Archive for mesothelioma

FREE Running Program for Cancer Survivors in MD, DC, VA, NY & Chicago

Andy & Alan 2004 Bay Bridge 10K

Andy & Alan @ Rockville Rotary Twilighter 8K Runfest 1992

 

Pictured above is my husband Alan (on the right) with his childhood friend Andy.  Since this picture was taken, Andy has run more than 30 marathons, completed 13 triathlons and has become a certified running coach.  Despite all these accomplishments, Andy always made time to go for a run or walk with Alan, even after he was diagnosed with cancer.

 

It was no surprise to me that Andy connected with The Ulman Cancer Fund’s CANCER to 5K Training Program - a FREE 12-week training program designed to introduce or reintroduce cancer survivors to training for and completing a 5K road race.  Amazing, right?!

ABOUT The CANCER to 5K Training Program:

Research has now shown that exercise is especially important for cancer survivors both in and out of active treatment.  Regular exercise not only improves mood, boosts self-confidence and reduces fatigue, but there is loads of evidence suggesting that higher levels of physical activity can help keep the cancer from recurring.

 

The Cancer to 5K Training Program is a progressive run/walk program designed to get cancer survivors to the 5K finish-line happy, healthy and injury-free.  

*  Who can join?  Cancer to 5K is open to any cancer survivor regardless of age, location, treatment status or fitness level.  Survivors who have completed treatment as well as survivors who are currently undergoing treatment can participate.

*  Where is training held?  If you live in the following areas, certified running coaches and experienced volunteer runners (aka “Sherpas”) will help train you in a small group setting.  Each 12-week session is limited to 10 participants.  Click HERE for exact locations in:

      • Washington DC/Northern Virginia
      • Montgomery County Maryland
      • Howard County, Maryland
      • Baltimore, Maryland
      • New York, NY
      • Chicago, IL.

* What if you live elsewhere?  If you live outside the current group training areas, you can still participate with The CANCER to 5K “At Home” Training Program.  As a Cancer to 5K “At Home” participant, you will receive one-on-one coaching with a Cancer to 5K coach. Workouts will be sent to you via email, and you will have access to your coach via email and phone.

Registration for the fall training season is now OPEN!  
Group workouts will begin in August 2014.
“At-Home” participants can begin training anytime.

 

For more information, contact Program Manager Laura Scruggs via email at laura@ulmanfund.org  or via 410.964.0202 x108.  

Please note:  A medical waiver must be signed by the participant’s current primary care physician to ensure that training for a 5K won’t negatively impact treatment or recovery.

 

Financial Assistance from Walk In My Shoes Cancer Foundation

 

 

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and are having a hard time making ends meet, check out the Walk In My Shoes Foundation.

Walk In My Shoes Foundation assists cancer patients with paying rent, mortgages, utility bills, medication, purchasing gas cards, buying groceries, etc.  To qualify for assistance, which is based on availability, the following guidelines have been set:

  • Only patients undergoing cancer treatment are eligible for assistance.
  • Only bills in patient’s name are eligible for payment.
  • Maximum assistance is $500.00 per patient per calendar year.
  • First come first serve basis.
  • No income guidelines.
  • Men, women, children are welcome to apply regardless of type of cancer.
  • Cash will not be disbursed.

To apply, please complete the form on the Walk In My Shoes Foundation CONTACT US page or email them directly at info@walkinmyshoesfoundation.com.  Someone should contact you within 48 hours.

The 4 Stages of Mesothelioma & Their Treatment Options

doctors Meet GUEST BLOGGER Michelle Whitmer.  Michelle has been a medical writer and editor for The Mesothelioma Center since 2008. Focused on the benefits of natural and holistic medicine for cancer patients, Michelle is a certified yoga instructor and earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies from Rollins College in Florida.

Accurately diagnosing a mesothelioma patient’s stage of cancer development is essential to getting appropriate treatment. The stages of mesothelioma are determined by the degree of tumor growth and spread. Stage I represents minimal tumor growth and stage IV indicates extensive tumor growth and spread.

