living with mesothelioma

Chemotherapy Hats and Turbans

One of the most noticeable side effects of chemotherapy treatment is hair loss. Chemo drugs are designed to attack and kill quick-replicating cancer cells. Unfortunately, healthy cells that also replicate quickly, such as those dedicated to hair growth, often become innocent victims of your fight with cancer.

Hair loss can make cancer patients feel self-conscious in public. Due to this fact, many patients choose to hide their bare heads beneath hats, turbans or wigs. Unfortunately, the majority of headwear made for the general public is either too large to fit on a head with no hair, or not adequately sized to cover the entire hairline.

In response to this, numerous companies have sprung up to offer hats and turbans specifically designed for chemotherapy patients. Previous cancer patients who were unhappy with the hat options available to them during treatment started many of these companies. These chemo hats come in a number of styles and sizes, and are fabricated for all-day comfort.

When people think of turbans, they may think of the classic style worn by Middle Eastern Sikhs, or perhaps those worn by wish-granting genies. While chemo turbans of this variety are available, there is also a variety of more modern-styled chemo turbans. Regardless of your personal style and preferences, you’re likely to find a chemo hat that fits your needs.

One issue that many cancer patients have with hats is that they sit low on the head due to the lack of hair. Innovations such as the Scarf Pad, available at, can be worn under hats to provide additional lift at the base of the hat.

A number of online stores offer a good selection of chemo hats, including and Other sites provide instructions so that you can make your own chemo turbans (

While chemotherapy is certainly not an easy process, there are smart and comfortable products available that can help diminish embarrassment. Regardless of whether or not you think it’s necessary to cover your hair loss, it’s good to know that there are options out there for those who want them.

cancer treatment

Heat Therapy Found Effective in Treatment of Cancer Tumors

Heating soft-tissue tumors during the administration of chemotherapy reduces the likelihood that the cancer will come back, according to German researchers.

The study, conducted at the Kinikum Grosshadern Medical Center at the University of Munich, indicates that heat therapy can provide substantial benefits to cancer patients with soft-tissue sarcomas (tumors that originate in muscles, fat, nerves, tendons, blooded vessels, etc.). When compared to chemotherapy treatment alone, patients in the study who were treated with heat therapy were more than twice as likely to respond favorably to chemotherapy treatment.

Soft-tissue sarcomas account for approximately three percent of all cancer cases. They are historically treated through surgery, but radiation and chemotherapy are often employed to eliminate cancer cells missed during tumor removal. Unfortunately, chemotherapy has proven difficult in such cases, with relapses often occurring.

Improving chemotherapy through localized heat is seen as a major breakthrough in the treatment of such cancers.

For the study, patients underwent targeted heat therapy. Through a process called regional hyperthermia, electromagnetic energy was used to warm the tumor and surrounding tissue to a range of 104 to 109.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is believed that heat therapy improves cancer treatment in four unique ways:

  • Heat increases blood flow, improving administration of chemotherapy drugs
  • Increased blood flow increases oxygen flow, which improves the cancer’s sensitivity to radiation
  • Heat short circuits the repair mechanisms of cancer cells, diminishing re-growth
  • The heat itself directly kills cancer cells

Cumulatively, these mechanisms proved remarkably effective among the patients who received heat therapy in the German study. In comparison to the control group, heat-treated patients were 42 percent less likely to die or experience a re-growth in cancer at the original tumor site over a three-year period. Additionally, those who experience a recurrence did so much later – 32 months on average in comparison to 18 months for the control group.

Side effects of the heat treatment were generally mild, with 45 percent of patients reporting mild to moderate discomfort. Blisters manifested in 17.8 percent of patients and one patient reported serious burns.

The findings of the study are expected to spur additional research endeavors into the benefits of heat therapy. Previously, studies have shown promising results for heat therapy of breast cancer and some cases of cervical cancer. Other localized cancers, such as pancreatic cancer and rectal cancer, may also respond well to heat therapy.


Medical news

Using Microchips to Process a Cancer Diagnosis

Personalized cancer care has been growing by leaps and bounds in the past few years. Frequently, new technologies and treatments are being developed to help oncologists sub-classify patients beyond general types of cancer and provide improved treatment on a case-by-case basis.

One of the newest technologies currently in development is a class of products known as microfluidics microchips. Such computer chips allow scientists to capture rare types of tumor cells and isolate minute gene expressions that could potentially help dictate viable treatment options.

Presently, such microchips are in clinical trials as a treatment aid for prostate cancer. The study, being conducted at the Genitourinary Oncology Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, will consist of prostate cancer patients that have responded poorly to other forms of treatment.

Through microchip analysis, a comprehensive genetic profile will be provided for each participant. As Martin Fleisher, chairman of Department of Clinical Studies at Sloan-Kettering, suggests: the goal of this gene analysis is to determine which “genes are over-expressed and whether or not [the participants] would be candidates for certain types of targeted therapies that would beat down their cancer.”

Gene profiling is currently used to dictate treatment regiments for several cancers. For example, Herceptin is typically only used on breast cancer patients that have a specific protein present in their tumors.

However, prior to microfluidics, doctors were required to obtain a biopsy to obtain a proper gene profile. Such a luxury is not always available. As a workaround, scientists have longed for a reliable way to identify and isolate the low concentrations of tumor cells present in the bloodstream. Sloan-Kettering’s microchip seems to be the solution.

The microfluid chip Sloan-Kettering is employing for the study is manufactured by Fluidigm. The technology is remarkably advanced, with the ability to filter DNA from each cell into one of 96 microscopic channels. Reagents entering from the opposite side combine with the cells to create 9,000 simultaneous reactions. These reactions indicate differences in gene expression, and serve to effectively profile cancer cells.

