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The Science and the Art of Exceptional Cancer Care

Not long ago, I read two articles, one by a cancer doctor and another by a journalist. They both left me steaming a bit.  In medicine, we talk about the science (the factual database and knowledge that we use) and the art of medicine (how we use and adapt that database to the benefit of individual and different patients). Both of these articles, the first overtly and the second more indirectly, suggested that the art of medicine is about hiding the science from the patient in order to provide hope, albeit false hope to the cancer victim. Let me state clearly, despite paternalistic instincts, dishonesty has no place in the practice of oncology.

Both of my grandmothers died from cancer. Grandma S. died of stomach cancer when I was in college. As far as I know, she was never told that her cancer had recurred after surgery. Her second husband and family wanted it that way. “Knowing that she has cancer will devastate her, let her have her hope,” we were told. When my cousins and I visited, we were under strict orders to not ask too many questions about her “gall stone” problems. She knew though. You could see it in Grandma’s eyes. But the web that had been woven kept her from being able to grieve and gave no opportunity for good byes. As she slipped away she became withdrawn and depressed.

Grandma B. was diagnosed with an aggressive lymphoma when I was just out of medical school and in my training. She was fully informed by her doctors. She had opportunity to seek second opinions. She conferenced with her children. When she chose to not leave her little ranch valley in Idaho for desperate treatments far from home, and to die in her own home, her family rallied around her in support. For six weeks, she narrated her life history, wrapping up a legacy of lasting value for her family. She was the recipient of an outpouring of love from her community and she died fulfilled, with a smile of satisfaction on her face.

The science and art of medicine are ...

Summer 2014 Cancer Community Walks & Runs

Each year, the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) partners with local and national organizations in an effort to help spread awareness of cancer, associated treatments, and resources available in our communities.
 
Summer 2014 is no different. We’ve signed on to take part in more events than ever before—and we want you to join us! As an active patient, survivor, family member, friend or advocate, your voice and participation matter.
 
American Cancer Society Relay for Life
These overnight community fundraising walks help raise money to fund cancer research, education, and support services like Hope Lodge®, Road to Recovery®, Look Good, Feel Better®, and Reach to Recovery®, all American Cancer Society-run programs. The Swedish Cancer Institute patients gain access to these programs throughout the Swedish network. There are several Relay for Life events going on in the Puget Sound. The Swedish Cancer Institute is taking part in:

Talking to kids about cancer

What do I tell my kids?” 

This is often the first question I’m asked by a parent with a new cancer diagnosis.  One of the most important things for parents to remember is that they know their children better than anyone else and they love them more than anyone…they can trust themselves to do this well.
 
Beyond that general reassurance, however, there are some practical tips for talking with children about a cancer diagnosis. 
 
Prepare for the conversation 
 
Think about your goals for the conversation.  What does your child need to know?  How you can help your child understand what’s going on?  How do you want your child to feel after the talk?  Who should tell your child you have cancer and can the person talking to your child stay relatively calm?
 
When and where should I have this conversation?  You don’t have to wait until you have all the answers.  Be prepared to ...

Style '14 Fashion Show Benefit

Northwest Hope & Healing, a non-profit organization supporting women battling breast cancer, is hosting the 12th Annual Fashion Show at the Showbox in SODO on Thursday, May 1, 2014.
 
More than 30 breast cancer survivors will be modeling spring looks from several Seattle boutiques. Proceeds from this event benefit the Northwest Hope & Healing’s Patience Assistance Fund at the Swedish Cancer Institute, which helps provide everyday basics such as groceries, childcare and emergency rent for women battling breast cancer.
 
Northwest Hope & Healing has been supporting Swedish Cancer Institute patients since early 2000 and is deeply rooted in our community. We are proud to support this event and hope to see many of you there!

Personal grants for people with multiple sclerosis

Personal grants are available from a variety of MS organizations and offer assistance for everything from mobility equipment to financial support. With summertime fast approaching, grants for cooling equipment for those that are heat sensitive are also available. Check out the links below to learn more about these opportunities.

An innovative solution for the un (and under) insured

Health-care reform is a big, confusing, emotionally-charged topic. Now that 2014 is underway and the Affordable Care Act is beginning to take effect, many more Americans will have greater access to health insurance than they had before. It is estimated that 180,000 people in King County alone will become newly insured this year.

Still, there will be many people in our community – and throughout the country – who will continue to face barriers to accessing care. Some of them will be considered underinsured because they can’t afford to fill the gap in medical expenses not covered by their insurance. Others receiving Medicaid may find it difficult to locate a physician who is willing to take them on as a patient, as doctors are not required to see Medicaid patients, and many don’t. And then, there will probably always be those people who don’t have any insurance at all because, for one reason or another, they can’t sign up: the homeless, the chronically mentally ill, those who can’t read or write English, to name just a few.

Community clinics scattered throughout the nation, including several in our community, help address this problem on the primary care end. But access to specialty medical care for low-income patients facing barriers to care like the ones described above is likely to remain extremely difficult.

Fortunately, an innovative program pioneered at Swedish is addressing this effectively, and is likely to become a national model.

The Swedish Community Specialty Clinic (SCSC) was expanded and moved to the Swedish/First Hill campus in  ..

Information on emergency birth control

Oops, the condom fell off or broke. Oops, you went away for the weekend and your birth control pills stayed home. In the past, women ran the risk of an unintended pregnancy when birth control was not used or failed.
 
Emergency birth control has been available for many years, starting with medicine approaches that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In 1999, Plan B, levonorgestrel pills taken by mouth, was approved for use by prescription and in 2006 was approved without prescription for women 18 years old and over. It was approved for those 17 and older in 2009 without prescription. In late February, 2014, FDA approved over the counter sales of generic emergency contraceptives without proof of age.
 
Another  ...
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