Friday, May 29, 2009

Depression: Recognizing the Physical Symptoms

Most of us know about the emotional symptoms of depression. But you may not know that depression can cause physical symptoms, too.

In fact, many people with depression feel pain or other physical symptoms. These include:

* Headaches. These are fairly common in people with depression. If you already had migraine headaches, they may become worse if you're depressed.

* Back pain. If you already suffer with back pain, it may get worse if you become depressed.

* Muscle aches and joint pain. Depression can make any kind of chronic pain worse.
* Chest pain. Obviously, it's very important to get chest pain checked out by an expert right away. It can be a sign of serious heart problems. But chest pain is also associated with depression.

* Digestive problems. You might feel queasy or nauseous. You might have diarrhea or become chronically constipated.

* Exhaustion and fatigue. No matter how much you sleep, you may still feel tired or worn out. Getting out of the bed in the morning may seem very hard, even impossible.

* Sleeping problems. Many people with depression can't sleep well anymore. They wake up too early or can't fall asleep when they go to bed. Others sleep much more than normal.

* Change in appetite or weight. Some people with depression lose their appetite and lose weight. Others find they crave certain foods -- like carbohydrates -- and weigh more.

* Dizziness or lightheadedness.

Many depressed people never get help, because they don't know that their physical symptoms might be caused by depression. A lot of doctors miss the symptoms, too.

These physical symptoms aren't "all in your head." Depression can cause real changes in your body. For instance, it can slow down your digestion, which can result in stomach problems.

Depression seems to be related to an imbalance of certain chemicals in your brain. Some of these same chemicals play an important role in how you feel pain. So many experts think that depression can make you feel pain differently than other people.
Treating Physical Symptoms

In some cases, treating your depression -- with therapy or medicine or both -- will resolve your physical symptoms.

But make sure to tell your health care provider about any physical symptoms. Don't assume they'll go away on their own. They may need additional treatment. For instance, your doctor may suggest an antianxiety medicine if you have insomnia. Those drugs help you relax and may allow you to sleep better.

Since pain and depression go together, sometimes easing your pain may help with your depression. Some antidepressants, such as Cymbalta and Effexor, may help with chronic pain, too.

Other treatments can also help with painful symptoms. Certain types of focused therapy -- like cognitive behavioral -- can teach you ways to cope better with the pain.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

10 Symptoms of Adult ADHD

Many people think of rowdy kids who can’t sit still when they think of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. But the fact is, symptoms of ADHD can linger into adulthood. In fact, many adults with ADHD aren’t aware they have it and don’t realize that many of the problems they face, including staying organized or being on time, are symptoms of adult ADHD.

What Causes Adult ADHD?

While experts don’t know for sure what causes ADHD, they believe genes may play an important part in who develops attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Environmental issues, such as exposure to cigarettes or alcohol while in the womb, may also play a role.

Unlike other psychiatric disorders, including anxiety and depression, ADHD can’t develop in the adult years. So symptoms must have been present since childhood for a diagnosis of adult ADHD to be made.

10 Adult ADHD Symptoms

The conventionally used diagnostic criteria for ADHD, including the most common symptoms, were developed based on how the condition shows itself in children.

These symptoms include forgetfulness and excessive daydreaming, as well as an inability to sit still, or constant fidgeting with objects.

Yet many experts think adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms manifest themselves differently and more subtly. This can make it difficult to recognize and diagnose adult ADHD.

Adult ADHD Symptom No. 1: Problems Getting Organized

For people with ADHD, the increased responsibilities of adulthood -- bills, jobs, and children, to name a few -- can make problems with organization more obvious and more harmful than in childhood. While some ADHD symptoms are more annoying to other people than to the person with the condition, disorganization is often identified by adults struggling with ADHD as a major detractor from quality of life.

Adult ADHD Symptom No. 2: Reckless Driving and Traffic Accidents

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder makes it hard to keep your attention on a task, so spending time behind the wheel of a car can be difficult. Because of this, ADHD can make some people more likely to speed, have traffic accidents, and lose their driver’s licenses.

Adult ADHD Symptom No. 3: Marital Problems

Many people without ADHD have marital problems, of course, so a troubled marriage shouldn’t be seen as a red flag for adult ADHD. But there are some marriage problems that are particularly likely to affect the relationships of those with ADHD. Often, the partners of people with undiagnosed ADHD take poor listening skills and an inability to honor commitments as a sign that their partner doesn’t care. If you’re the person suffering from ADHD, you may not understand why you’re partner is upset, and you may feel you’re being nagged or blamed for something that’s not your fault.

Adult ADHD Symptom No. 4: Extreme Distractibility

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a problem with attention regulation, so adult ADHD can make it difficult to succeed in today’s fast-paced, hustle-bustle world. Many people find that distractibility can lead to a history of career underperformance, especially in noisy or busy offices. If you have adult ADHD, you might find that phone calls or email derail your attention, making it hard for you to finish tasks.

