Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Inaccurate DNA test plagued woman for more than a decade after double mastectomy

A Missouri woman's years of mental anguish stemmed from a DNA testing mistake.

According to Maureen Boesen's online story in the HuffPost, she "made major decisions — like having a double mastectomy — based on a false positive. I was robbed of the chance to breastfeed my babies, and it broke my heart."

The Kansas City mother of three's recent guest article contends she "just couldn't get past the fact that my inaccurate test result meant I had been carrying around a devastatingly unnecessary burden for more than a decade."

Because she and her two sisters have an extensive family history of cancer (ovarian and breast), Boesen not only opted for the preventive bilateral mastectomy at age 23 but was planning to have a complete hysterectomy by the age of 35. A second DNA test, with its negative result, quashed that idea — especially after a third test also showed she didn't have the dangerous BRAC1 gene mutation that would mean a 75% lifetime risk of getting breast cancer and a 50% chance of contracting ovarian cancer.

What was surprising, Boesen reported, was that the new results "were even more shocking and overwhelming than finding out I was positive. I was feeling so many emotions — confusion, sadness, anger, anxiety, depression, relief — all at once."

More information about false positives, BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, and other prophylactic surgeries can be found in ˆRollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Lumpectomy and radiation treatments fix Minnesota senator's early-detected breast cancer

Sen. Amy Klobuchar admits she underwent treatment for early-stage breast cancer in January.

According to a story by Felicia Sonmez in The Washington Post today, the former 2020 Democrat presidential candidate said in a post on Medium, a platform for professionals, that she'd had a lumpectomy and radiation.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar
The 61-year-old Minnesota politician said she was told by her doctors last month that the treatments had gone well and that her "chances of developing cancer again are no greater than the average person."

Sonmez's article says Klobuchar "urged Americans not to put off routine health screenings, noting that 'doctors are seeing patients who are being treated for more serious conditions that could have been caught earlier.'" 

She also noted that it is "easy to put off health screenings, just like I did. But I hope my experience is a reminder for everyone of the value of routine health checkups, exams, and follow-through. I am so fortunate to have caught the cancer at an early enough stage and to not need chemotherapy or other extensive treatments, which unfortunately is not the case for so many others."

The senator thanked her physicians, family and friends for their support during her surgery and radiation treatment, which she observed had coincided with the illness and death of her father, a Minneapolis journalist.

"Their support allowed me to continue my work with my colleagues on major pandemic and economic legislation," the story quotes her as saying, "as well as chairing the joint Senate Jan. 6 investigation and the For the People hearings while undergoing cancer treatment."

According to a story by Quint Forgey on today's Politico website, the three-term senior senator also admitted that "this has been scary at times, since cancer is the word all of us fear." Each day, she said, "is a gift."

Further information on early detection 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.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Actor Stanley Tucci says he overcame tongue cancer, after long treatments, 3 years ago

Screen and television star Stanley Tucci has disclosed —- three years after the fact —— that he beat cancer following long, difficult treatments. 

The tumor was at the base of his tongue and originally "too big to operate" on.

Stanley Tucci

An online story by Cole Delbyck in yesterday's Huffpost maintains that the 60-year-old Tucci had undergone intensive treatments for approximately half a year — including chemotherapy and high-dose radiation that apparently killed the malignancy and made it unlikely that it could return.

Delbyck's story indicates that Tucci feels "much older than I did before I was sick. But you still want to get ahead and get things done.”

The actor's disclosure, which appeared in Vera magazine last week, indicates that cancer "makes you more afraid and less afraid at the same time.”

Tucci's now the star of his eponymous CNN food-and-travel series, "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy," after having honed his culinary skills and developed a following. The show, which earned multiple Emmy Award nominations, has been renewed for a second season.

Tucci's first wife, Kate Spath-Tucci, died of breast cancer in 2009 at age 47. Afterwards, he vowed that he'd never go through chemo and radiation because watching "her go through those treatments for years was horrible," he told Delbyck.

Clearly, he changed his mind.

