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Finding breast cancer early through screening major tool for beating disease

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosis in the United States. Dr. Srinath Sundararajan, an oncologist and hematologist with Texas Oncology-Katy, says early detection saves lives and that screening is important, even during the pandemic.

“Delaying cancer screenings will lead to detecting cancer at a later stage, and definitely that leads to more aggressive disease, more lengthy treatment and an increased healthcare cost,” Sundararajan said. “Cancer when identified early, there is a better chance of it being a curable cancer and better chance of having less intensive treatment. Screening cancer and finding it early is the single most effective way of improving cancer survival rates.”

He explained that since the 1980s, advances in breast cancer treatments have improved mortality rates, but screening has played a major role because it allows patients to seek treatment earlier in the disease.


While Sundararajan said mammograms are the main breast cancer detection tool, women talking with their health care providers about how to do a proper self-breast exam can enhance their breast health awareness and act as another tool. He said they should look for unusual changes in their breasts, including lumps, changes in the contour of the nipple, skin color changes, puckering of the skin or a new nipple discharge that occurs without apparent reason. Women should seek immediate medical attention with their health care provider if any of these symptoms occur.

While the age that a woman should get her first mammogram depends on several factors such as family history, Sundararajan explained that a woman with average risk should have a discussion with her doctor when she is between 40 and 50 years old. He said the frequency for mammograms will vary based on the results of that first one. Women should certainly have mammograms from age 50 to age 75, Sundararajan said.

The pandemic has had a large impact on cancer. A study showed that diagnoses of breast, cervical and colon cancer were down about 90 percent at one point. Sundararajan said the numbers have improved but are still down overall by about 30 percent since before COVID-19.

“It doesn’t mean that cancer was not happening or that new cancer was not occurring during those times,” he said. “Those are all missed diagnoses, which would probably impact them later in the future. Once they’re diagnosed, they might be at a later stage.”

Sundararajan explained that 90 to 95 percent of patients whose breast cancer is detected early respond well to treatment and are still living five years later. Those survival rates decrease when the cancer is found later.

Sundararajan emphasized that it is safe to go out for cancer screenings. He said clinics, diagnostic offices and doctors’ offices are taking precautions so that people do not catch or spread the novel coronavirus. Many medical facilities require masks and temperature checks to enter and are

Does Medicare cover bladder cancer care? Screening and more

Medicare covers a wide range of services for the treatment and diagnosis of bladder cancer when received on either an inpatient and outpatient basis.

When a person receives a cancer diagnosis, it can be a challenging time. Aside from medical and emotional care, financial support can be vitally important.

Medicare has a comprehensive range of cancer-related benefits available, with additional support options to help with out-of-pocket expenses.

In this article, we discuss bladder cancer, how Medicare covers treatments and services, and resources that may provide more help.

We may use a few terms in this piece that can be helpful to understand when selecting the best insurance plan:

  • Deductible: This is an annual amount that a person must spend out of pocket within a certain time period before an insurer starts to fund their treatments.
  • Coinsurance: This is a percentage of a treatment cost that a person will need to self-fund. For Medicare Part B, this comes to 20%.
  • Copayment: This is a fixed dollar amount that an insured person pays when receiving certain treatments. For Medicare, this usually applies to prescription drugs.

Medicare covers medically necessary treatment options for bladder cancer, including:

  • surgery
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation
  • targeted therapy
  • intravesical therapy
  • immunotherapy

Sometimes, a doctor may plan treatment more often than Medicare will approve, or they may order services that Medicare does not cover.

In these cases, a person may have to pay some or all of the costs out of pocket.

For someone with an average risk of developing bladder cancer, there are currently no preventive screenings that would increase an individual’s chance of survival.

Some healthcare providers screen people who have a high risk of bladder cancer. These include people who:

  • have had bladder cancer before
  • have an irregularity in the bladder that has been present since birth
  • are exposed to certain chemicals at work

Screening can include examining a person’s urine under a microscope to look for blood and cancer cells.

Some tests also look for tumor markers. These tests look for substances in the urine that indicate there may be cancer cells present.

Medicare Part A covers medically necessary cancer treatments that take place while a person is admitted to the hospital. This includes surgical procedures, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments.

Part A also covers necessary skilled nursing facility care, hospice, and home health care. If a person is enrolled in an eligible clinical study, Part A covers some inpatient costs.

Medicare Part B covers tests and treatments when a person is not required to stay in the hospital. The treatments must be medically necessary and they must be standard medical treatments.

These can include:

  • doctor visits
  • durable medical equipment (DME)
  • many intravenous chemotherapy drugs
  • radiation
  • outpatient surgery
  • nutritional counseling
  • mental health services
  • feeding pumps

Surgical options

Several different types of surgeries may help treat bladder cancer, and which type a doctor chooses depends on the type and spread of cancer.

Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT)

This surgery may be used for diagnostic testing. It can also

Report documents ‘very rare’ brain fluid leak linked to COVID-19 screening

Oct. 1 (UPI) — Researchers on Thursday described a “very rare” health complication linked with COVID-19 testing: brain fluid leak.

