Thursday, 26 July 2007

Obesity contagious?

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Ever noticed that people tend to be around the same weight as spouses and friends? Well, it's not your imagination. A study just out in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that obesity, a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, acts somewhat like a contagious disease - so when one person puts on weight, others around them follow suit. This, the researchers say, helps explain why Americans have gotten so fat in recent decades.

The study, a summary and discussion of which is featured in The New York Times, involved the analysis of a social network of 12,067 people over a period of thirty-two years (from 1971 to 2003). Researchers tracked not only the health and weight loss/gain of these people, but also who knew whom, who was friends with whom, and who was related to whom. Over time, it became clear that those whose friends became obese were much more likely to grow obese themselves. The likelihood, in fact, tripled in the case of close friends. Interestingly, friendship mattered more as a determining factor than did being related or being neighbors with someone.

It works like this: people tend to share the lifestyle habits of their family and friends. Folks who consider salads delightful and who enjoy frequent jogs around the park generally surround themselves with similarly-minded folks, and it shows in their trim physiques. Likewise, fast-food munchers who enjoy lots of TV tend to hang out with a similar crowd...and their thighs - not to mention waistlines, hearts, blood sugar levels etc. - suffer the consequences. Another factor, says researcher Nicholas Christakis, is the perception of the self in relation to others: "You change your idea of what is an acceptable body type by looking at the people around you."

Glaxo shares up despite Avandia mess

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Oh, this is awesome news for anyone touched by the Avandia mess: manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has announced that its shares are up despite its troubles over the diabetes drug Avandia. The scandal arose over revelations that Avandia could cause heart problems. Things only escalated as details came to light, particularly the role of the US Food and Drug Administration and its completely inadequate response to the problem.

Given all this bad publicity, wouldn't you expect GSK's stocks would take a dive? Well, they did during the quarter that Avandia hit the news. However, the company's overall outlook for the year 2007 still looks pretty darn good, apparently. As a result, projections for earnings-per-share remain stable and the company is expanding its share buyback program.

So much for suffering the consequences of your actions... On the other hand, GSK has vigorously defended Avandia against claims of heart damage. They would say: "Why should we suffer? We haven't done anything wrong."

A link between Cholesterol and Cancer ... and it's not what you think

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Having low cholesterol will improve your chances against heart disease and other heart problems, but it appears that very low cholesterol has a bad side too -- it's been linked to cancer, according to a new study.

The findings come out of a study that was measuring the amount of damage that statins--a type of cholesterol medication that includes the brand names Lipitor, Pravachol and Zocor--had on other organs in the body, including the liver. However, if you're on statins, there's no need to worry just yet. It's thought the risk is fairly minimal and researchers will have to investigate further to determine more information.

Living with heart disease: One woman's story

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She was 39, athletic, a non-smoker and a healthy eater. Kathy Kastan thought she had taken all the right steps to prevent heart disease, and when she started to feel symptoms of a heart attack, she was shocked. She was diagnosed with a heart blockage and underwent lifesaving surgery but even after the surgery, she felt ill and anxious. She promised herself that if she ever got her health back, she would help others with her firsthand knowledge of heart disease.

Well, She did get her health back and she's kept her promise. Kastan is now the president of the board of directors for WomenHealth: The National Coalition of Women with Heart Disease, and she's reached out to others in her situation by writing a book, called From the Heart: A Woman's Guide to Living Well with Heart Disease. To learn more about her story, check out this article.

None of us are immune to heart disease, and I'm glad Kastan is using her unfortunate experience to reach out to others who may living with this killer disease.

Many Americans believe unsubstantiated claims about cancer

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A new study from the American Cancer Society shows that many Americans believe scientifically unsubstantiated claims about cancer and that Americans bearing the greatest burden of cancer are the most likely to be misinformed. The study used a nationwide telephone survey.

For example, the study found that:

  • Nearly seven in ten Americans (67.7%) said the risk of dying of cancer in the U.S. is increasing.
  • Nearly four in ten (38.7%) agreed that living in a polluted city is a greater risk for lung cancer than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
  • Three in ten (29.7%) thought electronic devices, like cell phones, can cause cancer.
  • About one in seven (14.7%) thought personal hygiene products, like shampoo, deodorant, and antiperspirants, can cause cancer.
  • Six percent (6.2%) thought underwire bras can cause breast cancer.

In contrast, age-standardized cancer death rate has been decreasing since the early 90s and the 5 year survival rate is on the rise over the past 30 years. In another example, many respondents also believed that living in a polluted city is a greater risk for lung cancer than smoking a pack a day.

Males were more likely to believe the false statements as were those with lower educational levels.


Scotland has highest cancer rate in UK

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Although much of the UK is undergoing bans on public smoking -- Scotland included -- the country still has the highest cancer rates in the entire United Kingdom.

