Contributor: Melody Lesser
For Cancer in One Breast
Double mastectomy rates, especially among young women, have risen sharply for those with early-stage cancer in one breast finds a new national study of 1.2 million patients. Doctors say more women are choosing double mastectomy even though other studies have shown that it doesn’t improve the chances of survival for women at average risk of recurrence. “Many women are making this decision out of fear and anxiety and not fully understanding the true risks and benefits,” said oncologist Ann Partridge, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who wasn’t involved in the study from Vanderbilt University. The study didn’t give data on how many patients carried the BRCA gene that significantly raises the risk of recurrence but did note that rates of women choosing reconstructive surgery also rose sharply.
Chain Restaurants Affected
The Food and Drug Administration will require that calorie counts be included on the menus of chain restaurants with more than 20 locations. The new labeling will go into effect a year from now and will also apply to convenience stores and other retail food establishments with 20 or more locations. Pizza chains, due to the variation in toppings available on whole pies, are being given the flexibility to post calorie counts by the slice - and the rules apply to online ordering as well. Calorie labeling became required by law as part of the Affordable Care Act but implementation has been delayed. Health advocates of the new rule say calorie labeling will increase awareness and allow consumers to choose healthier options. Detractors doubt the rule’s effectiveness.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is Ebola-free says the World Health Organization (WHO). Credit goes to the country’s leadership and coordination efforts to monitor the disease says the WHO. The news is not all positive, however. The country of Mali has six reported cases and Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the epicenter of the epidemic, is home to the vast majority of more than 15,000 cases. Countries are stepping up with funds to combat the disease. France is giving more than $40 million to set up Ebola treatment centers in Guinea and the U.N. launched a $1 billion campaign to fight Ebola. While “infection rates are increasing exponentially,” according to U.N. Under-Secretary General Kandeh Yumkella, he is “cautiously optimistic” that the disease will be brought under control.
“Giant Step Forward”
A large-scale study of nearly 800 gay brothers found evidence of a genetic link for male homosexuality but the results aren’t strong enough to prove it, say researchers at North Shore University Health System Research Institute, IL. Researchers point to genes on the X chromosome and also found evidence of influence from genes on a different chromosome, although it didn’t identify the specific gene or genes. The new evidence “is not proof but it’s a pretty good indication” that sexual orientation is influenced by genes, said lead author Dr. Alan Sanders. Researcher Dr. Chad Zawitz said the research is “a giant step forward” toward answering questions about homosexuality. Being gay “is sort of like having certain eye color or skin color - it’s just who you are,” he said.
Arrived with Advanced Symptoms
Dr. Martin Salia, a surgeon who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone aiding Ebola victims, has died in a Nebraska hospital. He was flown to the United States on November 15th and placed in the Biocontainment Unit at Nebraska Medical Center. He was suffering from advanced symptoms of the disease, including kidney and respiratory failure when he arrived at the hospital. Dr. Salia is the third patient to have received treatment for Ebola at the medical center. He was 44 years old. A spokesperson for the Nebraska Medical Center said that Salia arrived at the hospital sicker than other patients who had been successfully treated for the disease. Sierra Leone is at the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa where more than 5,000 people have died.
Cervical Cancer Is Treatable
According to the CDC, 5 million women skipped the exam that tests for cervical cancer for five years, missing the chance to prevent or treat the disease. A Pap smear that tests for the human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer can catch it early. In fact, more than half of women diagnosed with the disease had never or rarely been screened. CDC researchers reviewed national surveys and found that in 2012, 11.4% of women had not been screened for cervical cancer for the past 5 years. The reason? Twenty-three percent of women cited a lack of health insurance - the Affordable Care Act requires that health insurers provide all cancer screenings for free - while 25% said they didn’t have a regular doctor. Each year, more than 4,000 American women die of cervical cancer.
