Archive for IMPORTANT INFO TO KNOW

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.

Top 3 Tips for Survivorship

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In honor of National Cancer Survivor’s Day, Arash Asher, MD, a cancer survivorship expert and director of the Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship program at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute recommends incorporating the 3 tips below into daily life…

1. Avoid social isolation and chronic loneliness

Chronic loneliness can change a patient’s biological makeup, possibly increasing the chance of recurrence as well as higher death rates, Asher said. In fact, according to Asher, chronic loneliness is as dangerous as smoking cigarettes and more dangerous than physical inactivity or obesity. If patients surround themselves with positive and supportive friends and relatives, however, they can increase their longevity and quality of life, Asher said.

2. Tailored, moderate exercise

Exercise offers a myriad of benefits to any individual, but may be even more valuable to cancer patients and survivors, Asher said. Unfortunately, fewer than 50 percent of cancer survivors achieve their pre-cancer level of exercise, and many patients never talk about physical activity with their physicians. At the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, exercise specialists design workouts formulated for each patient’s abilities. Asher suggests that just like the benefits of a support system, exercise may improve the quality and quantity of life.

3. Get enough sleep

Americans often view sleep as a luxury and rest is one of the first things to be sacrificed if time doesn’t permit. Asher said that not getting enough sleep has serious consequences, including chronic illness and possibly an increased risk in cancer. Multiple studies have found that nightshift workers have a higher percentage of breast, colon and prostate cancer, as well as cognitive issues, and a higher risk of obesity and physical limitations. Half of all cancer survivors have some form of insomnia. The Cedars-Sinai Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship program works with these survivors to determine the cause of insomnia and then takes tactical steps toward managing these issues.

According to Dr. Asher, incorporating these 3 steps into a daily routine can help to improve overall quality of life as well as improves chance at survival.  For more information, visit the Cedars-Sinai website.

(Source:  Top 3 Tips for Survivorship)

Innovative Research + Funding = Hope

 

During the summer of 2009, my husband was diagnosed with pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcoma.  One year later, at the young age of 47, he died.  Throughout that year, we had some of the top cancer researchers in the world working on Alan’s case.  Their efforts gave us hope that we would overcome Alan’s cancer.  This hope gave us the strength to get out of bed every day and enabled us to endure more pain and disappointment than I care to remember.

 

Despite the fact that Alan passed away, I believe that cancer is a disease that can be cured.  Although much progress has been made in the war against cancer, we still have a long way to go.  Medical research that is taking place right now continues to fuel my hope that one day we will live in a world with NO cancer.

 

CONSANO (v) to heal in Latin

 

Meet CONSANO.org, a nonprofit crowd funding platform (founded by breast cancer survivor Molly Lindquist) that enables individuals to donate any amount- small or large- to specific medical research projects they feel passionate about.

 

Here’s how CONSANO.org works:

1. Browse the list of projects & choose one (or more ;-) ) that mean something to you.  All projects have been reviewed by members of Consano’s volunteer Scientific Advisory Board to ensure that a project is legitimate, easily understood, relevant, and has the potential to lead to improvements in patient care.

 

2. Donate any amount directly to that project.  100% of your donation (minus a 2.2% PayPal processing fee) will go directly to support that project.

 

3. Receive quarterly updates from the researcher through the lifecycle of the project.  AMAZING!

 

Also check out the CONSANO blog… It features stories written by patients, family members, and friends- anyone touched by an illness.  By sharing our stories, we can help provide inspiration, hope, and a strong sense of community to others navigating their own journey.  If you’d like to share your story on CONSANO, please email info@consano.org.  To read mine & Alan’s story, click HERE.

10 Things Patients Should Know Before Having Surgery

 

images-1FACT:  Surgeries and hospitals are designed to improve a patient’s health.

FACT:  Although hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices take many steps to keep their patients safe, medical errors happen. According to National Cancer Institute, medical errors account for 98,000 deaths per year in the United States alone.

FACT:  The more information and knowledge we (as patient advocates, concerned family members, caregivers) have about an upcoming surgery, the better able we are to help prevent medical errors (wrong medication, wrong surgery, unnecessary procedures) from happening.

