Saturday, March 11, 2023

Sexual problems plague women after cancer diagnosis, but little is being done, docs report

Despite a wave of new research around cancer treatment and sexual health, women say their issues are still being dismissed.

That long subhead sits under the headline "When Cancer Upends Your Sex Life" on a story by Catherine Pearson in yesterday's editions of The New York Times.

The article states unequivocally that "cancer can devastate a woman's sexual function in countless ways, both during treatment and for years down the road."

Chemotherapy, it elaborates, "can cause vaginal dryness and atrophy…but it can also prompt issues like mouth sores, nausea, and fatigue."

Surgery such as "a hysterectomy or mastectomy can rob women of sensations integral to sexual arousal and orgasm," the piece continues, and "pelvic radiation therapy can lead to vaginal stenosis, the shortening and narrowing of the vagina, making intercourse excruciating, if not impossible."

In addition, Pearson's story says, "sadness, stress, and body image issues can snuff out any sense of sexual desire."

The article cites a 28-year-old Stage 3 breast cancer patient who "developed vaginal dryness so severe that her skin began to deteriorate and was covered in small, paper cut-like tears. Urinating was comfortable; sex agonizing" — but when she told her oncologist about the pain "and how her libido had evaporated almost overnight," he responded dismissively.

That, Pearson indicates, is not unusual.

Dr. Elena Ratner
The Times piece quotes Dr. Elena Ratner, a gynecologist oncologist with the Yale Medicine Sexuality, Intimacy, and Menopause Program," to the effect that "the damage that is done is not only physical…From the diagnosis to the fear of recurrence to how they see their bodies, they feel like their whole sense of self is different."

What can be done?

Physicians need to ask female patients abut sex more often —much as doctors ask male prostate patients. 

Until that occurs, the story maintains, the issue will remain the same. 

Pearson quotes Sharon Bober, psychologist and director of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Sexual Health Program, as saying that such questioning must become routine — "so that it's not something special or different, and it's not based on a health care provider's perspective about whether someone is sexually active."

A 2020 survey of 391 cancer survivors found, according to the Times piece, "that 53 percent of male patients were asked about their sexual health by a health care provider, while only 22 percent of female patients were asked the same."

Dr. Jamie Takayesu, a radiation oncology resident physician at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center and a lead author on the study, reportedly said "the research was inspired by her own nagging sense that she wasn't asking female patients about sex often enough, and she suspected her colleagues weren't either."

The reasons, she hypothesized, were that physicians might be more inclined to focus on quality of life issues with men because prostate cancer has a high survival rate; that there are "more formalized tools" to assess sexual function in men; and that "many cancer doctors…[get] little to no training in how to talk about sex," the story says.

Possibilities for more help lies in the proliferation of multidisciplinary sexual health programs — at least in large hospitals or urban cancer centers.

Online communities and advocacy groups also can be helpful resources.

The Times story also quotes Dr. Laila Agrawal, a medical oncologist specializing in breast cancer at Norton Cancer Institute in Louisville, Kentucky, to the effect that "the number of women affected by sexual health concerns after a cancer diagnosis is huge, and the need for the women to have access to medical care for sexual dysfunction after cancer is enormous…I really want women with cancer to know that sexual health problems are treatable medical problems, and they can get better…I just want to offer that out as hope."

More information on women's sexuality and disease can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers. 

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Doctors debate whether artificial intelligence ultimately will replace them in medical jobs

Hungary has become a major testing ground for A.I. software to detect cancer that doctors miss.

That observation comes in a story by Adam Satariano and Cade Metz in The New York Times earlier this week — an article that also contends that docs are already debating "whether the technology will replace them in medical jobs."

The piece contends that "so far, the technology is showing an impressive ability to spot cancer at least as well as human radiologists."

Dr. Laslo Tabar
According to the Satarano-Metz piece, "ultimately, A.I. could be lifesaving, said Dr. Laslo Tabar, a leading mammography educator in Europe who said he was won over by the technology after reviewing its performance in breast cancer screening from several vendors." 

Tabar was quoted as saying, "I'm dreaming about the day when women are going to a breast cancer center and hey are asking, 'Do you have A.I. or not?"

In 2016, the article continues, "Geoff Hinton, one of the world's leading A.I. researchers, argued that the technology would eclipse the skills of a radiologist within five years."

The Times story also quotes Peter Kecskemethy, a computer scientist who co-founded Kheiron Medical Technologies, a software company in London that develops A.I. tools to assist radiologists detect early signs of cancer, to the effect that Kheiron's software "cut down on radiologists' workloads by at least 30 percent because it reduced the number of X-rays they needed to read."

Tabar, according to the article, says that he "was shockingly surprised at how good [the software] was."

Information on other innovations in medicine can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Skin lesion removed from Biden's chest was cancerous, doctor says; parallels his wife's

Joe Biden's White House doctor says a skin lesion removed from the president's chest was a basal cell carcinoma — a common form of skin cancer.

