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You may be surprised to learn that people who receive chemotherapy and radiation treatments from the El Camino Hospital Cancer Center are greeted with encouraging smiles, hugs and warm blankets when they step through the doors. Those little, yet important things are combined with healthy, energy-boosting complimentary snacks and encouragement delivered by cadre of volunteers, who are cancer survivors themselves. All of this, plus a track record of survival rates that rival and sometimes exceed those of other oncology and academic centers add up to create a nurturing, encouraging and most importantly, healing and curing environment.
Patient centered care isn’t just a phrase for the staff, at El Camino Hospital’s Cancer Center. In fact, their innovative programs and patient outcome data was evaluated by the National Cancer Data Base and resulted in a commendation and a three-year accreditation from the Commission on Cancer from the American College of Surgeons. I recently had the opportunity to interview some of the staff to find out more about what makes the Cancer Center so special.
If you were born in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan or other Asian countries you may be at increased risk for liver cancer. In fact, Santa Clara County has the third highest rate of liver cancer in the US, with San Francisco County having the highest. This is largely due to high numbers of people who contracted Hepatitis B at birth in their countries of origin.
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B, known as Hep B, is a viral disease that’s prevalent in many parts of the world, causing inflammation of the liver and a yellowing of the skin, known as jaundice. Many people with Hepatitis B here in Northern California have no symptoms and are unaware that they have the virus and can spread it to others.
The most common way Hepatitis B is transmitted is when a mom who is infected gives birth to a baby, who is then not vaccinated or immunized. This is the way many people from Asia become chronic carriers of Hepatitis B which can lead to other serious health concerns.
Why is this important?
What is a Pap Smear?
When a woman has a Pap smear, a very small amount of cells are collected from her cervix. This is usually painless and takes less than a minute. The cells are then evaluated for any changes that could indicate a pre-cancerous or cancerous condition. The cells can also be checked to see if they’ve been infected with HPV, Human Papilloma Virus, which can lead to cervical cancer.
How often should a women have a Pap Smear?
These are the Guidelines from the American Cancer Society
Disclosure: I am working with Hologic, the providers of Thin Prep Pap smears and the Aptima HPV assay.
HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus, which has over 100 different subtypes. HPV is spread from skin to skin contact. Some types of HPV can cause warts on the skin, others can infect other parts of the body.
While the vast majority of HPV does not cause serious risks, there are a few high-risk subtypes that can infect a woman’s cervix from intimate contact with a partner. Though most of these high-risk HPV infections are cleared by the body within a few years and don’t become cancerous, about 10% of these can lead to pre-cancerous cellular changes in the cervix and if left untreated or unrecognized could progress to cervical cancer.
How common is HPV?
It’s fall and you know what that means, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Here’s 3 facts about Breast Cancer every woman needs to know.
# 1 Did you know that for every 1,000 women who have a screening mammogram that:
The vast majority of women who are screened will have reassuring results, with very few needing further imaging or testing.
#2 Women with Increased Breast Density may need additional screening.
When breast tissue is dense, it appears white on a mammogram. Unfortunately, breast cancer also appears white, so in a traditional mammogram, trying to find a breast cancer can be like trying to find a snowflake in a snowstorm.
This is an image from a mammogram of a what very dense breast tissue looks like.
Can you spot the breast cancer?
Recently, I gave viewers a behind the scenes look at some of the innovations taking place at the Breast Health Center at El Camino Hospital.
Maybe you watched some of the recent incredible news story about how cancers are being cured by modified viruses, including HIV, or maybe you’ve heard about a life-saving new drug in the media and wondered about how modern medicine uses clinical trials to bring new options to people. Here are the top 5 questions I get asked all the time about clinical trials.
Whatever your level of curiosity, here are some answers from clinicaltrials.gov to help clarify a few things.
1. What is a clinical trial?
In a nutshell, clinical trials are ways that we answer health questions. The following are simplified, but you get the idea.
• Does this new medication work the way we hope it would when it was developed?
• What’s the right dose?
• What are the common side effects?
• Will eating more or less of a certain food help with diabetes, heart disease or any number of conditions?
• What happens when we add 2 or more medications together?
2. What are the types of clinical studies?
There are two types of clinical studies: Clinical trials and Observational studies
• In a clinical trial, people who qualify by meeting certain inclusion criteria are placed into different groups by an investigator. One group will receive the “intervention” that is being studied. This might come in the form of a medication, new treatment, or a change in behavior (like a change in diet). Since investigators are trying to figure out if the new treatment works, they must compare it to either an existing treatment, no treatment, or a placebo*. (more…)
Starting in 2012, at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a modified virus, in this case, HIV was used to successfully treat childhood leukemia.
Since Emily’s treatment, many more children have been successfully treated with this breakthrough therapy. I heard about this trial and others from watching an episode of VICE, Killing Cancer with Shane Smith. I learned about Dr. Carl June, the researcher who treated Emily and 30 other patients, 27 of whom have had a complete remission.
I really like that Shane is matching donations to the Mayo Clinic up to $ 500,000.00. Way to go!
As many of you know, I’ve been helping care for a friend with advanced leukemia, who requires blood and platelet transfusions every 1-3 days, chemotherapy and a range of other services. The physical and emotional toll on him, his family and all of his supportive friends and loved ones has been tremendous.
One aspect that has been particularly frustrating for his family is trying to make sense of all different information they’re hearing from the 12+ doctors that are constantly rotating through the clinics. I just wish that the new Cancer Center at El Camino Hospital with its long list of patient centered amenities all designed to care for patients and families had been available to them when they began this journey.
Before the Center begins serving patient needs, El Camino Hospital invites you for a tour of the new facility at a special open house on March 7th. This is a great opportunity to meet the Cancer Center staff and physicians, and learn
more about the expanded and personalized services that will be available in one convenient location. Stop by and enjoy some light refreshments and entertainment provided by our Healing Arts program, and see how we’re building on our foundation of physician-directed, patient-centric, seamless care. (more…)