Leg Vein Elimination (Health Tip)

May 13, 2011 by  
Filed under VIDEO

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!


If you want to get rid of unsightly leg veins, you’re in luck! There are several procedures available to remove varicose veins.

Tell us what you think about this video in the comments below, or in the Battling For Health Community Forum!

Hair Restoration 101 (Sex Health Guru Tip)

March 18, 2011 by  
Filed under VIDEO

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!


Looking a little thin on top? Hair restoration surgery may be right up your alley! Do bald men have more sex drive? CLICK HERE: www.sexhealthguru.com

Tell us what you think about this video in the comments below, or in the Battling For Health Community Forum!

SOS For Spider Veins (Health Tip)

November 28, 2010 by  
Filed under VIDEO

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!


If you’re fed up with the “road map” of veins criss-crossing your legs, you’ll be happy to know that removing them is possible!

What do you think?

Liposuction 101 (Health Tip)

November 28, 2010 by  
Filed under VIDEO

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!


Liposuction is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures in America! But some bodies respond better to the treatment than others.

What do you think?

Surgical wonders and innovations

July 28, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Here are the latest advances in surgery and implantation.

Doctors perform brain surgery via eyelid
A brain tumor usually requires a very invasive surgery, a procedure that entails opening the skull. However, recent innovations in medicine enable a minimally invasive procedure that could be comparable to a “keyhole” surgery of the brain. Doctors at the Johns Hopkins Hospital were able to remove a female patient’s tumor through a small incision in her eyelid.

According to the 47-year old female patient:

“When you tell people you had brain surgery, the first thing people always do is look for a scar, and that’s what’s amazing, there isn’t one. Anyone who needs to go through this should know it’s not that big of a deal even if it sounds like it is.”

First US surgery to compare NOTES vs. laparoscopy
NOTES stands for natural orifice translumenal endoscopic surgery and if you think laparoscopy is minimally invasive, NOTES is even several incisions less. Instead, it uses as point of entry natural orifices. In a groundbreaking clinical trial, researchers compare the use of laparoscopy vs. NOTES in gall bladder removal. As point of entry in the NOTES, the researchers used the mouth and on through the abdominal wall or through the vagina to access the gall bladder. The surgery needs only 2 small incisions that do not require suturing. According to study leader Dr. Santiago Horgan of the University of California at San Diego

What is unique about this trial is that we will not only evaluate the safety and efficacy of NOTES compared to laparoscopy but will also assess and compare pain levels, cosmetic outcomes, operative costs and logistical outcomes.”

Eye telescope implant clears FDA hurdle
Ever thought of having a telescope in your eye? Apparently this procedure is now available, recently approved by the US FDA to treat patients with vision problems. Target patients are those suffering from end-stage age-related macular degeneration above the age of 60. The telescope replaces the natural lens of the eyes and provided images magnified by 2.2 to 2.7 times.

First full face transplant performed in Barcelona
It took 24 hours and 30 surgeons to accomplish the feat – implantation of new facial muscles, skin, nose, lips, jaw, teeth, palate and cheekbones. The operation took place in March but it was only recently that the young male patient braved the media to express his gratitude to the medical team who performed the surgery. Before the surgery, the patient could not breathe or swallow on his own.

Full Face Transplant Claimed by French Doctors
French doctors claim that theirs was the first “full” face transplant almost months after Spanish doctors claimed a similar feat. The operation was performed at the Henri Mondor hospital in the Paris suburb of Creteil last June 27. The operation not only involved full face transplant but also transplant of eyelids and tear ducts.

Health care updates, March 12: Transplantation wonders

March 12, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Record-setting kidney swap saves 13 lives

It reminded me of a certain episode of Grey’s Anatomy but this one is for real. The big kidney swap last December was a ground-breaking as well as record-breaking endeavour.  A total of thirteen patients underwent kidney transplants that involved 26 surgical operations. The kidney exchange was especially beneficial for those with rare blood group and therefore had problems finding a donor. Here is how the kidney swap works: A family member of patient A is not a match but will donate a kidney to a total stranger. In the process, the transplant options of patient A expands as unmatched family members of other patients will in turn donate kidneys. The donated kidneys from family and friends are pooled together, then distributed to the closest match. Patient A gets a matching kidney from the pool.
Thus the 13-way transplant was performed at Georgetown Hospital and neighboring Washington Hospital Center within a period of 6 days. Ten out of the 13 recipients were ethnic minorities (Black, Asian, Hispanics) whose chances of getting a transplant from a live donor are rather slim.