The Huffpost article points out that he had also been "particularly concerned with how his diagnosis would affect his five children.” The actor has three children from his first marriage and shares a son and daughter with his current wife, Felicity Blunt, sister of his 'Devil Wears Prada' co-star Emily Blunt.

Delbyck's piece quotes the actor as saying that the "kids were great, but it was hard for them. I had a feeding tube for six months. I could barely make it to the twins' high school graduation."

Earlier this year, the article notes, Tucci spoke in an "CBS Sunday Morning" interview about his late wife and noted that "you never stop grieving. It's still hard. And it will always be hard [but she] would never want any of us to ever wallow intuit grief and let it take over our lives. She would never want that. She wasn't like that."

Tucci in recent years has appeared in three films, including the gay romance, "Supernova," in which he co-starred with Colin Firth as a man battling early onset dementia.

Additional information about diseases and their treatments can be found in “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer,” a book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Hundreds of women, men pose topless to show bodies are beautiful even with mastectomy scars

Hundreds of Delaware women, and men, have been posing topless — to make a point about why bodies are still beautiful even after mastectomies.

Members of the Grace Project, a photo shoot by Charise Isis, say their message is body-acceptance even when it's scarred and "may look flawed to the conventional eye."

According to a recent story by Yusra Asif in the Delaware News Journal, the shoots have been "aimed to capture the courage, beauty and grace of the breast-cancer patients." 

Their theme, the story says, "was inspired by Hellenistic goddess sculptures such as Venus de Milo, a broken relic that has survived the trauma of history and yet is celebrated for its beauty."

Asif's article quotes Isis as declaring that "the people I photograph trust me with their greatest vulnerability, the scars that have been written all over their body, a map of their survival…I get to witness such profound beauty and transformation."

The story also says the project aims at creating awareness of the cancer itself, "especially among underrepresented communities, and the importance of self-examination to detect the disease at an early stage."

One of the men who participated in the shoot, Stephen Sala, a member of the Male Breast Cancer Coalition, told Asif that he'd "do anything to help men understand and get rid of the stigma that it's a woman's disease. We have a slogan that men have breasts, too."

The piece explains that while men "are less likely to get breast cancer, they tend to get diagnosed with more aggressive types and their mortality rate is higher."

Isis' aim is to ultimately take 800 portraits — "the approximate number of new breast-cancer cases in the Unites States every day." She's already done 450. She plans to exhibit them fully once she's reach her goal. For now, she's exhibiting a handful at galleries, museums, hospitals and cancer centers throughout the country.

More information on mastectomy is available in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Appeals court backs $86.2 million verdict against Monsanto that found Roundup causes cancer

An appeals court has upheld a $86.2 million verdict against Monsanto that cited the chemical giant's "conscious disregard for the safety of others." 

The decision, which came recently in a 2-1 ruling from the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco, confirmed damages awarded to a Livermore couple who developed cancer after spraying Roundup, the world's most widely used herbicide, in their yards for 30 years.

The verdict, according to a story by Bob Egelko in the San Francisco Chronicle, marked the third time an appeals court has upheld San Francisco Bay Area jury verdicts that Monsanto knowingly marketed a dangerous product.

Egelko's story quotes Justice Marla Miller's statement from the majority opinion that the "evidence shows Monsanto's intransigent unwillingness to inform the public bout the carcinogenic dangers of a product it made abundantly available at hardware stores and garden sops across the country."

The dissenting justice, James Richman, "did not dispute Monsanto's responsibility for [the illnesses of Alva and Alberta Pilliod] but said the evidence did not show the company knew of the dangers," the Chronicle article reports.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, said glyphosate, Roundup's main ingredient, was a probable cause for cancer in human beings. Later, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency demurred, preventing California, in the process, from requiring a warning label on containers of the weed-killer.

The appeals court ruled this week, however, that the jury was "entitled to believe" evidence "that Monsanto had failed to conduct proper studies for the EPA on the safety of the herbicide and that the company's scientists had 'ghost-written' reports in th names of purportedly independent researchers."

The ruling, the Chronicle piece notes, "comes less than two weeks after Monsanto's parent company, Bayer, announced that it would stop selling the current version of Roundup for home and garden use in U.S. stores, starting in 2023."

