Review Category : Health

When Should You Get a Mammogram?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — When Food Network star Sandra Lee announced she had breast cancer on ABC’s Good Morning America Tuesday, she stressed that she got her mammogram two years early.

“I’m 48 years old. I’ve got — I’ve got a couple years ’til 50,” she told ABC News’ Robin Roberts. “If I would have waited, I probably wouldn’t even be sitting here.”

Different organizations offer different recommendations when it comes to mammograms, but that can get confusing.

For instance, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which is the national independent panel of experts that makes recommendations on when people should get medical tests, says that women shouldn’t begin to get annual mammograms, which are an X-ray of the breast that can detect cancer, until they turn 50. But the American Cancer Society, the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say women should get annual mammograms starting when they’re 40.

“There continues to be controversy regarding breast cancer screening: both when to do it, what method to use, and who should be screened,” said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ medical contributor and a practicing OB/GYN. “Part of the reason for this confusion is due to the fact that data can and is interpreted by different organizations in slightly different ways.”

USPSTF doesn’t deny that patients die of breast cancers in their 40s, but it says mammography benefits don’t outweigh the harms. The potential harms of mammography include stress, unnecessary additional imaging, unnecessary biopsies and unnecessary treatment for cancers that wouldn’t end up killing the patient, said Dr. Donna Plecha, director of breast imaging at U.H. Case Medical Center in Cleveland.

“Other people say, ‘No that’s not a harm to me. You’re being thorough,'” Plecha told ABC News. “It really depends on your point of view.”

“I think mammography saves lives,” she said.

Plecha said of every 1,000 people who undergo a mammogram, on average, 900 will have negative results and 100 will be recalled for additional tests. Of those, 26 will be asked to return in six months and 19 will need biopsies. Between five and eight of these patients will be diagnosed with breast cancer, Plecha said.

Ashton said patients should work with their doctors to determine what’s best for them.

“Medicine is not ‘one-size-fits-all’ and this is no different,” Ashton said. “Each woman is an individual and her risk needs to be assessed by her health care provider so that the best course of action for her can be determined. There is no such thing as a perfect screening test, but rather today, different approaches for women based on their age, family history and personal risk factors.”

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City Noise Doesn’t Bother Most City Dwellers

Photodisc/Thinkstock(BUFFALO, N.Y.) — People who live in noisy environments don’t seem to mind it as much as those who might be visiting and are noticeably perturbed by all the racket.

University of Buffalo researcher Dr. Matthew Xu-Friedman says that city dwellers aren’t necessarily going deaf, they just happen to get used to their noisy surroundings.

How does that happen? Xu-Friedman credits the brain’s amazing ability to adapt “to a different heightened level of activity.”

Using mice, Xu-Friedman and his team exposed some rodents to a week’s worth of loud noise, such as the roar of a hair dryer. Compared to a control group, these mice were soon able to adapt so that their brains could hear new sounds.

In the same way, New York City residents hear the constant din as merely background noise, enabling them to deal with the other distractions of their everyday lives.

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Cane with Facial Recognition Software Is a Breakthough for the Blind

iStock/Thinkstock(BIRMINGHAM, England) — Imagine a cane that can see for the blind. That is, really see the faces that are familiar to the cane’s owner.

That’s what scientists at Birmingham City University in England have come up with. Steve Adigbo, who helped developed the XploR mobility cane, says that the device can identity a face from 10 yards away.

It works by first taking photos of the subject and then storing that information into a memory card, which uses facial-recognition software.

When the cane comes across a face it recognizes, it vibrates and then sends a message to an earpiece worn by the owner via Bluetooth.

In addition to this breakthrough that employs smartphone technology, the developers also made the cane user-friendly so that it’s both lightweight and easy to operate.

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CDC: Most American Adults Have Had At Least One Cavity

4774344sean/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on Wednesday that indicates the vast majority of American adults have had at least one cavity in their lives.

The study, published by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Data from the survey indicated that 91 percent of adults under the age of 65 reported having suffered at least one cavity.

That figure jumped to 96 percent among those older than 65.

The study also found that just 48 percent of adults under 65 still had all of their teeth. Twenty percent of those older had no remaining teeth.

The survey also found the number of Americans under 40 with all of their teeth is double that of those between the ages of 40 and 64.