Diagnosing the correct mesothelioma stage is challenging, but crucial to providing effective treatment recommendations. Unless your first opinion came from a mesothelioma expert, most people diagnosed with mesothelioma should seek a second opinion from one of the nation’s specialists. Because the cancer is relatively rare, few oncologists have experience diagnosing and treating mesothelioma. Seeking the opinion of a mesothelioma specialist could lead to better treatment.

For example, pleural mesothelioma specialist Dr. David Sugarbaker pioneered one of the most effective surgeries for the cancer, the extrapleural pneumonectomy. Patients with early-stage mesothelioma often qualify for his aggressive treatment approach that may significantly extend survival.

The same goes for people with peritoneal mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the abdominal cavity. Specialist Dr. Paul Sugarbaker pioneered the most effective treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma, which is cytoreductive surgery with heated chemotherapy that is circulated throughout the abdominal cavity rather than systemically throughout the whole body. The treatment approach significantly improved survival rates for the cancer.

Diagnosing Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a challenging cancer to diagnose. There’s no officially adopted standard protocol for diagnosing mesothelioma, so patients will have different experiences. However, certain diagnostic tools are universally used to reach a mesothelioma diagnosis, such as imaging scans and biopsies.

In many cases, the first imaging scan patients receive is an X-ray, which is followed with more scans if anything unusual is seen in the X-ray. More detailed imaging scans like CT, PET and MRI come next. These scans help provide a clearer indication of how far the cancer may have spread.

To confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis, a biopsy is necessary. A thoracoscopy is a common biopsy for pleural mesothelioma that involves the use of a camera-tipped tube to collect a tumor sample. A mediastinoscopy might also be used to determine if the cancer has spread to the mediastinal lymph nodes, which are located between the lungs in the center of the chest. Spread to the lymph nodes is an indication of stage III cancer.

Treatment for Mesothelioma by Stage

Treatment recommendations are made based upon a patient’s stage. Early-stage tumors respond best to surgery, while stage IV mesothelioma has spread too far for surgery to be effective. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be used at any stage, except when a person’s general health is too poor to withstand the side effects.

Most people with mesothelioma receive multimodal therapy, which is the combination of two or more cancer treatments. The most effective combination for mesothelioma to date is surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This approach is most effective for stage I patients, but stage II and III patients often qualify for the aggressive approach with life-extending results. Stage IV patients may receive a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to relieve symptoms and extend survival.

Stage I Treatment

Because tumor growth is minimal at stage I, surgery is highly recommended to remove as much cancerous tissue as possible. There are two surgeries patients may qualify for, a pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) and an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). An EPP removes one lung while a P/D keeps the lung intact and only removes the lining of the lung.

Chemotherapy with the drugs cisplatin and Alimta is commonly administered after surgery in stage I patients. Radiation therapy is used after surgery to prevent local recurrence, though some centers are having improved success administering radiation prior to surgery to shrink tumors.

Stage II Treatment

Stage II surgery for pleural mesothelioma is usually an EPP. A P/D surgery wouldn’t be as effective since the cancer has spread to the lung in stage II. Following recovery from surgery, chemotherapy is recommended to kill remaining cancer cells the surgery couldn’t remove. Radiation therapy is then used to prevent recurrence, especially along surgery incisions (which is a common place for the cancer to recur).

Stage III Treatment

Certain patients in good health with stage III mesothelioma can qualify for an EPP. The surgery is extensive, so the person must be in adequate physical health to undergo the surgery. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are given to destroy lingering cancer cells. If the cancer returns, second-line chemotherapy with other drugs, such as gemcitabine and vinorelbine, are recommended.

Stage IV Treatment

Stage IV tumors have grown too much and have spread too far for an EPP surgery to remove all the cancer. However, less aggressive surgeries might be recommended to otherwise healthy patients to reduce tumor size, which can help to relieve pain and improve breathing.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be used to shrink tumors, which can help to relieve pain and improve breathing as well. They might also help to prolong life expectancy by several months.

Other therapies are given to alleviate symptoms, such as medication for pain, pulmonary rehabilitation to improve breathing and occupational therapy to reduce discomfort.

