There are reams of data regarding the importance of good nutrition and active habits in reducing the risk of developing cancer. Reducing, not eliminating. As a surgical oncologist I advocate the importance of a healthy lifestyle to my patients to … Continue reading
Recently, as I do numerous times every week, I knocked on a clinic exam room door, opened it, and walked in. The tall cowboy put his hands on his knees and slowly unfolded himself from the chair. He gave me … Continue reading
Humans engage in numerous types of repetitive, rote, and semi-conscious activities every day. Some may teeter close to the edge of the subliminal if the activity has been repeated so often it does not register in your conscious thoughts. I … Continue reading
I have played sports throughout my life. Baseball, football, basketball, tennis, soccer, badminton, table tennis, running, cycling and even a short, and impressively painful, stint as a rugby winger. I would much rather play sports than watch sports. My wife … Continue reading
The future of cancer care will mean more cost-effective treatments, technology that improves outcomes (not just a shiny new hammer looking for a nail), a greater focus on improved prevention and screening, and a new mindset: A Surgical Oncologist’s take on … Continue reading
I slowly opened the door to a patient room on the surgical floor and quietly walked up to my patient’s bedside one day a few weeks ago. It was late afternoon on the day I had operated on this lady. … Continue reading
Sensory abilities and acuity vary drastically from person to person. Some people have partial or complete loss of one or more of their five primary senses. They must adapt to the world around them using their remaining neurosensory capabilities. The … Continue reading
I took the long walk today. The long walk from the operating room to the frozen section pathology suite to the physician’s locker room (to grab my white coat) to a consultation room in the surgical waiting area. The family … Continue reading
Remember those old black and white movies when most of the actors and actresses smoked their way through countless roles? Back then, smoking was a way of life for the famous and the not-so-famous alike. So, it’s no surprise that John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Lana Turner and numerous other Hollywood stars shared two things in common with millions of their fans: they were heavy smokers and they died from cancer.
It’s been a half century since the Surgeon General’s Report linked tobacco with cancer and other deadly diseases. Today, smoking cigarettes or cigars is no longer part of the lifestyle for a majority of Americans. Yet, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), one-third of all cancer deaths in the United States can be blamed on tobacco. An estimated 160,000 Americans died from lung cancer in 2014 and most of them were smokers. Those who believe they can chew tobacco and escape the risk of cancer are fooling themselves. The chewing habit leads to numerous cancers, including those of the mouth, throat, voice box and esophagus.
Smoking is the most obvious lifestyle choice linked to cancer, but hardly the only one. Even if you don’t use tobacco, you could be leading a lifestyle that increases your risk of cancer. Obesity, a poor diet and inactivity also play significant roles in the incidence of various types of cancer.
The ACS says obesity may be linked to cancers of the pancreas, kidney, colon stomach and uterus. Women who gain excess weight after menopause increase their risk of breast cancer. Obese men may be more likely to be diagnosed with a deadly type of prostate cancer than men of normal weight. Studies cited by the ACS also indicate that obese men and women are at greater risk for pancreatic cancer.
Many studies also show a healthy lifestyle that includes proper nutrition and regular exercise lower your risk of cancer. A steady diet of vegetables, fruit, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy products has been linked to a lower risk of breast, colon and other cancers. Limiting the consumption of processed meats and alcohol may also reduce the risk of various types of the disease.
Of course, even the healthiest among us can’t totally eliminate the risk of cancer. No one can control family histories and other medical factors that increase the risk. However, for most of us, a tobacco-free healthy lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and regular exercise can help reduce the chances that cancer will strike.
We’ve all witnessed it at major intersections: a homeless man or woman with a cardboard sign trying to coax a few dollars from motorists stopped at red lights. When the light turns green and we hit the accelerator, we leave behind an individual who not only has no place to live, but may have no health care of any kind.
It’s well known that mental health and addiction issues are rampant among the homeless and drive many of them to the streets in the first place. But many are physically unhealthy as well. The diseases they often suffer from include:
*Substance abuse and addiction
*Wound & skin infections
*High blood pressure and heart disease
According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC), the homeless are also at higher risk of communicable diseases from living on the streets or spending time in crowded shelters. Even if seen by a shelter medical professional, there’s not much opportunity for treatment follow-up for high blood pressure, diabetes, and other ailments. The NHCHC says the homeless are three to four times more likely to die prematurely than people who live in traditional housing.
Homeless children face a dire health care situation as well. A recent study by North Carolina State University found that 25 percent of homeless boys and girls have mental health issues. That adds up to an estimated 625,000 homeless children who need, but often don’t receive, mental health treatment.
In addition to inadequate health care, the study notes that homeless children are more likely to be exposed to domestic and neighborhood violence, which leads to developmental delays and social and emotional problems.
So, how do we do a better job of providing health care services to homeless adults and children? I suggest you start small. What does that mean? Consider these statistics from 2014:
In January 2014, there were 578,424 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States.
- Of that number, 216,197 are people in families, and
362,163 are individuals.
- About 15 percent of the homeless population – 84,291 – are considered “chronically homeless” individuals, and
- About 9 percent of homeless people- 49,933 – are veterans (many of whom have given much for us, how can we now help them?).
The numbers have only increased since January 2014, with now more than 650,000 people homeless in America on any given night. That’s a lot of people, and a seemingly big, daunting problem. Starting small doesn’t mean giving some change or a few bucks to somebody on a street corner, it means getting involved at shelters and addiction treatment programs in your town or city. For medical professionals, it means volunteering time and using your contacts to evaluate and treat people with acute or chronic conditions. For everyone, it means finding out what programs or services are available in your community, and then volunteering with your time, your talents, or your resources to promote and aid those programs.
Here in Houston we have many great organizations to assist people struggling with homelessness, mental illness, and addiction. I volunteer at several of them, but The Women’s Home is my favorite group because they are fully committed to changing the lives of the women they take in and treat. This means treating addicted and mentally ill women in a safe, supportive inpatient facility for months or years instead of a few weeks. It means providing the clients (as they call them!) with treatment, counseling, and real life job skills. The Cottage Shop at The Women’s Home is a resale boutique that helps fund the programs and which gives the women a chance to develop productive skills. Most impressively, The Women’s Home includes an affordable housing facility, the Jane Cizik Garden Place, that provides permanent housing to women, including their children, that allows them to maintain sobriety, receive ongoing treatment and counseling, and to develop long-term, successful employment. I was amazed when I learned we had this program in Houston. Does your community have similar programs? Whether they do or not, the programs that are available need your help and support (financial and otherwise). Start by helping one organization or one person; whatever you do will be a small step in providing help to someone in need. Seeing the lives that are changed one person at a time will change your life!