Tag Archive for: caregivers

Tips for Making Treatment Decisions WITH Your DLBCL Team

Tips for Making Treatment Decisions WITH Your DLBCL Team from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

DLBCL expert, Dr. Jason Westin, explains shared decision-making and provides tips for engaging in your treatment decisions.

Dr. Jason Westin is the Director of Lymphoma Clinical Research in the Department of Lymphoma/Myeloma in the Division of Cancer Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Westin, here.

See More From The Pro-Active DLBCL Patient Toolkit

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Advice for Speaking Up About Your DLBCL Care

Who Are the Members of Your DLBCL Care Team?

Who Are the Members of Your DLBCL Care Team?

What Helps Determine a Patient’s DLBCL Treatment Path?

What Helps Determine a Patient’s DLBCL Treatment Path?


Transcript:

Katherine:                  

Lately, we’ve been hearing this term shared decision-making, which basically means the patients and clinicians collaborate to make healthcare decisions. And it can help patients take a more active role in their care. So, I’d like to get your thoughts on how best to make this process work. Are there questions that patients should consider asking about their proposed treatment plan?

Dr. Westin:                 

Definitely. And I think shared decision-making is something that we view to be critical. We want everybody on board to feel like they’ve got some sense of ownership of these decisions and that they’re involved in a way that’s meaningful. At the end of the day, the patients make the decisions about which treatments are right for them but they’re trusting their healthcare team to give them good advice. This is not something that patients have expertise in. This is often out of nowhere that somebody is newly diagnosed and this is not on their radar, not something that they ever thought that they’d be sitting in the chair talking about which type of therapy for this cancer.

And so, patients are often relying on the healthcare team to give them good advice. But it’s a fair question and it’s, I think, one that’s appropriate to ask. “Are there other treatment options that we should be talking about?” Basically, exploring, “Is this option you’re presenting the option or is this what you consider to be the best option.” Oftentimes physicians, and PAs, and nurse practitioners might filter information such that, “Yeah, there are other options but here’s why they’re bad. Here’s why they’re not right for you.”

But feeling that you have some clarity about why a treatment choice was made, I think, is often quite important. For first line DLBCL, there are less options to consider. But in the relapse space, there are lots of options. And those should be discussed. And sometimes the healthcare provider, a physician, might have their favorite that they have had good experience with treatment A and therefore they recommend treatment A to the next patient. But that may not always be the right treatment for a given patient.

There may be reasons to consider other treatments. And so, asking that question, “What else is out there? What other treatments are there? Anything else that we should be considering,” I think is a fair question to ask and an important one. And if the answer is, “No, there aren’t other treatment options. This is the one that we should choose,” at least you’re aware of that by asking that question. So, I think that’s an important one to clarify.

Who Are the Members of Your DLBCL Care Team?

Who Are the Members of Your DLBCL Care Team? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Lymphoma expert Dr. Jason Westin describes the key members of a multidisciplinary DLBCL care team.

Dr. Jason Westin is the Director of Lymphoma Clinical Research in the Department of Lymphoma/Myeloma in the Division of Cancer Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Westin, here.

See More From The Pro-Active DLBCL Patient Toolkit

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Understanding Your DLBCL Treatment Goals

An Expert Overview of DLBCL Treatment Approaches

An Expert Overview of DLBCL Treatment Approaches

How Can You Access DLBCL Clinical Trials?


Transcript:

Katherine:

Today, we’re going to be learning about DLBCL treatment goals and how patients can be active members of their team. So, let’s start by understanding who is typically on a patient’s DLBCL healthcare team.

Dr. Westin:                 

It’s a good question. The members of the DLBCL healthcare team usually consist of a physician – and this person usually would start the process of saying, “This is something. I don’t know what’s going on with this mass or this pain you’re having. Let’s get some imaging. Let’s get a biopsy to figure out what’s going on.” There would often be a nurse as a member of the team. And the nurse usually provides a critical service in terms of help – facilitating patients to understanding what’s going on and to work with the healthcare team directly to provide excellent patient care.

And eventually, there would often be a pharmacist involved in terms of the chemotherapy or treatments that are administered to help review those and work with the physician and the nurse directly. Those would be the main members of the healthcare team. Occasionally, there might be a social worker or there might be other care providers that are involved. But usually, it’s the physician, the nurse. And then, sometimes the physician extender, such as a PA or a nurse practitioner.

Katherine:                  

Okay. What do you feel is the patient’s role as a team member.

Dr. Westin:                 

Patients are a critical part of our team and are often the decider of what goes on. The physicians, nurses, PAs, pharmacists – our jobs are to help educate the patient and to help the patient to decide what the best treatment is.

Ultimately, it’s the patient’s responsibility to understand what’s going on, to ask good questions, and then to make a decision about what treatments are best for them.

