Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Hopefully this may clarify confusion over prostate testing

First, I am not a doctor--this is not medical advice. This is a start at learning more about options for maintaining prostate health.

This advice comes from Michael J Misialek, MD, assoc chair, dept of pathology, and assistant clinical prof in pathology at Tufts. He is the guy who looks at PSA screenings and biopsies.

PSA stands for Prostate Specific Antigen. It's a blood test using the same blood they take for cholesterol screening. PSA testing, however, is not always ordered.

--There is no consensus wbout when to start PSA screening or how often to do it.  The controversy is that is can lead to costly treatment for cancer that may not be aggressive. Misialek recommends at least talking with your doctor about it at age 40.

--Elevated PSA does not always mean you have cancer. It can be a good indicator, but other things cause elevated PSA, too. Eighty percent of cancers have an elevated PSA.

--A biopsy confirms the diagnosis. This will show the type of cancer if it is cancer.

--Request your pathology report. Talk to the pathologist.

--Be part of your care plan. You will make your own decisions.

--Rushing to surgery and intense treatment is not always best. Sometimes it's best to begin a period of active surveillance to monitor the cancer's growth. If surgery is necessary at some point, it can be followed by radiation, chemo or hormonal therapy.

There are some new tests coming, also. The Prostate Health Index--now in early trials--may be more accurate than the PSA.

Genetic testing may also predict risk. The same gene that is thought to cause some breast and ovarian cancers--BRCA1 and BRCA2--may also be linked to early-onset prostate cancer.

These are areas to explore with your doctor. Don't be afraid to ask questions, do some research, and don't just freak out and insist on surgery to get the thing out...

Think before you react.

Monday, August 31, 2015

New non-invasive test may replace angiograms

More than 16 million adults have coronary artery disease in this country. This occurs when a buildup of plaque (sludge) narrows the blood supply to the heart, causing chest pain or in severe cases, a heart attack.

Blockages that reduce blood flow a small amount can be treated with cholesterol-lowering drugs of aspirin. More severe blockages require a stent or bypass surgery.

The measure of blood flow is call fractional flow reserve (FFR). Before now, checking this required a big-deal procedure in which a thin tube was inserted in the groin artery, pushed all the way to the heart, a thin wire then put in the blockage and a sensor measured the FFR.

But now, a test has been developed by HeartFlow Inc and approved by the FDA, which basically uses CT scan technology to measure FFR from outside the body.

The CT scans create a 3D model of the arteries and computer programs simulate blood flow to those arteries to see how blocked they are.

"This is a game changer," says cardiologist Mark Rabbat, MD, of Loyola. the Loyola University Medical Center is the first to offer this.

Will other hospitals be far behind?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Hypoallergenic parks? Really?

On the face of it, this sounds nutty--parks that don't make people's allergies and hayfever worse.

But it is not nutty--a professor of botany at the Univ of Grenada, Spain, is studying how trees in green spaces contribute to or cause allergies. (J of Environmental Science, special section)

She and all her siblings suffer from allergies. They are immersed in this subject. The city of Grenada is her lab. It has one of the highest pollen counts in the world.

They classified all the trees in Grenada's parks and green spaces. They recorded the type of pollination, the length of the pollination period, and the potential of each tree for causing allergies.

Surprise--many of the most common trees were the worst offenders.

They also learned that allergies were never considered in designing these spaces.  In the future, she says, urban green spaces can be "comfort islands." Not only would they not cause or make allergies worse, the could even clean pollutants out of the air.

So maybe it sounds nutty to try to make the out-of-doors allergy-free, but this woman said, hey, why not?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Kids eating fewer fruits and veggies since new regs came in

Kids! They can be perverse.

Congress is about to vote on reauthorizing the healthier lunch regulations--and a new study in Public Health Reports (online), Aug 25, found students were putting more healthy stuff on their trays but consuming less of it, increasing waste by 35%.

The researchers at the Univ of Vermont looked in the trash bins--kids were taking whole apples and then tossing them. They took digital pix of trays as they left the cashier, then estimated what was tossed.

When kids selected, they preferred processed fruits and veggies, such as the tomato paste on pizza. Or 100% fruit juice.

Some ideas to prevent this?

--Cut up veggies and serve them with dip or mixed into the meal.

--Slice fruits rather than serving them whole.

--Get kids involved with gardening or Farm-to-School programs.

--Public health programs that push fruit and veggies at home.

The biggest hope is kindergarteners who enter school under the guidelines...They will know no other way.

But will even that kid peel an orange?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Depression isn't catching

I have wondered if my usual "pragmatic" (read glass half empty) self may be bringing others down. I really don't want to do that--but it's not my nature to be all chirpy, say things like "it's all good," or just generally lark around like Pollyanna on crack.

I expect the worst, imagine it, plan for it--and if something good happens, it's unexpected and wonderful. If not--at least I was correct.

I wouldn't call this mindset depression, but when I read about this study, I felt better.

Some British researchers at the Univ of Warwick Medical School says at least among teenagers, kids with a "healthy" mood can help prevent depression among those so inclined--without becoming depressed themselves.

Friendship among adolescents should be encouraged!

They looked at more than 2,000 adolescents in a network of US HS students. They tracked "low mood" and "healthy mood" across the group. (Proceedings of the Royal Society)

--The mathematical model they used showed that kids who have five or more mentally healthy friends have half the probability of being depressed, compared with kids with no mentally healthy friends.

--Teens wtih 10 healthy friends have double the probability of recovering from depressive symptoms compared to kids with only three healthy friends.

My thought was why would 10 healthy people want to hang around one buzzkill? But you know how skeptical I am.