Belgian doctors transplant new windpipe into injured woman

Training a body to accept donor tissue before actual transplantation greatly diminishes the chances of rejection. This exactly what Belgian doctors did. A Belgian woman had been living in pain for more than 25 years when an accident badly injured her windpipe (trachea). During that time, two metal stents were keeping her windpipe opne so she could breathe. Now she is painless and has a new windpipe. The windpipe was from a dead donor but instead of direct transplantation, the doctors first implanted the organ in the patient’s arm where it grew new tissue. During the initial months, the patient had to take drugs to suppress the immune system’s ability to reject the organ. After 8 months, enough of the patient’s tissues have grown around the trachea that the drugs were ceased. 2 months later, the doctors removed the windpipe form the arm and finally transplanted it into her throat.
Some doctors try to skip the immunity suppression part by lining the donated windpipe with the recipients’ own stem cells.

Transplant centers in Europe train to implant SynCardia’s Total Artificial Heart

In February and March, transplant centers in two European countries started the certification training for implantation of the SynCardia temporary CardioWest™ Total Artificial Heart. In February, heart surgeons at the Onze Lieve Vrouw (OLV) Hospital Aalst started the training and became the first hospital in Belgium and the 50th in the world to undergo the certification training. In March, the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center isthe first hospital in Greece and the 51st in the world to start a similar accreditation process.

New developments in heart bypass surgery

December 23, 2009 by  

When blood vessels that supply the heart get clogged up, they need to be replaced to restore the blood supply to the heart and prevent heart attack. This replacement is done through a surgical procedure called a heart bypass. In many cases, blood vessels from the patient’s legs are removed and use as replacement blood vessel in a surgical procedure called heart bypass. However, some patients do not have suitable blood vessels for replacement so that surgeons have to use artificial blood vessels. Currently, artificial blood vessels are made from synthetic materials that unfortunately increase the risk for blood clots. This is why patients who have had a heart bypass need to take blood thinners to prevent blood clots.

New advances in biotechnology indicate that the procedure of heart bypass will soon undergo a major revolution.

Using proteins to regrow blood vessels

Researchers at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine have developed a protein-based injection that can induce blood vessels to regrow and thus eliminating the need for open heart surgery. The researchers have tested the protein-based therapy in mice with very promising results. Blood vessel regeneration occurred within a weeks and got integrated into the circulatory system. According to researcher Dr. Britta Hardy:

“Our technology promises to regrow blood vessels like a net, and a heart that grows more blood vessels becomes stronger. It’s now imaginable that, in the distant future, peptide injections may be able to replace bypass surgeries.”

Using bacteria to grow new blood vessels

Single-celled organisms called bacteria can be our friend or foe. They can cause infections that can be mild or life-threatening. They can, however, be harnessed to produce life-saving products such as insulin. In a latest advancement in biotechnology, a species of bacteria is being harnessed to produce artificial blood vessels.

Swedish researchers report that about a technique using bacteria to synthesize new blood vessels. The bacterium Acetobacter xylinum can produce blood vessels made from cellulose that is strong enough to withstand blood pressure and is compatible with the human body’s own tissue. In addition, blood vessels made from cellulose seem to have a lower risk of blood clots compared to the synthetic blood vessels currently in use.

According to researcher Helen Fink, a molecular biologist at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden:

There are hardly any blood clots at all with the bacterial cellulose, and the blood coagulates much more slowly than with the materials I used as a comparison. This means that the cellulose works very well in contact with the blood and is a very interesting alternative for artificial blood vessels.”

Obesity and surgery

June 25, 2009 by  
Filed under OBESITY

surgeonObese patients and their doctors may face special challenges when undergoing and performing surgery. Health experts warn that health care provider should not underestimate the risks but on the other hand, should not dismiss obese patients as hopeless cases. The American Heart Association recently released a new Science Advisory on performing surgery on obese patients Let us look at  some of the issues surrounding obesity and surgery.

Proper evaluation is difficult in obese patients.

