Health-care consulting for families facing a cancer diagnosis - Part 2

Cancer Champions offers compassionate guidance and clarity to you and your loved ones throughout your cancer journey.

As your trusted guide, we empower you and your family with knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions about your cancer care and regain your peace of mind.
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With Cancer Champions,
You Don’t Have to Face Cancer Alone

If you or a loved one is feeling overwhelmed and anxious by a cancer diagnosis, compassionate support is available. Cancer Champions can ease your fear and uncertainty by helping you and your loved ones understand your specific disease, collect personalized healthcare information, evaluate your treatment options, and make informed decisions. 

Combining oncology knowledge with genuine compassion makes Cancer Champions a trusted advisor that complements your cancer care team and provides peace of mind throughout your cancer journey. Call Dana to learn more about how she can help to create a personalized roadmap to guide you and your family.


When you are presented with a difficult diagnosis, most likely you don’t know what you don’t know yet. Because I have professional healthcare experience and have personally been through several cancer journeys, I compassionately work with you to create a personalized roadmap to help you and your family navigate the journey. I also provide resources and informationto to help you take the first steps.


When you are making critical decisions — you need access to the most relevant information, tailored to your unique situation. With both professional and personal experience researching treatment options and supportive care solutions for individuals facing cancer, I am uniquely qualified to offer families the types of information and resources they will need to make better informed decisions about their care.


Upon hearing a cancer diagnosis, emotions often take control and inhibit decision making. Anxiety and fear may stifle important conversations that family members and loved ones need to have with the individual fighting cancer. I can help to facilitate these important but difficult conversations, with compassion and a kind and open heart.

From our inbox:

When my father was diagnosed with cancer I was in shock — and living 600 miles away. I knew he had been dealing with prostate cancer several years earlier, but I had no idea his cancer had returned and was so advanced.  

Dana was a true blessing. She went to see my father and assessed the situation quickly. Her knowledge of cancer was critical. She listened to the doctors and asked the right questions. She was far better equipped than us to discern what the doctors were saying — and counsel us appropriately. She monitored my father during his stay in the hospital and helped us navigate the transition to hospice. Dana was compassionate and a true professional all the way through to the end.

The nicest thing about working with Dana is her compassion. She has experienced the loss of her own parent to cancer and knows the confusion, uncertainty, and heartbreak involved. She is able to professionally communicate with the medical staff and gather the correct information — and translate it to us in an understandable way. Dana cried with us, prayed with us and was not afraid to be honest. I respected that.

— L.P., Atlanta, Ga

From our inbox:

As someone diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer just 5 months ago, I was overwhelmed and confused. I wasn’t sure whether my doctors were doing what I needed. I asked Dana to review my case and it was the best thing I’ve done since diagnosis. I’m so grateful I made the decision to work with Dana. For a very reasonable fee, she actually did more than expected. She is smart, organized, prompt, and compassionate. I am now much more confident regarding treatment options and what my doctors should be doing. My head has stopped spinning and I can sleep at night. Worth every penny.

— Lori R

From our inbox:

“It’s difficult to express in words the importance of an advocate when faced with a life-changing scenario like cancer. Dana was amazing, providing incredible counsel and guidance that was critical in the early days of our diagnosis. I could not imagine going through this again without the caring, loving expertise that Dana Hutson brought to our family. She is an angel.”


From our inbox:

“5 stars is just not enough for Dana Hutson. Dana has been a godsend to our family.  We lost my elderly father with Dementia after a cascade of events resulting from an ER visit.   My family has been struggling to bring closure to this situation.

I met Dana after a presentation she gave . During the presentation she gave an example that exactly described the experience we had at the hospital with my father. We hired Dana to go back and research the entire 30 day hospital experience and assist us in understanding what happened. Dana spent numerous hours reviewing hundreds of pages of notes from 4 different hospitals.

Our experience is far too common across the country. Unfortunately, we didn’t meet Dana until after my father’s death. If we had had Dana’s guidance, our family’s  outcome may have been radically different. I highly recommend seeking Dana’s assistance in advocating and supporting you during any type of medical situation. We will forever be grateful to Dana for bringing closure to our family.”


From our inbox:

“Money can’t pay you back for the wisdom you provided my family.”

