Can we detect cancer earlier?

Harvard researchers have developed a new way to detect signs of cancer in the blood. They’ve invented a hand-held device that quickly determines the number of microvesicles in a drop of blood. Microvesicles shed by tumors have been ignored by the medical community for decades because it was not known until recently that they contain imprints of originating cells and also DNA and other molecules. The detection device may help find a person’s cancer before it has spread too far to be cured. It may also help determine how well a cancer treatment is working. More »

Reduce your stroke risk

It’s important to get obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) diagnosed and under control. OSA is a condition that occurs during sleep, when a person stops breathing for a few seconds because his or her airway is blocked. A person with untreated OSA has an increased risk of having a stroke, a fatal stroke, and a second stroke compared to those without sleep apnea. Treatment includes weight loss, oral appliances, surgery, and a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, which uses air delivered through a mask to prevent the airway from closing. (Locked) More »

An easier way to replace a heart valve

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a new procedure that is making a big difference for people with aortic stenosis—severe narrowing of the main outlet valve from the heart (the aortic valve). Open-heart surgery has been the historical way to treat this problem. But some people aren’t candidates for such invasive surgery because of other serious medical conditions or older age. With TAVR, there’s no need to open the chest. Instead, a catheter takes the replacement valve through the leg artery to the heart. Patients who previously would have died are now being saved by this procedure. (Locked) More »

Tomatoes and stroke protection

Tomatoes may help lower your risk of ischemic stroke—blockage of a brain artery that starves cells of oxygen and causes them to die. Lycopene is a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their brilliant red color, and it is also a powerful antioxidant that eliminates dangerous free radical cells that cause damage to our bodies. Scientists believe that lycopene, in addition to attacking free radicals, also reduces inflammation and cholesterol, improves immune function, and prevents blood from clotting. That may be key to reducing strokes. (Locked) More »

Bad backs: Are you happy with your treatment?

A new tool called a decision aid can help make sure people with a herniated disc understand all aspects of treatment. The tool is a questionnaire with multiple-choice questions. It also asks about patient goals and concerns to see if surgical or nonsurgical options may best meet their needs. A doctor can take the results and address any knowledge gaps. The survey has already shown, in clinical studies, that it’s made a difference to patients and helped to ensure that the right candidate for herniated disc surgery is in the operating room. (Locked) More »

Is hormone therapy safe again?

Several authoritative organizations have issued new guidelines about hormone therapy (HT)—an area that has led to confusion and conflicting guidelines for the past decade. A coalition of 15 medical groups, including the North American Menopause Society, issued a statement declaring that HT is acceptable for short-term use in healthy women with marked menopausal symptoms up to age 59 or within 10 years of menopause. Short-term use in women of that age does not increase the risk for heart attack and stroke, and does relieve symptoms of menopause. However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends against long-term use of HT for the purpose of preventing chronic medical conditions, as contrasted with the purpose of treating menopausal symptoms. (Locked) More »

Advances in eye surgery

Cataract surgery can now be done without the use of surgical blades and instead with bladeless lasers, thanks to 3D imaging, which enables surgeons to give the lasers precise instructions. Ophthalmologists place a special device on the eye, which sends a 3D image to a screen. The surgeon looks at the image and tells a computer where the laser will make incisions. The laser then executes the cuts and also breaks up the cataract. When the laser procedure is finished, a matter of minutes, the surgeon uses surgical instruments to remove the fractured cataract and position the new lens implant. Risks are the same for laser cataract surgery as they are for traditional cataract surgery, including a slight chance of detachment of the retina, infection, and bleeding. However, laser surgery proponents suggest the procedure reduces those risks by providing a higher level of precision. (Locked) More »

Latest Mohs skin cancer surgery guidelines

Dermatologists now have official guidelines for Mohs surgery, a procedure that removes skin cancer while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue. The new Appropriate Use Criteria (AUC) for Mohs surgery, approved by a number of dermatologic associations, will help doctors better select patients for the procedure. Mohs surgery is warranted in 200 out of 270 scenarios named in the AUC. Smaller, more superficial skin growths may not be right for Mohs surgery. (Locked) More »

What you should know about: PPIs

Proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) are drugs that are often prescribed for people who suffer from chronic heartburn or another digestive disorder. They are available over the counter and by prescription. They work by reducing the production of stomach acid. PPIs are generally safe when used in the short term; however, they do carry some risks in the long term, such as hip fracture, pneumonia, and a type of life-threatening gastrointestinal infection. PPIs may also interfere with clopidogrel (Plavix), a blood thinner. (Locked) More »

Exercise can add years to your life

People who engage in leisure-time physical activity can extend their lives by as much as four years, compared with similar-weight people who do no such activity. Being active and also maintaining a healthy weight boosts longevity by more than seven years. (Locked) More »