Dubbed "Miracle Woman"
Ruby Graupera-Cassimiro, 40, survived 45 minutes without a pulse and spontaneously revived just as doctors at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, FL, were about to pronounce her dead. The “miracle woman,” as she’s been dubbed, experienced a rare complication from a C-section when amniotic fluid entered her blood stream and caused clots. She became unconscious as doctors and nurses used chest compression and electric shock paddles to no avail. They called her family in to say goodbye and after they left the room to pray for Graupera-Cassimiro, her heart monitor went into action with one blip followed by another. She was taken off life support a day later. She suffered no brain damage or physical injuries from efforts to revive her. Doctors are calling this case “unexplainable” and “miraculous”.
Could Be Deadly
Chagas, nicknamed the “kissing bug” disease, is a parasitic infection that is spread by the bite of the “kissing” bug as well as by blood transfusions, organ transplants and through childbirth. Chagas, which until recently was limited to Mexico and Central and South America, affects 7 to 8 million people worldwide. But now, it’s showing up in the U.S. Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, say that many victims have been infected locally and not through travel outside the U.S. While the number of kissing bug cases in the U.S. is growing, physicians’ awareness of the disease is lagging. If caught early, it’s treated with drugs, but if it’s allowed to progress without treatment it may lead to serious cardiac and intestinal complications and even death.
Stem Cell Techno
Scientists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have grown miniature stomachs from stem cells in order to advance cancer research and are hoping to grow patches to fix ulcers, find new drugs to treat and prevent cancer and even grow stomachs that may one day be used in transplants. Scientists learned that Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that causes most stomach cancers, works quickly to attach to the stomach lining to cause tumors to grow. While the cancer-causing bacteria infects about 2/3 of the world’s population, it doesn’t cause disease in everyone. “We want to understand why bacteria trigger stomach disease in some people but not others,” said lead researcher James Wells. The scientists also hopes to use the lab-created stomach tissue to study obesity and diabetes.
Death with Dignity Advocate
Death with Dignity advocate, Brittany Maynard, 29, who moved to Oregon, a state that allows terminally ill patients to end their lives with doctor-prescribed medication, has ended her life. Maynard who became an outspoken advocate for patients’ rights, moved to Oregon following a diagnosis of brain cancer, glioblastoma. "I am not suicidal," she wrote in a blog post. "I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms." She wrote on Facebook, “Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness ... the world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers ... goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!"
The Debate Rages On
Nurse Kaci Hickox’s refusal to comply with a mandatory quarantine after her return to the U.S. from treating Ebola patients in W. Africa raised the issue of whether Ebola health care workers are a danger to the public, even if they are asymptomatic. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that 7 in 10 Americans back mandatory 21-day quarantines for all returning health care workers. The issue has become politicized with 85% of Republicans and 91% of Tea Partiers favoring quarantines vs. 65% of Democrats. Older Americans are also more likely to back quarantines as are those with lower levels of education. 80% of those with a high school education or less favor isolation while 63% of those with college or post-graduate educations are in favor.
Alerts Friends Too
A new free cell phone app from suicide prevention organization Samaritans may help alert users to suicide threats by people they follow on Twitter. Once its downloaded, the app, Samaritans Radar, sends an alert to your email address when a person you follow on Twitter tweets phrases that indicate he or she is suffering difficult times. Academic experts compiled the phrases used by people in such circumstances. They include, “help me,” “tired of being alone,” “hate myself,” and “need someone to talk to.” The app, in addition to flagging tweets, will also help contact anyone a user may be concerned about. The new app is not yet perfected, says Samaritans. “It’s not good at sarcasm or jokes yet.” But user feedback will help improve the service, say developers.
Not Yet on Market
A special, concentrated cocoa drink, rich in flavanols, helped middle-aged study participants reverse age-related memory loss, say Columbia University Medical Center researchers. "If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old," said study leader Dr. Scott Small. The proprietary drink made by Mars, Inc. is not available on the market but researchers, who imaged research subjects’ brains, found that it caused noticeable improvements in brain function when they drank 900 mg of flavanols a day for 3 months. More large-scale studies are needed to fully understand whether a diet high in flavanols could boost cognition in old age.
