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Study: Medicines, frequent counseling helps cancer patients quit smoking

Oct. 13 (UPI) — A program that included telephone counseling sessions and one of two smoking cessation drugs was 50% more effective than telephone consultations alone at helping cancer patients quit smoking, a study published Tuesday by JAMA found.

Among cancer patients who underwent treatment with four bi-weekly and three monthly counseling sessions by telephone and either bupropion, marketed as Wellbutrin, or varenicline, marketed as Chantix, for up to six months, 35% were able to successfully quit smoking, the data showed.

But only 22% of the cancer patients who underwent treatment with the telephone counseling sessions had successfully quit after six months, according to the researchers.

“Counseling plus medication is the state-of-the art tobacco treatment for cancer patients,” study co-author Elyse R. Park told UPI.

“Smoking cessation assistance should be an integral part of cancer care and sustained tobacco support can be effective for cancer patients who smoke,” said Park, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

More than 34 million adults in the United States smoke, and some 16 million are living with smoking-related diseases, including cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Up to 20% of cancer survivors continue to smoke, despite the fact that quitting improves prognosis with the disease, research suggests.

For their study, Park and her colleagues evaluated smoking cessation treatment programs in 303 adults recently diagnosed with breast, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, gynecological, head and neck, lung, lymphoma or melanoma cancers.

Roughly half — 153 — underwent “intensive” treatment for smoking, with telephone counseling and their choice of bupropion or varenicline, with the rest receiving “standard” care, with telephone counseling only, for up to six months, the researchers said.

Both bupropion and varenicline have been approved for smoking cessation treatment by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The most common adverse events in the two treatment groups were nausea, rash, hiccups, mouth irritation, difficulty sleeping and vivid dreams, and all were more common in the patients who received “intensive” care, the researchers said.

“Nausea is a side effect of varenicline, so [its use] should be monitored for patients who are experiencing nausea from their cancer treatment,” Park said.

In addition, patients on tamoxifen for breast cancer should not take bupropion, or receive a reduced dose, because of interactions between the two drugs, she said.

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Social media helps mom spot rare cancer in her baby’s eye

A mom who followed her instincts is the reason her daughter is now being treated for cancer in her eye.

It was July 30, Jasmine Martin told “Good Morning America,” when she saw it. Prior to that day, she said, there had been “a small glow” in her daughter Sariyah’s eye. “But that day, it was like a moon.”

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She posted the photo to Facebook looking for advice. Several people commented it could be cancerous.

Martin took her daughter to the pediatrician, who told the Knoxville, Tennessee, mom it was nothing to worry about. But Martin’s instincts told her otherwise.

“It was going to take weeks to get an ophthalmologist appointment,” Martin told “GMA.” So, she said she emailed the photo to a friend who worked at a hospital, who in turn showed it to a doctor.

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“She was taken to St. Jude’s that night,” Martin told “GMA.”

Since then, little Sariyah has been diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma. Retinoblastoma is, according to the St. Jude’s web site, a rare form of cancer affecting about 250-300 children each year. It “typically develops in children before 5 years of age. This cancer develops in the retina — the part of the eye that helps a person see color and light. Retinoblastoma may affect one or both eyes. In about two-thirds of all cases only one eye is affected,” the website reads.

There’s been strides forward and steps back for the 17-month-old and her family. Though the toddler was released from the hospital and sent home in late September, there’s cause for concern: a tiny spot in her left eye that had been laser treated has returned. At the same time, the tumor in her right eye, the one with the large glow, is shrinking.

Martin wrote in her most recent Instagram update, “We are so early in this but … days are mentally draining, because you just never know what they are going to find. It’s hard and it’s scary. If I allow myself to really think about it, if something happens to the good eye, then there’s still so many risks with the right eye. It’s a never ending battle of what ifs right now.”

Sariyah is “so happy,” her mom said, “You wouldn’t even know she is going through this,” she said, referring to hospital stays and chemotherapy. “Even when it makes her sick and she has a fever she’s still playing with her siblings,” Martin told “GMA.”

Friends and neighbors have stepped up to help the family through this difficult time, something Martin said has touched her. From meal trains to a car, “there are so many good people in the world,” she told “GMA.”

She’s hopeful sharing her Sariyah’s story, which she does both on Instagram and Facebook. will encourage mothers to follow their instincts when it comes to their

With athletes trained in resilience, Special Olympics helps members maintain mental and physical fitness through virtual events

Michael Heup, a Special Olympics athlete who has become a leading advocate for people with disabilities, took a deep breath as the torch approached. Heup, who started his Special Olympics career in 2001, has previously competed in soccer, basketball, tennis, snowshoe and other events.

“It’s disappointing that we can’t have large-scale events and gatherings, but we are excited to be back doing what we love,” he said. “Sports!”

His teammate behind him threw his fist in the air.

The small gathering stood in stark contrast to the boisterous crowd of thousands of athletes and law enforcement officials who have rallied around the torch lighting each year.

For 50 years, Special Olympics Maryland has fostered community for thousands of people with disabilities. Weekly trainings and annual tournaments have provided opportunities for connection and purpose, inspiring confidence among people historically subjected to social ostracism.

But when the pandemic took hold in March, Special Olympics Maryland, among other chapters nationwide, was forced to cancel practices, basketball tournaments, kayaking championships and its Summer Games.

A spring and summer void of sporting events could have been catastrophic for the nonprofit and those who rely on it. But instead, it blossomed into a vibrant virtual community buoyed by the signature fortitude of its athletes.

Over the last six months, state chapters of the Special Olympics have launched a series of virtual events that have helped maintain active routines for hundreds of thousands of people with intellectual and physical disabilities. In Maryland, Special Olympics leadership spearheaded weekly online fitness classes. And they launched walk, run and biking challenges, customizing a mobile app to track activity. They have also established online social clubs, including one that throws a virtual dance party every Saturday night.

“What we offer at Special Olympics, it is an essential part of our athletes’ social interaction,” said Jim Schmutz, president and CEO of Special Olympics Maryland. “But what you and I have experienced in the pandemic as it relates to isolation is more close to what our athletes experience historically on a daily basis. So in some cases, our athletes have adapted better than anyone.”

Monique Matthews, a 30-year-old athlete from Baltimore, has been a regular track-and-field competitor with the Special Olympics for eight years. Before the pandemic, she spent many of her days looking forward to Tuesdays and Saturdays, when she would meet with her friends to hone her running skills.

While she noticed people around her mourn the loss of their routines, Matthews simply found new ones online when the public health crisis mandated isolation.

“I just don’t look at it as a pandemic. I look at it as an opportunity to get to know myself better,” she said.

Once shy and afraid to speak her mind, Matthews has taken advantage of the comfortable virtual environment to become a leader among athletes statewide. Over the last six months, she has started leading Zoom sessions about police brutality and teaching online exercise classes that leave fellow athletes sweaty and tired.

“Right now, I