Adult ADHD Symptom No. 5: Poor Listening Skills

Do you zone out during long business meetings? Did your husband forget to pick up little Jimmy at baseball practice, even though you called to remind him on his way home? Problems with attention result in poor listening skills in many adults with ADHD, leading to a lot of missed appointments and misunderstandings.

Adult ADHD Symptom No. 6: Restlessness, Problems Relaxing

While many children with ADHD are “hyperactive,” this ADHD symptom often appears differently in adults. Rather than bouncing off the walls, adults with ADHD are more likely to exhibit restlessness or find they can’t relax. If you have adult ADHD, others might describe you as edgy or tense.

Adult ADHD Symptom No. 7: Problems Starting a Task

Just as children with ADHD often put off doing homework, people with adult ADHD often drag their feet when starting tasks that require a lot of attention. This procrastination often adds to existing problems, including marital disagreements, workplace issues, and problems with friends.

Adult ADHD Symptom No. 8: Chronic Lateness

There are many reasons adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are usually late. First, they’re often distracted on the way to an event, maybe realizing the car needs to be washed, and then noticing they’re low on gas, and before they know it an hour has gone by. People with adult ADHD also tend to underestimate how much time it takes to finish a task, whether it’s a major assignment at work or a simple home repair.

Adult ADHD Symptom No. 9: Angry Outbursts

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder often leads to problems controlling emotions. Many people with adult ADHD are quick to explode over minor issues. Often, the person with ADHD feels as if they have absolutely no control over their emotions. Many times, their anger fades as quickly as it flared, long before the people who dealt with the outburst have gotten over the incident.

Adult ADHD Symptom No. 10: Prioritizing Issues

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can wreak havoc on planning, too. Often, people with adult ADHD mis-prioritize, failing to meet big obligations, like a deadline at work, while spending countless hours on something insignificant, such as getting a higher score on a video game.

Do You Have Adult ADHD?

Only a qualified health professional can make an accurate adult ADHD diagnosis, but there are some self-screening tests that may help you decide whether to consult a medical professional about your adult ADHD symptoms.

Since many different conditions can cause adult ADHD-like symptoms, these tests alone can’t diagnose adult ADHD.

If, after talking with a qualified health professional, you or your loved one is diagnosed with adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, you’ll need to work together with your doctor to design the best treatment plan. Often, adult ADHD is treated with a combination of ADHD medications, such as Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin, or Strattera, and therapy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What Is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is an infection that is transmitted through the bite of a tick infected with a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. Ticks typically get the bacterium by biting infected animals, like deer and mice. Although most people who get tick bites do not get Lyme disease, the condition is serious enough that every tick bite should be evaluated. The risk for contracting the disease increases the longer the tick is attached to the body.

Symptoms: Early Stage

Within 1-4 weeks of being bitten by an infected tick, most people will experience some symptoms of Lyme disease. A circular, expanding rash (called erythema migrans) at the site of the bite develops in about 70%-80% of cases. Some people report flu-like symptoms at this stage, including fever, chills, headaches, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, joint pain, and muscle aches.

Symptoms: As the Infection Spreads

If the disease is not detected and treated in its early stages, it extends to more areas of the body, affecting the joints, heart, and nervous system (about 1-4 months after the initial bite). Additional rashes may occur, and there may be intermittent periods of pain and weakness in the arms or legs. Headaches, fainting, and poor memory are other symptoms at this stage, along with a rapid heartbeat and some loss of control of facial muscles.

Symptoms: Late-Stage Disease

This is the most serious stage of the disease, when treatment was either not successful or never started (usually occurring many months after the initial bite). Joint inflammation (arthritis), typically in the knees, becomes apparent, and may become chronic. The nervous system can develop facial-muscle paralysis (Bell's palsy), abnormal sensation due to disease of peripheral nerves (peripheral neuropathy), meningitis, and confusion. Heart problems are less common, but can include inflammation of the heart muscle.

Do All Ticks Transmit Lyme Disease?

No. In the northeastern and north-central U.S., the black-legged tick (or deer tick) transmits Lyme disease. In the Pacific coastal U.S., the disease is spread by the western black-legged tick. Other major tick species found in the U.S., including the lone star tick and the dog tick, have NOT been shown to transmit the Lyme disease bacterium. But beware: Lyme disease has been reported in all 50 states, as well as in Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America.

How Lyme Disease is NOT Spread

You can’t catch Lyme disease by being around an infected person. And although pets can become infected by a tick, they cannot transmit the disease to humans unless an infected tick falls off the animal and then bites a person. Insects such as mosquitoes, flies, or fleas cannot spread the disease to humans either. Only infected ticks have that honor.