Because the cancer rarely causes symptoms in the early stages, the majority of mesothelioma patients are diagnosed in stage III or IV. Aggressive treatment is most effective at early stages, which stresses the importance of annual physical checkups for anyone who may have been exposed to asbestos in the past.

Sources:

Guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. 

Malignant mesothelioma: Review.

Malignant pleural mesothelioma: Update on treatment options with a focus on novel therapies. 

 

Personalizing YOUR Cancer Treatment (part 4): Do you know your cancer biomarkers?

Personalized-Medicine

In the near future, instead of saying, “I have breast cancer,” a patient will say something like , “I have a HER2-positive carcinoma with a KRAS mutation.”  Cancer will be defined by it’s own unique molecular profile and biomarkers rather than the body part where it originated.

To learn more about the dozens of biomarkers already being used to guide cancer treatment, check out the table below. Please note: there are thousands of known biomarkers without currently known effectiveness or relevance to cancer care. This table only represents the biomarkers that are currently known to be significant in informing cancer care today.*

Biomarker About Cancers that may benefit from testing Treatments associated with response or lack of response/resistance*
ALK anaplastic lymphoma kinase, an enzyme that can form a oncogenic fusion gene with EML4 lung (non-small cell), lymphoma (anaplastic large-cell), nervous system (familial neuroblastoma) crizotinib (Xalkori®), pemetrexed (Alimta®)
AR androgen receptor, part of the nuclear hormone receptor superfamily, active in cell signaling and therefore cell multiplication and growth prostate, breast, ovarian, bladder, lung (non-small cell) bicalutamide (Casodex®), flutamide (Eulexin®), goserelin (Zoladex®), leuprolide (Lupron®), abarelix (Plenaxis®), gonadorelin (Factrel®)
BRAF also know as v-raf murine sarcoma viral oncogene homolog B1, a proto-oncogene in the RAF/MIL family of molecules active in MAP/ERK cell signaling, promotes cell multiplication and growth colon, skin (melanoma), lung (adenocarcinoma), thyroid (papillary thyroid carcinoma), nervous system (pleomorphic xanthoastrocytomas with and without anaplasia) cetuximab (Erbitux®), panitumumab (Vectibix®), vemurafenib (Zelboraf®)
BRCA1 a so-called “breast cancer gene”, its expression in many cancers can indicate potential response to certain types of therapies lung, ovarian cisplatin (Platinol®)
c-Kit cytokine receptor also know as CD117, a proto-oncogene that interacts with cell growth factors, plays a roll in cell survival, multiplication and differentiation GIST (gastrointestinal stromal tumor), skin (melanoma), blood (acute myelogenous leukemia) imatinib (Gleevec®), sorafenib (Nexavar®), sunitinib (Sutent®)
c-MET also known as MET (mesenchymal epithelial transition factor) or HGFR (hepatocyte growth factor receptor), a proto-oncogene active in cell signaling, promotes cancer cell growth and multiplication lung (non-small cell), ovarian erlotinib (Tarceva®), gefitinib (Iressa®)
COX-2 cyclooxygenase-2, also known as protaglandin-endoperoxide synthase-2 (PTGS2), an enzyme important to creation of prostaglandins, which are messenger molecules that play a role in many cancers lung (non-small cell) celecoxib (Celebrex®)
EGFR epidermal growth factor receptor, also known as ErbB-1 or HER1, a receptor tyrosine kinase active in cell signaling, promotes cell growth and multiplication lung (non-small cell) cetuximab (Erbitux®), erlotinib (Tarceva®), gefitinib (Iressa®), panitumumab (Vectibix®)
EGFR secondary mutation (T790 M) a mutation of the EGFR gene associated with acquired resistance to certain treatments lung (non-small cell), colorectal, head and neck resistance to erlotinib (Tarceva®), gefitinib (Iressa®)
ER estrogen receptor, part of the nuclear hormone family of intracellular receptors, active in cell multiplication breast, ovarian, female genital tract cancer anastrazole (Arimidex®), exemestane (Aromasin®), letrozole (Femara®), tamoxifen (Nolvadex®), megestrol acetate (Megace®, Megace® ES), fulvestrant (Faslodex®), toremifene (Fareston®), medroxyprogesterone, (Provera®, Amen®, Curretab®, Cycrin®), goserelin (Zoladex®), leuprolide (Eligard®, Lupron®, Viadur®)
ERCC1 excision repair cross-complementation group 1, an enzyme active in DNA repair and therefore a sign of resistance to treatments that work by disrupting tumor DNA lung (non-small cell and small cell), gastric, ovarian, colorectal, bladder resistance to cisplatin (Platinol®), carboplatin (Paraplatin®), oxaliplatin (Eloxatin®)
