Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
Researchers published results this week for a major project that has "mapped" all gene mutations in breast cancer. The findings may lead to changes in treatment. Other new research suggests that a warning from doctors about driving may reduce accidents for older adults and others with possible impairments. When it comes to walking, older adults are using surgery more often to stay mobile. A report released this week found that knee replacement operations for Medicare patients have increased 162% in the last 20 years.
This Issue: Breast Cancer 'Map' May Point to Better Treatments Doctors' Advice May Stop Impaired Drivers Knee Replacements Jump for Older Adults
In the News:
Breast Cancer 'Map' May Point to Better Treatments
Scientists announced this week that they have finished creating a "map" of gene mutations in breast cancer. This work could give researchers new targets in searching for treatments. It also could help sort out why some current treatments work for some patients and not others. Today doctors suggest breast cancer treatment based on whether they have certain "receptors." Receptors are proteins on the surface of cancer cells that cause them to grow in response to estrogen, progesterone and/or another protein called HER2. Women with one or more positive receptors often take drugs that block the receptors. A smaller number of breast cancers are "triple negative." They have none of the three receptors. Therefore, some common treatments won't help these patients. The new study found that triple-negative breast cancers are more similar to an aggressive type of ovarian cancer than they are to other breast cancers. Ovarian cancer drugs may be helpful. However, that needs to be tested. The study calls this type of breast cancer "basal-like." Cancers that respond to estrogen are divided into "luminal A" and "luminal B." Luminal B cancers are less responsive to treatment. The journal Nature published the research online this week. The Associated Press, USA Today and the New York Times News Service wrote about it.
Doctors' Advice May Stop Impaired Drivers
Doctors who urge some elderly patients to stop driving may help to keep them safer, a new study suggests. The study was done in Canada. Doctors there must report to licensing officials if a patient has a condition that might impair driving. These conditions include epilepsy, sleep disorders, alcoholism and dementia. In 2006, Ontario started giving doctors a small fee to encourage reporting. Researchers used the fee structure to track more than 100,000 patients. Most were older than 60. Researchers added up the car crashes for drivers from this group in the year before the warnings began. They included only crashes serious enough for the driver to go to an emergency room. Then they kept track of the group for 3½ years. Crashes per year dropped 45%. The study could not tell if the patients stopped driving or were more careful. There was another result, as well. About 1 in 5 drivers changed doctors. The New England Journal of Medicine published the study this week. The Associated Press wrote about it.
Knee Replacements Jump for Older Adults
Knee replacement operations on older adults have risen 162% in the last 20 years, a new study finds. Many had to be repeated. Second operations such as these doubled. Medicare spends about $15,000 on each knee replacement. All of these numbers will only go up as baby boomers get older. Researchers used Medicare data for their study. Medicare patients had 243,802 knee replacements in 2010. There were 93,230 in 1991. Some people needed "revisions," or second surgeries. The number of these procedures doubled, from 9,650 to 19,871. The average hospital stay for knee replacement was cut in half during these two decades. But there were more problems afterward for people who had revision surgeries. They were twice as likely to need a second hospital stay after surgery as patients in 1991. The Journal of the American Medical Association published the study this week. The Associated Press wrote about it.
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