Sarah Jacoby

Patti LaBelle Was ‘Petrified’ After Losing Three Sisters to Cancer

Patti LaBelle Was ‘Petrified’ After Losing Three Sisters to Cancer

If you skipped a doctor’s visit or regular screening procedure during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not alone. But legendary singer Patti LaBelle would like you to book that overdue appointment ASAP.“I lost three sisters and a great friend to cancer before they turned 50,” LaBelle tells SELF. “My sisters died of colon cancer and lung cancer, and my friend died of breast cancer. So, after losing them, I was petrified that 50 would be my death point.” LaBelle, now 77, is passionate about making sure people go for their recommended screenings and take the steps they can to take care of their health. She stars in a new PSA for Time to Screen, a cancer screening awareness campaign from the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) and CancerCare.The right time for you to get screened depends on the type of screening and your individual risk factors. So if you’re not sure what procedures you’re due for, talk to your usual health care provider or check the Time to Screen site for the recommended guidelines. LaBelle, who has diabetes, says she’s personally been able to keep up with her routine doctor’s appointments “like clockwork”— even during the pandemic—thanks to the rise of virtual visits. But encouraging others in your life to get their recommended screenings isn’t always easy to do. When having those conversations, LaBelle says she always “comes from a heartfelt, true place,” and doesn’t mind being the one to remind people over and over. LaBelle also frequently talks about losing her sisters to cancer onstage. “It’s probably redundant,” she says. “I stay on people’s cases, I do that a lot.” And it’s true that “people were afraid for the last 17 months to go to a doctor’s office and get a screening procedure done,” she says. “They’re afraid of being diagnosed with cancer and then afraid of going to the facility that might not be safe because of COVID.” But now with vaccines available and with a better understanding of the virus, LaBelle says she “really prays that people take advantage of screening options.”For LaBelle, the pandemic has made her grateful to still be here. She’s spent her time finding ways to relax and engage in as many of her usual activities as COVID-19 safety protocols allow. That includes walking her dog Mr. Cuddles, catching up on Netflix, and cooking (socially distanced) Sunday dinners for family and friends. “We can’t stop living,” she says. “You can’t stop having fun.”Related:

PrEP Is Now Required to Be Free Under Most Insurance Plans

PrEP Is Now Required to Be Free Under Most Insurance Plans

Many people will soon be able to get pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for free through their health insurance plans. The medication, which can significantly help prevent HIV, is notoriously expensive, and getting a prescription requires a patient to undergo frequent lab work as well. But under new guidance from the federal government, insurers will be required to cover all costs associated with the drug, NBC News reports.PrEP, also available under the brand names Truvada and Descovy, is a type of oral medication that can help people prevent HIV infections due to unprotected sex and/or injected drug use, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain. People who are currently HIV negative can take PrEP daily to reduce their risk of getting the infection.But PrEP is expensive. Truvada has an average retail price of nearly $2,000 per month without insurance, according to GoodRx. Descovy is similarly pricey, with an average retail price of around $2,300 for a 30-day supply. There are various assistance programs that make PrEP available at a lower or no cost, the CDC says, but not everyone qualifies for these programs, which don’t always cover the lab costs.That’s where the federal government’s new directive comes in: New guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Department of Labor, and the Department of the Treasury directs health insurers to cover the cost of the medication as well as fees associated with necessary lab work. With this rule, insurers will not be allowed to charge copays, deductible payments, or coinsurance for PrEP. And they’ll have 60 days to comply.Thanks to 2019 recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, insurers already needed to stop charging out-of-pocket costs for PrEP by July 1, 2021. The new guidelines reiterate that rule and further clarify that insurers will be required to cover lab work costs that are incurred before the patient receives the prescription, plus follow-up monitoring and those costs associated with the medication itself. Making PrEP free will undoubtedly make it more accessible to people who need it but couldn’t otherwise afford it—even with insurance.Considering that some insurers are still not complying with the original mandate to cover out-of-pocket costs for PrEP, it’s not clear when they’ll actually start covering the other costs as well, NBC News says. But this new guidance makes it clear that it’s their responsibility to do so—and soon.Related:

