Cancer and Life Lessons

Dealing with cancer can force us to learn valuable life lessons.Experience is a hard teacher. She gives the test first and the lessons afterwards. ~Anonymous

It’s fascinating to read the stories of people who’ve had to deal with cancer and how they’ve been affected by the experience. Some come to reassess what’s important in their lives and set off in exciting new directions.  And others learn how to adapt to changed capabilities while continuing to do what is important to them and brings joy to their lives.

As I was reading a few of those stories recently, I found myself reflecting back on my own experience with cancer, and whether it has changed me in any way.

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Recent Breast Cancer Screening Studies: What Are the Take-Home Messages?

Doctor examining a mammogram

Another major study on breast cancer screening was published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). This study follows a report two months ago on the results of a large clinical trial on mammography conducted in Canada.

A summary of the Canadian trial’s main findings and links to several commentaries about it are in my recent post on top cancer research stories.

The study reported last week in JAMA did not include any new trial findings or other new evidence. Instead, it was a thorough review of what we know about the benefits and harms of mammography from the many trials and other studies that have been conducted over the last 50 years and an effort to distill from all this information what the current state of knowledge is about mammography. Continue reading

Breast Cancer Quality of Life Issues: A Researcher Asks “Are We Doing Better?”

In one of the most interesting presentations at the recent San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, physicians and other attendees heard from a researcher who has spent thirty years studying issues related to the measurement of quality of life for cancer patients and how it can be improved. Dr. Lesley Fallowfield, Director of Psychosocial Oncology at Brighton & Sussex Medical School, spoke about what has and has not changed in the treatment of psychosocial and survivorship issues in breast cancer.

Woman sitting on mountain top and contemplating the sunset

Possibly the biggest change in this area over the last thirty years is that there is now much more support available to patients, largely through a wide variety of formal and informal support groups and online and other sources of information. Dr. Fallowfield noted, however, that these resources “fill a void in the absence of anything more formal”.

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