Posts

What Barriers Do Prostate Cancer Patients Face When Seeking Care?

What Barriers Do Prostate Cancer Patients Face When Seeking Care? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What barriers do prostate cancer patients face in gaining access to care? Host Dr. Nicole Rochester and Dr. Yaw Nyame and Dr. Petros Grivas share their perspectives on factors that impact access to care and ways some barriers can be removed to improve prostate cancer care.

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


Related Resources:

How Can I Get the Best Prostate Cancer Care No Matter Where I Live?


Transcript:

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Drs. Nyame and Grivas, we know that location, socioeconomic status, insurance, financial hardships, lack of urologists in rural areas, geographic distance services and access to transportation all play an important role in the outcomes for patients and families facing a prostate cancer diagnosis. So, I want to start with our first question, and we’ll start with you, Dr. Grivas, what are some of the barriers, both prostate cancer patients and their care partners face when seeking care? 

Dr. Grivas:

The number of those factors have to do with the location of the patient as you mentioned, patients regardless of race, if they live in a rural community, then they have less communication or contact with a medical care system, and that’s in all reality there’s data suggesting that a cruelty to states this access to care issue is becoming more and more noticeable, and the distance involved in some ways to get a medical facility, let alone a specialized medical facility, specialized in-person culture. It can be a big problem. The other issue that we have seen many times, again, in some communities more than others, is a healthcare literacy and the preventive mindset as I call it, and that again, can transpire across races, but maybe even more intense in some of the populations. And when I talk about health literacy and preventive mindset, it’s about the relationship, an individual of the healthcare system, and sometimes the distrust, right, that may take place and also the, I would say comfort that the patient has to enter and access a medical care system that they can allow the providers to take care of them, and these are real, I would say, examples that we have seen based on having this concern of letting sales be taken care of in a medical system, competing problems and barriers include financial contraction, that’s a big one.  

Insurance coverage. We know that patients who…I would say social determinants of health may have not very good coverage, and this may be restricting award medical facilities that they can access, and also the cost of care, co-pays, for example, when diagnostic tests or acute interventions for orderly available agents can be a big carrier and no compliance can be diminished with co-pay. Of course, you mentioned many other factors, transportation issues, finding coverage of work, getting day off work can be a problem for some patients, and also the cost of transportation or lodging or parking sometimes can be a problem or even the anxiety to go to a big city and deal with a traffic, of course. So there are many factors, of course, but I think we have to have a systematic approach how to catalog them and address them in a comprehensive way, and I think there are some improvements and we can talk about them today, for example, telemedicine and others, but I think the list is long, and we have to keep an open mind and engaged patient advocates in cataloging those barriers. Maybe Dr. Nyame can comment further in that regard. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

You covered a lot of ground, and I appreciate that. Dr. Nyame, I’d love for you to either add to that list or maybe expand based on your perspectives. 

Dr. Nyame: 

Dr. Grivas didn’t leave me with much to cover, which is great. I think what you hear, in his answer to that question is that this is really a social issue, and I think when we talk about inequities in health, we have to recognize that race in this country, and many places around the world really reflects a social construct, and so the things that really predict how people are going to be able to utilize our services and how well they’re going to do reflect that greater social context, and so to me…you have to meet the patient where they are. And the strength of the relationships that you can build between the healthcare system and the communities that are at risk, especially the ones that have the highest disproportionate risk of bad outcomes or not being able to utilize services is important. And so the barriers include all the things we talked about, but a lot of them that we’ve talked about have been very much healthcare-facing, so we talk about transportation, what we mean that in the source of transportation to our facilities or we talk about money, but we talk about money and the ability to pay for our services, we also miss the other ways in which those social barriers and factors impact the ability to prioritize one’s health. 

Dr. Nyame: 

And so that is a really big problem. And something that we also need to put in the context of this conversation. I think when we take the covers off and we really see what our patients’ lives are like, sometimes we recognize that it’s not just about their ability to utilize the services that we provide, but that there are bigger issues at hand that also need addressing. Those aren’t in Dr. Grivas and I’s domain, but I think we have to understand those things to meet our patients where they are. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Absolutely, I really appreciate that both of you have really focused on those social determinants of health. I appreciate you mentioning racism, and the fact that the patients being able to prioritize their health, I think historically in medicine, we have blamed our patients for not taking care of themselves, so to speak, without a full appreciation of all of these barriers that both of you have just identified, so I really appreciate that. 

July 2021 Digital Health Roundup

Patients are reporting that they are as satisfied with telehealth care as they are with in-person care, but as the Covid-19 related restrictions are being lifted and the emergency telehealth policies are beginning to expire, things are getting complicated. Patients are already experiencing difficulties in accessing care and are looking to lawmakers to ensure that easy and affordable access to the benefits of telehealth becomes a permanent option.

A recent Cleveland Clinic study surveyed patient satisfaction levels, comfort and ease using technology, and patient-clinician engagement, reports mhealthintelligence.com. The study found that more than 80 percent of patients found that their virtual visits were as good as in-person visits, and more than 53 percent found their visit to be a better experience than an in-person visit. The survey also revealed that patients found virtual visits made it easy to get care and also saved time. Not having to travel and being able to have appointments from home were reasons given for why patients liked virtual healthcare. Patients also noted that their care provider was interested in them and understood their healthcare needs. Some patients had a lower overall satisfaction rate based on experiencing technical difficulties during their visits, and some felt the interface could be improved. Overall, the study confirmed that telehealth continues to enhance healthcare for patients. Learn more here.

Telemedicine may not only be beneficial to patient health, but it could also benefit the health of the planet, reports healthcareitnews.com. A recent study showed that an increased use of virtual healthcare resulted in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The study found that as the use of telehealth increased and healthcare-related transportation decreased, the resulting greenhouse gas emissions were reduced. Researchers are hopeful that continued use of telemedicine could reduce the impact the healthcare industry has on the changing climate. Read more here.

Expansion of insurance coverage for telemedicine occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic with 22 states changing laws or policies, reports commonwealthfund.org. However, due to the methods used to change the policies, most of the changes are temporary and set to expire after the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, a 2018 survey of physicians found that 18 percent had used telemedicine to provide care, and less than one percent of medical care was provided by telemedicine in January 2020. The pandemic created a need to increase virtual care, and states voluntarily took steps to encourage telemedicine use by patients and providers. While telehealth provided many benefits during the pandemic, the benefits were not equitable to all groups. Other challenges included practitioners charging for services such as short phone calls that would not have been charged prior to the pandemic. Going forward, policymakers will need to monitor data collected during the pandemic to determine the best ways to permanently provide coverage for telemedicine services. Get more information here.

While the temporary telehealth changes are beginning to expire and new measures are not in place, patients and providers are being caught in the middle, reports statnews.com. Telemedicine rules that were in place before the pandemic are coming back into play, and they are making telehealth more costly and inaccessible. Doctors are struggling to keep up with the changing rules, and patients are going to extremes to ensure care – including driving across state lines to rest stops or parking lots to call in for telehealth appointments. Some states are extending the temporary telehealth guidelines, but many have already put an end to them, and that leaves doctors and patients scrambling. With the mounting evidence pointing to the benefits of telemedicine, everyone is left wondering if those benefits will be accessible with the shift in regulations and licensing. The article, which includes examples of how the telehealth policy changes affect patients and providers, is well worth the read. Find it here.

Without federal and state lawmakers continuing to allow for flexible telehealth policies, some of the most vulnerable patients will have a harder time accessing care, reports telecomreseller.com. A study by the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) showed that the majority of health centers predict millions of health center patients could lose access to care if expanded telehealth policies don’t continue. In order to ensure they can continue to reach some of the most vulnerable patients, health centers need lawmakers to permanently adopt policies that will allow for the continuation of remote care, including recognizing health centers as distant site providers and allowing them to provide audio-only telehealth visits. Vulnerable seniors and patients who are in rural areas and below the poverty level will suffer the most. Learn more here.

Whatever happens regarding access to care, healthcare relies heavily on digital infrastructure that could be vulnerable to cybercrime. Senators have introduced a bill that will address the threat of cybercrime, reports healthcareitnews.com. The International Cybercrime Prevention Act was first introduced in 2018 but was reintroduced in 2021 after recent notable cybersecurity attacks including the Colonial Pipeline attack. The bill is aimed at protecting against attacks on critical infrastructure and includes hospitals. Learn more here.

How Can I Get the Best Prostate Cancer Care No Matter Where I Live?

How Can I Get the Best Prostate Cancer Care No Matter Where I Live? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can prostate cancer patients ensure they get quality care even if they live in rural areas? Noted experts, Dr. Petros Grivas and Dr. Yaw Nyame share advice and discuss how to receive optimal care no matter your geography or financial status. Learn about resources and digital tools you can utilize to ensure better care no matter where you live. 

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


Related Resources:


Transcript:

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Hello and welcome. I’m Dr. Nicole Rochester, your host for today’s Patient Empowerment Network program, and we are so happy that you’ve tuned in. Today we’re going to be talking about how prostate cancer patients can truly get the best care no matter where you and your family live, we’re going to talk about things like how can I remove roadblocks in my care to gain access to state-of-the-art treatment? Will my insurance limit me if I wanna get a second opinion as a care partner, how do I best advocate for my loved one and is a clinical right for me? The answers to some of these questions we receive revolve around awareness, feeling empowered to ask questions and connecting to the right resources at the right time. In this program we’ll be learning just that as we meet our experts. It is my honor and privilege to be joined by Dr. Petros Grivas, Associate Professor and clinical director of the genitourinary cancer program at the University of Washington. And Dr. Yaw Nyame, Assistant Professor in the Department of Urology at the University of Washington. Thank you so much for joining us today, gentlemen. 

Dr. Nyame:

Thank you for having us. 

Dr. Grivas: 

Thank you so much for having us. It’s an honor and pleasure to be with you. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

It is my honor as well. Please remember that this program is not a substitute for seeking medical care, so please be sure to connect with your healthcare team on the best options for you. Now, let’s take a few minutes to set the stage and give a brief overview of barriers in the way of achieving equitable prostate cancer treatment. Doctors Nyame and Grivas, we know that location, socioeconomic status, insurance, financial hardships, lack of urologists in rural areas, geographic distance services and access to transportation all play an important role in the outcomes for patients and families facing a prostate cancer diagnosis. So, I wanna start with our first question, and we’ll start with you, Dr. Grivas, what are some of the barriers that prostate cancer, let me do that one again. What are some of the barriers, both prostate cancer patients and their care partners face when seeking care? 

Dr. Grivas: 

Thank you so much. These are really important discussions, and I’m glad we’re doing this program. I think you covered a number of those barriers in your introduction, and I would definitely agree with all of them because many of them are important. The number of those factors have to do with the location of the patient as you mentioned, patients regardless of race, if they live in a rural community, then they have less communication or contact with a medical care system, and that’s in all reality there’s data suggesting that a cruelty to states this access to care issue is becoming more and more noticeable, and the distance involved in some ways to get a medical facility, let alone a specialized medical facility, specialized in-person culture. It can be a big problem. The other issue that we have seen many times, again, in some communities more than others, is healthcare literacy and the preventive mindset as I call it, and that again, can transpire across races, but maybe even more intense in some of the populations. And when I talk about health literacy and preventive mindset, it’s about the relationship, an individual of the healthcare system, and sometimes the distrust, right, that may take place and also the, I would say comfort that the patient has to enter and access a medical care system that they can allow the providers to take care of them, and these are real, I would say, examples that we have seen based on having this concern of letting sales be taken care of in a medical system, competing problems and barriers include financial contraction, that’s a big one. 

Insurance coverage. We know that patients who… I would say social determinants of health may have not very good coverage, and this may be restricting award medical facilities that they can access, and also the cost of care, co-pays, for example, when diagnostic tests or acute interventions for orderly available agents can be a big carrier and no compliance can be diminished with co-pay. Of course, you mentioned many other factors, transportation issues, finding coverage of work, getting day off work can be a problem for some patients, and also the cost of transportation or lodging or parking sometimes can be a problem or even the anxiety to go to a big city and deal with a traffic of course. So there are many factors, of course, but I think we have to have a systematic approach how to catalog them and address them in a comprehensive way, and I think there are some improvements and we can talk about them today, for example, telemedicine and others, but I think the list is long, and we have to keep an open mind and engaged patient advocates in cataloging those barriers. Maybe Dr. Nyame can comment further in that regard.  

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Thank you so much, Dr. Grivas, yeah, you covered a lot of ground, and I appreciate that Dr. Nyame I’d love for you to either add to that list or maybe expand based on your perspectives. 

Dr. Nyame:

Dr. Grivas didn’t leave me with much to cover, which is great. I think what you hear, in his answer to that question is that this is really a social issue, and I think when we talk about inequities in health, we have to recognize that race in this country, and many places around the world really reflects a social construct, and so the things that really predict how people are going to be able to utilize our services and how well they’re going to do reflect that greater social context, and so to me… You have to meet the patient where they are. And the strength of the relationships that you can build between the healthcare system and the communities that are at risk, especially the ones that have the highest disproportionate risk of bad outcomes or not being able to utilize services is important. And so the barriers include all the things we talked about, but a lot of them that we’ve talked about have been very much healthcare-facing, so we talk about transportation, what we mean that in the source of transportation to our facilities or we talk about money, but we talk about money and the ability to pay for our services, we also miss the other ways in which those social barriers and factors impact the ability to prioritize one’s health. 