The Lambda Coronavirus Variant Was Just Found in a Houston Hospital

The Lambda Coronavirus Variant Was Just Found in a Houston Hospital

The delta coronavirus variant is still responsible for most COVID-19 cases in the U.S., but the lambda variant is now also causing concern. First identified in Peru, the lambda variant was just detected at a Houston hospital.Houston Methodist Hospital network, which includes a large system of hospitals and care centers in Texas, confirmed its first case of COVID-19 attributed to the lambda variant this week, ABC News reports. The hospital system had more than 100 COVID-19 patients over the last week, the majority of whom were not vaccinated, ABC says.Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not list lambda on its variant tracker right now, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently dubbed lambda a “variant of interest.” It was first identified in Peru where it accounted for more than 80% of COVID-19 cases since April 2021, according to a mid-June WHO report. Lambda was also identified in other South American countries, including Chile, Ecuador, and Argentina. The case in Houston is one of about 730 lambda cases recorded in the U.S. so far, according to data from GISAID, which tracks variants globally.As a variant of interest, lambda does contain several genetic mutations that affect the coronavirus spike protein, which could make this strain more transmissible than the original version. “However, there is currently limited evidence on the full extent of the impact associated with these genomic changes, and further robust studies into the phenotypic impacts are needed to better understand the impact on countermeasures and to control the spread,” the WHO report says. “Further studies are also required to validate the continued effectiveness of vaccines.” On the other hand, we know that delta is the dominant strain of coronavirus in the U.S. right now, accounting for over 80% of COVID-19 cases in the country, Reuters reports. Delta is thought to be highly transmissible and responsible for much of the recent increase in cases across the U.S., but our current COVID-19 vaccines still provide significant protection from the virus and its variants.  The most effective way to protect yourself and those around you from coronavirus variants—including delta and lambda—is to get fully vaccinated. For extra protection, you can continue to follow the safety protocols we’ve become accustomed to during the pandemic, such as wearing a mask in public, washing your hands frequently, and staying physically distant from people outside your household. Not only will these behaviors help protect you from the current coronavirus variants, but they will also make it much harder for the virus to replicate and create even more concerning strains in the future.Related:

Packaged Muffins Sold at 7-Eleven, Walmart, and More Recalled Over Listeria Concerns

Packaged Muffins Sold at 7-Eleven, Walmart, and More Recalled Over Listeria Concerns

There’s a major muffin recall that affects products sold under multiple brand names at 7-Eleven, Walmart, Stop & Shop, and other stores. Give and Go, the company behind the voluntary recall, says the muffins may be contaminated with listeria.The recall affects 26 packaged muffin products in several varieties, including blueberry, chocolate chip, banana nut, double chocolate, according to an alert on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website. It also includes mini muffins in corn, blueberry streusel, strawberry streusel, and chocolate chip flavors. The products were sold under brand names including Uncle Wally’s, The Worthy Crumb, Stop & Shop, 7-Eleven Selects, Freshness Guaranteed, Great Value, and Marketside. (For a full list of specific products affected by the recall check the FDA alert here.)Give and Go initiated the muffin recall through the company’s “environmental monitoring program,” the alert says. There haven’t been any cases of illness related to the baked goods yet, but the company is recalling the products out of an abundance of caution.If ingested, listeria bacteria can cause a foodborne illness called listeriosis. For otherwise healthy people, the infection is relatively mild and typically includes symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, fever, chills, and muscle aches, the Mayo Clinic says. Those symptoms usually resolve on their own and don’t require special medical treatment.But certain groups of people—including pregnant people, newborns, people with weakened immune systems, and older adults—are at a higher risk for a severe form of listeriosis. This type of listeriosis, called invasive listeriosis, occurs when the bacteria make it out of the gut and into other parts of the body, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains. If this happens, it can cause flu-like symptoms in pregnant people while others may also experience headaches, stiff neck, confusion, and a loss of balance, the CDC says. In pregnant people, listeria can also lead to birth complications, such as premature birth and miscarriage. Anyone who has purchased the recalled muffins should not eat them, the FDA alert says, and should instead dispose of them.Related:

All Kids and Staff Should Wear Masks in School This Fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics Says

All Kids and Staff Should Wear Masks in School This Fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics Says

