Your body has an incredible ability to communicate with you, often alerting you when something doesn't feel quite right. Whether it's a persistent pain, an unusual symptom, or simply a gut feeling that something is off, paying attention to these signals is crucial for maintaining your health and well-being. In such situations, seeking prompt medical attention from a qualified doctor can make all the difference. This article highlights the importance of seeing a doctor when you suspect something might be wrong and why it is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Early detection improves prognosis One of the most significant reasons to consult a doctor when you have concerns about your health is the potential for early detection of serious conditions. Many illnesses and diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular problems, and chronic conditions, can manifest with subtle warning signs. By visiting a doctor promptly, you increase the likelihood of catching potential issues in their early stages, when they are often more treatable and have better prognoses. Accurate diagnosis and treatment When you try to self-diagnose or rely on unreliable sources, you run the risk of misidentifying your symptoms or underestimating their severity. Only a trained healthcare professional can conduct a thorough examination, review your medical history, and order appropriate tests to provide an accurate diagnosis. Timely and accurate diagnosis is the key to effective treatment. Without it, you may delay necessary interventions or resort to ineffective remedies, potentially exacerbating the problem and jeopardizing your health. Prevention and proactive healthcare Regular check-ups and preventive care are essential for maintaining optimal health. Even if you feel fine, routine medical visits allow doctors to monitor your well-being, identify potential risk factors, and suggest necessary lifestyle modifications to prevent future health issues. By seeing a doctor when you suspect something is wrong, you actively engage in proactive healthcare, prioritizing prevention rather than waiting for a crisis to occur. Prevention is not only more cost-effective but also leads to better health outcomes and a higher quality of life in the long run. Professional guidance and peace of mind Navigating the vast sea of medical information available on the internet can be overwhelming and misleading. Self-diagnosis and self-treatment based on unverified sources can lead to unnecessary anxiety or inadequate care. Consulting a doctor provides you with expert guidance based on years of medical education and experience. A healthcare professional can help alleviate your concerns, provide accurate information, and offer appropriate treatment options, giving you the peace of mind that comes from knowing you are in capable hands. A holistic approach to health Doctors are not just there to treat specific ailments; they are also trained to consider the bigger picture of your overall health and well-being. When you seek medical attention, a doctor will assess your symptoms within the context of your medical history, lifestyle, and personal circumstances. They can identify underlying factors that may contribute to your symptoms and provide comprehensive care that addresses your physical, mental, and emotional needs. This holistic approach can help you achieve optimal health and prevent future health issues. Final thoughts When you sense that something is wrong with your body, it's crucial not to ignore the signs or rely solely on self-diagnosis. Seeking medical attention from a qualified doctor is a prudent decision that can save lives, lead to accurate diagnoses and appropriate treatments, facilitate preventive care, provide professional guidance, and ensure a holistic approach to your well-being. Remember, your health is too precious to gamble with, so trust your instincts, prioritize your well-being, and make that appointment with a doctor when you suspect something might be wrong. Your future self will thank you. At France Surgery, we can help you get a second opinion from our network of medical experts in France. Contact us today to find out more. *Image by Max from Pixabay
Medical tourism and health and wellness tourism are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are not one and the same. While both involve traveling to another country for healthcare purposes, there are important differences to note between the two. Primarily, medical tourism refers to traveling abroad for medical procedures and treatments that are not available, affordable, or accessible in the home country. These procedures are typically focused on diagnosing and treating specific medical conditions or illnesses, such as heart surgery, cancer treatment, or organ transplants. Medical tourism is often seen as a way for patients to save money on expensive medical procedures, while also receiving high-quality care from qualified professionals. On the other hand, health and wellness tourism is focused on preventative care and promoting overall health and wellbeing. This type of tourism typically involves activities such as spa treatments, yoga retreats, and fitness programs that aim to improve physical, mental, and emotional health. Health and wellness tourism is becoming increasingly popular as people look for ways to take a break from their busy lives and prioritize self-care. While medical tourism and health and wellness tourism may seem like two completely different things, there are some areas where they overlap. For example, some medical tourism destinations also offer health and wellness programs, such as nutrition counseling, stress management, and mindfulness training, to help patients recover and maintain their health after medical procedures. Another area where the two types of tourism intersect is in the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Many medical tourism destinations offer CAM therapies, such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, and massage therapy, as part of their treatment programs. Similarly, many health and wellness tourism destinations incorporate CAM practices into their programs as well, to provide a more holistic approach to health and wellness. In conclusion, medical tourism and health and wellness tourism are two distinct types of tourism that serve different purposes. Medical tourism is focused on treating specific medical conditions, while health and wellness tourism is focused on promoting overall health and wellbeing. However, there are some areas where the two types of tourism intersect, such as the use of CAM therapies and the incorporation of health and wellness programs into medical tourism destinations. It’s important for travelers to understand the differences between these two types of tourism to ensure they choose the right type of travel experience for their needs. *image credit: Couleur from Pixabay [Related reading: The benefits of partnering with a reputable company for medical treatment abroad]
Medical tourism has come a long way since its early days, when it was predominantly a niche industry catering to wealthy clients seeking spa retreats in exotic locations. Today, medical tourism encompasses a wide range of medical procedures, from cosmetic surgery to complex organ transplants, and is a booming global industry estimated to be worth $11.56 billion in 2020. The origins of medical tourism can be traced back to ancient Greece, where pilgrims traveled to temples dedicated to Asclepius, the god of medicine, to seek healing. In modern times, medical tourism began to gain popularity in the 1990s, as patients from developed countries started to seek affordable healthcare options in developing countries like Thailand, India, and Mexico. In its early days, medical tourism was primarily focused on cosmetic surgery, dental procedures, and elective treatments like weight loss surgeries. Patients were attracted to the lower costs of these procedures, as well as the opportunity to combine medical treatment with a vacation or retreat. However, as medical tourism became more mainstream, it began to encompass a wider range of medical procedures, including complex surgeries like heart transplants, liver transplants, and cancer treatments. Patients from developed countries were attracted not only to the lower costs of these treatments, but also to the high-quality medical care provided by experienced and well-trained doctors. Today, medical tourism is a global industry that spans the globe, with patients traveling from all corners of the world to seek medical treatment in countries like France. The industry is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, driven by factors like rising healthcare costs, increased globalization, and advances in medical technology. Despite its many benefits, medical tourism is not without its challenges. Patients who choose to travel abroad for medical treatment must navigate complex legal, logistical, and cultural barriers, and must carefully research the quality and reputation of the medical providers they are considering. [Related reading: The benefits of partnering with a reputable company for medical treatment abroad] Overall, medical tourism has come a long way since its early days as a luxury retreat for the wealthy. Today, it is a global industry that is transforming healthcare, providing patients with affordable, high-quality medical care and driving innovation in the field of medicine. If you'd like to find out more about our own Medical Tourism services, contact us now. *Image by Tesa Robbins from Pixabay