Katherine:                  

What role do caregivers take?

Dr. Westin:                 

Caregivers often play a very important role, and it’s variable from person to person how involved a caregiver is. But if patients have symptoms or side effects of treatment, caregivers are often critical to make sure patients get the appropriate medical care that they need. Some treatments may have more potential for side effects than others. Sometimes, caregivers are essential to actually stay with a patient, even during admission to the hospital to make sure the patients are monitored closely.

And we may talk about different treatments later in the interview. But at our center, sometimes we even mandate that there are caregivers involved in the sense of staying with the patient in the hospital for certain therapy types. But in general, being a supportive family member or caregiver, it’s a good thing to have even if we don’t have a lot of toxicity for emotional and physical support. But sometimes it’s really important to help manage toxicities.

What Is the Patient’s Role in WM Treatment Decisions?

What Is the Patient’s Role in WM Treatment Decisions? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Dr. Jorge Castillo discusses the patient’s role in their Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) treatment decisions and shares advice encouraging patients to be active participants in their care.

Dr. Jorge Castillo is Clinical Director at the Bing Center for Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Learn more about Dr. Castillo, here.

See More From The Pro-Active Waldenström Macroglobulinemia Patient Toolkit

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Why Patients Should Speak Up About WM Symptoms and Side Effects

Why Patients Should Speak Up About WM Symptoms and Side Effects


Transcript:

Katherine:                  

What do you feel is the patient’s role in treatment decisions?

Dr. Castillo:               

From my perspective, the patient’s role is very important. I need, as a physician, that the patient feels that it’s part of the team here. So, when patients come to see me, I strongly encourage patients to bring as many people as they want with them. If they want somebody on FaceTime at the same time, I’m happy with that too. And that helps because the amount of data that we provide, the amount of information that we provide, is a lot in terms of quantity. But sometimes, it’s not easy to understand when you just hear it one time, right?

So, having somebody taking notes, having somebody else taking notes, having somebody else listening, somebody else asking questions, and then somebody else explaining back to the patient – the patient is looking for the best for them, but if he’s also affected by the whole process. It would be naïve to feel – or to think – that somebody was told they have an incurable blood cancer, and they are completely paying attention to everything you’re saying, after you said something like that.

So, I think it’s important for patients to be there with family, friends, or whoever wants to be there to help out. I think that’s a really important aspect. Then, number two is you need to know about your own disease. And I am fortunate to work with a group of patients who are highly educated, to the point that they get to know more about their disease than their own doctor. And I think that’s key. I think that’s important. For me, that is not threatening or challenging. I think that is actually a good thing.

And that way, I can have a more direct conversation, meaningful, because I understand that the patient is understanding what I am saying, and we are trying to speak the same language, so I think that is key also. So, bottom line, I think education from the patient perspective, involvement of their care, I think that’s key so they can be their own best advocates.

There is going to be a lot of – since it’s a rare disease, there’s going to be a lot of backs and forths with different physicians. Some physicians are going to be more intensive and trying to treat when the patient doesn’t need to be treated. The opposite is also true in which a patient, they do need treatment, and the physicians are saying, “No, we can wait a little bit longer.” And again, that has nothing to do with the quality of the doctor. It’s just the fact that the disease is rare, and to keep up with it is very difficult. So, the patient being their best advocate is actually a very important role that they should have.

Katherine:                  

Knowledge is power.

Dr. Castillo:               

That’s right.

January 2022 Digital Health Round Up

Technology has changed the face of healthcare; this new year begins with exciting advances that positively affect the patient and the provider. Providers embracing telemedicine are creating opportunities to change the entire patient experience. The use of AI (artificial intelligence) can take care of tasks that free up more time for providers to spend with the patients. AI is also being used to help identify patients with certain head and neck cancers, that would benefit from lower doses of radiation, decreasing radiation toxicity and side effects for patients.

Healthcare Technology

If you can achieve the right mix of high-tech, high-touch options, you’ve hit the sweet spot for improving equity and accessibility, patient engagement, health outcomes, loyalty, and profitability, reports MedCityNews.com. Telemedicine offers patients a way to seek medical care without missing work and often from the comfort of their own home. With proper education, telemedicine makes healthcare accessible to everyone regardless of language barriers or disabilities. Telemedicine does not replace the hands-on approach of medicine, but it offers interesting and convenient options for patients. During the pandemic, telemedicine has proven to be a powerful tool to stay in touch with patients and keep everyone safer. Find more information here.

