Prostatectomy vs. Waiting to Treat Prostate Cancer?

Duncan Smith/Thinkstock(UPPSALA, Sweden) -- Men diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer can find themselves in a bit of a dilemma: to treat, or to wait and see?  The reason is that for some men, prostate cancer occurs later in life and progresses so slowly that aggressive treatment is unnecessary.

A Swedish study published in the New England Journal of Medicine of almost 700 men diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer found that those who underwent a radical prostatectomy -- the surgical removal of the prostate gland -- were less likely to die from prostate cancer than men who waited.

However, the 38 percent reduction in risk of death was confined to men younger than 65 years of age.

This data is not new, however.  Basically the same findings were reported three years ago as part of this same ongoing study. 

What the findings show, however, is that the benefit of aggressive treatment in younger men with prostate cancer is long-lasting.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


A Smart Phone App for Eye Exams?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There are thousands of apps for almost everything.  Whatever you want to do, get or find depends on the app that's available on your smartphone, iPhone, Blackberry or Droid.

Now, if it's an eye exam you need -- there's an app for that.  A new smartphone app allows patients to administer different tests, such as reading a digital eye chart, or to snap high resolution images of each eye.

The results are sent to the patient's opthamalogist via email, who is then able to use them to identify vision problems or to detect external diseases, such as corneal ulcers.

Photos of the eye are so clear and detailed, major external changes can be detected.  In fact, some opthamology residents are already using the iPhone to take clinical pictures.

Many experts applaud the smartphone app as very useful screening and diagnostic tool.  Information gained could be crucial in treating triage patients or preparing for emergency situations.  Others caution that remote eye exams are no substitute for thorough examination by a opthamologist.

There are also concerns about security in transmitting confidential personal patients information, and ensuring that the email accounts are monitored regularly and mail dealt with promptly.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Less Invasive, Implantable Defibrillators Pose Less Risks to Heart Patients

Comstock/Thinkstock(ROTTERDAM, Netherlands) -- Implantable heart defibrillators save lives, but there are risks associated with them. A new type of defibrillator that's less invasive, however, may help reduce some of those risks without compromising efficiency.

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators, or ICDs, work by detecting and correcting abnormal heart rhythms that can lead to heart attack or death. The sensor part of the defibrillator is placed directly in the heart.  Serious problems could develop if it breaks, gets dislodged or causes an infection.

But the new ICD, or S-ICD, is implanted just under the skin instead of the heart.

According to a report presented at an international meeting of the Heart Rhythm Society, the new device performed with 100-percent accuracy.

Researchers in the Netherlands studied 98 patients over a nine-month period.  The ICD under the skin never failed to detect and correct abnormal heart rhythms during the trial.

The new ICD is already in use in Europe, but not in the United States. If approved by the FDA, the device could have a profound impact on heart patients, especially in cases where several members of a single family suffer congenital heart conditions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Estrogen May Protect Against Brain Aneurysms

Michael Matisse/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Brain aneurysms, or the bulging and weakening of small areas of the walls of arteries, are more common in women than in men. 

In a study at Rush University Medical Center, researchers assessed whether estrogen, the primary component of birth control pills and hormone therapy, can modify a women's risk of developing brain aneurysms. 

They researchers found that women who had a history of taking oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy were less likely to have brain aneurysms than those who did not take these medications.  But taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy did not change the rate of aneurysm ruptures. 

But critics of the study, which is published in the Journal of Neurointerventional Surgergy, say it can't be known from this data whether these hormones had any causal role in aneurysm formation, and the study may be misleading as it implies that hormone therapy may be useful for prevention of aneurysms.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Inside the Mind of Osama Bin Laden, Other Cult-Like Followers

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- How did Osama bin Laden get hundreds of young recruits to strap bombs to their bodies and persuade well-educated men to fly suicide planes like missiles through the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?

"People come along some time who can move crowds who by their personality can attract other people to a movement," said former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, 76, who was co-chairman of the 911 commission, in an interview with New Jersey Network. "That's what he did. He was one of those people driven by half-genius, half-mad genius, half religion, and he created a lot of trouble in this world."