Preventative care for women is crucial for maintaining good health and detecting potential health problems early on. One important aspect of preventative care for women is regular gynecological exams and breast cancer screenings. These exams and screenings can help detect and prevent a variety of health issues, including cancer, sexually transmitted infections, and other conditions that can impact women's reproductive health. A gynecological exam is a routine check-up that includes a pelvic exam and a pap smear. During a pelvic exam, a healthcare provider will examine a woman's reproductive organs, including the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. A pap smear, also known as a cervical cancer screening, is a test that looks for abnormal cells on the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Regular pelvic exams and pap smears are important for detecting cervical cancer and other conditions, such as endometriosis and ovarian cysts, in their early stages. In addition to gynecological exams, regular breast cancer screenings are also an important part of preventative care for women. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide, and early detection is key to survival. There are two main types of breast cancer screenings: mammograms and clinical breast exams. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast, and a clinical breast exam is a physical examination of the breast by a healthcare provider. Both types of screenings can help detect breast cancer early, when the chances of treating it are higher. It is recommended that women between the ages of 50 and 74 have a mammogram every two years, and women over the age of 75 should continue to have mammograms as long as they are in good health. Women between the ages of 40 and 49 should talk to their healthcare provider about when to start having mammograms and how often to have them. Regular gynecological exams and breast cancer screenings can be a daunting prospect for some women, but they are important for maintaining good health. It is important to remember that these exams and screenings are not just about detecting cancer, but also about detecting and preventing other conditions that can affect women's reproductive health. It's important for women to make sure they are aware of their body and any changes that happen. It's also important for them to communicate with their healthcare provider about any concerns they have. They should be aware of the different types of screenings and tests that are available to them and understand the benefits of these tests. *Image by Alisa Dyson from Pixabay
As they say, “prevention is better than cure”, yet many people only visit their healthcare physician when they feel significantly unwell. Sometimes, sadly, depending on how long they have left it, their treatment options and prognoses can be more limited. Early detection and intervention of health issues can have several benefits. Some of the main reasons why it's important to identify health issues early include: – Increased treatment options: If a health issue is detected early, there may be more treatment options available, and the treatment may also be less aggressive and more effective. – Improved outcomes: Early detection and treatment of health issues can lead to better outcomes, such as a greater chance of recovery or remission. – Reduced risk of complications: Early detection can help to reduce the risk of complications from a health issue, such as the development of chronic conditions or secondary illnesses. – Increased chance of survival: For some health issues, such as certain types of cancer, early detection can greatly increase your chance of survival. – Cost savings: Treating health issues in their early stages can be less expensive than waiting until they are more advanced and harder to treat. This can also reduce the burden on the healthcare system. Overall, early detection is crucial for preventing or minimizing the consequences of a disease, which is why preventive screenings, regular check-ups, and being aware of potential health concerns are important. Here are 5 ways you can ward off health issues: 1. Eat a balanced diet: Eating a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help to keep the body healthy and ward off disease. 2. Get regular exercise: Regular physical activity has been shown to improve overall health, reducing the risk of chronic disease, and promoting longevity. 3. Get enough sleep: Getting adequate sleep is essential for maintaining good health and can help to improve immune function and prevent chronic disease. 4. Manage stress: Chronic stress can have a negative impact on overall health, so it's important to find ways to manage and reduce stress, such as through meditation, yoga, or other relaxation techniques. 5. Preventive health screenings: Regular check-ups and screening tests can help to detect and prevent health issues in their early stages, when they are more treatable. This includes tests like blood pressure, cholesterol, cancer screening,and sexual health checks.
Most people only see their doctor when they are sick. This is referred to as ‘diagnostic care’ and it usually involves your physician running tests and carrying out examinations to determine what’s wrong with you. As its name suggests, preventative care, on the other hand, focuses on helping you stay as healthy as possible. It does so primarily through regular physical examinations or check ups, which can often identify a range of medical issues before they develop into something more major. Examples of preventative care The concept of preventative care is all about being proactive rather than reactive. This means taking advantage of the resources and services that are available to you to help avoid more serious medical problems going forward. Examples of preventative care include: – Annual physical examination or check up – Laboratory and screening tests carried out during a check up – Yearly flu shots – Routine vaccinations – Yearly mammograms (usually for women 40 and older) – Colonoscopy (usually one every 10 years for those 50 and older) The benefits of preventative care As we’ve already mentioned, preventative care is designed to identify any potential health issues early on before they become a more serious problem. Doing so affords a number of benefits, including: – Better prognosis (this is especially true for certain cancers) – Greater treatment responses – Lower healthcare costs – Overall peace of mind for you While preventative care is important for everyone, it can be particularly beneficial for those who have a family history of certain conditions. Your physician will take this into account during any regular examinations you have, tailoring your tests to look for specific issues. Preventive care costs Depending on the type of insurance you have, preventative care is often 100% covered. However, if you’re in any doubt, it’s always best to contact your insurance provider in the first instance. If preventative care is indeed covered by your insurance, taking advantage really is something that shouldn’t require much thought. The benefits are numerous and the peace of mind you can afford from doing so is priceless. *image courtesy of batian lu from Pixabay