And so that is a really big problem. And something that we also need to put in the context of this conversation. I think when we take the covers off and we really see what our patients’ lives are like, sometimes we recognize that it’s not just about their ability to utilize the services that we provide, but that there are bigger issues at hand that also need addressing. Those aren’t in Dr. Grivas and I’s domain, but I think we have to understand those things to meet our patients where they are. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Absolutely, I really appreciate that both of you have really focused on those social determinants of health. I appreciate you mentioning racism, and the fact that the patients being able to prioritize their health, I think historically in medicine, we have blamed our patients for not taking care of themselves, so to speak, without a full appreciation of all of these barriers that both of you have just identified, so I really appreciate that. 

So we started slightly to talk about solutions, but let’s shift to solutions and what are some of the solutions that you all recommend for some of these barriers, and like you said, as physicians, a lot of that is going to be out of your purview, but I’d love for each of you to suggest any solutions for our patients and care who may be facing some of these barriers, so this time we’ll start with you, Dr. Nyame.  

Dr. Nyame: 

This is an area where I think we need to do better in collecting information to understand where the need is, and so I think there is a very much a need for translational health services or patient-centered research, where we do the simple thing, if I was gonna open up a lemonade stand in the middle of Seattle, I’d probably ask a few people what their needs are around lemonade before I open the stand, and I think in medicine, we often offer our services and solutions without having had that simple conversation of What are the needs? I think in addition to that, we have to understand that equitable care might mean offering additional services for certain populations, so for us at our cancer center, for instance, we’ve recently instituted a patient navigator program, something that’s been around for a long time, and other sites but it’s allowing us to do that, go through that exercise of providing some equitable care by helping people coordinate appointments, find their way to financial resources that might support them, and just to be there as a support in the very difficult time of having a new cancer diagnosis, so I think that’s a well-proven and well-established method for helping people get access to care. 

The other thing I’ll add is that we make decisions, I think as humans, we make decisions through community, and sometimes that’s our partner, sometimes that somebody at the gym, sometimes that’s a co-worker, and there are a lot of really fantastic patient advocacy networks that exist that can help people find this new community, and I think cancer patients share a very unique bond and in a very unique way to communicate with one another because they’re living through this particular diagnosis, and so for in the case of prostate cancer, especially prostate cancer in black men, you have the Prostate Health Education Network, you have Zero Cancer, you have Us TOO, you have the Prostate Cancer Foundation, probably leaving some advocacy groups off and I’m probably gonna get in trouble, but I think that there’s that opportunity to reach out to others and just learn… What did you go through, what worked for you? How can I meet my goals of care through just conversation with other patients and survivors, and I’ll try to leave something for Dr. Grivas to the conversation ’cause clearly I could go on and on. 

Nicole Rochester: 

Dr. Grivas? 

Dr. Grivas: 

I’ll tell you that I am learning every day from Dr. Nyame. He’s fantastic work in this important topic, and I think he covered the answer so well, if I can just add a few more things just to expand on this sorts. And these are things that already he’s doing in his programmatic development in our institution as well. I think one of the important things we have to acknowledge is the issue of systemic racism and implicit bias that I think you referred to Dr. Rochester. I think the more we talk about, the more transparent we are with it, the better because we can think about what are unconscious or subconscious thoughts that we may have, you know this patient doesn’t care about themselves. Why should we go the extra mile to help them? We should go the extra mile to help them because this patient may have less inside of the situation, and they need more resources and as a healthcare system, we should try to earn that patient, right? We should not let that patient go because every patient matters, right? And I think every life matters. I think that’s important. I think overall a systemic issue to discuss. The other thing is getting our sense of the community, and I think the examples of studies we have done in the clinic and other areas that we try to utilize the wisdom and the help of local leaders in those communities for example, underserved populations go to local churches or barber shops or gyms as Dr. Nyame mentioned and collaborate, work with the local leaders and see how we can have a dialogue with the patients there. How can we establish this trust that may be missing, how we can convey that health is important, and prevention is important, and treatment is important, how can we help with financial constraints, right? How can we get patients to the cancer center without them having to worry about how to get there, how can we reach out and have screening in the present county screening in the community, if it’s indicated then access to care telemedicine, and that brings an issue, do the patients have equipment for telemedicine, a computer, we take it for granted, but it may not be. So given those resources, organizing some local centers with this Men’s Health Day, just to get people in a room and educate them, but also learning from them what are the barriers to take it into account, not talk down to them, but learning with them and from them. 

The other thing is research and that will have to do a better job to include an offer in an equitable manor clinical trials to our patients including patients from different races and we are doing, I think, overall, okay, but we are not doing enough, we have to do better in order to provide this opportunities to our patients and the role of patient navigators is great. We can set examples, and we have patients who feel much more comfortable when they have a patient navigator. Sometimes if it happens to be in the same race with a patient then the patient feels more comfortable. They have someone that they can trust or it will be easier to talk to, and I think we should definitely improve and work harder to provide access to research inequitable manor to our patients. The last point I would say is, patient co-pay assistance programs and foundations, I think we can definitely include more resources to our patients, philanthropy, foundation support and state programs in order to give those patients the resource they need again to achieve this holy grail, which is equitable health care. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

I love that you all are focusing on equity, which as we know, is giving every patient what they need in order to achieve their optimal health, and as both of you have stated, that’s very different than equality, and so this concept that we really have to meet our patients where they are, and that some of our patients may be a little bit more than others, and that’s okay, in fact, that’s really what we have to do in order to eliminate these disparities, so I really appreciate both of your thoughts and that’s a great lead in to our next segment, which is really focused on racial and ethnic disparities, and both of you have kind of touched on this a little bit already, so we know that there are as with every other type of cancer and every other disease, there are significant health disparities with BIPOC patients, and so Dr. Nyame, I’d love for you to talk about specifically with prostate cancer, some of the disparities that you see in your practice and in your research, and then what are some things that patients of color can do to protect themselves from these inequities? 

Dr. Nyame: 

This is a very important topic for me, it’s something that I am very passionate about, and as Dr. Grivas alluded to am doing a lot of research on, and I think the statistics are so grey. Black men are 80% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. So the average man in the United States has a one and nine lifetime risk of being diagnosed prostate cancer, that’s probably one in six or one in seven black men. Black men are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer compared to men of other races and ethnicity in the United States, and a lot of this is driven by the social milieu and factors that we’ve talked about today. What troubles me is when we talk about these statistics, I fear that that in of itself is crippling for some black men. If I have this diagnosis and I’m not gonna do well. Why should I do anything? And I can tell you that the literature and all the research that we do, and it gets refreshed every 10 years or so, someone will do the study and it shows that if we have Black men and men of other races or white men, and we give them the same treatment for the same level of disease, that the outcomes are actually very similar, and a better way to state that for me is if you’re diagnosed early and you get the treatment that you should get irrespective of your race, it seems like outcomes can be quite good. 

And so a lot of what we see with regards to prostate cancer inequities are driven by lower treatment rates and probably an impact of lower quality care. And when I say that, what does that mean? Well, do you get your care at places like the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance or the Cleveland Clinic, or John Hopkins or MD Anderson, where you have providers who are expert and do a lot of prostate cancer care, or are you being seen by someone in the community who I guarantee is an excellent clinician, but doesn’t have the same resources and the same expertise in the sense of being focused on one disease process or one set of cancers, for instance, we are genital urinary cancer specialist, a fancy term for being cancer doctors of the plumbing system, but because that’s all we focus on, we know a lot about the process we know what works, and we know what the standards of care. So I think when you can get the right treatment at the right time, and you can get it from teams that are really specialized in this, that our outcomes are going to not care about what your self-defined races when you check box. 

The problem is, how do we get… How do we close that gap that exists currently that doesn’t allow people to get that care, and I think we’ve talked about rurality, so I think… I grew up in Oklahoma, and I could see that if you are in the sticks in Oklahoma and you’re not near a cancer center, like something down in Dallas, that your care might be impacted, but… Especially if you have to travel a lot and it’s expensive. But we have major US cities like Los Angeles where you may share a zip code with a millionaire but use very different health services, so it’s not always a reflection of how far you have to travel, but it also is factors about how welcoming institutions that provide high quality care can feel for populations like our BIPOC populations who sometimes have been the subject of medical experimentation and lower quality care sometimes because they might not get shuttled to the same services historically, and I think we have a lot to undo to rebuild the trust that is required to have black men not be fearful of seeking care from us, but be trusting. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Absolutely, and certainly the COVID pandemic has really brought that whole mistrust and distrust to light, so I appreciate you touching on that. We’re going to move to talk about treatment access, and I love how this conversation is flowing because so many of these elements have already been discussed, so we’re gonna talk about treatment access for prostate cancer patients, and we know that sometimes the barriers that patients face, as you mentioned actually limit their access to quality care and to appropriate treatment. So, Dr. Grivas, how can we ensure that a patient’s geographic location doesn’t dictate the quality of care that they receive? 

 Dr. Grivas: 

A very important question for sure, and I think as you point it out, we have tasked upon this before, but I think it is definitely much more to be said and done. More importantly, I think the location has to do with multiple differences in social constructs, right? The location of the distance from a cancer center with expertise is one thing at the time to get to the cancer center is related to that, and also the social support that the patient may have, if for example, a particular treatment, for example, a clinical trial, the requires a weekly visit to the cancer center, is that the feasible thing for the patient who lives miles and miles away in the rural areas of Oklahoma as Dr. Nyame mentioned or somewhere else. Can we design a clinical trial that are more friendly to these scenarios that require less frequent visits. Can we provide, if possible, funding for housing closer to the Cancer Center, and there are examples of cancer centers doing that. They provide temporary housing for the patient to be able be close the cancer center, so they don’t even worry about going back and forth across the state lines sometimes. 

The other thing, of course, is insurance coverage, and again, this can have some relation to location, and it’s something we have to think about, how can we help our patients who have significant copays because of the recommended insurance to that location being supported by foundation or all other funds that the cancer center or the state, or again, other foundations, we have. The other issues about diagnostics and treatments, there has been some interesting discussion about particularly prostate cancer, about access to what we call next generation sequencing, which is a diagnostic test aiming to profile or fingerprint the cancer DNA to look for particular mutations that the cancer may have that may lead to a particular treatment options. 

If, for example, mutation A is present, can we use a drug X that might be relevant in that context of a mutation and a recent data that was presented at ASCO 2021 showed that if you look at those mutations, they’re not very different between, for example, white and Black patients, there are similar types and frequencies of mutations. What is different is access to the test and, of course, access to the [inaudible] of the test. So I think we have to do a better job bringing ourselves to the community, extending our opportunities to the patient to get connected with the healthcare system, and they’ll build bridges to bring the patient and closer to the cancer center offering those tests. Work with patient navigation to help patients understand the significant value of the follow-up, but also provide them with a way that there’s equitable access to diagnostics and treatments. 

 Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Thank you, thank you so much, Dr. Grivas and you’ve touched on something that I’m going to ask Dr. Nyame to elaborate on which is these fancy tests and these new technologies and things, and what we know is that a lot of times the patient themselves, if they are not aware of these particular tests, then because of all the disparities that we’ve talked about, they may not even be offered to them. And so a question for you, Dr. Nyame, how can we empower patients so that they don’t feel limited in their care, and how do we make them aware of these treatment options and diagnostic options that Dr. Grivas just spoke of? 

Dr. Nyame: 

You know that’s very challenging because Dr. Grivas, and I see this in our clinical practice, we have patients who are very savvy, that’ll come in and say that I’ve heard that there’s a PSM in San Francisco. Do you have it in Seattle? If you don’t have it in Seattle, I’m gonna go to San Francisco. And for every patient I had like that, who might be, Hey, have you read this latest article, I can have someone who has no idea of what’s going on with their diagnosis, and so how we create opportunities to bring those patients and know very little up to somewhere close, maybe not quite to the demanding the PSMA or a fancy scan level, but sophisticated enough to feel empowered in their health decision-making as something where I think we need to do research because we know that certain tools, navigation, advocacy groups can help in that arena, but I think that we need to understand what the tools are that patients want. What’s interesting is when you query patients, which we’ve done in a study and you say, What are the most pressing issues for you in your prostate cancer diagnosis, whether it’s in the localized setting or in the advanced or metastatic setting, the one thing that has resonated over and over again, irrespective of race is I need help making decisions, I need tools that will make it, me more efficient in how I make my decisions. And so I think without punting the answer too much, we need to do better, and I think part of that starts with listening. I do think that providers can be trained to provide that information in a more efficient manner. We do not… We as clinicians, are built into a system where the number of patients we see really correlates with how we get paid, and there’s not a doctor that doesn’t go to work excited to educate and build relationships with patients, that’s not the case, but there is a time crunch and I feel like in situations where there is a bigger gap and knowledge and understanding, we often don’t have enough time and built into our day to have the discussion, so for me, for a lot of my patients who I feel like have a lower understanding of what’s going on with regards to their prostate cancer diagnosis, it’s really important for me to build into our visit the understanding that whatever we don’t cover can be addressed at a later time and that we don’t have to make a decision with that at particular visit. So when I think about this, it’s sort of like your favorite barbershop or your favorite grocery store, your favorite sandwich place, the relationships matter. 