The universal use of masks in school will continue to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at a time when young kids cannot get the vaccines, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said in new interim guidelines. So, when kids go back to school in the fall, they should wear face masks—as should all staff whether or not they’re fully vaccinated, the organization explained.When possible, children should go back to school in person, the AAP guidelines state. “Remote learning highlighted inequities in education, was detrimental to the educational attainment of students of all ages, and exacerbated the mental health crisis among children and adolescents,” the organization said. “The AAP believes that, at this point in the pandemic, given what we know about low rates of in-school transmission when proper prevention measures are used, together with the availability of effective vaccines for those age 12 years and up, that the benefits of in-person school outweigh the risks in almost all circumstances.”When those correct safety protocols are followed, it’s possible to open schools without significantly increasing the spread of COVID-19. Those safety procedures include making sure that all school staff who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine do so, and ensuring that all students over the age of 2 and all staff wear a face mask at school.The AAP said it made the choice to recommend the universal use of masks in school settings for several crucial reasons. For one thing, many students can’t yet get vaccinated against COVID-19 because there is no vaccine available to people under the age of 12 in the U.S. right now. The AAP also cited worries about the potentially low vaccination rates in the surrounding community and the possible spread of more transmissible coronavirus variants as reasons for the mask recommendation.For now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that anyone who isn’t fully vaccinated should wear a mask indoors in school settings while fully vaccinated people do not need to wear them. But the AAP notes that it may be difficult to monitor people’s vaccination statuses and, therefore, it could be challenging to enforce that rule correctly. When you’re dealing with a “substantial proportion of the population that is unvaccinated,” Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Kate Bolduan on CNN’s At This Hour, “you really want to go the extra step, the extra mile to make sure that there is not a lot of transmission—even breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals.” For that reason, Dr. Fauci said the recommendations were a ”reasonable thing to do.”More mask requirements may not exactly be an exciting prospect. But the good news is that vaccines for those 12 and under are on the horizon—and may be available as soon as this winter. Vaccinating kids will be an important step in protecting them and their families as well as containing the pandemic. But until that happens, masks will continue to be routine.Related:

Coco Gauff Will Have to Miss the Olympics After Testing Positive for COVID-19

Coco Gauff Will Have to Miss the Olympics After Testing Positive for COVID-19

Star U.S. tennis player Cori “Coco” Gauff tested positive for COVID-19 and will have to skip the Games this year. Gauff, 17, made the announcement on social media this past weekend. “I am so disappointed to share the news that I have tested positive for COVID and won’t be able to play in the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” she wrote in a Twitter statement. “It has always been a dream of mine to represent the USA at the Olympics, and I hope there will be many more chances for me to make this come true in the future. I want to wish Team USA best of luck and a safe games for every Olympian and the entire Olympic family.”Tokyo would have been Gauff’s first Olympic Games and, at just 17 years old, she was tapped to lead the U.S. tennis team earlier this month. Gauff did not say whether or not she’s been vaccinated or if she’s experiencing any symptoms. It’s much less likely for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to get the virus, but it is possible. Gymnast Kara Eaker, who was set to be an alternate on the U.S. team in Tokyo, also recently tested positive. Eaker had received the vaccine. Athletes will continue to be tested frequently as part of the Olympic COVID-19 safety protocols. In addition to getting a test before they leave for Japan and when they arrive, they’ll get a daily coronavirus test. So some positive tests are, unfortunately, expected.In addition to all the testing, there are many other measures are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the Games this year. That includes restrictions on where athletes can go while in Tokyo, mask requirements, temperature checks, a ban on spectators, and strict quarantine procedures for those who do test positive.Related:

A U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team Member Tested Positive for COVID-19

A U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team Member Tested Positive for COVID-19

U.S. gymnast Kara Eaker tested positive for COVID-19 just days before the Tokyo Olympics are set to begin, the New York Times reports. At first, very few details about the case were been made public—including the name of the gymnast who tested positive. Officials identified the gymnast as an alternate on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team who is between 10 and 19 years old, according to NBC News. The gymnast received a positive COVID-19 test on Sunday, July 18 while training in Narita, an area about 35 miles outside of Tokyo.The Times identified Eaker as the gymnast after receiving confirmation from her coach, Al Fong. So far, Eaker “feels fine,” Fong told the Times. Eaker previously told reporters that she’d received a COVID-19 vaccine, making her case a rare breakthrough infection.Eaker is now quarantining and someone identified as her close contact is “on standby,” officials said, per NBC. Since arriving in Japan on Thursday, both people spent their time practicing in venues and staying in their hotels. They did not spend time in the city, the authorities said.The news of Eaker’s positive test comes just after tennis player Coco Gauff announced she will also have to skip the Games due to a positive test. As part of the new safety protocols for the Tokyo Olympics, athletes get tested for COVID-19 before leaving for Japan, upon their arrival, and every day while at the Games with a rapid test. Any positive test should be confirmed with a subsequent PCR test, according to the protocols. In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 during the Olympics, athletes are not permitted to explore Tokyo outside of predetermined locations. They’re also not permitted to use public transportation. Although athletes are encouraged to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before coming to Tokyo, it is not a requirement.Related:

