New ovarian cancer screening, potential treatement & more
New ovarian cancer screening, potential treatment
Ovarian cancer historically has been called “a silent killer” because symptoms were believed to be absent until the cancer reached an advanced, hard-to-treat stage. Now, researchers say a few simple questions can serve as a valuable screening tool for ovarian cancer.
Researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle evaluated several screening surveys and determined that the most effective was to ask whether a woman was experiencing one or more of the following symptoms: abdominal and/or pelvic pain, feeling full quickly and/or being unable to eat normally, and abdominal bloating and/or increased abdominal size – each of which might indicate ovarian cancer.
The survey asked also about the frequency and duration of symptoms, i.e., how many days they occurred per month and how long they persisted.
According to researcher M. Robyn Andersen, pelvic pain and abdominal bloating may be symptoms of ovarian cancer, but they also can be caused by other conditions.
“What’s important is to determine whether they are current, of recent onset and occur frequently,” Andersen said. “Women with symptoms that are frequent, continual and new to them in the past year should talk to their doctor, as they may be candidates for further evaluation with ultrasound and blood tests that measure markers of ovarian cancer, such as CA-125.
“Recent research indicates that approximately one in 140 women with symptoms may have ovarian cancer. Aggressive follow-up of these symptoms can lead to diagnosis when ovarian cancer can be caught earlier and more effectively treated.”
Cure rates for cancers discovered when the disease is confined to the ovary are approximately 70-90 percent, but more than 70 percent of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when the survival rate is only 20-30 percent.
The study involved 1,200 women aged 40-87. About 60 (5 percent) of those surveyed had a positive symptom, and one was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. None of the 95 percent of women who did not report symptoms developed ovarian cancer during the following year, which attests to the accuracy of the questionnaire as a screening tool.
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A drug commonly used to treat diabetes might be useful also for treating ovarian cancer, according to a new study published in CANCER, a journal of the American Cancer Society.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., found that women with ovarian cancer who took metformin tended to live longer than ovarian cancer patients who did not take the drug, which is used to treat type 2 diabetes. They studied data from 61 ovarian cancer patients who took the drug and 178 who did not and found that 67 percent of those who took metformin had not died within five years, compared with 47 percent of those who did not take the drug. After accounting for other factors, including cancer severity, researchers concluded that women taking the diabetes medication were 3.7 times more likely to survive throughout the study than those not taking it.
“This study opens the door for using metformin in large-scale, randomized trials in ovarian cancer, which can ultimately lead to metformin being one option for treatment of patients with the disease,” researcher Sanjeev Kumar, M.D., said.
Whooping cough vaccine OK for elderly
Researchers who looked into the safety of a vaccine to protect against pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, hope their findings will prompt more doctors to urge widespread vaccination, including for those age 65 and older.
The newly published study comes at a time when whooping cough is at its highest level since the 1950s.
Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection that puts infants especially at risk for severe complications, including death. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of infants younger than age 1 who get pertussis are hospitalized, and one or two of hospitalized infants die. Infants cannot be vaccinated against pertussis before the age of 2 months so may be at risk for contracting the disease from others.
Researchers looked at more than 119,000 seniors who received the tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine and at the same number of people who received the traditional tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccine. Adverse events following Tdap vaccination were mostly minor, according to the Infectious Disease Society of America.
“Although there is a small increased risk of injection site reaction following Tdap vaccination in the elderly, it is no more common then following the traditional tetanus and diphtheria vaccine,” said researcher Hung Fu Tseng, with Kaiser Permanente Southern California, where the study took place.
Tseng said one of the most common sources of whooping cough for infants is their relatives, including grandparents.
Halting holiday heartburn
Overindulging in food and drinks during the holidays can quickly lead to bloating and heartburn. To avoid the suffering, Gloria Grice, associate professor of pharmacy at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, offered some suggestions:
• Do not drink any caffeine. It stimulates the appetite and can lead to overeating, and it overstimulates normal digestion, causing poor nutrient absorption.
• Chew slowly to prevent bloating.
• Don’t drink too much alcohol because it can inflame the lining of the stomach and intestines and kill beneficial intestinal bacteria, causing indigestion and diarrhea.
• Take a smaller slice of pie, because when sugar, fruit or fruit juice, and starch mix in the stomach, they ferment and cause bloating.
More strokes for younger folks
The average age for the occurrence of stroke is dropping.
University of Cincinnati College of Medicine researcher Brett Kissela compared data on first strokes suffered by patients from July 1993 to June 1994 with strokes that occurred in 1999 and in 2005 among patients in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region.
“The average age of stroke declined just a little bit, but there were indeed higher rates of strokes in the youngest age groups, and that means people under age 55,” Kissela said, noting that risk factors for stroke – including diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol – are showing up in younger people.
On the calendar
CPR for Family and Friends will be offered from 8:30-11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 15 and from 6:30-9 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 18 (choose one date) at Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur. Attendees learn to perform CPR for infants, children and adults and learn first aid for choking. The class fee is $30. An American Heart Association book and participation card are provided upon completion. Call (314) 961-2229.
“A New Year: Same Old Resolutions,” a nutrition course designed to give cancer survivors and caregivers the tools which research has shown can help lower the risk of the recurrence of certain cancers, will be held from 5:45-6:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at the Cancer Support Community, 1058 Old Des Peres Road. To register, call (314) 238-2000, or visit cancersupportstl.org.
An Alzheimer’s support group will meet from 5:30-7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 20 and Thursday, Jan. 17 at Parc Provence, 605 Coeur De Ville Drive in Creve Coeur. The Alzheimer’s Association sanctions the group. Call (314) 542-2500 to RSVP.
“Home Alone,” a program designed for children ages 9-11, will be held from 9-10:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 28 at St. Luke’s Hospital’s Institute for Health Education, 222 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield. The class is for kids who may be staying home alone for the first time or who need to learn more skills in order for their parents to feel comfortable leaving them home alone. Topics include handling the unexpected, stranger danger, simple first aid, dealing with loneliness and boredom, storm safety, trust and honesty. The fee is $15. For more information or to register, call (314) 542-4848, or visit stlukes-stl.com.
“Healthy Resolutions for 2013” will be held from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12 at The Lodge Des Peres. The event will feature group exercise classes, health screenings, an American Red Cross blood drive, tips for leading a healthier lifestyle and community wellness vendors. Des Peres Hospital will offer glucose and cholesterol screenings and body mass index (BMI) testing, and Premier Medical Specialists will offer walk-up blood pressure checks. Admission is free. To register for testing, call (888) 457-5203.
“Your Baby’s First Year” will be offered from 6:30-9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15 at Missouri Baptist Medical Center’s Clinical Learning Institute, 3005 N. Ballas Road in Town & Country. The class covers infant care, safety, developmental tasks, immunizations, etc., and is designed for expectant parents, adoptive parents and grandparents. The class fee is $35 and registration for each attendee is required. Call (314) 996-5433.