Archive for the ‘Medical’ Category

Cost Concerns Over Shorter, High-dose Radiation Therapy Treatments

Posted By on March 16th, 2015 at 8:36 am | 0 comments.

radiation-therapyRecent studies suggest that shorter, high-dose radiation treatments can be just as effective as longer-range therapy regimens.  So, why aren’t more patients opting for them? According to doctors at Duke University Medical Center, that reason could be cost.

Duke’s research shows that fewer than 20 percent of patients with early invasive breast cancer who opted for breast-conserving surgery chose to receive the shorter hydrofractionated therapy instead of the more traditional therapy.  Researchers at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium reported that concerns over cost could be the reason shorter, high-dose therapies aren’t catching on.  They also note that about 10 percent of patients at community facilities have access to the hydrofractionated radiation and some 15 percent of patients treated at comprehensive community cancer centers received the treatment.
You can read more about short course radiation therapy in the latest edition of the PBCC’s Frontline Newsletter here.

To read more about this study online, click here.

Expensive Prescriptions? Assistance Programs Available for Families

Posted By on March 16th, 2015 at 8:36 am | 0 comments.

prescription-helpMany pharmaceutical companies offer Patient Assistance Programs for the prescription medications they manufacture. Patients who are uninsured or underinsured may qualify to receive free or discounted drugs for breast cancer treatment and other family medical needs. Needy Meds provides a user-friendly list of the companies’ assistance programs with details about how to apply.

On the Needy Meds website, search by the name of your prescription medication to see if an assistance program is offered.  Also, Pennsylvania’s prescription assistance programs for older adults, PACE, PACENET and PACE plus Medicare, offer low-cost prescription medication to qualified residents, age 65 and older. For more information, call the PA Department of Aging at 1-800-225-7223.

Breast Cancer Death Rates Decline Drastically Over 20 Years

Posted By on February 16th, 2015 at 8:29 am | 0 comments.

Breast-Cancer-Survival-for-PLIn the past 20 years, breast cancer death rates have dropped dramatically.  According to the latest government statistics, breast cancer deaths decreased by 34 percent between 1990 and 2011 and experts believe that number has continued to drop over the past 4 years.  Why the decrease?

Researchers say death rates from breast cancer have declined due to better treatment, greater awareness, and more women getting mammograms.  New medicines in the past 20 years, such as targeted chemotherapy and Tamoxifen, have contributed to increasing breast cancer survival.  Today, there is an increasing trend toward individualized medicine as doctors learn more about tumors and the effectiveness of personalized medicine.  Additionally in the past 20 years, more women are becoming aware of the disease and are going to the doctors when something seems suspicious.  Many are hopeful that this downward trend will continue and even more women will survive a breast cancer diagnosis.

Click here to read the full article.

How Long Should Women Receive Radiation Treatment?

Posted By on December 15th, 2014 at 9:42 am | 409 comments.

A recent article in The Journal of the American Medical Association studied the use of radiation after a lumpectomy. This study was conducted by researchers Ezekial J. Emanuel and Justin E. Bekelman of the University of Pennsylvania and other colleagues. The group set out to examine a study done in 2011 which recommends shorter, more intense radiation treatments for women who were older than 50 that had early-stage cancers. What did they find?

Radiation-for-PL-2This recent study looked at two different groups of women: those who doctors recommended to receive shorter treatment (3-4 weeks of radiation) and a group of women who were younger and either had chemotherapy or more advanced cancer (5-7 weeks of radiation).
Both courses of treatment were found to have the same effectiveness, but the shorter version saved time for patients and saved money for the health care system and insurers.  Doctors did not readily adopt the new recommendations because it went against years of practice in the field.  In the 1970s and 1980s, the equipment was much less sophisticated and a shorter, more intense therapy burned women’s skin and scarred their breasts, but with the improved equipment and methodology of today, studies have found that the cosmetic results of the shorter therapy were just as good.

Overall, the study found that the use of the shorter therapy had increased from 2008 to 2013.
To read the complete article, click here.

