Scott Norton Inspirational Video

January 12, 2012 by  
Filed under BRAIN, VIDEO

Scott Norton Inspirational Video
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Airport scanners are safe but you have the right to say no!

February 16, 2011 by  
Filed under CANCER

While travelling last December – January from the northern to the southern hemisphere, I and my family must have gone through at least 10 different security check points. I don’t think we ever went through the so-called full body scanners but I guess it won’t be long till most airports will be equipped with these machines. So what do we know about these machines?

According to the American College of Radiology (ACR), there are 2 types of systems that are being used in US airports these days

Many people are concerned about the health effects of these systems. After all, these machines give off radiation! During the last few years, there have been concerns about the effects of medical radiation, especially its carcinogenic effects. Well, let’s see what the experts have to say.

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE and opt for a pat down instead!

CBS interviewed Dr. Francis Marre, former director of radiation safety at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who declared that “there is no known risk” from being scanned.

This is because the radiation emitted by these machines are very, very small.

One scan from a typical “backscatter” security scanner might deliver 0.005 to 0.01 millirem – far, far below the 10,000 millirem that is considered the danger threshold.

But if you really do not feel comfortable about going through these scanners for whatever reason, there is something you can do about it. I know of people who have the right to be concerned about the effects of radiation on their health- pregnant women and very young children, for example. What you should know but not well-publicized:

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE and opt for a pat down instead!

Beware of radiation overdose

February 22, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

First of all, this is not meant to scare you. This is simply to make you aware. Through the use of radiation, imaging techniques have greatly helped diagnostic medicine in saving lives. Through radiotherapy, cancer patients have gotten a new lease in life. But let’s face it. Despite its benefits, radiation especially ionizing radiation has its share of risks. Radiation can affect the cells, tissues and organs to cause cell damage and death that may be irreversible.

In a previous post, I have cited recent studies which lament lack of regulations of the use of imaging techniques, especially computer tomography (CT) scans.

This lack of proper regulations has led to several tragic accidents, that is, radiation overdoses. I describe these cases below.

Radiation overdose through CT scan

In October 2009, the New York Times reported two cases in California.

Case 1: This involved the well-known Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The hospital reported that it is possible that as many as 206 patients (median age 70 years) who underwent a CT brain perfusion scans were exposed to radiation up to 8 times more than the normal dose. The patients were suspected to have had a stroke and this type of diagnostic procedure can determine the presence of blood flow problems in the brain. Upon discovering the mistake, the hospital immediately alerted the health authorities. The US FDA then in turn alerted other clinics using this type of CT procedure.

Case 2: This case is so tragic because it involved a 2 ½-year-old boy evaluated at Mad River Community Hospital in Arcata. The child was subjected to over an hour of CT scan, a procedure which should normally take a few minutes. The hospital did not report the incident to the health authorities. The most difficult part of such cases is the fact that the damage, which may range from cataract to cancer, will only come out in years or even decades. And this kid still has whole life before him.

According to USCF researchers who evaluated CT scan safety:

“…Our results highlight the need for greater standardization because this is a medical safety issue.”7

Radiotherapy overdose

Radiation is used as therapy for many conditions, including cancer. Unfortunately, overdoses in radiotherapy also happen. Last month, the New York Times published a report about cases of radiation therapy that proved more fatal than the diseases they are supposed to cure.

Case 1: One case was 43-year old Sparks who was treated for tongue cancer. Unfortunately, due to computer error, the linear accelerator blasted high-energy radiation to his brain and neck for 3 consecutive days.

Case 2: In another case, a 32-year old breast cancer patient was subjected to radiation 3 times the prescribe dose – for 27 days. The accelerator used had a missing filter which the operators never noticed. The radiation overdose burned a hole into her chest. The report continued to explain that while the latest in radiation technology helps to diagnose tumors more swiftly and precisely, it has also become so complex that there is a lot of room for error that includes “software flaws, faulty programming, poor safety procedures or inadequate staffing and training.” Furthermore, there is no regulatory agency overseeing the use of medical radiation and there are no guidelines about reporting accidents and medical errors involving radiation. A search of records showed that some hospitals never report radiation-related errors. Some errors go on for months, up to a year being discovered, thus affecting a large number of patients.

Health experts are calling for more regulations about radiation use in medicine whether as a diagnostic or as a therapeutic tool.

To be fair, some hospitals are trying to do the right thing by informing patients of the risks, and reporting errors.

In the case of Cedars Sinai, they reported the cases and admitted that their flawed procedures might be responsible for the overdoses. However, its chief executive, Thomas M. Priselac, said the manufacturer could help to prevent future errors by improving its internal settings and by installing more safeguards.