Following on from our post last week on what to expect during a physical examination, today’s blog will explain some of the laboratory and screening tests you may also undergo. Now it’s important to note that there are no standard laboratory or screening tests during a physical exam, so what you are advised to have will depend on your physician and health history. Laboratory tests during a physical exam The main laboratory tests you are likely to undergo during a physical exam are: – Complete blood count (CBC) – A CBC is a blood test that helps evaluate your overall health and detect a wide range of conditions, including anemia, infection and leukemia. – Chemistry panel – A comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) will include an electrolyte panel (which measures levels of sodium, chloride, potassium and bicarbonate), kidney function tests, liver function tests and also measures glucose and calcium. – Blood glucose – To look for signs of diabetes or pre-diabetes. – Urinalysis – Using a sample of your urine, this test can detect a range of conditions, including urinary tract infections, kidney disease and diabetes. – Fecalysis – A stool sample test (fecalysis) can detect certain conditions affecting your digestive tract, including parasites, viruses, bacteria, poor nutrient absorption and even cancer. Screening tests during a physical exam In addition to the laboratory tests outlined above, you may also undergo the following screening tests: For women: – Mammogram – A screening test for breast cancer, usually recommended for women 40 and over – Pap smear – A screening test for cervical cancer, usually recommended for women 21 and older For men: – Prostate exam – A digital rectal exam is the most common method used for physically checking your prostate, while a PSA test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in your blood – both of which can flag early signs of prostate cancer. – Testicular exam – A physical exam that checks both testicles for signs of abnormality, including lumps, changes in size, and tenderness. – Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) screening – This simple ultrasound looks for a bulge or swelling in the aorta, and is usually recommended for men 65 and over, as they are most at risk. Both men and women: – Cholesterol test – Also called a ‘lipid panel’, this checks your cholesterol levels to see if you are at risk of heart attack or stroke. – Osteoporosis - A bone density scan can help reveal potential issues relating to weak bones. – Hepatitis – Everyone should be tested for hepatitis C at least once to find out if they have ever been infected with the virus. – Colorectal – A colonoscopy is usually used to check for colorectal cancer and other abnormalities in your colon. If you are a smoker, or have a family history of certain conditions, your physician may also recommend further tests in addition to those above. * Image by Ernesto Eslava from Pixabay
Regular health check ups can help with everything from weight and blood pressure monitoring to early detection of more serious issues. Yet a significant proportion of people simply neglect to have them frequently. Indeed, according to a new national poll from NORC at the University of Chicago and the West Health Institute, around 40 percent of Americans reported skipping a recommended medical test or treatment. Meanwhile, 44 percent said they neglected to see a doctor despite being sick or injured in the last year because of cost. Separate research also reveals that men are more likely to miss health check ups, with a third of men thinking they do not need annual health screenings. The Harris Poll, which surveyed people nationally, also found that two-thirds of men believe they are “naturally healthier than others in general.” The benefits of regular health check ups First and foremost, regular health check ups can help detect medical conditions while they are still in their early stages, which can yield a number of follow on benefits. For example, an early cancer diagnosis can significantly improve a patient’s outcome. Treatment can be given sooner, increasing the chances of a patient responding positively. Furthermore, when medical conditions are diagnosed earlier, the chances of them becoming more severe are lessened. In turn, this means that healthcare interventions and associated costs are, inevitably, greatly reduced. Then there is the peace of mind that can be afforded through regular health check ups. Instead of wondering whether the few symptoms you are experiencing are serious, isn’t it better to get checked out and put your mind at ease? Finally, regular health check ups also serve to strengthen your relationship with doctors and physicians. By building mutual trust, more open and honest conversations can be had, which often lead to swifter diagnoses. Final thoughts When was the last time you had a health check up? On an annual basis wouldn’t be a bad start. Whether you are young or old, regular health check ups are important. Most medical conditions do not discriminate, which means staying abreast of any changes with your body is so important. Chances are you’ll be given a clean bill of health on a regular basis. But with regular health check ups, you stand a significantly greater chance of any potential medical issues being discovered early and, potentially, before they become a bigger problem. *Image by tomwieden from Pixabay
It's often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, and now new research shows that vitamin D could prolong your life. According to a study by researchers from the University of South Australia, there is a causal relationship between vitamin D deficiency and premature death. For the study, the researchers recruited over 300,000 individuals, aged 37-73, from the UK Biobank. They obtained the participants' genetic data, as well as their vitamin D serum levels. Over a 14-year follow-up period, the researchers recorded all-cause mortality and deaths caused by cancer, cardiovascular disease respiratory disease. At the end of the research period, there had been 18,700 deaths. Further analysis revealed that the risk of death decreased significantly with increasing vitamin D levels, but that this effect plateaued when serum levels reached 50 nmol/L. “In this study, we found evidence for a benefit across all the main causes of death, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and respiratory disease-related mortality,” said study author Elina Hypponen, PhD, a University of South Australia professor and director of the Australian Centre for Precision Health. “However, in most cases, any benefit for increasing vitamin D levels was restricted to those individuals who have very low concentrations,” she added. *Image by Adina Voicu from Pixabay
A revolutionary new wearable sensor, which tracks tumors in real time, could provide invaluable insights into how cancer cells respond to treatments. The new device can report in real time how a tumor is growing or shrinking. The results are sent wirelessly to a smartphone for analysis, enabling physicians to more closely monitor patients' progress. So far, the device has been used and proven itself in animal studies. “Our technology is the first bioelectronic device to monitor tumor regression, and the first technology to monitor tumors in real time,” said Alex Abramson, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech and a co-author of a new study focusing the device. At present, the most common ways to measure tumors are calipers or bioluminescence imaging (BLI). While these methods are useful and, indeed, accurate, they are only typically performed every few days or weeks. With the new wearable sensor, tumor information is captured every 5 minutes, allowing changes to be recorded in a more timely fashion. Furthermore, the new sensor can also detect extremely small changes that calipers and BLI can’t. Our sensor will allow us to better understand the short-term effects of drugs on tumors and allow scientists and health care professionals a more streamlined method to screen drugs that could become therapies in the future,” Abramson added. *Image by Darko Stojanovic from Pixabay
We recently wrote about how 10,000 steps a day may halve dementia risk. Now, separate research has revealed how lifting weights can help people live longer. According to the study by researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, US, regularly lifting weights was linked to a lower risk of death from any cause, with the exception of cancer. “Older adults who participated in weight lifting exercise had significantly lower mortality before and after factoring in aerobic exercise participation, and importantly, those who did both types of exercise had the lowest risk,” said lead author Jessica Gorzelitz, PhD, researcher in the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Cancer Institute. Publishing their findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the researchers said individuals who met recommended amounts of both muscle-strengthening exercises and aerobic moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA), appeared to gain additional benefit. The findings provide strong support for the current Physical Activity Guidelines for U.S. adults, added Gorzelitz. Current guidelines in the United States on physical activity recommend all adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week, or a minimum of 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity, or an equal combination of the two. In addition, the guidelines also advocate two or more days of strengthening activities that incorporate all major muscle groups, including the legs, hips, back, abdomen chest, shoulders, and arms. *Image by Fabiano Silva from Pixabay
