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Archive for July, 2017

Japanese woman dies from tick disease after cat bites her..

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

A Japanese woman died last year of a tick-borne disease after being bitten by a stray cat, Japan’s health ministry says, in what could be the first such mammal-to-human transmission.

The unnamed woman in her 50s had been helping the apparently sick cat.

Ten days later she died of Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS), which is carried by ticks.

With no tick bite detected, doctors assume the illness could have been contracted via the cat.

“No reports on animal-to-human transmission cases have been made so far,” a Japanese health ministry official told the AFP news agency.

“It’s still not confirmed the virus came from the cat, but it’s possible that it is the first case,” the official added.

SFTS is a relatively new infectious disease emerging in China, Korea and Japan.

The virus is said to have fatality rates of up to 30% and is especially severe in people over 50.

According to Japanese media, SFTS first occurred in the country in 2013.

Japan’s health ministry said last year’s death was still a rare case but warned people to be careful when in contact with animals in poor physical condition.

Globally, tick bites are widely associated with transmitting Lyme disease which can lead to severe illness and death if left untreated.

www.pythonjungle.com

Henry Sapiecha

Why Liver Cancer Numbers Continue to Increase

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

The five-year survival rate for people with liver cancer remains at only 20 percent. Diabetes, hepatitis C, smoking, and alcohol are all factors.

Between 2009 and 2013, doctors diagnosed liver cancer in 7.7 people out of every 100,000.

That number has been increasing since the mid-1970s.

In addition, the death rate is rising faster than for any other cancer — it is one of America’s leading causes of cancer death.

Between 2010 and 2014, it stood at 6.3 people per 100,000.

The five-year survival rate is only about 20 percent.

Healthline spoke with Dr. Jack Jacoub, medical oncologist and director of thoracic oncology at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in California.

He stated that liver cancer is “the second most common cancer killer in the world.”

This month, researchers at the American Cancer Society (ACS) published a groundbreaking study in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

During the study, researchers uncovered trends in liver cancer incidence, survival, and mortality rates.

Researchers used Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program data obtained from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Read more: Get the facts on liver cancer »

Risk factors

The following risk factors contribute to liver cancer:

Dr. Anton Bilchik, professor of surgery and chief of gastrointestinal research at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California, also spoke with Healthline.

Bilchik said “the reason for the increase in primary liver cancer is largely related to the obesity epidemic that we have going on in this country.”

“Whereas hepatitis C used to be the most common cause of liver cancer, the most common cause now is related to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease,” he noted.

Jacoub, meanwhile, believes that hepatitis still poses the greatest risk.

“There is a very big spiking in hepatitis C infection over the past few decades. And that is the predominant risk factor in the United States for liver cancer,” he said.

Jacoub also suggested another risk factor. He cautioned that “anyone who has hereditary iron overload symptoms,” such as hemochromatosis, is at risk.

“[This] iron scenario causes iron overloading of the liver and [that] causes inflammation and scarring and then … cirrhosis,” he said.

“Whenever cirrhosis develops, you’re immediately at risk for liver cancer,” Jacoub explained.

Read more: Symptoms and warning signs of hepatitis C »

The influx of hepatitis C

“The incidence of hepatitis C in the baby boomer population [those born between 1945 and 1965] is as high as 2 to 3 percent,” reported Bilchik. “And it’s been recommended that all baby boomers should be at least checked for hepatitis C, particularly since recently we [now] have drugs that are very effective at curing patients of hepatitis C.”

Bilchik added, “The biggest breakthrough in this field has been the fact that relatively nontoxic antiviral medications are now FDA-approved that can eradicate hepatitis C.”

“The problem,” he said, “is that a very small percentage of baby boomers are being tested, or have been tested.”

Hepatitis B infection is also preventable. And there is an effective vaccine.

Starting in 1982, hepatitis B vaccinations became a part of routine childhood vaccinations.

As a result, in 2015 the vaccination rate among younger people varied from a low of 83 percent in Idaho, to a high of 98 percent in New Hampshire.

