Posts Tagged ‘Cancer’

With all the effort being put into breast cancer awareness, there are bound to be myths and misconceptions about the nature of breast cancer and how it affects people.

Here is a list of seven such myths:

  1. Myth: A lump in the breast always means cancer.
  2. Myth: Mammograms may cause cancer to spread.
  3. Myth: There’s no history of breast cancer in my family, so I won’t get it.
  4. Myth: Having a mastectomy is the best way to cure breast cancer and prevent it from coming back.
  5. Myth: Young women are just as likely to get breast cancer as older women.
  6. Myth: Breast cancer is fatal.
  7. Myth: Men don’t get breast cancer.

For every one of these myths is a truth, but you will have to go check out the source to get those answers.

Remember, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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It has been known for a long time that there is a connection between dense breast tissue and an increased risk of developing breast cancer, but only recently have researchers begun to understand why.

Breast tissue is composed of several different types of cells which create different structures. There is the epithelium, consisting of duct cells and milk glands, the stroma, which is the connective tissue for the epithelial cells, and fat.

The 60 women who participated in the Mayo Clinic study were healthy with no history of breast cancer. Their breast tissue was biopsied to determine the difference in cellular composition between dense and non-dense tissue.

Results are now available from more than half of the participants who donated biopsy tissue. Dr. Ghosh found that areas of density contained much more epithelium (6 percent) and stroma (64 percent) and much less fat (30 percent), compared to non-dense tissue that contained less than 1 percent epithelium, about 20 percent stroma, and almost 80 percent fat. “This shows us that both the epithelium and stroma contribute to density, and suggests that the large difference in stroma content in dense breast tissue may play a significant role in breast cancer risk,” Dr. Ghosh says.

Another study took these results a step further:

In a second study, researchers also found that dense breast tissue has more aromatase enzyme than non-dense tissue. This is significant because aromatase helps convert androgen hormones into estrogen, and estrogen is important in breast cancer development, says that study’s lead investigator, Celine Vachon, Ph.D.

“If aromatase is differentially expressed in dense and non-dense breast tissue, this could provide one mechanism by which density may increase breast cancer risk,” Dr. Vachon says.

The researchers have found some strong links thus far, but they are recruiting more women for a second study to validate their findings.

“These are initial findings from one of the first attempts to study breast density at the level of healthy tissue. It doesn’t explain everything yet, but is providing really valuable insights,” says Dr. Ghosh, who established the patient resource for both studies.

Drs. Ghosh and Vachon are finishing their analysis of the initial 60 volunteers, and they are also enrolling more participants in order to validate and expand their findings. “No one knows why density increases breast cancer risk, but we are attempting to connect the dots,” Dr. Vachon says.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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About A Girl

The death of Natalie Morton at 14 years old is a tragic and cautionary tale.

She died within hours of receiving Cervarix, the HPV1 vaccine. Following the rule obeyed by the general public that correlation = causation, a huge outcry blaming the vaccine began making the rounds. This was undoubtedly fueled in part by those groups and individuals dedicated to eliminating vaccines altogether.

The National Health Service in England took a cautionary approach and suspended use of the vaccine until they could complete and investigation. The real medical professionals were betting that a batch of vaccines had become tainted somehow.

So far, 1.4 million doses of the vaccine have been administered.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) received 2,137 reports of suspected side effects of Cervarix between April 14, 2008 and September 23 this year.

The total number of suspected reactions is 4,657.

In total, there were 575 reports relating to side effects at the site of the injection, such as swelling and extreme pain, and another 241 allergic reactions, such as rash, swollen face and swollen lips.

A total of 455 reports were linked to ‘psychogenic effects’ such as nausea, panic attacks and fainting while 955 were other recognised effects like headache and sickness.

A total of 330 reports were suspected reactions not currently recognised, such as palpitations, blurred vision, chest pain and flu-like illness.

The MHRA said on September 23 that the balance of risks and benefits of Cervarix remains positive.

Globally, many vaccine doses have been administered and no deaths are directly related to the vaccine.