In addition, Bayer said it would replace glyphosate "with an unspecified active ingredient, subject to federal and state approval, while continuing to sell Roundup with glyphosate for farm use," Egelko writes.

Alva Pilliod was diagnosed "with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of lymph cancer, at age 69 in 2013, and Alberta Pilliod was diagnosed with the same illness four years later at age 70," says the Chronicle piece.

More information on lawsuits against companies whose products cause 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, July 29, 2021

Frequent heartburn, acid reflux could lead to esophageal cancer, which is rapidly on the rise

Increased incidences of acid reflux may be linked to a spike in esophageal cancer.

At least that's the conclusion of a story by Stephen Perrine in an old AARP Bulletin I just unearthed from a storage box in my laundry room closet stuffed between two sheets of paper with other medical advice that I neglected to heed. 

Many people "don't realize that common heartburn symptoms can both lead to and mask something more serious," reads the story and a caption accompanying the article.

"Esophageal adenocarcinoma — cancer of the lining of the soft tube that delivers food and drink from the mouth to the stomach," Perrine's piece says, "has increased sevenfold since the early 1970s," quoting Dr. Paul Oberstein, director of the gastrointestinal oncology program at New York University Langone's Perlmutter Cancer Center in Manhattan.

The cancer's increase "has paralleled the rise of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the medical name for when you have bouts of acid reflux two or more times per week."

According to David Odell, lead investigator on a study of esophageal cancer funded by the American Cancer Society, thoracic surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, "it's one of the fastest-growing issues we have in the population," the AARP story reports.

Chronic heartburn, it says, "can sometimes lead to a disorder called Barrett's esophagus, in which the cells of the esophagus…being to change into glandular cells like those of the stomach." Five percent of GERD patients "will develop Barrett's, and 10 percent of those will go on to develop cancer."

The story also notes that one in every five Americans experience heartburn or acid reflux on a weekly basis, with 40 percent dealing with it at least once a month.

Estimates by the American Cancer Society are that roughly 16,000 Americans die of esophageal cancer annually. Approximately four times as many men get the disease as women, with 85 percent of the cancers being found in people 55 or older.

The main causes of GERD are obesity, a tendency toward large meals, and a high-stress lifestyle, Perrine's story indicates.

More information on links between drugs and other treatments to additional disease is available in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Article cites 6 ways of dealing with disease

Yellowed Time magazine piece shows how a patient may improve your breast-cancer treatment

Some perceptions hold up a long time.

Time magazine, under the rubric "Frontiers of Medicine," ran a story a few years back that's clearly still valid today. The piece was headlined "6 surprising things that may improve breast-cancer treatment."

Because I thought it important, I've retained a yellowed copy all this time — even though I didn't consider any of the suggestions truly "surprising" even back then.

The intro of the story by Alexandra Sifferlin says that "being diagnosed with breast cancer can make a person feel powerless but there are some things women can do to potentially improve how they feel throughout the process."

It then lists "strategies recommended by experts — and others that are still being explored — that may enhance the effectiveness and reduce the side effects of treatment."

The half dozen areas it addresses are physical activity, healthy eating, yoga, sleep, treatment timing and meditation.

Dr. Ann Partridge
Exercise, which seems to be a recommended medical treatment for virtually every disease, gets the first slot.

Sifferlin quotes Dr. Ann Partridge, a prof of medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder and director of the Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer at Dana-Faber Cancer Institute.

Exercise is "one of the best things women can do for themselves," the doctor contends.

She suggests that walking three to five times a week "can make a huge difference in how you feel during treatment."

It's also good for the brain, she notes. "A study of 87 breast-cancer survivors found that those who did 12 weeks of exercise scored better on some cognitive tests than women who didn't exercise."

Sifferlin's second most important idea, in my opinion, comes in the category of yoga, one of the most studied of complementary or integrative therapies for breast cancer.

"A steady practice," her Time article says, "may even lessen the side effects of treatment."