According to an Associated Press story this week by Zeke Miller, his doctor, Kevin O'Connor, added that no further treatment is required to the procedure that was done a month ago.

In January, Biden's wife, Jill, underwent a procedure to remove similar basal cell lesions from her chest and right eye.

No further danger is expected in either case because basal cell carinoma, a slow-growing cancer normally limited to the skin's surface, rarely becomes life-threatening or causes serious complications.

Both Bidens have long been advocates for fighting cancer, even before their son Beau succumbed to brain cancer in 2015.

Dr. O 'Connor
The Post story quotes O'Connor — Biden's doctor since he was vice president — as saying that "all cancerous tissue was successful removed" during a routine physical.

The doctor, Miller's article says, also declared Biden to be "healthy, vigorous" and "fit" to handle his presidential responsibilities.

O'Connor says the removal on Biden's chest already has "healed nicely" but the president, as a precaution, will continue regular skin screenings as part of his routine health plan.

The Post story says the doctor also reported that the president had "'several localized non-melanoma skin cancers' removed from his body before he started the presidency, noting it was well established that Biden spent a lot of time in the sun during his youth."

Miller's story explains that "basal cells are among the most common and easily treated forms of cancer — especially when caught early." They don't tend to spread like other cancers, "but could grow in size., which is why they are removed."

In an AP interview last week, according to the Post piece, Dr. Jill Biden reported that "she's now 'extra careful' about sunscreen, especially when she's at the beach."

More information about skin cancer, particularly melanomas, can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive  his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

New report shows more colon cancer cases being found in younger people, Washington Post says

Experts are worried that the proportion of cases of colon cancer has been shifting to those younger than 55 — despite an overall drop in cases of colon and rectal cancer.

According to a story by Teddy Amenabar in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post, the report — from the American Cancer Society (ACS) — also indicates that "more patients are being diagnosed with later stage disease."

The shift toward younger adults, the story says, is shown by the statistics: "One in five new cases of colorectal cancer in the United States occur in people younger than 55 — about  twice the rate in 1995, when 11 percent of cases were in this age group."

Amenabar's piece also says that in "another alarming shift, 60 percent of patients are being diagnosed with an advanced stage of the disease, up from 52 percent in the mid-2000s."

No reason for the shift is addressed in the study. But the findings suggest that "steady progress to reduce the incidence of colon cancer through screening during the past few decades is losing momentum," the article continues.

Dr. Paul Oberstein
Quoted, then, is Dr. Paul Oberstein, a  medical oncologist at the NYU Langone Permutter Cancer Center, who was not involved in the study. He says "there is a bit of a worrisome trend. Something is clearly different among the young, the under 50 population, that does suggest…that the number of cancers is going up."

Also quoted is Rebecca Siegel, senior scientific director at the ACS and lead author of the report. "We know rates are increasing in young people," she says in a statement, "but it's alarming to see how rapidly the patient population is shifting longer, despite shrinking numbers in the overall population. The trend toward more advanced disease in people of all ages is also surprising and should motivate everyone 45 and older to get screened."

More information on screenings can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, have aimed at male caregivers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Mayo Clinic offers tips on what to do to lower risk of getting skin, breast, and lung cancers

February is National Cancer Month, so the Mayo Clinic News Network has had Laurel Kelly compile tips on how you might be able to prevent three cancers.

The trio — skin, breast, and lung cancer — comprise the "top three most common cancers diagnosed in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute," says the story that appeared in the daily Marin Independent Journal this week.

Regarding skin cancer, what's advised is to limit or avoid exposure to ultraviolet, or UV, radiation. "Avoid the sun during the middle of the day," Kelly writes. "Wear sunscreen and protective clothing year-round. Avoid tanning beds. Also, be aware of sun-sensitizing medications, and check your skin regularly and report changes to your health care team."

About breast cancer, the article urges limiting alcohol, eating healthfully, maintaining a good weight, and being active. Regular mammograms and other screenings can detect it early.

And the Mayo Clinic piece notes that insofar as lung cancer is concerned, smoking, as has been known for years, is the greatest risk — a peril that "increases with the length of time and number of cigarettes you've smoked." A reduction in danger is possible by quitting, regardless of how many years you've smoked, the story contends.

More information on how to prevent and treat diseases can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Reader of ‘The Roving I’ compares collection of columns to Mark Twain’s pithy humor, seriousness

My latest book, The Roving I, has drawn an endorsement that absolutely blows me away.

Mark Twain
Fiona Quinn of Chicago, after writing that my “collection of essays is brilliant,” has also written that I have “the rare capacity to connect with readers through humor and thoughtful analysis simultaneously. That is no small feat, and this collection can be compared to Mark Twain’s pithy humor, which camouflages the depth and seriousness of his subject matter.”

