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...

Would You Recognize the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer has been called the “silent killer” for years but this isn’t completely accurate.  Do you know what to watch for?  If you suspect a problem what should you do next?  There is a lot of information out about breast cancer screening: mammograms, sonograms and self examination, but not much about ovarian cancer, which is the deadliest of gynecologic diseases and the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women.  The good news is that 90% of early ovarian cancer can be cured, but because women aren’t aware of the warning signs, it isn’t usually found until the cancer is at an advanced stage.  The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance has laid out guidelines for symptoms that may indicate ovarian cancer.  Although these symptoms aren’t definitive should be checked to rule out cancer.  The symptoms include: Bloating Pelvic or abdominal pain Urinary urgency or frequency Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly If you have any of the symptoms listed above and have had them for several weeks or are at a high risk of breast or ovarian cancer either through family history or the presence of the BRCA gene mutation you should definitely speak to your doctor.  The CA 125 test (Cancer Antigen 125) can be a valuable tool for detecting ovarian cancer, but shouldn’t be used alone. This test, in conjunction with a transvaginal ultrasound, a vaginal exam and a discussion of symptoms with your doctor, should be the next step.  An elevated level on the CA 125 test, with symptoms and the evidence from a transvaginal can help you and your doctor make a determination about whether a biopsy is needed.  A definitive...

Testosterone Replacement Therapy May Be OK With Prostate Cancer

Testosterone is the hormone that makes a man, a man.  A long standing belief in the medical community is that men at a high risk or currently being treated for prostate cancer should not undergo testerone replacement therapy.  The theory is that testosterone will encourage the growth of prostate tumors.  While many men experience a gradual reduction in testosterone levels as they age some may have extremely low levels of the hormone that create unpleasant symptoms, including erectile dysfuntion, low sex drive, mood problems, fatigue and sleep disturbances.  Out of the overall number of men whose testosterone level is significantly below normal, one half to two thirds of them experience symptoms and the change is usually insidious.  They don’t realize what is wrong or why they are suffering. Going hand in hand with this male menopause, “andropause,” is an increase in prostate cancer as men age.  Some good news has recently surfaced from a study conducted by Abraham Morgantaler and his colleagues and published in the Journal of Urology.  The research showed that men with untreated prostate tumors did not show any progression of the disease after receiving testosterone treatment.  It was a small study with only 13 men, but it certainly brings into question the long held strategy of denying testosterone treatment.  It’s bad enough to have cancer, but suffering with low testosterone symptoms at the same time must be worse!  Let’s hope that research continues.  Men need to feel like men, even when they’re ill. 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...

A Possible Alternative to the Colonoscopy!

I’m not 50 yet, but it’s closer every day and I’m dreading the official start of colonoscopies.  I know, it’s not what everyone thinks about when nearing the half century mark, but I would really prefer not to go through it.  Good News!  There is research being done on a simple, non-invasive test that will encourage me to get checked, along with thousands of other fraidy cats.  Not only does the test scare me, but the disease REALLY scares me!  Only 60% of people over 50 ever get tested and doctors believe that this is due to the tremendous inconvenience involved in the testing procedure. The new test involves collecting a stool sample and is still in the research phase, but looks very promising.  Researchers from the Mayo Clinic reported at the American Association for Cancer Research special conference on Colorectal Cancer that “This DNA methylation test is likely to transform colorectal cancer screening procedures.”  The test doesn’t require a special diet or “cleansing” routine and can even be done at home.    There is a Cancer Screen and Tumor Marker blood test that could identify potential problems in the meantime and scientists are hoping to do additional human trials on the new test in 2011.  I’m hoping for results and a working test before I turn 50!  Get busy folks! Written by...