Craig Spencer, a Doctors Without Borders physician who was working with Ebola patients in the W. African country of Guinea, has tested positive for the virus. He is quarantined in Bellevue Hospital in NYC. The city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, said, “We want to state at the outset there is no reason for New Yorkers to be alarmed.” Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that authorities are “as ready as one could be for this circumstance.” The NYC health department released a statement that said, in part, "The chances of the average New Yorker contracting Ebola are extremely slim,” adding that the disease is spread by direct contact with body fluids of an infected person. NY’s Office of Emergency Management was expected to track down anyone who may have had contact with Spencer.
Mending Her Broken Heart
Tan Shen, 26, a Chinese woman who had just been dumped by her boyfriend, spent an entire week in a local KFC eating chicken wings and mending her broken heart. After the breakup, Shen stopped by the KFC, which is open 24 hours a day, for some fast food, but ended up staying for a whole week because “she needed time to think.” She even called in sick to work. “I hadn’t planned on staying there long,” she said, “I just wanted some chicken wings.” She didn’t want to go home because it was filled with memories of her ex. KFC employees said she wasn’t doing anyone any harm and let her stay. Shen departed the KFC for her parents’ home when the media stopped by to write about her. “And,” she said, “I was getting sick of the taste of chicken so there was no point in staying there anymore.”
Fear of Ebola, or “fear-bola” which “attacks the part of the brain responsible for rational thinking," according to CNN commenter Mel Robbins who coined the term, is gripping America but, say health experts, the chances of catching it are miniscule. There have been eight confirmed cases of Ebola in the U.S. and each one was infected in West Africa or had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan who contracted the disease in Liberia and succumbed to it in a Dallas hospital. The CDC says the fear of Ebola is so bad, they fielded 800 calls from concerned Americans in the first week of October. Voxdotcom tweeted a simple quiz to find out if one has Ebola: “Have you touched the vomit, blood, sweat, saliva, urine or feces of someone who might have Ebola?” If the answer is no, “you do not have Ebola.”
Traveled Days Before Diagnosis
Amber Vinson, a second Dallas health care worker who cared for deceased Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan has tested positive for the virus. She is “ill but clinically stable,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden and will be transferred to Emory University Hospital. Before she became symptomatic, she flew on commercial airliner Frontier, flights 1142 and 1143, between Cleveland and Dallas/Ft. Worth on 10/10 and 10/13. The airline is asking customers who traveled on those flights to contact the CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO. At the time of her travel, health care workers were self-monitoring their activities. Moving forward, the CDC will ensure that no one else in such a situation travels outside of a closed environment, said Frieden who adds that Ebola is infectious only when someone is symptomatic.
When in Doubt, Throw It Out
Colorado state officials voted on emergency measures to combat overdoses from edible pot that has resulted in ER visits by kids who had unknowingly ingested the drug. The rules will require products to have child-proof packaging and clearly printed health warning labels before being shipped to stores. But the law doesn’t go into effect until the day after Halloween leaving parents wary that their child may end up with pot-laced candy in their trick-or-treat bag. In response to parents’ worries, the Denver PD has released a video outlining the dangers kids may face as well as a podcast addressing parents’ concerns. Their advice? If it doesn’t look right, throw it away. Talk to your kids about your concerns and be vigilant about inspecting their Halloween bags before they eat any candy.
Breach in Protocol Says CDC
A Dallas, TX nurse who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Ebola patient who died there last week, has tested positive for the virus. The nurse, whose name has not been released, was isolated after being admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said the CDC. She wore protective gear while caring for Duncan. Her infection “tells us there is a need to enhance training and protocols,” said CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden who blamed the infection on a “breach in protocol”. The CDC, which is investigating the case, issued guidelines to U.S. hospitals for identifying and treating Ebola patients several months ago when the epidemic began escalating in West Africa. U.S. health officials took pains to reassure the public that they are doing everything to prevent further spread.
