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Awareness About Sexual Intimacy for Cancer Survivors Increasing

In 2022, 18 million people with a history of cancer were living in the United States—a number that’s expected to increase. Some cancer centers are responding to an often unmet need in this population by providing sexual health resources for patients with cancer—including programs at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. These centers are still relatively rare, but discussions around these sensitive topics are becoming more common, according to an April 24 Washington Post article. “There are really more resources now than there ever have been and there are a lot of organizations that now have really good information and education on their websites,” said Sharon Bober, founding director of the sexual health program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and an associate psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, both in Boston. One breast surgical oncologist learned how pervasive the problem is after her office distributed questionnaires to patients. Now she’s more likely to broach the topic. “This wasn’t a common thing I talked to all of my patients about, and ever since I’ve started bringing it up, I feel like almost every single patient I talk to is having some problem that we can probably help with,” said Sarah E.A. Tevis, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Colorado in Aurora, told the Post.

Biomarker Tests Can Change Treatment, but Insurance May Not Cover Them

Biomarker testing can change the treatment course for cancer patients. However, a recent survey by the nonprofit patient advocacy group CancerCare suggests insurers do not always cover the tests or may require prior authorization for them, an April 20 HR Dive article reported. The January CancerCare survey of 295 people diagnosed with cancer between 2019 and 2022 found that biomarker testing was used to tailor therapy in 93% of patients surveyed. As a result of biomarker testing, 20% of respondents avoided unnecessary chemotherapy, 20% avoided radiation and 10% became eligible for a clinical trial. However, insurance did not cover biomarker testing for almost 29% of those who received it. Some survey respondents reported that biomarker test coverage was originally denied, and they had to fight to get it covered. Others had to pay out-of-pocket or find financial assistance to cover the cost of the testing, HR Dive reported.

Studies Suggest More Reason To Exercise

For people who have surgery for breast cancer, exercise both before—known as prehabilitation—and after surgery can provide numerous benefits, according to two studies being presented April 28 at the American Society of Breast Surgeons (ASBS) Annual Meeting in Boston. The first study looked at 240 patients with early-stage breast cancer who were given either a personalized 12-week exercise program or standard care after breast surgery. The exercise program included 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise such as walking or recumbent cycling each week, alongside two or three 60-minute full-body workouts with free weights or exercise stretch bands. The group that received the program had significant improvements in quality of life and were less likely to have to visit health care facilities, which reduced health care costs. In fact, emergency room visits were reduced by 33.2%, hospital outpatient visits cut by 21.5%, and private office visits decreased by 41.8% compared with those who didn’t receive the personalized program. Another study in 72 patients showed the feasibility of an individualized prehabilitation program for breast cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy prior to their surgery. While the study’s main goal was to assess feasibility, an ASBS statement noted that people who participated in the program, which included exercise as well as dietary and stress management counseling, showed gains in functional walking and self-reported quality of life.  

Radiation Oncology Societies Issue Guideline for Limited Metastases in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

The American Society for Radiation Oncology and European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology jointly released a clinical guideline on the use of local therapy for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and limited metastases. With the rise of targeted radiation, such as stereotactic radiation therapy, the guideline, which was published April 25 in Practical Radiation Oncology, addressed when patients who have oligometastatic disease—defined in the guideline as five tumors or less—are candidates for treatments such as radiation, surgery or other ablative methods. Standard treatment for this disease stage typically involves systemic therapy, with local therapy options only used for symptom relief or palliative treatment. However, the guideline suggests radiation and surgery can prolong progression-free survival. “The research on local therapy for oligometastatic cancer is still at a relatively early stage, but we already see indicators of potential benefits for patients. Adding local therapy to systemic therapy may lead to more durable cancer control, potentially improving progression-free survival, overall survival and quality of life,” said Puneeth Iyengar, co-chair of the guideline task force and an associate professor of radiation oncology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, in a statement.