It’s impossible to identify breast cancer based on symptoms alone. This is why doctors need to perform a number of tests before issuing a diagnosis. Here are the types of assessment typically used.
Imaging techniques such as ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diagnostic mammograms are used to examine tissue. These allow doctors to identify and measure the size of tumors. They’re also used to help determine how advanced the cancer is.
A biopsy consists of taking a sample of breast tissue for analysis. It’s the only test that can confirm a cancer diagnosis. Aside from their diagnostic purpose, biopsies are also used to evaluate how fast cancer cells are multiplying, which helps establish a treatment plan.
There are many other types of tests than can be run on samples taken during a biopsy. These are used to gather more information about the cancer, such as its type, grade, stage and potential response to different treatments.
Blood tests are used to assess whether other organs are still functioning normally. Certain systemic issues may indicate that the cancer has spread.
Each breast cancer case is different, and doctors may want to perform a series of complementary tests and exams. Cancer is a complex disease, and each of these tests provides your health care team with information they need to effectively treat you.
Mental illness among teens: what parents should know
According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, between 20 and 30 percent of adolescents experience a major depressive episode before reaching adulthood. What’s more, suicide is the leading cause of death among American teens.
Pressure to perform in school, stigma about mental illness, unhealthy diets, lack of exercise and poor sleep hygiene can all contribute to mental health issues in teens.
Psychologists also suspect that heavy social network use may increase the incidence of clinical anxiety and depression.
Finally, it’s likely that lack of access to care plays a role in this state of affairs. Approximately 30 percent of teens affected by a mental health issue don’t get the help they need, either by choice or because they lack access to it.
What parents can do
Young people should be taught that asking for help isn’t an admission of failure or weakness. In addition, parents can do these simple things to help teens protect their mental health:
• Minimize the pressure placed on them to perform
• Spend time together as a family
• Provide a healthy diet
• Support a healthy sleep schedule
• Encourage them to get regular exercise
• Enroll them in activities that build confidence and self-esteem
Indicators of psychological distress include agitation, self-denigration, unusual moodiness, sadness and extreme fatigue. A moody teen doesn’t necessarily point to a crisis, but signs of mental illness should never be dismissed.
Are smile-straightening treatments right for you?
October is National Orthodontic Health Month and a great opportunity to sink your teeth into the subject of orthodontics.
In addition to beautifying your smile, orthodontic treatments can improve chewing and speech function. They can also help protect teeth from damage and decay.
Signs orthodontics are needed
• Crooked, impacted or protruding teeth
• Too much space between teeth
• An overbite, underbite or crossbite
• A misaligned or shifting jaw
• Clicking in the jaw joints
• Continuous grinding or clenching of teeth
• Difficulty chewing or biting
• Inability to comfortably close lips
Common orthodontic treatments
Here are the most common orthodontic devices health professionals use to fix dental alignment issues.
• Metal braces
Traditional braces can fix most major misalignments and spacing issues. They can also help rectify overbites and underbites.
• Invisible aligners
An increasingly popular alternative to metal braces, these aligners can remedy some — but not all — alignment issues. They have the major perk of being mostly invisible.
• Lingual braces
Lingual braces work the same way as traditional metal braces, except they’re placed on the inside of the teeth rather than the outside. Like invisible aligners, they’re very discreet.
Retainers are used to help keep teeth in their new position once braces or aligners have been removed. They tend to be removeable devices worn on the roof of the mouth.
If you’re unsure whether you or your child requires orthodontic work, consult a dentist. They can assess whether treatment is needed.
HPV vaccines: safe, effective and potentially life-saving
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is extremely common and can be transmitted through vaginal, anal and oral contact. According to the , 80 million Americans are currently infected and 14 million more are infected each year, many of them teens. In addition to causing genital warts, HPV is responsible for over 33,000 cases of cancer each year.
Used properly, condoms reduce the risk of transmission, but they don’t eliminate it. Vaccination is the most reliable method of prevention.
What vaccines are available?
• Cervarix, which protects against two types of HPV that cause 70 percent of anogenital cancers and is approved for women aged nine to 45.
• Gardasil, which protects against four types of HPV, two that cause 70 percent of anogenital cancers and two that cause 90 percent of anogenital warts. It’s approved for women aged nine to 45 and men aged nine to 26
• Gardasil 9, which protects against an additional five types of HPV that cause 14 percent of anogenital cancers and is approved for women aged nine to 45 and men aged nine to 26.