Making It Mandatory
New York City has joined New Jersey, Connecticut and other states in requiring children in licensed day-care centers and preschools to receive flu vaccines. Rhode Island will enact a similar law in 2015. Evidence suggests that requiring flu vaccinations for preschoolers is effective, say researchers at the Yale School of Public Health in CT where a flu-shot law was enacted in 2010. Mandatory vaccination has a positive impact outside of preschools, says Yale Professor James Hadler. It also helps protect those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons. Detractors say that because the vaccine in any given year is only about 60% effective, it’s not worth forcing people to get it. The CDC recommends flu vaccinations for all healthy people over the age of 6 months.
Say Many Health Experts
As greater numbers of babies are born with drug dependencies, health officials are calling for screening pregnant women for substance abuse. According to a 2012 study in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., one drug-dependent baby is born every hour in the U.S. More recent statistics show that hospitalizations for the condition are rising precipitously. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, among other health organizations, is calling for verbal drug screening following by a urine test if necessary and agreed upon. But there are dissenters. Some pregnancy rights advocates say that screening may lead to loss of custody rather than treatment. Many drug-dependent babies suffer pain from withdrawal, diarrhea, vomiting and seizures. Long-term effects are not known.
Remains Will Be Cremated
Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed in the U.S. with Ebola has died in a Dallas hospital. He was diagnosed with Ebola in mid-September and people with whom he came into contact since his diagnosis are being monitored for symptoms for 21 days. In a press conference held this afternoon, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said that enhanced screening measures to guard against Ebola will be put in place at select U.S. airports, including JFK in New York. However, “whatever we do can't get the risk to zero here in the interconnected world that we live in today," Frieden said. The enhanced measures, which focus on travelers from W. Africa include taking passengers’ temperatures. Ebola is spread through contact with bodily fluids and only by someone who is symptomatic, says the CDC.
First Fatality of Virus
A preschooler in Hamilton Township, NJ is the first confirmed fatality from enterovirus D68, a virulent respiratory infection that’s affected people in 43 states. The boy, known only as Eli, was asymptomatic the night he died. "So the onset was very rapid, very sudden. And that's clearly the big difference (between enterovirus D68 and other strains)," said health officer Jeff Plunkett, Enterovirus commonly circulates in summer and fall and affects 10 to 15 million people each year says the CDC. This particular strain, however, has sent more children to the hospital with severe respiratory illnesses and is most dangerous to those with asthma or breathing problems. Enterovirus D68 has been linked to four other deaths but Eli’s case is the first in which it’s been cited as the cause of death.
U.S. health officials are opposed to a travel ban to Ebola-stricken countries saying that shutting down borders could hinder aid efforts. The idea of a ban was floated after the first case of Ebola in the U.S. was diagnosed last week. Said Anthony Fauci, Nat’l. Inst. of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, "It's conceivable that governments could fall if you just isolate them completely." British Airways has suspended travel to stricken countries and air traffic to the region is down. Tim Murphy, House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, will conduct hearings on the ban this week and said that asking passengers to report their own activity has been a failure. Officials say the U.S. is far better equipped to contain an Ebola outbreak than countries of West Africa.
Sam Kane Beef Processors, Corpus Christie, has recalled 90,987 pounds of ground beef, said the USDA.The recall was spurred by complaints from consumers who found bits of metal in the beef, which was shipped to Texas retailers. This is a Class II recall stating that “there is a remote possibility of adverse health consequences from consuming the product.” The recall includes: 3-pound packages of "HEB Ground Chuck," with a production date of "09/12/14" and a use by date of "10/02/14;” 10-pound packages of "HEB Ground Beef," with a production date of "09/18/14" and a use by date of "10/08/14" and 10-pound clear film packages of formed patties with a production date of "9/09/14" and a use by date of "9/29/14." All products bear the establishment number 337 inside the USDA mark of inspection.