Artificial Intelligence to Support Both Caregivers and Patients

In healthcare, as in all fields, the job of AI is not to replace humans, but rather to perform repetitive, tedious and time-consuming tasks so that people don’t have to – freeing time for tasks that require personal touch, reports Enterpeneur.com. AI uses algorithms to predict patient volumes for hospitals, anticipating appropriate staffing for caregivers. AI can quickly sort through images and information saving providers time to get them the appropriate information faster. Humans will always be the ultimate decision makers, but AI can be a tool to help them provide better care. With the increasing demands on providers, time with patients is the most important aspect of their job. Artificial intelligence allows for more efficient use of that time, allowing for better patient outcomes. Find more information here.

Artificial Intelligence to Help Patients Avoid Excessive Radiation

A Case Western Reserve University led team of scientists has used artificial intelligence (AI) to identify which patients with certain head and neck cancers would benefit from reducing the intensity of treatments such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, reports MedicalXpress.com. The AI program analyzed hundreds of tissue samples from patients with a particular type of head and neck cancer. It was able to pick out some of those patients that could have done well with a lower dose of radiation. Reducing the level of chemotherapy and radiation can significantly reduce some of the toxic side effects of the treatments. Using Artificial Intelligence to achieve this can give the patient better quality of life. There is hope in the future that this application can be used in clinical trials and eventually with other types of cancer as well. Find more information here.

Technology is an important partner to healthcare providers and patients. Every day there are great advances in treatment due to artificial intelligence. The potential of telemedicine is expanding and helpful in our daily lives. Technology is an area of healthcare to follow and see all the benefits it will provide for patients and caregivers alike.

What Role Can Care Partners Play in Advocacy?

What Role Can Care Partners Play in Advocacy? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Care partners can play many roles in advocacy. Diahanna, Sherea, and Patricia discuss that as a care partner you have to stay knowledgeable and up to date about various treatments and discussions happening in your loved one’s disease area. Diahanna shares a time where she had to advocate for her late husband by speaking up to the nurse and nearly saving her husband’s life. She also expresses that as care partners, you cannot be afraid to ask questions on behalf of your loved one.

Care Partner Tips for Communicating with Healthcare Teams

Care Partner Tips for Communicating with Healthcare Teams from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Ensure that you are in a position to ask the right questions of your healthcare team. Diahanna suggests familiarizing yourself with various online resources so you are aware of the potential needs of your loved ones. Watch as care partners, Diahanna, Sherea and Patricia share more crucial tips to help others communicate with one’s healthcare team.

Resources for New Care Partners

Resources for New Care Partners from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Sherea explains that you cannot move forward, unless you are able to acknowledge all the feelings that may come with the initial diagnosis of your loved one. Watch as care partners Diahanna, Sherea, and Patricia also share their tips and go-to online resources for new care partners.

Is There a Difference Between Care Partner vs Caregiver?

Is There a Difference Between Care Partner vs Caregiver? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

The term caregiver is generally more recognized around the world. Care partners Diahanna, Sherea, and Patricia share that being a care partner is generally more intimate than being a caregiver. Care partners are those who are taking care of family members and loved ones whom they’ve known before any initial diagnosis.

How to Seek Help as a Care Partner

How to Seek Help as a Care Partner from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

When in need of help care partners Diahanna, Sherea, and Patricia share that you should not be shy. There is a tendency for care partners to deny help, but if you are burned out while caring for a loved one you are no good for them or yourself. Diahanna explains caregiving to be a very humbling and rewarding experience.

What Should Healthcare Providers Know About Care Partner Burnout?

What Should Healthcare Providers Know About Care Partner Burnout? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Care partners are often able to fill in any gaps at appointments with their loved ones. Sometimes information at a visit can go in one ear and out the other for a patient as it can be traumatic experience. Care partners Diahanna, Sherea, and Patricia discuss that providers should know that burnout is real and it is important to not only discuss the needs of your loved one, but discuss your needs as well.  

Ask the Prostate Cancer Expert: How Is Prostate Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Evolving?

Ask the Prostate Cancer Expert: How Is Prostate Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Evolving? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

 What should prostate cancer patients, care partners, and underserved patients know about? Watch as expert Dr. Yaw Nyamefrom the University of Washington shares insight about prostate cancer detection, screening guidelines, specific concerns for Black men, support groups, and clinical trials to work toward better health outcomes for all. 

See More From Best Prostate Cancer Care No Matter Where You Live


Related Resources:

How Has the Onset of Prostate Cancer Evolved?


Transcript:

Sherea Cary: 

Hello, we are here with Dr. Nyame. I have a few questions for you. Dr. Nyame, how has prostate cancer evolved over the last decade regarding the onset of the disease, the population in which it impacts the care and the treatment? 

