‘cancer’

All Articles tagged ‘cancer’

Tanning Beds: Clear and Present Danger

tanning_signTanning beds are a known carcinogen. Word on the street (or in the hallway) may not reflect true knowledge of the dangers. I know plenty of cancer survivors who use tanning beds. Therefore it’s obvious to me that there is a clear disconnect between the science of tanning risks and our insight.

Although you may think tanning beds are a thing of the 1990s, widespread use continues. In fact, new research published today in JAMA Dermatology finds that 35% of adults in Western countries have used a tanning bed during their life while 14% have used a tanning bed within the last year. Tanning beds deliver ultraviolet (UV) radiation that damages skin cells or cells in our eyes. The Center for Disease Control explains it this way, “Indoor tanning exposes users to both UV-A and UV-B rays, which damage the skin and can lead to cancer. Using a tanning bed is particularly dangerous for younger users; people who begin tanning younger than age 35 have a 59% higher risk of melanoma. Using tanning beds also increases the risk of wrinkles and eye damage, and changes skin texture. Indoor tanning is a known and preventable cause of skin cancer, skin aging, and wrinkling.”

In my opinion it’s worth your time to figure out ways to ban indoor tanning for those in your home.

Education and tanning have an unfortunate relationship. Going to college actually increases your exposure to the carcinogen. In the JAMA study, researchers found that 55% of university students have used a tanning bed and 43% have used a tanning bed within the last year. Indoor tanning is a known real threat to human health, on par with the risks incurred from things like cigarettes. It’s predicted the rate skin cancer due to indoor tanning will continue to surpass the number of lung cancer cases caused by smoking. Smoking causes other health problems (elevated BP, heart disease) so the comparison is imperfect. That being said, researchers explain that indoor tanning is a relatively new behavior that has grown in popularity, whereas smoking rates are declining in the US and other Western countries.

Teens And Tanning:

  • The JAMA study found 19.3% of adolescents (< 19 years) in Western countries have used a tanning bed. Read full post »

Alex’s Lemonade Stand

Alex and MomThis is a guest post from Liz Scott, mom to Alex, Patrick, Eddie and Joey. She’s looking for support and in doing so she is sharing her story. She talks about instincts and love, commitment and courage. Here’s more on how you may be able to help:

Some of you may be familiar with my place of work, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to finding cures for all kids with cancer, where I am the Co-Executive Director alongside my husband Jay. If you are still reading this, you may be wondering why exactly I’m telling you all of this? The reason is simple, because like your very own Seattle Mama Doc, I too am a mother, and my daughter Alexandra “Alex” Scott battled childhood cancer from before her first birthday until the time of her death at the age of 8 in 2004.

I am hoping that through sharing her story with you, and my part in it, that you will join me in an initiative, The Million Mile Run, this September to raise the profile of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Alex was my second child, born only a few short years after my husband Jay and I welcomed our first child, a son, Patrick. To say that we were experienced parents during Alex’s first year of life would be a gross overstatement, but something I learned quickly was to trust my instincts. Read full post »

Beads Of Courage

beads of courageI met Lowie backstage, about an hour before my own talk earlier this month. I had butterflies in my stomach for all sorts of reasons. I’d read about him prior to arriving and perused the blog he’s written about his daughter’s cancer and his family’s journey during her life and death (you can have Google translate it into English). It was so nice to meet him.

I was really looking forward to his talk although a part of me knew I’d need to brace myself, dig fingernails deep into my legs and let my throat tighten when he started to speak. I knew his words would fill my eyes with tears.

His story detailing Guusje’s voice and needs during her cancer treatment did, of course, cause me to cry. But the images he shared also gave me great hope. Learning about his daughter’s life implored me to share his lessons. I realized we could share the beads of courage widely and put these beads in the hands of other families everywhere. You know we can learn a lot from those in the Netherlands — they did just top this list from UNICEF for child well-being for the wealthiest countries on planet Earth.

Beads of Courage

In the Netherlands when a child is diagnosed with cancer, they immediately spell out their name with beads and then chronicle their courage each and every day in order on a string. Each day of chemo, each radiation treatment, each terrible, bad day (green), and each good day gets documented, strung up in line, and valued. A ledger and journal of the courage a child maintains as they fight for life.