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North Dakota Mom Gives Birth to Twin Boys, and Only One Has Dwarfism

Christy Lawler(FARGO, N.D.) — Twins Christian and Dalen Lawler were born healthy boys on Jan. 20. Except in a rare occurrence, Dalen has dwarfism, and Christian does not.

“Dalen was born at 8:37 p.m. and Christian was born one minute later,” mom Christy Lawler told ABC News Tuesday. “Both of them, perfectly healthy, went to the regular nursery. I was looking over them and I did notice Dalen’s hands were different from Christian’s. They were short, compact, and chubby and I said, ‘You know, maybe you do have what they were saying.'”

Lawler, of Fargo, North Dakota, said that at 32 weeks pregnant a genetic doctor told the 26-year-old mom of three that one of her children could have achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism that affects bone growth in humans.

But due to potential health risks, Lawler said she declined doctors’ offers to perform amniotic tests that would reveal Dalen’s diagnosis prior to birth.

“The tests had risks involved — to him and my pregnancy,” she said. “I felt that whether the diagnosis was that he had it or didn’t, we would still love him anyway.”

On April 14, Lawler announced on Dalen’s Facebook benefit page that he had been diagnosed with dwarfism.

“We were a little surprised, but we taught ourselves and learned as much as we could,” Lawler said. “Both me and my husband have infertility issues, so we felt blessed either way — whether he was average height or not.”

“We weren’t afraid of telling everybody, close family knew about it,” she added. “There’s a support group I belong to called ‘Parents of Little People’ and I asked them, ‘Do you just come out and say, hey my child has dwarfism?’ So, I said it as if it was coming from Dalen. I haven’t had any issues. Everybody’s been very loving and has had open arms.”

Dr. John Garcia, a pediatric sleep specialist at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minnesota, has been treating Dalen for sleep apnea — a disorder that affects his breathing. Dalen was diagnosed with the condition at one month old.

“In the last 10 years I’ve seen 700 patients with achondroplasia and in the last year, 200, so it’s a large number,” Garcia told ABC News. “He [Dalen] was diagnosed and treated [for sleep apnea] in the same night.”

“Now, with supplemental oxygen he does just fine. He has been a trooper,” Garcia added.

“Mom is extremely resilient,” Garcia said. “That’s my first impression of her. She problem-solves quicker than most.”

Although she sometimes finds herself growing concerned about Dalen’s health and social challenges, Lawler said that she and her husband Derek will remain positive for their son.

“This world isn’t made for people like Dalen,” she said. “I am also a little scared about him going to school and maybe being made fun of. Otherwise, we want to push them both equally.”

“I don’t want Dalen to feel that he can’t do anything because he has dwarfism. I want him to feel confident that he can do whatever he wants without anything holding him back,” she said.

The Lawler family has created a crowdsourcing page to raise funds for baby Dalen’s surgical procedures that children with achondroplasia commonly face as they grow older.

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FDA Takes Steps to End Lifetime Ban on Gay Male Blood Donors

Berezko/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Ending a more than three-decade-long ban, gay men in the U.S. may soon be allowed to donate blood, according to recommendations released Tuesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The new recommendations were released in draft form by the FDA and there will be a 30-day comment period for the public.

The FDA ban, which started during the AIDS crisis, has been controversial in recent years, with multiple activist organizations and medical associations calling it discriminatory.

Currently, men who have had sex with other men since 1977 are banned from ever donating blood in the U.S. The ban dates back to 1983 and was started after doctors realized that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, could be transmitted through blood transfusions.

If the recommended policy is implemented, gay and bisexual men would be allowed to donate blood if they have abstained from sex with men for a year. The year-long deferral for gay and bisexual men has been enacted by other countries, including Japan, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Australia.

Thanks in part to more sensitive tests for HIV and after seeing evidence from the countries mentioned above, the FDA determined a one-year deferral would likely be long enough to safeguard the donor supply. Currently, the chances of contracting HIV in a blood transfusion is 1 in 1.47 million, according to the FDA.

Ending the ban has been supported by multiple medical associations in recent years. After Tuesday’s draft guidance was released, the American Medical Association released a statement in support of ending the ban.