And I think when we talk about empowering patients to be advocates for themselves in their clinical visits, I think there needs to be an understanding from patients that if it doesn’t feel right, that they have options and to take their time in the decision. Prostate cancer, unlike other diseases, that Dr. Grivas and I treat doesn’t have to have the dial turn to 10 or 11 right away, and we need to make a decision because time is extremely sensitive, even in our most aggressive localized settings, which is what I treat, we have the opportunity to take weeks, if not months, to come to a decision. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Thank you, thank you so much, I appreciate that. And certainly as a physician who’s also a health advocate, I strongly agree with what you said about if the relationship is not working, that there are options, and I know that that may not always be the case depending on where patients live, but I regularly encourage my clients to sometimes you have to look somewhere else, sometimes you have to get a second opinion or maybe even fire your doctor if the relationship is not mutually beneficial, so I appreciate you sharing that. Dr. Grivas, do you have anything to add in terms of how patients can take a proactive approach to their healthcare and how they can build this confidence we’ve been talking about and express their concerns to their medical team? 

Dr. Grivas: 

I think Dr. Nyame covered it so well. I think it’s critically important for all of us to recognize that the finding out the why is probably the key to answer those questions, why there is this distrust, why someone is not paying attention so her own health because they have to try to make ends meet and keep family fed during the day time, and they don’t have time to think about their own health as Dr. Nyame mentioned before, at the same time, empowering the patient that they are the center of this relationship. 

Why doesn’t Dr. Nyame go to the clinic in the morning is because of patients, so our training is patient-centered and our practice is patient-centered and our research is patient-centered, so the patient should feel that right from the door, that this is a service to them. And we’re doing what we’re doing to help their life being longer, longer survival, as we call it, or better, better quality of life, and listening to the patient’s needs is important because of the time crunch that Dr. Nyame mentioned before, I think many of us, probably all of us are within situations where we don’t have enough time to listen advocate, what the person have to say, that’s why I think it’s important to have opportunities for separate visits and utilize better other mechanisms, exact mechanisms, patient navigation I think it’s a critical part of our care, social workers, case managers, financial counselors, nutritionist, genetic counselors, looking at genetics in for the disposition to cancer which is much more common than we think occurrences sometimes we be higher in some certain populations. Having this service available to patients, can help a lot because they will give them knowledge, and knowledge is power by itself, so give them the center, we’re here for them. Why they’re here, it’s because we want to help them and giving them also resources, they need to get now let’s information, when they feel they have more knowledge and they feel that they have control, they can communicate back and give feedback of how we can do better and also, what are the priorities of their needs, so we can address those, what matters to the patient, and this can apply to base and care, and also is what questions we’re asking? Research should be defined by patient priority, so all of those factors should be a dialogue with a patient, I think advocacy groups can be a great liaison to help us disseminate this concept and help again, empowering the patients. I struggle believe that explaining the why and giving knowledge, the data points in a simple and lay manner, can patients think being more in control. 

 
Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Absolutely, thank you, both of you. I love the patient-centered focus, that is something that admittedly, we’ve gotten away from that to some degree in medicine because of the time crunches that both of you have mentioned, and I love that you said knowledge is power. So as we close, I’d love for each of you to share maybe a couple of key questions that patients, our care partners facing prostate cancer should ask of their treatment team to ensure that they’re receiving appropriate care. 

So we’ll start with you, Nyame. Any key questions that patients should be asking their care team when they seek treatment or diagnosis of prostate cancer. 

Absolutely, I think that there’s a long list. Actually, I’ll tell you, my new prostate cancer diagnosis visits are usually my longest because there’s a lot to consider. I do think depending on what you’re having done and what you’re being considered for, so let’s say in the localized setting, prostate cancer is confined to the prostate, and you’re thinking about treatment like a surgery or radiation therapy, you really want to know what that center and what that provider’s experience is because we have a lot of supporting evidence that the more people doing this… No one’s going to be surprised by what I’m about to say, but the more that someone does is the better they’re gonna be at it. Okay, and so making sure your team has a good experience with what you’re seeking to have done is important, and I think it’s well within your rights as a patient to understand that, so I think advocate for that. Secondly, I think basic questions, just to understand the relationship, I think… I like it when patients wanna know a little bit about me because I’m gonna be… They’re gonna be in my hands, and so again, the importance of that relationship building and your visit is crucial. 

Lastly, I think when you come to the visit, have a list of questions based off of what you’ve researched and write them down, I find my most sophisticated patients or crossing off questions as I’m talking, ’cause they came prepared and so that preparation… The act of doing a little bit of reading, there are a lot of resources, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, for instance, has a very nice patient guide that’s written by patients and language that’s really digestible and edited by experts, and so going through that and coming with your list of questions, I think is a really important thing for your visit, and those are just a few things I can think of that can lead to a meaningful clinic visit and exchange. 

 
Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Excellent, I’m a huge fan of questions and being prepared for visits, what about you, Dr. Grivas are there one or two key questions that you feel patients or their care partners should ask? 

Dr. Grivas: 

Great answers by Dr. Nyame, I totally agree. I think started with the basics, What this diagnosis means for me, what is the current extent of the cancer, we call the states, and what is the outlook, what is the overall prognosis or at least estimate of the outcome, that’s a reasonable question to ask and again some places more detail, some others may not, and it’s important for us also to ask the base and what they want to know, how much they want to know, I would take in things of them, they want to know the entirety of the information because it makes… Help them make decisions. The other, I think it’s important point, what are the treatment options and what is the intent of the treatment, what are we trying to achieve by giving treatment, are we trying to cure, eradicate or eliminate the culture, are we to prolong life, are we trying to improve quality of life or are we just trying control the cancer, so what are the goals of the treatment and what are the metrics of success, so what will be a successful outcome of that treatment? How do we measure that? And I think it’s also important. 

Two more points, I would if I may. I think, again, going back to the importance of genetic counseling even more in prostate cancer, I think we recognize the importance in the aspect of patient treatment because some treatment options may depend on finding mutations. But also the importance of the family, how much can prevent cancers in the brother family, close and extended family, if we find the mutation, can we set this mutation for other family members and do screening to prevent cancer prevention is ideal if we can do that and I think that’s a good discussion, so the patient can come to the visit if possible, by doing some homework about the family history. It’s hard for of us now, what’s happening in that chasm, right? But we do have the time to be informed of the importance of the question, this can help and expedite in our resources like to genetic counseling. And the last points, research, I want to again make the point, we should all do a better job to offer innovative clinical trials to patients across races, and it should be a very important point again equitable healthcare. And the patient should ask are clinical trials an option for me and do I have a clinical trial option? And I think it’s a great question, and hopefully this can help the patient get to integrative treatment, but also help the field. 

The research would get important answers, and the important answers can be for all the community and the specific populations, if we do trials, clinical trials with only the white patients, do we have the answer for the black patients, or we have the answer for both and other races and ethnicities as well. 

Dr. Nyame: 

And I do wanna take this opportunity to add one more thing because Dr. Grivas was talked about what does your treatment mean for you, and in this discussion about prostate cancer, we cannot talk about what questions do you bring without mentioning the impact, quality of life of our treatments, and I think that sometimes this is the elephant in the room that leads to the decision to not pursue treatment, and so I want to take this opportunity as the urologist to say, This is the time to talk about what treatment is gonna do for sexual function. This is the time to talk about what treatment means for your urinary symptoms and quality of life, a good and healthy discussion around these things need to happen during your visit, because I think sometimes what patients expect to have happen with treatment and reality don’t match. And you have an expert in front of you that can really give you some input as to what to expect, and in a similar vein, when you meet with survivors, these are some of the things that I know patients tell me they’re worried about, and these are people who are living it, that can give you really valuable information on that piece of quality of life, and I hope that those conversations can help us close that treatment disparity that we see between black men and white men with prostate cancer. 

 Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Such wonderful points. This has been an amazing conversation. Thank you so much, Dr. Nyame and thank you Dr. Grivas for just illuminating so many important issues, just to briefly summarize, we’ve talked about the disparities that exist in prostate cancer, diagnosis and treatment based on geographic location, based on finances, insurance that is access and… Yes, even race and ethnicity, and you all have done a wonderful job providing solutions, we’ve talked about the importance of advocating for yourself and your loved ones, the importance of being educated and doing some research, coming to those visits with your questions, making sure that you form a relationship with your treating physicians and sometimes perhaps seeking someone else, if that’s not possible, so just… So many gems, and I just wanna thank both of you for spending this time with us today, and I wanna thank you all for tuning in to this Patient Empowerment Network program. I’m Dr. Nicole Rochester, and thank you for joining us. 

Dr. Grivas: 

Thank you. 

What Steps Can Breast Cancer Patients Take To Be More Proactive?

What Steps Can Breast Cancer Patients Take To Be More Proactive? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What steps can breast cancer patients take to be more proactive in their care? When is it appropriate to voice concerns? Dr. Regina Hampton offers advice for patients and loved ones how to work towards achieving optimal care.

See More From the Best Care No Matter Where You Live Program


Related Programs:

How Can Breast Cancer Patients Connect to Patient-Centered Care?


Transcript:

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Are there some other practices or key steps that patients can take so that they have a proactive approach in their healthcare and that they can feel more confident in voicing some of these concerns when they’re communicating with their healthcare team? 

Dr. Regina Hampton: 

I think it’s important to have a support person. And that could be a family member, it could be a neighbor, it could be your best friend. Doesn’t always have to be family, sometimes it’s better to have somebody who’s not family, because sometimes a family, they get you know they get emotionally involved and we get that, but I think it’s important to have another pair of ears because especially when you get a new diagnosis, you’re not going to hear everything, and I know patients. The second somebody says, cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, they just shut down. That’s it. They’re not going to hear. You could tell them, I have a million dollars for you, they’re not hearing you, they’re not going to follow the directions to go get that million dollars because they just have shut down, and even at that second visit, they still are just sort of…I call it the whomp, whomp, whomp. They see my mouth moving, but they’re not really hearing the words, but if they have another support person who can be there to record the conversation, who can take notes, even in the era of telemedicine, somebody can dial in to listen. I’ve been doing family meetings and people have been on the West Coast, or somebody couldn’t get off the work, but there was somebody there who could hear that information, I think that’s so important, and especially as we get more seasoned, Mom and Dad, sometimes they are a little in denial on the information that they can take in, but so important to be there in some form, and with telemedicine, it makes it quite easy to get another pair of ears in the room. 

Absolutely, you are speaking my language, Dr. Hampton, I’m telling you, because the other thing that I always recommend is for patients to have a buddy, and like you said, that may be a family member, it may be a best friend, it may be someone in your church, but I think the studies  say that something somewhere around 30 percent to 40 percent is all that we retain when we go to the doctor’s office, and so like you said, especially if you’re getting bad news, a lot of that information goes out of your brain, and so it’s so important to have a back-up person and that person can sit and take notes, and sometimes they can even remind you of some of the questions that you may have had or some of your concerns, I really, really appreciate you bringing that up.  

 I think it’s also important to take a deep breath, I find people get a cancer diagnosis and they want to just rush through everything. Well, in most cases, cancer doesn’t spread that fast, but there are a lot of decisions to make, and you really should take that time to hear all the options, may need to get a second or third opinion so that you really can make good decisions, you can’t make good decisions if you’re fearful, just can’t do it.  

Which Prostate Cancer Treatment Is Right for You? What You Need to Know

Which Prostate Cancer Treatment Is Right for You? What You Need to Know from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo

What do you need to know before deciding which treatment is best for YOUR prostate cancer? Dr. Maha Hussain discusses the role of key tests in choosing therapy, including biomarker testing, provides tips for partnering with your care team and reviews recent research news.

Dr. Maha Hussain is the Deputy Director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. Learn more about this expert here.

Download Guide

See More From INSIST! Prostate Cancer

Related Resources

How Do Genetic Mutations Impact Prostate Cancer Treatment Options?

What Is a Prostate Cancer Genetic Mutation?

What Is a Prostate Cancer Biomarker?

 


Transcript:

Katherine:

Hello, and welcome. I’m Katherine Banwell, your host for today’s program. Today, we’re going to discuss how to access the most personalized prostate cancer therapy for your individual disease and why it’s essential to insist on key testing. Before we meet our guest, let’s review a few important details. 

The reminder email you received about this program contains a link to program materials. If you haven’t already, click on that link to access information to follow along during this webinar. At the end of this program, you’ll receive a link to a program survey. Please take a moment to provide feedback about your experience today in order to help us plan future webinars.  