Dr. Nyame: 

You know, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men that is in a solid organ. It affects about one in nine men over their lifetime, and probably the biggest advance or change we’ve seen in the disease occurred in the late ‘80s with the introduction of the PSA test. What that allows us to do is detect cancers very early in their natural life history, if you will, and that gives us the opportunity really to provide treatment when there’s…with an opportunity for cure. The downside to that is not all prostate cancers are the same, we know that some prostate cancers are diseases that men will die with and not from…meaning that some of these cancers that we detect don’t need any treatment or intervention. This means that a lot of research that has occurred in the last decade or two has been focused on helping us determine which cancers deserve treatment and which ones we can watch safely and so some of the biggest advances have been diagnostic tests such as radiology imaging, so we’ve seen things like MRI really come into the mainstay of prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment upfront. We have very exciting nuclear medicine scans. 

So, you might hear the term PSM-A as a new test that’s really going to disrupt and change the way the prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment is made. We also have genetic testing that we can do on blood samples, urine samples, and tissue, that might give us some very exciting information about one’s risk of dying from prostate cancer, which ultimately is what we want to know when we’re offering treatment to someone.  

Sherea Cary: 

Thank you. What screening test or risk-reducing care would you suggest for men who have a family history of prostate cancer, and at what age should screening begin for specific populations?  

Dr. Nyame: 

Unfortunately, there is no data, rigorous data to help answer this question, but we know that men that have a high risk of developing prostate cancer benefit from earlier testing with PSA. We know this from a variety of studies, including some modeling studies, which we have done here at the Fred Hutch Cancer Center at the University of Washington. When I talk about high-risk groups, it really falls into two categories, men who have a strong family history and a strong family history means a first-degree relative, father, brother, grandfather that has prostate cancer. 

But when we look at the genetics of prostate cancer it’s not just about prostate cancer itself, what we have found is that things that lead to family histories of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer also increase your risk of prostate cancer, for instance, the BRCA gene, which is a breast cancer gene is associated with a marked increased risk of prostate cancer. So, knowing your family history matters and knowing it beyond prostate cancer is important. The other high-risk group as men of African descent or ancestry, we know our black men have a much higher risk of developing prostate cancer in their lifetime, it’s about a one in six or one in seven risk compared to one in nine in the general population. So, the recommendation I make for these two groups is to consider screening earlier and to do it more frequently. On average, PSA screening happens for men between the ages of 55 and 70 or 74, and it’s usually every two years, if you look at the population level data, I would suggest that you consider screening at age 45 or 40 and doing it every year, however, you’ve got to turn the screening off at some point. So, if your PSA stays low and is non-concerning into your early 70s, then I think you can be reassured that your risk of having a fatal or aggressive cancer is low, and you could safely stop screening. 

 Sherea Cary:

Thank you. So, for someone who has a first degree relative such as a father who had prostate cancer and maybe even an aggressive form of prostate cancer, it will be important for them to get screened at 40 to start at least having a baseline number to be able to watch it? 

Dr. Nyame: 

Absolutely. The baseline number is really a topic of discussion in the urologic community because we know that if you get a PSA at age 40 and its above one or above the median for your age group, that you’re a lifetime risk of having what we call significant cancer, so that’s a cancer that might have the potential to be fatal in your lifetime is higher, and so theoretically, you could get that one-time PSA at 40 and use that as a basis for how intense your screening practice would be. I’ve talked about PSA testing, but screening also involves the digital rectal exam, and it’s important that men understand that both those things together is what leads to a thorough and good clinical evaluation, when it comes to prostate cancer risk. 

Sherea Cary:

Thank you so much for sharing the information about the BRCA gene as well. I’ve heard information about the BRCA gene, but I always hear it in relation to women, I’ve never heard it in relation to a connection with prostate cancer. 

That is very interesting to know. What does a multi-discipline approach to prostate cancer look like? 

Dr. Nyame:

Well, when you think about prostate cancer and how it’s diagnosed and how it’s treated, you’re talking about a process that involves a team, the process often starts with your primary care physician, he or she may order a PSA test, which will prompt a biopsy if it’s positive, so that’s the step one is that relationship you have with your primary care physician. Step two is going to be your urologist, that’s the person that’s going to do your biopsy, and if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer that person in conjunction with your primary care physician is then going to be leading this process of, do we actively watch your cancer because it’s a low risk, or do we seek treatment because it’s localized, meaning it’s in the prostate and we can still get your treatment with curative intent as we call it, or has it spread? And in that case, your options for a doctor is different on the watch side, you’re probably looking at a urologist who’s watching closely, on the localized side, you’re going to talk to maybe a radiation specialist or a urologist because both treatments are equal and their effectiveness from cancer treatment. 

But they have different side effects. And I think to get good information about what treatment is best for you, you should see both, and then on the advanced side, you’re talking about medical oncologist that’s going to help navigate all of the various treatments that we have now for stage IV prostate cancer, and even in that setting, you might still find yourself considering a clinical trial with someone like a urologist or getting radiation treatment, which can be standard of care in select patients that have stage IV cancer. So as you can see, it is a very wide range of individuals that are helping take care of your cancer, and that’s just on the treatment side, that’s not talking about any of the other supportive services that you may need that may exist either in your community or in your health systems where you’re getting treated, and those can include patient navigators, social workers, the various nursing services, nutritionists, there’s a lot of people that you may want to put on your team as you’re considering your care. 