They documented what may be the first case — in a woman in her 40s — in a letter published by JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

Those who have had sinus or skull-base surgery and those with known deformities of the skull base may be at risk for cerebrospinal fluid leak and should notify test takers of their history before getting screened for COVID-19, the researchers said.

“The good news is that this is a very rare event,” report co-author Dr. Jarrett E. Walsh, an ear, nose and throat specialist with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, told UPI.

“From a patient standpoint, there may be some discomfort with nasal swabs, but you should not have symptoms of persistent clear nasal drainage or significant bleeding after a swab,” particularly if physicians and healthcare workers follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for sample collection, he said.

During COVID-19 screening, test-takers stick a 6-inch-long swab — what looks like a long Q-Tip — up each nostril, stopping in the cavity between the nose and mouth.

Although people who have had the test complain of some discomfort, rumors that it causes brain damage that were circulating on social media over the summer were unfounded.

Cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, is the clear fluid found in the brain and spinal cord that serves as a cushion and provides protection to the brain inside the skull.

Physical trauma to the brain or spine can cause leaks. If a patient loses large amounts of the fluid, that can lead to severe complications, including brain infection, paralysis and coma, according to the Spinal CSF Leak Foundation.

Symptoms of such a leak include headaches, neck stiffness and light sensitivity.

In the case reported by Walsh and his colleagues, the woman reported these symptoms, as well as a metallic taste in her mouth and severe runny nose, after undergoing COVID-19 screening.

She had a history of intracranial hypertension — elevated CSF pressure in the brain — and had undergone surgery to remove nasal polyps more than 20 years earlier.

MRI and CT scans confirmed that she had CSF leak and identified a pre-existing skull-base defect. The skull base is essentially the “floor” beneath the brain.

She was admitted to the hospital and underwent surgery to repair the leak and skull-base defect and has since recovered.

“I would certainly not want to discourage anyone from [COVID-19] testing, but it should be done correctly, according to the CDC protocols,” Walsh said.

“Those who have had prior skull base surgery, extensive sinus surgery or [are at risk] for spontaneous CSF leaks, like intracranial hypertension, should alert testers or consider alternative testing types if available.”

Does Medicare cover prostate cancer care? Screening, tests and more

Medicare provides its beneficiaries with many different options for helping with the costs of prostate cancer care.

If someone is scheduled for a prostate cancer screening or has recently received a prostate cancer diagnosis, they may be thinking about which treatments, supplies, services, and prescription drugs Medicare may cover.

In this article, we will look at the Medicare coverage available for both the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer. We will also look at general costs, out-of-pocket expenses, and more.

We may use a few terms in this piece that can be helpful to understand when selecting the best insurance plan:

  • Deductible: This is an annual amount that a person must spend out of pocket within a certain time period before an insurer starts to fund their treatments.
  • Coinsurance: This is a percentage of a treatment cost that a person will need to self-fund. For Medicare Part B, this comes to 20%.
  • Copayment: This is a fixed dollar amount that an insured person pays when receiving certain treatments. For Medicare, this usually applies to prescription drugs.

The prostate is a small, spongy gland approximately the size of a ping-pong ball. It is located deep inside a person’s groin, sitting between the penis and the rectum.

The prostate is important for reproduction because it provides the seminal fluid, which mixes with sperm. Seminal fluid assists the sperm with transport and survival.

If something goes wrong with prostate cells, cancer may develop. Prostate cancer starts when a normal prostate cell shows irregular growth. One of the principal treatments is hormone therapy, which involves lowering a person’s hormone levels with drugs.

Different parts of Medicare cover different treatments and services, depending on their setting.

Medicare Part A

Part A, which is inpatient hospital insurance, covers:

  • inpatient hospital admissions, including cancer treatments a person receives during their stay
  • skilled nursing facility care following a 3-day hospital stay
  • home healthcare, such as rehabilitation services for speech-language, physical therapy, or skilled nursing care
  • hospice care
  • blood work
  • eligible clinical trials

It may be important to note that there are times when hospital stays can be considered outpatient. This may affect Medicare benefits, so if a person is unsure, they may ask the medical staff to clarify.

Medicare Part B

Part B covers outpatient care, including:

  • some preventive services for those who are considered at-risk for cancer
  • doctor visits
  • many intravenous chemotherapy drugs when administered in a doctor’s office
  • radiation treatments performed in a clinic
  • diagnostic tests such as x-rays and CT scans
  • durable medical equipment (DME) such as wheelchairs and walkers
  • outpatient surgical procedures
  • mental health services that are received in a clinic, doctor’s office, therapist’s office, or hospital outpatient department
  • certain preventive and screening services
  • some clinical trials

In some cases, Medicare will also cover the cost of a second opinion for non-emergency surgery, and a third opinion if the first and second opinions differ.

Screenings

Medicare covers prostate cancer screenings for the early detection of prostate cancer. Procedures covered include a digital rectal exam