We were at the American Association of Diabetes Educators meeting last week in Indianapolis talking about the diabetes – cancer connection. AICR Nutrition Consultant Karen Collins, MS, RD, spoke about the research showing the link between type 2 diabetes and increased risk for many cancers at the conference.
This was a meeting for nurses, registered dietitians and other health professionals who work with patients with diabetes. Here is one of the most frequently asked questions that the health professionals were concerned with when it comes to working with their patients with type 2 diabetes.
How can people with type 2 diabetes who are also in treatment for cancer make sure they are getting the best care for both diseases?
People with type 2 diabetes and cancer often have their diabetes managed by a physician other than the oncologist managing their cancer treatment. Each doctor wants the best outcomes for the disease he/she is treating, and is not necessarily focusing on the other disorder. Yet the treatments for one disease may affect the other.
For diabetes management, keeping blood sugar in good control is important and insulin helps do that. Research suggests that some diabetes treatments such as insulin may stimulate cancer cell growth while at least one diabetes treatment, metformin, may actually act to limit cancer cell growth. This raises many questions about how controlling blood sugar may affect someone being treated for cancer. From the cancer perspective, some cancer treatments may wreak havoc on blood sugar control.
As a patient, one step you can take to ensure you have the best care is to make sure each doctor is aware of your other treatments. In some cases, for example, doctors may decide to leave blood sugar levels somewhat higher than your normal target and focus on cancer treatment, says Collins. Speak with nurses, registered dietitians or other health practitioners to help you coordinate your care.
The NCI has specific questions cancer patients may want to discuss with their doctor. For example, you may want to find out how the medications you are taking for diabetes affect your cancer treatment.
For information on diabetes medications and lifestyle, you can visit the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.
The National Cancer Institute also has people you can speak with to help answer your cancer-related questions at 1-800-4-cancer or at www.cancer.gov/global/contact.