Friday Frontline: Cancer Updates, Research and Education on January 24, 2020


From the FDA issuing a safety alert on cybersecurity vulnerabilities to health care facility technology to former Bachelorette star Ali Fedotowsky revealing she has basal cell carcinoma, here’s what is making headlines in the cancer space this week.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety communication to health care providers, facilities and patients regarding cybersecurity vulnerabilities for certain GE Healthcare Clinical Information Central Stations and Telemetry Servers.

These are devices used in many health care facilities to display patient information, such as their temperature or heartbeat, and allows health care professionals to monitor a patient’s status from a central location. The vulnerabilities identified by the agency would allow an attacker to take control of the device and generate false alarms or interfere with the overall function. The attacks would look like routine communications to the system and can go easily undetected if the user is not sure what to look for, according to the safety communication.

“Medical devices connected to a communications network can offer numerous advantages over non-connected devices, such as access to more convenient or more timely health care,” explained Suzanne Schwartz, M.D., M.B.A., acting director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships and Technology Innovation in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in a press release. “However, when a medical device is connected to a communications network, there is a risk that cybersecurity vulnerabilities could be exploited by an attacker, which could result in patient harm.”

The vulnerabilities were initially identified by a third-party security firm, and the FDA has not reported any patient harm associated with these vulnerabilities.

Taylor Swift has revealed that her mother has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Andrea Swift, 62, was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for her previously diagnosed breast cancer when doctors discovered the brain tumor, Swift told Variety in an interview.

“The symptoms of what a person goes through when they have a brain tumor is nothing like what we've ever been through with her cancer before,” Swift said. “So it's just been a really hard time for us as a family.”

Swift’s mother received a breast cancer diagnosis in 2015. The pop star paid tribute to her in last year’s album “Lover.”

Compassion & Choices has kicked off its intensified campaign “Pass Medical Aid in Dying NOW.”

The nonprofit organization hopes to get the Medical Aid in Dying Act through the New York State Assembly with its first of 50 reasons aimed at bill’s passage in 2020.

The first of their reasons comes from New York City resident Florrie Burke, widow of award-winning filmmaker Barbara Hammer who died after 12 years of treatment for ovarian cancer.

“It was traumatic for me to helplessly watch the love of my life die in prolonged distress because there was nothing, I could do to relieve her suffering, despite the best hospice care available. In her final months, Barbara asked the Legislature to pass medical aid in dying. They didn’t and Barbara suffered at the end,” Burke stated in a press release.

The Medical Aid in Dying Act is a bill currently under consideration in the New York State Assembly to allow mentally competent terminally ill patients to request self-administered medication for the purpose of hastening the patient’s passing. If the bill is passed, New York will join several other states that allow physician assisted aid in dying, including Oregon, Vermont, Washington, California, Montana, Colorado and New Jersey.

Compassion & Choices has gathered many testimonials from across the country to advocate for the passing of this bill, with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stating he would sign the bill if it comes to him.

Former Bachelorette star and television host Ali Fedotowsky has revealed she was recently diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma.

In an Instagram post, Fedotowsky said her dermatologist discovered the cancer during a routine check-up and was able to remove the cancerous skin and cells. She also showed a picture of what her skin looks like after the surgery, and what the original mole looked like.

“GET YOUR SKIN CHECKED,” Fedotowsky posted. “A couple weeks ago I found out I have skin cancer. When my dermatologist used the c-word, I just about fainted in his office. Thankfully, the type of skin cancer I have is rarely fatal and really never fatal when you catch it early,” she explained.

“I’m lucky it wasn’t melanoma,” she added, “and I’m lucky that I caught it early. Moving forward I plan on making it a priority of mine to use the best natural products on my skin and be rigorous about applying sunscreen and reminding all of you to do the same!”

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