New figures this week note that Scottish citizens have a 15% better chance from dying due to cancer-related causes.

Among Scottish men, the top three cancers included prostate, lung and colorectal. Among women, breast, lung and colorectal cancers were most prevalent.

When it comes to lung cancer, I have to wonder if the recent smoking ban will have any effect on future Scotland cancer-related deaths. We'll have to wait and see, I guess.

An inspirational office smoking area

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Office smoking areas are notoriously drab and plain -- purely functional, with little decor besides places to stand and sit, and of course ashtrays everywhere. And the walls always have that yellowish hue and there's usually a token air freshener in the corner pathetically battling the noxious fumes.

I sympathize with smokers because it is a really tough habit to break, but maybe this paint job on the walls and ceiling would help. There's nothing like being reminded of the consequences of such a bad habit by feeling like you're buried alive every time you light up! And while you're remodeling it might be fun to replace the regular ashtrays with these that cough and scream every time they get used. That smoking area will be fun times! (Sorry smokers, it's for your own good!)

Acid reflux disease: Real and treatable

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We've all probably had acid reflux, otherwise known as "heartburn," from time to time, perhaps after eating too much or eating certain types of food. However, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a serious, chronic disease for some individuals, and overeating is not the only cause.

According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House of the NIH, the causes of GERD remain unclear. Research shows that in individuals with GERD, the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes while the rest of the esophagus is working. In addition, anatomical abnormalities such as a hiatal hernia may also contribute and such hernias can occur at any age.

Other factors that may contribute are obesity, pregnancy, smoking and certain foods.

Chronic GERD that goes without treatment can cause serious complications such as damage, bleeding or ulcers on the lining of the esophagus or narrowing of the esophagus. Some people can develop Barrett's esophagus, in which the cells in the esophageal lining change and can eventually turn into esophageal cancer, which is usually fatal.

You do not need to have classic "heartburn" symptoms to have GERD; other symptoms include a dry cough, asthma symptoms or trouble swallowing. If you have been using antacids for more than two weeks, it's time to see a doctor.

Acid reflux is real and treatable. If you or someone you love experiences chronic heartburn, make sure you see your physician or a gastroenterologist for treatment.
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Zencore tabs linked to heart problems

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Though Viagra might just be good for the heart, another medication used for sexual enhancement might actually harm the heart, especially in those who already have heart problems. Health Canada is warning consumers to stay away from Zencore Tabs, a Dietary supplement that is used for men with erectile dysfunction. The supplement has not been approved in Canada, but nonetheless, some retail outlets are selling the tabs, and they're widely available over the Internet.

An ingredient in Zencore Tabs, tadalafil, can have fatal consequences is used with nitrate medication.

The perfect excuse for a vacation

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If you're the type who needs an excuse to go on vacation and do some traveling then here it is: do it for your health. People who take regular vacations are less likely to have heart attacks, to suffer depression, and report having less stress in their lives in general. Vacationers are supposedly even happier at work and in their marriages!

By traveling somewhere relaxing and fun about twice a year, and not letting yourself stress about work and other issues, you can reduce your risk of having a heart attack by 50% compared to people who rarely get away.

So what are you waiting for? Start packing!

Man Bites Dog

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If it bleeds, it leads. That's pretty much what we've come to expect with the Man Bites Dog media, isn't it? Well, it should come as no surprise that the following was listed on the Fox News homepage today:

One Soda a Day May Boost Risk of Heart Disease.

Alarm bells sound. People duck under their tables and school desks. Animals head for higher ground. The news has spoken, and if I'm reading the article correctly, people who drink even one soda per day increase their risk of developing metabolic syndrome - a collection of symptoms related to an increased risk of heart disease.

Okay, now to dig a little deeper. According to this article, research from the Boston University School of Medicine shows that people who drink a soda per day -- even a diet soda -- seem to develop habits that ultimately lead to metabolic syndrome. While I don't necessarily doubt the data, I still question whether it's fair to just wantonly throw out a headline like that. Is it true that people who drink soda are more likely to have an increased risk of heart disease? Sure, if they say so. But, what about people who live healthy lifestyles, yet they enjoy a nice, cold soda (and, even more to the point, those that enjoy a diet soda)? Are they going to develop metabolic syndrome and heart disease? Not unless they also have any combination of three of the following maladies: High blood pressure, an elevated fasting blood sugar level, elevated fasting triglycerides, high blood pressure, or reduced HDL cholesterol.