From our inbox:

“You have been an angel that came into our lives…we could not be on this journey without you…”

From our inbox:

” working with Dana has been an absolute blessing for my family. She was able to quickly assess my mom’s situation and immediately offer solutions that made a difference. Her knowledge and tireless legwork is a gamechanger for families trying to negotiate the healthcare system.”


7 Questions to Ask Your Oncologist

It’s helpful to have a list of questions to ask your doctor when you are presented with a cancer diagnosis. Here are 7 questions to ask at your next doctor’s appointment.

Recent articles

Mesothelioma.. not just a disease of the elderly

Mesothelioma.. not just a disease of the elderly

What do you think of when you hear the word Mesothelioma?  For many, the word brings to mind televised warnings from legal firms urging you to contact an attorney if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with this rare form of cancer or been exposed to asbestos.

Often referred to as an  “old man’s “ disease, mesothelioma predominantly affects males following occupational exposure to asbestos.   The ubiquitous use of asbestos as a construction material prior to its regulation and ban in the late 1980s means it may be found in buildings in almost every city and town throughout the world.  It has been used in paints, wall and ceiling textures, insulation, floor and roof tiles, plaster, siding and many other building materials found in homes, schools and public buildings.

As a result of the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers, more than 1,000 tons of asbestos are thought to have been released into the air and inhalation of a mixture of asbestos and other toxicants are thought to be linked to the unusually high incidence of cancer and cancer-related deaths of emergency and first responders to the 911 disaster.

Mesothelioma in Children

Although rare, medical research has noted the development of mesothelioma in children since at least the 1960s, when asbestos was first scientifically linked to the disease.  The affected children had not reported exposure to asbestos, however, given the rampant use of asbestos in construction and everyday products cited above, it is likely those children were unknowingly exposed

Mesothelioma is always aggressive, but there is significant evidence that it may develop more quickly in children and young teenagers than in older adults.

Signs and Symptoms

Because of the rarity of this diagnosis in children, symptoms of mesothelioma may be easily confused with more common conditions resulting in a likely scenario of one or more incorrect diagnoses before considering mesothelioma.

Symptoms in children are similar to those experienced in adults and may include:

  •       Shortness of breath
  •       Chest pain
  •       Fatigue
  •       Abdominal pain
  •       Loss of appetite
  •       Fever
  •       Unexplained weight loss

It is not uncommon for rare forms of cancer to be misdiagnosed while valuable time is wasted searching for the correct diagnosis.  If you are having doubts regarding a diagnosis and would like assistance in securing an expert opinion consider seeking the guidance of a private medical advocate.  How a Private Advocate can help

Fortunately mesothelioma in children is rare; however, it is a tragic illness without a clear answer as to how and why children are affected.  The limited number of cases makes research difficult, however, it is only through research that we will uncover the risks and better treatments for adults and children.   To Learn More about Mesothelioma

Caregiving and Cancer

Caregiving and Cancer

In 2011, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index reported that more than 1 in 6 Americans working full-time or part-time was assisting with the care of an elderly or disabled family member, relative, or friend.

Today, 7 years later, complex cancer care is shifting away from the inpatient hospital setting and moving into the home.   Now more than ever the availability and support of family caregivers is a significant factor in the world of Oncology and putting additional strain on the American workforce.

I recently read the results of a study published in Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, that was designed to better understand the needs and quality of life concerns of those providing care to a loved one with cancer.

Some common themes that arose from the interviews conducted as part of the study fell into 7 aspects of care.

Physical: Over all, family caregivers expressed a desire to understand the patients’ needs as well as be present, attentive and reassuring. The most repeated theme was the presence of and difficulty of dealing with treatment-related side effects.

Psychological:  Uncertainty was a common theme that often gave way to anxiety, stress, and feeling overwhelmed. Many caregivers expressed a desire to be present and offer support even as they faced a lack of emotional energy.

Social: A recurring topic among family caregivers was social isolation, felt both by the one being cared for and the caregiver. Caregivers reported needing support and not just information.   A quote from one caregiver,

“ The details about the clinical trials available online needed to be supplemented with a person who could answer questions. “ This caregiver found the information to be confusing, overwhelming and largely indecipherable: “ It’s just a lot of literature that I have no idea about.. I did not go to med school; I don’t know what I’m reading. I need help”

Spiritual: Having a faith community reported to provide a source of support for some caregivers.