Performing an evaluation in highly obese patients can be difficult because of many co-existing conditions. Heart problems in particular are easily underestimated during a physical examination. According to lead author Dr. Paul Poirier,

A severely obese patient can be technically difficult to evaluate prior to surgery. For example, severely obese people might feel chest tightness that could be a symptom of their obesity or of an underlying cardiac problem. Doctors need to carefully evaluate severely obese patients before they have surgery.”

Surgery can be difficult in obese patients.

Surgeons report that surgery can be challenging in severely obese patients. There was a big scandal in the UK a few years ago when some health care providers refused to perform surgery on obese patients

Obese patients are prone to complications.

Obese patients are more likely to suffer complications after surgery such as infections, and pulmonary embolism, and are more likely to stay on a ventilator and have a prolonged hospital stay.

Obese patients are not at higher risk for death.

Despite of these, the mortality rates during surgery do not depend on body mass index (BMI). According to Dr. Poirier

“Some surgeons are under the impression that severely obese patients are more likely to die in surgery than people who are not obese, and won’t operate on them as a result. This is not true. Severely obese patients are at increased risk for pulmonary embolism, wound infection and other conditions. But they are not more likely than their lower-weight counterparts to die as a result of surgery.”

The AHA advisory recommends the following:

  • The recommendations are meant for all health care providers, from cardiologists, to surgeons, to anesthesiologists, providing pre-operative evaluation recommendations, as well as recommendations on management and care for obese patients during and after any type surgery, be it a knee replacement or a heart operation.
  • The health care provider should especially pay attention to obesity-related conditions such as:
  • The health providers should take into consideration age, gender, as well as the abovementioned conditions as independent factors for mortality or complication from surgery.
  • Health care providers should advise patients to be as healthy as possible before surgery. This may include losing weight, keeping blood pressure under control (for those with hypertensiotn, or keeping blood sugar level under control (for those with diabetes).
  • Extra, non-invasive tests may be performed if it aid in pre-surgery evaluation, such as ECG or chest X-ray.
  • Surgeons should discuss with patients the risks associated with a particular surgery for a patient their size.

In providing this advisory, the AHA aims to give obese patients the best possible care they deserve.

Dr. Michael DeBakey, cardiovascular sciences pioneer, passed away at age 99

July 14, 2008 by  

He is a legend in cardiovascular medicine. He is a pioneer in open-heart surgery and cardiovascular devices. He was instrumental in developing innovations such as heart pumps and artificial hearts, and interventions such arterial bypass surgery and heart transplants. Dr. Michael DeBakey, the legendary innovator and doctor dies of natural causes at the age of 99, Dallas Morning News reports.

With his medical innovations, DeBakey saved the lives of thousands- even millions of people from all walks of life, the known and unknown, the young and the old, the rich and the poor. He is also instrumental in the development of the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (M.A.S.H.) for the American military, an innovation which save American lives in the front. He himself was touched by the monster of heart disease when his first wife died of a heart attack in 1972. He benefited from his own invention when he had to undergo heart surgery to fix a damaged aorta in 2006.

For his innovations, Dr. DeBakey, native of the state of Louisiana, was conferred several prestigious awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science.

Earlier this year, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, America’s highest honor granted to a civilian, for his lifetime achievement in the medical field (Dallas News).

President Geroge W Bush, who presented the award at the Capitol, noted that the medal has rarely been given to scientists but those who received the honor were iconic and included the likes of Thomas Edison and Walter Reed. To quote the American president:

“Today we gather to recognize that Michael DeBakey’s name belongs among them…His legacy is holding the fragile and sacred gift of human life in his hands – and returning it unbroken.”

In his acceptance speech, DeBakey urged the US Congress to do more to provide health care for America’s needy.

However, DeBakey’s efforts to promote health care are not only restricted to the US.

[He] continues to devote considerable time to national advisory committees and to consultantships in Europe and the Middle and Far East, where he has helped to establish health care systems”

Aside from medical innovations, DeBakey is instrumental in educating younger generations of heart doctors. He practically set up the Baylor College of Medicine as well as the first National Heart and Blood Vessel Research and Demonstration Center. He led the movement to set up the National Library of Medicine. He authored and co-authored over a thousand of medical articles as well as popular resource guides for the public such as The New Living Heart, The Living Heart Shopper’s Guide and The Living Heart Diet.

According to the president of the American Heart Association, Dr. Timothy Gardner:

“DeBakey’s legacy will live on in so many ways — through the thousands of patients he treated directly and through his creation of a generation of physician educators, who will carry his legacy far into the future. His advances will continue to be the building blocks for new treatments and surgical procedures for years to come.”