The Empowered Patient Coalition suggests these 10 things patients & their advocates should know BEFORE having surgery:

  1. DECIDING ON SURGERY: Why is the surgery needed? How successful is the surgery in correcting the problem and what are the potential short and long term risks? What will the recovery process be like?
  2. CHOOSING A SURGEON: Ask about the surgeon’s experience with this particular surgery and check his or her credentials online. Is the surgeon board-certified in the specialty you require?
  3. WHERE TO HAVE YOUR SURGERY: Check your hospital online at www.QualityCheck.org or www.HospitalCompare.hhs.gov. Does the hospital have an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and a Rapid Response Team (RRT) to respond to emergencies?
  4. SCHEDULING YOUR SURGERY: If possible, schedule your surgery for early in the day and early in the week. Try to avoid having procedures on major holidays, nights or weekends.
  5. SURGERY AND RECOVERY: Who will actually perform the surgery? Will assistants or residents be participating, and if so, to what degree? Will the surgeon be in town and available in the days after surgery?
  6. ANESTHESIA: Will your anesthesia be handled by a board-certified anesthesiologist or a certified nurse anesthetist? Who will be assisting them?
  7. PREPARING FOR SURGERY: Patients should not shave surgical site for 2-3 days before surgery to prevent small cuts in skin where bacteria can enter. Patients must not eat or drink for 6 to 8 hours before surgery.
  8. THE DAY OF SURGERY: Be sure all information on the patient’s ID band is accurate. Have all pre-operative medications, including antibiotics, been ordered and given? Be sure the surgeon signs the surgical site before the patient is sedated.
  9. ONCE SURGERY IS OVER: Have an advocate present to discuss details and ask if there were any complications with the surgeon after the surgery is over. Be sure the patient is kept warm and ask if the patient needs specific treatments to prevent blood clots.
  10. PAIN CONTROL: If the patient is using a PCA (patient controlled analgesia) pump, be aware that malfunctions can occur and watch for signs of an overdose, including shallow breathing, extreme sleepiness and small pupils. Be aware that pain medications can cause severe constipation so ask about precautions.

 

 

 

6 Things I Wish I’d Known About Cancer

Image credit: 123RF Stock Photo

Image credit: 123RF Stock Photo

 

I’m beyond honored to tell you that I am now also blogging for the Huffington Post.  In case you missed my first article that I wrote for them, I am reposting it here on CancerHawk.

 

Wrapping your head around the fact that you or a loved one has cancer is no easy task. After my 46-year-old husband was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive cancer in 2009, we were in a state of shock and paralyzed with fear. Nevertheless, we had to research treatment options, meet with doctors, schedule multiple surgeries, and start chemotherapy all in a matter of days. Talk about overwhelming! Below are six things I wish we had known at the beginning of our cancer journey:

1. Always, always get a second opinion.

No ifs, ands or buts about it: When it comes to cancer, two heads are better than one. Second opinions will either confirm what you’ve already been told or present different options to weigh. Regardless, second opinions can help to reduce the chance of misdiagnosis and provide greater peace of mind. If the two opinions you’ve received differ, get a third one. Remember, it is a patient’s prerogative to speak with as many professionals as he or she chooses. If you’ve been diagnosed with a rare cancer, I urge you to also seek recommendations from doctors who specialize in that particular cancer.

2. Be choosey.

Being best friends with your doctor is not required. You don’t even have to like your doctor. But you do have to trust their care and feel comfortable talking to them about anything related to your health. If you don’t, find a new doctor immediately. For us it was also important that our doctor be both a realist and an optimist. Eventually, we left our first oncologist for these reasons.

3. Talk to your doctor about molecular profiling.

Two people with the same cancer can and do respond differently to the exact same treatment regimens.Why? Because each person’s cancer is unique. Identifying unique genes, proteins and other molecules (called cancer biomarkers) can provide information about how your particular cancer functions and can be used to help identify potential treatment options. Molecular profiling is especially key if your doctor is choosing between multiple recommended treatments, or if your cancer is particularly aggressive or rare or has limited treatment options, or if your first-line treatment isn’t working. To learn more, visit MyCancer.com and IsMyCancerDifferent.com. Both sites have loads of helpful information on personalizing cancer treatments.

4. Visit a dentist prior to starting cancer treatments.

It’s important to see a dentist who really understands cancer before beginning treatment or as soon after diagnosis as possible. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunosuppressive treatments like bone marrow transplants and stem cell transplants can exacerbate existing dental and oral problems, as well as create new painful and potentially dangerous ones like mouth sores, ulcers, inflections, bleeding, etc. Dentists who are knowledgeable about cancer and its effects on oral health can help minimize these risks before they pose serious problems.

5. Understand the goal of your cancer treatment.

Make no assumptions when it comes to your health or treatment plan. Not all treatments for cancer are given with the intent to cure. Treatment can also be given to help prevent disease recurrence, to minimize symptoms of disease, or to simply prolong survival. Knowing the goal of your particular cancer treatment and the potential risks associated with that treatment will enable you to make the most informed decisions possible about your care.