A widely used weedkiller has been found in the urine of 80% of people who were tested as part of a national survey in the United States, including children as young as six. Of the 2,310 people whose urine was tested for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1,885 samples were found to contain glyphosate, one of the most popular weedkillers used around the world and the main active ingredient in the Roundup brand, owned by German pharmaceutical company Bayer. Almost a third of samples came from minors. The survey forms part of a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program. "Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the country, yet until now we had very little data on exposure," Alexis Temkin, a toxicologist at the Environmental Working Group, said in a statement. "Children in the United States are regularly exposed to this cancer-causing weedkiller through the food they eat virtually every day." Despite insisting that glyphosate is safe, Bayer is currently facing thousands of lawsuits which claim the chemical causes cancer. Bayer previously won four separate trials of a similar nature. In 202, the Environmental Protection Agency stated that glyphosate poses no serious health risk to humans and is “not likely” to cause cancer. *Image by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay
Bariatric surgery, also commonly referred to as weight-loss surgery, can help to reduce the risk of developing six different types of cancer associated with obesity, new research suggests. For the study, more than 1,600 obese people who had either gastric bypass surgery or sleeve gastrectomy surgery were compared to a control group of over, 2,100 obese individuals with obesity who did not undergo surgery. Both groups were matched in terms of age, sex and BMI. According to the study, the findings of which were presented at the 2022 annual meeting of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), people who underwent bariatric surgery were also less likely to develop any type of cancer compared to their obese peers who had not had surgery. In fact, the study found that only 5.2 percent of people who had bariatric surgery went on to develop some type of cancer during the 10-year study period, compared to 12.2 percent of those who did not have weight loss surgery. Furthermore, the overall 10-year survival rate for patients who underwent surgery was 92.9 percent, while it was just 78.9 percent for the non-surgical group. Commenting on the study, Dr. Shanu Kothari, president of the ASMBS, said: “Patients live longer after bariatric surgery because they have less cardiac events and less cancers.” *Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay
A virus that infects and kills cancer cells has been injected into a human patient for the first time as part of a new clinical trial. The novel therapy, CF33-hNIS, also called Vaxinia, is what is known as a oncolytic virus i.e. one that deliberately targets cancel cells while avoiding healthy cells. It infiltrates the cancer cells and rapidly replicates, killing its host. At low doses, the therapy has been shown to reduce the size of a broad range of cancers in animal and laboratory models. And according to Imugene Limited, a clinical cancer research company, it can also help prime peoples' immune systems against cancer. For the phase one clinical trial, Vaxinia will be injected into people who have solid tumors and have received at least two types of prior treatment. The virus is either injected directly into the tumor itself or via the patient's vein. This phase of the trial is designed to judge Vaxinia's safety and tolerability in human patients. "Our previous research demonstrated that oncolytic viruses can stimulate the immune system to respond to and kill cancer, as well as stimulate the immune system to be more responsive to other immunotherapies," says City of Hope oncologist and principal investigator Daneng Li. "We believe CF33-hNIS has the potential to improve outcomes for our patients." *Image courtesy of PIRO4D from Pixabay
They are known to be able to sniff out illegal drugs and even cancer, but now a new study suggests sniffer dogs can also detect COVID-19 among airline passengers. Perhaps even more remarkable is the study, conducted by researchers in Finland, also found that once trained, dogs are as acuurate at sniffing out COVID-19 as a PCR nose and throat swab test. "Our preliminary observations suggest that dogs primed with one virus type can in a few hours be retrained to detect its variants," added Anu Kantele, a professor of infectious diseases at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and colleagues. For the study, the researchers took four dogs previously trained to detect illegal drugs, dangerous goods and cancers, and trained them to recognise SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19. To do so, the study team used swab samples from 114 people who had tested positive for the virus on a PCR swab test, including 28 with no symptoms, and from 306 negative tests. Remarkably, the dogs were able to successfully detect 92% of infected people and 91% of uninfected people. The dogs' noses were then put to the test in a live environment at Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport in Finland between September 2020 and April 2021. The dogs correctly identified 296 (99%) of 300 passengers with negative PCR results. Read the full release at BMJ Global Health. *Image: Sniffer dogs at Melbourne Airport doing a demonstration, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Oxytocin – also known as the “love hormone” – is a neurochemical that acts on organs in the body and as a chemical messenger in the brain, controlling not just key functions of the reproductive system, but also aspects of human behaviour. Now, new research has revealed how people whose brains produce more oxytocin are kinder to others and live more satisfied lives. In addition, the research also discovered that as we age we produce more oxytocin, which could provide clues as to why older individuals are often more caring and more content with life than their younger peers. For the research, more than 100 people were recruited and asked to watch an empathy-invoking video about a father and his child with terminal cancer. At the end of the video, the participants were given a financial reward and asked if they wanted to donate any of it to charity. Oxytocin levels were measured before and after these steps. “The findings of our study are consistent with many religions and philosophies, where satisfaction with one’s life is enhanced by helping others,” reported first author Dr Paul J Zak of Claremont Graduate University. “People who released the most oxytocin in the experiment were not only more generous to charity, but also performed many other helping behaviors. This is the first time a distinct change in oxytocin has been related to past prosocial behaviors,” reported Zak. The findings of the study are published in the journal Frontier in Behavioral Neuroscience. *image courtesy of Tristan Le via pexels.com