Finally, before we get into the discussion, please remember that this program is not a substitute for seeking medical advice. Please refer to your healthcare team about what might be best for you. 

All right, let’s meet our guest today. Joining me is Dr. Maha Hussain. Dr. Hussain, would you please introduce yourself? 

Dr. Hussain:

Sure. Thank you, Katherine. 

It’s my pleasure to join you. And to the audience, nice to meet you all virtually. My name is Maha Hussain. I am a genitourinary medical oncologist with a focus on prostate cancer and bladder cancer. And I am a professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, and endowed professor there. And I also serve as the deputy director for the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. 

Katherine:

Wonderful. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us today. 

Dr. Hussain:

My pleasure. 

Katherine:

I’d like to start by asking about developments in prostate cancer research and treatment. Experts recently gathered at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, also known as ASCO, to share their research. 

So, what were the highlights from that meeting that you feel patients should know about? 

Dr. Hussain:

I think probably perhaps I can focus on two major – what I would consider major highlights, and those were the results from two randomized Phase III clinical trials. 

One of the trials is called the VISION trial. And the VISION trial was a Phase III randomized trial evaluating lutetium-PSMA-617 treatment in patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. And the delightful thing about this study is that that study was positive. The PSMA story has been really going on for a few years now. And there’s the PSMA for purposes of scans, imaging, to assess the cancer. And the FDA just approved a PSMA PET imaging this year. 

I think it was in May when it was approved. And that would help better define if the cancer is spread or not, and it help with the decision regarding treatment. But the second part is treatment purposes, so identifying the cancer location and trying to attack it with a specific sort of targeted attack to the tumor is really important. 

And so, the FDA is currently looking at this particular agent. And I am hopeful that we will hear soon from the FDA, hopefully before the end of the year, and maybe – who knows? – maybe by summer, middle summer or end of summer. Because I do think that would be a major benchmark in there. And so, that’s one thing. 

The other clinical trial that I thought was interesting from a data perspective – and for disclosure, I am one of the investigators on this study. And this was an intergroup Southwest Oncology, or SWOG, sponsored clinical trial. So, it’s a federal study that Dr. Aggarwal presented. And this was a study that was aiming at maximizing, again, the anti-tumor therapy with the use of a drug which I call is the younger brother of abiraterone. 

So, abiraterone is a drug that is FDA-approved and has been around for several years right now for both castration-resistant prostate cancer and certainly hormone-sensitive metastatic disease. And so, TAK 700 (Orteronel) is a younger brother, I call it, of abiraterone. And one of the potential advantageous when this trial was designed was the fact that you don’t need to use prednisone. And the trial was completed. It was a national clinical trial. And what was interesting is that there is certainly what appears to be a potential benefit, but not in terms of the conclusive based on the way the study was designed.

Having said that, what I thought was remarkable is that patients who basically were only on the control arm was LHRH therapy, so this could’ve been like Lupron, Zoladex, or something like that plus bicalutamide, which is what we call combined androgen deprivation. And that was sort of like the strongest control arm we could do at the time when the trial was designed. 

Remarkably, the patients who were on that arm had a median survival of basically 70 months. That’s the median. That’s the bell-shaped curve with the number in the middle. Seventy months is probably the longest ever in any other randomized trials in this disease space, in the hormone sensitive space. So, that tells us is that men are living longer with prostate cancer, even though it’s metastatic disease; and, yes, it’s not necessarily curable, but men are living longer. And it’s a function of all of the better treatments that are supportive care and everything that was going on.  

And so, the control arm, as I mentioned, was the 70.2 months. The actual experimental arm was about 81.1 months. And again, I don’t know where things will go from this. Obviously, I’m not the sponsor not the FDA. But the point here is that men are living longer, and so wellness and health become even more so important than we ever did. And as I tell my patients, every day you’ll live longer. The odds of living longer is there because of better treatments coming on. 

So, to me – not to take too much time from the interview – to me, these were the two highlights: new, approved – I’m sorry, new treatment that I’m hoping will be FDA-approved and, obviously, the fact that men are living longer.  

Katherine:

How can patients keep up to date on the research that’s going on? 

Dr. Hussain:

I’m a bit biased, obviously. I’m a member of ASCO. 

And what I would recommend to my patients is to look at the cancer.net website. The cancer.net is a website that is an ASCO-generated website specifically for patients and families to review. It is vetted. The committees are not run just by physicians, oncologists, a multidisciplinary team, but also patient representative. So, the lingo and the presentation are lay-friendly, I call it, there. 

The other part I would say, the NCI website, and the American Cancer Society, the American Urological Association. I would say there’s a lot of stuff on the media. The difficulty is vetting what is sort of fake, what is not so accurate, or bias versus there. I also think that the NCCN has also some resources for patients. 

And one thing I always tell patients: explore, look, but make sure that you talk to your doctor about the meanings of everything because sometimes it can be not – it could be misleading, I should say, or maybe not very clear on what the implications are. 

Katherine:

Right. One thing that’s a topic on the mind of many people right now is COVID. 

Dr. Hussain:

Yeah. 

Katherine:

Is the COVID vaccination safe and effective for prostate cancer patients? 

Dr. Hussain:

The answer is yes and yes. So, I have to say, by default, I deal mostly with older men. Age brings in other comorbidities. And certainly, while I see all kinds of shades of gray in terms of the disease extent, going all the way from newly diagnosed all the way to end-stage disease, the bulk of the patients I end up seeing tend to have more systemic disease and have other issues going on. And I have to say, surprisingly, less than a handful of my patients had the infection. 

Only one required hospitalization with supportive measure, but not even needed incubation; however, he needed a lot of CPAP and other respiratory support. I’m not aware of any of my patients or my colleague’s patients who deal with prostate cancer that have died from COVID. So, I would say that’s the good news and that we have not seen a big hit in the population that I deal with. 

I also know that I would say 99.9 percent of my patients have opted to be vaccinated, and they have tolerated the vaccine just fine. There’s only one case, which I actually even saw just this week, who had been vaccinated but have a very, very severe end-stage disease with significantly compromised bone morrow, who got infected but hospitalized for a few days and is recovering. 

And so, I would say just by the pool of patients I see, my answers are yes and yes. 

Katherine:

Very good. Thank you. 

Dr. Hussain:

And I would encourage all the audience to go get vaccinated. I myself am vaccinated. And I’ve advised all my family members to be vaccinated, just to clarify that too. 

Katherine:

Good. Good to know. Dr. Hussain, we’re going to spend most of this conversation talking about advanced prostate cancer. But before we move on, would you give us a brief overview of the stages of prostate cancer? 

Dr. Hussain:

Absolutely. So, with any cancer, we count sort of like four stages. But I would say in prostate cancer the biggest thing is when the cancer is newly diagnosed, which could be confined to the prostate or locally advanced, meaning the cancer has gotten outside the capsule of the prostate but still within that pelvic region. 

There is the group of patients who have pelvic lymph nodes at time of diagnosis. And of course, that is the patients who have systemic disease, which would be technically stage four. Now, the systemic disease implies any abnormality that is found on scans that is beyond the public region. So, that could be lymph nodes in the back of the belly. That could be thoracic lymph nodes. That could be neck nodes. That could be lung lesions, of course, or bone, or liver. 

Now, the most common area where the cancer goes to is really – when we talk about metastatic disease – is the bone. And then lymph is another area where the cancer goes to. Prostate cancer that is confined to the prostate is curable in the vast majority of patients. There is a category of men who undergo surgery or radiation, and then their PSA begins to go up afterwards. 

And this is what we call biochemical relapse. And this is a situation where we know that, in all likelihood obviously, especially of the patients who have had their prostate out, that the cancer has spread. With the current imagine, a good chunk of times, we do not find anything because we’re able to pick up PSA that goes from undetectable to 0.2 to 0.3, but there’s not enough cancer to show up on the scans. We’re hoping, obviously, the better scans, the PET Axumin scan, the PSMA scans are going to help us to identify sites of metastases. 

But this is a group of men where if there is no cancer visible and the only thing we’re dealing with is PSA that’s going up, if they’ve had surgery, then there’s room for what we call salvage therapy with radiation and hormonal treatment. The case is a bit different if there’s only just the prostate – if radiation was given previously. And of course, we talked about metastatic disease. 

Katherine:

Yeah. Once someone has been diagnosed, what tests are used to help understand the aggressiveness of their disease and their overall prognosis? 

Dr. Hussain:

Well, I think there is different basic things, as in, what was the extent of the cancer? How did it look under the microscope? And what is the PSA levels? So, these are the general things. There are different sort of genomic panels that the urologist will use to kind of decipher and other things to kind of help with figuring out aggressiveness and things like that. What I would say is this, is a patient who is diagnosed and has a cancer, and at a minimum has what we consider a Gleason 7 prostate cancer – so, that’s the scoring system that is done with the original Gleason score, or the new patterns where it’s talking about intermediate risk to high risk – to me, this is a cancer that needs to be treated. 

And again, that’s all to do with if a person has other comorbidities, they have some other terminal condition that’s a separate story. But talking generically, that would be when we would recommend. And these are the patients that are generally not seen by the medical oncologist. They’re seen by the urologist, and then they can refer them to radiation oncology also for consultation. 

Katherine:

Now that we understand how test results can help inform a patient’s cancer and how it may behave. Let’s discuss how they can affect treatment options for men with advanced disease. First, let’s do a brief review of the treatment types currently available. There’s hormone therapy, right. What else? 

Dr. Hussain:

Perhaps, it’s simpler if we focus on advanced disease, specifically metastatic disease. 

So, if that’s the deal, then the backbone of treatment is hormone treatment. And it really is. We call it hormone, but technically it’s an anti-hormone. What we’re trying to do is shut down the hormonal pathway that stimulate the testes, which is the factory that makes testosterone. So, we are looking at shutting down testosterone production from the testes in order to starve the cancer. 

Now, the male hormone is produced predominantly – somewhere about 95 percent of it is made by the testes, and then there are about 5 percent-ish that comes from other sources. These are, again, male hormones like the adrenal gland and so on. And there was a while ago some research – I want to say from the MD Anderson crowd, but this is two years ago – that suggested also that the tumor may start to make sort of in-house production of male hormone to support itself. 

Now, having said that, again, testes continue to be the source of the majority of the male hormone. And so, historically, the first data that showed benefit was actually by surgically removing the testes, which is what we call orchiectomy or bilateral orchiectomy. And then medications began hitting the market and were evaluated in the late ’80s and then 1990s, beginning with Lupron – which by the way, in the ’80s, it was an injection that the patient had to give themselves every day, which is remarkable. 

But even then, there is a personal preference by patients to go and take injections as opposed to go through surgery with orchiectomy. But still, I would say for some patients it may be an option until it ought to be discussed as an option. Then what we know is this, is because of the potential other sources for the male hormone, the concept of what we call combined androgen depravation was being evaluated. 

And again, this goes back to the ’80s when the first drug was flutamide and then bicalutamide, and there are other drugs that became. And they kind of added a sprinkle, I call it, to survival. But it wasn’t dramatic, huge differences in survival. And so, generally, while we used it, everybody believed in using it. Moving forward, the drugs like abiraterone, enzalutamide, apalutamide are the three hormonal drugs that have demonstrated conclusively really an advantage in terms of prolonging life when added to the Lupron. 

So, what I tell my patients is that, when it comes to hormone treatment there is really no way around it. You can delay it. Some people are exploring for some patients who don’t have a lot of cancer, maybe a couple of areas, maybe just do targeted radiation and then leave the person alone to buy them some treatment-free time. 

And, to me, this is where the discussion that has to happen with the patient. What is the objective? Is the objective to kind of be ahead of the game and maximally treat the cancer with the hope of prolonging life? Or is the objective to delay treatment? And I would tell you that, with these types of conversation, nine out of 10 or 9.5 out of 10 men opt for moving aggressively up front with management. So, that’s that. 

Now, the one thing I should point out, one of the trials that also was a landmark trial in this disease was the study CHAARTED, which was an intergroup clinical trial at the time it was designed, led by ECOG, and the PI was Dr. Chris Sweeney. I was part of the team that worked on the design also of the study. 

And that was a trial that looked at adding docetaxel to hormone therapy, versus hormone therapy alone, to try to see if it adds something. Historically, all the chemotherapies prior to that that were added to hormone treatment for patients with newly diagnosed metastatic disease had not delivered. And docetaxel did. 

However, one thing I should point out, based on that trial – and I don’t want to go into too much details for the sake of time – the patients that seemed to be benefiting were the patients that had more aggressive, more disease in their system. And so, liver metastases, lung metastases spread in the bone at different areas, not like few isolated areas in the spine or the pelvis, but much more than that. 

And so, for the patients who have what we call high-volume prostate cancer based on scans – and I’m happy to explain what that means if it’s needed – these are the patients that I would offer either the docetaxel plus hormone treatment, which is the injection, or the injection plus the hormonal pills that I mentioned earlier. 

Katherine:

What about targeted therapy? How is that used? 

