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Controlling cancer through screening

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Cancer Control Month takes place every year in April, and the occasion serves as an opportunity to take note of the fact that cancer screening saves lives. To help you advocate for your health and that of your friends and family members, here’s a timeline of when various types of cancer should first be screened for.

Cervical cancer: age 21
Women aged 21 to 65 should get a Pap smear every three years. Starting when they turn 30, they should also get an HPV test every five years. Women over 65 who had normal results over the last 10 years can forgo further testing.

Cervical cancer is highly treatable when caught early, making screening for it extremely important.

Breast cancer: age 50
According to the American College of Physicians, women with no increased risk for breast cancer should get a screening mammogram every two years starting at age 50 until age 75. However, women between the ages of 40 and 49 may elect to undergo screening after discussing the pros and cons with their doctor.

Breast cancer is by far the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. While survival rates are improving for all stages, the earlier it’s caught, the easier it is to treat.

Colorectal cancer: age 50
While people with early-stage colorectal cancer have a survival rate of 90 percent, the prognosis isn’t as good for symptomatic cancers, which are usually quite advanced.

For people with average risk, a first colonoscopy at 50 years old is recommended, with follow-up exams depending on the results. Earlier screening is recommended for people with increased risk, such as those who are of African-American descent, those with a family history or those with inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

Prostate cancer: age 50
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men. Detected early, the survival rate is nearly 100 percent.

However, research suggests there may be more downsides than upsides to getting tested regularly. For this reason, it’s recommended that men who are about to turn 50 have a discussion about prostate cancer screening with their doctor to determine whether they’re at high risk and whether screening would be beneficial.

Lung cancer: age 55
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Contrary to popular belief, it’s very treatable if caught early. The problem is that over 80 percent of lung cancers are diagnosed at an advanced stage.

Current smokers, as well as former heavy smokers, aged 55 to 80, should be screened with a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan.

Cancer screening saves lives, so don’t hesitate to remind friends and relatives to get tested.

Skin cancer
People of all ages can develop skin cancer. Talk to your doctor to determine your risk factors and to schedule regular skin exams.

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3 habits that are hurting your back

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Back pain is one of the most common health complaints among North Americans. It also tends to be the result of bad habits. Here are three common culprits.

1. Bad posture
If you regularly slump while watching TV or spend hours slouched at your desk, chances are your back is paying the price. Try to sit in a straight, upright position as often as possible.

2. Sleeping on your stomach

When you lie on your stomach, your lumbar curve is unsupported and your neck rests at an unnatural angle. This puts pressure on your neuromusculoskeletal system, which is likely to trigger back pain. Try to sleep on your back or side instead, as this puts less strain on your spine and muscles.

3. Carrying a heavy bag
Walking around with a heavy bag every day is likely to cause back pain. This is especially true if you carry it on only one shoulder, as this increases strain on your back.

In addition, back pain can be caused by a sedentary lifestyle, inadequate mattress or pillow, kidney problems, and even certain types of cancer. If you suffer from persistent back pain, be sure to consult a doctor.

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4 conditions acupuncture may help with

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Derived from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), acupuncture is a therapeutic technique that involves stimulating specific areas of the skin using fine needles. Though it’s used to treat a wide range of conditions, research suggests it may be particularly effective for the following:

1. Seasonal allergies. Acupuncture can be used as a complementary treatment for common seasonal allergy symptoms such as sneezing and teary eyes.

2. Joint and muscle pain. Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective pain relief treatment, including in cases of arthritis and back pain.

3. Nausea and vomiting. Acupuncture can ease nausea and vomiting typically experienced while undergoing chemotherapy or recovering from surgery.

4. Headaches and migraines. Treatments may reduce headaches and migraine symptoms.

In all cases, studies have found that acupuncture provides the best results when combined with conventional treatments and when patients expect it to work. It’s also important to choose a reputable practitioner.

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Eat cherry pie, ease arthritis symptoms? (Sadly, no)

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Ok, a cherry pie analgesic is admittedly a whole lot of wishful thinking. But if you like cherries, you’re in luck! They’re listed among the foods that can help fight arthritis.

Arthritis, a catch-all term for any of 100 conditions and related diseases that affect joints and connective tissues, usually involves joint pain and stiffness. May is Arthritis Awareness Month. More than 50 million adults and 300,000 children suffer from joint pain or disease, with the most common types being osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, and gout.

While you should always consult your doctor and take any medicines as prescribed, consider these foods, which CureArthritis.com says help fight arthritis:

* Tart cherries: With anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, tart cherries can help provide joint relief and lower the risk of flares in those with gout (one type of arthritis).