More is being discovered all the time about the significant role of the bacteria, fungi and other microbes that live in our stomachs and intestines when it comes to our health. Now, the largest study of its kind to date has confirmed the link between the gut microbiome and the response to cancer immunotherapy therapy for melanoma. The study, the findings of which are published in the journal Nature Medicine, was co-ordinated by King's College London, CIBIO Department of the University of Trento and European Institute of Oncology in Italy, University of Groningen in the Netherlands and funded by the Seerave Foundation. Dr Karla Lee, clinical researcher at King's College London and first author of the study, said: "Preliminary studies on a limited number of patients have suggested that the gut microbiome, as an immune system regulator, plays a role in the response of each patient to cancer immunotherapy, and particularly in the case of melanoma. This new study could have a major impact on oncology and medicine in general." It's known that dietary changes can alter the microbiome, as can next generation probiotics and faecal transplantation. This change is in turn modifying the microbiome's action on the immune system. With this new understanding of the microbiome's impact on cancer therapy effectiveness, clinicians can potentially look to alter a patient's microbiome before beginning treatment. This is potentially important because less than 50% of immunotherapy patients respond positively to treatment for melanoma. *image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license
The earlier lung cancer is diagnosed, the greater a patient's chances of survival. Now, a new test has could help with the detection of lung cancer in is early stages. Developed by researchers at Peking University People’s Hospital in China, the novel non-invasive blood test assess levels of lipid biomarkers in patients' plasma samples. While lung cancer screening techniques already exist, they often produce low accuracy results. And considering better treatment options and survival rates are associated with earlier detection, accuracy is key. In contrast, the new test, named Lung Cancer Artificial Intelligence Detector (LCAID), has high accuracy. The study’s lead author, Jun Wang, chief of the Department of Thoracic Surgery at Peking University Peoples Hospital, explained: “The accuracy and high specificity of LCAID might help improve the detection and screening of lung cancer and consequently reduce unnecessary exposure to radiation and invasive diagnostic procedures. Notably, most patients with lung cancer included in this study were at Stage I, and over 90% of them were correctly classified by LCAID.” More information about the LCAID research can be found in Science Translational Medicine. *Image courtesy of Belova59 from Pixabay
Magnesium is an essential macromineral, which means we all need to consume relatively large amounts of it to stay healthy. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the recommended daily amount of magnesium adults 19-51+ years should consume is 400-420 mg daily for men and 310-320 mg for women. Almonds, cashews, peanuts and spinach are all good sources of magnesium. But walnuts are even more magnesium-rich, providing around 158mg of the macromineral per 100g. Consuming enough magnesium in your diet is linked with a number of health benefits, including healthy bones, lower type 2 diabetes risk and better cardiovascular health. Magnesium is also linked to improved muscle contraction and nerve transmission, as well as better regulated blood pressure and boosted immunity. Previous research has shown that mice on a low-magnesium diet experience faster rates of cancer spread. Furthermore, said mice have weaker immune defenses against influenza viruses. Now, Swiss scientists have discovered that a type of immune cell, called a cytotoxic or “killer” T cell, need magnesium to do their jobs and eliminate cancerous or infected cells. The researchers discovered that magnesium activates a protein called LFA-1 on the surface of cytotoxic T cells, which they use to lock on to their targets. Senior author Dr. Christoph Hess, Ph.D., from the University of Basel in Switzerland and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, explains: “In the inactive state, this docking site is in a bent conformation and thus cannot efficiently bind to infected or abnormal cells.” “If magnesium is present in sufficient quantities in the vicinity of the T cells, it binds to LFA-1 and ensures that it remains in an extended — and therefore active — position.” The researchers also found, through analyzing data from past clinical trials of cancer immunotherapies, that low serum levels of magnesium were associated with more rapid disease progression and shorter survival. The Swiss study appears in the journal Cell. *image by Pera Detlic from Pixabay
Liver cancer patients in France are benefiting from world-leading robot technology that is helping physicians treat and operate on them. The only two of their kind, the two robots, developed by Montpellier-based medical device company Quantum Surgical, assist oncologists in the delivery of a treatment known as “elimination by microwaves”. Prior to the addition of the robots, physicians needed to guide a tiny needle into a liver cancer patient’s tumor so that microwaves could be passed into it. Now, the robots carry out this part using 3D images with pinpoint accuracy. The robots are being used as part of a clinical trial at Montpellier Hospital that will test the technology on 20 patients. Currently, it is only being used on liver cancer patients, but the technology has been used target cancerous tumours in animals’ lungs and kidneys. Professor Thierry de Baère, head of therapeutic imaging at the Institut Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, one of Europe’s leading cancer centres and one of two in France where the robot is currently used, said: “The robot can put a small needle in exactly the right place, from the right direction and at the right depth.” Prof de Baère has performed five operations using the technology and all the patients were discharged the next day. *Image courtesy of Quantum Surgical
Newsweek, in collaboration with Statista Inc., has compiled a league table of the world’s best specialized hospitals 2021, and France has no less than 26 Cancer Centers (CLCCs) in the top 200. Topping the list of French oncology hospitals is Institut Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, which ranked fifth in the overall oncology list. Two more French cancer centers – Institut Curie and Hôpital Universitaire Pitié Salpêtrière – were also in the top 50, ranking 12th and 31st respectively. All in all, 26 French cancer hospitals were included in the top 200 global oncology list, highlighting just how renowned these establishments are on the international medical stage. Speaking about the rankings, Jean-Yves Blay, President of Unicancer – the National Federation of French Cancer Centres – said: “We are proud to see that more than half of CLCCs are ranked among the best cancer hospitals in the world. The model of care for cancer patients within the CLCCs is unique and this international recognition underscores the strength and excellence of our network, supported by common values and commitments, at the service of the patient. It also testifies to our constant quest for excellence in healthcare, research and higher education.” For the rankings, Newsweek and Statista surveyed more than 40,000 medical experts from over 20 countries. A global board of experts was then asked to review and rank the hospitals outlined in the survey. You can check out the full Newsweek oncology ranking here.
With news headlines currently dominated by the Covid-19 outbreak, it could be easy to overlook other health stories worthy of note. That’s why we are pleased to share that cancer rates in the United States are continuing to fall, according to a new report. As outlined in the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, cancer rates in the U.S. continued falling from 2001 to 2017 – dropping, on average, by 1.5% a year. Furthermore, new cancer diagnoses have decreased at an average annual rate of 0.6% over the same period. Interestingly, the annual decline in mortality was slightly more pronounced among men (1.8%) than women (1.4%); nevertheless, decreases were seen across all major racial/ethnic groups and among adults, teens and children alike. Among men, mortality rates fell for 11 of the 19 most common cancers. They remained stable for four cancers, including prostate. And increased for another four: mouth, pharynx, soft tissue and pancreas. Among women, mortality rates fell for 14 of the 20 most common cancers, including the top three: lung, breast and colon. However, an increase in mortality rates was seen in cancers of the uterus, liver, brain, soft tissue and pancreas. Mouth and pharynx cancer rates remained stable. Despite mortality rates decreasing by 4.8% a year in men and 3.7% in women, lung cancer remains the number one cause of cancer death in the United States. Commenting on the findings of the report, U.S. Centers for Disease Control director, Dr. Robert Redfield, said: “The United States continues to make significant progress in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment.”