HER2 human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, also known as HER2/neu or ErbB-2, a receptor tyrosine kinase active in cell signaling, promotes cell growth and multiplication breast, gastroesophageal, gastric, ovarian, colorectal lapatinib (Tykerb®), trastuzumab (Herceptin®), doxorubicin (Adriamycin®, Rubex®), liposomal doxorubicin (Caelyx®, Myocet®), epirubicin (Ellence®)
KRAS proto-oncogene of the Kirsten murine sarcoma virus, active in cell signaling in the EGFR pathway, promotes cell growth and multiplication lung (non-small cell), colon, pancreatic cetuximab (Erbitux®), erlotinib (Tarceva®), gefitinib (Iressa®), panitumumab (Vectibix®)
MGMT O-6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase is a gene that encodes a DNA repair enzyme, loss of MGMT may play a role in cancer formation, MGMT can also interfere with treatments that work by disrupting tumor DNA breast, lung (non-small cell), esophageal, brain (glioblastoma multiforme, oligodendrogliomas), skin (melanoma), pituitary gland (carcinoma) lack of response to temozolomide (Temodar®)
MRP1 multidrug resistance-associated protein 1, an ATP-dependent transmembrane drug efflux pump associated with resistance to many drugs breast, lymphoma, head and neck lack of response to anthracyclines such as doxorubicin (Adrimycin®), vinca alkaloids, and methotrexate (Trexall®)
PGP p-glycoprotein, also known as P-gp, an ATP-dependent transmembrane drug efflux pump associated with acquired resistance to many drugs breast, ovarian, lymphoma, head and neck lack of response to anthracylines such as doxorubicin (Adriamycin®), epirubicin (Ellence®) and liposomal-doxorubicin (Doxil®), and other drugs such as paclitaxel (Taxol®), docetaxel (Taxotere®), vinblastine (Velban®), vincristine (Oncovin®), vinorelbine (Navelbine®)
PIK3CA a specific mutation within the PI3 (phosphoinositide 3) kinase pathway or a gene copy number variation, aberrations along the PI3K pathway are associated with many cancers colorectal, brain (glioblastoma), gastric, breast, lung, ovarian lapatinib (Tykerb®); resistance to cetuximab (Erbitux®), panitumumab (Vectibix); decreased response to trastuzumab (Herceptin®)
PR progesterone receptor, also called PGR, part of the nuclear hormone family of intracellular receptors, active in cell multiplication breast, ovarian, female genital tract cancer letrozole (Femara®), tamoxifen (Nolvadex®), fulvestrant (Faslodex®), toremifene (Fareston®), exemestane (Aromasin®), anastrozole (Arimidex®), goserelin (Zoladex®), gonadorelin (Factrel®), leuprolide (Eligard®, Lupron®, Viadur®), medroxyprogesterone (Provera®, Amen®, Curretab®, Cycrin®), megestrol acetate (Megace®, Megace® ES)
PTEN phosphatase and tensin homolog, a tumor suppressor active in EGFR, HER2 and AKT cell signaling pathways breast, colon, lung (non-small cell), brain (glioblastoma), head and neck low expression associated with lack of response to cetuximab (Erbitux®), gefitinib (Iressa®), trastuzumab (Herceptin®), panitumumab (Vectibix®), erlotinib (Tarceva®)
RRM1 ribonucleotide reductase subunit M1, an enzyme required for DNA synthesis from RNA and therefore can interfere with treatments that work by disrupting RNA activity lung (non-small cell), pancreatic high expression associated with lack of response to gemcitabine (Gemzar®), hydroxyurea (Hydrea®, Droxia®)
SPARC secreted protein acidic rich in cysteine, a protein active in tumor growth and spreading skin (melanoma), breast, gastric, pancreatic, head and neck albumin-bound paclitaxel/nab-paclitaxel (Abraxane®)
TLE3 a member of the transducin-like enhancer of split family of proteins, implicated in creation of tumors breast, ovarian taxane therapy such as paclitaxel (Taxol®), docetaxel (Taxotere ®)
TOPO2A topoisomerase IIA, an enzyme active in DNA synthesis and repair breast, colon, ovarian, lung (small cell) doxorubicin (Adriamycin®), epirubicin (Ellence®, Pharmorubucin®), liposomal doxorubicin (Caelyx®, Myocet®)
TS thymidylate synthetase, an enzyme active in DNA synthesis and repair, can be inhibited by certain compounds breast, colon, gastric, head and neck, liver, pancreatic, lung (non-small cell) lack of response to 5-fluorouracil (Adrucil®), cytarabine (Cytosar-U®), pemetrexed (Alimta®)
TUBB3 Class III -tubulin, protein found in microtubules which are important cell structures ovarian, lung (non-small cell) taxanes such as paclitaxel (Taxol®), docetaxel (Taxotere ®), vinca alkaloids such as vinorelbine (Navelbine®)