Dallas Morning News, July 13, 2008

Michael DeBakey’s Biography, Women’s International Center

Photo credit

Hospital Patients Get Their Say – On a Scale of 0 to 10…

April 17, 2008 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

The US Department of Health and Human Services / Department of Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) provides a website called Hospital Compare that allows potential patients to size up a hospital before they are admitted. Need to know how many heart surgeries are successful at your local hospital? Need to know its mortality rate? The information can be found at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov.

And now, a new addition to the website will make this website even more valuable to those of us who do our due diligence. I love this!

Patients are asked a series of survey questions as they are discharged. CMS will give the survey to 300 patients per hospital, per calendar quarter. Only short-term, acute care, non-specialty hospitals participate (not specialty or one-day outpatient type hospitals.)

Those questions are these:

  1. How often did nurses treat you with courtesy and respect?
  2. How often did nurses listen carefully to you?
  3. How often did nurses explain things in a way you could understand?
  4. How often did doctors treat you with courtesy and respect?
  5. How often did doctors listen carefully to you?
  6. How often did doctors explain things in a way you could understand?
  7. After you pressed the call button, how often did you get help as soon as you wanted it?
  8. How often did you get help in getting to the bathroom or in using a bedpan as soon as you wanted?
  9. How often was your pain well controlled?
  10. How often did the hospital staff do everything they could to help you with your pain?
  11. Before giving you any new medicine, how often did the hospital staff tell you what the medicine was for?
  12. Before giving you any new medicine, how often did the hospital staff describe possible side effects in a way you could understand?
  13. How often were your room and bathroom kept clean?
  14. How often was the area around your room quiet at night?
  15. Did hospital staff talk with you about whether you would have the help you needed when you left the hospital?
  16. Did you get information in writing about what symptoms or health problems to look out for after you left the hospital?
  17. Using any number from 0 to 10 (0 is the worst hospital possible and 10 is the best hospital possible) what number would you use to rate this hospital during your stay?
  18. Would you recommend this hospital to your family and friends?

CMS then uses the results as a part of its hospital compare program, allowing patients to make determinations about which hospital will tend not just to their surgery and care needs, but how well they are treated by the staff at the hospital.

Why do I love this? Let me count the ways!

There is not a hospital in this country that doesn’t take care of Medicare and Medicaid patients. That means all hospitals in the US will be listed, and the experience patients have had with them will be recorded.

The information will be objective. Since patients are being surveyed randomly at the hospital, as they are being discharged, the rankings won’t be skewed like the rankings and input we typically find online. The online ranking systems haven’t found a good way to be objective yet. Disgruntled patients and doctor’s staffs can skew those results in one direction or another.

And yes — I do see some shortcomings. Two things: First, I think they would do well to survey patients’ loved ones, their caregivers, in addition to the patients themselves. Often its the caregiver who knows far more about how that patient was treated.

And second — there is one very important population not being surveyed at all. That’s the person who doesn’t get discharged. We have to imagine that many patients who acquire MRSA or other infections, for example, aren’t making it out alive. Their opinions are important, too. Perhaps the idea of surveying caregivers would make sure the deceased patient’s opinions are represented to.

Are you facing a hospital stay? Check out the CMS Hospital Compare website. And if your doctor is affiliated with the wrong hospital? Then ask him or her what your options are. You need the complete package, and this is one more tool to help you get it.

Surgical Injury from Harmful Materials – A Nightmare for my Friend

April 12, 2008 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

My friend Angela is in the middle of a debacle that probably should surprise no one, but is just as difficult and frustrating all the same.

Several years ago she had surgery. Not long afterwards, she had new symptoms that made her surgeon take pause… eventually it was discovered that the cause of the problem was a mesh fabric used as a part of the surgery. It wasn’t left there by mistake; it was part of the surgery. It was supposed to be there. It was manufactured to be left in someone’s body. It was new to the market, and there’s where part of the problem is. It’s called Mentor’s OB Tape.

Follow up surgery has not rectified the problem. The most recent theory is that the mesh has migrated to other areas of Angela’s body. She is left with problems and pain. The next step is probably another surgery — seek and remove — find those other pieces of mesh in other places, dig them out, replace them, sew them into place. Bloody, messy, ugly, horrible.