To me it seems obvious that these beads of courage can represent a child’s endurance, perseverance, experience, and will. A hand-held way for a child to see where they are and where they’ve been. Yet reflecting on and re-watching Lowie’s talk I realized that more, these beads can represent the wishes and life experience of a child who courageously fights for life during a chronic or life-threatening disease in a health care environment.

These beads can be a tactile acknowledgement of  humanism  in health care. Read full post »

Renewal, Intent, Intimacy, Reflection

Screen Shot 2013-01-04 at 12.36.15 PMI’ve self-prescribed a year of renewal, intent, intimacy, and reflection for 2013. Although I’m unable to etch those 4 words onto my forearm, I’d really like to keep them at the helm. Resolutions are exceedingly difficult to maintain. The bar is often too high, there’s little trigger to make a desired behavior happen every day, and the resolutions we choose typically demand profound change. I learned much of that from BJ Fogg and because I believe in his model, my 2013 resolution will have the aforementioned 4 prongs: renewal, intent, intimacy, and reflection.

This year, I’m easing into these resolutions by gradually making changes to how I work and how I live. I spent the end of 2012 bearing witness to our limited days on earth, reaping the bounty of commitment that family and friends give me, and sorting out my own role as a caregiver, writer, and advocate. However obvious it is that life is precious and limited, there are the rare instructive days in our lives that preach it to us. One for me unfolded in August. Read full post »

Ways To Decrease Risk Of Breast Cancer

When we have children, many of us slip in the self-care department. We may not eat as well, not exercise like we did “pre-baby,” and don’t have time to go and see our own doctors. Simply put, our own care doesn’t come first. Parenthood immediately demotes our status…

All fine in some ways. It’s astonishingly wonderful to care so deeply about our children. That devotion still catches me off guard.

But we have to keep on top of our preventative screening. No reason not to when it may allow us a longer time to parent our children! So that’s where I come to breast cancer screening. As women, breast cancer will affect about 1 in 8 of us during our lifetime, the most common cancer in women after non-melanoma skin cancer. It can be highly curable if detected and treated early. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over age 50, but many are younger and some are new moms. There are some risks we need to know and scientific evidence that can help us do a better job caring for ourselves.

Share this widely, please.

Yesterday I teamed up with Dr Julie Gralow, the head of breast cancer oncology at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) and the UW on Twitter for a 1 hour conversation about moms and breast cancer– lifestyle choices, genetic risks, screening, & coping with breast cancer. I learned a ton preparing for the chat and have already tried to think about changes I’ll make in my own life. When I finished the fast-paced hour conversation I sent a note to a friend on Twitter  that I now had to head out for a run, pour out the wine in the house, call my friends to schedule mammography, and ask about a breast MRI. You’ll see why:

Lifestyle Choices May Decrease Breast Cancer Risk

“Stronger,” I Missed You

I was just about to update the blog with a post detailing some new data on reducing SIDS. And then some information on tantrums and some thoughts on storing vaccines safely. And I will, later this week, but my heart is really here:

After a precious, busy day back in clinic today with my patients and staff, I am delighted to tell you that tonight I discovered “Stronger” back up on Youtube where it had been suspended for some time. As it returns to the public sphere, I re-viewed the video twice.

I had absolutely nothing to do with the making of this video, I’m just a faithful fan. The origination of this video stems from some strong patients, some very thoughtful artists, some college students, and a stellar network of families, staff ,and clinicians willing to share a bit of their intimate experience in health care. And their immutable strength.

Watch it again, too.

Some clips from the making of the video (seconds 16 through 44 are particularly endearing).

Here’s Kelly Clarkson’s video response.

Every Illness A Love Story

One magical thing I see while working in health care is the love story. Each and every child who encounters a diagnosis or illness spawns a collection of love stories around them. The stories come spontaneously from parents, siblings, friends, nurses, doctors, community, and peers. It all happens organically and sometimes it happens without notice. Babies cling to their parents when they ache; parents cling to their children when they worry. And the acknowledgement of mortality can stun us into living in the present moment–a miraculous gift. With the onset of an illness or injury, a series of love stories begin in earnest around every child as we all seem to fall in love again.

It may be innate, I think it’s impossible to stop these love stories from unfolding when a child is ill.

A physician colleague once pointed out to me that only two things bring you to the doctor: one, anxiety about an illness (or wanting to prevent one) and two, pain. With children, when either (anxiety or pain) are present, a love story erupts around them. Immediately and passionately, those who care for children and witness their lives will work tirelessly to ease pain and suffering. In it, their love unfolds.

