Dr. Len's Cancer Blog

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Dr. Len's Cancer Blog

The American Cancer Society

A Walk Down A Country Road, A Church In The Woods, A Lesson About Life

by Dr. Len July 28, 2011

It was a day not unlike other days my wife and I have spent at our home in North Georgia. It was a bit warm, sunny and otherwise reasonably comfortable. The day itself was a bit special, because we were there to take a quiet weekend interlude to celebrate our birthdays. We were glad to have some much needed time together to get away from all the tumult of our everyday lives and basically just relax, to do some of the things that we wanted to do.


We decided to take one of our favorite walks, down a gravel county road, much of it by a river that is near our home. In order to extend the walk to make it five miles when we have the time--like we did today--we took an extra "loop" which goes to a small wooden church tucked deep in the woods.


The sign outside the church says it was founded in the latter part of the 19th century, but some of the gravestones are dated even before then. They still have services there every Sunday.


When we got to the church, we were drawn to a freshly dug grave in the cemetery.  On the top of the dirt was a beautiful bouquet of several dozen yellow roses. Like the turned dirt, these flowers were fresh and just opening, an indication that whoever rested there was only recently buried.


My wife and I started to wonder out loud: Who was this person? What happened to them? Apparently a woman, who loved her so much to have placed those beautiful flowers on her final resting place?


Many questions, and no answers. No name plate, no date of birth or death. Just the flowers on the grave. More...

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Social Security's Compassionate Allowances Program Means So Much To People In Their Time Of Need

by Dr. Len July 22, 2011

Sometimes-if you hang around long enough-you get the opportunity to see some good things happen.  The Compassionate Allowances Program from the Social Security Administration is one of those "good things," and last week I had the opportunity to participate in an event in Washington, DC marking the completion of adding the first 100 diseases to this program.


The basics of the program are fairly straight forward: patients who are diagnosed with one of 100 medical conditions-of which 31 are related to cancer-have their Social Security disability applications accelerated through the review process, meaning the delay in getting them their disability payments is considerably minimized.


That may not sound like much to you, but to people suddenly diagnosed with a life-threatening, life-ending or life-changing illness, it means they don't have to wait around for months and months and months while their disability application goes through the routine bureaucratic channels until they get their first disability checks, sometimes after they have passed on from this earth.


When you think about the bureaucracy of government, you begin to appreciate what a major accomplishment this represents. It was no easy task, so "hats off" to Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue and his capable staff for making this happen. More...

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Access to care

You Can't Budget Your Calories If You Don't Know The (Accurate) Costs

by Dr. Len July 20, 2011

I remember the moments very well when I came face to face with the reality that what we are served in restaurants packs a lot more punch and paunch than many of us realize. And a couple of research papers today reminded me why this is so important.


There I was a couple of years ago, standing at a well-known fast food restaurant in LaGuardia airport after a long day of meetings, trying to find something reasonable to eat before getting on the flight home. And displayed on the sign in front of me were the calorie counts of the various choices that were available. Although several were appetizing, none (if I recall correctly, even the salad) was reasonable in terms of the calorie count. I was glad to see the calories, but dismayed at the information.


But my "light bulb moment" came when I was having dinner with some of my family at a well-known chain restaurant (which is well known for its eponymous dessert) outside of Washington DC reading the menu and finding few choices under 1000 calories-and desserts that in some instances topped a couple of thousand calories.  I was desperate and distraught, but had to cave and get something-no matter what the calorie cost was going to be.


Many of us are about to have similar experiences, as restaurant chains nationwide are going to start posting the calorie count of their menu items.  It happens to be a proven way to make people aware of what they are eating, and hopefully will begin to address our nationwide obesity epidemic (more about that later). I suspect it is going to be a rude awakening for many of us when we come face to face with the calorie cost of that burger and fries.


An article in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association drives home the point that those stated calorie counts are not always accurate. So, what you think you are getting for breakfast, lunch or dinner may in fact have more (and in some cases, fewer) calories than what is posted on the menu. This is bound to make our journey to health all the more difficult. More...

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About Dr. Len

Dr. Len

J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, MACP - Dr. Lichtenfeld is Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the national office of the American Cancer Society.