"Three Months" was the time between my mom's late stage lung cancer diagnosis and when she passed away. It was a very intense three months, but I hope my story and my faith can help you in some ways.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

NPR article on cancer treatment cost

NPR recently published an article on cancer treatment and medical debts.

Cancer is one of the leading cause of deaths in the US. However, thanks to medical research and breakthroughs, many more patients are surviving compared to decades ago.

Unfortunately, the cost of treatment often put patients and their families in medical debt. 

In the article, Dr. Veena Shankaran, a University of Washington oncologist who began studying the financial impact of cancer after seeing patients ruined by medical bills said: "Even if someone survives the cancer, they often can't shake the debt."

Shankaran found that cancer patients were 71% more likely than Americans without the disease to have bills in collections, face tax liens and mortgage foreclosure, or experience other financial setbacks. Analyzing bankruptcy records and cancer registries in Washington state, Shankaran and other researchers also discovered that cancer patients were 2½ times more likely to declare bankruptcy than those without the disease.

And cancer patients who went bankrupt were more likely to die than those who did not. Oncologists have a name for this: "financial toxicity," a term that echoes the intractable vomiting, life-threatening infections and other noxious effects of chemotherapy. 

This is a sobering article regarding medical debts. Unless there is an overhaul of the current healthcare model, I'm not sure how to solve this social issue. For now, I've listed some resources for financial help from non-profit organizations. Hopefully one day in the future, we have enough voter willpower to change the system.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Exciting news about an experimental drug that could change the field of cancer research

As reported in NPR's article: This experimental drug could change the field of cancer research, a very small group of patients with rectal cancer took a drug called dostarlimab for six months under a trial done by New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

"The trial resulted in every single one of their tumors disappearing. The trial group included just 18 people, and there's still more to be learned about how the treatment worked. But some scientists say these kinds of results have never been seen in the history of cancer research."

Dr. Hanna Sanoff of the University of North Carolina's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center joined NPR's All Things Considered to discuss how this drug works and what it could mean for the future of cancer research. She concluded that: "What I'd really like us to do is get a bigger trial where this drug is used in a much more diverse setting to understand what the real, true response rate is going to be. It's not going to end up being 100 percent."

According to Washington Post's Eye-catching cancer drug trial results have researchers asking: What’s next?, "Though the trial was tested in patients whose tumor mutation is present in roughly 4 percent of all cancer cases, the results provide a template for how to tailor immunotherapy drugs to attack specific tumors that, due to their mutation, tend to be more resistant to traditional therapies, according to Julie Gralow, chief medical officer and executive vice president of American Society of Clinical Oncology."

The article about the study is published at NEJM: Improving Treatment Approaches for Rectal Cancer.



Saturday, January 29, 2022

mRNA Vaccines and Cancer Treatments

There are some promising development in mRNA technology and cancer treatment. 

In a recent article, the National Cancer Institute wrote that "some investigators believe the success of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines could help accelerate clinical research on mRNA vaccines to treat cancer."

According to the article "Dozens of clinical trials are testing mRNA treatment vaccines in people with various types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer, and melanoma. Some vaccines are being evaluated in combination with drugs that enhance the body’s immune response to tumors."

There is hope that the personalized mRNA cancer vaccines can be developed. 

The full article can be round here: mRNA Vaccines to Treat Cancer

Mayo Clinic's research finds that mRNA improves the response to cancer immunotherpay in patients who weren't responding to treatment.  The study is published in Cancer Immunology Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. 

The full article can be found here: Mayo Clinic research finds immune system responds to mRNA treatment for cancer.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

New blood tests for detecting cancer

There are many new developments in cancer research.  One of the exciting diagnostic tool in development is new blood tests designed to detect cancer.

New blood test can detect 50 types of cancer

"In a paper published in the leading cancer journal Annals of Oncologytoday (Friday), researchers report that the test accurately detected cancer, often before any symptoms arose, while having a very low false positive rate. The test also predicted where in the body the cancer is located with a high degree of accuracy, which could help doctors choose effective diagnostic tests.

GRAIL, Inc. (California, USA), the company developing and funding the research, has now made the multi-cancer early detection test available in the USA by prescription only, and to complement other, existing screening methods such as those for breast, cervical, prostate, lung and bowel cancers."


Experimental Blood Test Detects Cancer up to Four Years

"Kun Zhang, a bioengineer at the University of California, San Diego, and his colleagues focused on developing a test for five of the most common types of cancer: stomach, esophageal, colorectal, lung and liver malignancies. The test they developed, called PanSeer, detects methylation patterns in which a chemical group is added to DNA to alter genetic activity. Past studies have shown that abnormal methylation can signal various types of cancer, including pancreatic and colon cancer."


Currently Available Blood Tests

Currently available blood tests are listed in this Mayo article: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/in-depth/cancer-diagnosis/art-20046459

Monday, June 21, 2021

Grief and Loss

Yesterday was Father's Day. For some of us, it could be a difficult day. It doesn't matter how long since our loved one passed away, the pain, for some, is still quite intense. 

But there is hope at the end of the tunnel. After we properly processed our grief, we would be able to better manage our pain and still keep the wonderful memories that we had. If we choose to, we can channel that energy to build something positive. But first, we may have to reach out for help and support, just like everything else related to care giving.

I have decided to add grief and loss resources to the blog. I hope it will be useful for those of us who are grieving and working on closure. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Cancer caregiving study

 The Journal of Clinical Oncology recently published an article "Comparing adult child and spousal caregiver burden and potential causes." 1    This study analyzed adult child and spousal/partner caregivers’ surveys from the Cancer Care Outcomes Research and Surveillance consortium, a multi-regional population-based study of approximately 10,000 persons with newly diagnosed colorectal and lung cancer. The study looked into adult child and spousal caregivers’ caregiving responsibilities, social/emotional burden, and financial burden. 

The graphic of this study provides findings that may help lighten the burden on caregivers.  


- Adult-children spend less time caregiving than spouses, but experience greater social, emotional and financial burdens

- Employment, childcare and patient and caregiver gender contribute to adult-children's higher burdens

- Patient-caregiver gender concordance, common for adult-child caregivers, is associated with worse social/emotional burden

- Communication quality is associated with reduced social/emotional burden 


- Efforts to reduce caregiving burden must adapt to adult-children's challenges of childcare responsibilities, work and gender dynamics

- Programs improving communication may benefit adult-child and spousal caregiver populations

- Caregiver-patient gender concordance's association with burden extends prior research that females face great caregiving burden than males

Although this is an academic study on the caregiving burdens of adult child compared to spouses, it shed important light on how caregivers are affected socially, emotionally and financially.  It is important for caregivers to seek support and help (I've listed some of them in the resource page) in order to lighten the burden.  The other takeaway is the importance of communications.  Whether it is between the patient and caregiver, or between patient/caregiver and the medical staff,  communication is key even though this is a very emotional time for all that's involved. 


"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Gal 6:2 NIV