However, only 50 percent of older adults in the United States have been vaccinated.

Read more: Western diets are causing obesity in people around the world »

The risk associated with weight

Studies show that liver cancer risk increases by 26 percent for every five point increase in one’s Body Mass Index (BMI).

More men than women are overweight (BMI 25.0-29.9.) However, a greater number of women fall into the categories of obese (BMI 30-39.9), and class 3 obese (BMI 40+).

Bilchik noted, “Non-insulin dependent diabetes and lack of physical activity are often associated and linked to obesity.”

In the United States, 69 percent of adults over age 20 are overweight.

“It’s well known that up to 25 percent of kids, if not more, are overweight, if not obese,” stated Bilchik.

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Indications are that greater weight control intervention can help, especially among children.

Interventions might help reduce obesity levels, type 2 diabetes, and ultimately liver cancer rates.

Read more: Get the facts on alcohol addiction »

Alcohol, tobacco risk factors

Regardless of amount, drinking alcohol increases your risk of liver cancer.

“Not just in alcoholics,” Bilchik noted, “but also in those people that are considered binge drinkers.”

More effort put into alcohol abuse prevention programs may prove beneficial.

Smokers have a higher risk for liver cancer, too.

Tobacco users increase their risk of liver cancer by approximately 50 percent.

Read more: Poverty linked to poor health »

Race, ethnicity make a difference

There are now treatments for hepatitis C, vaccines for hepatitis B, and better public education about the risks of obesity.

As such, one might expect liver cancer rates to be falling.

But they’re not.

Until the publication of the ACS study, it was difficult to find information that explored total liver cancer mortality and survival rates in the United States.

This was also true for liver cancer mortality and survival rates with regard to race and ethnicity.

Regarding the study, Jacoub noted “liver cancer is one of the few cancers that really has extremely dramatic ethnic variations in population variations. And you’re seeing it in this report.”

The researchers found that the death rate for liver cancer in non-Hispanic whites was 5.5 per 100,000 people.

That compared with 8.4 per 100,000 for blacks, 11.9 per 100,000 for American Indians/Alaska Natives, 9.8 per 100,000 for Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 9.1 per 100,000 for Hispanics.

Digging deeper, the analysis showed that liver cancer incidence varies from state to state, and by race and ethnicity within each state.

Much of the disparity is due to a lack of public health education for certain at-risk groups.

Many of these same populations often also have limited access to quality healthcare.

Read more: Are there early signs of kidney cancer? »

Catching cancer early

The five-year survival rate after a diagnosis of liver cancer has been increasing ever since the early 1990s.

The increase, however, varies among racial and ethnic groups.

Generally, non-Hispanic whites have a lower death rate from liver cancer than blacks.

One of the reasons is that non-Hispanic whites are more likely to undergo surgery for their cancer.

Blacks as a group are more likely to lack health insurance, which may cause people to delay testing.

The stage of liver cancer at the time of diagnosis influences the survival rate.

Between 2006 and 2012, people with localized cancers accounted for between 40 and 45 percent of all liver cancer diagnoses. These patients had a survival rate of 37 percent.

That rate dropped to 4 percent for distant stage cancer diagnoses.

When researchers factored race and ethnicity into their analysis of localized disease, they saw a marked difference in survival rates.

It is possible to narrow the gap in survival rates between ethnic and racial groups?

Researchers believe the key is in finding ways to diagnose more liver cancers when they are still in the early, more localized stages.

Read more: Baby boomers changing the healthcare landscape »

Over the hump by 2030?

Death rates are expected to continue rising through 2030, and then begin to fall. Bilchik and Jacoub suggested a few possible reasons for the decline.

Baby boomers are currently the most at-risk generation for hepatitis C. Their numbers will continue to shrink as time passes.

In the meantime, more effective public health education will increase the number of baby boomers who seek out testing for hepatitis C.