Dr. Hussain:

Okay. So, let’s begin with the molecularly targeted therapy. So, as we speak right now, for patients who have newly diagnosed metastatic disease that we call hormone sensitive, molecularly targeted therapy is not standard of care. So, I would encourage patients who may qualify for clinical trial to be involved in those. The flipside is – we can talk about it – is that molecularly targeted therapies, specifically with PARP inhibitors have pretty much entered in the space of prostate cancer with a couple of drugs that were FDA-approved. 

The other way of targeted treatment, which would be what we refer to targeted radiation, this would be a different story. This is not systemic treatment. This is a local treatment. And what is done is basically if patients do not have a lot of cancer in their body based on scans, and only certain areas, and they are starting systemic therapy, they can certainly consult with a radiation oncologist to target radiation to areas that are visible on scan. So, if somebody has a couple of, let’s say, pelvic bone lesions, maybe a lymph node, and they are already starting systemic therapy, they can consult with a radiation oncologist focal radiation. And so, that would be the general scheme. 

Katherine:

Many patients are confused about the role of genetics and biomarker testing in prostate cancer care. 

For people who haven’t heard of some of these terms before, let’s go into the definitions. So, what is genomic or biomarker testing, first of all?  

Dr. Hussain: So, I think there’s one thing. Maybe I can explain because the wording can be confusing. So, there is the genetics, and there is the genomics. The genetics would be what we inherit from our families. So, this would be present in our body. The genomics testing would be to look for what the structure of the genes of the cancer itself, cancer cells itself. Now, that doesn’t mean that this was inherited. It’s just that this is a renegade, and it evolved. And that is what is going to show up. 

The reason these two are important, both of them have implications potentially for treatment or perhaps clinical trials. And again, with the PARP inhibitors, the BRCA-like genes will have implications for treatment sort of for resistance cancers. 

With regard to the genetics, the implications are for, again, inheritance of family and potential risk for blood relatives. Now, there are panels that are FDA-approved for the purpose of genetic testing. And the requirement or the indications right now, anybody who presents with metastatic disease or an aggressive disease and diagnosis, the recommendation is to proceed with the genetic testing, certainly counseling and testing, because there are some people who prefer not to be tested. And that’s something else. 

What I tell my patients is this, even if the testing is done and it was negative for inherited genes that might put the patient family at potential higher risk, the fact that a person has prostate cancer by default puts potential, adds risks to family, to blood relatives. 

And the risks aren’t just for the males with regard to prostate cancer, but certainly breast cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer potentially, and things of that sort. So, this is where I think a patient needs to be discussing with their doctors. And certainly, there are many centers that have genetics counselor, and so that’s where I generally refer my patients to. I counsel them myself, and then refer them also for more discussions with genetics counselor. 

Katherine:

What exactly are genetic mutations? And how do they impact a treatment path? 

Dr. Hussain:

Well, I think, again, it’s the changes that happens in specific genes that may promote the aggressiveness of a cancer. And so, the BRCA gene is one of the oldest genes that have been identified in breast cancer. And essentially, the body regulates itself. 

And when cancer cells come up and they sort of – the body no longer sustains that regulation, the genetic regulation in those cancer cells. Those cancer cells will behave the way they want to. That means that they’re going to grow faster. That means they could be resistant to treatment and things like that. And so, that’s what we check for, these alterations. And there are certain medications that would allow – and again, in prostate cancer, it’s not a lot. It’s just, as I said, right now the only things that are proven is the PARP inhibitors. This is essentially to kinda gang over the cancer cell, preventing from allowing it to repair itself so it can continue to grow. 

Katherine:

Some patients may not know if they’ve received these important tests. So, for patients that aren’t all that sure, what key questions should they be asking their physician or their specialist? 

Dr. Hussain:

So, I would say when it comes to the genetics testing, I believe a patient has to consent. 

Because again, we live in the U.S., and this is a private matter for the patient. So, this generally has to be the case. Otherwise, depending on the institution, sometimes some tests will require for the overall testing for looking for any genetic alterations, general tumor alternation. Different centers have different things. But the patient should ask and say to their doctor, “Have my cancer genes been tested? Have my genes been tested? And if they have, what are the results?” Because we generally share with the patients once it’s been done. 

The other things I should point out, some of the good things that have happened recently. Up until recently, when it comes to the tumor genomic testing, tissue was required. Nowadays, the FDA has approved blood tests that several companies now run that can actually collect blood sample and basically test it for circulating tumor cell genes there. 

Now, no testing is 100 percent perfect. But in situations like patients with prostate cancer who may not have recent tissue or adequate tissue for testing, certainly doing the blood test to verify if there is anything reflective of the genes of the cancer, and that may allow for potential actionable-type treatments. Again, up until now, this is more going to apply for potential clinical trials or resistant metastatic disease. 

Katherine:

Are there other important factors to consider, like a patient’s age, that can help them access the best treatment for their prostate cancer? 

Dr. Hussain:

Yes. And I think that age is one factor. What I say and what I tell my fellows, age is to be respected, but used to discriminate in terms of management. 

 We all age. And certainly, the body reserve is not the same. And so, that’s why I would say that has to be respected. But it doesn’t mean that we cannot treat patients. 

And I’ll tell you, it’s interesting. There are times where you have – I have a gentleman who used to run seven miles a day. He was 87 years old. This was in my days when I used to be in Ann Arbor at University of Michigan. And the gentleman came to me, and he said, “Dr. Hussain, I don’t feel good.” And I said, “Sir, why? What has happened?” “I can’t run like I did before.” And I said, “You’re not running?” “No, I am running. I’m just not able to do seven miles a day. I can do only four miles a day.” I’m like, whoa, that’s about 100% more than I do. 

Now, again, I’m bringing this as an extreme example. But for some of the oral agents, like the Olaparib trial, there were men in there literally late-’80s, early-’90s that were included in the clinical trials. Same thing goes for several of the other trials. 

I do think that functionality is important. So, if somebody comes to you so sick they are in a wheelchair, you really have to be very careful. And again, I’m just using kind of extremes. And so, you have to be careful by what you are able to do. And any time the doctor thinks the odds are going to be more harm than good, this is really where absolutely a situation where the physician needs to be careful about it, and the patient needs to understand it also. At the end of the day, it’s a shared decision. 

Katherine:

Before we close, Dr. Hussain, how do you feel about the future or prostate cancer research, and what would you like patients to know? 

Dr. Hussain:

First, let me say that I would love for the patients to know that they are a partner, a most critical partner in the process.  

That we need to continue the research and investment in research. It is research that will end up curing cancer. Wishful thinking will not do it. And patient volunteering, which I think is remarkable across all cancers. The business I’m in, the way that drug discovery and evolution often happen because patients volunteered. And without testing these new treatments and combinations, we will not be able to get better results.  

And I will tell you that, when I started my training, the median survival for patients with resistant prostate cancer was on the magnitude of about nine months. Now it is three years-plus. Now, you could argue, well, that’s not huge. But that is a huge change because, again, we’re picking up the cancers much earlier. And the patients who had, as I mentioned, metastatic disease, again, the longevity then at the time I was in training, but even afterwards, was give and take in the three years. And now we’re talking six-plus years. 

And so, there’s been tremendous progress. And really partnership with the patients and their families and supportive others is very critical, and investment in research. So, yes, advocate constantly for more investment in research. 

Katherine:

All sounds very promising, Dr. Hussain. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. 

Dr. Hussain:

My pleasure. And be well, all of you.  

Katherine:

Thank you. And thank you to all of our partners. If you would like to watch this webinar again, there will be a replay available soon. You’ll receive an email when it’s ready. And don’t forget to take the survey immediately following this webinar. It will help us as we plan future programs. To learn more about prostate cancer and to access tools to help you become a proactive patient, visit powerfulpatients.org. I’m Katherine Banwell. Thanks for joining us. 

Empowered Patient and Care Partner Ask the Expert: Addressing COVID-19 Concerns

Empowered Patient and Care Partner Ask the Expert: Addressing COVID-19 Concerns from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

With COVID-19 infection and vaccine concerns, what are the key points for cancer patients and care partners to know? Expert Dr. Shaji Kumar from Mayo Clinic shares valuable information about protective measures against COVID-19 infection, vaccine side effects and effectiveness, working toward herd immunity, and cancer research benefits that have emerged from the pandemic. 

See More From the Best Care No Matter Where You Live Program

Related Programs:

How Can Cancer Patients Protect Themselves During COVID-19


Transcript:

Mary Leer:

My name is Mary Leer. I’m the Breast Cancer Network Manager.

Jeff Bushnell:

And I’m Jeff Bushnell, the MPN Network Manager at the Patient Empowerment Network. I’m a caregiver.

Dr. Shaji Kumar: I

’m Shaji Kumar, a hematologist at Mayo Clinic.

Mary Leer:

Jeff and I are proud to be part of a strong team of compassionate volunteers, helping health communities adapt to the realities of living with a serious illness, living with cancer during a pandemic certainly presents another layer of challenges. So, Jeff and I will drill down to ask the important questions from the community. For this production, Empowered Patient and Care Partner Ask the Expert, we are very lucky to be joined by noted expert, Dr. Shaji Kumar, a consultant in the division of hematology at Mayo Clinic. Thank you for taking the time to join us, Dr. Kumar.

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

Thank you for having me, Mary.

Mary Leer:

Let’s start with the top of mind questions for so many of us right now, what should every patient and care partner facing a cancer diagnosis know during the pandemic?

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

I think it’s a challenging time for everyone, and it’s obviously more challenging for patients dealing with cancer at the same time, thankfully, we have a vaccine at hand that will certainly make the situation a lot better, but I think from a cancer standpoint, I think what we need to keep in mind all the precautions we talk about in terms  of social distancing, masking, hand washing and all those measures apply equally to everyone, even more so to patients with cancer. And the reason why we say that it’s even more important for several reasons, one, and we continue to learn more about the pandemic and its impact on cancer, one thing that has become clear is that patients with underlying conditions including cancer are to other folks were more affected by the infection, more likely to have more severe interactions and poorer outcomes. Now, patients with cancer appear to be at a higher risk of getting the infection and then they get the infection having a more serious disease. Now, it’s hard to know how much of this is also related to the fact that patients with cancer often have to go into the hospital or the clinic, and hence are more likely to get exposed to the infection than someone who is able to just stay at home.

So that’s one thing. And second, we know that the ongoing treatment for cancer definitely suppresses the immune system, and hence places people at a higher risk of the infection itself. Now, even patients who have their past history of cancer, this appears to be some increased risk, even though this is a little bit, unclear how much more it impacts those individuals. But I think the bottom line is keep the awareness that you might be at a higher risk of getting the infection, more serious infection, and the need to take those precautionary measures in a more strict fashion, and getting the vaccination when you can get it is all things that one needs to keep in mind.

Jeff Bushnell:

Well, that’s wonderful, Dr. Kumar, you mentioned the vaccinations, I am a strong proponent of that, I happen to have been involved in the Moderna vaccine trial, which is and still enrolled, they’re doing the follow-up. I guess they’re checking the last time I was in last week, they took 8 vials of blood, I think they’re checking to see whether I have the antibodies and how long it will last, but I was very happy with the way it was conducted, they were very forthcoming with information.

It was very interesting. And out here in San Diego, where I am, we have done pretty well as a county in vaccinating people and Summer got the vaccine as well with myelofibrosis and she feels a lot better. But for cancer patients who have tested positive for COVID, are there notable consistencies amongst that group of people, and have we learned anything from those patients yet about maybe their chances of getting it more, or their reaction to it? That kind of thing.

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

We know that there’s a wide spectrum of reaction to the vaccine. The majority of the people would not notice any symptoms related to that except for some pain at the injection site.  Not there are some folks, number of people who might have more or just myalgia, muscle pains, just feeling fatigue, some low-grade fevers, just feeling blah for 24-48 hours, and it seems to be not too uncommon. The reactions to the vaccine in terms of the side effects or the symptoms, there doesn’t appear to be much of a difference between cancer patients and normal individuals. Now, in terms of the efficacy of vaccination, you just mentioned Jeff, about you being checked for the antibodies, obviously, that is something that we hope will happen to all individuals who get the vaccine, but we know that is not going to be the case, there’s going to be a wide variation in terms of how strong an immune response one might develop against vaccines. Now We know from, not necessarily the COVID vaccine, but the vaccinations that have been used in the past, whether it be flu vaccines or pneumococcal vaccines, that we all get patients with cancer or patients going through treatment for cancer that can suppress the immune system, tend to have a lower response. But again, that varies quite widely from patient to patient now, there are some vaccines where we can clearly look at the antibody response and say, “Oh, this is not adequate, and we need to maybe give an extra shot.”

We just don’t have that information for COVID vaccines yet. So the way I would look at it is, even though the response to the back in a given person might be less than what we eventually would identify to be optimal, it’s likely to be better than not having to see the vaccine, so I would encourage obviously, everybody to get the vaccine. Now, what about someone who has already had an infection, what would be the response? Should we vaccinate those people? We certainly should. Again, we don’t know the immunity from a natural infection, how long would that last? That is still something that is unknown, and the vaccination dose is likely to make the responses more relevant and more durable, so I would recommend the vaccines for everyone. We don’t think one vaccine is any different from another in terms of your underlying cancer or lack thereof. So in terms of assessing for the antibodies, there is no clear guideline in terms of what one should anticipate from  the vaccine, so there is really no way to say, check the antibody, and they can go ahead and get one more dose or you’re fully vaccinated. So I think the bottom line is, get the vaccine, you don’t need to necessarily test for a response, and then we continue with the usual measures for prevention.