Diagnosing Lyme Disease

The easiest way to diagnose the disease is through a "bull's-eye" rash at the site of a tick bite. But not everyone has the rash, and not everyone can recall being bitten. Blood tests (ELISA and Western Blot) can be taken 3-4 weeks after suspected contact, but can only suggest a prior infection, not the current disease status. Other tests, such as a spinal tap or skin biopsy, may be used to confirm a diagnosis or rule out other conditions.

Treating Lyme Disease

Most Lyme disease is curable with antibiotics, particularly when the infection is diagnosed and treated early. Doxycycline, amoxicillin, and cefuroxime are the drugs of choice most of the time for early illness. Later illness, such as nervous system disease, might require long-term, intravenous antibiotics, such as ceftriaxone. And nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, are used to treat achy joints.

Is There a Lyme Disease Vaccine?

Currently, there is no vaccine for Lyme disease. The one that did exist--LYMErix--is no longer available. Originally approved by the FDA in 1998 to help prevent the disease, the vaccine was pulled from the market by the manufacturer in 2002 due to poor sales. There was concern that the vaccine could trigger treatment-resistant Lyme arthritis, although the FDA never found evidence that the vaccine was dangerous.

Preventing Lyme Disease

Avoid tick bites whenever possible by staying clear of grassy or wooden areas, especially May to July. Cover your body head-to-toe when entering possible tick-infested areas. Apply an insect repellent containing DEET directly to your skin. Insect repellents containing permethrin can be applied to clothes to kill ticks on contact, but never apply to the skin. When coming in from outdoors inspect your body thoroughly for ticks; do the same for pets. Wash your skin and scalp to knock off any ticks that are only loosely attached.

How to Remove a Tick

If you have a tick, it is important to remove it properly. Using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the part of the tick that's closest to your skin — you want to grab the head, not the belly filled with infected fluid. Slowly pull the tick straight out, without twisting it, so that the mouth is released too. Put the tick in a jar of rubbing alcohol so that it can be tested for Lyme disease. Wash the bite site with soap and warm water. If you cannot remove the entire tick from your skin, contact your doctor.

Monday, May 18, 2009


It is that time of year where the Mosquitoes, the Bugs, the Bees, the Spiders and the No See-ums are starting to appear.
Lets address these pests. Although many are harmless, some, if not identified and treated immediately, can be DEADLY!
Make sure and check in Friday for a full discussion on LYME DISEASE. You won't want to miss it.

Insect Bites and Stings and Spider Bites

Insect and spider bites often cause minor swelling, redness, pain, and itching. These mild reactions are common and may last from a few hours to a few days. Home treatment is often all that is needed to relieve the symptoms of a mild reaction to common stinging or biting insects and spiders.

Many insects cause mild reactions, such as:

* Mosquitoes.
* Flies.
* Fleas.
* Bedbugs and kissing bugs.
* Chiggers.
* Nonpoisonous spiders.
* Ticks.
* Scabies.
* Lice.
* Mites.

Some insects are more likely than others to cause allergic or toxic reactions.

* A bee leaves the stinger behind and then dies after stinging. Africanized honeybees, the so-called killer bees, are more aggressive than common honeybees and often attack together in great numbers.
* Wasps, including hornets and yellow jackets, can sting over and over. Yellow jackets cause the greatest number of allergic reactions.
* A fire ant attaches to a person by biting with its jaws, then, pivoting its head it stings from its abdomen in a circular pattern at multiple sites.

Bites and stings are more serious if you develop one or more of the following conditions after an insect or spider bite or sting. These conditions include:

* A severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
* A toxic reaction.
* A large skin reaction.
* Signs of a skin infection.
* Serum sickness.

Some people have more severe reactions to bites or stings. Babies and children may be more affected by bites or stings than adults.

Examples of problems that are more serious include:

* A severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Severe allergic reactions are not common but can be life-threatening and require emergency care. Signs or symptoms may include:
o Shock, which may occur if the circulatory system cannot get enough blood to the vital organs.
o Coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, or feeling of fullness in the mouth or throat.
o Swelling of the lips, tongue, ears, eyelids, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and mucous membranes (angioedema).
o Lightheadedness and confusion.
o Nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.
o Hives and reddening of the skin. These symptoms often occur with other symptoms of a severe reaction.

* A toxic reaction to a single sting or bite. Spiders or insects that may cause this include:
o Black widow spider.
o Brown recluse spider.
o Scorpion.
o Puss caterpillar (woolly slug).

* A toxic reaction to multiple stings or bites from a bee, wasp, or fire ant.
o A bee leaves its stinger behind and then dies after stinging. Africanized honeybees, the so-called killer bees, are more aggressive than common honeybees and often attack together in great numbers.
o Wasps, including hornets and yellow jackets, can sting over and over.
o A fire ant attaches to a person by biting with its jaws. Then, pivoting its head, it stings from its belly in a circular pattern at multiple sites.

* A large skin reaction at the site of the bite or sting.