That amazing comparison, to my way of thinking, is as flattering as any might be.
Quinn, whom I thank profusely for her commendation, gives a specific example of why she’s come to her conclusion: “For example, writing about the death of a dear friend named David, the writer says: ‘On his deathbed, my psychologist/consultant pal, still boyishly good-looking despite being sixty-something, and still a pig-headed St. Louis Cardinals fanatic, revisited his spiritual feelings.’
“The author’s reference to David’s fanaticism about the Cardinals expresses more about the jokey, intimate nature of their friendship than any narrative could. And it also poignantly clarifies how much David’s absence will be felt.”
Quinn closes with a direct appeal for readers who especially enjoy good writing to buy The Roving I: “Every essay in this collection is spiced with jokes, puns, hilarious observations, deep compassion, and eternal truths. Get this book! It’s deeply satisfying on every level.”
Anyone who wants to follow her advice, or to check out my two previous books, can do so by clicking on my website,

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

U.S. service members who've handled nuclear missiles are getting cancers, document charges

"Missileers" — American service members "tasked with manning the nation's nuclear missile launch control centers" — have been contracting cancer out of proportion to the general population. 

A story by Meryl Kornfield early this month in The Washington Post cites a document that ties 30 cancer cases "to people who worked at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana."

Sen. Jon Tester
The article quotes Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, as saying that he's asked "the Air Force for a full accounting of the cancer cases and other illnesses at Malmstrom, which house 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile silos, as well as other bases where missileers operate."

Tester also maintains that any former or current missileers at the bases should be screened. 

The revelatory document is an unofficial, crowdsourced one "created by a Space Force officer and obtained by The Washington Post," Kornfield's piece indicates. The cancer cases, which reportedly have been spread over half a century, included 13 from lymphoma, with four of those patients dying.

Most, the story reports, "were men in their 30s and 40s, well below the median age of 67 for a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosis."

An Air Force lieutenant colonel argued in a Jan. 11 letter that one man's terminal cancer "was caused by the thousands of hours spent in the subterranean missile bunkers at Malmstrom."

The letter notes, the Post article continues, "that the cancer cluster was being investigated by the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General after a complaint by another missile who suffers from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma."

The story maintains that a congressional inquiry "has also begun and there is a mounting panic among the community of missileers" — and that Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, who leads Air Force Global Strike Command, says "the Air Force School f Aerospace Medicine has started a formal investigation."

Radon and polychlorinated biphenyls, "which Air Force employees said they were exposed to, are often linked to cancer diagnoses, according to experts," the Post piece explains — adding that "those chemicals can pose a stronger impact if they're exposed to workers in cramped spaces with weak ventilation."

More information about the dangers of nuclear devices, including X-ray and other screening machines, can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, its author, aimed at male caregivers.

Monday, February 6, 2023

East Coast readers join with West Coast readers in praising 'The Roving I' collection of columns

Readers on both coasts have applauded The Roving I, with praise that ranges from “warm, witty, thoughtful, and charming” to “insightful, entertaining, and informative." 

Arlene Miller of Tampa Florida, for example, says the book is “beautifully written with cleverness and empathy. The Roving I exhibits a wide array of very readable stories taken from real life — from celebrations to births to deaths to pets and everything in between. You will chuckle, you might cry, but you will definitely relate to these enjoyable bite-sized essays.”


Dan Pine of Albany, California, meanwhile, declares that “Woody Weingarten brings the sharpest of eyes and keenest of ears to this bracing collection of his newspaper columns. No subject, large or small, escapes his powers of observation and instinct for getting to the heart of the matter. Whether recounting the simple joys of grandparenting, a harrowing Holocaust survivor's tale, or cataloguing the best of eavesdropped conversations in the mall, he remains first and foremost a reporter of unflinching honesty and inerrant lyrical style.” 


Lance Woodruff of Philadelphia notes that I, Woody Weingarten, the book's author, raise his spirit when I write "of the varieties of human experience: A refugee from Cambodia’s Maoist Khymer Rouge, a school janitor, a bus driver, the homeless, and the hungry. The Roving I is ecumenical, sometimes as personal as his lifelong adoration of his wife — as well as his lifelong appreciation of other women who catch his eye.”


Michael Rosenthal of Fairfax, California, simultaneously flatters and humbles me by saying that my “columns are warm, witty, thoughtful, and charming, much like the man himself.”


Ann Israel of Hudson, New York, says, “Like my experience with The Squid Game, which I binge-watched in one weekend, I just binge-read all the columns in The Roving I and loved every single one. The author makes words — and his observations — come alive.”


And Gloria Dunn-Violin of Novato, California, writes that “Woody Weingarten uses his amazing writing talent to tell unique stories that are inciteful, entertaining, and informative.”

To learn more about this book, to buy it, or to check out my two earlier books, click on