Here’s the kicker: Recently Angela learned that the manufacturer of the mesh realized there were problems with rejection of Mentor’s OB Tape soon after it was introduced to the market — meaning — just after Angela’s original surgery. Did they recall it? Or notify the hospitals that had purchased it of problems? No. Instead they just quietly withdrew it from the market and replaced it with another mesh. Now there seem to be thousands of women who have had similar symptoms and rejection problems, like Angela’s. Lawsuits are being filed. Thousands of warning websites exist. There are problem reports on the NIH website.

Angela is quite the detective. She has been emailing the researchers who published the original studies that said there were problems with the mesh. Some have replied to her. She has even tracked down the doctor who holds the patent for the mesh who now lives in France.


I have to wonder whether he is French. Or did he flee the US in anticipation of the lawsuits?

This is one more in a series of substances and products being approved by the FDA and used on (what turns out to be) guinea pig human patients, to make the ultimate discovery that it’s harmful to those patients. In some cases, patients have died after their guinea pig experiences. (I do not know if that’s the case with Mentor’s OB Tape.)

And what can patients do to protect themselves? In the short term, probably nothing except to look at the bigger picture of what’s happening at the FDA approval level. We’re hearing too frequently of approvals gone awry. I don’t know if it’s the case with this mesh, but too many approvals are taking place because research that turned up problems is being hidden by the manufacturer seeking approval.

No easy answers — just a warning that anyone can be a victim of the system. Angela was. I was. And you can be, too. And this will continue to happen until the FDA begins requiring access to all the studies being done about newly introduced drugs and materials — not just those good outcomes the manufacturers want them to see.

Update! (4/19/08) — Angela has started a blog — her experience, research, surgeries and lawsuit. Check it out.

More Evidence for Second Opinions: Gender Bias

April 2, 2008 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

A Canadian study recently released, and reported in the New York Times, gives us one more reason to ask our doctors questions, and to insist on second opinions.

Two people, one woman, one man, both 67 years old, and with equally ugly osteoarthritis were sent to 67 doctors. Among them were 29 orthopedic doctors and 38 family physicians. The patients were coached on how to present their symptoms so each doctor visit would be consistent. After examination, each patient asked the doctors whether they would need a knee replacement.

In total, two-thirds of the doctors told the man that yes, he needed to get his knee replaced. Only one-third of the doctors told the woman she needed a new knee.

Keep in mind that this study was done in Canada. We can’t draw any conclusions about money as a motivator in any direction because Canada has a national healthcare system. No money changes hands beyond the taxes paid by patients.

Also, no conclusions can be reached about the tendency of female vs male doctors to make recommendations because not enough female doctors participated in the study.

So where does that leave us?

Clearly, no matter which side of the US-Canadian border, patients need to realize that there are many aspects of care that need to be questioned. There are even additional questions about this study. For example:

This study seems to suggest gender bias. Clearly, twice as many doctors recommended the man have surgery. But is that really the answer? Perhaps the man was more or less physically fit? Maybe the man or the woman was heavier? Could it be that there were other factors that were, even subconsciously, considered by those doctors?

Assuming that the difference truly is one of gender bias, then it doesn’t bode well for either men or women. It tells us men are more prone to being treated surgically then women. But that’s not good for men who don’t really need surgery, and it’s not good for women who could truly benefit from surgery.

And among those men and women who were told they didn’t need surgery — why not? Were they told they needed a different treatment? Were they not well-diagnosed, therefore they didn’t need treatment at all?

What alternatives were offered to those who didn’t “need” surgery?

These questions apply to any situation where a patient has a problem that could possibly be repaired surgically, not just orthopedic problems. If surgery is an option for you, then you’ll need to talk to at least two doctors, and possibly a third.

Two doctors at a minimum — and that’s if they agree on your diagnosis and treatment recommendations. A third doctor if there is disagreement. And don’t believe the one who gives you the better news. How do you know if s/he is right?

All of us atients can learn from this study, even if there are plenty of unanswered questions. Before you go under the knife, for any reason, get a second opinion.