Bin Laden, soft-spoken and somewhat shy, was not conventionally charismatic.

Mark Stern, professor emeritus of Iona College in New York and an expert in the psychology of evil and Messianic figures, believes bin Laden was different from other evil charismatics, such as Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson and Jim Jones.

"He had more of a political world view -- more like a desire to save the world than to destroy it and rebuild it in his image," said Stern. He was a "witness" to the fundamental cause. "The message found him," said Stern. "He didn't find the message."

History is littered with Osama bin Ladens -- former President George W. Bush called them the "evil-doers" -- who wield mesmerizing power over their devoted followers and often possess qualities of grandiosity and charisma.

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel ruminated on the same question when he analyzed Hitler: "How did this unstable paranoid find it within himself to impose gigantic hope as an immutable ideal that motivated his nation almost until the end?" At the end of World War II, Germany was devastated by war and 6 million Jews had been exterminated.

"The fact is that Hitler was beloved by his people--not the military, at least not in the beginning, but by the average Germans who pledged to him an affection, a tenderness and a fidelity that bordered on the irrational," said Wiesel in an 1998 essay in Time magazine. "It was idolatry on a national scale.

Charles Manson, a Cincinnati-born songwriter and ex-convict, emerged in the turbulent the late 1960s, instructing his "family" of followers -- mostly women -- to kill pregnant actress Sharon Tate and shopkeeper Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary to promote an apocalyptic race war he called "Helter Skelter," a term he coined from the popular Beatles song.

Another charismatic leader, Jim Jones, founder of the Peoples Temple, orchestrated the mass suicide of more than 900 church members in 1978, as well as the killing of five others at a nearby airstrip in Jonestown, Guyana. Until Sept. 11, 2001, it was the single greatest loss of American civilians in a non-natural disaster.

"Basically, because of a lack of healthy attachment, they have an inability to have empathy,” said Hassan, a cult expert and the author of the book, Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves. “They can't put themselves in another person's shoes."

Figures like Hitler, Manson and Jones need the blind adoration of their followers -- their narcissistic supply -- a "compensation goes on wanting to feel love," according to Hassan.

Hassan said bin Laden may have been "manipulated and influenced" by his father figure, al Qaeda's second in command and likely successor Ayman al-Zawahiri.

In general, cult leaders exert their control by lying, withholding information, creating conformity within the group and separating followers from their families. "They inculcate a new belief system," he said.

"If you have an authority figure, they are perceived to be valid," he said. "We are wired as a human species to obey our parents, policemen, teachers or therapists."

"There are two mind control devices: thought stopping or the deliberate implantation of irrational fears if you question the leader, like you lose your spiritual life or get cancer or your family will be hunted down and killed.

"In terrorist groups that is an actual threat," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Activists Protest Delayed Gluten-Free Label Standard 

Peter Dazeley/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Food and Drug Administration has dragged its feet in setting a standard for gluten-free foods, say activists who on Wednesday are assembling a one-ton, 15-foot-high gluten-free cake symbolizing how much their lives depend upon strictly avoiding a protein found in most bakery goods, pasta, beer and even some cold cuts and salad dressings.

Organizers of the Gluten-Free Food Labeling Summit in Washington, D.C., want the baked behemoth, assembled by volunteers from 180 half-sheet cakes made with special gluten-free flour in Whole Foods' Gluten-Free Bakehouse, to send a message to Congress and the FDA about the importance of "clear, accurate, reliable labeling" of packaged foods for Americans who must avoid gluten for medical reasons.

They want the FDA to adopt a gluten-free labeling standard that was due in August 2008, under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2004. Also overdue: an assessment of the proposed gluten standard of 20 parts per million.

The core constituency for gluten-free eating long has been celiac patients whose immune systems recognize gluten as an invader and unleash attacks on the small intestine, producing diarrhea, abdominal pain, along with fatigue, headaches and joint inflammation. Over time, celiac disease can lead to malnourishment, osteoporosis, neurological conditions, and in rarer cases, infertility or cancer.