Gardasil, an HPV vaccination (though different than the one the girl in England received), has been given to over 7 million girls, yet there have been only 20 deaths after getting the shot… and for almost all of them there is no obvious relation between the shot and the fatality except for timing. In other words, they were tragic coincidences.

The story concludes on the following note:

“The pathologist has confirmed today at the opening of the inquest into the death of Natalie Morton that she died from a large malignant tumor of unknown origin in the heart and lungs,” said Dr Caron Grainger, joint director of public health for the Coventry area where Natalie died.

“There is no indication that the HPV vaccine, which she had received shortly before her death, was a contributing factor to the death, which could have arisen at any point,” Grainger said in a statement.

It was a terrible coincidence of timing. Our deepest condolences go out to her friends and family.

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If you have never heard of electrosurgery before, here is some background information:

Electrosurgery is the application of a high-frequency electric current to biological tissue as a means to cut, coagulate, desiccate, or fulgurate tissue. […] Its benefits include the ability to make precise cuts with limited blood loss. Electrosurgical devices are frequently used during surgical operations helping to prevent blood loss in hospital operating rooms or in outpatient procedures.

In electrosurgical procedures, the tissue is heated by an electric current. Although electrical devices may be used for the cauterization of tissue in some applications, electrosurgery is usually used to refer to a quite different method than electrocautery. The latter uses heat conduction from a probe heated by a direct current (much in the manner of a soldering iron), whereas electrosurgery uses alternating current to directly heat the tissue itself.

The main reason surgeons use electrosurgical tools is to minimize blood loss. A team of German and Hungarian researchers decided to adapt one such electroscalpel by attaching a pump to suck up tiny particles of tissue which get vaporized during cutting.

In electrosurgery, tissue is locally exposed to high-frequency electrical current in order to guide a cut, remove tissue, or halt bleeding. The tissue being treated becomes very hot and is partially vaporized. The electrical current also generates electrically charged molecules during the vaporization. The team of scientists from the University of Giessen, the Budapest firm Massprom, Semmelweis University, and the National Research Institute for Radiobiology and Radiohygiene, also in Budapest, made use of this process for their new method called rapid evaporation ionization mass spectrometry, or REIMS. They equipped an electrosurgical instrument with a special pump that sucks the vaporized cell components up through a tube and introduces the charged molecules into a mass spectrometer.

Once it was shown that obtaining the tissue was feasible, they were fortunate to discover that the different types of tissue are rapidly and easily distinguished by a mass spectrometer.

It turns out that mainly lipids, the components of cell membranes, are registered by the mass spectrometer. “Different tissue types demonstrate characteristic differences in their lipid composition,” explains Takáts. “Tumor tissue also differs from healthy tissue.” The scientists were able to develop a special algorithm to unambiguously identify and differentiate between types of tissue.

“Tissue analysis with REIMS, including data analysis, requires only fractions of a second,” according to Takáts. “During an operation, the surgeon thus received virtually real-time information about the nature of the tissue as he was cutting it.” This opens new vistas for cancer surgery in particular: the method helps to precisely localize the tumor during surgery and to delimit it from the surrounding healthy tissue. REIMS also provides information about whether the carcinoma is in an early or advanced stage.

We hope this technique becomes widely available as soon as possible.

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Smoking still kills more men than women, because men started smoking substantial numbers of cigarettes long before women did. But, because so many men have now quit, male death rates from smoking are decreasing in many European countries where female death rates from smoking are still increasing. Taking men and women together, smoking causes about 0.7 million deaths per year in the 27 countries of the present European Union, including 0.3 million deaths per year before age 70 (more than one of five of all deaths before age 70). Those killed by tobacco before age 70 lose, on average, about 23 years of life (and those killed by tobacco at older ages lose, on average, about 8 years).

We are all for equality between the sexes, but this is not quite what we had in mind.

Sir Richard Peto, professor of medical statistics at the University of Oxford, UK, said “In Western Europe tobacco causes more premature deaths than anything else does, and among both men and women about a quarter of those who smoke throughout adult life will be killed by tobacco before they are old, unless they can manage to stop smoking.”

There are solutions which make quitting tobacco far easier than it once was. Eating a healthy diet can make cigarettes seem less appealing. If the nicotine cravings are too difficult to beat then invest in an e-cigarette so you can get your fix without the cancer.

