Saturday, February 26, 2022

Mix of cancer, Covid put people of color at great risk of complications, hospitalizations, death

Docs say people in low-income communities are subject to advanced cancers because of pandemic-caused delays in diagnosis and treatment.

According to a recent story in The Washington Post by Laurie McGinley,  the combination of Covid and cancer is a menacing mix for those people of color.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worries, the article states, expect the dangerous combo to worsen "with the pandemic grinding on," with stats showing African Americans and Hispanics being "about twice as likely as White people to die of Covid" and Black cancer patients being "particularly high risk for complications and hospitalizations."

Black people, the Post story says, "had lower survival rates for many cancers compared with White people even before pandemic."

Dr. Kashyap Patel

McGinley's piece quotes oncologist Kashyap Patel, chief executive of Carolina Blood and Cancer Care Associates, as saying that "Covid put cancer and health-care disparities on steroids. I have never seen this many people presenting at Stage 3 and 4," the worst possible stages.

 Jennifer S. Haas, a primary care doc at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, was also quoted: "People have been trying to ignore symptoms for a year because they didn't want to come in."

The result? An unusually high number of advanced stomach cancers and esophageal malignancies "over the past several months."

Why are people of color so susceptible? Because of, the story notes, "higher rates of underlying conditions such as diabetes or hypertension; a lack of health insurance or access to a primary-care physician; and jobs that can cause health problems."

Says Haas, it's a particularly bad situation "if you work in an environment without air purification or filtration."  

According to McGinley's story, doctors say "many of those most acutely affected are women, whose family responsibilities and financial stress make it difficult to focus on their own health."

Debra Patt, executive vice president of Texas Oncology and a breast cancer specialist in Austin, elaborates in the article: "They have sacrificed themselves to deal with the needs of the family: "Are my children getting schooling, how do I take care of the older adults in my life, how do I manage everything?"

Long after the pandemic subsides, she worries, some patients will be struggling with advanced cancer. "The effects of this will go on for years," she's quoted as saying.

Perhaps the lesson from the pandemic is that "maybe we shouldn't expect everyone to come to doctors' offices," the story again quotes Haas, who reportedly says that more at-home testing would increase screening.

More information about the problems medical delays can cause may 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, February 17, 2022

EPA soon plans to crack down on cancer-causing 'forever chemicals' found in household items

The Environmental Protection Agency's administrator is planning "to limit a class of chemicals that have been linked to cancer and is found in everything from drinking water to furniture."

Michael S. Regan
In a recent story by Lisa Freedman in The New York Times about those "cancer-causing 'forever chemicals,'" Michael S. Regan is quoted as saying that because regulating these PFAs, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds, is a priority, new EPA testing requirements may go into effect "in a matter of weeks."

Regan says the Biden administration will "require chemical manufacturers to test and publicly report" the amount of PFAs "contained in household items like tape, nonstick pans and stain resistant furniture," the Times article states.

The action purportedly is "the first step toward reducing their presence in drinking water."

PFAs refer to more than 4,000 man-made chemicals that "don't break down in the environment" and are linked to "certain cancers, weakened immunity, thyroid disease, and other health effects."

Freedman's piece indicates that Regan wants the industry, not taxpayers, to bear the cost of meeting the requirements. "It could be expensive, but it's necessary," the EPA chief is quoted. "It's time for manufacturers to be transparent and provide the American people with this level of detail."

The PFAs ubiquitousness in consumer products stems from their increased resistance "to heat, stains, water and grease."

The American Chemistry Council, a trade organization, claims that alternative materials might not be available to replace about 600 PFAs used to manufacture products like solar panels and cellphones, the story reports. It also quotes a statement from council spokesman Erich Shea that he council "supports the strong, science-based regulation of chemicals, including PFAs substances" but maintains that "all PFAs are not the same, and they should not be regulated the same way." 

The Times simultaneously notes that environmentalists "don't believe there is a safe level of PFAs in drinking water."

More information on dangers from chemicals in the environment 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, February 3, 2022

Biden pushes program to cut cancer death rate by 50 percent; experts say it just won't work

Experts doubt President Biden's plan to cut the cancer death rate in half will be that effective.

In a story by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Gina Kolata in The New York Times today, those experts say his cancer "moonshot" program, which is to take 25 years, simply can't “so profoundly reduce the age-adjusted death rate, which accounts for expectations that older people are more likely to grow ill and die.”

The White House, the article continues, “billed the event as a fresh push by the president to ‘reignite’ the moonshot program” he initiated and presided over as vice president. The new push, it was claimed, would “end cancer as we know it.” 

But Biden did not offer specifics on how his goal would be achieved.

Part of the initiative will be “a campaign to urge Americans to undergo screenings that were missed during the coronavirus pandemic,” Stolberg and Kolata’s piece indicates.
In addition, Biden plans to create a new “cancer cabinet” to coordinate multiple government agencies and spearhead the fight against the disease.
Danielle Carnival, who worked on the moonshot program during Barack Obama’s administration, will help oversee the supercharged effort.
The Times article insists that “more screenings are not the answer — the only cancers for which screening has indisputably lowered the death rate are colon and cervical.”
Donald A. Berry, Ph.D.
Death rates for other cancers, like breast, have fallen, “but a large part of the drop, if not all of it, is because of improved treatment,” the story quotes Donald A. Berry, a Ph.D. biostatistician at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center who has spent decades studying these issues.

He also contends that “everybody loves early detection, but it comes with harms” — principally, the article goes on, the harm of finding and treating tumors that do not need to be treated because they are innocuous. “The harms we know, but the benefits of screening are very uncertain,” Berry again is quoted.

If the age-adjusted cancer death rate were to plunge by 50 percent, it would have to be because cancers were being cured, Stolberg and Kolata maintain. "Some treatments, like a drug that treats chronic myelogenous leukemia, have slashed death rates for that disease, but such marked effects in cancer are few and far between."

In contrast, according to their piece, Ellen V. Sigal, founder of Friends of Cancer Research, which works to support cancer research and deliver new therapies to patients, who was briefed on the plan, says, “These are audacious goals, and I have no doubt there will be mechanisms to achieve them.”
The article also quotes anonymous senior administration officials who pledged that although no new funding commitments would be announced, there would be “robust funding going forward.” 
Biden, it should be remembered, has a personal interest in cancer research; in 2015, his son Beau died of glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. The next year, Obama called on the then-vice president to lead the moonshot program with, according to Stolberg and Kolata, “a goal of making ‘a decade’s worth of advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment’ in five years.”

At the time, Congress authorized $1.8 billion over seven years; roughly $400 million of that money has yet to be allocated. The National Cancer Institute, which oversees the initiative, says it has already spent $1 billion on more than 240 research projects.

The current White House says more than 9.5 million cancer screenings were missed in the United States because of Covid-19.
More details on the original cancer "moonshot" 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.