Aspirin Advantages

By Riva Preil

It is estimated that approximately 20,000 women will develop ovarian cancer in 2014. The prognosis for approximately 75% of those women is very poor because the disease is often only first detected during its late stages. The reason for this is that during the initial stages, ovarian cancer mimics gastrointestinal upset and bladder disorders, and the disease is often misdiagnosed (or altogether undiagnosed) for a significant amount of time. One of the risk factors associated with the development of cancer is chronic inflammation. Therefore, much research has focused on the connection between anti-inflammatory medications and cancer risk. The proposed theory is that if chronic inflammation is correlated with the development of the disease, perhaps anti-inflammatory medication is correlated with prevention of cancer.

Aspirin is classically known as a salicylate drug, an analgesic used to relieve minor aches and pains and to reduce inflammation. It has also become accepted in the medical field as a prophylactic approach to prevent heart attack, and it has additionally been linked with decreased risk of colorectal cancer and other malignancies. And if that wasn’t enough, the most recent research suggests that routine aspirin usage may decrease the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

The Journal of National Cancer Institute published this research on February 6, 2014. The study analyzed data that was collected from 12 other studies, and it compared individuals who regularly used aspirin (18% of participants), non-aspirin NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, 24% of participants), and acetaminophen (16% of participants). The researchers concluded that individuals who used aspirin daily had a 20% decreased risk of developing ovarian cancer than those who used aspirin less than once a week. There was no statistically significant finding amongst the non-aspirin NSAID users. Acetaminophen, a non-anti-inflammatory medication, is not associated with decreased risk of developing ovarian cancer. While the findings of this study point positively towards promoting aspirin usage, please bear in mind that adverse side effects of daily aspirin include hemorrhagic stroke and upper gastrointestinal bleeding! Therefore, make sure to discuss using this medication (as any other medication) with your doctor to determine whether or not it is appropriate for you.

Kicking Cancer and Acquiring Continence

By Riva Preil

Gynecologic cancer is cancer that originates in a woman’s reproductive organs. The five types of gynecologic cancers are cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, vaginal cancer, and vulvar cancer.  Each year in the United States, approximately 71,500 women are diagnosed with gynecologic cancer, and the risk of developing gynecological cancer increases with age.

Fortunately, advances in medical technology and treatment, including radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgical interventions, have helped women survive gynecological cancers.  However, the urologic system and pelvic floor undergo “trauma” en route to health, and many survivors of gynecologic cancers experience urinary incontinence.  A recent study examined the effects of a pelvic floor strengthening program among gynecological cancer survivors as an approach to decrease urinary incontinence.  Researchers worked with 40 cancer survivors (60% uterine cancer, 40% other gynecological cancers) who experienced urinary incontinence after their cancer treatment.  Participants were randomly to an experimental group and a control group.  The experimental group participated in a pelvic floor muscle (PFM) strengthening exercises (aka Kegel exercises) 22 days of the month for three months.  The control group did not participate in any targeted PFM exercises.  After three months, 80% of the experimental group (compared to only 40% of the control group) reported significant improvements in their urinary incontinence.  Once again, the research speaks for itself- PFM strengthening programs benefit many segments of the population, including gynecological cancer survivors.  We here at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy are trained to teach PFM strengthening exercises and to progress the level of challenge.  Please call us if you have any questions about whether pelvic floor physical therapy is appropriate for you.


Ob/Gyns Can Treat Men Again!

By Riva Preil

Recently, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology overturned a previous decision which forbade obstetrician-gynecologists from treating male patients for sexually transmitted infections and to screen them for anal cancer.  The previous decision which was made in September put any physicians who did not follow the rule at risk of losing their license. This interfered with their ability to continue treating current patients and to conduct research that was currently underway.  Therefore, experts in anal cancer requested that the board change their original decision.  Fortunately, Dr. Kenneth L. Noller, the board’s director of evaluation, recognized that ob-gyns are trained to treat sexually transmitted infections in both males and females.  This includes human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus that is associated with both cervical and anal cancer (which is more common amongst individuals with HIV).  Now that ob-gyns are permitted to resume treatment of their male patients, men can continue receiving the medical care that they too deserve.  Hopefully, improved screening techniques will result from the continued research in this area.