Sifferlin cites one study that finds "doing yoga at least twice a week improved sleep and reduced daytime drowsiness in women with breast cancer" and another that indicates "women who practiced yoga had less fatigue and fewer markers of inflammation than those who didn't."

High on the Time suggestion scale is the notion of sticking with a healthy, "preventive medicine" diet, one "filled with lots of fruits and vegetables [that] contain fiber and anti-oxidants."

Sifferlin details a study that shows women who ate three servings of fruit a day as teenagers "had a 25% lower risk of developing breast cancer later on than those who ate less."

A big red flag, she indicates, is overdoing carbs or comfort foods.

Another danger, Sifferlin writes, is from too little sleep.

The writer describes yet another study, one whose findings show "women who slept less than five hours a night on average before they were diagnosed with breast cancer were nearly 1.5 times as likely to die from the disease as women who reported sleeping seven to eight hours a night."

In a fifth category, the timing of treatments, the Time article extracts from a Weizmann Institute of Science study information that "evidence in mice" points to the notion that "cancer treatment might be more effective in the evening" — and suggests that "shifting care a few hours may be a simple way to make medications more powerful."

Finally, in regard to meditation, Sifferlin's piece again quotes Partridge that "when you are emotionally not doing well, you feel things more physically" — and that when "tired, stressed or upset, patients may perceive their cancer symptoms as worse."

The doctor looked at a review of research, Time reports, and saw that "meditation is effective at treating symptoms of mood disorders [such as anxiety and depression] that are common among with with a recent breast-cancer diagnosis."

More information about the disease, research about it, and its treatment 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.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Physician warns of seeking medical quick-fix

Doc who gained fame by disputing Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop claims offers advice about online advice

Is seeking medical advice online normally a good idea?

According to Dr. Jen Gunter, an ob/gyn who practices in San Francisco and who gained some degree of fame from repeatedly disputing A-list actress Gwyneth Paltrow's claims about benefits provided by her Goop company, it can be good.

Or bad.
Dr. Jen Gunter
Gunter, who despite admitting that she's "invested heavily in the social media my blog and writing for other sources," warns that "we appear to be moving from the age of information to the age of misinformation."

In an article published by the Marin Independent Journal some time ago, Gunter reports that a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center had showed "69 percent of Americans (80 percent of those with internet access) turned to the internet for information about their health."

She maintains that "people use online sources to research symptoms, self-diagnosis, confirm a diagnosis, investigate tests or therapies and search for alternatives not recommended by their health-care provider."

She also cites survey findings that "26 percent [social media users] mostly trusted the content and 52 percent mostly distrusted the science content." 

Another caveat: "Sorting the good medical information from the bad online can be hard, even for a physician who has medical training, access to medical libraries, medical society that provide guidelines and close colleagues we know to be experts in the field."


Because, she writes, "there are predatory scientific journals, hidden (and not so hidden) bias, trends that get hyped, and good information is often sprinkled in with low-quality or false information."

Also, Gunter notes, "let's face it, everyone — physicians included — can't resist the lure of a quick fix!"

Another problem — how to uncomplicate net-navigation so a user an "sort out the quality from the quacks."

Among her suggestions "for sorting the sorcery from the science" are to determine whether a given site is "selling a product related to the subject matter…for example, an article about fatigue that sells supplements for that symptom," to beware quasi-scientific buzz words (such as toxins, detoxification or adrenal fatigue), to avoid promises of sensationalized or extreme outcomes (everyone is cured!) and scary tales of harm ("most therapies are not all bad or all good…medicine is more shades of gray than black or white…except smoking…it's bad for you").

Other of her ideas include finding whether a "product or pill [is] being promoted by a doctor" (if they've received money for pushing it, that points to bias and "the information may be correct, but you always want a non-biased source for confirmation," not blindly accepting patient testimonials (which are "not vetted for accuracy or bias"), and not relying on sites that "offer easy solutions for hard problems" (obesity, fatigue, depression and cancer, for instance).

Gunter also cautions about comment sections. "Uncivil and rude comments polarize readers and can lead people to distrust the good content they have just read. Even one ad hominem attack can inflate perceived risk."

Sound advice — as well as anecdotal material — about 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.