So, is it truly fair to simply say that drinking a soda per day increases your risk of heart disease? Technically, yes. The folks at B.U. seemed to have demonstrated that. In reality, however, making such a proclamation is an example of poor reporting, if not entirely mendacious. Tossing around headlines like that (and scaring the hell out of people) is a bit irresponsible, especially when it is being done by the mainstream media. Blogs, forums, and other non-traditional news sources...well, I'm not sure if it's right for us, either. But, like I said, the mainstream media has a responsibility to report the facts. This also applies for headlines. And, If this is the headline that the media big dogs are using to attract readers, suffice it to say that this man's not biting.

One more way fish is good for you

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Fish is accumulating quite the list of health benefits (although always be cautious of mercury levels) and now we can add a reduced risk of the dangerous irregular heart rhythm disorder: atrial fibrillation. 2+ million Americans suffer from atrial fib each year, which causes symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, and an increased risk for blood clots and stroke. Eating broiled or baked fish (as opposed to fried) at least a few times a week is the key to seeing this benefit, and experts credit Omega-3 fatty acids for the heart-healthy effects. If fish isn't your thing you may get similar benefits from eating other foods that are high in Omega-3's such as walnuts, flaxseed, and many green leafy veggies.

Heart health and family history

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When we first applied for life insurance, my marathon running husband was shocked to find out that his premium would be twice as high as mine. The reason, according to our agent, was his strong family history of early heart disease. Though we knew that genetics play a role, we thought that a healthy lifestyle would balance things out. Not so, at least in the eyes of life insurance companies.

A healthy lifestyle does have a significant impact on your heart health, but if you've been wondering just how much of a role family history plays in your personal risk of cardiovascular disease, check out this article from WebMD. It covers the basics of family history and may help initiate a conversation about prevention with your doctor.

Athletes die of heart attacks too

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We're often lead to believe that if we exercise regularly, our heart should be fine as we age. But here's something that might throw a wrench in that theory: Runners die of early heart attacks too.

The truth is, while exercise is great for your heart and can reduce your risk of heart disease by quite a bit, it doesn't mean you're immune to heart troubles just because you go for a run every few days. You still need to maintain a healthy lifestyle that is low in fat and high in produce, grains and lean protein. And most importantly, you need to talk to your doctor and get screened for heart disease.

Exercise of the Week: Hanging Leg Raises

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With Tuesday almost coming to a close, I have to hurry to get my Exercise of the Week post in on time (or else the Weblogs editor will show me the true meaning of deadline). I'm running somewhat behind schedule because I spent a little while longer than usual at the gym tonight, working my abs with an exercise I'd now like to share with all of you.

It's called the Hanging Leg Raise, and it's arguably the single-best exercise you can do to work your abdominals. Unlike crunches and other popular ab movements that mostly target only the upper abs, Hanging Leg Raises target your whole midsection -- with particular emphasis placed on your lower abs. Now, before we go further, let's talk briefly about those very same lower abs. You know, the part of your tummy that never seems to tone up, no matter how much you diet, how much cardio you do, or how many ab exercises you bang out. You may even have a solid four-pack going on, but for some crazy reason, you can't seem to get a full six. The reality is that to truly get a flat and toned lower abdominal region, you have to reduce your body fat. This is especially true for men, as it is in this area that we collect the most fat.

But, leaving diet and cardio tips out of it for now, let's focus on how we can tone the muscles in your lower abs themselves. This way, when you do lower your body fat, you'll have the rest of your six pack already there waiting for you!! Alright, enough talking...let's get moving.

To perform Hanging Leg Raises, place an overhand grip on a sturdy chin-up bar. Make sure that your feet are at least a few inches off the floor when you are fully extended. Keep your legs straight and your feet touching each other throughout the movement. Next, using the strength of your abdominal muscles, lift your legs straight out in front of you until your feet are about even with your eyes. It's actually best to allow your lower back to "roll" a small bit during this motion, but you do not want to start a swinging motion. In fact, if you find yourself sort of swinging back-and-forth like a kid on monkey bars, just wait in the extended position until your body stops swinging and then resume the leg raise movement.

This is a pretty difficult exercise to do, so don't be discouraged if you can only do a few -- or even none at all -- at first. For beginners, you may want to try doing this movement while using what's known as a Roman Chair (basically, it's the thing in the gym that looks like a tennis judge's seat...only without the seat, if that makes even an iota of sense). Or, if you still find even that to be too difficult (which is very possible. Like I said, it's not an easy exercise to do), you can try lying flat on your back on the floor or thin exercise mat. Place your hands underneath your lower back for stability and perform repetitions of lifting your legs up until your feet point at the ceiling and then lowering them until your feet are about six inches off the ground.

For a good, short video demonstration of Hanging Leg Raises that I found online, click here.

Note: The content presented in this post is for informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor or fitness professional before starting a physical fitness program.