Mark Hoppus Revealed More Details About His Stage IV Cancer Diagnosis

Mark Hoppus Revealed More Details About His Stage IV Cancer Diagnosis

Mark Hoppus, frontman and bassist for the band Blink-182, revealed last month that he had been undergoing chemotherapy for three months. And in a live video this week, Hoppus, 49, shared more details about his diagnosis, the type of cancer he’s dealing with, and how chemotherapy has been going.In a live Q&A with fans in Chile, Hoppus shared that his cancer is “not bone-related, it’s blood-related. My blood’s trying to kill me.” Specifically, he’s been diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma stage 4-A. “It’s entered enough parts of my body that I’m stage IV, which I think is the highest that it goes,” he said.Hoppus also gave an update on how his chemotherapy has been going. “Let me tell you something that is real and it absolutely sucks: A side effect of the chemotherapy is you get something called ‘chemo brain,’” he explained. “And for me, I forget things that I should have on-call, like names, song titles, anything. People will be talking to me and five minutes later I’ll ask them a question, and they’ll be like, ‘I just told you that five minutes ago.’”At the time of the recording, Hoppus said he was preparing to go in for a PET scan, which would determine how well the chemotherapy was working. If it doesn’t seem to be helping, a bone marrow transplant may be necessary. But regardless of the results, he will likely need another three rounds of chemo, he said. Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is the most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the U.S., the American Cancer Society (ACS) explains. This type of cancer affects the body’s lymph system, including the white blood cells. It typically grows quickly and progresses aggressively, but does tend to respond well to treatment, the ACS says. There are several treatment options for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, such as chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, the Mayo Clinic says.In most cases, doctors don’t know what caused someone’s non-Hodgkin lymphoma and many people who develop this type of cancer don’t have any obvious risk factors, the Mayo Clinic explains. But there are some factors, such as taking immune-suppressing drugs or having certain viral infections (like HIV or Epstein-Barr), that can make this cancer more likely. Interestingly, Hoppus shared that his mom had the exact same type of cancer previously and was able to treat it effectively.Hoppus first spoke publicly about his situation in late June and continues to keep a positive attitude about what the future may hold. “Oh, we’re beating this cancer,” he said in the video this week. “It’s just a matter of time.”Related:

