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Health News Round-Up: Plan Ahead Before Driving Becomes Unwise

Posted by Carolyn Harmer on Nov 11, 2015 2:04:00 PM

Making a ‘Retirement Plan’ for Driving

Recent health news from across the web: ‘retirement planning’ for driving, Medicare open enrollment, new mammogram guidelines, and more.A key component to aging in place is mobility — being able to get around independently. And in much of America, ‘mobility’ equals ‘driving.’ However, there may come a point when driving themselves is no longer a safe option for seniors; diminished vision, cognitive changes, and medication side effects are just some of the hazards that can jeopardize elderly drivers. But often, the issue isn’t raised until it must be dealt with, and it can be a point of contention between patients who want to feel independent and the caregivers or family members who must ask for the keys.

Giving up driving — or having driving privileges taken away — can be a difficult transition, one that may be harder to accept if it happens abruptly. Medical care can suffer, and feelings of isolation can contribute to depression. This NPR story takes the example of a few savvy seniors who made an advanced plan for ‘driving retirement.’ Researching transportation options and discussing possible solutions well before they are necessary may be preferable to scrambling once a need is already apparent (much like advanced care planning, in fact). Acknowledging that driving might not always be a feasible transportation choice can put wheels in motion toward safer driving practices now…and an easier transition to potential ‘retirement’ later.

(It’s Never Too Soon To Plan Your ‘Driving Retirement’; NPR)

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Topics: Dementia, Parkinson's Disease, Caregiving, Diabetes, Aging In Place, Health News, Nutrition, Cancer, Bereavement, Emotional Health

Health News Round-Up: ‘Genetic Counseling’ to Comprehend Cancer Risks

Posted by Carolyn Harmer on Oct 14, 2015 4:38:51 PM

What Does My Genetic Test Tell Me? Genetic Counseling Can Explain

Recent health news from across the Web: specialized support for genetic testing, a fresh quit-smoking option, hypoglycemia dangers, and more.Genetics can tell us a lot, so long as we understand how to interpret them. In some cases, our genes can make us vulnerable to certain inherited diseases. One such example is breast cancer; mutations in the BRCA gene family are linked to 5-10% of all cases (and up to 15% of ovarian cancer cases). Genetic testing has made it possible to determine whether a person carries a specific mutation. Yet taking such a test — especially if the result is positive — could raise more anxieties than it puts to rest. The specialized field of genetic counseling is one way to fill knowledge gaps and help individuals understand what results they may receive, and what exactly that means for their health and future risk.

A recent study found that of women who elected to undergo testing for BRCA mutations, few were offered genetic counseling. However, those who received the service reported better understanding of their personal results and more satisfaction with the knowledge they gained. As the cost of these tests lowers to more affordable levels and more people may choose to take them as a predictive measure, it may not be feasible for all patients to access genetic counseling (which is covered as a preventive service under the Affordable Care Act). But for some, especially individuals with a strong family history of an inheritable disease, it may be worth requesting more information or asking a doctor or specialist whether genetic counseling before getting tested would be a good idea.

(Genetic counseling is rare among BRCA-tested women; Reuters)

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Topics: Dementia, Caregiving, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Smoking, Financial Health, Cancer, Advanced Care Planning

Spelling it Out: Author Reflects on Her Breast Cancer, from A to Z

Posted by Carolyn Harmer on Sep 26, 2015 11:20:44 AM

Book of the Month: October 2015

Book of the Month: October 2015One in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer; the disease remains the most-diagnosed form of cancer in women and their second-leading cause of death. With so many women touched by this disease, there are bound to be commonalities — similar tests, procedures, and strains, as well as fears, emotions, and surprises. Yet every woman, and every cancer, is unique. How exactly she reacts, where she finds comfort, which messages resonate, and the buzzwords that rankle encompass a singular and personal experience.

In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month this and every October, our latest book recommendation is a journalist’s reflection on her own sojourn in the surreal reality that she calls ‘Cancerland.’ The diminutive volume treads a fine line between universalism and individuality, presenting author Madhulika Sikka's distinct opinion, as told by a confidante and fellow member of a club no one chose to join.

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Topics: Recommended Reading, Cancer

Health News Round-Up: Combating Cancer from a New Research Angle

Posted by Carolyn Harmer on Sep 2, 2015 1:52:24 PM

Cancer Research Suggests a New Genetic Frontier in Treatment

Nurse Performing Genetic Testing Previously, treating a patient’s cancer meant treating the type of cancer: breast, prostate, skin, etc. Some types call for specialized surgeries, others for specifically developed medications, others for finely tuned chemotherapy or radiation regimens. But the field of cancer research is changing, with efforts increasingly focused on the genes that cause the cancer or help it to spread. And thanks to a new drug trial, reportedly the first of its kind, this approach could be gaining traction.

Previous findings had uncovered a common gene mutation found in both skin cancer and lung cancer. Researchers hypothesized that because of this similarity, a drug already approved for skin cancer might have a crossover effect on the other cancer type. Indeed, a substantial proportion of lung cancer patients responded to the drug. Other cancer types did not exhibit such promising results, which may be the result of fewer of those patients having the targeted mutation — the key may be narrowing down the right commonalities. Future studies along these lines are already in the works, and signs are pointing to new, more specific cancer treatments that are based on gene mutation rather than type.

(First trial targeting mutation, not cancer type, gives mixed results; Reuters)

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Topics: Caregiving, Health News, Nutrition, Stroke, Heart Disease, Smoking, Financial Health, Cancer, Fitness, Advanced Care Planning

Health News Round-Up: An ‘Ounce of Preemption’ Before Treatment

Posted by Carolyn Harmer on Aug 18, 2015 4:48:21 PM

Preparing for Surgery or Treatment with ‘Prehab’

Recent health news from across the Web: prehab training before aggressive treatment, side effect dangers, music’s pain-fighting properties, and more.Patients who undergo surgeries, or other aggressive treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation, are often guided in rehabilitation exercises afterward to build back lost strength and endurance. However, some specialists have begun to explore the potential of rehab-style exercise done in anticipation of such procedures. They reason that this so-called prehab allows patients to enter treatment at a better level of fitness that will help them endure procedures better and recover faster.

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Topics: Dementia, Joint Replacement, Palliative Care, Diabetes, Health News, Nutrition, Medication Management, Heart Disease, Cancer, Fitness, Bereavement