Robotic Arms help make heart sugery safer

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Sometimes I cluck in dismay when I'm at the supermarket and see the self-serve check-outs. I mean, they're convenient and all but it sometimes seem like we're destined to become the robot society that was made light of in the 60s. How long until everything is run by computers?

But when it comes to surgery--where the steadiness of a surgeons hand is a matter of life and death--the use of robotic arms to treat patients with atrial fibrillation (abnormal heartbeat) shows promise. So far, 20 operations have been performed on patients in Britain, and each has been highly successful. So while the momentum that technology is gaining can sometimes be frightening, it's also really exciting what the future can hold for us.

Blood thinner-statin combination may be safe after all

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When it comes to prescribing medicine to someone with more than one medical condition, I'm certain that physicians must be very careful to prescribe right combination of medicines and to be sure that those medicines don't interact with each other. Until recently, it was thought that when heart patients took the anti-clotting drug clopidogrel with a statin to lower their cholesterol, they increased their risk of a dangerous interaction. But recent studies have been leading researchers and heart doctors to believe that the danger isn't significant after all. This is a relief to patients and those who treat them, because many who need anti-clotting drugs also should be taking statins.

To hear more about the study's specifics,

All soda is evil (the diet ones too)

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Having a soda habit isn't healthy, most people know that. But what may surprise you is that all soda is bad for you, diet types included. Recent research shows that as little as 1 soda per day (diet or regular) greatly increases a person's risk for developing metabolic syndrome, which is a precursor for both heart disease and diabetes.

The diet soda industry is all up in arms over this news, saying there's no evidence or proof that it's the diet soda that's to blame based on how the study was done. And they're right -- there isn't. But something here is fishy, and considering there's such a significant connection it seems better to cut back on the soda habit and be safe, rather than ignore the connection completely and be sorry.

Couple loses 580 pounds together!

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When Maggie and Andy Sorrells vowed to stick by each other through thick and thin, they were serious. The couple, who once weighed a combined 1,000 pounds, has been through the very,very thick together. Both Maggie and Andy had lifelong weight issues before they met online and eventually married. At 6' 3", Andy weighed over 500 pounds at his heaviest. Maggie weighed over 400 pounds and was told by physicians that she might not live to be 30 if she didn't do something about her weight.

It took the two of them coming together to lose the weight. Maggie discovered Weigh Down, a faith based weight loss program, and found success through portion control and healthy eating habits. After watching her success, Andy joined her and the two of them are now at normal, healthy weights. Andy can now buy his clothing off the rack. Maggie no longer lives under the threat of heart disease. The two also have a two children to raise with their new lives.

It is always so so wonderful to read a success story, especially one that show such perseverance and spirit. For more on this amazing couple, check out this article.

Pomegranate: Our miracle heart cure?

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It's something you don't often eat but you probably should because it's chalk-full of antioxidants and other healthy good stuff: Pomegranates. The fruit benefits your cardiovascular system, and also has been shown to help with Alzheimer's, cancer and even erectile dysfunction. And it's a better source of flavonoids than red wine, green tea or blueberry juice.

And the best news is, you don't have to buy that expensive juice at the supermarket -- chances are you can grow pomegranates in your backyard. It's a fairly low-maintenance plant. To learn more about the pomegranate, check out Wikipedia.

Tykerb for breast cancer brain metastasis

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Tykerb (lapatinib) may be effective at shrinking breast cancer tumors in the brain, researchers say. This drug is called a targeted therapy because it can kill cancer cells and leave normal cells alone. Tykerb targets HER2 and EGFR, two proteins that function abnormally in breast cancer cells.

A study was conducted that included 241 breast cancer patients with brain metastasis that continued to progress after radiation treatment and Herceptin therapy.

The study concluded that nearly half of the patients, 46 percent, experienced at least a twenty percent reduction in the size the the brain tumors.

The researchers concluded "Tykerb has promise in the treatment of brain metastasis".

Hope elevating over experiemental ovarian cancer drug

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Ovarian cancer has the highest death rate of any cancer tied to the human female reproductive system, so when news of a possible leap forward in treatment comes about, many millions of people listen up.

In the latest news, an experimental vaccine has been found to assist in treating (but not preventing) epithelial ovarian cancer. This is the most common type of ovarian cancer.

An ovarian cancer vaccine would be the preferred way to treat this deadly condition, which is generally found too late into its progression to make it a non-deadly cancer type. Based on this fact, a strong treatment has been hailed as what is needed. Perhaps that day is close at hand.

Positive outlook during cancer; does it help?

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It's been said that a positive outlook on life in general when diagnosed with cancer makes the days pass by more easily. Some have even ascribed a daily positive outlook on helping them beat cancer into remission.

Support groups and other ways to help cancer patients see the bright part of each day (regardless of how dark it is) may not end up having any effect on the cancer's progression or outcome, reveals a new in-depth study.