Sherea Cary: 

Thank you. So, some people may consider prostate cancer a couples’ disease. What advice would you give to a care partner? My father was a prostate cancer survivor, my mother was very supportive of him, but I took much of the lead as far as being his caregiver and coordinating things between my father, his doctor’s appointments, and with my siblings. 

Do you believe that support people, caregivers, such as children, are able to also assist in receiving care? 

Dr. Nyame: 

Absolutely. The data is overwhelming in this scenario, patients who are partnered or have strong social support do better, and I always say that the patients who have the best outcomes when it comes to cancer, have someone like you, Sherea in their life. It’s not surprising, given the burden of cancer treatment, that having someone that can help navigate all the aspects of your care and be there to support you leads to better outcomes and better satisfaction with the treatments that you choose, a cancer diagnosis, especially prostate cancer diagnosis, a disease that has a very high cure rate, has a very long lifespan, but has really life-altering potential consequences of the treatments you received, has an impact on what we return your survivorship. So how do you live with your cancer, and so the individuals that are there to support you through that journey are absolutely critical. 

Sherea Cary: 

Thank you. What differences do you see in terms of aggressiveness for cancers in different… Various populations?  

Dr. Nyame: 

This is an area of research that for me, is trying to understand why certain populations have more aggressive or worse outcomes when it comes to prostate cancer. 

The most obvious example of this here in the United States is for black men. Black men are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, so about 70% more likely to be diagnosed and they are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as men of other races in the United States. If you look at what the natural history of prostate cancer and Black men looks like, meaning if you were to chart from diagnosis through the course of the disease, does it look different for black men? The answer is yes,, it appears of Black men get prostate cancer when they’re younger, and there’s data to suggest that perhaps Black men get more aggressive prostate cancer because they’re more likely to progress from the localized or treatable disease to stage IV aggressive disease that can’t be treated. We don’t understand what the drivers of that are for a long time, the medical community has suggested that it’s all biology, and by that may be an inherited biology, but we know that health disparities really carry a significant social contribution, and in fact, I like to say that social and environmental factors inform biology too, and so if we see something biologic that explains these trends, it doesn’t mean that that’s the way they were born, it might mean that you put someone in a community that lives near a highway with high pollution or does not have access to clean water or lives in a state of high stress or over security, we don’t know what the biologic manifestations of those types of experiences are, but that perhaps is the reason why we see our communities of color, especially our Black men, experiencing a higher burden of prostate cancer. 

Sherea Cary:

So, is there a push to have African-American men tested earlier with the PSA test, since it appears that they may get prostate cancer earlier?  

Dr. Nyame: 

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, which makes a recommendation to the medical community about prostate cancer screening states that they cannot make a specific recommendation about screening in black men and other high-risk populations like men with a strong family history of prostate cancer, because those men were not included in the clinical trials that have looked at the efficacy of PSA testing for screening. 

Unfortunately, black men make up 3 percent or less of participants in the two screening trials that have informed whether there’s a benefit to PSA testing, which there has been shown to be a 20 percent decrease in dying from prostate cancer if you get screened. We recently took data from the screening trials and superimposed them on real-world data from our surveillance apparatus for cancer in the United States, and what we found was that if you did lower the age of screening in Black men from age 55 to 45, that you did decrease the risk of dying from prostate cancer significantly. It is our hope that this type of research will encourage the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force and other medical societies to reconsider their screening recommendation for black men, ultimately, whatever, if there is a recommendation made to screen at younger ages, I think we need to be conscientious and evaluate what the impact is on the ground, so that if there is a time where we need to reverse a recommendation like that because it’s potentially harmful, that we consider that, but I feel strongly sitting here today that we do need to advocate for earlier screening and Black men. 

Sherea Cary:

What advice do you have for prostate cancer patients about locating a clinical trial. Where can you find one? 

Dr. Nyame: 

Clinical trials tend to happen at the big cancer centers and the big academic university centers, although many of those programs will have affiliate partners out in the community. The easiest way to learn about clinical trials is to start by asking the physician that’s treating you for your prostate cancer, oftentimes, they’ll have resources and connections to the trials directly or are the people who are administering them; however, other great sources are going to be patient advocacy networks, and there are many of them for prostate cancer, there’s one… There are several, I’ll start naming a few. They have the Prostate Cancer Foundation, you have Us TOO, you have zero cancer, you have a PHEN, Prostate Health Education Network, which is an advocacy group for black men with prostate cancer. So these are all great sources of finding out what clinical trials exist, and in addition, you can just get on the Internet and Google if that’s something you have access to, the trick is navigating all the information, and I think knowing what trials are available for you, whether you qualify, that kind of thing can be difficult, and that’s ultimately where finding a provider, whether it’s your direct urologists or radiation oncologist or whoever is helping treat your prostate cancer, either them directly or sometimes seeking a second opinion, and going to a place where you might find someone who has some expertise in trials, if that’s something that you’re interested in.  