$3.5 Billion to Be Exact
Pharmaceutical companies paid U.S. doctors and teaching hospitals $3.5 billion in the last 5 months of 2013, says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Recipients of big pharma bucks were required by President Obama’s 2010 healthcare reform law to disclose by March all payments of $10+ received from August to December 2013. The dual political party-supported law, implemented to shed light on medical industry payments, was intended to make patients aware of potential financial conflicts of interest. Some medical groups say release of the data could lead to public shaming of doctors who accept, for example, free trips to exotic locales. The information is available online but users cannot yet search the website by physician as the program has experienced software issues.
First Two Years of Life
The use of broad-spectrum antibiotics in the first two years of life increases the risk of childhood obesity finds a study from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. Children who received four or more courses of broad-spectrum antibiotics, including amoxicillin, tetracycline, streptomycin, moxifloxacin and ciprofloxacin, had a 17% higher risk of obesity between ages 3 and 5. The study was based on medical records of 54,580 babies and children. Research suggests that the mix of bacteria in the gut plays a role in obesity. Gut bacteria destroyed by antibiotics has been linked to a higher risk. "This really gives strong evidence that, often, obesity really is not a personal choice," said Dr. Stephen Cook, American Academy of Pediatrics.
Gov. Perry: All Hands on Deck
The first patient in the U.S. to have contracted Ebola may have exposed five school-aged children to the disease. The students went to four different schools and are being monitored, said Gov. Rick Perry. "The students didn’t have any symptoms so the odds of them passing on any sort of virus is very low," said Mike Miles, Dallas Independent School District Superintendent. The patient, identified as Thomas Eric Duncan, is quarantined in a Dallas hospital where a team is working with the health department to identify everyone who came into contact with him. Tom Frieden, CDC director said Duncan, who flew to the U.S. from Liberia, was asymptomatic during the flight. “You’re not contagious until you have symptoms.” He said that Ebola will be “stopped in its tracks” in this country.
In Middle Aged People
Among chronic knee pain sufferers 50 years of age and older, acupuncture was no more effective at relieving pain than was sham acupuncture, finds a study from the U. of Melbourne. Researchers divided 282 patients, aged 50+, into 4 groups. One group received needle acupuncture; another received laser acupuncture; the third group received no treatment and the fourth received sham laser acupuncture. Patients were given 8 to 12 treatments over 3 months. They evaluated their pain on a questionnaire at the beginning of the study, after the treatment period and again after a year. Researchers found no difference between the groups on their evaluations of knee pain and function leading researchers to conclude that there were no “direct” or “real” effects of acupuncture on chronic knee pain.
Patient in Strict Isolation
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed the first case of Ebola in the United States. The patient, whose identity has not been released, is being held in “strict isolation” in Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Dallas. The patient was admitted on Tuesday night based on symptoms and “recent travel history.” The hospital said it’s complying with all recommendations from the CDC to ensure the safety of other patients and the medical staff. Zachary Thompson, director, Dallas County Health & Human Services said Dallas County is ready to care for the patient. "This is not Africa," Thompson said. "We have a great infrastructure to deal with an outbreak." To date, the World Health Organization has confirmed more than 3,000 Ebola-related deaths in West Africa.
Where Did I Put the Car Keys?
While small memory lapses are normal, new research says they should be taken seriously as they may signal a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease in later years. In fact, “clues” as to one’s risk may be present as early as 12 years before diagnosis, finds a decade-long University of Kentucky study of 531 people. Participants had not been diagnosed with dementia at the outset of the study but those who reported memory loss at some point during its course were 3x more likely to develop cognitive problems later in life. The 12-year span between self-reported memory complaints and dementia suggests hope for early diagnosis. But, even if that’s the case, there’s little doctors can do at the present time since drug treatments to ward off dementia have not yet been developed, say researchers.