To Medicate or Not to Medicate?

By Riva Preil

Perhaps this would have been Shakespeare’s question had the medical technology at our disposal been available to him. The questions we are able to ask nowadays far surpass those asked even one generation ago thanks to the vast amount of research performed since. One such question many women  “at risk” of developing breast cancer (ex. family history or personal history of the disease) may find themselves asking is whether or not they should prophylactically take tamoxifen or raloxifene, medication that decreases the likelihood of developing breast cancer.  The upside of these medications is that they interfere with effects of estrogen, which is associated with the growth of breast cancer tumors. However, the downside of these medications is that on rare occasion, they can result in stroke, blood clots, and endometrial cancer.  Scary, no?  Wouldn’t it be great if doctors could predict for each person, on an individualized case by case basis, how they are likely to respond to medications?  Absolutely, because if that were the case, then women with an extremely low likelihood of developing the negative side effects could breathe a sigh of relief if they decide to take preventative measures by opting for the medication.

Well, thanks to Dr.  James N. Ingle of the Mayo Clinic along with his international team of researchers, the answer to the question may be within reach.  Dr. Ingle discovered two single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), ZNF423 and CTSO, which presented amongst the more than 33,000 high-risk participants in two different versions, a “good” version and a “bad” version.  These two genes have never been linked to breast cancer in the past, however this study revealed that women with a “good” version of both genes were SIX TIMES LESS LIKELY TO DEVELOP BREAST CANCER than women who had the “bad” versions.  With this promising research, doctors will hopefully have the ability to guide their patients in informed decision making to promote optimal health.

March into Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month!

By Riva Preil

Join us at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy in recognizing March as Colorectal Cancer (CRC) Awareness Month.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CRC is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States among cancers that affect both genders.  Each year, approximately 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with CRC, and about 50,000 of those cases are fatal.

My goal in citing those statistics is NOT  to frighten my readers! Rather, it is to raise public awareness regarding this disease because SCREENING SAVES LIVES!  In fact, according to the CDC, 60% of CRC related deaths would be avoided if individuals 50 years of age and older would be screened on a regular basis.  Screening tests can detect precancerous polyps which can then be removed prior to developing into a dangerous cancer.  If, in fact, the individual already has cancer, the tests can detect the disease during its early stages and allow for earlier treatment (which increases the likelihood of being cured).

The three screening tests for CRC are colonoscopy (recommended once every ten years), high sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT, recommended annually), and sigmoidoscopy (recommended once every five year).  The symptoms of colon cancer include blood in bowel movements, unrelenting stomach pains, cramps, or aches, and unexplained weight loss. Obviously, if you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, don’t wait for your annual FOBT or once in a decade colonoscopy!  Please speak with your primary care physician immediately if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH MORE THAN A POUND OF CURE!  Please take the opportunity this March to give your colon and rectum the attention they deserve.  For more information, please refer to the links below (courtesy of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention).

Pap Pointers Riva Preil

The Pap test is a test routinely performed by gynecologists to evaluate cervical cells in order to check for cancer or pre-cancerous conditions. In other words, it can help nip cancer in the bud by detecting abnormal growths before they develop into cancer. In fact, Pap test screening every three years is associated with decreased cervical mortality rate by 70%!  For clarification- the Pap test screens for cancer, which mean that it provides information about one’s risk for developing cancer.  It is NOT used as a diagnostic tool. The Pap test checks for changes in the cervix called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), and these are slow growing growths which can be treated with early detection.

How can one best prepare for a Pap test to assure the most accurate results possible?  Please follow the pointers below for the best results:

  1. Avoid vaginal medications or douches for twenty four hours prior to the test .
  2. Try to avoid Pap testing during menses, because excess blood may interfere with the results.
  3. Avoid intercourse and/or contraceptive creams and jelly during the twenty four hours prior to the test.
  4. Please inform your gynecologist of any other vulvar or vaginal discomfort or symptoms you have been experiencing (ex. itching, burning during urination, or pain) so that they can determine whether the Pap test is appropriate at present.

Good luck to you on test day and may you pass with flying colors in the best of health!