Sherea Cary: 

My father participated in a clinical trial, it was going on, I think the time of his treatment, and it was offered to us, and he was at a big facility here in Houston that offered…ask him if he wanted to participate. We did a lot of research. We said we’d try it. And we were glad to be able to participate. I participated in clinical trials also for different health conditions, ’cause I believe it’s important that we have to participate in order for our people to gather the information that’s necessary. So thank you for that. 

Dr. Nyame: 

Absolutely, you know I think there are a lot of reasons that we think that our black community, for instance, may not participate in a clinical trial given the history of medical experimentation and various forms of abuse that have existed in our history, but what I recently heard from our partner of our community partners at PHEN, when they surveyed black men about prosecutor clinical trials, was that although there was some concern about trust in the history, that the overwhelming majority of the men wanted to participate, but they never were asked, and that’s really stuck with me, and I think that black men are under-represented in clinical trials, and we have to find ways to be more inclusive and understand what barriers might exist into participation so that we can have that data to care better for the population. 

Sherea Cary: 

Thank you so much for spending time with us today. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge. 

MPN Caregivers: How to Provide Support During Appointments

MPN Caregivers: How to Provide Support During Appointments from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) caregivers provide support during office visits? Dr. Naveen Pemmaraju shares key advice for caregivers to help improve and increase communication with healthcare providers for the sake of their loved one.

Dr. Naveen Pemmaraju is Director of the Blastic Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cell Neoplasm (BPDCN) Program in the Department of Leukemia at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Pemmaraju, here.

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Transcript:

Katherine Banwell:    

Well, we have another audience question. This one is from Richard. He wants to know what advice do you have for caregivers, and how can he be supportive during appointments?

Dr. Pemmaraju:         

Yeah. Richard’s question really is so important. Really, before the pandemic and now with the pandemic this extended time, this is the most important question that’s coming up. This is a challenge. I think a lot of our patients who are older, frail, live alone, they don’t even have the option to do that. That may be 25 percent of our patients right there,

And that’s very heartbreaking and difficult, and clearly, their care – it may not be compromised, but it’s certainly limited in some ways without getting that other perspective. Right? So, I think that’s important.

Now, out of the 75 percent of the people who may have someone that can be a part of their life, a lot of these folks, Katherine, are limited because of the pandemic. Most hospitals, smartly, I think, still have restrictions on not allowing every single person in the building just for health and safety protocols. So, telehealth has had to be a substitute, I would say, for that, and in a lot of cases, has been helpful. In some cases, frustrating, obviously, with technical difficulties, etcetera, etcetera.

I would say that the key is – and I really want this to be very specific. It would be easy to just say, “Yep, bring a loved one to your visit.” No, it’s not that easy, right? So, now, during the pandemic, I think two things are very important and what I’ve noticed. One is, if the patient is able to, if their health allows them to, prime the loved one or caregiver, “Hey, I’m going to be in the doctor’s office from this time.”

And I always say make it like the cable person visit, right? From 8:00 to 5:00. So, “Hey, today, on Tuesday, if you can have your cell phone on you, that would be nice, because I’m going to patch you in, and you can listen in the background.” This is actually a key pearl I can give to people. You’d be surprised how helpful that is. Because most people, if they’re not living in the same household or whatever – “Oh, I didn’t even know you were going to be – okay.”

Number two, when the loved one or caregiver is involved, which I encourage for everyone, try to discuss with them the night before, if your health allows you to, to go over some of the key questions. Say, “Hey, guess what? I only understand about 7 to 10 percent of what goes on in these visits, but I need you to ask this.” So, you can kind of prime your loved one to do that.

And then, lastly, you had mentioned earlier to have this list of questions. Well, that’s a great thing to give to the caregiver, right? So, if you’re able to use email and your family member is in California and you’re in Texas, maybe a quick email the night before.

“Hey, here’s what I’m thinking. In case I forget, will you ask this to the doctor?” A lot of these visits may only be five or 10 minutes, but you’d be surprised, if you have a list of two or three questions – boom, boom, boom – and then it’ll alleviate those worries there.

Lastly, I would also say don’t feel – I want to tell this to the viewers out there. Don’t feel pressured when you’re in the visit with us that you have to get every single thing out. And what I mean by that is now with email and the electronic medical record portal systems, there is some ability to contact people during – I’m sorry, after and between visits. So, maybe that might help you to not feel so much pressure in the visit.