Cracking Down on Sales
The FDA is cracking down on the sale and distribution of counterfeit drugs and has begun a program to help doctors spot them. Distributors of fake drugs target doctors and medical clinics and use “aggressive marketing tactics to offer medications at discount rates," says Ilisa Bernstein, FDA office of compliance. For example, three times since 2012, fake versions of the cancer drug Avastin were sold to clinics and hospitals. It’s unknown what amount was administered to patients. The FDA is fighting back with flyers telling physicians how to spot bogus offers. They recommend that doctors only buy drugs from wholesale distributors licensed in their own states. A new federal law, that goes into effect early next year, requires that all wholesale drug distributors be state-licensed.
Senator Patty Murray, (D-WA), introduced a bill that would require any hospital that receives funding through Medicare or Medicaid to offer emergency contraception, also known as Plan B, to victims of sexual assault, regardless of their ability to pay for the drug. Nearly 30,000 women a year become pregnant as a result of rape or incest and some states have restrictions on Plan B, says Murray whose bill also directs the department of Health and Human Services to develop and distribute information about how emergency contraception works to clear up widespread misconceptions. Plan B prevents pregnancy from occurring and is not an abortion pill, say doctors. Several states have enacted legislation to restrict access to Plan B and six allow pharmacists to refuse to provide it to customers.
Numbers Remain High
While the number of people diagnosed with diabetes remains high and is still growing, the U.S. epidemic is showing the first signs of slowing, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection. The study looked at trends in diabetes rates and found steady rates of new cases through the 1980s, sharp increases from 1990- 2008 and slowing rates of increase from 2008-2012. One reason for the decline may be that obesity rates, which follow diabetes rates, are slowing down. While the news is encouraging, Robert Ratner, chief scientific and medical officer, American Diabetes Association, says the news should be interpreted “with caution.” "We need to start preventing diabetes, as opposed to just slowing its development," he says. "We need to stop it."
Current Cases Underreported
If there are no “additional interventions or changes in community behavior,” the number of people infected with Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone could reach between 550,000 and 1.4 million by January, says the CDC. The health organization says the epidemic will begin to decrease and eventually end if 70% of infected people receive proper medical attention. The World Health Organization blames the widespread outbreak on “the combination of dysfunctional health systems, international indifference, high population mobility, local customs, densely populated capitals and lack of trust in authorities after years of armed conflict.” The United States and several other countries as well as health organization have pledged to provide support for the West African countries affected by the outbreak.
Potential Threat to the World
The White House said antibiotic resistance is a potential threat to the nation and the world and announced a plan to fight it. The plan includes curbing the misuse of antibiotics, encouraging new drug development and hastening creation of tests to rapidly diagnose bacterial infections. Each year, antibiotic resistance is connected to 23,000+ deaths and 2 million illnesses, said the CDC which adds that up to half of all prescribed antibiotics are not needed or are not prescribed in the most effective way. In addition to bacterial infections such as pneumonia, "... treatment of conditions like cancer, arthritis and asthma are often complicated by infections," said Tom Frieden, CDC director. "If we lose the ability to treat these, we will undermine much of our current medical care system."
May Cause Gingivitis
Proctor & Gamble will remove polyethylene microbeads from Crest toothpaste because they may cause gum disease. The company was alerted to the problem by Trish Walraven, a dental hygienist who, after she noticed little blue specks embedded in many of her patients’ gums, blogged about it saying that toothpastes with microbeads can lead to periodontal disease. P & G took note and said that, even though the ingredient is safe and FDA-approved, they will remove it due to a “growing preference” to do so. A spokesperson for P & G, which also sells toothpastes with no microbeads said, “The majority of our product volume will be microbead-free within six months. We will complete our removal process by March of 2016.” Polyethylene also presents an environmental concern as it isn’t biodegradable.
