Dr. Len's Cancer Blog

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Dr. Len's Cancer Blog

The American Cancer Society

A Declaration for the World, A Noble Mission For All

by Dr. Len September 20, 2011

There are few times in life when one gets to watch history being made. Today is one of those times.


I am in New York with a number of colleagues from the American Cancer Society and other committed organizations to observe a UN High Level Meeting which will--at long last--put non-communicable diseases on the international agenda. The impact of the decisions made here over the next two days can indeed change the face of global health forever. More...

We Can Treat The Cancer, But Can We Care For The Survivors?

by Dr. Len September 18, 2011

Are we the victims of our own success?


That may be an unusual-and some would say offensive-way to open a discussion of cancer survivorship. I mean it only with the best of intentions, for when it comes to cancer survivorship over the past 40 years, there is much to be grateful for. But that doesn't mean the journey has been without difficulty, and it doesn't mean that there isn't much more to do.


Last week, in Washington, DC, LIVESTRONG brought together over 120 experts on the issues surrounding cancer survivorship to do something reasonable and fairly straightforward: define the essential elements of survivorship that every cancer patient, their loved ones and caregivers should expect once the acute treatment part of their journey has been completed. What's amazing is that no one has been able to do this before.


Having those experts in one room at one place at one time brought into focus the enormous task we face in trying to define those elements, let alone how we configure our systems of care to provide those services in a world where care is becoming more diffuse and resources for anything other than the most necessary care are dwindling on an almost daily basis.


It wasn't always this way. More...

Extrapolated Science: Headlines Don't Reflect The Results In Recent Report On Screening Mammography

by Dr. Len September 08, 2011

Please, please, please say it's so...


That was my initial reaction today when I saw news stories about a study presented at a breast cancer conference sponsored by a number of leading organizations with a professional interest in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.


The headlines were pretty clear, to the effect that the study showed the value of screening mammography in women between the ages of 40-49. The accompanying stories suggested that this research essentially repudiated the recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force initially published in November 2009.


You may remember that event, since it created a huge amount of media and public interest when the Task Force suggested that screening mammograms to find breast cancer early should not be done routinely in women between the ages of 40 and 49. This was a change from its prior recommendation, and was in conflict with the opinions of the American Cancer Society and other organizations which conitinued to endorse routine breast cancer screening in this age group.


There has been a lot of water under the dam since then, and there have been additional scientific studies reported about the value of screening mammograms, some of which support breast cancer screening and others which do not.


Enter the reports this week that a study from Michigan suggests that screening mammograms and breast self-examination in women between the ages of 40 and 49 results in earlier diagnosis and less disfiguring treatment.


When I read the headlines and the news reports, I quickly came to the conclusion that there was a possible disconnect between what the reporters concluded from the study and what I thought was scientifically valid.  Mind you, I read these things with my own bias/conflict of interest: I have been a supporter of mammograms for women between the ages of 40-49, and believe they save lives in this age group. But my problem here is whether this particular research actually supports that position, as the press reports suggested.


Guess what? I don't think it does. More...

Unsung Heroes: The Commission on Cancer Announces New Cancer Care Quality Standards

by Dr. Len September 07, 2011

Did you ever wonder if anyone is "watching the shop" at your local hospital when you go there to get diagnosed or treated for cancer? For the vast majority (70%) of cancer patients in this country, the fortunate answer is "yes."


That's the role of the American College of Surgeons' Commission on Cancer (CoC), an organization which includes the College and 47 member organizations devoted to establishing standards for quality cancer care in over 1500 hospitals throughout the United States. And accreditation is not limited to just hospitals. Even free-standing cancer programs-those that are not hospital based-can seek accreditation from the Commission.


As you might imagine, establishing and monitoring those standards is no small task. And keeping them updated to reflect the latest information on quality cancer care--along with challenging the hospitals to do more to improve quality than they do routinely--is a vital part of the mission of the Commission.


So it was no small accomplishment when the Commission announced last week that they were issuing their latest update of these standards, titled "Cancer Program Standards 2012: Ensuring Patient Centered Care." And it is no accident that in a day when the slogan "patient centered care" is showing up everywhere that this organization is making certain that cancer programs actually deliver on the promise that "patient centered care" represents. 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.