POSTS WITH TAG: medical tests

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    Ever since Angelina Jolie bravely declared in the New York Times that she had genetic testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer genes, followed by preventative mastectomy, many women have been left wondering if the actress's path is right for them, too. In fact, Angelina's decisiveness actually left a lot of questions hanging out there. The good news is that it's opened up a whole new conversation between doctors and patients, experts and the general public, about what we should -- and should not -- be doing as individuals to keep the disease at bay.

    The fact is, not every woman should be tested for the BRCA gene mutations. Or, more to the point, genetic counselors believe that only women with certain risk factors should be getting. Here, four reasons the breast cancer gene test isn't for every woman ...

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    Not surprisingly, a lot of people dread going to the doctor. They live in fear of being told they are sick or, even worse, dying. Though one man got news he never expected after seeking medical help for abdominal pains. The 66-year-old man was told he was genetically a woman.

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    All over the country, women are posing for photos with their breasts placed on various objects. This may sound like a post about Kim Kardashian, but I promise it's far from one. These women are putting their clothed breasts on top of counters, benches, and even their pets' heads. This weird trend is called #Mamming, and it's in support of a really worthwhile cause. 

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    Dr. Kristi FunkDuring Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year, there will be a whole new debate on the table. With the "Angelina Jolie effect" inspiring more women than ever to research their options for genetic testing and possibly having preventative mastectomies, some skeptics and pessimists are persistently arguing that the average American woman doesn't have the same options as Angie. That her fame and fortune afforded her access to this special preventative care -- and most of us aren't so lucky.

    Well, now that the identity and details of her breast cancer surgeon have been revealed -- in a profile appearing in this month's Town and Country magazine -- perhaps women who aren't movie stars and who aren't even insured will have a bit more hope ... Because as it turns out, Angelina's doc, Dr. Kristi Funk, isn't only helping the rich and famous keep the disease at bay.

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    It doesn't take much to inspire me to whip out a camera and start snapping photos of my loved ones. There is no need for a special occasion or a big holiday to capture fun family memories. But I recently learned that they can be so much more than that. Those cherished images can actually help your doctors diagnose a serious illness. Check out what to look for:


    Image via NathanReed/Flickr

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    Republicans and Democrats, Democrats and Republicans. Sometimes people's political beliefs are so drastically dissimilar, you'd swear their brains were wired differently or something! Of course that's silly, we're all people and we all ... what? Oh. Never mind. Hey, guess what? Recent research shows there actually may be a connection between politics and the human brain -- and that the "neural maps" of Republicans do in fact differ from those of Democrats. Interesting.

    This new info was released as an update to the President Obama-endorsed "Brain Activity Map Project," a program of brain study which, if successful, is expected to "bring the same level of benefits to health and science research as the human genome project did for genetic research."

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    The name of the disease sounds like just another clinical term: Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis. But the experience of the disease sounds like the premise of a psychological thriller: A healthy young woman has everything going for her -- a promising career, an active social life -- until suddenly, she starts feeling "off." She's moody, she's paranoid; she becomes convinced her apartment is infested with bedbugs and her boyfriend is having an affair ... soon, the seizures and hallucinations begin. Before long she's hospitalized, appearing "possessed, crying or laughing hysterically one moment and turning catatonic the next." Doctors prescribe antipsychotics for what they assume is some form of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

    But Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis isn't a mental illness at all. It's a recently discovered auto immune disease that strikes mostly young women and is decribed as having one's "brain on fire."

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    Would you be angry, insulted, or feel imposed upon if the government made HIV testing mandatory for every citizen? Would you revolt? Or would you acquiesce because you were sure it was all part of an effort to stop the spread of the disease? The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending that every American between the ages of 15 and 65 be tested for the virus. Everybody in that age range, regardless of personal history. 

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    I sit in the doctor’s office in a boxy blue paper gown, waiting. My heart is bouncing in my chest. What I find out today will shape my life for months -- years, even. I’m here to learn more about the breast cancer that wormed its way into my body when I wasn’t looking.

    "Were my margins clear?" I ask the oncologist when he finally appears and explains that he’ll be sending my tumor cells to a lab in California for a test that will measure the chance of a recurrence.

    "We wouldn’t be having this conversation if they weren’t," he says.

    My margins were clear! I sigh in relief.

    A month ago, I would have seen clear margins as a sign of a feeble mind. As a retired college professor, I still find it impossible to read without a pencil. My book margins are littered with notes.

    A month ago, I belonged to the land of the healthy. I was on the giving end of sympathy, a much easier place to be than where I am now. 

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    Now that it's officially Breast Cancer Awareness month, we're sure to be saturated with info about all the different prevention and screening methods for the disease. But it doesn't have to be October for women to get a mammogram. For many, especially women over 40, it's an annual routine exam and, err, well, not exactly the most pleasant one.

    A doctor who specializes in the health needs of women, Dr. Yael Varnardo -- aka Dr. V of -- admits, "There can be actual physical discomfort and mental anxiety that goes into the whole [mammogram] process that winds us up." But thankfully, it is possible to make the exam less annoying. Here, Dr. V shared with us her top tips for a more comfortable mammogram ...

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