After reading the specifics of the study, I'm still of the mind that not mentally succumbing to the daily travails of cancer (and related treatments) is one of the best prescriptions known to the human race. All the medicine and technology in the world can't be beat by knowing that every day is a gift. And, when it's over, it's just that time. We'll all be there at some point.

Until then, take a page from my late grandmother's book - she never complained a single bit and was as happy as could be until her day of passing from ovarian cancer-related treatment. And that's how I'll always remember her.

NSAIDs reduce colorectal cancer risk, according to new study

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A new study provides more evidence that the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. This study was of Medicare patients who had been taking NSAIDs such as aspirin for osteoarthritis and was conducted by a Massachusetts General Hospital team led by Elizabeth Lamont, MD, MS.

The study agrees with previous research which showed a relationship between NSAID use and the development of precancerous polyps.

Lamont states that it is "good news for people who take NSAIDs regularly for osteoarthritis, " but that since there are risks such as bleeding or kidney damage associated with NSAID use, NSAIDs should not be used solely in a effort to prevent cancer.

Lamont cautions that this was a "natural experiment" in which data from patients taking NSAIDs was compared to data from those who don't, but that the ideal to test this relationship would be a randomized clinical trial.

Controversial skin cancer ad -- sponsored by sunscreen company

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A recent sunscreen ad by Neutrogena Sunscreen features a young woman with the caption, 'My sister accidentally killed herself. She died of Skin Cancer'. The message is clear: Those who die of the disease only have themselves to blame.

But that statement is generating some controversy from Skin Cancer specialists for a number of reasons, according to this article. Firstly, despite everything we hear about covering up, it's not a proven fact that sunscreen prevents melanoma, but it is thought that it protects against less deadly forms of skin cancer. Secondly, tests show that people who've had more sun exposure have a better chance of survival against melanoma than those who stayed out of the sun. And while the ad is meant to evoke fear by claiming that skin cancer is the most common cancer, it doesn't mention that skin cancer only accounts for 2% of cancer deaths and almost all of these are from Melanoma.

Still, I think protecting yourself against the sun is ultimately important, and that message is clear from the ad.

Link between low cholesterol, statins and cancer

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New evidence shows an association between low LDL cholestrol levels and cancer risk. This evidence comes out of a report published by a team led by Richard Karas, MD at Tufts University.

The study was originally designed to understand the side effects of statins, including damage to liver and muscle cells. The team did not expect to find the increased cancer risk associated with low LDL levels and additional studies have begun to investigate this increase in risk further. A key question is whether the increased cancer risk is a side effect of the statins or a result of the low LDL levels.

The researchers found one additional incident of cancer per 1,000 individuals with low LDL levels when compared to individuals with higher LDL levels.

A link between LDL lowering and liver or muscle side effects was not found, however liver toxicity increased as the dose of the statin increased. The researchers conclude that moderate-dose statin therapy using multiple medications, including statins, may be preferable to high-dose statin therapy.

On cancer as a gift

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I wrote recently about The View co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck and the inner strength she says she acquired from helping care for her mother during a battle with breast cancer. I ended my post with this statement:

It seems a common thread -- the fact that cancer makes us all stronger in one way or another. It's one of the silver linings, I think. Cancer can be a gift. We just have to regard it as one and look hard for its hidden treasures.


Two readers have since left comments indicating I must be crazy for thinking of cancer as a gift. One reader wrote: I'm certainly glad that Elisabeth was able to take something positive away from her mother's bout with breast cancer, but I'm not sure that I can buy into the "gift" part.

Another reader had this to say: . . . By the way, Rosie (O'Donnell) lost her mother when she was only 10, to breast cancer, I'm sure she didn't find it a gift . . .

Of course Rosie doesn't think of her mother's death from cancer as a gift. It's not cancer or death that I regard as a gift. In no way do I consider my own breast cancer a gift. But there are a few treasures I've dug up along my travels with this disease. My writing career, my pursuit of a healthy diet and regular exercise, my desire to reach others struggling in life, my all-out appreciation for family and friends -- these are the gifts. Even though cancer may one day take my life, I still will have received these gifts.

Surely, each of us can find something worthwhile that flows from cancer -- like better awareness, a voice we can share, a wake-up call, something. It may not be obvious at first. It may take years to find. But some day, in some way, a gift will appear. Well, that's my opinion anyway.

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Prostate cancer relapse lowered by doctor's experience

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The more experience a doctor has at dealing with prostate surgery, the less likely the chance for recurrence according to a new study.

A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute stated that doctors were still making improvements to their handling of prostate cancer surgery until they reached an average of 250 surgeries performed. Just like with any other major procedure, physicians get better at certain processes with experience and repetition.