* Biomarker status (overexpressed, underexpressed, positive or negative for specific mutations, etc.) determines whether that biomarker is associated with response, lack of response or resistance to each treatment. Treatment associations are from published, peer-reviewed medical literature. Citations available upon request. Only your doctor can decide which treatments are appropriate for you.

**Got questions about YOUR biomarkers, e-mail PatientNavigator@carisls.com.  A Patient Navigator who is well versed in molecular profiling and biomarkers will answer your questions.  (this is a FREE service provided by Caris Life Sciences.) 

*** Source:  MyCancer.com (an educational resource sponsored by Caris Life Sciences®) is a fantastic website for cancer patients and their caregivers that provides information about personalizing your cancer treatment using molecular profiling and cancer biomarkers.

Soy for Lung Cancer: 2 Tofu Recipes to Potentially Help Inhibit Malignant Growth

Soy

Meet GUEST BLOGGER Faith Franz.  Faith is a writer for The Mesothelioma Center, an organization that provides support and resources for people and families with this rare disease.  Faith also likes to spread the word about the benefits of alternative medicine.

Tofu –it’s what’s for dinner. (If you’re trying to naturally prevent lung cancer growth, that is.)

In a recent 2013 article, researchers from the University of Arkansas found that soybeans with a high oleic acid content could inhibit the growth of several cancers by up to 70 percent. Among the malignancies:

  • Lung cancer (growth reduced by 68%)*
  • Colon cancer (growth reduced  by 73%)*
  • Liver cancer (growth reduced by 70%)*

This was certainly not the first study to identify anti-cancer benefits in soy. Other studies exploring the correlation between soy and lung cancer date back to 1985, and one published this month indicates high-soy diets may correlate with longer cancer survival rates. (That study found that women who ate more than 21 grams of soy protein per day were more likely to reach five-year survival after a lung cancer diagnosis.)*

However, this study was the first note these specific bioactive benefits in three individual soy protein isolates. The University of Arkansas was also the first organization to identify two of the three high-oleic acid soybean varieties, as part of an ongoing soybean breeding program.

Oleic acid – the main fat component in the much-acclaimed olive oil – is also associated with breast cancer inhibition.

Lab workers tested each of the soy isolates against cell lines from lung, colon and liver cancer samples. They found that growth for each type of cancer significantly slowed after exposure to the soy isolates, and that higher doses produced greater results.

Several other food-derived compounds offer lung cancer inhibitory benefits. These include reservatrol, an antioxidant in red wine, and curcumin, the main component of the Indian herb turmeric.

Tofu, Two Ways

Tofu has a bad reputation as a bland, oddly textured food. But when prepared correctly, nothing can be further from the truth.

Just like you wouldn’t serve raw, unseasoned meat, you can’t serve raw, unseasoned tofu. It needs a zesty marinade and some added fat to taste its best.  It also needs to be pressed to remove excess water; without pressing, it’ll be soggy, no matter how long you cook it.