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Heliobacter Pylori is a bacteria which has figured out a way to overcome the stomach’s inhospitable environment. When the body tries to eliminate the invaders from the stomach by triggering the inflammation response, painful ulcers result. Chronic inflammation has also been linked to stomach cancer.

There appeared to be a dilemma for scientists investigating the methodology employed by H. pylori in overcoming the hostility of its environment.

The overwhelming acidity of the stomach forces the bacteria to produce ammonia, which basic and can neutralize the hydrochloric acid. However, the stomach protects itself against destruction from corrosive acid through a protein called mucin. When it detects acid, mucin creates a protective gel, which also acts as a physical barrier against H. pylori. How can H. pylori make it to the stomach wall past an impenetrable barrier?

Mucin’s fatal flaw is its sensitivity to pH. When pH gets raised, the protective layer changes from a gel state to liquid state. Since the bacteria surround themselves with ammonia, which has a high pH, they can easily move through the gel which is liquefying around them. Previously, it was thought that H. pylori was using its tail and screw shape to physically burrow through the gel.

Images and videos at the source.

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Sometimes reports like this appear to be sensationalized so lets take a look at the numbers first.

About 9 percent of those ages 1 through 21 — about 7.6 million children, adolescents and young adults — have Vitamin D levels so low they could be considered deficient, while an additional 61 percent — 50.8 million — have higher levels, but still low enough to be insufficient, according to the analysis of federal data being released Monday.

There are a couple of factors at work here which are combining to cause this problem.

  1. Children are not drinking sufficient quantities of milk or eating enough foods which contain Vitamin D. It is even more problematic if soda is being consumed instead of milk.
  2. Children are being slathered in sunscreen before being exposed to the sun. When skin is exposed to the sun, the body produces Vitamin D.

Parents need to make sure their children are receiving proper nutrition, including eating foods with Vitamin D. However, sun exposure is the ideal way to get sufficient Vitamin D, which is why it is commonly referred to as “the sunshine vitamin”.

It is true that being exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation may lead to cancer. As with almost everything else in the field of health and nutrition, moderation is key. Someone with fair skin may be fine with 15 minutes in the sun, but that number needs to be revised upwards if the individual has darker skin and also for the time of year.

In the last three months alone, four separate studies found it helped protect against lymphoma and cancers of the prostate, lung and, ironically, the skin. The strongest evidence is for colon cancer.

Enjoy your summer.

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Some exciting news on the cure for cancer front from a research team headed by Sangeeta N. Bhatia, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Michael J. Sailor, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego.

Gold nanoshells are among the most promising new nanoscale therapeutics being developed to kill tumors, acting as antennas that turn light energy into heat that cooks cancer to death. Now, a multi-institutional research team has shown that polymer-coated gold nanorods one-up their spherical counterparts, with a single dose completely destroying all tumors in a nonhuman animal model of human cancer.

Here’s how it works, in simple English:

Tiny gold particles are injected into the site of the tumor and absorbed by it. These particles can then be heated using infrared light to a high enough temperature to destroy the cancerous tissue without harming the surrounding tissue. Not only that, but if the cancerous tissue cannot be completely eliminated through this method, the heating makes it more susceptible to the effects of chemotherapy, for a combined knock out punch. These particle can also be coated with different materials which can relay all sorts of useful data to the proper type of scanner.

The bad news is that this is still in the research phase of development.

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This is one of those “wacky but true” type of medical discoveries. Fluorouracil, a drug used to treat certain types of cancer, was found to have other beneficial properties.

Fluorouracil stops the body from synthesizing thymine, a building block of DNA, according to background information in the article. This drug is used to treat cancers of the colon, head and neck, pancreas and other organs. In early studies of patients with cancer undergoing treatment with systemic fluorouracil, clinicians noticed changes in skin appearance, which led to the development of a topical therapy for the treatment of actinic keratoses (skin lesions that may develop into skin cancer).

Before you go and run to your doctor, understand that there are consequences of playing with such powerful drugs. The patients who received this treatment for their skin had the same type of injured look which happens from laser ablative resurfacing treatments.

