Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Actress Sharon Stone opens up about having to surgically remove tumors bigger than her breast

After receiving a Courage Award from the Women's Cancer Research Fund earlier this month, actress Sharon Stone revisited having had "gigantic [tumors] bigger than my breasts" removed in 2001. 

A recent story by Anthony Dominic on the ET (Entertainment Tonight) website indicates that the 65-year-old actor insisted women shouldn't "ever feel compelled not to get a mammogram, not to get a blood test, not to get surgery because it doesn't matter. I'm standing here telling you I had a one and a half and more tissue of my breasts removed and none of you knew it."

Stone had opted to half one breast removed, and half of the second, ending with reconstruction that resulted in an unauthorized breast enlargement, before learning that her massive tumors had been benign.

Sharon Stone
The Basic Instinct star, speaking at the fundraising event at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, admitted that "those mammograms are not fun," but also said that the "mammogram machines that your taxpayer dollars pay for don't work if you don't walk up and put your breast up in that machine and let them slam that thing down."

She recalled that she'd gone into the hospital saying, "'If you open me up and it's cancer, please take both breasts,' because I am not a person defined by my breasts. You know, that might seem funny coming from me since you've all seen 'em."

During her plea for donations, she wiped tears from her eyes and noted that she'd just lost "half my money" via "this banking thing," an apparent reference to the Silicon Valley Bank collapse. It's been a tough time in the world for everyone, she added, specifying her own difficulties — including the death of her brother Patrick to a heart attack last month at age 57. 

Stone, who'd received an Oscar nomination in 1996 for Casino, had originally revealed in her memoir, The Beauty of Living Twice, that not only had she had the breast surgery but that she'd suffered a stroke in 2001.

Multiple sources reported that Stone was being honored for raising awareness about breast cancer. At one pint, she honored survivors in the audience by asking them to stand up and be recognized.

For more information on diagnoses and reconstruction, check out Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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.