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  • We Need Our Friends

    Posted 9/22/2017 by hhill

      It is no surprise to any of us that friends help us get through life. We need each other in the good times and even more in the tough ones. I don't mean to exclude family or work colleagues or any of the other important people in our lives. We need them all. Study after study after study indicates that people who have good social support manage better and have a higher quality of life--in general and most certainly through cancer.

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  • GYN and Other Research

    Posted 9/21/2017 by hhill

      We all know, or we all should know, that there is a potential crisis in funding for cancer research. It is increasingly difficult for researchers to have grants accepted/funded, and we are all the losers.It is worth remembering that advances come in unexpected ways. Research for kidney cancer might identify a very useful treatment for lung cancer. Scientists never know exactly how something will evolve, and their work must be valued and supported.

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  • Most Doctors Not Prescribing Marijuana

    Posted 9/20/2017 by hhill

      Hey, isn't medical marijuana now legal in many states, including in Massachusetts? And isn't recreational marijuana not far behind? Yes and yes, but that does not mean it is easy to get a prescription.

      I am unaware of any of our medical oncologists who are comfortable writing prescriptions for their patients. The reasons range from "It's not nationally legal" to uncertainty about the best uses/doses to a general sense of unease. Let's be clear that marijuana is not the perfect cure for any symptoms that might be bothersome. In my experience through all these years of illegal use by patients, it sometimes helps and sometimes doesn't. I suspect that the efficacy is not so different than that of other, for example, anti-nausea drugs. But, for some people, it is really helpful, and the process should not be so cumbersome.

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  • Beware of Natural

    Posted 9/19/2017 by hhill

      A quick summary of today's entry: Just because something is natural does not mean that it is safe. Think about rattlesnakes or black widow spiders or poke weed or bittersweet night shade. So much advertising is focused on natural, and since chemotherapy and radiation are most certainly not natural, the others can sound very tempting.

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  • Pain

    Posted 9/18/2017 by hhill

      Pain is not a popular topic. If you are not experiencing it, you naturally would prefer not to think much about it. If you are living with acute or chronic pain, much of your energy is going to just coping. I wrote last week about the concerns around opioid use for cancer patients and survivors. That is part of the problem, but not all of it. Pain is different in every situation and for every person. For cancer patients, pain is most often related to surgical recovery or radiation or the cancer itself.

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  • Understanding More About Cancer

    Posted 9/15/2017 by hhill

      Learning about cancer is a continuing education in the more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. I often refer people to Siddhartha Mukherjee's incredible book, The Emperor of All Maladies. Reading it, and it reads like a novel, gives you an appreciation of the incredible challenges that cancer presents and respect for all the research progress that has happened over many years.

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  • Exercise and Cancer Risk

    Posted 9/14/2017 by hhill

      More today on the importance of regular mild/moderate exercise. I am feeling virtuous as I did get to the gym this morning, something that is more difficult with the increased fall traffic. I am just unable to get myself out of bed before 5:45, and getting up then to go to the gym does mean the drive is going to take longer and be more frustrating. Here is the daily question: Which is better: Exercise or an easier commute? I know there are stellar people who can exercise after work, but I am definitely not one of them. It is first thing in the morning or never.

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  • Alcohol and Cancer Risk

    Posted 9/13/2017 by hhill

      In this topsy-turvy world of fake news, how do we know what to believe? I suspect that most of us are instinctively skeptical about reports from a business that suggest their product has amazing health benefits. What about studies that turn out to have been financially sponsored by a whole industry? This article from Eurke Alert discusses the alcohol industry's apparent attempts to mislead us about study results.

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  • Opioids in Cancer Care

    Posted 9/12/2017 by hhill

      This is a timely and important topic. Later in this posting, I will give you the link to Cancer Net's excellent piece about this. I surely cannot summarize or explain the complex issues better than they do, but I want to write about the ways that I hear about this problem.

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  • Radiation Therapy and Breast Cancer

    Posted 9/11/2017 by hhill

      As many of you know, radiation therapy is often part of the treatment plan for early breast cancer. Paired with a wide excision/lumpectomy or after a mastectomy, radiation can destroy any remaining cancer cells in or near the breast. Radiation is also used in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. Then, it is commonly directed at lesions in bones or, as targeted therapy/CyberKnife, at mets in other organs or the brain.

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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.