The study found that almost 18% of prostate patients treated by younger doctors saw some kind of cancer recurrence or associate problems within five years of the initial prostate procedure.

Support groups don't extend survival of metastatic breast cancer patients

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A new study from David Spiegel, MD at Stanford, shows that support groups don't extend the lives of women with metastatic breast cancer. These results are different from other findings by Spiegel that group therapy did extend overall survival.

However, this new research does show that support groups improve quality of life, including improving mood and improving pain control. While no overall survival benefit was found, a survival benefit for a group of patients with an aggressive form of breast cancer who attended group therapy was shown.

Spiegel's work on support groups is well-known and when he started his research on support groups in the 1970s, virtually no cancer patients were in support groups.This latest study was launched in 1991. The women who attended group therapy had a median survial of 31 months versus 33 months for those women who did not receive group therapy and only received educational materials.

However, women with estrogen receptive-negative tumors, an aggressive form of breast cancer, who received the group therapy had a median survival of almost 30 months, 21 months longer than those who received only educational materials.

"The big question was whether there was an overall survival advantage for those people in therapy, and the answer was no," said Spiegel. "I was surprised and a little disappointed by the findings." Despite the finding on survival, Spiegel says that it remains clear that support groups provide great benefits to cancer patients.

"I've never told my patients to join a support group because it makes you live longer - I've said to do it because it helps you to live better," he said.

I agree with Spiegel's conclusion. While it is tempting to try to find treatments and therapies that can extend survival, increasing quality of life also counts as a success.

Better treatment for very young brain cancer patients

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A recently-published study has found that a significant proportion of children under the age of three with the brain tumor ependymoma can skip or delay radiotherapy by using chemotherapy without lowering their chances of survival.

This research has taken 12 years to complete and were released in Lancet Oncology in July 2007 by the Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group at The University of Nottingham in the UK

Radiotherapy can be harmful to a young child's brain, affecting IQ, short term memory, growth and puberty.

According to experts, the survival rate for children with ependymoma is increasing, but still unacceptably low.

Orplatna cancer drug under FDA advisory panel srutiny

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With prostate cancer being one of the most deadly forms for men to suffer from, the introduction of more pharmaceutical drugs that specifically treat prostate cancer are sure to increase.

One of the first such subjects is GPC Biotech AG's Orplatna, which is getting a reprieve by and FDA advisory panel. The panel suggested to the FDA that more evidence (like clinical trials, I suppose) is needed before Orplatna is approved for use in the U.S. for prostate cancer patients.

The panel suggested that data needed to be shown that showed whether or not Orplatna-using patients lived longer than others who received a placebo. In other words, hard data on survival rate needs to be shown, and GPC Biotech AG's response is that it will take at least a year for that to become available.

Physician's hand held device helps detect breast tumors

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Sure Touch is a unique digital sensing device that assists a physician or other health care professional in screening for breast cancer during routine exams. It can increase the chance of early diagnosis of breast cancer.

During the breast exam the device is placed on the breast and an image is then reflected on a computer screen. It produces a visual map of the breast and if a mass is detected it can show its estimated size, shape, hardness, and location.

A clinical trial published in the American Journal of Surgery says that Sure Touch more accurately determines if there is a mass and if the mass is cancerous than manual palpation alone. The study included 110 women who reported a mass in her breast. These women underwent palpation, then testing with Sure Touch, which was followed by ultrasound and mammography. Sure Touch identified the masses 94 percent of the time, while physician just feeling the breast identified masses 86 percent of the time.

Its always nice to hear about another tool that can be used to detect breast cancer! I hope physicians are taking advantage of this new technology.

On the hunt for vitamin D

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Vitamin D is one of the latest, greatest hot cancer topics. Why? Well, it seems many of us women are vitamin D deficient. Such a deficiency might be linked to breast cancer risk so it's in our best interest to make sure we get a healthy dose of this vitamin. It's not as easy as adhering to the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) guidelines, though. Follow them and you'll still come up short -- the Food and Nutrition Board, responsible for setting the DRIs, have not yet updated guidelines in light of cancer concerns. So what's a girl to do?

For starters, we need to understand that for overall health benefits, 1,000 IU (International Units) per day are necessary. The outdated DRI recommends 200 to 600 IU. This is based on preventing only bone diseases like rickets. Second, keep in mind it's safe to take up to 10,000 IU each day. Third, up your intake of this important vitamin. Here's how:

Fatty fish is the best source of vitamin D. But watch out for high mercury levels. Fortified milk is also good. It has 100 IU of vitamin D per eight-ounce serving, but cow's milk been linked to breast cancer risk as well.

The sun allows our bodies to create vitamin D but in most parts of the country, it's hard to get enough in the winter. Plus, those with dark skin and those who use sunscreen don't get reliable amounts of D. Of course, without sunscreen, we must be ultra careful about getting too much. The same sun that feeds us health can also increase our risk of skin cancer.

