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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  ...

Education programs after cancer

At the Swedish Cancer Institute, we understand that completing treatment for cancer presents a new set of circumstances. For this reason, we offer free education programs to help patients explore these questions with others who are preparing to complete or who have completed cancer treatment.
 
In these eight-week groups you will have the opportunity to:
  • Make peace with the impact of cancer treatment
  • Reduce the stress cancer places on relationships
  • Overcome the fear of recurrence
  • Renew hope and increase resilience
 In a safe and supportive environment, individuals who are preparing to complete or have completed cancer treatment are invited to sign up for these practical life-skills classes. We will gently explore life after treatment and share plans for survivorship.
 
ACT – After Cancer Treatment: What’s Next?
An eight-week group designed for men and women to learn practical life-skills to help rebuild after active cancer treatment is ...

Breast Cancer Survival Guide: Physical & Clinical Updates

A diagnosis of breast cancer sets into motion a whirlwind of appointments, tests, surgeries and possibly chemotherapy and radiation treatment. A new study reviewed the timeline between surgery and initiating chemotherapy for different subtypes of breast cancer and found a survival advantage when chemotherapy was initiated within 30 days of surgery. Although treating within the 30-60 post-surgical window did not show a statistically significant survival advantage, there is a trend towards better outcomes. Exceeding 60 days post treatment had a negative impact on survival. The clinical impact of timing is most relevant for patients with stage II and III breast cancer, triple negative breast cancer and HER2-positive tumors.
 
Treatment for breast cancer can be exhausting and take a toll on the physical health of patients as treatment ends and they begin post-treatment life. Cancer survivors are at an increased risk of poor health, depression and physical disability. Approximately one third  ...

Nicotine addiction and quitting smoking

The presence of tobacco dates back at least 8,000 years in the world’s history.  Throughout time, this plant was central to religious ceremonies, thought to have healing powers, delivered as gifts, traded for goods, and smoked by many.  As early as the mid 1700s tobacco was formally manufactured and distributed in the form of cigarettes.  Interestingly doctors were featured in promotional cigarette ads in the 1930s.  However, the ill effects of tobacco were identified long before this and Massachusetts state law banned smoking in public in 1632.

Nicotine is a stimulant and a very addictive substance contained in tobacco.  It is extremely easy to become addicted to nicotine.  With repeated exposure to the chemical, the brain’s nicotinic receptors crave more and drive the need to smoke at higher levels.  Nicotine is well known for its pleasurable physiological and psychological side effects.  These pleasurable side effects result in addiction to the substance and make it difficult to quit smoking, even when an individual is highly motivated to stop.  Tobacco companies have complicated this addiction by adding numerous other addictive chemicals that strengthen the difficulty in quitting, making cigarettes the most common form of chemical dependency in this country.

Use of cigarettes in the United States (U.S.) has dropped considerably since an all-time consumption high of 640 billion cigarettes in 1981.  Currently the U.S. consumption is about half that volume but smoking remains the leading cause of preventable illnesses and death in this country; attributing....

Resources and social support for dealing with cancer

Here at the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI), we understand that individuals cope in their own unique ways, and that receiving personalized education and support is important in the healing process. For this reason, the SCI is devoted to providing complementary supportive services for newly diagnosed patients, those undergoing treatment, and those who have completed treatment, as well as their caregivers.

The SCI offers programs that promote education, hope, and healing. Many of these programs are offered free of charge, while others are offered on a sliding scale. These integrated care programs include:

  • American Cancer Society Patient Navigation: The American Cancer Society Patient Navigator helps patients find resources related to financial assistance, transportation, access to wigs and prosthetics, and much more.
  • Art Therapy: Art therapy is a confidential, supportive, and individualized experience for examining health issues through visual and verbal self-exploration.
  • Cancer Rehabilitation: Cancer rehabilitation integrates medical management of cancer treatment-related side effects with a variety of exercise therapies.
  • Health Education: The Swedish Cancer Education Centers offer complementary educational materials, innovative learning opportunities, and patient education classes.
  • Genetic Counseling and Testing: Genetic testing is available for individuals to determine their risk for developing certain cancers.
  • Massage Therapy: Massage therapy may help with cancer-related pain, fatigue and nausea.
  • Naturopathic Medicine: Combining modern science with natural remedies, naturopathic doctors are available for consultation and treat¬ment through coordination with the patient’s oncologist.
  • Nutrition Care Services: Nutritionists are available to help patients and caregivers make healthy dietary choices during cancer treatment.
  • Psychiatry: Psychiatrists help patients and caregivers maintain the emotional and mental well-being needed to cope with stresses of cancer.
  • Oncology Social Work: Licensed oncology social workers provide patients and caregivers ongoing counseling and assistance.
  • Support Groups: Support groups for patients and caregivers are offered weekly, creating an environment for people to share their feelings with others going through similar experiences. 

Patients often hear that it’s important to find a strong support system during and after treatment; this may include a partner, sibling, parent, child or close friend. These are ...

How to manage tinnitus (when your ears are ringing)

Almost all individuals experience ”transient ear noises” which is the intermittent sensation of ringing (lasting less than 5 minutes), typically in one ear. At times this sensation is accompanied by a sensation of fullness or a momentary change in hearing. When this change is brief, it is a normal phenomenon.  If it lasts longer than 5 minutes twice week, you should be evaluated for tinnitus.

What should I do when my ear(s) start ringing? 

The first step is a comprehensive hearing evaluation by an audiologist.  Tinnitus can be caused by a variety of auditory disorders and a complete audiology evaluation will confirm and/or rule out many of these conditions.  Pending the hearing test results, you may be referred to an otolaryngologist (sometimes referred to as an ENT or an Ear, Nose and Throat physician) or other health care providers.  The otolaryngologist will further investigate your tinnitus for possible medical causes. 

It is normal for tinnitus to occasionally change in the pitch and intensity; however, significant and prolonged changes in tinnitus (increased loudness or tinnitus that is one-sided) should be (re)evaluated.   Tinnitus that is present in one ear (unilateral) or pulsatile will always require an otolaryngology evaluation after the hearing evaluation.  Tinnitus that is accompanied by a sudden hearing loss is considered an emergent condition and individuals should be evaluated by an audiologist and otolaryngologist as soon as possible.

How can I manage my tinnitus?

Tinnitus can evoke ...

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