussion. As the cost of cancer drugs has risen, so have co-pays and the limits on deductibles. We are all paying more, and we are sometimes paying for some things that may bring little or no additional value.

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  • A Happy Farewell to Pink October

    Posted 11/1/2017 by hhill

      First, this is a second entry of the day and will be the last new blog until November 13th. My husband and I are leaving late tonight for a belated trip to Cyprus. We have promised each other that we won't work while we are there. This was a trip planned to coincide with work in Turkey last April. Since we have been to Turkey several times in the past, we wanted to do something different for a few days, and Cyprus is nearby. As it turned out, a very dear friend died just two days before our planned departure, so we cancelled the trip. We had, however, already paid for most of it, and it was a situation of rescheduling it or losing all the money. Hence our seats on Turkish Air tonight.

      Most of you know, or could easily guess, how much I hate the pinkification of October. I have included my thoughts in various talks this October, written letters to the editor, and generally talked about it to anyone who would listen. I was delighted to see this essay in The New York Times a few days ago.

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  • A Best Friend

    Posted 11/1/2017 by hhill

      The title of this entry should be Man's Best Friend, but the system won't accept anything with punctuation. I am, of course, referring to dogs. Those of you who know me are aware that I am very much a dog person, living now with a much loved elderly Golden. She has been a perfect dog from the start, and it clearly has to do with genes, not training. We did not try to train her differently than we did others, and no previous dogs have been anywhere close to her gentle perfect behavior.

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  • Value of New Cancer Drugs

    Posted 10/31/2017 by hhill

      This is a very discouraging report from The Guardian. It states that more than half of new drugs approved for cancer treatment have demonstrated no value for either survival or quality of life/well-being. One can,however, be pretty sure that they cost more than the existing similar treatments. I will admit that I am surprised and perplexed by this fact. Presumably, the approval from the FDA or similar agencies in Europe relied on data from trials that was positive.

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  • PCPS amd Survivorship Care

    Posted 10/30/2017 by hhill

      This article from JAMA News identifies a real problem. We are all aware of the increasing focus on survivorship care, that is the attention we need from our doctors after cancer. The specifics vary depending on the particular cancer and received cancer treatment, but there are potential medium and long term side effects that should be spotted and treated if they appear.

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  • Two Lovely Pieces

    Posted 10/27/2017 by hhill

      This is the last Friday in October. It, for me, is the end of a very long week and an even longer month. My husband has mostly taught me not to complain or to become overwhelmed by a too full calendar. "Look at it one day at a time, not the whole week, and certainly not the whole month." he says. I am mostly able to do that, but this month's schedule tested me. I was away from home for 10 nights, most of them because of work travel. And the work travel all included giving talks. Once I am there (wherever there is), I enjoy it, but the travel part and the packing part and the thinking about it part are exhausting.

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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.