Most of us will need a supplement in order to reach 1,000 IU per day. If you take a multivitamin, see how much D is it has. Most have 400 IU, based on the DRI, but you can increase accordingly. Make sure your supplement contains D3 and not D2, which is not utilized as well by the body.

Source: Good Housekeeping, July 2007

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Former casino worker sues for alleged reprisal after speaking out against second hand smoke

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A former worker at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, NJ who claims that his lung cancer was caused by decades of exposure to second hand smoke, is suing the casino. Rennich says he has never smoked and blames the illness on his 25 year career on the gaming floors in the Tropicana. He had a third of his lung removed in September 2005.

Vince Rennich claims they fired him for speaking out in favor of a smoking ban. The ban was originally written to ban smoking in all 11 casinos, but the council later compromised and lowered the ban to cover 75 percent of the gambling floor. The ban took place April 15.

Rennich was fired a week after testifying before a state Senate committee about the risks of second hand smoke. His lawsuit claims that he should have been protected under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, known as the "whistleblower" law.

Rennich has not been able to find work and is currently paying over $1,300 a month just to have health insurance for him and his family. That money is coming from his savings and various fundraisers held by family and friends.

Helping teens with cancer feel normal ... for a while, at least

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Though the prom is mostly a distant memory for me, I can recall with vivid detail the feeling that it was the crowning achievement of my life and though I've since had much more definitive moments, at that time it was everything. As someone who had a pretty typical upbringing, I can't imagine what it would be like going through that stage of teenage angst with cancer. My biggest problem was finding a dress, while others are wondering how they will get through the night after a round of chemo.

I find this story of a group of teens with cancer and their opportunity to attend the prom inspiring and simultaneuosly heartwarming and heartbreaking. Armed with wheelchairs and life-saving machines, they posed for pictures, danced and mingled with fellow cancer survivors, and for one night at least they had a chance at normalcy, a chance to worry about finding a dance partner and keeping their make-up fresh instead of worrying about the fight for their life.

White blood cell boosters can help patients avoid chemo-related complications

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Cancer patients who receive drugs such as Neupogen and Neulasta, which stimulate the growth of white blood cells, may be less likely to die from chemotherapy-related complications, according to researchers at the University of Rochester and Duke.

This study examined 17 trials involving more than 3,000 patients receiving chemotherapy. The researchers found that nearly 40 percent of patients who did not receive the drugs developed fever and low white blood cell levels called febrile neutropenia compared to only 22 percent who took the drugs while taking the chemotherapy.

The researchers published these findings in the July 20, 2007 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The work was being conducted by the Awareness of Neutropenia in Chemotherapy (ANC) Study Group, a network of investigators whose work is unrestrictedly funded by Amgen, the maker of a commonly utilized white blood cell booster that goes by the names Neupogen and Neulasta.

Internet-based breast cancer survivor support well worth the time

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Support groups are incredible when it comes to finding outlets to deal with challenges like sickness, illness, alcoholism and cancer, among many other issues. In recent times, finding support has never been easier to find if you have Internet access, and in some cases, the Internet has brought support to those that may not have found it otherwise.

If you're a breast cancer patient currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment (and may other treatments as well), days can be filled with pain and a negative outlook on life. The negative outlook is not what it needed, although it is perfect human nature to experience this. What if you found others in the exact same predicament as you? You're know that you are not alone, which can be hugely uplifting.

Many people not familiar with cancer don't realize the emotional and physical torment that patients go through each and every day. Talking with others -- even using the Internet and just words -- about your situation can give flight to hope that may be lost in some ways.

What's killing our men? Fear

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A new study out of Britain shows that though many men with prostate cancer recognized they had symptoms of a serious disease, they were hesitant to go to the doctor because they felt it wasn't 'macho.' Another reason? Fear. It's a natural reaction--wanting to bury your head in the sand and ignore your gut when you're afraid something might be seriously wrong--yet it's dangerous and it's killing thousands of men every year. This fear may not be unfounded though -- the study also showed that men's GPs were often unsympathetic and gave off negative vibes when it came to their male patients.

The men in my life are all brave, but I can see them being the same way when it comes to their health -- avoiding the doctor and the bad news they may hear. How do we change this sort of thinking and save our men? What do you think of these findings?

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

The Good Bead company donates to the YSC

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The Good Bead company wants you to show your support for the fight against breast cancer with their pink ribbon collection.

Here at The Good Bead we believe supporting the community never looked so good. We are focused on supporting worthy causes by custom creating high-quality, affordable products that engage consumers and raise awareness in the community.