6. If you don’t know where to turn for help, talk to an oncology navigator.

Until recently, I had no idea there existed professionals who can help a cancer patient navigate their way through this diagnosis. Oncology navigators are skilled in helping cancer patients overcome obstacles to treatment (financial challenges, insurance and employment issues, managing daily life, evaluating treatment options, etc.). They work to help patients get the best care possible.

Where can you find an oncology navigator? Some hospitals and private oncology practices have an oncology navigator on staff. Another option is the LIVESTRONG Cancer Navigation Center, which provides free one-on-one support to anyone touched by cancer, regardless of age or type of cancer. The National Coalition of Oncology Nurse Navigators can also help connect patients to a free navigator in their area. Navigators are very helpful in uncovering resources that you may not know about otherwise.

Although I have no regrets in how we managed Alan’s care, I do wish we had fully understood the extent of what we were dealing with at the beginning of our cancer journey. I wish we had understood the importance of the six tips I wrote about above. If you know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, please pass this article on to them. Knowledge is power… please share the power!

Getting Organized In Case of Emergency

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This blog post was written by one of my very favorite people on the planet- my cousin Beth (aka @BOrganizedNow) in light of yesterday’s tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon.  Beth is a kick-ass organizer- home, office, life, you name it, she can organize it.  The disaster plan she outlines below relates to all sorts of emergencies including health-related one.  So with that mind, I am re-positng her article below…

 

My heart breaks for the city of Boston. For those lost, for those injured, for first responders, runners, EMT workers, spectators, family and friends of those in the Back Bay area yesterday.

It’s a scary reminder that the nature of life can change in an instant. You must have a disaster plan. You should have an escape plan from your home that your whole family knows about and also a plan of how to get in touch if phones don’t work. Today I want to focus on document organization. You need to be able to locate all vital documents quickly.

Gather all vital documents:

  • Passports
  • Birth certificates
  • Drivers License
  • Insurance cards (health, car, home, etc…)
  • Social Security cards
  • Others (marriage certificate, adoption papers, death certificates, deed/mortgage papers)
  • Important medical information, including the names and phone numbers of your doctors, medical history, allergies, and medications

 

Photocopy each document twice:

  • Give one photocopy to someone who doesn’t live in your home (so that in the event of a fire or other disaster in your home you still have access to vital information)
  • Keep one photocopy in a safe place in your home
  • Keep all originals in a different safe place (preferable a fire and water proof safe)

 I recommend you do this ASAP (if you do this once you should be all set for a while).

xoxo,

B ORGANIZED

Reliable, Relevant Cancer Info Delivered Straight to Your Inbox

 

When first diagnosed with cancer, most people turn to the internet in hopes of finding information to better understand their diagnosis and research options for treatment. But finding reliable, relevant information is no easy task. And when you do find such information, it is often challenging and confusing to understand unless you have a medical degree or PhD.

 

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with breast cancer, colon cancer or prostate cancer (or a few other health conditions like diabetes), check out Medivizor. Medivizor offers personalized information and updates for people with serious medical conditions. It’s like a google alert but much better. They will be adding more conditions soon- melanoma will soon be launched.

Here’s how it works….

1. Go to Medivizor.com to sign up- all you need is an email address and a diagnosis. BTW, any personal information you provide is not shared without your explicit permission. If you like, even your actual identity does not need to be shared.

2. Because Medivizor recently launched, they only support a limited number of conditions (breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes + a few others).  So at this point in time, after you sign up, Medivizor will confirm with you via email whether they support your condition of interest.

3. If they support your condition, you will then be asked to fill out a brief questionnaire. The more information you provide, the more specific and relevant their findings will be.

4. Next you will begin receiving notifications every few days via email on cutting-edge research, possible treatments, clinical trials and more relevant to your specific condition.  BTW, you can list more than one condition if you like.  You can also rate each notification or article in terms of it’s relevance to you.  The Medivizor search engine is smart and will tailor it’s findings based on your feedback.

5. And here’s my favorite part… the information you receive has been re-written in plain English. No medical degree or PhD required to comprehend the articles.  Medivizor even bottomline’s the information for you… literally.  See a sample article format below.  Also included is a link to the actual study which you can print out and bring to your doctor.

6. Lastly, Medivizor‘s personalized information updates is free of charge although over time, they may introduce additional services with associated costs.  Got questions? Contact Medivizor @ info@medivizor.com.

SAMPLE ARTICLE I RECEIVED ABOUT COLON CANCER:

Do elderly or younger patients with stage II colon cancer benefit from adding Oxaliplatin to adjuvant chemotherapy?