“For patients in whom a course of topical fluorouracil is indicated for the treatment of actinic keratoses, there will likely be the additional benefit of a restorative effect from sun damage; this may provide further motivation for these patients to undergo the rigorous treatment,” the authors conclude. “It is possible that for some patients topical fluorouracil may have an important role against photo-aging. For others, however, it may not be cosmetically acceptable given that a standard course of therapy may last two to three weeks and the ensuing reaction can persist for several more weeks.

It works by damaging the outer layer of skin which causes the body to begin a healing process including the sub-dermal layer, resulting in younger, healthier looking skin.

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This is still early stage news, so don’t get too excited. For example, the study itself had some slight flaws.

“Unfortunately, this trial was not a randomized trial, which would have been needed to be more sure that the observed changes were truly attributable to the green tea components and not to some other lifestyle change (better diet, taking vitamins, etc.) men undertook in preparation for surgery,” added Nelson, who is also a senior editor for Cancer Prevention Research. However, “this trial is provocative enough to consider a more substantial randomized trial.”

The men chosen for the study did not sit around drinking tea all day. They received measured doses of one particular compound found in green tea.

The study included 26 men, aged 41 to 72 years, diagnosed with prostate cancer and scheduled for radical prostatectomy. Patients consumed four capsules containing Polyphenon E until the day before surgery — four capsules are equivalent to about 12 cups of normally brewed concentrated green tea, according to Cardelli.

The exciting part is the actual results which were obtained.

Findings showed a significant reduction in serum levels of HGF, VEGF and PSA after treatment, with some patients demonstrating reductions in levels of greater than 30 percent, according to the researchers.

There is still much work to be done, and this seems like a good step in the right direction.

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Finding reasons why evolution would favor big brains and intelligence in humans is easy. A more difficult line of inquiry is to determine if there are costs involved in having advanced intelligence, and what they may be.

“The results from our analysis suggest that humans aren’t as efficient as chimpanzees in carrying out programmed cell death. We believe this difference may have evolved as a way to increase brain size and associated cognitive ability in humans, but the cost could be an increased propensity for cancer,” said McDonald.

This particular hypothesis indicates that increased cancer rates is one significant cost.

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Dr. Gary D. Kao, at a V.A. hospital in Philadelphia, was supposed to implant radioactive seeds into a patient’s prostate, to eliminate a tumor. However, most ended up in the patient’s bladder instead. With the blessings of his higher ups, he rewrote the surgical plan to cover up the mistake.

Unfortunately for many other patients, 92 out of 116 cancer treatments over the course of 6 years were botched at this V.A. hospital. Many people knew, and had no problem keeping it quiet.

Not because hospitals are above covering up malpractice, or because doctors don’t protect other doctors, but because any private hospital would have been terrified of getting sued.  The VA is very hard to sue because of sovereign immunity.

Something to keep in mind, as certain groups are aggressively pushing for government to take over healthcare in the United States.

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There are two general types of prostate cancer, and one of them is very aggressive. Unfortunately for some men, that means surgery is no longer an option by the time it gets noticed. Fortunately, some great forward strides have been made on this front at the Mayo Clinic to give these men a fighting chance.

Dr. Kwon called Dr. Allison and designed the trial together. The idea: use androgen ablation or hormone therapy to ignite an immune approach — a pilot light — and then, after a short interval of hormone therapy, introduce an anti-CTLA-4 antibody that acts like gasoline to this pilot light and overwhelms the cancer cells. MDX-010 (now called Ipilimumab) is the clinical antibody being tested in the Mayo trial.

This has been tested on two patients so far, with very good results, but some caution is in order.

Both investigators are quick to point out that the outcomes in these two patients need to be validated in further studies. Plans are already underway for extended trials at Mayo Clinic to determine the dosage to optimize this therapy and explain how this combined treatment actually works.

“It’s important for us to understand the mechanism of favorable response in these patients,” says Dr. Blute. “This could have significant implications for other forms of cancer, including hormone-sensitive forms, such as breast and ovarian cancer.

Go read the source material for a detailed account of the patients experiences, and to learn a little more about the treatment.

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