Financial: There were many costs associated to care, but the most commonly reported were the expenses of last minute flights, gasoline, overnight hotel stays, restaurant meals, and time lost at work. Even those who reported having healthcare coverage and financial stability voiced anxiety about the financial impact.

Caregiver Self-Care: The majority of the respondents were neglecting self-care in order to care for their loved ones. Many reported a lack of sleep and exhaustion.

The results of this study provide evidence for greater emphasis to be placed on the effects of caring for a loved one with cancer have on family caregivers.

The family caregivers participating in this study voiced their need for support and resources.   A Board Certified Private Advocate could supply some of the much-needed support by:

  • Helping the family caregiver understand the disease and better anticipate the side effects associated with their loved one’s treatment eliminating much of the anxiety associated with uncertainty
  • Connecting the family with community support services to alleviate the isolation and allow the family caregiver an opportunity for self-care
  • Providing clarification and understanding of the medical literature, specifically clinical trials and treatment options to increase confidence in decision-making
  • Connecting the caregiver with resources to assist with managing the financial burdens associated with a catastrophic illness

If you or someone you know is providing care for a loved one with cancer, please call for a complimentary consult to see how I can help.

703-403-7600 or email



Financial Toxicity of Cancer Treatment

Financial Toxicity of Cancer Treatment

What is financial toxicity?

Financial toxicity or financial distress, as it is sometimes referred to, is a result of the financial burden of out-of pocket expenses incurred for medical care that is not covered by your health insurance.

Examples of these costs include:

Deductibles: The amount you are responsible to pay for care before your health insurance plan begins payment.

Co-insurance: The percentage of the cost you pay after your deductible has been met. Ex. Insurance policy covers 80% of cost and you are responsible for the remaining 20%.

Co-Payments: The amount you pay for each doctor’s visit or prescription.

Cancer research has made remarkable strides, yielding new, sophisticated technologies and treatments resulting in improved patient outcomes.  However, progress has not come without a cost. As costs increase, the health insurers have shifted some of the burden to patients resulting in higher deductibles and increases in coinsurance and co-payments, all of which are out-of –pocket expenses.

Despite having insurance, many of the out-of-pocket expenses of treatment are significant and people are finding themselves “underinsured”.  Several studies have described a variety of strategies patients have adopted to minimize the impact of the out -of -pocket costs of their treatment.

The research shows that the majority of “underinsured” patients altered their life styles in an attempt to afford prescription medications.    Some subjects  took  less than the prescribed amount while others didn’t fill the prescription at all.  A large percentage of the study population reduced spending on food and clothing or used their savings in order to meet out- of -pocket demands.  A smaller percentage sold property or possessions to defray the cost of their treatment.  More research is needed to determine what effect such strategies are having on quality of life and treatment outcomes.

Will you be affected by financial toxicity?   The following factors may help you determine your risk.

  • The costs related to your care
  • The amount of debt you currently carry
  • Your assets
  • If you are the primary income earner
  • Your treatment’s affect on your ability to work
  • The breadth of your insurance coverage
  • The type of cancer you have been diagnosed with and its severity

One of the first recommendations I make is for clients to assess the assets they have.  As a private medical advocate, I have at my disposal a network of vetted professionals and resources to assist clients who are experiencing the very real side affect of financial toxicity.

One such partner is Tracy Shen of The Florin Group.

Tracy has been able to review a client’s current portfolio and identify small adjustments that, if made, would yield an increase in their cash flow blunting the impact of out- of- pocket expenses associated with their care.

In addition to consulting your financial planner, you also want to schedule a review with your insurance agent.  Depending on your diagnosis and current situation you may be eligible to access cash from an existing policy without penalty.

Additional financial support resources include but are not limited to:

If you find you are suffering the very real side affect of financial toxicity due to a cancer treatment give me a call to see how I can help.    703-403-7600 or email me at

Schedule a get-acquainted call 

The first step is a free 15-minute get-acquainted call to see how I can help. The next step is to schedule our first 90 minute consultation  , where I will personalize a roadmap for you and your family, and determine next steps.