Essential First Aid Tips For Cancer Caregivers

First aid is an essential skill — however, 70% of Americans feel unprepared for a cardiac emergency because they either don’t know how to administer CPR or their training has significantly lapsed. It’s important for caregivers of cancer patients to be trained in first aid, so they’re fully-prepared and ready to act in emergency situations. This includes knowing how to administer CPR, looking out for the common signs of infection, and helping patients manage the emotional symptoms of cancer.

Administering CPR

Chemotherapy damages healthy cells in the body, including cells in and near the heart. As a result, cardiac toxicity and conditions like arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy (the heart struggling to send blood around the body), angina (chest pain), and myocarditis (inflammation of the muscular layer of the heart wall) can occur. In these situations, a cancer patient may need CPR, which, if unsuccessful, may need to be followed up with an AED (automated external defibrillator). An AED can help restart the patient’s heart and re-establish the natural rhythm of the heartbeat. First aid training is essential for anyone caring for cancer patients as it covers how to administer CPR correctly. Caregivers should also inform themselves of the patient’s resuscitation wishes in advance.

Preventing infection

Cancer and cancer treatment weakens the immune system, which in turn increases a patient’s risk of infection. Additionally, cancer patients can have a low white blood cell count (neutropenia), which further weakens the body’s ability to fight infection. Symptoms of infection to look out for in cancer patients can include: fever, sore throat, shortness of breath, belly pain, and chills potentially followed by sweating. In this case, caregivers should check the patient’s temperature with a thermometer, keep the patient hydrated, and help them take their medication on schedule. If the patient has a high or low temperature, can’t take fluids, or simply doesn’t seem “right,” take them to the emergency room and let the staff know they’re in treatment for cancer.

Emotional first aid

One third of all cancer patients experience high levels of mental or emotional distress that meets the strict diagnostic criteria for mental disorders, including depression or anxiety. As such, emotional first aid becomes an important part of caring for cancer patients and their emotional health. In particular, anxiety can result in shortness of breath, hyperventilation, and chest pain. It’s therefore essential to learn deep breathing techniques to help affected patients stay as calm and pain-free as possible. Alternatively, depression can manifest symptoms like low mood, irritability, insomnia, excess sleepiness, and suicidal thoughts. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of depression and begin an open dialogue with the affected individual to provide them with support and treatment if necessary.

First aid knowledge and skills are an essential part of caring for people with cancer. It’s important caregivers have the right first aid training, knowledge, and skills to help patients in emergency situations.

Medication Maintenance Tips for Caregivers

Managing medications can be difficult to do, especially if you’re a senior caregiver. Helping someone else remember to take medications on time and work to find the right balance for them can seem like a daunting task. Thankfully, we’ve got a list of tips and tricks to help make things flow more smoothly.

Make Sure Providers Are Aware Of Vitamins And Supplements

Medical providers should be aware of any vitamins and supplements a person is taking. Regardless of how natural they are, they can interfere with medications and other treatments. For example, someone on blood thinners should not be taking a supplement with vitamin K. Most blood thinners work by inhibiting the production of this vitamin in the body. Taking a vitamin K supplement can negate the work of blood thinners.

Instructions

Make sure to go over medication instructions with the senior you’re caring for. If they are able to, they should know the names of each medication along with dosages and what times to take them. It doesn’t hurt to type up instructions about medications so that all information is in one place and easy to access. Consider adding in what side effects they should seek help for. That can serve as a list for caregivers and seniors to check on in case of adverse events.

Alarms

Set alarms to remind seniors to take their medications. There are many options to choose from. Smartphones allow you to set up reminders with different sounds each time which can help people differentiate between medication doses and other alerts. Electronic personal assistants like Alexa or Google Home can easily be used for reminders as well. If the senior you’re caring for struggles with newer technology, consider a few alarm clocks around the home.

Keep A List

Keeping a list of medications can help seniors and caregivers alike remember what medications are due at what time. Lists that have both a visual of what the medications look like and allow people to check off a medication dose can be useful tools. If you’re going with this kind of list, make sure that you have multiple copies. Placing one next to a pill organizer and another on the fridge can help remind people to take medication before they’ve even missed a dose.

Smartphone apps can also be helpful in tracking this information.

Follow Up

It’s important not to just set alarms or reminders, but check in to ensure that someone has taken their medication. It can be easy to turn off an alarm and still forget to take medication as scheduled. Following up with the senior in your life can remind them that they didn’t take their most recent dose.

Store Medications Properly

Most medications do best when stored between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, many of them need to avoid humidity, direct sunlight and more. Medications should not be stored in vehicles, on windowsills or other sunny and warm spots or even in the bathroom. Consider storing them in a cool, dry space in the kitchen or living space.