Everything You Need to Know about Spinal Arthritis

January 28, 2008 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

Greetings .. Gloria is away this week, and will resume posting on February 4, 2008. In the meantime, please enjoy this article about Spinal Arthritis. // HART

The variations of different diseases create one of the biggest challenges for physicians, researchers, and patients. For instance, we often hear through the mass media that scientists are searching for the “cure for cancer.” However, cancer exists in several forms, including lung cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer. Each of these forms of the disease includes different symptoms and treatments, and would thus require different cures. Likewise, various types of arthritis exist, such as psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Another variety of this devastating disease is spinal arthritis.

Spinal arthritis, or spinal stenosis, involves the tapering of the backbone, manifesting itself through stress on the spinal cord as well as on the roots of nerves. This disease usually involves three regions of the spine: the canals at the nerves’ base that expand from the spinal cord; the gaps between the spine’s bones, through which nerves exit the spine and then continue to other body parts; and the tube in the middle pillar of bones, through which the roots’ base and the spinal cord continue. This tapering can include either a huge or tiny region of the spine. The sufferer of spinal arthritis may feel aches or a lack of sensation in the shoulders, neck, or legs.

Spinal arthritis sufferers are most often women and men who are over fifty-years-old. Nevertheless, younger people who experience an injury to their spine may also experience spinal arthritis. In addition, those who are born with tapering of the spinal channel may also become inflicted with this disease.

Spinal arthritis sufferers of all ages may experience no symptoms, due to the tapering of the area in the spinal channel. Nevertheless, if this narrowing puts stress on the nerve roots or spinal cord, indicators of spinal arthritis—spasms, lack of sensation, aches in the legs and arms, and weakness–result. Also, if the tapered region in the spine presses down on the nerve base, sufferers of spinal arthritis may experience pain searing down their leg. They should immediately engage in bending exercises, strengthening exercises, stretching the lower back, and sitting.

When a victim of spinal arthritis is not experiencing tremendous or worsening nerve association, then the following treatments might be prescribed:

* Physical therapy or exercises to increase stamina, continue the spine’s motion, and fortify back and stomach muscles. This will help to make the spine more stable. Aerobic activity is also an option.

* Corticosteroid injections into the remotest of the membranes covering the nerve roots and the spinal cord, to lower swelling and treat sharp pain that spreads down a leg, or down to the hips.

* Anti-swelling drugs that contain no steroids, including aspirin, ibuprofen (i.e. Advil, Motrin, Nuprinl), to lower swelling and reduce aches.

* Limited activity, which is based on how involved the nerves are.

* Analgesics including Tylenol, to reduce pain.

* Anesthetic shots, also known as nerve blocks, nearby the nerve that is affected, to momentarily reduce pain.

When treatment not involving surgery is ineffective, surgery becomes an option. The objective is to lessen the nerves’ pressure or spinal cord, and to re-establish and sustain the spine’s arrangement and strength.

Today, spinal arthritis remains one of the most devastating types of diseases that people can suffer from. Fortunately, physicians and researchers continue to improve its treatment, in order to alleviate its victims’ pain.

Good News for Head and Neck Cancer Patients

January 10, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

While head and neck cancer is neither as frequent nor as deadly as other cancers worldwide, it is of particular interest to research scientists because of its inherent invasive and metastatic characteristics.

While chemotherapy and radiation are becoming more commonplace, surgery still plays a major role in treatment of the oral cavity and surrounding areas. An otolarygology fellow that I worked with once in a head and neck cancer laboratory once described the most severe cases as a cat and mouse game where the surgeons “chased” the cancerous cells from one site to another.

Recently, the National Cancer Institute issued a report entitled, A Kinder Cut:  Advances in Surgery for Head and Neck Cancer. It reviewed many recent advancements in the treatment and management of head and neck cancer, including:

  • Smaller Surgeries:  The advents of minimally invasive endoscopic approaches to treatment have greatly improved surgical morbidity rates in head and neck cancer patients. Recent clinical trials are experimenting with transoral (through the oral cavity) endoscopic surgeries.  While it’s yet to be seen whether this approach to surgery affects long-term survival outcomes, preliminary data seems to suggest decreased surgical morbity levels, hospital stays and blood loss.
  • Advances in Reconstruction:  Because the standard of care for head and neck cancer often leads to undesirable effects such as loss of speech and taste and a reduced ability to speak, eat, or breath, quality of life for head and neck cancer patients are on the right track. New advancements include surgical techniques that allow surgeons to move tissue from one spot in the body to a point of reconstruction with better success. Microvascular surgeries aim to reattachment of blood vessels to the original site of injury, which can also aid in reconstruction.

