Stories We're Following This Week

News + Insights from around the Web + The Patient's Playbook Bottom Line. 

FDA Approves New Treatment for Lung Cancer

A 3D rendered illustration of lung cancer cells (Thinkstock)

A 3D rendered illustration of lung cancer cells (Thinkstock)

Keytruda, a drug that has shown promise in melanoma patients, is now FDA-approved for use in patients who have advanced non-small cell lung cancer. This ABC 7 video explains how it works.

Bottom line: If you have cancer, getting your biopsy tissue analyzed may reveal genetic mutations or abnormal levels of certain proteins for which there may already be drugs on the market, or in clinical trials, which specifically target the abnormality in your tumor. Talk to your oncologist about molecular profiling for your cancer tissue. Chapter 11 of The Patient’s Playbook gives ways to start that conversation.

A Success Story In Genomic Medicine

(Wasun Chantratita for The Atlantic)

(Wasun Chantratita for The Atlantic)

"In the era of genomic medicine, lives are still being lost because of shortfalls in IT."

—from "When a Genetic ID Card is the Difference Between Life and Death" (The Atlantic)

Bottom line: Someday, it may be entirely normal (and incredibly helpful) to have all your genetic information automatically updated on a wallet-size card. Until then, it’s a good idea to collect your medical records, including diagnostic tests, and keep a digital copy on a USB card in your wallet.

It Costs You $43 Every Time You Wait for a Doctor

"All told... Americans spent 1.1 billion hours per year obtaining such care for themselves or others — time the researchers valued at $52 billion." 

—A recent study from Harvard Medical School has put a dollar figure on your frustration (The Boston Globe)

Bottom line: Doctors are more stretched for time than ever before. As a patient, you need to be proactive about getting their attention and focus. Bring a list of questions to your doctor visits. Read up on your illness and be as informed as possible about the latest research and treatment guidelines. And, if it helps, have a trusted friend accompany you on appointments to take notes and ask questions you may not be thinking of. 

6 Helpful Strategies From People Living With Arthritis



I still ski, work full-time, road bike, own a house, travel, run Pain Talks, hike, and advocate because I choose to define my life as a patient — my disease just gets to enjoy the ride!”

—Alan Brewington, a chronic arthritis sufferer, shares his tips at Everyday Health

Bottom line: Managing a chronic condition can sometimes feel overwhelming. Staying abreast of the latest research on your problem, having a support group to turn to, and developing a strong bond with a specialist on your illness can make a world of difference. For more tips, see The Patient's Playbook, p. 180, "Chronic Conditions: Three Things to Watch."

How Many Lives Are Lost due to The Weekend Effect?



"My father’s death certificate listed various 'causes' of death but in my mind there is one that was left off: insufficient staffing and lack of caregiver communication related to a holiday weekend." 

—Deb Discenza blogs about her personal experience with "the weekend effect" (KevinMD)

Bottom line: A recent study shows an increased risk of death for patients who are admitted to the hospital over the weekend, when there is less staff on duty—something commonly referred to as the "weekend effect." Hospitals are dangerous enough places. For tips on protecting yourself, see Leslie's KTLA segment, read his story in Oprah about how to avoid mistakes during an emergency, and read "Chapter 12: Step 4—Coordination," in The Patient's Playbook.

What We Can Learn From San Franciso's Progress In AIDS Treatment



“I love the San Francisco model. If it keeps doing what it is doing, I have a strong feeling that they will be successful at ending the epidemic as we know it. Not every last case — we’ll never get there — but the overall epidemic. And then there’s no excuse for everyone not doing it.”

— Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,
speaking in The New York Times

Bottom line: The World Health Organization issued new guidelines for the treatment and prevention of H.I.V., saying that everyone should start antiretroviral drugs immediately after a diagnosis (rather than waiting for signs of illness), and those at risk of infection should be provided preventive drugs. It's a model that's already had great success in San Francisco, where, according to The Times, 82% of residents with H.I.V. were being cared for by a doctor, as compared to only 39% of all infected Americans. 

If you have been diagnosed with a serious illness, don't leave your care to chance. Read up on the latest treatment options, and consult with the best experts for your problem. Philanthropic organizations are a great source of expertise and support. And Expertscape is a helpful website for finding the most devoted practitioners.