“The American Medical Association (AMA) commends the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for taking a step in the right direction to end the lifetime ban that prohibits men who have had sex with men (MSM) from ever donating blood,” AMA President Robert Wah said in a statement. “The AMA’s policy supports using scientifically based deferral periods that are consistently and fairly applied to donors based on their risk level.”

While the recommendations would be a significant departure from previous policy, some opponents said the new guidelines do not go far enough since donors must abstain from sex with men for one year.

David Stacey, the government affairs director of the Human Rights Campaign, said people should be evaluated on their risk behavior, not just their sexual orientation.

“While the new policy is a step in the right direction toward an ideal policy that reflects the best scientific research, it still falls far short of a fully acceptable solution because it continues to stigmatize gay and bisexual men,” said Stacy. “This policy prevents men from donating life-saving blood based solely on their sexual orientation rather than actual risk to the blood supply.”

Last year, the American Red Cross, America’s Blood Centers and AABB, a nonprofit group representing institutions and individuals in transfusion medicine field, have supported ending the ban, calling it “medically and scientifically unwarranted.”

Ryan James Yezak, who has advocated for the end of the ban as director of the National Gay Blood Drive, said he supported the new recommendations.

“We are pleased to see the FDA has issued the draft guidance and we look forward to organizing the National Gay Blood Drive in conjunction with the implementation of the revised policy,” Yezak said in a statement, adding that advocates still want donor deferrals to be based on risky behavior, rather than simply sexual orientation.

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The Struggle of Overcoming an All-Consuming Porn Addiction

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — At a time when pornography is more readily available than ever before, even seeping into virtual reality to create a whole new level of connection, some people are struggling with an addiction.

For Garren Burket, his appetite for porn almost destroyed him and his marriage.

“As an addict you find many, many different ways to hide what is going on,” he said. “You’re up late at night, you’re doing different things to distract, or you wait for them to leave. There’s a whole long list of methods.”

Garren had kept his porn addiction a secret from his wife, Lyschel, who traveled for work.

“She traveled a lot,” he said. “That gave me plenty of time to do what I did, and when she was around…I would wait until she was outside or something to that effect.”

“I developed many methods to live that second life and nobody really knew about,” he added.

After two years hiding his addiction, Garren confessed to his wife and the shock took a toll on her.

“Suddenly I started doubting self-worth, I started not understanding — ‘am I beautiful? What is he looking for? Can I measure up to that? I can’t. She’s photoshopped,’” Lyschel said. “I mean this person has been living in your home, and lying in the bed next to you and he’s not the person that you think that he is.”

With her trust shattered, Lyschel became obsessed with her husband’s daily activities.

“I was checking histories on computers. Quizzing him on where he’s been,” she said. “I’m grilling him with a hundred thousand questions — wondering you know…is he again lying to me.”

“My husband’s addiction became my addiction,” Lyschel added. “It started to consume me.”

Porn addiction is a hotly debated topic. Roughly 43 percent of online users view web pages with pornographic content, according to Internet Pornography Statistics, and it can also impact relationships. In a 2003 survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, more than half of the 350 divorce attorneys interviewed said the Internet played a “significant role” in divorces in the past year, and that online porn contributed to half of these cases.

And now, porn is about to reach a whole new level of accessibility with virtual reality. Brian Shuster of UtherVerse has developed interactive software that when paired with a virtual reality headset, transports the user into a 3-D world to participate in porn through an avatar. The company filmed professional porn stars in the act to create customized features, including sex skills, for the avatars.

Shuster said the idea is to allow people to live out their wildest fantasies from the comfort of their own home, maybe even prevent them from cheating. It also gives users the option to bring in their significant others for cyber-sex from near or afar.

“It’s possible for both partners in a couple or for multiple partners to be able to experience virtual reality together,” he said.

While he touts the benefits, Shuster acknowledged that porn can be harmful.

“People need to be able to understand that what they’re viewing is fantasy,” he said. “I think it could be used to really enhance a couple’s sex life…but it can also be used against you, and that’s what happens when someone makes pornography their main sexual outlet.”

The American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which lists the criteria for mental health disorders, does not consider porn addiction a true addiction, citing lack of research.

Licensed sex therapist Dr. Chris Donaghue, who has treated porn addicts clinically and is one of the experts on the reality TV show, Sex Box, said porn can warp people’s view of sex.

