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How is breast cancer diagnosed?

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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 tests
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.

Biopsy
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.

Laboratory tests
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
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.

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Women’s Health: 7 ways to move more every day

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Many of today’s jobs, hobbies, and modes of transportation make it easy to succumb to a sedentary lifestyle. Unfortunately, prolonged periods of inactivity are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. If you find yourself sitting too often, here are seven simple ways to incorporate more movement into your daily routine.

1. Sit on a stability ball rather than the couch while you watch TV or play video games.

2. Walk around the room while you’re on the phone. For longer calls, consider taking a stroll around the block.

3. Listen to audiobooks or podcasts while you use an elliptical machine, stationary bike, or treadmill to make your workout more interesting.

4. Use a standing desk. Do simple exercises, such as calf raises, while you complete routine tasks like checking your email.

5. Time how long it takes you to do an active chore like vacuuming, and then see if you can beat your previous record.

6. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. To really get your heart pumping, climb them two steps at a time.

7. Do jumping jacks or run in place during the commercial breaks while you watch a hockey or basketball game on TV.

With a bit of creativity and effort, there are plenty of simple and fun ways to be more active.

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Leg pain could be a wake-up call for your cardiovascular health

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Everyone gets a charley horse now and again while walking. But what if you experience a painful cramping sensation more often than normal, or even every time you walk? Claudication – the medical term for leg pain while walking – is a common symptom of peripheral artery disease (PAD), an often undetected and sometimes dangerous condition, according to the Harvard Heart Letter.

PAD occurs when fatty deposits narrow and clog arteries outside the heart, most often in the legs. While some people have mild or no symptoms, cramping in the arms or legs that starts during physical activity and disappears after a few minutes of rest occurs in some PAD patients, according to the Mayo Clinic. Pain may also occur in the buttock, hip, thigh, or calf, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other symptoms of peripheral artery disease include:

-Muscle weakness

-Hair loss
-Smooth, shiny skin
-Skin that is cool to the touch, especially if it occurs with pain while walking that subsides after stopping
-Decreased or absent pulses in the feet
-Persistent sores in the legs or feet
-Cold or numb toes

Peripheral artery disease is often a sign of fatty deposits in other areas of the body, which can reduce blood flow to the heart and brain, according to the Mayo Clinic. Contact your physician if you are experiencing these symptoms and over age 65; over age 50 and have a history of diabetes or smoking; or under age 50, but have diabetes and other risk factors like obesity or high blood pressure.

According to the CDC, a doctor may use a variety of tests and imaging techniques to diagnose this issue. Treatment may include aspirin or other antiplatelet medications, as well as lifestyle changes like tobacco cessation and exercise. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.

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High-tech mental health care: Is there an app for that?

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Nearly one in five American adults lives with a mental illness–about 51.5 million people in 2019, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. And among those adults, approximately half do not receive treatment for their illnesses, according to Mental Illness Policy Org.

For many Americans, lack of access to providers-—whether it’s the cost, insurance coverage, or no available providers in the community–dictates whether they can seek treatment, according to a 2018 survey from the National Council on Behavioral Health.

Tech and the startup world are rushing in to fill the gap with virtual behavioral health care, with services including therapy, coaching, and even startups that prescribe and ship medications.

According to Fierce Healthcare, the COVID-19 pandemic motivated investors to pour huge sums of money into behavioral health startups as locked-down Americans looked for virtual mental health care.

The top dog among mental health startups in 2020 is Talkspace, according to The Motley Fool. Talkspace is a mental health subscription service that matches users with licensed therapists via video, audio or text, and works with some insurance carriers.

The wellness app Calm, founded in 2012, promises to help users meditate, unwind, and maybe even improve sleep, according to Quartz. Downloads spiked as the COVID-19 pandemic gained steam, and one major health insurer made it free to all members.

Brightside, a telemedicine service that specializes in mental health care, provides therapy and medication services to users in some states via a network of providers, according to The Motley Fool.

According to the Brightside website, medical insurance is not currently accepted.

While telehealth and virtual treatment options offered by mental health startups may be a welcome boost for Americans suffering from mental illness, some experts say they’re not appropriate for everyone. According to Cronkite News/Arizona Public Broadcasting, mental health experts say that some therapeutic techniques are not easy to replicate through video chat, and not all patients respond well to the format.

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Happy lights take the gloom out of winter

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With short days and fewer options to socialize this winter, more people than ever may find themselves in need of a boost to help with lagging energy or even depression during the dark months.

Many people swear by their “happy lights,” a whimsical term for light therapy. Used as a way to treat the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and other conditions, light therapy involves sitting near a device called a light therapy box for a period of time each day. It’s also known as bright light therapy or phototherapy

The light therapy box gives off a bright light that mimics sunshine. The Mayo Clinic says it is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep. The boxes may ease SAD symptoms and help with other types of depression, sleep disorders, and other conditions like jet lag or dementia.

A few studies have demonstrated benefits for seniors whose sleep patterns have become disrupted and in seniors who were diagnosed with depression.

Light therapy boxes should filter out UV light, so look for one that emits as little as possible. They are available in a variety of intensities, measured in units called lux. During a light therapy session, you sit or work near the light box placed 16 to 24 inches away for about 20 to 30 minutes a day. Most people use them shortly after getting up in the morning.

The Mayo Clinic recommends talking with your doctor before using one and specifically recommends that those diagnosed with bipolar disorder consult a physician first, as a light box may trigger mania in these patients.

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5 signs you need new glasses

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As you get older, your vision changes. This means that if you’ve been wearing the same eyewear for years, you’re likely due for an upgrade. Here are five signs that it’s time to get new glasses.

1. Your vision is a little blurry
If distant objects appear to be out of focus, or if you struggle to make out the words on a page even with your glasses on, you likely need a stronger prescription.

2. You get frequent headaches

Even if you haven’t noticed a change in your vision, your eyes might be straining to see clearly. This can lead to eye fatigue and headaches.

3. Your eyes often feel achy
Tired, watery, itchy, and dry eyes are all signs that your eyes might be working harder than normal to compensate for an outdated prescription.

4. You need to squint to see
If you have the correct eyewear prescription, you shouldn’t need to squint to see clearly. While squinting improves the focus and clarity of your vision, it also causes eye strain.

5. Your glasses are damaged
Scratches on your lenses can impede your vision and lead to eye strain. Additionally, the arms of your glasses can stretch over time, causing them to no longer fit properly.

The best way to ensure you have the right prescription is to schedule an eye exam with your optometrist at least once a year.

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Women’s Health: Questions to ask your doctor at every age

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As you get older, your body changes, and your health-care needs evolve. That’s why it’s important to speak with your doctor on a regular basis. Here are a few questions to ask at your next appointment.

In your 20s
• Which methods of contraception would you recommend for me?
• How do I know if I’m at risk of developing cervical cancer?

• Which sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs) should I be tested for?

In your 30s
• What can I do to increase my chances of having a healthy pregnancy?
• How can I maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure level?
• What would you recommend if I’m having trouble sleeping because of stress?

In your 40s
• Should I be screened for diabetes and high cholesterol?
• How can I prevent bladder leaks?
• Am I in perimenopause if my menstrual cycle is irregular, and I get hot flashes?

In your 50s
• How often should I have a mammogram?
• Should I get the shingles vaccine or any other type of shot?
• What would you recommend to relieve my menopause symptoms?

In your 60s and older
• Am I at risk of developing osteoporosis?
• Should I take calcium or vitamin D supplements?
• Do I need to get the flu shot if I’m in good health?

Regardless of your age, talking openly and regularly with your doctor is crucial to taking charge of your health.

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