When medications aren’t stored properly, it can affect their potency and make them potentially dangerous. If you’re concerned that your senior’s medications have been affected, here’s what you need to watch out for:

  • Odd smells
  • Discolored pills, tablets and injections
  • Cracked or crumbled pills
  • Pills and tablets that are stuck together
  • Creams and ointments that show separation
  • Cloudy injections

If you see these signs, contact your senior’s pharmacist as soon as possible.

Sort Medications Into Pill Organizers

Set aside time each week to go through the medication your senior takes and place them into pill organizers. These can make it easier to remember to take medications as prescribed or even transport them while traveling. Some organizers can remind people to take their medications and even alert others that a dose has been missed.

Make Sure All Caregivers Know About Medications

A sure way to have seniors miss their medication doses is to have senior caregivers who aren’t on the same page. Without everyone being in the know, it becomes increasingly difficult to set reminders and follow up with seniors about medication doses.

Plan Ahead For Refill Needs

Refills may come up on days where a senior is alone. When that’s the case, they may forget or be unable to pick up their refilled medications. Refills may even be due when someone is planning to be out of town. Make sure to plan ahead adequately for refills and work with a person’s pharmacist.

Consider Compounding Medications If Needed

Compounding is a process where medication is tailored to a person’s specific needs. This can help remove any dyes a patient is allergic to or turn a pill into liquid for those who struggle with swallowing pills.

Get Tips from A Medical Provider

When methods to help your senior aren’t working as well as you had hoped, take some time to check in with their medical providers. Nurses have amassed a wealth of information on improving their patients’ quality of life. They are likely to have some ideas on how to make managing medications more effective.

Always Communicate With Family Members

Whatever steps you take to maintain a senior’s medication schedule, make sure that you’re communicating any difficulties with the senior’s loved ones. Family should also always be aware of any medication changes. When so many seniors rely on a variety of paid and family caregivers, it’s incredibly important for everyone to be in the loop on the storage, administration and organization of all medications, vitamins and supplements.

Notable News: November 2018

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and if ever there were a cancer that needed an awareness month, it’s lung cancer. Sometimes referred to as the invisible cancer, lung cancer is a disease caught up in a smoke cloud of misconceptions, and those misconceptions can prevent patients from early detection, treatment, and support. Several of the myths and misconceptions about lung cancer are addressed and dispelled in a recent article at fredhutch.org. One of the main myths is that you only need to worry about lung cancer if you are or ever were a smoker. That’s simply not true. In fact, people who have never smoked can get lung cancer, and it can be a genetic disease. Other myths include the belief that there are no early detection screening processes and that there has been no progress in lung cancer research. While it’s true that other cancers seem to have more screening options and better prognosis, advancements are being made in lung cancer. Organizations such as Patient Empowerment Network are making progress in building awareness and reducing the stigmas about lung cancer. See the rest of the myths and misconceptions and how they are dispelled here.

There is nothing sweet about having lung cancer, but there may be a sugary clue that could lead to earlier detection, reports forbes.com. Researchers have discovered that early-stage, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tumors and precancerous lesions produce high levels of a molecule that they use to consume sugar to help fuel their growth. The molecule, called SGLT2, could be used to detect early stage NSCLC. Researchers also found that a diabetes drug, which blocks SGLT2, also prevented tumor progression in mice, which shows promise for possible future treatment of NSCLC. Further studies of SGLT2 could hinder the development of malignant NSCLC, and more information about this hopeful development can be found here.

Another hopeful lung cancer development comes in the form of a hot needle, reports dailymail.co.uk. The treatment, called radio frequency ablation, is being used to diagnose and treat difficult-to-reach tumors. In addition to being able to destroy the tumor by heating it up with radio frequency energy, doctors are able to use the needle to remove part of the tumor for biopsy. The needle works in place of attempting to access the tumors through invasive surgery. The hot-needle treatment is considered safe for repeated use, and a report showed that half of the patients treated with the hot needle survived at least five years. More information about this hot new treatment can be found here.

We would be remiss if we didn’t note that November is also National Family Caregiver’s Month. There are approximately 43.5 million unpaid caregivers in the United States and they are a critical component of a cancer patient’s journey. It is important for caregivers to make sure they are practicing self-care as well, and there are a number of resources available to them to help ensure caregivers have the information they need to care for their loved ones and themselves. The PEN Path to Patient Empowerment guide provides resources for care partners, including links to the Family Caregiver Alliance website and the American Cancer Society Caregiver Resource Guide. Chock full of information for caregivers about caregivers and the patients they care for, these resources are a must have for any caregiver and can be found here and here.

Oh, and November is also the month where we give thanks. Happy Thanksgiving from the PEN Family to your Family. We are thankful for you!

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