Researchers Hopeful That New Cancer Blood Test Will Pan Out
A new, hypersensitive cancer test could someday offer an efficient, tolerable alternative to needle biopsies, mammograms, and colonoscopies and allow doctors to better monitor the progress of their patients, experts say. Capable of detecting a single cancer cell among billions of healthy cells, the blood test is not only being touted as a new diagnostic tool, but as a way to study the effectiveness of different treatments, since doctors can use it to see if levels of abnormal cells have dropped. The test's architects at Massachusetts General Hospital are joining forces with healthcare company Johnson & Johnson in hopes of marketing the test within the next several years. "If you could find out quickly, 'this drug is working, stay on it,' or 'this drug is not working, try something else,' that would be huge," Daniel Haber, chief of Massachusetts General Hospital's cancer center and one of the test's inventors, told the Associated Press. The test also holds promise in personalizing medicine by helping to predict which treatments will work best against a particular patient's tumor. Four U.S. cancer centers will study the experimental test this year.
6 Common Myths and Misconceptions About Diabetes
Nearly 24 million Americans—or 1 in 10 adults—have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which projects that by 2050, as many as 1 in 3 adults will have the disease. Diabetes is one of the major causes of heart disease, stroke, new cases of adult blindness, and leg and foot amputations not caused by injury, U.S. News reports. Those are facts.
Yet there are many mistaken beliefs about diabetes. Sue McLaughlin, former president of healthcare and education at the American Diabetes Association, offered her opinion of what she says are the six most common myths and misconceptions about diabetes, based on an ADA survey of more than 2,000 Americans released in 2009.
1. Diabetes is not that serious. In fact, diabetes causes more deaths than breast cancer and HIV/AIDS combined, McLaughlin says. Still, people with type 2 diabetes—the most common form of the disease—may go a long while, even years, before being diagnosed because they may downplay their symptoms or write them off to other causes. So if you are making frequent trips to the bathroom at night; experience extreme thirst, overwhelming fatigue, or blurry vision; or notice that you keep getting infections, ask your doctor to test you for diabetes. An early diagnosis can help ward off complications. [Read more: 6 Common Myths and Misconceptions About Diabetes.]
Work Out Now, Weigh Less in Middle Age
Everybody knows the importance of exercise in keeping weight down. What's more surprising is that physical activity in the present may prevent weight gain many years into the future, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers who followed 3,554 people over two decades found that men who stayed highly active gained six pounds less on average after 20 years than their low-activity counterparts did. For women, the difference was a whopping 13 pounds. Waistlines were trimmer for both sexes in the high-activity groups as well. Those studied began as 18- to 30-year-olds. Their 38- to 50-year-old selves showed that consistent commitment to physical activity may mean fewer pounds tacked on during the years notoriously threatened by jiggly bellies.
Highly active, moreover, doesn't necessarily mean marathoning or pumping iron for an hour, U.S. News's Kurtis Hiatt reports. While the study used a complex formula that assigned scores according to how long, how often, and how intense the participants' activities were, highly active was equivalent to spending roughly 2½ hours a week getting your heart pumping, like in a sport, brisk walking, or even gardening, says Arlene Hankinson, lead author of the study and an instructor in the department of preventative medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. [Read more: Work Out Now, Weigh Less in Middle Age.]