Also, public education efforts worldwide should increase the number of people receiving hepatitis B vaccinations.

In time, the costs of treating hepatitis C will decline.

Fast food restaurants will continue the current trend of offering foods that are more nutritious

The number of tobacco smokers should continue to decline.

Jacoub stressed, “It’s important to know your risk profile.”

And Bilchik pointed out, “If you think about it, primary liver cancer is largely preventable because most of the causes of liver cancer are related to lifestyle.”

Henry Sapiecha

AWESOME: Bees Trained To Detect Early Stage Cancer in just a few Minutes!

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

One of the most amazing discoveries we’ve ever come across: An experimental art/science project by Susana Soares has demonstrated the potential for honey bees to be used in early stage cancer detection – and more.

As if we didn’t already have enough to thank bees for….

Bees have an odor perception that is on a level of acuity many leagues beyond ours, with their being able to detect infinitesimal quantities of certain molecules. Their odor perception is even more acute than sniffer dogs and is reported to be in the parts per trillion range!

It has been discovered that the bees can be trained using a simple Pavlovian reward system to select and move towards specific odor sources.

This gives potential for them to be used to detect pregnancy and diseases including cancer – which can be indicated by specific odor markers in the breath: Bees can be trained to respond to the presence of various chemicals, including biomarkers associated with early stages of diseases such as tuberculosis and various types of cancer. [1]

Special glass devices (as pictured top) have been devised by Portuguese designer Susana Soares in order to facilitate such tests. The subject breathes into the curious glass apparatus, which at first glance seems somewhat reminiscent of a kind of strange hashish smoking contraption. The pre-trained bees make a “bee line” (couldn’t resist it) for the diagnosis chamber if the target odor is present.

Early detection is mission critical to saving lives from cancer as the chances of turning it around are often greater if it is discovered earlier. Regular health checks and screening are essential but could this become a new tool in the fight against the world’s worst disease? Let’s hope so.

Henry Sapiecha

Expected to die decades ago, Kate Vines is still living with cancer over 26 years later

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

An oncologist at the Royal North Shore Hospital told Kate Vines she should ensure her affairs were in order as her life was coming to an end. She was suffering from medullary thyroid cancer.

Auckland-born Vines was 33 years old, living in Sydney with her husband and their five-year-old son. She had been diagnosed 18 months earlier and had her thyroid removed, but the surgeon found the cancer had already metastasised into her lymph nodes and spread into her chest. Six weeks later, she had a thoracotomy – her breast bone was cut in half – and the doctors again sliced away as many of the tumours as they could find, but they knew there were others, unreachable and undiscovered, that would kill her.

Vines’ GP, the first person she had consulted, had never seen a patient with medullary thyroid cancer. In fact, he had never heard of the condition. He did not believe she could be cured.

“Basically, I was left with pretty much no treatment options whatsoever,” says Vines.

Twenty-six years after she was first diagnosed, Vines is sitting at an outdoor table at Georges Mediterranean Bar and Grill on a warm afternoon in Darling Harbour, smiling and chatting and acting considerably more alive than I generally feel before lunch.

But she still has cancer.

“I’ve never been in remission,” she says. “I’ve always had evidence of cancer. Once it’s metastasised, the molecular structure of the cancer changes, and that makes it much more difficult to treat. I have a lot of ‘secondaries’ in my bones. I have miliary disease in my lungs, which is a whole lot of tiny little tumours. I do have a couple in my liver. I’ve got one lesion in my brain, and a number of other soft-tissue tumours. It’s called ‘indolent’, it’s quite slow growing, and the doctors say that at some point it will take off again. Every now and then it raises its little hand and I have a little spurt and I have to look at treatment options. But it’s almost like my body’s learned to live with it.”

Today, Vines is the head of patient care at Rare Cancers Australia, a charity she founded after more than two decades of surviving her sickness. She describes herself back then as “a young, fairly fit, I thought fairly healthy mum, who had a great life and everything at my feet”. Her son, Paul, was her “absolute pride and joy”, and almost a miracle as Vines had suffered from endometriosis and been told she probably could not have children. Her then-husband, Ray, was her best friend. They worked together in a panel-beaters’ supply business, and travelled the world.