Just Because You Can Travel Internationally Now Doesn’t Mean You Should

Just Because You Can Travel Internationally Now Doesn’t Mean You Should

After more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions are lifting—especially for fully vaccinated people. But global vaccination rates vary widely and areas that are tourist hotspots may be welcoming visitors in the absence of public health measures. In this weird limbo era of the pandemic, how can we be responsible international travelers? Is there even such a thing right now?The U.S. has made incredible progress with its vaccine rollout, with more than 67% of adults having received a dose so far and 59% fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But this also puts us in a relatively unique—and uniquely privileged—position globally. For example, Reuters estimates that 20% of Mexico’s population is vaccinated. Thailand has distributed enough vaccines for 9% of its population. And in Japan, which will be home to the Tokyo Olympics this year, about 23% of the population is fully vaccinated. Some countries, such as Australia, don’t have a huge amount of fully vaccinated people (about 18% of the population) but have strict rules about who can enter the country and still require incoming travelers to quarantine for 14 days as a precaution.Those who aren’t vaccinated should only travel if it’s a necessity, the CDC says. And in those circumstances, they should take other precautions to be as safe as possible, including testing before and after travel, wearing a mask while traveling, and isolating themselves for seven days upon arrival. (Keep in mind that some countries are only allowing fully vaccinated people to enter and, wherever you go, you’ll need to follow the local requirements for visitors which may be different from country to country.)If you’re fully vaccinated, that’s great, and you’ll likely have a lot more options available to you! But if you’re going to take your fully vaccinated self on a trip to other areas of the world, particularly areas that haven’t had the same access to the vaccines that you’ve had, experts say it benefits everyone for you to really think through that decision and to still take whatever precautions you can.You have a responsibility to learn about how the pandemic is affecting your potential destination.When weighing whether or not to visit a particular area, you have a responsibility to learn about the state of the pandemic there, S. Matthew Liao, DPhil, director of the Center for Bioethics at NYU School of Global Public Health, tells SELF. “It’s great that we’re vaccinated, but we need to make sure we don’t make the situation worse elsewhere,” he says.“The main things you want to look at are the rates of viral transmission, so the numbers of cases and hospitalizations in that area,” Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., senior director of infection prevention at the Johns Hopkins Health System, tells SELF. “Vaccination rates would inform you about how well the pandemic is controlled in that country and how protected the individuals are.” Taken together, those data points can give you a good idea about the kind of environment you’ll be traveling to and whether or not it’s a higher-risk or lower-risk place to be. Dr. Maragakis recommends taking a look at the CDC’s site for information about your destination before traveling.Keep in mind that it’s not just about the number of infections, it’s about the implications of those infections as well. Are hospitals already overwhelmed in the country you’re visiting? And if you do get sick there with COVID-19 or something else, what kinds of resources will you be taking up? “You could really be straining their health care system,” Dr. Liao says.Is your trip really essential right now?“We know there are essential reasons that some people will need to travel irrespective of the risks,” Dr. Maragakis says. “But for less essential or non-essential travel, you really do need to think carefully about whether or not this is the time to undertake that travel, because of the risk to yourself and others, especially countries that have not yet had the opportunity to be vaccinated.”

COVID-19 Misinformation Is a ‘Serious Threat to Public Health,’ Surgeon General Says

COVID-19 Misinformation Is a ‘Serious Threat to Public Health,’ Surgeon General Says

False claims about health topics and COVID-19 misinformation put the public at serious risk, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., wrote in a new advisory this week. The document outlines just how dangerous the spread of this COVID-19 misinformation can be—and offers a plan for all of us to help stop it from spreading.“I am urging all Americans to help slow the spread of health misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Health misinformation is a serious threat to public health. It can cause confusion, sow mistrust, harm people’s health, and undermine public health efforts. Limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative that will require a whole-of-society effort,” Dr. Murthy wrote in the advisory. The warning comes at a precarious time during the COVID-19 pandemic: Only 56% of adults in the country are fully vaccinated while the extra-transmissible coronavirus variant delta continues to spread. Unfortunately, myths about the vaccines that can dissuade people from getting them are spreading as well. We’ve been exposed to a ton of misinformation during the pandemic, the advisory says. And although this type of bad information has always been around and always had the potential to spread, the internet and social media have made it much easier for false claims to spread widely and quickly. A recent study from the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that just 12 people are responsible for 65% of vaccine disinformation on social media.Combatting the spread of misinformation will take actions from local and government, educational institutions, the media, health organizations, and major tech companies in order to give the public the tools they need to identify false claims. But there are some things individuals can do to avoid unintentionally spreading misinformation about health topics, the advisory says, particularly COVID-19: First, verify the accuracy of a post on social media before you share it. You can get a better sense of a claim’s validity by checking the comments to see if anyone has posted evidence that it’s true, searching trusted sites to see if they’ve also shared the claim, or trying to track down the original source of the information, the News Literacy Project says. And if you’re not sure, it’s better to err on the side of caution and just not share it.Next, start talking to your friends and family about the problem of misinformation so that everyone in your circle can be on the lookout for false claims. If someone you’re close with believes myths about COVID-19, engage with them respectfully and empathetically. Direct them to respected sources of information and offer yourself as someone they can come to if they have questions.Finally, find ways to engage your wider community about the issues of health misinformation. For example, you could invite health experts to talk to your school or another community group about COVID-19 vaccine myths.“Limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative that will require a whole-of-society effort,” Dr. Murthy said in the report. Doing your part to avoid the spread of false information is yet another way to make sure we all stay as safe as possible during the pandemic and beyond.Related:

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