News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Fears of Medicare for All, drug rebate overhaul feed selling of health insurer stocks
Modern Healthcare

Publicly traded health insurer stocks took a hit this week amid fears that Medicare for All momentum and the federal government’s proposal to nix drug rebates to pharmacy benefit managers could threaten their business models or even their existence.

The stock price of the largest publicly traded insurers were all trading down on Friday and for the week, with Anthem taking the biggest hit, falling almost 14%. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 stock index was up.

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The disturbing links between too much weight and several types of cancer
Washington Post

Smoking has been the No. 1 preventable cause of cancer for decades and still kills more than 500,000 people a year in the United States. But obesity is poised to take the top spot, as Americans’ waistlines continue to expand while tobacco use plummets.

The switch could occur in five or 10 years, said Otis Brawley, a Johns Hopkins oncologist and former chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. The rise in obesity rates could threaten the steady decline in cancer death rates since the early 1990s, he said.

Yet only about half of Americans are aware of the link between excess weight and cancer. And researchers are struggling to answer such fundamental questions as how surplus weight increases the risk of the disease and whether, conversely, losing weight helps prevent cancer or a recurrence.    

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Unraveling why some people get not one, not two, but many cancers
The Washington Post

Noelle Johnson, 42, was diagnosed with her first cancer — a soft tissue sarcoma under her right arm — in 1999 when she was 21. In 2013, her physicians found six different cancers in her breasts. In the years that followed, surgeons discovered and removed numerous masses they deemed “premalignant” from her ovary, her uterus, her leg, arm and chest wall, aiming to get them out before they turned cancerous.

Each tumor was distinct, that is, none resulted from the spread of any of the others. For Johnson, having multiple primary tumors diagnosed at an unusually young age was both scary and baffling. “It was crazy,” recalls Johnson, who lives in Windsor, Col., where she operates a day-care center in her home. “My world started to spin. It was a huge red flag.”

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New cancer therapies offer great hope, but there can be suprising complications
Washington Post

When thinking about cancer therapy in recent years, Dorothy’s famous line from “The Wizard of Oz” comes to my mind: “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Most fellows in oncology — including myself — begin their training by caring for patients with leukemia because they need a lot of monitoring. Patients with leukemia often are diagnosed with severe bleeds or infections and need treatment urgently.

For decades, treatment for acute leukemia had been largely the same:

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At cancer centers, volunteers are more than just helpers. They’re family.
Washington Post

Families come in all varieties. Some we’re born into; others we get to choose; still others are accidental. Thirty-five years ago, I unwittingly (and unwillingly) joined the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center family when I became a patient there.

On that evening, when I was alone and afraid hours before surgery for metastatic testicular cancer, a young man entered my room in that famous New York hospital wearing a pale blue coat.

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‘If I had known cancer was linked to implants, I would never have gotten them’
Washington Post

In 2016, Jennifer Cook, a California schoolteacher who had breast implants in 2010, noticed a change in one of her breasts. So when a school play she attended with her class had a line in it about breast cancer and implants, she got nervous.

After a quick online search turned up some scary stories, she got scanned and soon learned she had four masses around the implant — two of which were behind the implant, and therefore not palpable and not visible on a regular mammogram or ultrasound.

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Financial Toxicity is Hurting my Cancer Patients
The Health Care Blog

As news of Tom Brokaw’s cancer diagnosis spreads, so does his revelation that his cancer treatments cost nearly $10,000 per day. In spite of this devastating diagnosis, Mr. Brokaw is not taking his financial privilege for granted. He is using his voice to bring attention to the millions of Americans who are unable to afford their cancer treatments.

My patient Phil is among them. At a recent appointment, Phil mentioned that his wife has asked for divorce. When I inquired, he revealed a situation so common in oncology, we have a name for it: Financial Toxicity.

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The HPV vaccine is important for preteens and teenagers. What about older women?
Washington Post

‘Is Gardasil 9 right for me?” my patient asked during a recent office visit.

She is 45, recently divorced from her husband of 20 years and crafting her online dating profile. She’s also wondering whether she is a candidate for the vaccine that protects against nine strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) — a virus that causes most cervical, oral and anal cancer.

Ten years ago, L — I’m referring to her by her first initial to protect her privacy — brought her then preteen daughter to a pediatrician to get her immunized against HPV.

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How Can We Be Sure Artificial Intelligence Is Safe For Medical Use?
National Public Radio

When Merdis Wells visited the diabetes clinic at the University Medical Center in New Orleans about a year ago, a nurse practitioner checked her eyes to look for signs of diabetic retinopathy, the most common cause of blindness.

At her next visit, in February of this year, artificial intelligence software made the call.

The clinic had just installed a system that’s designed to identify patients who need follow-up attention.

The Food and Drug Administration cleared the system — called IDx-DR — for use in 2018. The agency said it was the first time it had authorized the marketing of a device that makes a screening decision without a clinician having to get involved in the interpretation.

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Watchdogs Cite Lax Medical And Mental Health Treatment Of ICE Detainees
Kaiser Health News

It’s Saturday morning and the women of the Contreras family are busy in Montclair, Calif., making pupusas, tamales and tacos. They’re working to replace the income of José Contreras, who has been held since last June at Southern California’s Adelanto ICE Processing Center, a privately run immigration detention center.

José’s daughter, Giselle, drives around in an aging minivan collecting food orders. First a hospital, then a car wash, then a local bank.

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Why housing is now a health issue for Kaiser Permanente
San Francisco Business Times

Over the eight years that Brian Hopkins has lived in his East Oakland apartment, he’s seen many of his neighbors wind up on the streets.

“You know tent city? That was a lot of the people who lived on this block,” said 35-year-old Hopkins, who currently works staffing events at venues like Levi’s Stadium and the Coliseum. “I know them personally, friends’ moms, aunties.”

Kaiser Permanente noticed the bulging homeless population in its hometown, too. It also knows the toll it takes on people’s health, with a recent study in a major medical journal finding that the average life expectancy of people without housing falls by 27 years. At last count two years ago, Oakland’s homeless population hit 2,761 people, up 25 percent from 2015.

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UC’s deal with Catholic hospitals threatens the health of women and LGBTQ patients
Los Angeles Times

The University of California regents are wrestling with a question that should have an easy answer: Should they approve an “affiliation” between UC San Francisco, one of the leading teaching hospitals in America, and Dignity Health, a Catholic hospital chain that openly discriminates against women and LGBTQ patients and requires its doctors to comply with religious directives, some of which run counter to medical science and ethical practice?

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Seaver serves Henry Mayo and his community
Santa Clarita Valley Signal

Born in the American heart- land, Roger Seaver, president and CEO of Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Valencia, traveled to California to build his life, and to the Santa Clarita Valley to make a difference. Seaver was born in a Watertown, South Dakota hospital located 30 miles from his home in Garden Village, S.D. His family owned a 600-acre farm where they grew small grains, corn and soybeans. “It was a small farm for the area,” said Seaver. In addition to the crops, the family also kept a few dairy cows.