Included below are news items from the last six months.
A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a 21-gene test is accurate in predicting which women diagnosed with certain types of breast cancer will do well with hormone therapy alone and can forego chemotherapy. Photo source: National Cancer Institute (Bruce Wetzel, Harry Schaefer)
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that women with average risk of breast cancer consider waiting until age 45 to have their first mammogram and annually thereafter, switching to having the test every other year beginning at age 55. Previously, the ACS recommended annual mammograms beginning at age 40. Photo source: National Cancer Institute, Rhoda Baer
Preliminary results from a major study showed that using medications to achieve a target systolic blood pressure reading of 120 mm Hg significantly reduced rates of heart disease and the risk of death among people with hypertension age 50 and older. Photo source: NCI, Bill Branson
Most people will experience at least one diagnostic error during their lifetime, sometimes with devastating consequences, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine. The report offers some critical recommendations for improving diagnoses and reducing errors, including more effective teamwork among healthcare professionals, patients, and their families. Photo source: National Cancer Institute, photographer Rhoda Baer
For some people, statins are not effective or effective enough in lowering their blood cholesterol level. Now some of those who also have heart disease, a history of heart attacks or strokes, or hereditary high cholesterol may be helped by a new class of drugs recently approved by the FDA.
Researchers have developed a new diagnostic test for enterovirus D68, a virus that caused a deadly outbreak of severe respiratory illnesses last year. The new test involves an improved technique that reduces the time needed to detect the virus in the lab and would be an important tool in the event of future cases and outbreaks. Photo source: CDC/ Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Yiting Zhang
Two new studies support guidelines released two years ago that would result in more people taking statins to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease and strokes. Not all health practitioners have agreed with the 2013 guidelines, but given the evidence from these studies, it is important for people to have a conversation with their healthcare providers about what is best for them. Photo source: Chung, M.K., and Rich, M.W. Introduction to the cardiovascular system. Alcohol Health and Research World 14(4):269–276, 1990. Reprinted with permission from NIAAA.
A small study suggests that a new, experimental blood test may be effective in detecting pancreatic cancer at much earlier stages than the cancer is usually found currently. If larger trials show the same effectiveness for the blood test, a reliable test for pancreatic cancer could be available within the next few years. Photo source: National Cancer Institute. Artist: Don Bliss
A blood test with important research potential needs only a small blood sample to test for past exposure to hundreds of viruses. That's a major advance over current testing, which generally checks for one virus at a time. Photo source: CDC, Doug Jordan
Investigators are studying and making good progress with a new technique that uses a patient's blood sample to look for snippets of DNA that have been shed from cancerous tumors. This liquid biopsy may be a more accurate, sensitive, and convenient way to monitor cancer than traditional methods. Photo source: Jonathan Bailey, National Human Genome Research Institute
In an effort to reduce confusion and improve the benefits of screening for cancer, the American College of Physicians (ACP) recently issued guidelines for breast, ovarian, prostate, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening. The ACP says it wants healthcare providers to focus on tests that improve health, avoid harms, and eliminate wasteful practices. Photo source: National Cancer Institute
A new law allows Arizonans to request any medical lab test from clinical laboratories without a doctor's order, adding to an ongoing debate on patient autonomy versus oversight by health practitioners. Photo source: National Cancer Institute, Daniel Sone (photographer)