Despite the explosion of gluten-free offerings at supermarkets, big-box stores (half of gluten-free shoppers buy their products at Walmart, a February 2011 Packaged Facts report found ), and health food stores, celiac patients still find themselves endlessly double-checking ingredient lists. Many call companies to learn if they've paid meticulous attention to preventing potential cross-contamination in the field, during transportation, during milling, and properly washed down equipment that handles foods containing gluten before they do any gluten-free runs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Girl Scouts Patent Prosthetic Device for Toddler, Win $20,000 Prize

Courtesy Dale Fairchild(AMES, Iowa) -- Forget selling cookies to earn badges. Girl Scouts today build innovative biomedical devices to win patents.

In what the Girl Scouts of the USA said may be its first patent-worthy project, a group of Girl Scouts from Ames, Iowa, developed a prosthetic hand device to help a three-year-old toddler without fingers write. The device not only won the group the $20,000 FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award from the X Prize Foundation last month, it scored the scouts a provisional patent.

"I thought it was awesome," said Zoe Groat, 12, a sixth-grade member of the team called the Flying Monkeys. "It was really exciting to know that someone was able to use something we made."

Along with five other girls aged 11- to 13-years-old, Groat entered the worldwide FIRST LEGO League science and engineering challenge that, this past year, focused on robotics applied to medical issues.

They'd already decided to work on hand and arm prosthetics when Melissa Murray, one of the scouts' mothers and co-coach of the team, met Dale Fairchild on a Yahoo Group for families affected by congenital limb differences. (Murray's daughter, one of the Flying Monkeys, uses an adaptive device for a hand difference.)

Fairchild's three-year-old daughter Danielle, born with symbrachydactyly, had a thumb and palm but no fingers on her right hand. Once the Flying Monkeys learned about Danielle, they decided to dedicate their project to helping her.

Between the fall of 2010 and this spring, the girls spent at least 180 hours on the project, Murray said. They met with prosthetics manufacturers and doctors to research the project. Once they had Danielle's measurements, they tried using all kinds of materials found in crafts shops and medical specialty stores to create the most helpful device.

Finally, they settled on an invention made from moldable plastic (like that used by occupational therapists), a pencil grip and Velcro (to help fasten the device to Danielle's hand). In total, the device cost less than $50 to make, Murray said.

"The kids all learned -- and they will tell you -- that it is a trial and error process and you learn a lot from your mistakes," Murray said.

The team recently received a provisional patent for their device and will use the prize money to file for a utility patent, Murray. It could take up to three years to secure the final patent but Murray said the scouts "would love to see it go as far as they can go."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Joe Montana Suffers Joint Pain After All-Star NFL Career

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- At the peak of his career, Joe Montana was one of football's biggest names, with four Super Bowl rings to his name. But now in his retirement, "Joe Cool" is the face of a nutritional supplement that he says helps his aching joints -- the price he has paid for 20 years of tackles.

"The joint pain started at some point a little bit into my career," said Montana. "When you have 300-pound fellows falling on you for that many years, you start to feel it."

Chronic joint pain plagues many of the NFL's finest, and many players say it just comes with the territory.

"For me, it was a stiffness that wouldn't go away," said Montana. "One knee was worse than the other, and then there was the swelling that goes along with it. The more you can keep your joints lubricated, the less you'll feel that."

Pain and stiffness are caused by injury to the articular cartilage, or the smooth white covering over the bones at the joints. Small injuries can become larger over time, and eventually the underlying bone is exposed. Even if the injuries have time to heal fully, different scar tissues can cause different kinds of stiffness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 million Americans have some form of chronic joint pain or arthritis. Along with the pain can come a variety of other symptoms, as well.

"We conducted a study a few years ago that identified a substantial minority of retired NFL players who suffered high levels of chronic disease, including osteoarthritis and joint pain," said Dr. Thomas Schwenk, professor of family medicine at University of Michigan. "The pain was associated with significant levels of depression and low levels of daily function, causing significant distress and misery."

"Once their careers are over, a lot of the residual damage causes high level of arthritis and pain, and leads to depression, loss of physical activity and physical self-esteem," said Schwenk. "They often gain weight, especially the lineman, leading to diabetes, hypertension and heart disease."

With so many people playing through injury, a bias has been created for players to get in the game, even when injured, in order to keep their careers going, said Schwenk.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Autism Epidemic' Challenged by UK Study

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Is autism a growing epidemic or not?