Jeff Bushnell:

And so what would you tell the… I guess that’s pretty much the answer to the next question I had. What would you tell the patients who are in active treatment and who planned to get the vaccine just continue as normal after they get it, with all the appropriate precautions?

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

Yeah, no, I think there’s one other important aspect, Jeff, to that question you just raised, which is, what is the right timing to get vaccinated, the vaccine, and that is a question that often comes up. So patients who are not getting active treatment, there is obviously no concern whenever the name comes up, go ahead and get the vaccine. And the second is what if someone is actually getting active treatment for their cancer, is there any role in terms of trying to find the vaccination, with respect to the doses of the medications and for most of the treatment we are using for cancer, there are no clear guidelines in terms of the when they can get the vaccine, that having several guidelines that have been put out by different organizations. The bottom line is, if there is an ability to space out or give sometime between the vaccine and the dose of the medication, do that, don’t modify your treatments, just so that you can get the cross at a particular time. The only place where we would recommend specific guidelines within the context of somebody who may have had a bone marrow transplant or had some other kind of cellular therapies, in those contexts, we often recommend that you wait for a couple of months after the stem cell transplant, before we get the vaccines. But for all the other treatments that we are getting right now, we want to just within the schedule of the treatment that’s already on going, try and get the vaccine in between two doses.

Mary Leer:

For those who have been vaccinated and are living with cancer, you spoke to that in great depth, but I’m also wondering about people that are perhaps in post-treatment and let’s look at social distancing measures or other restrictions, are those different for patients versus the general population?

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

No, I think the proportions are the same, I think the social distancing and the masking should continue to be observed the same way, and I think the only other word of caution I think may be particularly relevant for the cancer patients would be, again, trying to avoid again those kind of being outdoors and larger groups of people, even if when you maintain the social distancing, try and not do that. The outdoors are probably a little better than smaller indoor gatherings, and it’s mostly the common sense proportions, and I think the cancer patients are probably more tuned to this because they have been following some of those things even before the COVID came on and post-vaccination, I would recommend that these steps don’t change at all, partly because we gain for a given person, we don’t know how robust the immune response that those patients have after the vaccination and the lack of good testing to say that, okay, now you’re fully vaccinated, your response is great, you don’t need to worry about getting infected.

Mary Leer:

Wow, thank you so much. That’s so helpful. I’m going to shift to vaccine hesitancy. This is an important topic for many. Drug development takes years, sometimes decades. Can you speak to those who might be hesitant about the speed of vaccine development around COVID. I’ve heard this often from other people saying, “Well, they develop this so quickly, how can we trust it?”

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

Yeah, no, I think those concerns are quite valid, I think vaccines have always been a very controversial topic and not just COVID vaccination but even for childhood vaccinations. There have been long-standing concerns that some of those vaccinations may be responsible for some of the issues that we see in the children and even in the late adulthood. I think what we really want to get across is, again, taking that question apart, and there are multiple different aspects to it, one is the whole concept of how we created the vaccine so quickly, we kept telling everyone from the time that it started that it takes five to 10 years to develop a good vaccine, and now we have something in a year, so obviously that raises concerns amongst people. I think it’s just a testament to how far technology has come. In the past, we had to isolate the protein and use that protein to develop the immune response, and what has been really unique about the COVID situation has been the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine, both of which uses a new technology called the mRNA-based technology. And this is something that has been developed over the past decade to decade-and-a-half, and I would say this is a platform that was perfect, just waiting for the right opportunity to come along.

And the COVID situation really presented that. And even though it was the speed with which this was developed, is just because the technology has come along so much and we can actually do that, and the second is how fast the clinical trials have been done, and I think that speaks to, again, the infrastructure that they have been developed over the years to rapidly develop and implement a clinical trial. So the clinical trials, both Pfizer and Moderna trials had 40 to 50,000 people enrolled in a quick phase and the community transmission that was happening at a very high rate. We could get these trials done in a very rapid manner, so the patients or the people who enrolled in this clinical trial the fact that they were not getting infected could be determined in a much, much faster fashion than what you would have done in the past with any of the other vaccines. So I think the technology is robust. The [COVID]  trials are very well-conducted and the end point in terms of efficacy has been very well-determined or very accurately determined.  And given the size of these trials and the number of people who have been a goal, I think we can feel fairly confident that the risk associated with this vaccine is pretty low, so you can argue that one of the risk of a particular side effect is only 1 in 80,000. So maybe to the 40,000 people enroll in the trial, they may not have adequate numbers of that and that was certainly a concern when they started vaccinating. And we just know a couple of days ago, there was a publication that looked at almost like 63 million vaccination doses that have been given, and overall the risk of vaccine related side effects have been very, very minimal.

So I think that should also boost our confidence.

But on the other hand, we all heard about what would happen with some of those vaccines and the blood clots, and I think that even though…yes, it is, as it is a risk. It is a very, very small risk. And the fact that you were able to identify them right away again, I think tells us that should there be rare side effects, you’re going to find it, and we are going to figure out the mechanics of why those side effects happen. And we’re going to figure out how to avoid those things.

So, I think the information flow is so fast and all the data related to vaccines and the side effects are being captured in a real-time fashion that we would be… You’d immediately be of avail of side effects should that happen.

Mary Leer:

Wow, that’s so reassuring. Thank you.

Jeff Bushnell:

Another question kind of along the same lines, doctor is the last few days, especially, it’s Vaccine hesitancy has really become sort of the issue to the potential of achieving herd immunity, and how can everybody in the medical community, you guys are facing those stuff in a different way, but the average person, how can we help overcome hesitancy and increase the people’s trust in the vaccine, and also increase the equitable distribution amongst all populations? Some populations are hesitant to take it, others have distance problems for being able to get it. What can we do to sort of push ourselves over the hill to get to that herd immunity?

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

Yeah, no, You bring up a very important point, and I hope we are in a much better place than many parts of the world right now because we have one of the few countries where a significant proportion of the people have been vaccinated, but we are not quite at the point where we can claim herd immunity, I think we still need to continue to pursue this, and I think the ideal goal is to get everyone who’s eligible to get a vaccine vaccinated. Now, you bring up some of the very important points, because even though vaccine hesitancy is a real problem, the underlying reason behind this is manifold, and the only way to tackle that is we have a multi-front approach that will take into account what is the reason behind it.

So for the people where it’s hard to get to populations which can live in far from the areas, it may be more the ability to use those vaccines, which does need the complicated storage, for example, the J&J vaccine. You only need one dose. It’s easy to store. So that may be one of the approaches to be taken. And people who believe that this is a vaccine is going to create side effects, or it’s part of some grand scheme to introduce a variety of things. I think it’s a person of education, and I think they really need to tell them what can happen with. Not really just to them, but the fact that if you continue to allow these infections to proceed on stuff, there are going to be increasing numbers of mutations, and that in turn is going to make the pandemic much more difficult to control in the long run. So it’s totally an individual benefit, but it’s on to the society’s benefit to have everyone be vaccinated. And then definitely, I think knowing that should anything unto it happen, there’s going to be medical care that’s going to be available to these individuals, and I think that’s also an important point, so who are near and dear to them is going to be the key thing.

Mary Leer:

Here’s a question many cancer patients are unclear about if antibodies are present or if I have tested positive before, there’s a wondering, “Should I still get the vaccine?”

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

Yeah, I know the recommendation right now is to go ahead and get the vaccine, partly because we don’t know the natural immunity from the infection, how long does it last. So it seems like the antibodies can start to wane off the infection. And again, we don’t have a lot of data on it, but it looks 3 to 6 months, it might start waning at least to the level that they can detect. Now, whether that is sufficient or even the undetectable levels is protective against a future infection, we don’t know. There have been some reports of people getting a second infection even though they have been infected before again, scattered reports, we don’t know how widespread that phenomenon is going to be, so given all these, I think the current recommendation would be to go ahead and get vaccinated. We generally tell people to wait for two to three months after the infection to go ahead with the vaccination.

Mary Leer:

Alright, thank you

Jeff Bushnell:

Should people… Is the idea of pre-screening, especially for cancer patients, maybe who may be at risk, I guess, to see whether they have antibodies or whatever, be an effective thing to decide which vaccine they should get? or I know, as I say, I was in the trial and they were very forthcoming to the participants with what the numbers were, and I was flabbergasted at how effective the vaccine was, it was just amazing to me, and that kind of information that I guess is not available publicly maybe it should be. Does it help to decide which vaccine you get? All I hear on the TV is get the first one you can. What are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

Yeah, no, I completely agree with you. I think even those numbers may mean… You look at the Moderna and the Pfizer trials, and they said, now over 90 percent effective. Look at the AstraZeneca trials, you know, it’s like they recorded 70 to 80, 85 percent, and the J&J about 80 to 90 percent effective. Do these numbers mean much? It’s really hard to know, I think, partly because they have been tested in, again, different countries, different times, as the virus was continually changing its characteristics. So it does it mean… So one could argue that maybe the vaccines that were tested later on when this will be some of the mutants were already there might be more effective, but we don’t know.

I think at the end of the day, 80 versus 90 is not something we would decide a vaccine on. The fact that, yes, if something was only 10 percent effective versus 90 percent, it’s a probably different story. So based on the numbers we have seen, I would say whatever you can get to first, if you don’t want to get jabbed twice, maybe you go with something that goes, it’s only one dose, but that may be the only distinguishing factor here, but nevertheless, I think we have to just get the vaccination, the first vaccine that we can get our hands on.

Mary Leer:

So let’s hope there is some good that comes from the bad. Are there any noticeable trends born out of the pandemic that will be or could be a benefit to the future of cancer care or research?

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

Mary, That’s a very important question, and I think we always learn from adversity, and I think this is going to be no different. I think, especially when the pandemic hit back in the spring of last year, we all had to think fast on our feet to figure out how best to continue to tell about the best care for the cancer patients without compromising the care in any way. And we knew that bringing the patients back into the clinic at the same rate we did before the pandemic would expose them to significant risk for infection, so how do we continue with treatment? There have been very different things people have tried…one of them is to try and get the medications to patients at home. If they are on IV medications, they can be changed to something that’s comparable that can be given by mouth. We already did that for some patients. For some patients who used to come to the clinic very often, so we figure out is there a way for them to get some of those testing done in a clinic much closer to home, so they can avoid the travel, they can avoid being in a bigger city, they can avoid being in a bigger institution, again, reducing the risk of exposure, and then you look at those numbers and then decide on the next course of treatment. We converted many of the clinic visits to video visits. Nothing is as good as having the patient right in front of you, but this is the best we could do under the circumstances.

And I think that helped. So I think the clinical trials was a big problem because in many of those trials were done in a very rigid fashion with very little variability allowed within the protocols. And everybody loosened from the clinical trial sponsors, the pharmaceutical companies, the institutional review board, the investigators to try and build flexibility into those clinical trial structures to allow patients to continue to be on those trials, many of which are important and both helping. So what does that mean for the future? I think the video visits are here to stay, I think we will continue to utilize that and bring patients back to the clinic only when it’s absolutely needed. I think the clinical trials will have in-built flexibility so that patients can enroll on clinical trials remotely, they can potentially be given some of those medications at home, maybe it would be something where we would check into the patients on a regular basis to make sure things are proceeding in the right way. I think there are increasingly technologies that will allow the patients to communicate in real time with the care team and also provide many of the data that we need through iPads or iPhones, Apple watches, whatever we end up using.

So that is that I think that technology will rapidly take off in the next few years, I think. So I think a lot of the care of the patients with cancer in general, and particularly cancer patients, I think is going to look very different five years from now, because of all these things that we have always thought of and we thought, “Yeah it will take time to implement, it’s difficult.” Now we figure it out in a year. We can do a lot of those things.

Mary Leer:

Yeah, thank you.

Jeff Bushnell:

For the final question, you’ve given tremendous information here, Dr. Kumar w What’s the final takeaway for the average cancer patient and caregiver, how to get through this? What’s your bottom line for us all?

Dr. Shaji Kumar:

Bottomline is, I think Your cancer treatment comes first, let’s not compromise on it, let us do it as safe as we can by observing all the instructions in terms of social distancing, masking, avoiding gatherings, getting vaccinated, and make sure you keep connected with your care team. You don’t have to be in the clinic to do that. There’s a variety of different tools, I think every hospital has options to either through their medical records to message their care team, or set up video visits and so forth.

So we want to be in a state where it was before the pandemic in terms of your communications, but use the technology, so we can decrease the risk of exposure without compromising the quality of care.

Mary Leer:

Alright, well, thank you so much, Dr. Kumar, that you have just given us such valuable information, and I want to thank Jeff as well, and the Patient Empowerment Network for putting this together.