Genetics May Shield Latinas from Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Posted By on November 14th, 2014 at 7:51 am | 242 comments.

woman-at-doctor-PLHispanics have less than a 10 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer when compared to 13 percent for non-Hispanic whites and 11 percent for African Americans.  A study led by a team at the University of California, San Francisco may have found why Latinas have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.  There is a genetic variation that is common in Hispanic women with indigenous American ancestry that appears to lower the risk of breast cancer.

The genetic variation may work by decreasing breast density or affecting the production of estrogen receptors.  Women who carry one copy of the variant were 40 percent less likely to develop breast cancer and those with two copies had double that level of protection.  The risk was especially low for estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer, which is an aggressive form.  This genetic variant may lower the risk of breast cancer, but is not the “silver bullet” because some women with the variant still get breast cancer.  Marc Hurlbert, the executive director of the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade is quoted in saying that this study is important because “if we can understand how this is protective, it might help us to develop better treatments for those who do get breast cancer.”

To read the complete study, click here.

Medicaid Expansion to Provide Coverage for Thousands in PA

Posted By on September 15th, 2014 at 3:33 pm | 493 comments.

Medicaid-Expansion-for-PlEffective January 1, more than 400,000 low-income Pennsylvania residents will be eligible to receive new healthcare coverage through Medicaid. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have approved an expansion of Medicaid through an amended version of the Healthy PA program for Pennsylvanians who meet certain income criteria. Who does the new ruling cover?

Medicaid expansion covers individuals and families with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level.  For example, a single Pennsylvania resident earning less than $16,105 will qualify to receive free coverage.  A family of two earning less than $21,707 would also benefit from the expanded coverage.

Enrollment for coverage under the Healthy PA expansion will open December 1 and effective January 1.  The coverage can be retroactive to help with medical bills incurred in the past three months prior.

For more information on Pennsylvania’s expansion of Medicaid click here.

 

Research Breakthrough: Blood Test Detects Early-Stage Breast Cancer

Posted By on September 15th, 2014 at 3:33 pm | 434 comments.

Blood-vials-for-PLScientists in Israel say they have developed the first blood test for the early detection of breast cancer.  This test is called Octavia Pink and is currently available in Israel and Italy.  What about here in the U.S.?

In the U.S., Octavia Pink is undergoing clinical trials in order to receive FDA approval.  The test works by looking at antibodies in the blood.  In addition to this test, EventusDx has developed a new technology that can process 96 blood samples at one time and takes no more than 3 hours.  This technology allows a woman’s doctor to rule out or confirm a diagnosis very quickly.  Researchers say the Octavia Pink test has proven to be more accurate at detecting breast cancer than mammograms.  Results of the Israeli study show that the test correctly diagnosed 95% of healthy women and 75% of women with breast cancer.

To read the complete article, click here.

Study Finds Third Gene Related to Breast Cancer

Posted By on August 15th, 2014 at 8:48 am | 1036 comments.

ResearchersforwebThe two genes that have historically been linked with an increased risk of breast cancer are the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genes.  Now, researchers at the University of Cambridge have found a third gene called PALB2 that raises the risk of breast cancer almost as much as BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Many genetic tests already check for the PALB2 gene, but it was unclear to what extent this gene increased the risk of breast cancer.  By age 70, women with BRCA1 mutations have a 50-70% chance of developing breast cancer and those with BRCA2 have a 40-60% chance.  If there is a mutation in the PALB2 gene, women have a 35% chance of developing breast cancer by age 70.

Research also found that women with the PALB2 gene have a slightly higher risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer, which is resistant to hormone treatment, more aggressive, and more likely to recur than other types of breast cancer.  Official guidelines do not recommend that women have genetic testing unless they have a family history, but the principal investigator on this new research, Dr. Marc Tischkowitz, said that, “such women should consider testing for PALB2 mutations if they are negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2.”

Read the complete New York Times article on this research: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/07/health/gene-indicator-breast-cancer-risk.html?_r=0