You’ll need to be sure to purchase tofu that’s certified organic or made from non-genetically modified soybeans. (The health effects of genetically modified foods are not completely known, but what we do know suggests that they’re not ideal for health). While the study uses soybeans that are bred to have higher-than-average oleic acid concentrations, there are several natural ways to breed non-modified high-oleic acid soybeans.

The following two soy-based recipes are full of plant-based protein (more than 15 grams per serving):

Crispy Baked Garlic Tofu (serves one)

Ingredients:

1/3 package organic tofu

1 whole egg

1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon garlic paste

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon thyme

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

-  Thinly slice tofu; press between paper towels for five minutes to remove moisture.

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

- In one bowl, whip together the egg and garlic paste. In another bowl, blend together the Panko, onion, cayenne, thyme, salt and pepper.

- Dip each tofu slice into the egg mixture, then roll in Panko coating. Arrange on a greased cookie sheet, then bake 10-13 minutes until crispy). Serve warm.

Easy Tofu Stir Fry (serves one)

Ingredients:

1/3 package organic tofu

1 floret fresh broccoli

½ cup sliced carrots

½ onion

1 can baby corn or water chestnuts

¼ cup organic soybean oil

Teriyaki sauce and soy sauce, to taste

1 serving brown rice or soba noodles

Directions:

-  Cut tofu into cubes; press between paper towels for five minutes to remove moisture.

-Cook rice/noodles according to package.

- Add vegetables, oil, teriyaki sauce and soy sauce to a wok (or skillet). Sautee for 5 minutes; add tofu cubes. Sautee another 4-6 minutes, flipping the cubes so each side gets firm and brown.

If desired, add another dash of teriyaki or soy; serve over the rice or soba noodles.

Do you cook with soy? If so, what are your favorite tofu or tempeh recipes? If you try out either of these recipes, let us know your thoughts in the comments.

 

*Sources:

Seaman, A. M. (26 March 2013). Soy tied to better lung cancer survival among women. Reuters. 

Rayaprolu, S. J., Hettiarachchy, N. S., Chen, P., Kannan, A., & Mauromostakos A. (2013). Peptides derived from high oleic acid soybean meal inhibit colon, liver and lung cancer cell growth. Food Research International; 50 (1).

Coping With Mesothelioma: A Support Group for this Rare Cancer

Pic1

Meet GUEST BLOGGER Faith Franz.  Faith is a writer for The Mesothelioma Center, an organization that provides support and resources for people and families with this rare disease.  Faith also likes to spread the word about the benefits of alternative medicine.

If you were diagnosed with lung cancer, you wouldn’t take chemotherapy drugs that treat leukemia. If there were malignant tumors on your kidney, you wouldn’t have surgery on your ovaries. So why, if you were diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, should you settle for a support group that’s not designed specifically for mesothelioma patients?

Until recently, patients with this rare cancer have had few specialized care options – on both the medical and the emotional side of the spectrum. But as more research goes into this asbestos-related malignancy, doctors and social workers alike are learning how to address mesothelioma’s unique challenges.

Take, for instance, The Mesothelioma Center’s virtual support group. Hosted by Dana Nolan, a licensed mental health counselor, this group focuses exclusively on mesothelioma-related topics. It’s designed to fill the gap left by general support groups (or the lung cancer groups that many patients turn to in the absence of a mesothelioma-specific network).

In this free, telephone/online support group, patients and their loved ones are guided through emotionally-loaded issues such as:

  • Deciding when to forego cisplatin, carboplatin and other mesothelioma drugs in favor of alternative treatments
  • Adjusting to reduced physical abilities (when symptoms like breathlessness and chest pain get in the way of everyday activities)
  • Overcoming the financial challenges of paying for treatment, traveling to national treatment centers and taking a leave of absence from work
  • Discussing worst-case scenarios, legal arrangements and end-of-life care directives with relatives

Patients can also connect with others who share their same diagnosis. While it may be difficult for them to find other mesothelioma patients in their city, they can combat feelings of isolation by reaching out to other patients across the nation and around the world. Here, fellow survivors can share the therapies that they’ve found successful, outline the side effects they’ve experienced and explain the coping techniques that have improved their lives.