Vines’ diagnosis changed everything but, she says, Ray constantly reinforced to her that she had to be there for Paul’s 21st birthday – and that long-term goal perhaps helped to keep her alive. However, she was becoming sicker and sicker. She tried alternative therapies at the Gerson Clinic in Mexico – with lots of carrot juice, a vegan diet and coffee enemas – but says she would never recommend that to anyone. “I turned bright orange from all the carotene and I lost about 15 kilos in weight and I was so sick that I couldn’t get out of bed,” she says.

Next, she went to the Gawler Cancer Foundation in Victoria, which promotes a “holistic” approach to wellbeing, stressing diet, meditation and positive life changes. She says Gawler was really helpful but, “during this time, my marriage broke up. With all the pressure I was under with my health, I felt that I would do better if I was on my own with Paul. So Ray moved out.”

She lived with her son for a year, but when he was about eight years old she felt she was not coping with being a single mother while also having multiple surgeries to remove cancerous lymph nodes from her neck. So she asked Ray if he would take Paul, which he did.

“That was the most difficult decision I’ve had to make,” she says. “It was absolutely devastating. But I felt it was better for him to have a part-time mother than no mother at all. I knew that if I had time just for me, I could do the meditations and all the things that I thought were necessary for me to get well.”

Eventually, she left the city for a 25-acre farm in Kangaroo Valley, where she felt healthier than she had for years. She moved to Melbourne, where she was under the care of a Victorian oncologist who suggested cytotoxic chemotherapy for the secondary cancers in her bones.

She had been experiencing severe chest pains, but they disappeared with the first round of chemo – which was, she says, “quite an amazing thing; they didn’t expect it”. However, after three further rounds she’d lost all her hair and lots of weight, and was sick again. She said no more.

In Melbourne, she met her husband, Richard, who had worked for several non-profit organisations, and her oncologist suggested she and Richard should set up an organisation to advocate for rare-cancer patients. Although 42,000 Australians are diagnosed with a rare cancer every year, their conditions are difficult to research. Many rare cancers are very aggressive, so there are rarely large patient populations to study and it can be impossible to set up full-scale clinical trials for potentially helpful drugs.

Since drugs cannot be approved by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme without the necessary trials, there are few treatments for rare cancers available under the PBS. Therefore, rare-cancer patients might need to spend $10,000 a month on a new immunotherapy, for example, and be forced to sell their homes to stay alive.

Luckier patients might benefit from compassionate-access programs from pharmaceutical companies, but drugs manufacturers are not allowed to advertise these programs.

“It’s just a really unfair thing that if you happen to be unlucky enough to be diagnosed with a rare cancer, you’re almost penalised,” says Vines. “There are treatments out there that aren’t listed.”

She and Richard moved to Bowral and set up Rare Cancers Australia in June 2012. They have set up a crowd-funding platform on their website, a patient-treatment fund with an individual page for each patient, and they have raised almost $2 million and helped more than 50 patients since October 2014. Vines deals with patients every day, matching them with clinicians who know about particular rare cancers.

The charity helps them find cancer centres and clinical trials, and offers one-on-one support. Vines remembers how frightened and alone she felt when she was told to put her affairs in order, and says other rare-cancer patients are given the same advice every day.

So what does all this mean for our lunch? Well, since her diagnosis, Vines has been a vegan then a vegetarian, then she allowed herself to eat fish, now she eats “everything”.

At Georges, I order the satisfying mezze plate – which is literally everything – and Vines chooses the barramundi special – she judges it “beautiful, wonderful”. After some hesitation, she opts for vegetables over chips on the side, but she stresses that she does eat chips and she enjoys the occasional glass of wine.

After all, when you think about it, life’s too short.

Henry Sapiecha