Jeff Bushnell:

Thank you, Dr. Kumar, appreciate it.

Dr. Kumar:

Thank you, Jeff.

How Can Myeloma Patients Take Disease Ownership and Connect With Resources?

How Can Myeloma Patients Take Disease Ownership and Connect With Resources? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo

What actions can multiple myeloma patients take to ensure the best care? Expert Dr. Joseph Mikhael shares his perspective on how patients can take ownership towards optimal myeloma care.

See More From the Myeloma TelemEDucation Empowerment Resource Center

Related Resources:

 
Why Is Multiple Myeloma Nearly Twice As Common in BIPOC Communities?

Why Is Multiple Myeloma Nearly Twice As Common in BIPOC Communities?

Will Telemedicine Mitigate Financial Toxicity for Myeloma Patients?

Will Telemedicine Mitigate Financial Toxicity for Myeloma Patients?

What Are the Benefits of Telemedicine for Myeloma Patients?

 

Transcript:

Dr. Joseph Mikhael:

I have long believed in patient advocacy, that we need to make systemic changes, we need to make changes within the healthcare system. But our patients are partners alongside of that, and there are many ways in which patients can be empowered to ensure that they have access to the best treatment possible, and this really begins with their own belief and understanding that they are part of that solution. This is…as one of my patients always used to tell me, I am taking ownership of this disease, I don’t want to own it, but I’m taking ownership of this disease. And that initial thought process, I think is important, secondly, to educate oneself about it, there is so much to learn, and there are a lot of difficult ways that it can be difficult to navigate resources. But there are great resources available because patients who are informed and understand their condition more can definitely facilitate the process to their best care. Thirdly, we’ve come to appreciate that having access to a specialist is very important, multiple myeloma may account for only 1 to 2 percent of all malignancies, and so very often, it may be difficult for a community oncologist to keep up with all of the details, and so…

Now, perhaps more than ever through the pandemic with access to telemedicine, patients can seek out an expert opinion. I prefer to call it an expert opinion over a second opinion because it doesn’t mean the first opinion is wrong, it just allows further education, further understanding to enhance one’s care. And then, of course, lastly, to be involved in community and other efforts that really push us towards better access for treatments for patients and better education are reducing the stage of this disease, so we can all provide the best care possible for our patients. 

What Key Questions Should CLL Patients Ask About Digital Tools Born Out of COVID?

What Key Questions Should CLL Patients Ask About Digital Tools Born Out of COVID? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are some key questions that chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients can ask about digital tools for their CLL care? Dr. Kathy Kim from UC Davis School of Medicine offers advice on questions to ask and explains important use factors about some technologies.

See More from Best CLL Care No Matter Where You Live

Related Resources:

 

What Multi-Language Technology Innovations Are Available for Cancer Patients and Families?

How Can CLL Patients Avoid Pandemic Challenges Without Compromising Quality of Care?

How Can CLL Patients Mitigate Distance and Technology Barriers to Care?


Transcript:

Dr. Kim:

Patients should be advocates and they should ask, what can you give me that can help me through this process, and what tools do you have for me to communicate and stay connected with my doctor? So, you should ask, are there ways for me to get in touch that are not calling, just when the clinic is open, do you have a secure messaging system? Can I message through the patient portal? Do you have an app that’s available for that patient portal that I can download? Do you have any other research studies where they’re trying as the same way you said patients should ask other clinical trials, are there research studies using technology for cancer patients? So as much as outreach as we do to try to recruit patients into our technology trials, oftentimes somehow patients don’t hear about it, so if you ask and you’re interested, is there a study like that where I can get access to technology to try it out, to see if it will help. So, you should definitely be an advocate, but I think some specific tools that patients should be asking about that are already available are things like, how can I get an electronic copy of my care plan? Can I get that through the portal or do you have an app where I can download my actual care plan? How do I get electronic copies of my medical records?

Where can I get them? And how can I store them safely? How can I connect to other patients in my area? Do you have an online patient support group? Do you have any services at the hospital where you connect patients like me as close as possible to the kind of patient I am, that you can make a match for me to talk to someone by using either ZOOM like this or an online support group or just one-on-one match maybe introducing by email. These are all technological tools that already exist that are not, that should not take a huge amount of time for someone to learn a new technology, but you want to make sure that it’s something that your hospital and your provider feel comfortable have tried and know that it’s secure and safe and useful. You don’t wanna go off and do something that your provider has no connection to it, you really wanna keep these as integrated as possible, and in that way, I think in the future, we won’t just rely on Mr. Marks, you have to come in to the hospital for every single thing. We want to give you all these tools, and then you and your doctor can decide which things you really have to come in person for and which things you can access online.

And so that is the conversation that every time you go talk to a new provider or go to a new hospital or clinic, you should ask, what technologies do you have that are available to the patients? And that that’s how I think we’re gonna push forward our new model of cancer care, which I will hope will use the technology to allow patients to collaborate with their healthcare team more easily and more seamlessly and in a way that’s safe and secure

How Can CLL Patients Avoid Pandemic Challenges Without Compromising Quality of Care?

How Can CLL Patients Avoid Pandemic Challenges Without Compromising Quality of Care? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients ensure that they receive quality care even during high-risk times like pandemics? Dr. Kathy Kim from UC Davis School of Medicine shares her recommendations for providers and information about remote monitoring devices for improved patient care.

See More from Best CLL Care No Matter Where You Live

Related Resources:

 

What Multi-Language Technology Innovations Are Available for Cancer Patients and Families?

What Key Questions Should CLL Patients Ask About Digital Tools Born Out of COVID?

How Can CLL Patients Mitigate Distance and Technology Barriers to Care?


Transcript:

Dr. Awan:

You know, with so many patients nowadays who are worried about their cancer care and how that will continue, and especially now with remote monitoring. How, what kind of tools do you have deployed and used, what would be your recommendations for us and how we can make us some of these new innovations and new methods to provide the best care for our patients?

Dr. Kim:

I think even when you’re thinking about using technology, again, it’s not one-size-fits all, it is what the provider is comfortable with and what the patient is comfortable with, and what you two can work together to improve your care. So, I think there are a lot of innovations that have been developed over many years, but this past year under COVID, we saw an acceleration of people adopting them because it was out of necessity that people didn’t come in to a setting where they might potentially be infected or to infect others. So, we certainly saw a huge increase in telehealth, which has been virtual visits, like we’re doing right now, we are virtually visiting with each other or telephone visits, so there’s been a huge upsurge in the number of hospitals and clinics and practices that have been able to implement telehealth with their patients. But there are other tools that again, have been in development that are now starting to take off under the last year, and those are remote patient monitoring devices, these are either specific medical devices, like blood pressure machines, glucose meters, some heart monitors, sleep monitors, you know things that, devices that check your oxygen saturation. So, there are many medical devices that are for use in the home, that are either covered by insurance or people can buy them at the drug store, and what has really come about this year is the ability to connect the data from the device you have in your home to your provider, so that’s been in place, but we really haven’t implemented it very many places, and now lots of places are allowing that connection to happen. So, the patient can use the device in their home and get it connected to the and have it sent to the hospital or to their doctor, so their doctor can be watching the data and also monitoring them, so that’s one really wonderful piece of progress that we’ve had in the past year. I would say the third area that again, has been around for a while but people haven’t used it so much has been mobile applications.

So, these are basically software that you can run on your smartphone or you can run it on a tablet or a computer that let you track your own information. So, I know CLL patients and many cancer patients have lots of documents from all the treatments, from all the visits that they have had, and it’s a challenge to manage all those medical records because you might go to multiple places, right? You’re not always going to the same place. So, now there are many applications that are integrated with the record systems that your hospital or doctor has, where you can aggregate all of your records in one place, and that way when you go to talk to another provider or have this second opinion or a consult, you have access to all your records that you can share. And then you can also track things that are important to you, so maybe you want to track how I feel, what my symptoms are under certain kinds of medications or when I do more physical activity, do I get more tired or do I actually feel better, you know track and by taking my other medications, and for many of us, just remembering to take your medications every day is hard enough if you have several medications and they’re at different times, you might not remember, did I take that one already or do I still need to take it? And so, these applications can also set up your medication schedule and help you to track whether you’ve taken them or not, so there are lots of these tools now available where you can start to manage all of these things and share that information with your doctor.

You know, with so many patients nowadays who are worried about their cancer care and how that will continue, and especially now with remote monitoring. How, what kind of tools do you have deployed and used, what would be your recommendations for us and how we can make us some of these new innovations and new methods to provide the best care for our patients?

I think even when you’re thinking about using technology, again, it’s not one-size-fits all, it is what the provider is comfortable with and what the patient is comfortable with, and what you two can work together to improve your care. So, I think there are a lot of innovations that have been developed over many years, but this past year under COVID, we saw an acceleration of people adopting them because it was out of necessity that people didn’t come in to a setting where they might potentially be infected or to infect others. So, we certainly saw a huge increase in telehealth, which has been virtual visits, like we’re doing right now, we are virtually visiting with each other or telephone visits, so there’s been a huge upsurge in the number of hospitals and clinics and practices that have been able to implement telehealth with their patients. But there are other tools that again, have been in development that are now starting to take off under the last year, and those are remote patient monitoring devices, these are either specific medical devices, like blood pressure machines, glucose meters, some heart monitors, sleep monitors, you know things that, devices that check your oxygen saturation. So, there are many medical devices that are for use in the home, that are either covered by insurance or people can buy them at the drug store, and what has really come about this year is the ability to connect the data from the device you have in your home to your provider, so that’s been in place, but we really haven’t implemented it very many places, and now lots of places are allowing that connection to happen. So, the patient can use the device in their home and get it connected to the and have it sent to the hospital or to their doctor, so their doctor can be watching the data and also monitoring them, so that’s one really wonderful piece of progress that we’ve had in the past year. I would say the third area that again, has been around for a while but people haven’t used it so much has been mobile applications.

So, these are basically software that you can run on your smartphone or you can run it on a tablet or a computer that let you track your own information. So, I know CLL patients and many cancer patients have lots of documents from all the treatments, from all the visits that they have had, and it’s a challenge to manage all those medical records because you might go to multiple places, right? You’re not always going to the same place. So, now there are many applications that are integrated with the record systems that your hospital or doctor has, where you can aggregate all of your records in one place, and that way when you go to talk to another provider or have this second opinion or a consult, you have access to all your records that you can share. And then you can also track things that are important to you, so maybe you want to track how I feel, what my symptoms are under certain kinds of medications or when I do more physical activity, do I get more tired or do I actually feel better, you know track and by taking my other medications, and for many of us, just remembering to take your medications every day is hard enough if you have several medications and they’re at different times, you might not remember, did I take that one already or do I still need to take it? And so, these applications can also set up your medication schedule and help you to track whether you’ve taken them or not, so there are lots of these tools now available where you can start to manage all of these things and share that information with your doctor.

Will Telemedicine Be a Mainstay for Myeloma Patients After the Pandemic?

The Patient Empowerment Network (PEN) is fostering change toward achieving equitable healthcare for all. One resource, the Myeloma TelemEDucation Empowerment Resource Center is to significantly improve multiple myeloma patients’ and caregivers’ familiarity with remote access to healthcare, and thus increase quality of care regardless of geographical location. This one-of-a-kind resource center is intended to educate the myeloma community on the practical usage of telemedicine tools, to humanize patient and provider experiences.

Here’s a summary view of the knowledge gained about telemedicine to help provide optimal care to myeloma patients and to aid in receiving optimal care no matter virus limitations, where patients live, and other factors.

Benefits and Limitations of Telemedicine Visits

There are both benefits and limitations of telemedicine visits. Some benefits of telehealth include:

  • Telemedicine allows care providers the opportunity to determine when myeloma patients really need to be seen in-person.
  • Standard of care and maintenance treatment are usually a good fit for using some telemedicine visits in clinical trials.
  • The option to get laboratory work done closer to home is a benefit for saving travel time and from taking time off of work and also lessens patient exposure to viruses.
  • Telehealth allows care providers the opportunity to meet family members of some patients who can’t make it to in-person visits and to get to know their patients on a more personal level.
  • Care providers are now able to provide second opinions to patients in other parts of their state and even to some patients across the country.

Unfortunately, some limitations of telehealth include:

  • Gauging toxicity and other things with new treatments are usually best done along with performing a physical exam.
  • Some patients only have technology access to talk over the phone and don’t have access to use video due to their device or due to lack of Wi-Fi bandwidth.
  • Physical examinations cannot be performed via telehealth visits.
  • Some providers feel it’s more difficult to establish a bond with some patients and to have considerable discussions with then over telemedicine.
  • Open and honest communication between patients and care providers is sometimes better served in-person.