“Threat to Global Health”
President Obama outlined a plan to help control the spread of Ebola which has killed more than 2,400 people. It includes sending 3,000 troops to West Africa as well as allocating funds for doctors, healthcare workers, labs and medical facilities. The administration estimates the cost of the plan to be $763 million over the next 6 months. The plan’s goals include controlling the outbreak, preventing ripple effects that could lead to economic and humanitarian disasters and building up Africa’s public health care system. The troops to be dispatched will not provide “direct patient care” but will provide logistical support to health care professionals. The plan has been lauded by many health care professionals although some have questioned whether it will be enough to contain the virus.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug for the treatment of obesity. The prescription drug, Contrave, is a combination of two FDA-approved drugs for depression and addiction. It is approved for adults with a BMI of 30 or higher or with a BMI of 27 but with weight-related conditions including Type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. While the drug helped people in clinical trials lose more weight than those using a placebo, it is not without its dangers. The FDA warns of risks of increased suicidal thoughts and behaviors, seizures, raised blood pressure and heart rates. Patients on Contrave should be closely monitored by a physician and reevaluated after using the drug for 12 weeks. If less than 5% of the patient’s body weight has been lost, the drug should be discontinued.
May Be Spreading
A respiratory virus that has sickened dozens of children in the Midwest may be spreading to other states, reports the Centers for Disease Control. The human enterovirus is reported every year, typically in the summer and fall. However, hospitals in the Midwest are reporting high numbers of a particularly virulent strain this year. The current outbreaks seem to be limited to children and those with asthma are particularly susceptible. There is no antiviral treatment or vaccine for the illness says Dr. Chris Nyquist, Children’s Hospital, Colorado. Children who contract human enterovirus 68 may be feverish, sick and coughing for a week or two and their breathing may be labored, especially those with already compromised respiratory systems.
Get Some Sleep!
Poor sleep may reduce brain volume and lead to brain disorders says a study published online in the journal Neurology. Researchers followed 147 adults, ages 20-84. Before completing a questionnaire on their sleep habits, participants were given an MRI to assess brain volume. A second MRI was done about 3 1/2 years later. Results of the questionnaire showed that 35% of participants had poor sleep health. Researchers found that those with sleep problems had a more rapid decline in brain volume over the course of the study. This was particularly true in participants aged 60+. Sleep problems can affect heart health, weight and memory and cause protein buildup in the brain that attacks brain cells. Future research is needed to see if improving quality of sleep improves brain health.
May Not Improve Survival Rates
Double mastectomies may not improve long-term survival rates finds a study by the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Cancer Prevention Inst. of California. The rate of double mastectomies rose from 2% in 1998 to 12.3% in 2013 but survival rates were similar to those who had breast-conserving surgery, found researchers who analyzed data from 200,000 patients with cancer in one breast. 55% had a lumpectomy followed by radiation, 39% had one breast removed and 6% had both breasts removed. The 10 year survival rate was 83.2%, 81.2% and 79.9% respectively. “This confirms what medical professionals have always suspected,” said Kathleen Erb, a breast cancer surgeon at Allegheny General Hospital. “There is no survival benefit to removing an unaffected breast, except in special cases."
More Flight Time = Higher Risk
Pilots are 2.22 times more likely than those in the general population to be diagnosed with melanoma says a new study in JAMA Dermatology. Flight crews have a 2.09 higher risk to develop the sixth most common cancer in the U.S. For the study, researchers at UC San Francisco examined data on 266,431 participants in 19 previously published studies and found that for pilots and flight crews, the risk of developing melanoma was more than twice the risk of those who work on the ground. In addition, pilots faced an 83% greater risk of dying from the cancer than those in the general population. Researchers say exposure to cosmic radiation and UVB radiation are not factors but exposure to UVA, which can penetrate glass, is. Plus, the higher a plane flies, the stronger the UVA radiation becomes.
“Can We Talk?"