* A skin infection at the site of the bite or sting.

* Serum sickness, a reaction to the medicines (antiserum) used to treat a bite or sting. Serum sickness may cause hives and flu-like symptoms in about 3 to 21 days after the use of antiserum.

* A virus infection. Infected mosquitoes can spread the West Nile virus to people, causing an inflammation of the brain (encephalitis).

* A parasite infection. Infected mosquitoes can spread malaria.



Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that affects the entire body (systemic). It can occur within a few seconds or minutes after a person is exposed to a substance (allergen or antigen).

Symptoms and signs of a severe allergic reaction may include:

* Itching.
* Raised, red bumps on the skin (hives or wheals).
* Wheezing or difficulty breathing.
* Swelling, either in one area or over the entire body. Swelling is most serious when it involves the lips, tongue, mouth, or throat and interferes with breathing.
* Abdominal cramps.
* Low blood pressure, shock, and unconsciousness.

The sooner symptoms occur after exposure to the substance, the more severe the anaphylactic reaction is likely to be. An anaphylactic reaction may occur with the first exposure to an allergen, with every exposure, or after several exposures. An anaphylactic reaction can be life-threatening and is a medical emergency. Emergency care is always needed for an anaphylactic reaction.


Shock is a life-threatening condition. Immediate medical care can make the difference between life and death.

Signs of shock (most of which will be present) include:

* Passing out (losing consciousness).
* Feeling very dizzy or lightheaded, like you may pass out.
* Feeling very weak or having trouble standing up.
* Being less alert. You may suddenly be unable to respond to questions, or you may be confused, restless, or fearful.

Also, a person in shock usually has an abnormal increase in heart rate and an abnormal decrease in blood pressure.

Shock may occur in response to a sudden illness or injury. When the body loses too much blood or fluids, the circulatory system cannot get enough blood to the vital organs, and shock results.

Shock is a life-threatening condition. Immediate medical care is required any time shock is suspected.

* Call 911 or other emergency services.
* Have the person lie down. If there is an injury to the head, neck, or chest, keep the legs flat. Otherwise, raise the person's legs at least 12in..
* If the person vomits, roll him or her to one side to let fluids drain from the mouth. Use care if there could be an injury to the back or neck.
* Stop any bleeding, and splint any broken bones.
* Keep the person warm but not hot. Put a blanket under the person, and cover him or her with a sheet or blanket, depending on the weather. If the person is in a hot place, try to keep him or her cool.
* Take the person's pulse in case medical staff on the phone need to know what the pulse is. Take it again if the person's condition changes.
* Try to keep the person calm.


Hives (urticaria) are an allergic reaction of the skin that may last a few minutes or can persist for a few days. They appear as raised, red, itchy bumps (wheals) of different shapes and sizes, with defined red margins and pale centers.

Hives may appear and then disappear at random and seem to move from place to place on the skin. Hives may range in size from less than 0.25in. to 3in. across or larger. Patches of hives may combine to form raised, reddened skin over large areas of the body.

Hives may appear as a reaction to a medication, food, or infection. A single area of swelling often occurs after an insect bite at the site of the bite. Other possible causes include contact with plants, things you breathe in (inhalants), stress, makeup, and exposure to heat, cold, or sunlight. Often a cause cannot be found.

Hives are often minor, but they can also be the first sign of a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) that requires emergency care.


A toxic reaction occurs when insect or spider venom acts like a poison in the body. This type of reaction can occur from one bite or sting from a highly toxic insect or spider, or from multiple bites or stings from insects or spiders not normally considered poisonous.

Symptoms of a toxic reaction vary depending on the insect or spider, the toxicity of the venom, and the amount of venom injected. Most often symptoms lessen or go away within 48 hours. Although hives and difficulty breathing may occur in an allergic reaction, these symptoms will not occur in a toxic reaction. It is possible to have both a toxic reaction and an allergic reaction at the same time.

Signs and symptoms of a toxic reaction may include:

* Nausea or vomiting.
* Diarrhea.
* Fever.
* Weakness.
* Lightheadedness.
* Rapid swelling at the site of the sting.
* Muscle spasms.
* Headache.
* Drowsiness.
* Fainting (syncope).
* Uncontrollable jerking movements (seizures).

A toxic reaction may lead to heart rhythm problems, shock, and death.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Understanding Prostate Cancer -- Prevention

How Do I Know If I Have Prostate Cancer?

The best way to detect prostate cancer in its early stages is with regular digital prostate examinations and PSA blood tests. Because most malignant prostate tumors originate in the part of the gland nearest the rectum, many cancers can be detected during routine rectal examinations. Many doctors recommend an annual rectal exam, supplemented by a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, starting at age 50 for most men. The screenings are recommended beginning at age 40 for African Americans and those with a family history of prostate cancer.