* Colorful vegetables: Sweet potatoes, carrots, red or green peppers, and squash. Peppers contain an abundant amount of vitamin C, which preserves bone and may protect cartilage.

* Seafood: Salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel can help decrease inflammation and protect the heart.

* Walnuts: High in alpha-linoleic acid (say that three times fast, or just say ALA), a type of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid, walnuts can also lower cholesterol, relax blood vessels, and reduce blood pressure.

* Garlic: Use fresh garlic if you can to help fight pain, inflammation, and cartilage damage.

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Plaque psoriasis

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Psoriasis vulgaris, commonly known as plaque psoriasis, is a non-contagious and chronic autoimmune skin condition. It usually presents on the skin as raised, inflamed red lesions or plaques covered with a silvery-white scaly layer that easily flakes off.

Symptoms
Although they can manifest anywhere, lesions most commonly appear on the scalp, knees, elbows, and torso. Affected areas of skin are likely to become sensitive and prone to inflammation and bleeding. The lesions can also be painful or itchy.

The severity of psoriasis is determined based on how much of the body is affected: mild (less than three percent), moderate (from three to 10 percent), and severe (more than 10 percent).

Management
Psoriasis can’t be cured. However, the following treatments can help manage symptoms:

• Topical corticosteroids, vitamin D and moisturizers (mild cases)

• Different forms of UV phototherapy (moderate cases)

• Systemic agents, including immune suppression drugs, biologic immunomodulators and vitamin A (severe cases)

Unfortunately, phototherapy and systemic agents come with significant side effects. The former increases the risk of developing a variety of skin cancers while patients treated with the latter need to be closely monitored for medication toxicity.

To learn more about psoriasis, visit the National Psoriasis Foundation website at psoriasis.org.

Access to phototherapy
Despite its effectiveness, access to phototherapy can be limited for some people. Therefore, it’s common for patients to visit tanning facilities with booths that emit UVB light as a way to treat their psoriasis. However, it’s important to be aware that booths emitting UVA light may not be effective. Additionally, patients should always disclose any form of self-treatment to their doctor.

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Get some social distance with a bike ride

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It’s commuting and fitness melded together: Faster than walking and as much exercise as jogging. It lets you enjoy the scenery, which, depending on your time in quarantine, could mean a lot.

If you aren’t already a regular rider, you’ll want to ease yourself into cycling. Begin with half-hour rides every other day or three days a week. And practice your basic skills in an empty parking lot.

Learn to shift gears without wobbling and to look over your left shoulder while steering straight ahead.

When you take to the roads, always ride with traffic, ride in the street on the right. Use hand signals, and obey all the traffic rules.

Buying a bike

If you decide that you like riding, you may want to get a new bike. Be sure to shop for one that suits your normal riding distance. Traditional 3-speeds are good for short rides, and 10-speeds are best for longer rides. Then there are all-terrain bikes that provide an all-purpose alternative.

When riding to work, put your belongings in a backpack or tie them down in a basket or rear carrier. Carry a tool kit to fix flat tires.

You’re never too old to take up cycling and benefit from it for the rest of your life. Studies at the University of California at Davis compared three forms of exercise: Jogging, bicycling, and tennis. Middle-aged sedentary men were assigned to one of the three activities for 30 minutes a day three times a week. After 20 weeks, the joggers and cyclists had an equal improvement in endurance, and both groups lost a substantial amount of body fat.

When riding after dark, make sure you have lights on the bike, reflective tape on your helmet, and wear light-colored clothing.

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Coronavirus can mimic heart attack

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In New York City, doctors began emergency surgery on a patient who had all the signs of a heart attack. An electrocardiogram showed a dangerous heart rhythm. A blood test revealed high blood levels of troponin, a sign of damaged heart muscle.

But, on the operating table, the patient showed no blocked arteries.

What he did have, it turns out, was coronavirus.

Now recovered after a 12-day stay, the patient was one of the similar cases reported around the world.

For doctors the case is troubling.

Should the cardiac test for troponin routinely be administered to Covid-19 patients? Should heart patients immediately be tested for Covid-19?

A March study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association was conducted by doctors in Wuhan, China, where the virus was first identified. The small study was limited to a review of records of 188 patients, according to JAMA. The study found that 20 percent of the Covid-19 patients were found to have heart damage. Upon admission, Covid-19 patients without heart disease were found to show signs of heart injury, including elevated troponin, and abnormal electrocardiograms. Patients showing these symptoms had a four times greater risk of death than a Covid-19 patient with no abnormal heart readings, according to the New York Times.

Some experts believe heart problems are caused by the body’s immune and inflammatory response to the virus.

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