Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
Influenza cases already are increasing fast in some parts of the country, U.S. health officials said this week. That's about a month earlier than average. A new study published this week found that taking the breast cancer drug tamoxifen longer can reduce death rates. Buckingham Palace announced this week that the Duchess of Cambridge had a recent hospital stay for severe morning sickness. This condition is known as hyperemesis gravidarum.
This Issue: Flu Hitting Hard Early, CDC Says Longer Tamoxifen Use Reduces Breast Cancer Deaths What Is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?
In the News:
Flu Hitting Hard Early, CDC Says
Flu season is gearing up quickly, and it could be worse than usual. That's the report this week from U.S. health officials. Flu cases are above normal in 5 of the nation's 10 regions, they said. The South and Midwest have been especially hard hit, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said. A jump like this usually doesn't occur for another month, the CDC said. Hospital stays related to flu are also higher than average, and two children have died. The strain of influenza that is causing most illness this year is also more severe than average. The last time seasonal flu started this early was in 2003. That turned out to be one of the worst flu seasons in 35 years. The main type of flu that season is the same as what's circulating now, the CDC said. The flu vaccine then was not well matched to the strains that were making people sick. But this season's vaccine is a good match, and there's plenty of it, the CDC said. About one-third of Americans have been vaccinated so far. The CDC is urging everyone else to get their shots soon for the best protection. The Associated Press and USA Today wrote about the CDC announcement.
Longer Tamoxifen Use Reduces Breast Cancer Deaths
Taking a common breast cancer drug longer than usual can further reduce deaths from the disease, a study released this week says. The research focused on a group of 6,846 women with a type of breast cancer that grows in response to the hormone estrogen. When the study began, they already had taken the drug tamoxifen for 5 years, the standard treatment. Tamoxifen blocks the effects of estrogen on breast cancer. It helps to keep the cancer from returning after surgery. In the study, the women were randomly assigned to stick to standard treatment or to take tamoxifen for another 5 years. By the end of the study, cancer had returned in 25% of women who took the drug for 5 years and 21% of those who took it for 10 years. About 12% of the women who extended tamoxifen treatment died of breast cancer, compared with 15% of the women who stopped after 5 years. The Associated Press wrote about the study this week. Study results were presented at a breast cancer conference. The journal Lancet also published them online.
What Is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?
Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, recently had a hospital stay with a severe type of morning sickness. The Associated Press wrote about it this week. The illness is called hyperemesis gravidarum. This form affects only 1 or 2 of every 100 pregnant women. Many pregnant women become nauseous and may vomit during the first trimester. But women with hyperemesis gravidarum have severe nausea and frequent vomiting. They become dehydrated. Their blood levels of sodium and potassium are off balance. This can endanger the woman's health. It also can lead to pregnancy problems, such as a low birthweight baby or a baby born prematurely. For the pregnant woman, treatment often includes a hospital stay. There, she is given intravenous fluids and medicine to reduce nausea.
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