PSA is a protein whose blood level tends to increase in the presence of prostate cancer, making it a valuable tool in detecting early prostate cancer. Together, the two screening measures offer the best chance of detecting prostate cancer while it is localized and most treatable. Prostate cancer may also be discovered incidentally during treatment for urinary problems. Because of the possibility of a false-positive PSA reading, it is important to discuss this test with your doctor before having one. An elevated PSA does not mean that you have cancer. Rather, it raises questions that need to be addressed and explained. There are a number of causes of an elevated PSA, and cancer is only one of them.

If routine screening arouses suspicion and/or PSA levels are elevated, a doctor may perform biopsies of the prostate guided by an ultrasound instrument inserted in your rectum (transrectal ultrasound). X-rays of the urinary tract, along with blood and urine studies, are performed routinely to aid diagnosis. Performing a biopsy will confirm whether or not cancer is present: Guided by ultrasound images, the doctor inserts a needle into the prostate and extracts small slivers of tissue from the suspicious area. Sometimes biopsies are instead obtained through a cystoscope, a narrow telescope passed through the urethra. A pathologist then studies the sample under a microscope to determine whether cancer cells are present. In order to determine if the cancer has spread outside the prostate gland, doctors may arrange CT scans, bone scans, chest X-rays, or other imaging tests.

What Are the Treatments?

Since prostate cancer is often slow growing and may not be fatal in many men, some men -- after discussing the options with their doctors -- opt for "watchful waiting." Watchful waiting involves monitoring the prostate cancer for signs that it is becoming more aggressive but otherwise not treating it. This approach is recommended more commonly for men who are older or suffer from other life-threatening conditions. In these cases, the cancer may be growing so slowly that it's not likely to be fatal.

Once the decision is made to treat a cancer, other factors, such as a patient's age and general health, affect the type of treatment given. Decisions about how to treat this cancer are complex, and many men seek a second opinion before making a treatment decision.

Depending on when the disease is diagnosed, treatment includes a single therapy or some combination of radiation therapy, surgery, hormone therapy, and rarely chemotherapy. Localized prostate cancer usually can be cured with surgery, radiation therapy, or cryosurgery -- freezing malignant cells with liquid nitrogen. The choice is made on a case-by-case basis and depends on many factors.

The standard operation -- a radical prostatectomy -- involves the removal of the prostate and nearby lymph nodes. In many cases, surgeons can remove the gland without cutting nerves that control penile erection or bladder function, making such complications as impotence or incontinence much less common than in the past. Depending on the man's age and the amount of surgery needed to remove all the cancer, nerve-sparing techniques allow about 40%-65% of men who were able to get erections before surgery to be able to do so after surgery without a need for any additional E.D. treatments.

After surgery, most men experience some degree of incontinence but usually regain complete urinary control. Impotence can be treated in a variety of ways -- including with medications such as Levitra, Cialis or Viagra. If severe or prolonged, incontinence can be managed with special disposable underwear, exercises, condom catheters, biofeedback or penile clamps; in rare cases that don't resolve on their own, incontinence can be eliminated altogether with surgically inserted sphincter implants around the urethra or a urethral sling.

Radiation therapy can very effective as the primary treatment for localized prostate cancer. It may also be given as follow-up to surgery for cancer that has not spread. If cancer has spread to adjacent tissue, radiation is the preferred treatment; it is also used in advanced cases to relieve pain from the spread of cancer to bones. Incontinence and impotence also occur with radiation, and some studies have shown similar results to surgery. New forms of radiation such as IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) are proving even more effective with fewer side effects.

Permanent radioactive seed implants (brachytherapy) allow for delivery of a high dose of radiation to the prostate with limited damage to surrounding tissues. During the procedure, tiny radioactive seeds are implanted into the prostate gland using ultrasound guidance. The implants remain in place permanently and become inactive after many months.

Even advanced cases that cannot be cured may be controlled for many years with hormone therapy, sometimes supplemented by other treatments. Hormone therapy slows the cancer's growth by cutting off the testosterone supply, although the treatment's effectiveness may decrease over time. Testosterone can be removed from the bloodstream by surgically removing the testicles (orchiectomy) or by administering female hormones such as estrogen or other drugs that block testosterone production. Men generally prefer the testosterone-blocking drug treatment because it is effective, less invasive, and causes fewer side effects than surgery or female hormone drugs. If the testicles are removed, the scrotum can be left intact with testicular implants put in place.

Chemotherapy and vaccine therapies are proving to be effective for some men with advanced prostate cancer.

The goal of prostate cancer treatment is a cure, and is likely in men diagnosed with early prostate cancer. All prostate cancer survivors should be examined regularly and have their PSA levels monitored closely.

