Finding better ways to compare pediatric heart care quality

comparing pediatric heart care qualityThe fields of pediatric cardiology and cardiac surgery have come a long way. Today, conditions that were universally fatal as recent as 30 years ago can now be successfully treated, allowing children with congenital heart disease to thrive into adulthood.

However, we also know that there is much more work to be done to ensure that all children with heart disease have access to the highest quality care. One thing that is important is to be able to identify and learn from those hospitals with the best outcomes who are providing the highest pediatric heart care quality to children with heart disease.

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Maire Kent’s journey ends, inspires work on cardiac sarcomas

This summer a triumphant Maire Kent finished a Stomp Out Sarcoma race at a Dexter park with her University of Michigan cardio-oncologist Dr. Monika Leja pushing her across the finish line.

Dr. Leja and Maire

Dr. Monica Leja with Maire Kent in July at Hudson Mills park.

Their friendship started when Maire’s cancer fight began in November 2012 as doctors linked the young woman’s flu-like symptoms to cardiac sarcoma. She had a decision to make – let the raging tumor in her heart take her life in the next few short weeks, or wage an all-out fight.

Anyone who knew Maire, a United States Army Private First Class, would know that she was going to fight, and fight she did for the next 11 months. Her journey recently came to an end with friends and family saying their final farewells today. Maire was 24.

Maire’s cancer journey has been documented by an Emmy-winning producer for the documentary, “Embrace of Dying,” which will be released next year. The special film will celebrate her life and bring attention to the newly created Maire Kent Memorial Fund for Cardiac Tumor Research at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

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Collaboration and Innovation will defeat Cancer

logos for the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, the National Cancer Institute and the National Comprehensive Cancer NetworkIf you’ve visited the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s website, or happened to read a news article about the Center; you may have noticed we have an association with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network; (NCCN).  What you may not know is the importance of these associations – particularly as it relates to cancer treatment and research.

The NCI, part of the National Institutes of Health, supports and coordinates cancer research projects conducted by universities, hospitals, research foundations and businesses in the United States as well as world-wide.  In turn, the NCI collects and shares information about cancer treatment and research.  As an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center – one of only 41 in the country — the U-M Cancer Center has the opportunity to represent the needs of our community in the national dialogue. We also have access to national and world-wide research collaborations – as well as the opportunity for our own research to receive funding.   Our NCI funding has allowed our doctors and researchers to explore promising new ways to make cancer care less toxic, more compassionate and more effective.

The NCCN is a not-for-profit alliance of 21 of the world’s leading cancer centers dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of cancer care.   One of the NCCN’s most significant projects is the clinical practice guidelines.  The guidelines offer treatment, prevention, detection and supportive care standards that can be used by patients, doctors and other health care decision-makers.  Our doctors are at the table helping to determine the best practices in cancer care. By standardizing these methods for treating and preventing cancer, the NCCN ensures quality care for cancer patients nationwide.

Becoming a U-M Cancer Center patient means your treatment will follow the latest and best guidelines that have proven effective over rigorous study. But more than that – your U-M health care team belongs to a collection of the best cancer providers in the country, providing the best care to you and your family.

Bounty of the Mediterranean

Researchers have long noted that populations living along the Mediterranean Sea have lower risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke. The lower risk may be linked to the regional diet — one high in vegetables, whole grains, fruits, fish and olive oil. To better understand the potential benefits of a Mediterranean diet, Zora Djuric, Ph.D., a research professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, has developed a study to examine the role of diet in preventing colon cancer. We talked with her to learn more about her research. Read the full Q&A in the latest issue of Thrive, the Cancer Center’s patient publication.