If there wasn’t already enough motivation for overweight men to shed some pounds, new research suggests losing weight could help lower the risk of advanced prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men globally, with approximately 1.3 million new cases in 2018 alone. Fortunately, if discovered early enough, prostate cancer has a relatively low mortality rate, with 96% of patients surviving for 15 years or more following an early stage diagnosis. However, as with any cancer, prevention is better than cure, and survival rates for advanced prostate cancer are very poor. That’s why a new, large-scale analysis of 15 studies involving nearly 831,000 men is significant. It found that having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of above 25 during middle to late adulthood was associated with the highest risk for advanced prostate cancer. Furthermore, the researchers from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University found that having a larger waist size was also associated with an increased risk of advanced prostate cancer and death. “These study results show that risk for advanced prostate cancer can be decreased by maintaining a 'healthy' weight, which is in line with guidelines by the American Cancer Society and World Cancer Research Fund,” said study author Jeanine Genkinger, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health The study was published March 4 in the Annals of Oncology.
A new study has revealed five bad health habits which, if avoided, could help you live significantly longer. While the habits themselves are nothing we haven’t heard before, the findings of the study are important as they highlight just how much of an impact the five factors can have on lifespan. So if you want to live years longer, avoid these five behaviours: smoking, not exercising, being overweight, drinking too much alcohol and eating an unhealthy diet. Specifically, the study found that women aged 50 who avoided all five risk factors lived 14 years longer than women who did not. Among men, the difference in lifespan was 12 years. Publishing the study findings in the BMJ, senior author Dr. Frank Hu, who chairs the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said: “We found that following a healthy lifestyle can substantially extend the years a person lives disease-free.” Importantly, the results held true even after adjusting the data for age, ethnicity, family medical history and other potentially influential factors – emphasising that everyone stands to benefit from avoiding these five unhealthy habits. Finally, the research also revealed that the five habits had a positive impact for people diagnosed with a disease during the study period. For example, individuals who developed cancer lived an additional 23 years if they adopted four of the five healthy practices. In contrast, among those who didn't change, half only survived an additional 11 years. The same patterns were witnessed for both heart disease and diabetes.
The Mediterranean diet, which features plenty of vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains, has long been lauded for its heart health benefits. But now a new study shows that it could also improve brain function in elderly people, even when only eaten for a year. According to the research published in the BMJ, following a Mediterranean diet for just 12 months can inhibit production of inflammatory chemicals in elderly individuals that can lead to loss of cognitive function, as well as prevent the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and atherosclerosis. For the study, 612 elderly people from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom has their gut microbiome analysed. Then, 323 of them were put on a special diet, based on Mediterranean principles, for one year, while the rest were asked to eat as they normally would. After 12 months, all of the study participants had their gut microbiome re-analysed. Those who had followed the Mediterranean diet saw beneficial changes to the microbiome in their digestive system. The rate at which bacterial diversity was lost slowed and the production of potentially harmful inflammatory markers was reduced. Furthermore, there was also a growth of beneficial bacteria linked to improved memory and brain function. So-called “keystone” species, critical for a stable “gut ecosystem”, were also boosted, helping to slow signs of frailty, such as walking speed and hand grip strength. “Our findings support the feasibility of changing the habitual diet to modulate the gut microbiota which in turn has the potential to promote healthier aging,” the study authors said.
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2020, there will be around 13,800 new cases of invasive cervical cancer diagnosed and about 4,290 women will die from the disease. Nevertheless, cervical cancer has a lot of optimism surrounding t, with specialists and the World Health Organization (WHO) arguing that the disease could be eradicated completely in the next 100 years. The WHO says that by applying the right preventative measures, cervical cancer mortality rates could be lowered significantly. Now, two separate studies published in The Lancet contend that cervical cancer could become a distant memory by 2120. Both studies outline measures that should be taken by different countries to prevent cervical cancer. First, girls from low- and middle-income backgrounds should be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) – the top risk factor for cervical cancer. This would, the WHO says, avert an estimated 61 million cases of cervical cancer up to 2120. Furthermore, if individuals get screened for this type of cancer twice in their lifetime, its incidence can be reduced by 96.7%, and avert 2.1 million new cases. However, Prof. Marc Brissonco-lead of both studies from Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine in Québec, Canada, warns that cervical cancer eradication can only be achieved with “considerable international financial and political commitment, in order to scale up prevention and treatment.”
Cancer is like a 100,000-piece jigsaw puzzle and until now, 99% of the pieces have been missing. But a new landmark cancer study, involving more than 1,300 scientists, has built the most detailed picture of the disease ever, providing an almost complete picture of every type of cancer. Published in the journal Nature, the studies could lead to individual treatments being developed based on a patient’s unique situation, as well as the development of new ways to find cancer earlier. Historically, doctors have been left frustrated when two patients with seemingly identical cancers respond differently to the same treatment. It’s proof of cancer’s complexity and something that has challenged doctors for years. With the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) project, though, scientists now have a much better understanding of why cells in cancerous growths keep growing uncontrollably. The specific set of DNA changes that cause this to happen are known as “driver mutations”. The project found between four and five fundamental mutations that drive a cancer’s growth. These are potential weak-spots that could be exploited with treatments that attack these driver mutations. “Ultimately, what we want to do is to use these technologies to identify treatments that are tailored to each individual patient,” said Dr Peter Campbell, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute. The study also uncovered some surprising similarities between cancers found in different types of tissue.
