I know there’s a lot of fear right now with the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States, and there’s even more fear when we start talking about shutting down schools and closing restaurants and taking a lot of measures to do social distancing.
But I think that should be our message of hope today. Social distancing actually works, and it is our best defense right now against this rising epidemic in our country.
Many people feel like we’re overreacting by closing schools and restaurants and not going to the movies, but actually it is our best hope for really making a change in the curve of acceleration of this illness in our country.
Janet Wolter, MD, former physician and professor of medicine at Rush University Medical Center, died on Feb. 4. A national leader in cancer care, Wolter was a beloved researcher, mentor and friend.
Her career at what now is Rush University Medical Center began in 1963 and spanned almost 50 years. During her time here, she collaborated with endocrinologists to find new ways to treat cancer with chemotherapy and hormone therapy. She was especially interested in the treatment of breast cancer and in 1985 co-founded the Midwest’s first comprehensive breast center, today known as the Coleman Foundation Comprehensive Breast Cancer Clinic.
Wolter was passionate about care teams and encouraged nursing staff to work alongside physicians before this model of care was widely practiced.
This year, the Myelodysplastic Syndromes Foundation will host its first MDS Awareness Run/Walk in Chicago, raising critical funds and awareness for myelodysplastic syndromes.
I am excited to share that I will be receiving the Nobility in Science Award at this year’s event, being held on June 22, from 8 a.m. to noon, at Maggie Daley Park. This community fundraising event helps the MDS Foundation in its mission to support and educate patients and health care providers with innovative research into the fields of MDS and related myeloid neoplasms.
As an MDS specialist, I have witnessed firsthand the impact this disease has on my patients’ quality of life and longevity. I strongly believe that we should support research endeavors to translate science into therapeutic advances that will ease the burden of this disease and prolong patients’ lives. I have participated in trials that resulted in approval of several agents for the treatment of MDS, but we need to work harder to identify additional treatments for MDS patients. I urge to join me to further this cause.
I can still remember the day I got the call from Dr. Andrea Madrigrano, my breast surgeon at Rush.
“Deb, I’m so sorry, but it’s not going to be what you want to hear,” she said. “The lumpectomy confirms it is DCIS. You have breast cancer. The good news is, we caught it early, but we recommend a bilateral mastectomy.”
I don’t remember much after that. I tried to stay calm and ask questions on next steps. I’m a doer. Instinctively, I just set out to get this treated. My “let’s do this!” attitude kicked in.
But suddenly I felt my heart racing faster, my breath shorter, and I could not hold back the tears any longer. I started to weep uncontrollably.
I blurted out, “Oh my God. How do I tell my mom? How am I going to tell my parents I have cancer?”
On this Mother’s Day, as I plan a day with my mom, I cannot help but think back to this moment when I was finally diagnosed and staged out for surgery. How do you tell your loved ones you have cancer?
Despite remarkable advances in detection and treatment of colorectal cancer, it remains the second-largest cause of cancer mortality in the United States. This statistic looms despite the fact that colorectal cancer is one of the most treatable cancers there is because early detection, thus cure, is entirely possible.
What makes this unique among the other cancers for which we have screening tools is that prevention is also possible. This is because we can identify and remove premalignant lesions before they become cancer. So what accounts for the stark contrast between this grim statistic and our known ability to prevent, detect and cure this cancer? Lack of screening. The most common signs and symptoms of early colon cancer are — nothing at all. That’s why we so strongly recommend screening for colorectal cancer.
Current guidelines recommend colorectal cancer screening for adults between the age of 50 and 75. This may start earlier for those at higher risk (family history of colorectal cancer, chronic inflammatory bowel disease, polyposis syndromes or patients of African-American descent).
After the age of 75, we recommend screening on an individual basis. There are a variety of recommended screening tests. The gold standard is the colonoscopy, which provides both screening and prevention. Not only can it detect early stage cancers, but also precancerous lesions called polyps, can be removed to potentially prevent a cancer from developing.
Testing and diagnosis have been key parts of this wild ride I am currently on.
Like most women, I dreaded the idea of having to take time out of my busy schedule to get a mammogram.
In my career as a media relations expert covering breast cancer stories, I have filmed many mammograms.
They looked uncomfortable and unpleasant.
The doctors and technicians are so nice and make such a huge effort to make it seem less scary, but let’s be real. Who wants to have their breasts examined and squished in a machine? Definitely not me.
So, when it was time for me to schedule my first mammogram, I wasn’t really up for it. I could have made every excuse to put it off or ignore it.
I had a good excuse, too! I just had an unrelated major surgery and was recovering from it. I had a huge abdominal scar that hurt and was still healing, and I had just started back at work. Did I really want to be back in the hospital for more tests and procedures? I just wasn’t in the mood to do it, and I didn’t want to take the time off to get a mammogram.
Jill Feldman with radiation oncologist Gaurav Marwaha, MD, left, and medical oncologist Philip Bonomi, MD.
By Jill Feldman
I have been fighting lung cancer indirectly, and now directly, for 36 years, and most of it has been an uphill battle. I lost my dad and two grandparents to lung cancer when I was 13, and then my mom and aunt, Dede, died of lung cancer when I was in my 20s. I was shocked and upset that in the 14 years between my dad being diagnosed with lung cancer and my mom being diagnosed, there was not a single advancement in lung cancer treatment, despite it being the No. 1 cancer killer. My family and I felt helpless and hopeless, and while there wasn’t any research on hereditary lung cancer, I knew our familial lung cancer wasn’t just a coincidence.
I did what I could to get educated, be an advocate for myself and my family and to help advance a cause that many were not aware of and/or not interested in. While doing so, in 2009, I was diagnosed with lung cancer at 39 years old. My kids were 6, 8, 10 and 12 — and their only association with the disease was death. They were scared, and my greatest fear was becoming a reality. I was following in my family’s footsteps, and there wasn’t any promising research that convinced me the path would change.
For many years, the only distinction doctors could make was whether a person had small cell or non-small cell lung cancer, and patients had three treatment options: surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. It wasn’t even until the 1990s that combination chemotherapy regimens were approved. Still, there was debate whether it was even worth treating lung cancer because in many cases, the toxicity was worse than the disease, and the benefits from chemotherapy were marginal.
Immunotherapies have changed how we treat the disease
By Philip Bonomi, MD
One of the things I learned early on in medical school is never to forget that it’s a privilege when a patient puts his or her trust in you to take care of them. I have never taken that privilege lightly. My goal has always been to prolong meaningful life and relieve suffering for my patients. That’s been my personal mission statement throughout my career.
And those goals are not always easy when it comes to treating lung cancer. When I started out in medicine, some of the treatments we tried for lung cancer were simply not effective. There were not a lot of options for our patients and often the prognosis was poor.
But through my long career, I have seen that perseverance, believing in an idea and not giving up on it can pay off.
Enter immunotherapies. When I was in medical school in the late 1960s, we had high hopes for immunotherapy. We thought it was going to be very important for treating patients with cancer. But then, we saw one failed study after another over the next few decades.