As with other types of cancer, new treatments are being developed for advanced prostate cancer. Researchers are using radiation and hormone therapy in innovative ways and are testing the effectiveness of chemotherapy on patients who do not respond to other treatments.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Prostate Cancer Risk Factors

All men are at risk for developing prostate cancer. About one man in six will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, but only one man in 34 will die of this disease. About 80 percent of men who reach age 80 have prostate cancer. Besides being male, there are other factors, such as age, race, and family history that may contribute to the risk. These include:

Age. The greatest risk factor for prostate cancer is age. This risk increases significantly after the age of 50 in white men who have no family history of the disease and after the age of 40 in black men and men who have a close relative with prostate cancer. About two-thirds of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men age 65 and older.

Family history: Men whose relatives have had prostate cancer are considered to be at high risk. Having a father or brother with the disease more than doubles your risk for prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Having a brother with prostate cancer appears to increase your risk more than having an affected father does. That risk is even higher when there are multiple family members affected. Screening for prostate cancer should be started at age 40 in these men.

Studies have identified several inherited genes that appear to increase prostate cancer risk. Testing for these genes is not yet available. Experts estimate that the hereditary form of prostate cancer accounts for just 5-10% of all cases.

Race: Prostate cancer occurs about 60% more often in African American men than in white American men and when diagnosed is more likely to be advanced. However, Japanese and African males living in their native countries have a low incidence of prostate cancer. Rates for these groups increase sharply when they immigrate to the U.S. African Americans are the second group of men for whom prostate cancer testing should begin at age 40.

Some experts theorize that this suggests an environmental connection, possibly related to high-fat diets, less exposure to the sun, exposure to heavy metals such as cadmium, infectious agents, or smoking. To date, the reasons for these racial differences are not understood.

Diet: Research also suggests high dietary fat may be a contributing factor prostate cancer. The disease is much more common in countries where meat and dairy products are dietary staples, compared to countries where the basic diet consists of rice, soybean products, and vegetables.

Eating a diet high in the antioxidant lycopene (found in high levels in some fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon) may lower your risk of developing prostate cancer according to several studies.

What Are Other Possible Risk Factors?

Sedentary lifestyle: You may be able to reduce your risk for prostate cancer by getting regular exercise and maintaining your optimal weight.

Stages of Prostate Cancer

Like other forms of cancer, the prognosis for prostate cancer depends on how far the cancer has spread at the time it’s diagnosed. Doctors use a system of classification called staging to describe prostate cancer’s spread.

Prostate cancer stages can be complex and difficult to understand. WebMD takes a look at prostate cancer stages and what they mean to you.

Prostate Cancer Stages: Growth and Spread

Prostate cancer grows locally within the prostate, often for many years. Eventually, prostate cancer extends outside the prostate. Prostate cancer can spread beyond the prostate in three ways:

* By growing into neighboring tissues (invasion)
* By spreading through the lymph system of lymph nodes and lymph vessels
* By traveling to distant tissues through the blood (metastasis)

Prostate cancer stages describe the precise extent of prostate cancer’s spread.
Tests to Identify Prostate Cancer Stage

After a prostate cancer diagnosis, tests are done to detect how the cancer has spread, if it has, outside the prostate. Not all men need every test. It depends on the characteristics of a man’s prostate cancer, seen on biopsy. Tests to help determine the stage of prostate cancer include:

* Digital rectal exam (the infamous gloved finger)
* Prostate-specific antigen (blood test)
* Transrectal ultrasound
* MRI of the prostate using a rectal probe
* CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis, looking for prostate cancer metastasis to other organs
* MRI of the skeleton, or a nuclear medicine bone scan, to look for metastasis to bones
* Surgery to examine the lymph nodes in the pelvis for any prostate cancer spread

The TNM System for Prostate Cancer Stages

As they do for most cancers, doctors use the TNM system of prostate cancer stages. The prostate cancer stages are described using three different aspects of tumor growth and spread. It’s called the TNM system for tumor, nodes, and metastasis:

* T -- for tumor -- describes the size of the main area of prostate cancer.
* N -- for nodes -- describes whether prostate cancer has spread to any lymph nodes and to what extent.
* M -- for metastasis -- means distant spread of prostate cancer, for example, to the bones or liver.

There are other ways of classifying prostate cancer, such as the Gleason system. Sometimes, the TNM system and Gleason score are combined together to describe prostate cancer stage.

Prostate Cancer Stage I

In stage I, prostate cancer is found in the prostate only. Stage I prostate cancer is microscopic; it can’t be felt on a digital rectal exam (DRE), and it isn’t seen on imaging of the prostate.

Prostate Cancer Stage II

In stage II, the tumor has grown inside the prostate but hasn’t extended beyond it.

Prostate Cancer Stage III

Stage III prostate cancer has spread outside the prostate, but only barely. Prostate cancer in stage III may involve nearby tissues, like the seminal vesicles.

Prostate Cancer Stage IV

In stage IV, the cancer has spread (metastasized) outside the prostate to other tissues. Stage IV prostate cancer commonly spreads to lymph nodes, the bones, liver, or lungs.