How to Optimize a Telemedicine Visit

 Just like in-person care visits, telemedicine visits are scheduled with a time limit in mind. Some things to remember about telemedicine visits are:

  • Try to write down your questions for your doctor or care provider before your appointment to keep on track. Keep it next to you for easy access during your visit.
  • If patients normally have a friend or loved one join or doctors have a nurse or pharmacist join for in-person visits, have them join your telemedicine visits to help take notes, to ask questions, and/or to provide answers or additional information.
  • If a video conferencing tool is needed for your visit, install the tool on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone ahead of time to prevent rushing before your appointment. If possible, try to test the video conferencing tool with a friend or loved one a day or so ahead of your appointment.
  • If there’s anything you don’t understand during the appointment, ask your doctor to explain it again – whether it’s medication instructions, test results, a new medical term, or anything else.
  • If you feel like a treatment isn’t working well for you, ask your doctor about possible medication or dosage changes.
  • Just like in-person doctor visits, your doctor or care provider may run a few minutes late. Try your best to remain flexible and to be patient.

Telemedicine and Multiple Myeloma Clinical Trials

To the surprise of some, telemedicine has taken a role in multiple myeloma clinical trials. Currently, and looking to the future, patients can expect:

  • Telemedicine to continue as an option for follow-up visits along with in-person visits in clinical trials.
  • Paperwork for clinical trials to be available to complete online for an easier process for joining clinical trials.
  • Multiple myeloma clinical trials to provide optimal care through the use of both telemedicine and in-person visits.
  • Telemedicine to provide more options for clinical trial access for those who live in remote areas.
  • Multiple myeloma clinical trials for quality-of-life studies, engagement studies, educational studies, and possibly others to be available via telemedicine. 

Financial Benefits of Telemedicine 

Telemedicine has brought some financial benefits for multiple myeloma patients, including:

  • Telemedicine saves the time and costs of traveling to appointments and can reduce or sometimes eliminate the need to take time off from work for an appointment.
  • The option of connecting with your doctor via telemedicine can sometimes eliminate the need for costly urgent care visits.
  • The use of telemedicine eliminates the need to find child care for patients and care partners with young children who couldn’t take them along to in-person doctor appointments.

Telemedicine Glossary

Here are some helpful telemedicine terms to know:

  • HIPAA – HIPAA, or the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, is a healthcare compliance law providing data security and privacy for the safeguarding of patient medical information. In telemedicine, provider-patient communication must take place through HIPAA-compliant secure platforms.
  • Patient portal – a secure Internet sign-on that allows patients to contact their provider, review medical tests and records, access health education materials, and seek appointments. Most provider networks develop a patient portal before they move to full video appointments.
  • Remote monitoring – type of ambulatory healthcare where patients use mobile medical devices to perform a routine test and send the test data to a healthcare professional in real-time.
  • VPN – a VPN, or virtual private network, is a secure and private way to connect to the Internet over public wireless connections. VPNs are particularly important for those living the digital nomad lifestyle and connecting in foreign countries where networks may be more vulnerable to communication transmission interference.

Now that telemedicine tools continue to increase in use and to be refined, multiple myeloma patients can feel hopeful about improved care and treatment ahead for patients. As a step in that direction, take advantage of the resources below and continue to visit the Myeloma TelemEDucation Empowerment Resource Center for informative content about multiple myeloma and telemedicine.


Resources for Telemedicine and Multiple Myeloma

Are There Limitations of Telemedicine for Multiple Myeloma Patients?

How Will the Pandemic Impact Multiple Myeloma Trials?

Is Telemedicine Here to Stay for Multiple Myeloma Care?

 What Are the Benefits of Telemedicine for Myeloma Patients?

How to Make the Most of a Virtual Visit

Telemedicine & Second Opinion Options

What Are Best Practices for Multiple Myeloma Patients Utilizing Telemedicine?

How Can Myeloma Patients Reduce Infection Risks During Medical Appointments?

Financial Resources for Patients and Families

 Will Telemedicine Mitigate Financial Toxicity for Myeloma Patients?

 Will Telemedicine Be a Long-Term Survival Tool for Myeloma Patients?

How Will Telemedicine Impact Multiple Myeloma Clinical Trials?

How Will Telemedicine Impact Multiple Myeloma Clinical Trials? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo

What impact has telemedicine had on multiple myeloma clinical trials, and what effect will it have on trials in the future? Expert Dr. Joseph Mikhael explains the impact of telemedicine early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, how he uses virtual visits with his patients currently, and the role and benefits of telehealth in the future of myeloma care.

See More From the Myeloma TelemEDucation Empowerment Resource Center

Related Resources:

 

Are There Any Barriers for Multiple Myeloma Patients Using Telemedicine?

Will Telemedicine Be an Advantage for Multiple Myeloma Patients?

What Multiple Myeloma Populations Will Benefit from Telemedicine?

 

Transcript:

Dr. Joseph Mikhael:

COVID-19 has impacted our lives in just about every way imaginable, and in multiple myeloma, sadly has very much impacted our ability to conduct clinical trials. Thankfully, now that we are out of the immediate acute phase when many trials were suspended, we actually have been able to work around this in general, where now we’ve been able to re-introduce studies and bring in new studies, of course, and we can do so in a more careful manner. Many of our clinical trials now are allowing intermittently to have telemedicine visits, which reduces the traffic for patients and makes it a little bit smoother. Some of the questionnaires and the things that we used to have to fill out on paper or physically in-person now can be done electronically, and so I think in many respects, we’ve really overcome most of the barriers so that we can continue the outstanding work and clinical trials to provide options for our patients that were not available before.

And looking to the future, I hope, even paradoxically in some way that this may — now that we’ve developed a more sophisticated telemedicine platform — it may allow us to do more and perhaps reach patients that may not have been reached before, there are already studies and trials that are being done through telemedicine, not necessarily a drug trial but quality of life studies, engagement studies, educational studies, different ways that we can enhance a patient’s experience and investigate better ways of doing things now that we can do so more fully electronically.

So, when I think of telemedicine and the future in multiple myeloma, I think it will continue to have a role in the long term. I think, much like people think that there will be more virtual meetings, I think we all want to get back to in-person meetings of various types and sizes and shapes, there will always be a component of virtual, and I can think even in my own practice and some patients that have quite a long drive to come down to see me, that they will still have to have face-to-face visits, but intermittently when the things are going well, follow-up like visits where the discussion may be limited.

I think there will be a role for this so that we can leverage the best of telemedicine and the best of in-person medicine so that the patients can receive the best care possible.

What Multiple Myeloma Populations Will Benefit from Telemedicine?

What Multiple Myeloma Populations Will Benefit Most From Telemedicine? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo

Which multiple myeloma patients will benefit most from telemedicine visits, and which patients can get more from in-person visits? Dr. Joseph Mikhael shares information on how to ensure the best myeloma care even during pandemic restrictions and how in-person visits have adjusted to limit COVID exposure risk.

See More From the Myeloma TelemEDucation Empowerment Resource Center

Related Resources:

 

Are There Any Barriers for Multiple Myeloma Patients Using Telemedicine?

What Are Best Practices for Multiple Myeloma Patients Utilizing Telemedicine?

How Will Telemedicine Impact Multiple Myeloma Clinical Trials?

 

Transcript:

Dr. Joseph Mikhael:

When it comes to making a decision around, do I need to go into the clinic or can I do this as a telemedicine visit, of course, that has to be discussed with the healthcare team, but a few things we’ve learned through this pandemic.

And perhaps one of the most important things we’ve learned through the pandemic is that controlling one’s disease, controlling one’s myeloma is critical to protecting people against COVID, sadly, many of our patients who have struggled the most with COVID are those who had very active myeloma. So, we emphasize the importance of making sure that one continues to receive the best myeloma care possible, and very often that is going to involve an in-person visit, not only for discussion, but, of course, for the actual receiving of treatment. Secondly, I think it’s very important for us to note that we really have not seen significant spread of COVID or almost any infection within our hematology-oncology clinics, we’ve taken particular precaution around this area. So, this is different than someone maybe going out to a more public place where the risks may be higher. And so, we try to reassure our patients that coming into clinic actually is really not a high-risk situation and, in fact, perhaps lower risk than ever in light of the fact that many of our waiting areas and places where we have patients have been restructured and have fewer patients because of telemedicine visits.

And then thirdly, and very importantly, whether it’s telemedicine or in-person, it’s really important to maintain open, honest, and clear communication with the healthcare team. And if that is felt that it’s being done to a certain extent in telemedicine, fantastic, but there are situations where it’s challenging and difficult and really must be face-to-face. And so I would want to encourage my patients not to be afraid to go in to receive treatment and to meet with their healthcare team. These are generally very safe places that we take special precautions to ensure their patients can receive the best care possible.

Are There Any Barriers for Multiple Myeloma Patients Using Telemedicine?

Are There Any Barriers For Multiple Myeloma Patients Using Telemedicine? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo

Along with all the benefits of multiple myeloma care via telemedicine, there are some obstacles that providers run into as well. Myeloma expert Dr. Joseph Mikhael details his experience with telehealth barriers in caring for his patients.

See More From the Myeloma TelemEDucation Empowerment Resource Center

Related Resources:

 

Will Telemedicine Be an Advantage for Multiple Myeloma Patients?

What Are Best Practices for Multiple Myeloma Patients Utilizing Telemedicine?

How Will Telemedicine Impact Multiple Myeloma Clinical Trials?

 

Transcript:

Dr. Joseph Mikhael:

So there are several limitations to telemedicine, despite better technology and camera strength and Wi-Fi, and we’re removing all those distractions, it really is limited by not being able to physically be present with a patient, which means we can’t examine patients, which means we can’t hug our patients, I’m a hugger as an oncologist, I like to get close to my patients, and then of course, there are those things that don’t always convey themselves easily over a camera or a computer.

The emotion in the room, the tension, the fear, many of my patients experience fear being cancer patients, and so telemedicine can be very helpful when we have more straightforward follow-ups and questions, but initially building a bond with the patient and having very considerable discussions about one’s treatment and on symptoms, it is always going to be limited in a telemedicine capacity

What Are Best Practices for Multiple Myeloma Patients Utilizing Telemedicine?

What Are Best Practices for Multiple Myeloma Patients Utilizing Telemedicine? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are some ways that patients and providers can make the most of multiple myeloma telemedicine visits? Dr. Joseph Mikhael shares things that he has found helpful in interacting via telehealth visits with his patients and how he tries to approach different types of visits.

See More From the Myeloma TelemEDucation Empowerment Resource Center

Related Resources:

 

Will Telemedicine Be an Advantage for Multiple Myeloma Patients?

What Multiple Myeloma Populations Will Benefit from Telemedicine?

How Will Telemedicine Impact Multiple Myeloma Clinical Trials?

 

Transcript:

Dr. Joseph Mikhael:

Well, the best practices for telemedicine are really going to depend on the nature of the clinic, the way the provider likes to interact with their patients, and the way the patients like to interact with them. I think one of the beauties of the multiple platforms we have is that we can leverage them, that beautiful connection that we develop between a physician or a provider and their patient, we can continue obviously not to the same extent that using electronic means, and so I’ve really tried to make sure that I don’t look at this as a half visit or as a partial visit.

I think psychologically is my first important tip that we look at this as another very important physician-patient interaction. Secondly, I try to make sure that my patients are comfortable with this modality, that we’ve had time to work through the technology, so we’re not worrying about who’s on mute, who’s not on mute, so that when we discuss things, we can discuss things properly, and that thirdly, we as much as possible, try to engage a full visit, whether a family member is going to be with the patient, whether a nurse practitioner, a nurse or pharmacist is going to join me on this side, that we really try to reproduce what we know works well in the clinic.

So, that the patient can feel comfortable so that they can be heard, because sometimes it’s difficult when you’re on the other side of a computer or phone to really be heard.

So psychologically, being prepared for this and getting into the specifics of making sure we’re comfortable with the technology, and then thirdly, really as much as possible, trying to reproduce that magic that we feel like when we have a face-to-face interaction.

Will Telemedicine Be an Advantage for Multiple Myeloma Patients?

Will Telemedicine Be An Advantage for Multiple Myeloma Patients? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo

With the rise of telemedicine into multiple myeloma care options, unforeseen benefits have occurred along with those that are well-documented. Dr. Joseph Mikhael shares what he’s experienced in caring for his patients.

See More From the Myeloma TelemEDucation Empowerment Resource Center

Related Resources:

 

What Are Best Practices for Multiple Myeloma Patients Utilizing Telemedicine?

Are There Any Barriers for Multiple Myeloma Patients Using Telemedicine?

What Multiple Myeloma Populations Will Benefit from Telemedicine?

 

Transcript:

Dr. Joseph Mikhael:

The pandemic, both in the short term and the long term has really revolutionized much of what we’re doing in medicine, telemedicine is one of those areas. It’s, despite all the challenges that we faced of social isolation, it really has given us an opportunity to not only see patients who we may not have already seen but also allow us to develop a relationship with patients where we can determine when is it best and needed truly to be seen in-person. And when can we do visits by telemedicine, allowing the patient to have less travel time and the challenges of coming to the clinic and allowing us to keep our clinics limited to those patients that genuinely need to be seen face-to-face. So it’s really now been a wonderful adjunct to the way we care for patients, doing so continuously in a human fashion, but also leveraging the technology and that we can use for this.