The group serves as a safe, confidential place to give and receive valuable emotional support. Patients are free to share as much – or as little – of their personal lives as they’d like, and the moderator will make sure patients aren’t inundated with unsolicited advice.

If you’d like to register for the next session (The Mesothelioma Center hosts one each month), simply fill out the quick information form. You’ll receive a number to call and an access code to enter on the day of the meeting. Patient advocates are also available to help you through the simple registration process.

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits with Cancer

 

Meet GUEST BLOGGER Ram Meyyappan. Ram is the senior editor and manager of the Social Security Disability Help website.  Social Security Disability Help contains information on how to apply for disability with over 400 conditions, helpful tips, FAQs along with an extensive disability glossary.

 

If you are a parent suffering from any type of cancer, the condition or the effects of the treatments you are undergoing may make it difficult to take care of your kids, let alone returning to work. In such cases, financial assistance may be available through one of the two Social Security Disability programs. There are two disability programs available to those who qualify under the SSA’s disability criteria. These include the SSI (Supplemental Security Income) program and the SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) program.

SSI

SSI is a needs-based program. In order to be eligible, you must be deemed disabled by the Social Security Administration and you must meet certain financial criteria. As of 2013, to qualify for SSI, you must not earn more than $710 as an individual or $1,060 as a couple. You must also not have assets that exceed $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 as a couple.

SSDI

Unlike SSI, SSDI is not a needs-based program. There are no financial criteria to meet. You must, however, have earned enough work credits through your previous work history. In order to have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, you must have worked five of the past ten years. If you are not old enough to have worked five of the past ten years, you need to have worked half of the time you were able to do so.

Cancer and Meeting the Medical Requirements

The SSA uses a manual called “the blue book” to evaluate whether or not a condition qualifies for disability benefits. Cancer is covered in Section 13 of the SSA’s blue book under Malignant Neoplastic Diseases. Just being diagnosed with cancer alone does not mean that you will qualify for benefits unless it is a type of cancer that is listed in the compassionate allowances program. In most cases, the cancer has to be inoperable, have distant metastases (has spread), or be recurrent after surgical procedures or irradiation.

You will need to prove through your medical records and work history that your cancer prevents you from working at the job at which you were previously working or any other job for which you are qualified.

Qualifying Under the Compassionate Allowances Program

Certain types of cancer can qualify for Social Security Disability benefits in less than two weeks under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances program. Under this program, individuals who are suffering from very severe conditions can bypass the standard disability claim process and be approved for benefits a lot faster. You will need a physician’s opinion stating that the cancer is not operable or an operative note stating that the cancer was not completely resected in order to qualify under this program. If an operative note is not available, a pathology report indicating positive margins can be used. When applying for benefits, make sure you include this medical documentation and make it clear how you qualify for benefits under the Compassionate Allowances guidelines.

There are numerous cancers that are listed in the compassionate allowance program. For a complete list of all compassionate allowances conditions, please visit: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/compassionate-allowances.

How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits online or in person at your local Social Security office. Make sure that you have all of the medical evidence that you will need at the time of your application. While the SSA will have you fill out forms that allow them to request copies of your medical records, it is always best to submit medical records on your own as a part of your application to ensure that the SSA receives complete documentation that supports your disability claim.

Navigating A Diagnosis of Mesothelioma

mesothelioma-diagram-large-231x300

This post was written by guest blogger Tim Povtak.  Tim is a former newspaper reporter  who has been writing for The Mesothelioma Center since 2011.  The Mesothelioma Center provides incredible support and resources for people and families who need help understanding and coping with this disease.

Knowledge is key when it comes to battling malignant mesothelioma cancer. The more you know, the better you will feel about the fight. Not only is it tough to pronounce, it’s even tougher to understand all the intricacies involved.

Getting skilled help is crucial. It’s just not easy to do.

To help someone first diagnosed with mesothelioma, it’s vital to find the right resources – doctors and other medical professionals who see it regularly —  and a support group that is traveling the same route.