In a nutshell
This study tested whether chemotherapy after surgery (‘adjuvant chemotherapy’) including Oxaliplatin and FL (altogether called FOLFOX4) has any benefits in stage II and in elderly patients with colon cancer (CC). The main finding was that the addition of Oxaliplatin to FL as adjuvant chemotherapy did not provide any survival benefit in stage II CC and elderly patients

Some background
Stage II colon cancer (cancer in the large intestine) is confined to the digestive tract. It is usually treated with surgery (removal of the cancer). Adjuvant chemotherapy with Fluorouracil(FU)/Leucovorin(LV) (FL)  or Capecitabine alone is standard treatment for stage III CC (cancer that has spread from the colon to the lymph nodes). Oxaliplatin (Eloxatin) is a new FDA approved drug for the treatment of advanced colon cancer. Whether adjuvant chemotherapy has any benefits in stage II and in elderly CC patients remains inconclusive.

Methods & findings
899 patients with stage II CC participated in this study. 315 of them were ages 70-75 years. 569 were regarded as ‘high-risk’ (their tumors had certain features suggesting aggressiveness) whereas 330 were considered as ‘low-risk’. After complete removal of the cancer patients were randomly given either FL or FOLFOX4. Patients were followed-up for 5-7 years. The effect of Oxaliplatin-fortified adjuvant chemotherapy on the following indices was evaluated: Cancer-free survival (the percentage of patients alive without signs and symptoms of the cancer after a specified duration of time); Time to recurrence (time interval until the cancer reappears); Overall survival (the percentage of patients alive with or without the disease).
The addition of Oxaliplatin to adjuvant chemotherapy resulted in higher Cancer-free survival rates and lengthened Time to recurrence in all patients with stage II CC, and particularly in high-risk ones (28% and 38% rise, respectively). The advantage was minor in elderly patients. Either way, the benefit was not statistically significant. Overall survival rate did not improve at all under FOLFOX4 treatment.

The bottom line
In conclusion, the authors did not find a significant benefit from adding Oxaliplatin to FL as adjuvant chemotherapy in stage II CC and elderly patients.

 

My bottom line… The more knowledgeable a patient, the easier it is to advocate, and patients who advocate for themselves tend to have better outcomes.  Medivizor can help make you even MORE knowledgeable about your cancer.  So check it out and tell me what YOU think of this FREE service.  I can’t wait till they add sarcoma to their list of conditions. ;-)

Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Finder

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Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that boosts the immune system’s fighting defenses to help the body destroy cancer cells.  Many clinical trials testing new and potentially promising “immunotherapies” are currently enrolling cancer patients in the United States and abroad.  To learn more about immunotherapy clinical trials or to find a trial that might be right for you, check out The Cancer Research Institute’s Clinical Trial Finder.  Here’s how it works:

 

  1. Select a cancer type.*
  2. Fill out CRI’s simple request form.
  3. Within 3 business days, you will be emailed a list of trials that you may be eligible for.
  4. Take the results to your doctor to discuss; contact the clinical trial sites/research teams directly; and/or contact the Clinical Trial Institute at clinicaltrials@cancerresearch.org for more information or for help interpreting your results.

* Current cancer types include:  Brain CancerBreast CancerCervical and HPV-Related CancersColorectal CancerLeukemiaLiver CancerLung CancerLymphomaMelanomaMyelomaOvarian CancerPancreatic CancerProstate CancerSarcoma and Bone CancersStomach Cancer.

If your cancer type is not listed, send an email to clinicaltrials@cancerresearch.org with information about your cancer type, stage and treatment history, as well as your location.  They see if there are any matches.

How to Deduct Medical Expenses From Your Taxes

 

It’s that time of year again when people are frantically working on tax preparations.  On Everyday Health, I just read an incredibly helpful article on deducting medical expenses from your taxes written by Diana Rodriguez & medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH.  Her advice is to stay organized, hold on to receipts and follow the rules below…

 

“Scratching your head trying to figure out some way to justify forking over all that money for braces, glasses, pricey weight-loss programs, corrective eye surgery, and other health care? Before you balk at paying for another medical expense, consider what health care costs you might be able to deduct from your taxes.

What Medical Expenses Are Tax Deductible?

Unfortunately, you can’t deduct every medical expense — for example, that one-time $25 co-payment and that $10 prescription. You also can’t deduct your pre-taxed health insurance premiums. But, you can deduct many medical and dental expenses as long as they total more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI), says Kena Samuels-Stith, president and CEO of SKS Accounting & Consulting Firm, Inc. in Louisville, Ky. After 2012, this figure is expected to rise to 10 percent of AGI.