Joan Rivers, the beloved and sometimes reviled comedienne, TV host, fashion designer and icon who became famous for her self-deprecating humor as well as for taking potshots at others, has died, confirmed her daughter, Melissa Rivers. Ms. Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital last week after losing consciousness during an outpatient procedure at a doctor’s office on New York City’s Upper East Side. She was placed in a medically-induced coma and was on life support. She was moved out of the ICU yesterday. Ms. Rivers was a role model for comediennes and women everywhere. She began doing stand-up in the late 1950s and got her big break as a guest on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show in 1965. The New York State Health Department is investigating the circumstances that led to her death.
a Tomato a Day Keeps Cancer away
Eating tomatoes may lower prostate cancer risk, finds a new study from the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford that assessed diets and lifestyles of 1,806 prostate cancer patients. The study found that men who ate 10+ servings per week of tomatoes reduced their prostate cancer risk by 18%. Researchers think that lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, is the key to lowered risk as it fights off toxins that can cause DNA and cell damage. Researchers say more studies are needed to confirm their findings” but that men should eat “a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight and stay active.” Prostate cancer affects 1 in 7 American men and is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. according to the American Cancer Society.
Daughter Melissa Thanks Fans
Comedienne Joan Rivers, 81, remains on life support at Mount Sinai Hospital, NYC, after being rushed there by the New York City fire department last week when she went into cardiac and respiratory arrest following a routine outpatient procedure. Doctors will reportedly bring Rivers out of a medically induced coma and she will be given a brain scan to determine if there was any brain damage from a lack of oxygen. Her daughter, Melissa Rivers, released a written statement today that read, “On behalf of my mother and our family, we are extremely grateful for all the love and support we’ve received. At this time she does remain on life support. I know my mother would be overwhelmed by the continued outpouring of kindness and I want to thank everyone for keeping us in their prayers.”
Medical Staff at Risk
More than 240 health care workers have been infected with the Ebola virus that is spreading across West Africa and more than 120 have died, said the World Health Organization. "In many cases, medical staff are at risk because no protective equipment is available – not even gloves and face masks," the agency says in its latest update. It adds that medical staffs are overworked and often exhausted which can contribute to mistakes in infection control. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says that the virus which has sickened more than 2,600 people and killed 1,400 still has the “upper hand.” Frieden is visiting West Africa and said that the outbreak can be contained. The West Africa outbreak is the largest in history.
From $10 - $10,000 for Same Test
Costs for 10 common blood tests vary widely finds a University of California/San Francisco study that looked at 2011 prices charged by 160 to 180 California hospitals. The median charge for a basic metabolic panel was $214.00 but, depending on the facility, costs ranged from $35.00 to $7,303. The median charge for a lipid panel was $220.00 but costs ranged from $10.00 to $10,169. Health insurance covers the bulk of these prices but patients without insurance will have to pay the price, which can be hefty. In general, teaching hospitals had lower prices than non-teaching hospitals. “ ... one of the most concerning findings is the small degree to which any factors could explain the differences. This shows that the way we price health care is so irrational,” said senior researcher Renee Hsia.
Four male North Carolina State University students have developed a nail polish that changes color when swirled in a drink that has been spiked with date rape drugs. “All of us have been close to someone who has been through the terrible experience [of date rape],” said Ankash Madan, one of the founders of Undercover Colors, the company that hopes to produce the polish that can detect Xanax, GHB and Rohynpnol. This innovation is lauded as a positive development for helping women avoid sexual assault but there are detractors who say the solution to America’s college rape culture is to teach men and boys not to rape. Undercover Colors nail polish “shifts the fear from the victims to the perpetrators.” No release date has been announced as the company is still awaiting funding.
Blood Tests Negative
Dr. Kent Brantly, who was being treated at Emory University Hospital after contracting Ebola in West Africa, will be released today, sources said, after his blood tests came back negative for the virus. Brantly, a missionary, and his colleague, Nancy Writebol, were evacuated from Liberia earlier this month after contracting the deadly disease. Although there is no known cure for Ebola, both patients were treated with an experimental drug called ZMapp which helps strengthen the immune system. The Ebola virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids and, although Brantly is no longer infectious, there is a slight chance that the virus could linger for up to three months in his semen, said the World Health Organization. Writebol is also said to be recovering.