Lungs have the ability to repair themselves, but only if a person stops smoking, new research suggests. It had previously been thought that the mutations that lead to lung cancer were permanent and smokers had already done irreparable damage with their habits. However, the surprise findings, published in the journal Nature, show that some cells escape the damage caused by smoking and can actually help repair the cells around them once a person has quit. This almost magical ability was witnessed by scientists from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and UCL even in people who had smoked a pack a day for 40 years before giving up – highlighting that it’s really never too late to quit. Exactly how certain cells avoid the genetic devastation caused by smoking is unclear, but the researchers said they appeared to “exist in a nuclear bunker”. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Rachel Orritt, from Cancer Research UK, said: “It's a really motivating idea that people who stop smoking might reap the benefits twice over - by preventing more tobacco-related damage to lung cells, and by giving their lungs the chance to balance out some of the existing damage with healthier cells”. It is estimated that of the 47,000 cases of lung cancer in the UK each year, almost three-quarters are caused by smoking.
In 2018, there were nearly 50,000 confirmed cases of prostate cancer in England – around 8,000 more than in 2017, which makes it the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the country, overtaking breast cancer for the first time. Now Public Health England says that the reason why more cases of prostate cancer are being confirmed is simply because more men are getting tested, and not because the cancer has seen a sharp rise. With 49,029 confirmed cases, prostate tops the list of common cancers in England, followed by breast with 47,476 cases. Lung and bowel cancers are the next most commonly diagnosed. The head of the NHS, Simon Stevens, says that celebrity prostate cancer stories, like actor and comedian Stephen Fry’s, have helped raise awareness of the importance of having prostate cancer tests. Fry was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018, which he says was “thankfully caught in the nick of time". He subsequently underwent prostate cancer surgery. Prostate cancer has a high survival rate, with Cancer Research UK statistics showing that more than 8 in 10 (84%) men diagnosed with the disease in England and Wales survive for 10 years or more. But the key to successfully treating prostate cancer is to detect it early and begin treatment as soon as possible, which is why it’s crucial for men to get tested on a regular basis. Cancer tsar Prof Peter Johnson said: “As people live longer, we're likely to see prostate cancer diagnosed more often, and with well-known figures like Rod Stewart, Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull all talking openly about their diagnosis, more people will be aware of the risk.”
Scientists from Cardiff University in the UK have discovered a part of our immune system that could be harnessed to kill all types of cancer. Despite their work being at an early stage, the team says the newly-discovered technique killed prostate, breast, lung and other cancers in lab tests. The findings of their research, which are published in the journal Nature Immunology, have not yet been tested in humans, but, nevertheless, the researchers say they hold “enormous potential.” The scientists made their potentially game-changing discovery while looking for “unconventional” ways the immune system naturally attacks tumours. They found a T-cell in blood that could find and kill a wide range of cancers, while leaving normal tissues untouched. Speaking about their findings, researcher Prof Andrew Sewell said: “It raises the prospect of a 'one-size-fits-all' cancer treatment, a single type of T-cell that could be capable of destroying many different types of cancers across the population.” While T-cell cancer therapies are nothing new, with treatments like CAR-T already being used to seek out and destroy cancer, the Cardiff researchers’ discovery is exciting because it could lead to treatments being developed that are more effective against solid cancers (those that form tumours). The researchers say their discovery has the potential to lead to a "universal" cancer treatment.
Artificial Intelligence is better at diagnosing breast cancer than human doctors. That’s the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Nature. For the research, an international team, including representatives from Google Health and Imperial College London, used anonymous X-ray images of 29,000 women to train a computer model so that it could spot breast cancer. When put to the test against six radiologists in reading mammograms, the algorithm came out on top. In fact, it was even proven to be as good as two doctors working together – the current system for assessing mammograms. And unlike the human experts who had access to the patients’ medical history, the AI had just the X-rays to go on. Specifically, the AI resulted in a reduction of 1.2% in false positives - when a mammogram is incorrectly diagnosed as abnormal – and a 2.7% reduction in false negatives, where a cancer is missed. While we’re not likely to see AI being used to diagnose or clear breast cancer patients any time soon, the technology could be used to assist radiologists and speed up diagnoses going forward. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dominic King, from Google Health, said: “Our team is really proud of these research findings, which suggest that we are on our way to developing a tool that can help clinicians spot breast cancer with greater accuracy.”
A British woman has become the first in the world to receive a revolutionary new cancer therapy which involves injecting a high dose of chemotherapy directly into cancer cells. Karen Childs, from north-west London, is the first patient on the clinical trial for acoustic cluster therapy to treat cancer that has spread to her liver. During the therapy, clusters of microdroplets and microbubbles are injected into the patient at the same time as chemotherapy, which experts say will enhance its delivery. Ultrasound scans are then used to ensure the clusters “pump” the drug directly into the tumour, which should result in substantially more chemotherapy reaching cancer cells. Experts hope the technique will mean fewer doses of chemotherapy for cancer patients going forward, which should reduce side-effects. The new treatment is being trialled by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London. Ms Childs, who was diagnosed with cancer in November 2013, said: “I’m not sure it’s sunk in yet that I’m the very first patient in the world to be receiving this new treatment. This trial is an exciting step for the hospital and a huge step for patients like me.” The aim of the clinical trial at this stage is to establish if the new therapy is safe and to provide data on its effectiveness. Eventually, it is hoped the treatment could be used to reduce the size of tumours prior to surgery, making them easier to remove and potentially offering more patients a cure.
The hormone oestrogen fuels the growth of many different types of breast cancer. And to reduce a woman’s risk of developing the disease, a drug called anastrozole is often used to block oestrogen production in post-menopausal ladies. But now new research has revealed that anastrozole actually continues to work long after a woman has stopped taking it. According to the research by a team at the Queen Mary University of London, the findings of which are published in The Lancet, anastrozole continues to reduce a woman’s cancer risk by 49% even seven years after they stop taking it. This is in addition to it halving a woman’s risk during the five years they take the drug. In other words, the benefits of taking anastrozole continue after treatment has stopped. Trials are now focussing on whether anastrozole can be used to prevent the onslaught of breast cancer and not just used once a woman has developed the disease. Speaking about the findings of the research, Prof Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said: “Up until now we only knew that tamoxifen has long-lasting benefits, so it's reassuring that this study looking specifically at anastrozole, which has fewer long-term side-effects, gives better protection to women years after they stopped taking the drug.” Anastrozole is currently available on the NHS in England, but only about 10% of women who should be taking the drug actually are.