The Good Beads new product Fondangles are quite possibly the most unique line of cell phone straps available. Their unique designs, high quality materials and optional o-ring make will attach to almost any cell phone. The Good Bead will be donating a percentage of sales from Fondangles to the Young Survival Coalition. Fondangles will be available beginning July 9th at Best Buys stores in New York City (Madison Avenue, Union Square, Noho, and 86th & Lexington); Riverside, CA (Tyler Street and Canyon Springs Parkway); Jacksonville, FL; Kennesaw, GA; Douglasville, GA; Atlanta, GA; and Peachtree, GA.


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Thought for the Day: Otherwise

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Otherwise
I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.
-Jane Kenyon
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Ehrenreich on the "Blame the cancer patient" mentality

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Barbara Ehrenreich, author, political activist and breast cancer survivor, writes on the "Blame the cancer patient" mentality this week on her blog in a piece titled, "What Causes Cancer: Probably Not You."

Ehrenreich writes about the new study that came out last week about fruits and vegetables not preventing the recurrence of breast cancer:

The perennial temptation to blame disease on sin or at least some grave moral failing just took another hit. A major new study shows that women on a virtuous low fat diet with an extraordinary abundance of fruits and veggies were no less likely to die of breast cancer than women who grazed more freely.

Ehrenreich also criticizes the positive psychology movement, where any health setback can be conquered with optimism, writing that the science here is "shaky at best."

Ehrenreich concludes that "optimism, especially about the validity of the conventional wisdom, can be hazardous. What you need is a narrow-eyed, deeply skeptical attitude."

Brain cancer patients treated with faulty radiation machines

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Tomorrow I report for one of my six-month radiation follow-ups. My radiation oncologist will review how I've fared for the past two years since my left breast was zapped, day after day, week after week, in an aggressive attempt to keep cancer from returning to the same local area where it first reared its ugly head. How horrified I would be if I learned the machines used to treat my cancer were faulty, that they did not in fact do anything aggressive, that they were essentially ineffective.

Hundreds of brain cancer patients may be hearing this horrific news, now that malfunctioning machines have been ordered shut down following a manufacturer's warning.

Brainlab of Munich, Germany claims a small targeting error occurred with their machines but that it is unlikely to cause problems for patients. If I were one of these patients, I would still be worried. Targeting the tumor bed area is crucial in any cancer treatment. I don't like the sound of "targeting error," regardless of how minor it may be.

There are 550 Brainlab radiotherapy machines in use worldwide, the largest concentration of them in the United States. The malfunction is believed to have occurred in just seven models, located at two hospitals in France, one in Spain, and two in the United States. The Cleveland Clinic is one and has discontinued use of the machine. So has Valley Medical Center in the Seattle suburb of Renton, Washington.

Tykerb for breast cancer brain metastasis

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Tykerb (lapatinib) may be effective at shrinking breast cancer tumors in the brain, researchers say. This drug is called a targeted therapy because it can kill cancer cells and leave normal cells alone. Tykerb targets HER2 and EGFR, two proteins that function abnormally in breast cancer cells.

A study was conducted that included 241 breast cancer patients with brain metastasis that continued to progress after radiation treatment and Herceptin therapy.

The study concluded that nearly half of the patients, 46 percent, experienced at least a twenty percent reduction in the size the the brain tumors.

The researchers concluded "Tykerb has promise in the treatment of brain metastasis".

Hope elevating over experiemental ovarian cancer drug

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Ovarian cancer has the highest death rate of any cancer tied to the human female reproductive system, so when news of a possible leap forward in treatment comes about, many millions of people listen up.

In the latest news, an experimental vaccine has been found to assist in treating (but not preventing) epithelial ovarian cancer. This is the most common type of ovarian cancer.

An ovarian cancer vaccine would be the preferred way to treat this deadly condition, which is generally found too late into its progression to make it a non-deadly cancer type. Based on this fact, a strong treatment has been hailed as what is needed. Perhaps that day is close at hand.

Positive outlook during cancer; does it help?

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It's been said that a positive outlook on life in general when diagnosed with cancer makes the days pass by more easily. Some have even ascribed a daily positive outlook on helping them beat cancer into remission.

Support groups and other ways to help cancer patients see the bright part of each day (regardless of how dark it is) may not end up having any effect on the cancer's progression or outcome, reveals a new in-depth study.

After reading the specifics of the study, I'm still of the mind that not mentally succumbing to the daily travails of cancer (and related treatments) is one of the best prescriptions known to the human race. All the medicine and technology in the world can't be beat by knowing that every day is a gift. And, when it's over, it's just that time. We'll all be there at some point.

Until then, take a page from my late grandmother's book - she never complained a single bit and was as happy as could be until her day of passing from ovarian cancer-related treatment. And that's how I'll always remember her.