Getting vaccinated twice before turning 18 will create the antibodies necessary to prevent infection. Vaccines are also more effective if received before becoming sexually active. However, they’ll still reduce cancer risk in someone who’s already been infected.
Parents should talk to their children’s healthcare provider to get more information, as should adult women who haven’t been vaccinated.
HPV vaccines are safe and the best way to prevent the virus itself and any complications resulting from it. Some states may offer free vaccination programs for children and at-risk adults. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
Breast cancer: communicating with your treatment team matters
There’s no right or wrong way to react to a breast cancer diagnosis. Once it’s time to begin treatment, however, effective and open communication between patients and their health care team is crucial. Patients who communicate well with their teams have been shown to deal with pain and treatment side effects better.
While they may be experts in their respective fields, the members on your team can’t guess what your worries or questions are. Without your full disclosure they won’t be able to adapt their approach, adequately reassure you or correctly inform you. Don’t feel like the onus is exclusively on you, however. If a member of your team isn’t receptive to your con¬cerns, bring it up with someone in charge.
Once treatment begins, be sure to share new information about your situation with your team. Let them know if you’re having trouble getting around or even if you have upcoming travel plans or events to attend. They’ll be able to suggest personalized solutions to help you better navigate your treatment period.
Your health care team is responsible for providing you with all the information you need to make informed choices about your treatment. They’re required to lay out every option available to you as well as their potential benefits and risks. Ask for clarification when needed and don’t hesitate to request medical professionals repeat themselves if there’s something you didn’t catch.
Openly communicating with your health care team is an effective way to feel more in control of your treatment. It also allows you to build a trusting relationship with the professionals helping you, which is likely to reduce the stress and worry associated with your breast cancer treatment.
How age affects your ability to drive and what you can do about it
Did you know that older adults are more likely to receive tickets and get into accidents than other drivers? This is because for some, decreased vision, hearing impairments, slower reflexes and other medical issues can get in the way of driving safely.
Stay on top of health concerns
Age doesn’t automatically make someone an unsafe driver. Nevertheless, some individuals may not recognize that their driving capabilities have diminished. Here’s what you can do to ensure that you’re able to keep driving safely.
• Get your vision and hearing checked yearly, and make sure corrective devices like glasses and hearing aids are kept up to date.
• Exercise regularly in order to keep your body nimble and able to perform necessary driving movements like shoulder checks and moving your foot from one pedal to the other.
• Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any medications you’re taking and whether they can impair driving.
Amend your driving habits
If driving is starting to make you nervous, altering your habits may be what you need to regain your confidence behind the wheel. Consider switching from a manual car to an automatic for ease of driving. It may also be a good idea to stay off the road at night and in bad weather. To avoid getting lost, use a GPS or plan your route before leaving the house.
Know when to stop driving
If you’ve been in an increasing number of accidents or near accidents, observed dents in your car that you can’t explain or noticed other drivers frequently honking at you, it may be time to take a refresher course in driving. Alternatively, it may be the right moment to give up your car entirely.
How to stay happy and healthy as you age
Every year since 1991, the United Nations has recognized October 1 as International Day of Older Persons. It’s an opportunity to both reflect on the impact our elders make on society and to raise awareness about the issues that affect them today.
Increasingly, seniors are striving to live healthy lives in order to more fully enjoy their later years. Here are some tips to stay sharp physically and mentally, no matter how old you are.
• Eat well. Choose nutrient-packed whole foods over those that are processed or refined. If you have trouble preparing meals, ask for help. There are many companies and organizations that can deliver meals to you.
• Stay connected. Studies show that seniors with active social lives have a decreased risk for dementia. Spend time with family, friends and acquaintances. Pets are also great companions.
• Take care of your body. Get plenty of exercise, don’t smoke and only drink in moderation.
• Learn something new. Mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain healthy and may stave off dementia. Take a class, read a book or take up a new hobby.
• Get enough sleep. If you experience insomnia, there are ways to beat it. Go to bed and wake up at the same hour every morning, use your bed only for sleeping and avoid caffeine, alcohol and naps.
Above all, try to laugh every day, even if you have to fake it at first. Laughing lowers stress levels, decreases your risk of heart disease and may improve your memory.