“You know porn is our best sex educators, sadly,” Donaghue said. “And so what people see in porn they tend to expect from their partner…so it can really set someone up to some really poor expectations, about what they can get from their partner.”

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Conjoined Twins Separated in Florida

iStock/Thinkstock(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — When Connor and Carter Mirabal went into the operating room at 5 a.m., their parents didn’t know if they would be getting both baby boys back.

The twins were joined from the sternum to the lower abdomen, sharing a liver and a small intestine and bile ducts. Before the operation, their parents and some nurses lined up for good luck kisses.

“I told them that I love them and that they’ll be OK and that they’re going to be very well taken care of,” Michelle Brantley, their mother, told First Coast News, ABC News’ Jacksonville, Florida, affiliate.

It took 12 hours and a team of more than a dozen doctors and nurses from several hospitals to separate them, but they did it.

When the news came, the waiting room full of friends and family erupted into tears.

“Conjoined twins are a challenge,” said Dr. Daniel Robie, chief of pediatric surgery at Nemours Children’s Specialty Care Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, where the twins were separated. “They’re known as probably the pinnacle of surgical complexity.”

Because the twins shared important organs, the team of surgeons had to figure out how to give each twin enough of each of them when they were separated, Robie told ABC News.

He said the boys spent their first five months of life in the hospital, and that Connor would sleep with his right arm above Carter’s head.

Now, they’re back in the intensive care unit in separate rooms, where they’ll spend about a month recovering, Robie said. He said sooner or later, they’d hear one another and realize they’re not that far apart.

“Connor and Carter should be able to live out normal lives,” Robie said. “This will be a distant memory for them. They’ll just hear stories from their parents and grandmas about what happened when they were born.”

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Olympian Stands on Her Own for the First Time After Paralyzing Injury

Al Bello /Allsport(NEW YORK) — After Olympic champion Amy Van Dyken-Rouen severed her spinal cord in an accident last year, doctors weren’t sure if she’d survive.

Except now she’s standing on her own again for the first time.

When the six-time gold medal swimmer was paralyzed below the waist last year by severing her spinal cord in an ATV crash, her prognosis was not very good.

“I looked at my husband and basically said, I love you. Good-bye. Please continue on with your life,” Van Dyken-Rouen said on Good Morning America.

She narrowly survived, but doctors believed she would never regain use of her legs. Van Dyken-Rouen, though, refused to accept that she would never walk or swim again.

Eleven months later, Van Dyken-Rouen posted a video on her Instagram of her standing up on her own for the very first time with the caption, “I’m starting to get this standing thing down.”

Throughout her recovery, Van Dyken-Rouen has served as an advocate for those with spinal cord injuries.

“Everyone has obstacles,” she said. “It’s how we take those obstacles and do something positive.”

During her months-long hospital stay, she began sharing her long road to recovery, including getting back into the pool.

“The toughest thing? I’ll say the first time I went into the swimming pool,” she said, “because I was like, ‘I’m not doing therapy, I’m swimming laps.’”

In recent weeks she’s marked milestones such as riding a bike unassisted and getting fitted for braces.

“She’s been incredibly inspirational,” her husband Tom Rouen said. “She’s never let down through this whole thing.”

Walking is just the first step of many, Van Dyken-Rouen maintained.

“I feel like I’m going to do everything,” she said. “I’m going to ride bikes, I’m going to mountain climb and get my driver’s license.”

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Pay Attention! Dark Chocolate Can Boost Alertness

iStock/Thinkstock(FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.) — Dark chocolate may be better than downing a five-hour energy drink if you want to stay alert, suggests a new study out of Northern Arizona University.

Larry Stevens, a professor of psychological sciences, says it’s already been shown that chocolate acts as a stimulant but his study goes further as his team learned that it also boosts attention in the brain while altering blood pressure levels.

In the research, 100 participants between the ages of 18 and 25 were divided into five control groups and one other group that ate 60 percent cacao chocolate.

Afterwards, the dark chocolate eaters proved to be more alert and attentive, a discovery that Stevens says will hopefully lead to chocolate makers developing a bar with high-cacao content and L-theanine, which is used to reduce stress and improve cognition.

Stevens adds that dark chocolate might also be good for people with hypertension in helping to lower blood pressure levels.

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