Health Scan: Cancer patients look good

"Look Good, Feel Better-Israel" supplies volunteer cosmeticians and hair specialists to female and male oncology patients.

October 15, 2005 23:25
4 minute read.


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Chemotherapy, biological drugs, radiotherapy and surgery are not the only weapons against cancer: Sessions with a beautician, cosmetician or hair expert may do much good to promote patients' self-confidence, optimism and a feeling of wellness. A program called “Look Good, Feel Better-Israel” supplies volunteer cosmeticians and hair specialists who offer cosmetic and hair treatment to female and male oncology patients in most of the country's hospitals, branches of the Israel Cancer Association and cancer hospices. All treatments are free of charge, and patients also receive a gift of cosmetics and toiletries donated by local companies, says Francine Robinson, the project's voluntary manager. She estimates that by the end of this year as many as 2,500 cancer patients will have benefited from this project. Haifa, Safed and Jerusalem still lack cosmeticians, and the organizers are seeking hairdressers and makeup artists in various parts of the country, as well as donations of equipment and relevant products. The facial treatment offered before, during or after cancer therapy in specially equipped rooms consists of a 45-minute individual treatment that includes a massage, light cleansing and makeup. Each hospital has assigned a special liaison person (either a nurse or a social worker) to supervise the project in their unit. When the patient is not ambulatory, cosmeticians who are also nurses make home visits; they are well acquainted with the patient's case and receive a full briefing from the hospital beforehand. Many hospitals also have volunteer hair specialists who provide a full range of hair treatment and wigs for patients whose hair falls out due to chemotherapy. Men and women can have their hair washed and dried or leave wigs for styling. The project has received donations of wigs which are fitted, trimmed and combed for women in need, since some cannot afford to buy their own wigs. The project, sponsored by the Israel Cancer Association, also provides beauty and hair-care seminars in which women have a two-hour hands-on seminar with a beauty and hair specialist. In addition, there are special gatherings before holidays and makeup days. Hebrew- and Russian-language leaflets on “Look Good, Feel Better” are available in every center where the project is running, says Robinson, who can be reached at, (03) 572-1618 or 054-451-1211. “We are now in the final stages of editing a short guidebook with tips on makeup, skin care and hair care,” she says. HOPE FOR JOINT DISORDERS A parade was held in Tel Aviv recently to mark World Rheumatology Week, aimed at increasing public awareness of rheumatological disorders, which affect the joints, muscles and ligaments and cause pain and difficulties in movement. The events were organized by Inbar, the non-profit Israel Association for Rheumatological Diseases. Its volunteers note that in recent years many new medications, including biological drugs, have become available that significantly improve the condition of such patients, whether adults or children. Five percent of the population suffer from some form of rheumatological disease, which usually appears between the ages of 25 and 40 but can begin to show its symptoms at any age. Early signs are joint stiffness and heat, inflammation and redness. Besides medications, physiotherapy, exercise, diet and spa treatments are beneficial. KICK OFF SHOE MAGNETS If you've been walking around with magnetic insoles in the hope of relieving foot pain, forget it. Such shoe insoles did not effectively relieve foot pain among patients in a study published in a recent issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. However, they did have some placebo effect: Patients who strongly believed in magnets had moderate pain relief even if they were given false magnets to wear. “This study provides convincing evidence that use of these static magnets was not effective in relieving symptoms of non-specific foot pain,” says Dr. Mark Winemiller, the lead author. Adults with foot pain are likely to initiate self-treatment with magnets based on personal recommendations or belief systems, often without a specific diagnosis or prescription. That population was targeted in this study, he said, with the goal of determining whether magnetic insoles work in the way they are typically used. The randomized, double-blind nature of the study was chosen to minimize bias and maximize the validity of results. Otherwise, the fact that magnetic and non-magnetic insoles provided nearly identical pain relief suggests that it may have been simply the cushioning that was effective, and not the magnets. In the past decade, the use of magnets for pain relief has increased substantially. Despite little scientific evidence (and lack of US Food and Drug Administration approval for pain relief), many people have used magnets to relieve their pain, annually spending approximately $5 billion worldwide — an estimated $500 million in the US alone — on magnetic “pain-relieving” devices. Magnetic devices use either static or pulsed magnets. Clinically, pulsed magnets have been shown effective for treating delayed fracture healing, for reducing pain in various musculoskeletal conditions and for decreasing edema associated with acute trauma although other studies have shown no benefit in these situations. Externally applied static magnets generally are considered safe and have few adverse effects, but little is known about their mechanism of action. Most basic scientific research has focused on movement of tiny electrical voltages that may lead to decreased pain.

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