Whether your overall goal is cancer treatment or cancer management, it’s still very encouraging news for head and neck cancer patients.  See the original report for more details about these and other approaches.

Cancer patients pay less for surgeries, feel better when hypnotized

October 22, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

Bergh - hypnotic seance

Image: Hypnotic Seance, Richard Bergh (1887). Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Looks like it’s time to break out the dangling watch — a new article in the The Journal of the National Cancer Institute reports this week that women who participated in a brief hypnosis session prior to breast cancer surgery experienced fewer reported side effects such as pain, nausea, and fatigue. Also intriguing was that the surgical costs per patient were on average $772 less than for patients who did not undergo hypnosis prior to surgery.For certain types of cancers where surgery is the first line of defense like breast cancer or head and neck cancer, this mix of eastern and western medicine has the potential to make a wide impact.

As reported at the American Cancer Society website:

“Such findings argue strongly for making hypnosis part of standard care for breast cancer patients,” says lead study author Guy H. Montgomery, PhD, associate professor of Oncological Sciences at Mount Sinai.

“Breast cancer patients are going through a lot,” he explains.

“It’s a distressing and difficult period to get through. They’re worried about themselves, they’re worried about their families. So if there’s something we can do to make them feel better …we should translate this from a research protocol to actually doing something for breast cancer patients every day.”

Read more

Surgery Treatment Options for Breast Cancer

October 12, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

The prospect of surgery is never pleasant. But fortunately, breast cancer surgery today is more targeted than in years past. That leads to less scarring and quicker recovery, at the same time providing an effective treatment to lower the odds of recurrence.

Diagnostic tools are more precise and the disease is better understood. Traditional options still largely apply, but employing them is no longer automatic. Each case is unique and individually analyzed. The breast cancer patient has choices and is an active participant in the decision making process.

One of the most common choices made is known as a lumpectomy. Just what it sounds like, a lumpectomy is the surgical removal of the lump that constitutes the cancer tumor. Even here there are a wide range of choices. The amount of tissue removed around the lump varies. Surgeons make a judgment call about how much is needed to reduce the chances of the cancer returning.

Depending on the size and location, and how long the tumor has been developing, one or more lymph nodes might be removed during a lumpectomy. The lymph nodes are oval, bean-sized glands that are part of a connected system that runs throughout the body. They play a major role in the immune system, fighting bacteria and the invasion of foreign bodies.

Once a cancer reaches a lymph node it can easily and rapidly spread through the body by means of the vessels connecting all the lymph nodes. When or if that happens, the cancer becomes much more difficult to treat. Often chemotherapy or radiation treatment is called for at this stage.

To minimize the likelihood of that happening, surgeons will sometimes remove one or more lymph nodes near a cancerous tumor. Then, lab tests are performed to check for any spread of the cancer. Here again, each case is unique and the options and likely actions should be discussed with all the physicians involved.

Breast cancer, like others, develops in stages determined by the size, location and type of tumors that make up the cancer. When breast cancer has reached a stage where it’s called for, surgery may go beyond a lumpectomy. The patient and doctor (usually an oncologist) may opt for a partial or segmental mastectomy, sometimes called a quadrantectomy.

In that procedure more breast tissue is removed than in a simple lumpectomy. In many cases radiation therapy may be part of the follow up treatment regimen, often extending for six or eight weeks. The goal is to ensure that all the cancer was removed, or that any remaining malignant tissue the surgeon was unable to get is destroyed by the radiation.

In more extreme cases, which are fortunately recommended much less often today, a mastectomy may be performed. Most or all of the breast is removed. When no lymph nodes are taken, the procedure is called a simple or total mastectomy. When all the breast tissue is removed, along with the nipple and lymph nodes in the armpit, the surgery is termed a modified radical mastectomy.

When the surgeon has to go further and remove the accompanying chest wall muscles the procedure is called a radical mastectomy. Fortunately, this extreme action is rarely called for today. Even when required, reconstructive surgery or prosthetics can often restore appearance almost entirely.

Hospital stay varies with the type of treatment, ranging from outpatient, same-day release for a simple lumpectomy to a week for more intensive procedures. Explore all your options and research the effects carefully. Ask questions and don’t be put off by too-busy physicians. Finding one willing to answer questions at length in layman’s terms is the first step toward proper treatment.

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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.