Don't Forget Your Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes patients with cancer may be not be controlling blood sugar

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) People with type 2 diabetes face a higher risk of cancer. When diabetes patients are diagnosed with cancer, they may find it hard to manage both disease at once.

Researchers found that type 2 diabetes patients with a cancer diagnosis may be neglecting their diabetes care. However, patients who received diabetes education after their cancer diagnosis were more likely to focus on blood sugar control.

Results showed that patients who received diabetes education were more likely than those without diabetes education to have a doctor test their HbA1c - an important marker of how well a patient has managed blood sugar levels of the last 3 months.

Patients who received diabetes education had fewer emergency room visits and hospital admissions compared to those without diabetes education.

"Learn about diabetes to properly manage the disease."

"People with diabetes hear 'cancer' and they think that it is a death sentence, so who cares about diabetes at this point?

But if they're not careful, it's the diabetes that will take them out of this world, not the cancer. That's why this education is so critical when cancer comes on board. Patients must take care of both illnesses," said senior author June McKoy, MD, director of geriatric oncology at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University.

High blood sugar is one of the main characteristics of type 2 diabetes. These out-of-control blood sugar levels can lead to health problems throughout the body. Patients may be faced with kidney damage and failure, blindness and limb amputation.

What's more, type 2 diabetes can damage the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight cancer.

People with diabetes have higher rates of cancer than those without diabetes. Specifically, diabetes patients have higher rates of liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer and endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus).

"If you are not taking good care of your diabetes, your cancer suffers, too," said Dr. McKoy.

For their study, the researchers looked at the health records of 166,000 patients with commercial insurance and 56,000 Medicare Advantage patients.

Patients who received diabetes education attended sessions twice a week for 4 to 6 weeks. While 65.2 percent of cancer patients with diabetes education had their HbA1c tested at least twice, only 48 percent of those without diabetes education had their HbA1c tested at least twice.

Similarly, 88 percent of patients with diabetes education had their HbA1c tested at least once over 3 years, compared to 78 percent of those without diabetes education.

Results also showed that there were 416 emergency room visits over 3 years among patients who received diabetes education. In comparison, there were 463 emergency room visits among patients without diabetes education.

In addition, patients with diabetes education had 658 hospital admissions, compared to 883 hospital admissions among patients without diabetes education.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and the Medical Student Summer Research Program at the Feinberg School. The research was published October 31 in the journal Population Health Management.

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Review Date: 
November 29, 2012
Last Updated:
February 28, 2013