For the non-tax savvy, it’s easy to figure out — look at line 38 on your 1040 personal tax return, says Samuels-Stith. If your total medical expenses for you, your spouse, and any of your dependents are greater than the 7.5 percent required minimum amount, there are quite a few health expenses you can deduct from your taxes, including:

  • Legal fees related to your health. If you have a lawyer draft a power of attorney or other health care document, you can deduct those fees.
  • Removal of lead-based paint. If your child has suffered lead poisoning and you have to pay to have lead-based paint professionally removed from your home, those removal costs are tax deductions.
  • Travel expenses. Traveling to and from hospitals, doctors, or conferences to get the best treatment for a particular condition? You can deduct most of those expenses, from conference admission to mileage and transportation to your hotel costs. But you can’t deduct the cost of your meals, says Samuels-Stith.
  • Medical procedures. If your health insurance plan doesn’t cover the Lasik surgery or weight-loss program ordered by your physician, you can deduct those health expenses from your taxes.Smoking cessation programs, medications, and aids are also allowable deductions.
  • Medical equipment. If you have to buy contact lenses, hearing aids, glasses, orthodontics, dentures, wheelchairs, or crutches, those health expenses are allowable deductions. You can even deduct the cost of a service dog and the costs associated with their care.
  • Some medical care. You can deduct the cost of nursing assistance (if you need in-home nursing care or pay for a nursing home), individual health insurance premiums (not those that you pay through your employer), and Medicare Parts B and D premiums.

Medical Expenses: Itemizing Your Deductions

To itemize your deductions, first, make sure that your total deductions are greater than the standard deduction — you don’t want to do all that work and not get as much of a deduction as possible.

Samuels-Stith suggests following the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidelines within Form 1040 Schedule A – Itemized Deductions.

Here’s a quick rundown of how you should itemize your deductions:

  1. Prescription medications
  2. Health insurance premiums
  3. Costs from doctors
  4. Costs from hospitals or clinics
  5. Costs from diagnostic tests (lab work and X rays)
  6. Long-term care expenses (nursing homes, etc.)
  7. Eyeglasses and contact lenses
  8. Medical supplies and equipment (for example, for diabetic syringes, glucometers, etc.)
  9. Transportation costs
  10. Lodging costs
  11. Miscellaneous medical and dental expenses

In case there’s an audit, says Samuels-Stith, you want to be sure that all of your deductions are itemized in a clear list that supports your tax return information.

Medical Expenses: Hold on to Documents and Receipts

You don’t want to guess the amount of your medical expenses when tax time rolls around — you want to be sure your deductions are accurate. That’s why it’s really important to stay organized all year long and keep documentation of your medical expenses.

“You must keep all supporting documents,” says Samuels-Stith. She recommends purchasing an organizer from an office supply store that has tab inserts. That way you can create tabs to help you organize prescription costs, procedure costs, medical equipment costs, etc.

If you travel to doctor’s appointments often and want to deduct your mileage, keep a travel log. You need to track the destination (including address), mileage, and the date of the visit, and store that in your organizer, says Samuels-Stith.

And always keep your receipts and cancelled checks and make notes on them.

“A good suggestion would be to note on the receipt what and who it is for,” says Samuels-Stith. You’ll also want to note the date that you paid the expense and what it was for- if it was a doctor’s visit (and what it was for), test, or procedure.

For more information on how to deduct medical expenses, check out the IRS website and type in the keyword ‘medical expenses’.”

 

Infection Alert! What Cancer Patients Need to Know…

 

Cancer and chemotherapy can weaken your body’s immune system and it’s ability to protect itself from infection.  Any type of infection, even a minor one, can become serious quickly.  In fact, one out of every 10 cancer patients who receive chemotherapy get an infection that requires a hospital visit.

 

If you have ANY of these systems, call your doctor immediately, even if this happens in the middle of the night.  This is considered an emergency so don’t wait until morning.

* a fever above 100.5 degrees (orally)

* sudden chills

* a sore throat

* a cough, shortness of breath or congestons

* Pain or burning when you urinate

* diarrhea or uncontrolled vomiting

* New pain, especially in your back

* redness, swelling, pain and warmth at the site of any injury or an IV site

* abnormal bleeding or bruising

A quick note on preventing infection:  Wash your hands often with soap and warm water.  Don’t be afraid to ask people you come in contact with to wash their hands… family, friends, visitors, even doctors and nurses.  If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

 

(Sources:  CDC; Living With Cancer magazine-winter 2013; HealthMonitor.com)

 

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