Monday, July 27, 2020

Workload blocks woman from finding disease

Eagle-eyed viewer in Tampa tips off TV reporter to neck lump that's cancerous and requires surgery

A 28-year-old Tampa TV investigative reporter last week credited a viewer with helping her find a cancerous lump.
Victoria Price
According to a story by Johnny Diaz in The New York Times, Victoria Price was to undergo surgery today to remove a neck tumor, her thyroid "and a couple of lymph nodes."

Price reportedly has been fatigued but had attributed that to her heavy workload. "Full-throttle, never-ending shifts in a never-ending news cycle" is how the Florida reporter labeled it in a Twitter post.

Then she added, "Had I never received that email, I never would have called my doctor. The cancer would have continued to spread. It's a scary and humbling thought."

She also said she expected to "be forever grateful for the woman who went out of her way to email me, a total stranger. She had zero obligation to, but she did anyway."

Said Price, pointing out that the catchphrase of her station, WFLA-TV, is "8 On Your Side" but the woman had reversed the roles, putting "a viewer on MY side."

Diaz also wrote that it's "not the first time a keen viewer has spotted a medical issue of a TV personality." One of them came to light in April of last year "when Deborah Norville, the anchor of the syndicated news program 'Inside Edition' had surgery to remove a cancerous nodule from her neck. She said she had been monitoring the lump after a viewer noticed it on her neck and brought it to her attention."

In a video message, Norville had said: "We live in a world of 'see something, say something,' and I'm really glad we do."

Clearly, early detection of a disease can be of great medical benefit. More examples 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.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

'Alternative care' ads are perilous, says debunker

Pseudoscientific advertising on social media swamps cancer patient who exposes it in N.Y. Times op ed

Facebook targets users who have cancer with "alternative care" ads.

At least that's the opinion of Anne Borden King, a consultant for Bad Science Watch, who published an article to that effect in The New York Times last week.

King, who's also the founder of the Campaign Against Phony Autism Cures, insisted she'll never fall for those ads because she's "an advocate against pseudoscience."

Her opinion piece held high a red flag proclaiming that "being targeted by those who traffic in false promises feels like a 'slap in the face' to patients like me," according to a secondary headline in the Times.

Unfortunately, King postulated, there may be no hope that Facebook will change its policies on how it handles "hate speech and misinformation." As proof, she cited a meeting the social media giant had last week with representatives of the advocacy group Stop Hate for Profit. 

"In the view of the organizers," she wrote, "the meeting did not go well."
Jessica J. Gonzalez 
King, in fact, quoted Jessica J. Gonz├ílez, one of those organizers, who in January was named co-CEO of Free Press, a media advocacy group: "Facebook approached our meeting today like it was nothing more than a PR exercise."

The op ed writer, whom the Times describes as "an advocate working to prevent the spread of medical misinformation," noted that the Facebook ads promoted "everything from cumin seeds to colloidal silver as cancer treatments. Some ads promise luxury clinics — or even 'nontoxic cancer therapies' on a beach in Mexico."

She further noted that she's "learned to recognized the hallmarks of pseudoscience marketing: unproven and sometimes dangerous treatments, promising simplistic solutions and support. Things like 'bleach cures' that promise to treat everything from Covid-19 to autism." 

King also indicated that she found it interesting that no "legitimate cancer care ads" have appeared in her newsfeed, "just pseudoscience. This may be because pseudoscience companies rely on social media in a way that order forms of health care don't."

She elaborated: Pseudoscience companies "use influencers and patient testimonials [and sometimes] recruit members through Facebook 'support groups' to sell their products in pyramid schemes."

And the social media environment, she wrote, gives patients "a sense of belonging, which makes it harder  for them to question a product."

Cancer patients, she alleged, "are especially vulnerable to this stealth marketing" because it becomes normal for them to be "told where to go, how to sit and what to take. It can be painful and scary and — and then all our hair falls out. During the pandemic, many of us are also isolated. Our loved ones can't come to our appointments or even visit us in the hospital. Now, more than ever, who is there to hold our hand?"

Pseudoscience companies, King added, have found a way to "tap directly into our fears and isolation, offering us a sense of control, while claiming their products can end our pain. They exploit our emotions to offer phony alternatives."

She then voiced a strong statement that "the evidence is clear: Death rates are much higher for people with cancer who choose alternative therapies instead of standard care."

More debunking of pseudoscientific cures 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.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Neither bras nor caffeine cause breast cancer

Article details risk factors for breast cancer while outlining preventive measures and dispelling myths

Are the causes of breast cancer known?

No, according to a feature story by Dr. Lizellen La Follette in the Marin Independent Journal that I've kept around quite a while because it's a good summary.

Both the article and its headline note, however, that although the roots of breast cancer aren't clear, the risk factors are.
Dr. Lizellen La Follette
La Follette details those factors: gender (being a woman); age ("two out of three with invasive cancer are diagnosed after age 55"); family, personal health, menstrual and reproductive histories; dense breast tissue; radiation to the chest; genetic changes; poor diet and alcohol consumption; obesity; lack of physical activity; smoking; and exposure to DES, a medication to prevent miscarriage that was heavily prescribed from the '40s through the '60s. 

Also, looking for dimpling or puckering of the breast, inversion of the nipple, redness or scaliness of the breast skin or nipple/areola area, or discharge of secretions from the nipple.

La Follette also dispels some myths about the disease — including the biggie, that it's contagious. It's not.

Other myths include that the disease can be caused "by wearing underwire bras, implants, deodorants, antiperspirants, mammograms, caffeine, plastic food serving items, microwaves or cellphones."

The article also suggests what women can do as prevention: having monthly breast cancer exams, checking for changes in breast tissue (such as in size), and feeling a palpable lump.

As for the risks, La Follette writes that a woman's "risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed" with it — "and her risk increases if a relative was diagnosed before the age of 50."

Furthermore, she notes, "studies show about 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers can be linked to one mutations inherited from one's mother or father."

Regarding smoking, the columnist contends that smoking is a danger "particularly when it's long-term, heavy and among those who started before their first pregnancy." Meanwhile, the risk "is about 1.5 times higher in overweight women, and two times higher in obese women than in lean women." 

In addition, La Follette maintains that "numerous studies confirm on average alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer in women by about 7 to 10 percent for each drink consumed," and she writes that "women who have two to three alcoholic drinks a day have a 20 percent higher risk…compared with non-drinkers."

Finally, she postures that "early menstruation (before age 12), mate menopause (after 55), having first child at older age or never having given birth can be risk factors."

La Follette also takes a moment to mention males, citing statistics that while the average man's lifetime risk is about 1 in 1,000, African-American men "are hit harder by breast cancer than their white counterparts and after diagnosis are three times more likely to die" from it than white men.

To learn more about other causes of the disease, get a copy of  "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.