Accurately identifying the prostate cancer stage is extremely important. Prostate cancer stage helps determine the optimal treatment, as well as prognosis. For this reason, it’s worth going through extensive testing to get the correct prostate cancer stage.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Part 2 in learning more about this disease that is attacking my Uncle Paul. Please, send him your prayers as he takes on this challenge.

Understanding Prostate Cancer - Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms?

There are no warning signs or symptoms of early prostate cancer. Once a malignant tumor causes the prostate gland to swell significantly, or once cancer spreads beyond the prostate, the following symptoms may be present:

* A frequent need to urinate, especially at night.
* Difficulty starting or stopping the urinary stream.
* A weak or interrupted urinary stream.
* A painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation.
* Blood in urine or semen.

These are not symptoms of the cancer itself. Instead, they are the symptoms of the blockage from the cancer growth within the prostate and surrounding tissues.

Symptoms of advanced prostate cancer include:

* Dull, incessant deep pain or stiffness in the pelvis, lower back, ribs or upper thighs; arthritic pain in the bones of those areas.
* Loss of weight and appetite, fatigue, nausea, or vomiting.

Call Your Doctor If:

* You have difficulty urinating or find that urination is painful or otherwise abnormal. Your doctor will examine your prostate gland to determine whether it is enlarged, inflamed with an infection, or may have cancer.
* You have chronic pain in your lower back, pelvis, upper thighbones, or other bones. Ongoing pain without explanation always merits medical attention. Pain in these areas can have various causes but may be from the spread of advanced prostate cancer.
* You experience unexplained weight loss

When to Seek Medical Care

See your health care provider if you have any of the following symptoms:

* Difficulty initiating and/or stopping a urine stream

* Frequent urination

* Pain on urination

* Pain on ejaculation

You should undergo regular screening for prostate cancer.

* Men aged 50 years and older should undergo a yearly digital rectal examination and blood testing for prostatic specific antigen (PSA).

* Men in the high-risk group, such as those with a family history of prostate cancer or of African American ethnicity, should begin screening as early as age 40 years.

Go to the nearest hospital emergency department right away if you have any of the following symptoms:

* Urinary tract infection - Burning pain on urination, urgency, frequent urination, especially with fever

* Bladder obstruction - Not urinating or urinating very little despite drinking enough fluid; producing little urine despite straining; pain due to a full bladder

* Acute kidney failure - Not urinating or urinating little, with little discomfort, despite drinking enough fluid

* Deep bone pain, especially in the back, hips, or thighs, or bone fracture - Possible sign of advanced prostate cancer that has spread to the bones

Spinal cord compression is a true emergency and may be the first sign of cancer. It occurs when the cancer has spread to vertebrae of the spine and tailbone region. The weakened vertebrae can collapse on the spinal cord, causing symptoms and problems with function.

* Symptoms depend on the level at which the spine is compressed.

* Typical symptoms that might signal acute spinal cord compression include weakness in the legs and difficulty walking, increased difficulty urinating or moving your bowels, difficulty controlling your bladder or bowels, and decreased sensation, numbness, or tingling in the groin or legs.

* These are often preceded by pain in the hip (usually one sided) or back lasting a few days or weeks.

* Such symptoms require immediate evaluation in the nearest hospital emergency department. Failure to be treated immediately can result in permanent spinal cord damage.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Understanding Prostate Cancer - the Basics

This past week, I learned that my Uncle Paul has been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. Of the twelve tumors that were removed, seven were cancerous. I will start my new series on this topic.

What Is Prostate Cancer?

The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system that produces the majority of fluid that makes up the semen, the thick fluid that carries sperm. The walnut-sized gland is located beneath a man's bladder and surrounds the upper part of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder. Prostate function is regulated by testosterone, a male sex hormone produced mainly in the testicles.

Prostate cancer is a major health concern for American men. Although the disease is rare before age 50, experts believe that most elderly men have at least traces of it.

More than 200,000 new cases and about 30,000 deaths are attributed to prostate cancer each year in the U.S. For reasons not fully understood, African-American men have the highest frequency of prostate cancer in the world and the highest death rate from the disease. In other parts of the world -- notably Asia, Africa and Latin America -- prostate cancer is rare.

Prostate cancer cells do not follow normal patterns and grow uncontrollably and spread to other tissues. Prostate cancer is typically a very slow growing tumor, often causing no symptoms until advanced stages. Most men with prostate cancer die of other causes -- many without ever realizing that they have the disease. But once prostate cancer begins to grow more rapidly or spreads outside the prostate, it is dangerous. This aggressive type of prostate cancer can occur at any age. Although the disease tends to progress slowly, it is generally fatal if it spreads beyond the prostate gland itself.

Prostate cancer in its early stages (confined to the prostate gland) can be cured. Fortunately, about 85% of American men with prostate cancer are diagnosed in the early stages.