There is no replacement for experience.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer – only 3,000 cases are diagnosed annually in the United States — caused almost exclusively by an exposure to asbestos, the naturally occurring mineral that was used extensively through much of the 20th century.

Reliable information can be difficult to find. Although there is no cure, recent curative advancements have been made. Novel therapies are being developed today. Alternative, supplemental remedies can help, too.

Selecting the right specialist might be the most important decision a patient will face. That’s where help, and support, is needed.

A typical diagnosis of mesothelioma may sound like a death sentence – six to 18 months was the norm not long ago – but many patients are surviving longer, and some even thriving, with the right help.

Rule No. 1: Don’t Do It Alone

As a caregiver, or just good friend, it’s important to learn about the disease. There is an easy-to-read encyclopedia of resources available at Asbestos.com.

The Mesothelioma Center helps patients and caregivers find the best doctors and the most appropriate cancer centers with the latest and greatest, most technologically advanced equipment. This is not the time to take short cuts.

At Asbestos.com, there are Patient Advocates who can advise patients and caregivers on where to turn, what to do next and how to connect with medical professionals. There is a registered nurse on staff to answer questions. There is a Veterans Department with counselors to answer questions that might be exclusive to veterans, helping navigate through the often-frustrating VA Health Care System.

Rule No. 2: Find a Support Group

There is a support group at Asbestos.com that meets the second Wednesday of each month at 8 p.m. EST. You can join in online or by phone. It’s moderated by a licensed mental health counselor and open to mesothelioma patients, families and caregivers who can ask questions, discuss concerns and chat on various topics.

There also is a Mesothelioma Facebook page, where ideas are exchanged and support is received. Also, check out the Wall of Hope, a section on mesothelioma survivors who have beaten the odds because they refused to concede to this terrible cancer.

Rule No. 3: Stay Positive

There is hope, so don’t believe all the gloom and doom. Explore the world of clinical trials. Mesothelioma treatment is changing. Gene therapy, immunotherapy, photodynamic therapy are the future, but they aren’t yet part of the traditional approach. They are available, though, through various clinical trials. Go to the National Cancer Institute website to see what is being offered.

Something could work. There is no universal therapy that works for everyone, but people respond differently to different treatments. Finding the right one sometimes takes the help of a friend.

FREE Kit to Help Manage Side Effects from Chemotherapy

A sample of an Adult Comfort Kit

A sample of an Adult Comfort Kit

We all need a little love once in a while… and if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and are receiving chemotherapy, you deserve a little extra lovin’. That’s what Peppermint & Ginger Comfort Kits are all about…

 

Peppermint & Ginger Comfort Kits are FREE kits created to help provide comfort and help alleviate some of the more common side effects caused by chemotherapy.  An “Adult Kit” contains peppermint and ginger teas (which can help ease nausea), a soft bristle toothbrush, alcohol free mouth wash and toothpaste and lip balm (to help ease oral side effects experienced as a result of treatment), warm socks and a relaxation CD.  When possible, P&G adds in other goodies as well.  Their “Pediatric Kit” contains hot chocolate instead of teas and it’s contents will vary depending on the age of the patient.

 

If you know of a cancer patient receiving chemotherapy or if you yourself are a patient and would like one of these comforting kits, please click HERE to request one.

FREE Wigs for Cancer Patients Living in Des Moines, Iowa

 

If you live in Des Moines, Iowa and have lost your hair as a result of cancer treatments, check out Strands of Strength.  Strands of Strength provides FREE quality wigs to cancer patients- men, women or children- regardless of age or type of cancer – who live in Des Moines, Iowa and who could not otherwise afford a wig.

 

Here’s the dealio (as my daughter always says)…  

Strands of Strength works closely with medical professionals at Iowa HealthBlank Children’s Hospital and Mercy Hospital.   These hospitals will provide patients in need a voucher slip for a free wig.  

Patients can then choose any wig they like from any Strands of Strength-approved wig shop.  The voucher represents payment to the shop.  It’s as simple as that.

For more information, visit StrandsofStrength.com or contact Deb at deb@strandsofstrength.com or via phone at (515) 240-5843.