How Do We Solve the Crisis in Cancer Communication?


“Five rounds of the usual chemotherapy/radiation protocol kept Alan Gross alive through decades of living with lymphoma. The treatments were grueling, but he was living proof that science was giving us ways to live with cancer. Then the disease came roaring back, and doctors told him that their medicine no longer worked. They told him to get his affairs in order.

“Every day, thousands of Americans get the end-of-life warning that Alan and his wife, Jane Townsend, heard two years ago. The words are so powerful that they can have a concussive effect, making it hard to hear, to speak, to process information. ‘Your ability to think clearly and concentrate isn’t there,’ Jane told me.”

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Melanoma Risk Genetic Testing May Help With Prevention

The gist: Genetic testing can help predict a person’s risk of getting melanoma. A recent study found that people who receive genetic testing for melanoma risk might be prompted to discuss melanoma risk and prevention with more family members.

“Positive genetic risk information about melanoma may help to prompt people to discuss melanoma risk with a wider variety of family members, according to a study published in JAMA that examined the effects of hypothetical genetic testing. Interestingly, even people who received negative genetic testing results were still affected by the results.

“ ‘This study shows us that individuals are sensitive to receiving genetic risk information, regardless of the results, and will likely increase their willingness to discuss melanoma risk and prevention strategies with their families after receiving this type of feedback,’ said study author Mallorie Gordon, MA, of the department of psychology, New School for Social Research, New York, New York.

“ ‘This study indicates that providing genetic risk information to patients and their families may not only improve their understanding of their particular skin health needs—specifically telling patients whether their melanoma risk is related to heredity or sun exposure, as defined by the feedback type of the genetic test—but also improve the risk communication that exists around melanoma and its prevention overall,’ she told Cancer Network.”

Culturally Sensitive, Computer-based Videos Increase Clinical Trial Awareness Among Latina Breast Cancer Patients

“Latina breast cancer patients provided with information about clinical trials in multiple ways, including a culturally sensitive, computer-based video on breast cancer clinical trials, had much greater awareness of clinical trials compared with patients who received usual-care information, according to data presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved, held Nov. 9–12.

“After receiving the additional information, the proportion of Latina breast cancer patients taking steps toward participating in a clinical trial increased from 38 percent to 75 percent.

” ‘Latinos represent 17 percent of the U.S. population but only 5.6 percent of participants in National Cancer Institute treatment clinical trials,’ said Patricia Chalela, DrPH, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. ‘Underrepresentation of minorities in clinical trials results in disparities of cancer outcomes and limits generalizability of the findings because researchers cannot study how minority patients respond to new treatments.’ “

Study Investigates Online Information Available to Lung Cancer Patients

“Researchers from The University of Manchester have begun a study to look at the online information available to lung cancer patients in an era of diagnosis by google.

“Lung cancer affects around 41,000 people in the UK each year and has one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer, which experts think is partly because people do not get treatment early enough or recognise the symptoms.

“The Medical Research Council-funded study will include a systematic review of the information about lung cancer currently available online to see how this can be improved.”

Association Launches Nationwide Lung Cancer Awareness Initiative

“The American Lung Association – in partnership with national presenting sponsor, CVS Caremark – recently unveiled LUNG FORCE, a national initiative to make lung cancer in women a public health priority, drive policy change and expand research funding.

“ ‘Together we have to make lung cancer in women a public health priority and change our thinking about this disease. We hope that with increased awareness and education, women will join the fight against lung cancer and for lung health,’ Harold Wimmer, national president and chief executive officer of the American Lung Association, said in a press release. ‘We are proud to introduce LUNG FORCE and honored to have CVS Caremark as a partner in this new movement that unites women to stand together against lung cancer.’ ”

Powerful Patients: Highlights and Takeaways from the 2014 Personalized Medicine World Conference

Every year, scientists, doctors, and representatives from pharmaceutical, diagnostics, and technology companies gather in Silicon Valley to talk shop at the Personalized Medicine World Conference (PMWC). For 2 days, they discuss the triumphs and challenges of diagnosing and treating diseases based on patients’ distinct genetic characteristics.

This year, the PMWC status quo was interrupted by a not-so-unlikely guest: the patient. Cancer Commons joined the event’s organizers to cohost a series of informative presentations for patients and advocates, delivered by doctors and researchers, as well as patients and advocates themselves. Continue reading…

Targeted Intervention Decreased Melanoma Risk, Increased Early Prevention

“A targeted screening and education strategy aimed at patients at high risk for melanoma favorably affected behaviors that may reduce melanoma risk compared with a standard information-based campaign, according to the results of a recent study published in Annals of Family Medicine.

“General practitioner counseling, combined with a skin examination and a self-assessment tool resulted in patients retaining information about melanoma risk factors and reducing high-risk behaviors.”