For the prostate cancer study, researchers will analyze approximately 30 key genes in each patient. Expression of these genes, many related to testosterone production and cell signaling, have previously responded well to dasatinib in animal models. Dasatinib is a chemotherapy drug that is currently used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia.

Once the most promising candidates for the drug have been identified through microfluidics, clinical trials will be initiated to test the predictive effectiveness of this burgeoning technology.


Asbestos hazards occupational safety

Asbestos Exposure From Brake Dust Still A Concern

Asbestos is a fiber that is prized for its strength and heat resistance. These two unique qualities make asbestos an excellent component in vehicle brake pads. However, the hazards of asbestos exposure have long been known – inhaling such fibers can cause scarring of the lung tissue and, in some cases, rare lung cancers such as malignant mesothelioma.

Due to these health risks, the use of asbestos in brake pads had been largely phased out in vehicle production by the 1990s. Unfortunately, this does not mean that asbestos has stopped being a hazard to auto mechanics and others.

For one, late-model vehicles often still harbor brake dust that contains asbestos fibers. When this brake dust is released into the air – either by cleaning or repairing the brakes – asbestos inhalation can still occur. Original equipment brakes on vehicles as recent as 1993 were still being sold in the United States with asbestos brakes. Additionally, high-end imports, such as those sold by Land Rover, continue to incorporate asbestos linings into new vehicle models.

For two, many after-market brakes for sale in America still contain asbestos. These non-OEM parts continue to pose risks for auto industry workers and do-it-yourself gearheads.

So why, after decades of research that documents the hazards of asbestos brake dust, are automotive products still being manufactured with the fiber? Beginning in the early 1980s, European countries began banning the sale and production of all asbestos products. Today, 60 countries worldwide have enforced regulations that make the sale of asbestos products illegal.

The United States is not one of these countries.

In 1986, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced a proposal to ban the production of asbestos products in the United States. Under the proposal, a total ban on all domestic and imported asbestos products would be initiated by 1996.

Unfortunately, EPA’s proposed ban was overturned in the courts. This was largely due to heavy lobbying on behalf of brake rebuilders and other asbestos-related businesses.

As such, brake manufacturers are free to fabricate brakes that contain asbestos if they so choose. Furthermore, no law requires such hazardous products to be labeled in any way that might warn mechanics and other individuals about the potential for asbestos exposure. Sadly, this fact exacerbates the possibility for unnecessary inhalation of harmful mesothelioma-causing agents.

To minimize potential for asbestos brake dust exposure, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration recommends either wet cleaning procedures or the use of an enclosed high-efficiency vacuum when working with automotive brakes. Dry procedures such as air hoses are strongly discouraged, as these processes cause brake dust to become airborne.


Asbestos hazards

Surgeon General Finally Issues Written Warning of Asbestos

The dangers of exposure to airborne asbestos fibers have been known for decades. In fact, the fiber – which is often used for the production of insulation and flame-retardant products – has been linked to pulmonary problems since as early as the 19th century.

Despite this fact, a United States surgeon general had never issued a public warning to the public detailing the dangers of asbestos exposure. Finally in April 2009 Surgeon General Steven Galson issued a brief statement about the dangers of asbestos fibers.

Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are diagnosed in tens of thousands of individuals each year. Any effort that serves to increase awareness is seen as a potential way to reduce these numbers on the future.

But the question remains, why did an asbestos warning from a surgeon general take so long? Well, during the Bush administration, a form letter response basically stated that the surgeon general has more important issues to worry about than asbestos and mesothelioma.

That’s hardly a valid defense, however. Given that the eventual asbestos warning issued came in at well under 400 words, it’s hard to imagine that the statement took more than an hour to draw up.

More likely, the Bush administration was taking a passive stance against promoting asbestos awareness. This fact is backed up by the strong push by the Bush White House to restructure asbestos tort reform in such a way that it would be harder for asbestos sufferers to file asbestos lawsuits against their employers.

Regardless of past failures, the recent surgeon general’s warning is certainly a step in the right direction. Anything that informs U.S. workers and citizens to the dangers of asbestos exposure has the potential to improve early diagnosis of the illness.


occupational safety

Teaching the Financial Benefits of Worker Safety and Health

Ensuring employee safety and health is not only the human thing to do; it is also just plain good for business. At least, this is what numerous partners of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have been reporting. Repeatedly, companies with strong occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) programs are experiencing cost savings and other business advantages simply by improving work conditions for their employees.

Now, NIOSH is attempting to teach the upcoming generation of business executives the benefits of such programs. In conjunction with the National Safety Council (NSC) and the Williams College of Business at Xavier University, NIOSH is promoting fair treatment of employees through an MBA course called “Business Value of Safety and Health.”

The course, offered at the Xavier campus in Cincinnati, Ohio, serves to inform business students of the many benefits – financial and otherwise – that come from instituting OEHS programs in the workplace.

The course has been offered since the Spring semester of 2009. Through real-world examples and case studies, the course teaches students how to evaluate OEHS initiatives and identify the most cost-efficient opportunities. Beyond financial benefits, the Xavier course program is also intended to promote research among safety and health professionals and reduce the overall number of workplace injuries and deaths.

So far, the inaugural course has been deemed a success. So much so, in fact, that Xavier now plans to expand course offerings related to OEHS practices. A new Center for Excellence in the Business of Health and Safety has been formed to create curriculum that tailors work safety practices and benefits to specific fields such as risk management, finance, economics and marketing.

Xavier and NIOSH are also co-sponsoring an “Economics of Sustainability – Health, Safety and the Environment Conference” in the fall of 2010. Dates for the conference are set for October 27 through October 29.

NIOSH intends to partner with other colleges to form and promote similar courses.