Cancer that has spread beyond the prostate to distant tissues (such as the bones, Lymph nodes and lungs) is not curable, but it often can be controlled for many years. Because of the many advances in available treatments, the majority of men whose prostate cancer becomes widespread can expect to live five years or more.

What Causes Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer affects mainly older men. Four out of five cases are diagnosed in men over 65, but less than 1% in men under 50. Though rare, prostate cancer can be seen in men even in their 30's and 40's. Men with a family history of prostate cancer are more likely to die of it than is the general population. On a case-by-case basis, doctors cannot say with certainty what causes prostate cancer, but experts generally agree that diet contributes to the risk. Men who consume large amounts of fat -- particularly from red meat and other sources of animal fat -- are most likely to develop advanced prostate cancer. The disease is much more common in countries where meat and dairy products are dietary staples than in countries where the basic diet consists of rice, soybean products, and vegetables.

The underlying factor linking diet and prostate cancer is probably hormonal. Fats stimulate increased production of testosterone and other hormones, and testosterone acts to speed the growth of prostate cancer. High testosterone levels may stimulate dormant prostate cancer cells into activity. Some findings suggest that high testosterone levels also influence the initial onset of prostate cancer. Eating meat may be risky for other reasons: Meat cooked at high temperatures produces cancer-causing substances that directly affect the prostate. A few other risk factors have been noted. Welders, battery manufacturers, rubber workers, and workers frequently exposed to the metal cadmium seem to be abnormally vulnerable to prostate cancer.

Researchers know more about what will not cause prostate cancer than what will. No proven link exists between prostate cancer and an active sex life, vasectomy, masturbation, use of alcohol or tobacco, circumcision, infertility, infection of the prostate, or a common noncancerous condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) that causes an enlarged prostate gland. Most elderly men experience an enlarged prostate to some degree.

Friday, May 1, 2009

I received this article from Janet Jarrell. After reading my blog and about the VGNO, she thought this would fit in qite nicely!
You are so right, Janet! Thank you so much for the column and for thinking of me!

Good friends for good health!!


By Gale Berkowitz

A landmark UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are. By the way, they may do even more.

Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis. A landmark UCLA study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women. It's a stunning find that has turned five decades of stress research ˜most of it on men˜ upside down.

"Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible," explains Laura Cousino Klein, Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study's authors. "It's an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers.” Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just "fight or flight.."

"In fact," says Dr. Klein, "it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the "fight or flight" response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect.

This calming response does not occur in men", says Dr. Klein, "because testosterone˜ which men produce in high levels when they're under stress˜ seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. “Estrogen", she adds, "seems to enhance it."

The discovery that women respond to stress differently than men was made in a classic "aha!" moment shared by two women scientists who were talking one day in a lab at UCLA. "There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded", says Dr. Klein." When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own.

I commented one day to fellow researcher Shelley Taylor that nearly 90% of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were onto something." The women cleared their schedules and started meeting with one scientist after another from various research specialties. Very quickly, Drs. Klein and Taylor discovered that by not including women in stress research, scientists had made a huge mistake: The fact that women respond to stress differently than men has significant implications for our health.

It may take some time for new studies to reveal all the ways that oxytocin encourages us to care for children and hang out with other women, but the "tend and befriend" notion developed by Drs. Klein and Taylor may explain why women consistently outlive men. Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol.. "There's no doubt," says Dr. Klein, "that friends are helping us live." In one study, for example, researchers found that people who had no friends increased their risk of death over a 6-month period. In another study, those who had the most friends over a 9-year period cut their risk of death by more than 60%.

Friends are also helping us live better. The famed Nurses' Health Study from HarvardMedical School found that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life. In fact, the results were so significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends or confidantes was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight!

And that's not all! When the researchers looked at how well the women functioned after the death of their spouse, they found that even in the face of this biggest stressor of all, those women who had a close friend confidante were more likely to survive the experience without any new physical impairments or permanent loss of vitality. Those without friends were not always so fortunate.

Yet if friends counter the stress that seems to swallow up so much of our life these days, if they keep us healthy and even add years to our life, why is it so hard to find time to be with them? That's a question that also troubles researcher Ruthellen Josselson, Ph.D., co-author of Best Friends: The Pleasures and Perils of Girls and Women's Friendships (Three Rivers Press, 1998). "Every time we get overly busy with work and family, the first thing we do is let go of friendships with other women," explains Dr. Josselson. "We push them right to the back burner. That's really a mistake because women are such a source of strength to each other. We nurture one another. And we need to have unpressured space in which we can do the special kind of talk that women do when they're with other women.

It's a very healing experience."

Taylor, S. E., Klein, L.C., Lewis, B. P., Gruenewald, T. L., Gurung, R. A. R., & Updegraff, J. A. Female Responses to Stress: Tend and Befriend, Not Fight or Flight