Recent reports have suggested that autism is on the rise, but a new study from the U.K. finds that the prevalence of this developmental disorder has remained stable.  It may be that doctors are diagnosing it more often in young people -- not that it's actually happening more.

Researchers performed clinical assessments of 618 adults and found that nearly one percent of Britons over age 16 suffered from autism -- meaning the adult rate is no higher than that seen among children in the U.K.

"If the rate of autism is actually increasing rapidly, you'd expect rates to be much lower in older adults, but we didn't find that," says Dr. Traolach Brugha, lead author on the study and psychiatrist at the University of Leicester, U.K.  "We found similar rates at 16 up to the 70s and 80s.  That suggests that the number of people developing the condition have not changed over the last 70 or 80 years."

Though this study -- published in the May issue of Archives of General Psychiatry -- deals with the U.K. population, these findings call into questions whether the much-discussed "autism epidemic" in the U.S. is a real phenomenon.

"It has never been fully clear whether the much increased rate of autism over the past few decades is due to increased recognition…or whether there has been a genuine increase.  This study suggests that there is no true increase," says Dr. Shlomo Shinnar, professor of neurology and pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

Because the U.K. and the U.S. have similar rates of autism in children (about one percent), these U.K. findings speak to the autism debate in the states as well, says Shinnar.

"The fact that similar rates of one percent are being seen in the adult population when screened is a strong indication that these results are highly relevant to the U.S. as well," he said.

Fears of an autism epidemic were sparked in 2009 when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the rate of autism in children had increased 57 percent since 2002.  The most recent data puts the prevalence of autism in children the U.S. at about one in 100 -- a similar rate to that found in the U.K. population.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Top Five Osama Bin Laden Health Rumors: Fact or Fiction?

AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In the years between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sunday's raid, rumors swirled about Osama bin Laden's health.  Some even believed he'd died in an area so remote that the best intelligence could not find him.

ABC News asked experts who have researched and written about bin Laden to weigh in on five of the most widely circulated rumors.  Here's what they said:

Kidney Disease -- Likely False

"Despite the fact that we have all been hearing about his kidney problems and the need for dialysis, according to the intelligence people I've talked to in Washington, there was no evidence of a dialysis machine in the compound where he was found," said Mary Anne Weaver, author of Pakistan: Deep Inside the World's Most Frightening State.

The exclusive video obtained by ABC News inside the compound also does not show any evidence of dialysis equipment.  There were what looked like medication bottles, but a closer look at the video reveals the bottles contain petroleum jelly, eye drops, olive oil, sunflower oil, an antiseptic and a nasal spray.

Marfan Syndrome -- Likely False

Along with the rumors about kidney disease, Weaver said the one about bin Laden having Marfan syndrome was also widely circulated.

Marfan syndrome affects the connective tissue that supports tendons, ligaments, heart valves and other parts of the body.  If it attacks the heart or the vessels of the heart, it could cause an enlarged heart or torn vessels.  Those with Marfan syndrome might be be tall and thin; have long, curved fingers; vision problems or no symptoms at all.

"The CIA suspected bin Laden had Marfan syndrome, but then the guy who briefed me on this said the information was negative a few months later," said Weaver.

Enlarged Heart and Low Blood Pressure -- Both Likely True

Weaver said officials told her bin Laden had an enlarged heart, and she reported that in her New York profiles of the most wanted terrorist.

"It was a fleeting mention by intelligence officials," she said.

Weaver also said she heard bin Laden had low blood pressure, but she never thought it was a serious condition.

Arm Injury -- Likely True

Experts say bin Laden was very likely injured in a 2001 battle in Tora Bora, the complex of caves in Afghanistan where U.S. forces believed members of al Qaeda were hiding.

"It does seem he may have been injured with shrapnel in Tora Bora," said Kenneth Katzman, a Congressional Research Service expert on Afghanistan.  "After his escape, he wasn't able to move it much."

In one of his earlier videos, bin Laden appears to be immobile on his left side, but Katzman said that his injury seems to have healed based on the viewing of subsequent videos.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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