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!