The Henry Ford Health System issued a statement to inform their patients of potential risks. Furthermore, the recommend patients to ask questions before a CT scan that would include:

Radiation exposure linked to CVD risk

February 9, 2010 by  

When we talk about the A-Bomb, what comes to mind is exposure to high doses of radiation and cancer. The event occurred almost 65 years ago but new reports about its after effects continue to appear, highlighting the fact that such an event has some long-term consequences, some of which we’ve seen and some which are still to come.

A teams of Japanese researchers looked at data of 86,611 people who survived the A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Previous reports have shown a disproportionately high incidence of cancer in this population, a finding that was not really surprising. What is surprising is that cardiovascular disorders such as stroke and heart disease also accounted for a significant fraction of excess deaths which are radiation-related. Analysis of the data showed that A-bomb survivors exposed to at least 0.r Gy of radiation have a significantly elevated risk for cardiovascular diseases.

According to the study authors:

This study provides the strongest evidence available to date that radiation may increase the rates of stroke and heart disease at moderate dose levels (mainly 0.5-2 Gy. Given the widespread use of multiple computed tomography scans and other relatively high-dose diagnostic medical procedures, as well as radiotherapy that exposes the heart, the implications are substantial, insofar as effects occur at doses under 1 Gy.”

The study began 50 years ago which aimed to closely follow up the health outcomes of those who survived the immediate effects of the bombs. The participants of the study were survivors who lived within a 2.5 km radius of the bomb blasts and still resided there at the start of the study. Their outcomes were compared to a group of people of similar age and gender profile but who not or less exposed to the blast. The survivors were followed up till 2003. The results showed:

19,054 survivors died from cardiovascular diseases which included 9,622 mortality cases due to stroke and 8463 cases from heart disease. Of those deaths, 210 were considered “excess” deaths linked to exposure to radiation. The excess relative risk of a circulatory-disease-related death per Gy of radiation exposure was 11% but only exposure doses higher than 0.5 Gy.

According to an editorial by Dr Mark Little of the Imperial College London, UK)

 [The study]…”adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting an association between cardiovascular disease and exposure to [low to moderate] levels of radiation, as well as the well-known (and mechanistically well-understood) association at high doses.”

The radiation-cardiovascular disease risk link is especially relevant nowadays when the issue of radiation for medical purposes is becoming a hot topic, with questions regarding its safety.

CT scans and cancer risk

December 21, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

Over the years, the diagnostic technique of CT, short for computed tomography imaging, has enabled doctors to detect tumors and save lives. The CT technique uses special x-ray equipment in order to obtain cross-sectional images of the body. The images provide detailed images of organs, bones, and other tissues and enable doctors to view structures not easily visible with traditional X-rays. Unfortunately, this advancement in diagnostic imaging technique comes with a price – exposure to higher X-ray radiation and thereby increased risk for cancer.

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco that newer CT scanners may produce better images but also produce variable levels of radiation that is very much unregulated. Concerns are especially expressed because

The ease and convenience of CT scans make clinicians perform the procedure more frequently than before.

More and more CT scans are performed in healthy people for screening purposes that may not be necessary.

Newer models of scanners are much faster in taking pictures, again often leading the clinicians to take more scans than needed.

According to lead investigator Dr. Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a professor of radiology at UCSF:

“In day-to-day clinical practice, we found significant variation in the radiation doses for the same type of computed tomography procedures within institutions and across institutions. Our results highlight the need for greater standardization because this is a medical safety issue.”

The re4searchers estimated the radiation exposure of patients in connection with the 11 most common types of CT procedures used in US clinical practice and the potential cancer risk associated with each type. Their results revealed:

  • 1 in 270 women and 1 in 600 men who underwent a CT coronary angiogram at age 40 years will develop cancer due to the procedure.
  • The estimated risk for a routine head CT at the age 40 is 1 in 8,100 for women and 1 in 11,080 for men. The risk doubles in patients having the procedure around the age of 20 years.
  • In some patient populations, the risk for cancer of certain CT procedures can be as high as 1 in 80.

To put things into perspective, the researchers compared CT radiation exposure to other imaging procedures. They found that the median effective dose delivered through a single CT scan can be equivalent to doses used in 74 mammograms or 442 chest x-rays

The researchers are calling for more regulation in the use of CT scans in the US. They have identified three key practices necessary to improve the safety of CT procedures and the associated radiation doses:

•Reduction of unnecessary studies and studies thought unlikely to influence clinical decisions.

•Standardization and utilization of low-dose and lower-dose protocols for every CT scanner.

•Standardization of radiation doses across patients and facilities through federal legislation and FDA oversight stipulating how CTs are to be safely performed.