While it’s been known for quite some time that increased exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays increases a person’s chances of developing skin cancer, no link has ever been found between precipitation and cancer risk, until now… A new study has revealed a potential link between living in cold, wet regions and increased cancer prevalence. The study, the results of which are published in the journal Environmental Engineering Science, is the first in the United States to check if a relationship exists between cancer rates, precipitation, and climate zone. To find out, the scientists collated data on breast cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer. They also used county-level data relating to cancer incidence, climate, and demographics. Having adjusted for age, gender, ethnicity, income level, population age, and diversity, the scientists identified a strong association between increased precipitation and an increase in incidence of all cancers. While it is important to note that not all cancer types were included in the analysis, the findings are still significant and strongly suggest climate zone is a risk factor for many cancers.
New research suggests cancer patients are at higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than the general population. According to the study, the results of which are published in the European Heart Journal, more than one in 10 cancer survivors die from heart and blood vessel problems, rather than their initial illness. Among the 3,234,256 cancer patients studied for the research, 38% died from cancer, while 11% died from cardiovascular diseases. Among the deaths from cardiovascular diseases, 76% were due to heart disease. The risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was also highest in the first year after a patient’s cancer diagnosis and among patients younger than 35. Among those cancer patients diagnosed before the age of 55 and who went on to survive their illness, the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was more than 10 times higher than that for the general population. Meanwhile, patients with breast, prostate or bladder cancer were most likely to die from heart disease – but this is simply because these are the most common types of cancer. It is still unclear as to why cancer patients have a seemingly higher risk of heart disease, but their treatment itself or lifestyle factors, such as being overweight, drinking too much and not exercising, could be to blame, experts say.
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An innovative new blood test can detect breast cancer up to 5 years before symptoms appear, researchers say. Developed by a team at the University of Nottingham, England, the new blood test identifies specific immune system ‘autoantibodies’, which are produced when tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) are present – like those produced by breast cancer cells. While the test is still only partially effective, it could eventually provide the best chance of detecting breast cancer early, enabling faster treatment and a greater chance of success. In the pilot study, the researchers took blood samples from 90 breast cancer patients when they were diagnosed with breast cancer. They then matched these samples with ones from 90 patients without breast cancer. Then, they used a technology called protein microarray to test the blood samples for the presence of autoantibodies and 40 TAAs associated with breast cancer, plus another 27 TAAs that were not known to be linked with the disease). The researchers used a technology called protein microarray to rapidly test the blood samples for autoantibodies against 40 TAAs associated with breast cancer, plus another 27 TAAs that were not known to be linked with the disease. Speaking last Sunday at the U.K. National Cancer Research Institute conference in Glasgow, Scotland, researcher Daniyah Alfattani, a Ph.D. student at the University of Nottingham's Centre of Excellence for Autoimmunity in Cancer (CEAC), said: “The results of our study showed that breast cancer does induce autoantibodies against panels of specific tumor-associated antigens. We were able to detect cancer with reasonable accuracy by identifying these autoantibodies in the blood.” At present, annual mammograms are the best way for doctors to detect the presence of breast cancer while in its early stages.
Lycopene - a natural pigment that gives red fruits and vegetables their colour - is an antioxidant that protects against cell damage, and tomatoes contain plenty of it. In fact, it is estimated that tomatoes account for 80% of the lycopene in the US diet. Now, a new study suggests Lycopene may also help boost sperm quality. According to the research by a team at the University of Sheffield, healthy men who consumed the equivalent of two tablespoons of concentrated tomato puree each day were found to have better quality sperm. During the 12-week trial, 60 men were randomly selected to take 14mg of lactolycopene supplement each day. The reason a supplement was used is because the participants would have had to eat 2kg of tomatoes each day to obtain an equivalent dose of lycopene. The participants’ sperm was tested before, during and after the trial. While there was no difference in sperm concentration, the men who had been taking the lycopene had healthier and faster sperm. Encouraged by the results, the researchers now want to expand the trial to include more men and see if the findings are the same. Lycopene has also been previously linked to other health benefits, including a lowered risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
Male breast cancer is pretty rare. In fact, it accounts for just 1% of all breast cancer cases. That’s why very few studies have looked at what factors can lead to more positive outcomes for patients. To address this reality, researchers from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, have conducted one of the largest male breast cancer studies to date, the findings of which are published in the journal Cancer. The researchers found that 51% of male breast cancer diagnoses occurred between the ages of 50 and 69, and that the average age of diagnosis was 64. In fact, only 15% of the patients were diagnosed before the age of 50. Interestingly, the study authors found that black men, older patients, individuals with other ongoing health issue and those with higher tumor grade and stage had poorer prognoses. Furthermore, they found that patients who underwent a full mastectomy also had poorer outcomes. The prognosis was better for patients who lived in wealthier areas, whose tumors carried the progesterone receptor and men who received radiation therapy, chemotherapy or anti-estrogen therapy. While female breast cancer treatment has improved dramatically over the years, the study authors say it is unclear whether these advancements have been applied to the management of male breast cancer too. Two of the reasons for this are because male breast cancer usually occurs later in life and it commonly spreads to the person’s lymph nodes. The researchers hope their paper will shine some more light on this little known condition and lead to better outcomes for patients going forward.
A new tumour-agnostic drug has been approved for use in Europe. The revolutionary drug, experts say, has the potential to cure more cancer patients and reduce side-effects. Called larotrectinib, the new drug does not care where the cancer is growing in the body and instead looks for a specific genetic abnormality, which means it can be used to treat a wide range of tumours. Doctors in the UK have said the new drug is “a really exciting thing” and marks a move away from having ‘drugs that treat breast cancer’, ‘drugs that treat bowel cancer’ and ‘drugs that treat lung cancer’, to having drugs that target the genetic make-up of each patient’s tumour. However, the decision by European regulators does not mean that any cancer patient can take advantage of larotrectinib right away. Its approval for use right now only applies to patients with solid tumours that have been caused by a genetic abnormality known as an NTRK gene fusion. This rare abnormality happens when part of an individual’s DNA accidentally merges with another, leading to an alteration in the body’s blueprint that allows cancer to grow. Speaking about the drug development, Dr Julia Chisholm, a children's cancer consultant at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, said: “It is a really exciting thing, as is it works across a range of cancers. It's not confined to one.”