Personalized Medicine is the Future: Are You Ready?

Most of us are used to a “one size fits all” methodology of medicine.  You go in, you get your physical and answer a few questions.  Unless you have symptoms, or are already being treated for something, you are sent home with a clean bill of health.  But what if you know that breast cancer or colon cancer runs in the family?  Just having a family history of cancer may not be enough to raise any questions.  Or is it? The rise of Personalized Medicine, an evolving medicine in which treatments are tailored to the individual, is changing the face of medicine.  If you are at high-risk but still healthy, you may benefit from new technologies that are aimed at improving the treatment of certain types of cancer.  Biomarker tests, such as the CA 125 (Cancer antigen 125) test or the CEA (Carcinoembryonic antigen) test, can identify potential cancers before symptoms appear and can be used to determine how well a patient will respond to treatment.  Although cancer marker tests are not foolproof, they are being used more and more by oncologists to define and manage treatment plans. In addition, the FDA is working with drug and device manufacturers to assess and approve additional tests that will personalize cancer drug treatments based on a person’s genetic makeup.  These tests, called Companion Diagnostics, are targeted specifically at the way each person’s body reacts to a specific drug.  Initially used for the breast cancer drug, Herceptin, the first companion diagnostic test evaluates the level of the protein HER2 in the blood.  If there are high levels, it is an indication that Herceptin...

Obesity: It’s a Bigger Problem Than You Might Think

Many Americans know that obesity is a problem in the United States both for adults and for children.  In addition, this is the time of year when we all start to think about how things went (or grew) last year and what we want to do better during 2013.  Have you decided that you are going to lose weight, eat better, exercise or any combination of these?  If so, good luck and I hope that the gym membership and healthy food in the fridge gets put to good use!  If you can stick to it for 3 weeks you may have a chance to really establish a good habit. Knowing that obesity is a problem for so many of us isn’t surprising.  What is surprising is that many people are unaware of how many ways being overweight or obese impacts their health.  A recent poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research indicates that although most of us know obesity is related to heart disease and diabetes we are unaware of other serious effects including: Higher risk of cancers of the colon, breast, protate and uterus Greater difficulty locating tumors Arthritis – the vicious cycle of gaining weight makes it more difficult to exercise and shed pounds which helps to improve arthritis Infertility High blood pressure and high cholesterol Respiratory problems such as sleep apnea and asthma If more Americans were aware of the additional risks of being overweight or obese, it might motivate them to work harder to shed excess weight.  It is not only about looks but about the ability to live a longer, healthier life.  Since now...

Heart Health Needs to Come First!

It’s hard not to notice all the pink around us right now…from scarfs and umbrellas to NFL socks and neon pink shoes.  For many people who have been personally touched by cancer and specifically, breast cancer, these signs of support for the search for a cure are deeply meaningful.  Unfortunately, for others who haven’t been affected the pink has become overwhelming.  Are you aware that more women die of heart disease than all types of cancer combined?  For those who are at a high risk of breast cancer either through genetics (mothers, aunts and sisters who have had it) or through lifestyle (obesity, smoking, lack of exercise) getting mammograms, self exams and possibly CA-125 tests can be critical. For the rest of us, after we’ve taken the basic preventive steps and tests, there is all the rest of our lifestyle and genetics to look at.  How many of us have had grandparents, parents and siblings with heart disease and are on statins to lower cholesterol?  I have it coming at me from both sides of my family.  Have you taken the first important step to have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked?  Do you try to eat healthy or have you given up because losing weight and taking a walk is just too hard?  If it matters to you, go ahead, wear pink.  But do it while you’re having a salad or going to the gym or out for a walk.  In the long run, this will save many more lives. Written by www.labtestingnow.com...

Breast Implants: Still Dangerous After All These Years?

Hollywood, and now my neighborhood, is rife with breast implants and shapelier women than nature intended.  For a time women became wary of silicone implants because the FDA took them off the market claiming that the manufacturers had not proven their safety.  The fears of lupus and cancers steered women away from silicone toward saline implants or away from implants altogether.   Silicone implants were put back on the market in 2006 because the FDA couldn’t find solid research linking the implants to disease.  Recent information links both types of implants to a rare lymphoma: anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).  Although only 60 cases have been identified worldwide out of all the women who have had breast implants, which number in the millions, doctors are being asked to report any cases.  The cancer was found in women who came to doctors complaining of swelling, lumps, hardening or pain well after the implant surgery sites had healed.  ALCL apparently begins in the scar tissue surrounding the surgery site. In conjunction with research conducted at the University of Colorado and the University of Michigan that suggests rolling back new recommendations that women get mammograms only every other year after age 50, breast cancer is back on the front page.  The new study claims that the old recommendations of annual mammograms beginning at age 40 may save as many as 65,000 women from breast cancer. It’s unclear what could make it seem worthwhile to put yourself in such danger, either by getting implants to impress other people or by delaying mammograms based on one recommendation.  No one is going to watch out for your health, or your breasts as...

Still Smoking? An Obvious New Year’s Resolution…

If your friends and family aren’t telling you, I will: Quit Today!  The cancer that causes more deaths than any other in the US is lung cancer.  Smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer and it contributes to deaths by stroke and heart attack.  New research to be printed in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery has been studying the use of CT (computed tomography) scans to screen for tumors in heavy, long-term smokers and this could have a huge impact on reducing deaths due to lung cancer.  Of course, not smoking at all will have the largest impact, but if you still smoke, the National Cancer Institute’s ongoing randomized Lung Cancer Screening Trial showed that getting CT scans on a regular basis reduced deaths by 20%.  The researchers of the newest study used three dimensional CT scans to look for histoplasmosis which is harder to diagnose on traditional CT scans because the nodules look like tumors.  The study showed that using the proper protocol, doctors were able to avoid unnecessary biopsies of non-cancerous nodules and find tumors early enough for them to be removed. As always with new research, more needs to be done and the researchers cautioned that if this screening becomes standard a very strict protocol for it will need to be followed to prevent unnecessary biopsies.  Currently, there are no truly effective screenings for lung cancer, although there is a cancer screen and tumor marker test that can alert you to possible cancer.  There is also a DNA genetic predisposition test which can point out specific areas where you may have a tendency to particular diseases,...