Cell phones with the least and most radiation

October 19, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

mob phoneA few months back, I posted several articles on the link between phone radiation and brain cancer risk. Those reviews presented the results of studies with inconclusive and sometimes contradictory results.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) believes that until we know for sure the health risks that cell phone radiation poses, it is best to stick to the phone models with the lowest radiation. I completely agree with the group.

In fact, this is in line with what the World Health Organization recommends following the policies of precautionary principle. The strategy Prudent Avoidance “prescribes taking low-cost measures to reduce exposure, in the absence of any scientifically justifiable expectation that the measures would reduce risk.”

So Iet’s be prudent and avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation from cell phones. Thus, I present to you the findings of EWG in their survey of more than 1,000 models (gosh, do we have that many models already?) of phones currently available on the market.

Here is the list of ten phones with the least radiation emission (range: 0.15 to 55 W/kg):

In terms of PDA/smart phones, those with least radiation emission (range: 021 to 0.59 W/kg). Some models listed are yet on the market.

EWG is lamenting the fact that although health authorities have strict guidelines regarding the labelling of food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, such requirements do not exist for cell phones. Wouldn’t it be very useful if phone specs also include the amount of radiation they emit? However, currently, this EWG guide is the only thing that can help us consumers

Anyway, from the EWG report, the models that emit the most radiation (range: 1.1 to 1.55 W/kg) are:

  • Motorola MOTO VU204 [Verizon Wireless]
  • T-Mobile myTouch 3G [T-Mobile]
  • Kyocera Jax S1300 [Virgin Mobile]
  • Blackberry Curve 8330 [Sprint, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, MetroPCS]
  • Motorola W385 [U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless]
  • T-Mobile Shadow [T-Mobile]
  • Motorola C290 [Sprint, Kajeet]
  • Motorola i335 [Sprint]
  • Motorola MOTO VE240 [Cricket, MetroPCS]
  • Blackberry Bold 9000 [AT&T

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Radiation Treatment Option for Breast Cancer

October 10, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

Radiation therapy remains one of the most common tools for breast cancer treatment, but it has been refined considerably over the years.

Radiation therapy comes in two basic types: internal or external.

External radiation treatments consist of an energetic, highly focused beam used to destroy cancer cells and surrounding tissue. Though the beam is invisible to the eye, it can pass semi-transparently through the skin. The different composition and behavior of the cancer cells, though, causes them to react differently.

Healthy cells are in the path of the radiation and are affected by it. But, as cancer cells are actively dividing and growing in abnormal ways, their function is more readily interrupted. They may absorb a much higher percentage of the radiative energy than healthy cells. That energy kills the cancer cells. The beam may also destroy the blood vessels around the tumor that the cancer generates in order to feed itself.

Internal radiation therapy, sometimes called brachytherapy, is more akin to chemotherapy. But rather than using drugs per se to affect a chemical change, a small amount of radioactive material is implanted. That material ejects radiation that targets cancer cells, killing them from the inside.

Internal radiation therapy is much less common. But, as with any treatment regimen, when and how it is used is determined after discussion with a specialist.

Radiation therapy is often used as a precursor or adjunct treatment, accompanying other methods. After a modified mastectomy, for example, an oncologist may recommend a course of radiation treatments lasting six to eight weeks.

The goal is to ensure that any cancerous cells the surgeon couldn’t remove are destroyed by the radiation. But it’s a less intensive treatment since using radiation to kill the entire cancer would involve higher and longer doses.

Similarly, radiation treatments may accompany chemotherapy. Since each case is unique, the patient and oncologist will determine what’s best for each person. In other cases, it may be used solely to relieve symptoms without any expectation of cure.

Despite the high energy in the beam, radiation treatments themselves are painless. There are often uncomfortable side effects, however.

Radiation treatments can produce fatigue, particularly in the later stages of treatment. Treatments are often given five days a week for several weeks, sometimes twice per day. In these cases, the fatigue can last for a few weeks or longer after treatment ends.

Skin problems are fairly common, since the radiation is absorbed to some degree by the tissues covering the breast. Redness, itching and soreness can occur. There may be decreased sensation around the breast, under the arm and other areas nearby. Hair loss does not occur, unless radiation is applied directly to the head, which is rarely the case when treating breast cancer.

In more extreme cases, the immune system can be compromised, especially if radiation is applied to the lymph nodes in the armpit. Lymph nodes and the connecting vessels that run throughout the body, are a key component of the immune system and radiation can decrease their effectiveness.

Fortunately, side effects are usually short lived. Except in the most extreme cases, organs, lymph nodes and other body components are not destroyed or irreparably harmed by radiation treatment. Though function may be temporarily suppressed, the body generally bounces back.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.