I’ve just realized a love story is always a part of the history of present illness. Here’s why: Read full post »

California Bans Indoor Tanning


Atta girl, California. This week Governor Brown signed a law making it illegal for children under age 18 to use tanning beds. No doctor note, no parent note, or any other paperwork necessary. It’s a real ban and it’s the strictest law in our nation. While 30 some other states have laws limiting indoor tanning use by minors, no other state has banned the use of indoor tanning for minors entirely. Although many professional groups have urged for a tanning bed ban, it has taken some time to get this trend started. Only 49 states to go.

I see patients in clinic nearly every week who visit indoor tanning beds. Their parents go sometimes, too. And we know that’s a huge reason some teens start tanning. So why the rule and why the necessary seemingly rigid law? Watch the video above and put it on your Facebook account. Show it to your children or your nieces, nephews, or neighbors. Read my take:

Teens and Tanning:

A study back in 2002 surveyed kids from all 50 states to determine (risky) behaviors increasing the odds of skin cancer. The findings were fairly grim. Over 80% of teens reported having a sunburn in the prior year and over 1/3 of them had experienced 3 or more burns. We know one bad sunburn in childhood dramatically increases the likelihood of a skin cancer later in life. Further, one out of every 4 teen girls between 15 and 18 years of age reported indoor tanning bed use. And worse, as teens get older, they use indoor tanning more: the rate of indoor tanning doubles between age 12 and 17. The reality is, teens won’t prioritize skin health so you may have to help. Some suggest using the argument for preserving beauty (“Sun damage gives you wrinkles”) is more powerful than using the argument for preserving life (“Sun damage may give you a skin cancer that kills you”). Read full post »

Tanning Bed Ban: 10 Tips on Tanning

I left the country, and went to a tanning bed, both for the first time while in 5th grade. I was 10 years old. Circa 1984, my parents had planned a trip to Mexico and my mom had been poorly-advised that it was a good idea to have my brother and me ready with a “base tan” prior to travel to prevent sunburn. This was unlikely to have come from a doctor, but who knows. It was the 80′s after all.

My mom took us to the local strip mall where I spent multiple 1/2 hour sessions in that warm, sweaty, purple glow encased between 2 rows of light bulbs, the grocery store to my left and the new VHS video store to my right. I remember the stomach sticker I used to obscure the UV light during tanning that marked the progress of our sessions. I remember how excited I got about traveling. I remember how this formed an initial groundwork for my skewed idea that getting a tan marked some sort of achievement. I remember how I used to get praised for my ability to tan when we’d return home to Minnesota.

I also remember that I got the only blistering sun burn in my life from a tanning bed while still under the age of 18. Not good.

I share this because tanning is a misinformation issue. Children and teens may have no idea what risk they take when getting a tan (or a burn) and some parents often have no idea the danger of these tanning beds pose. The argument for “this may cause cancer” often doesn’t resonate with a teen. It’s simply too remote, too far off, or too “grown up” a concern. I’ve found talking about the truth behind wrinkles may be a better angle…

This week the Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stepped up. The AAP published a policy statement describing the effects of UV light exposure in children while pushing for a ban on tanning in children under age 18. The statement starts off by articulating that “sunlight sustains life on earth.” This time of year here in Seattle we’re particularly aware of this… Read full post »

Latitude: 47 Degrees

Today is Monday and my g-calendar says, “Vancouver.” That’s where I am supposed to be for the better part, of the longest day, of the year. My latitude however, remains at 47 degrees. And I trust, like so many others, this day isn’t turning out as planned.

Reasons for the change of location include: the realities surrounding my being a mom, tonight’s swim lesson, a long leg cast, colon cancer, the necessity for using logic, and a dog who sneezed. And because of all of this, if written, the epitaph of this particular day will likely be something like: Latitude for the summer solstice, the day Wendy Sue found her calculated position and knew that leaving was the wrong thing to do.

Being practical when you’re a parent is so alarmingly necessary. One of the quintessential truths no one tells you at the baby shower. It feels good to do the right thing, it’s just wholly inconvenient when you’re desperately trying to make space for some sociability and connection to your friends. It’s back to the grown-up stuff I write about, that being caught in a generational sandwich thing. Read full post »