Cancer Society Urges Women: Get Mammograms and MRIs
The American Cancer Society has issued a new guideline for up to 1.4 million American women with an unusually high risk of developing breast cancer: get annual magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) done as well as yearly mammograms. The same goes for women who are also newly diagnosed with breast cancer, because the scan can reveal cancers in the opposite breast that an ordinary mammogram can miss.
The guidelines are directed at women without symptoms of the disease, aged =30 years, who have a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, were treated for Hodgkin?s disease, or have a strong family history of cancer (2 or more close relatives who had breast or ovarian cancer, or a close relative who contracted breast cancer before age 50).
MRIs are better at showing increased or abnormal blood flow in the breast, an early sign of cancer that mammograms cannot detect. The tests are also recommended for women with dense, nonfatty breasts. A common deterrent to the test is the cost; although many insurance companies cover MRIs, not all do. The hope is that, with these new recommendations, more insurers will cover the procedure.
Elective C-sections Hazardous for Moms, Study Finds
A new study from the Boston University School of Public Health showed that women who opt for cesarean sections (C-sections) without a medical reason run the risk of longer hospital stays, higher medical costs, and a greater chance of rehospitalization within 30 days of delivery, compared with women who deliver vaginally. The findings were published in the March 2007 issue of
Obstetrics & Gynecology.
The researchers studied a database that linked birth certificates with hospital records from 1998 to 2003. They chose 244,088 healthy women with no prior history of C-sections and no documented prenatal risk. The women were divided into 2 groups: 3334 had planned C-sections performed without a medical reason, and 240,754 had planned vaginal births; of the larger group, 20,916 resulted in unplanned C-sections during labor.
The researchers found that women who opted for C-sections without a medical reason who did not experience labor remained in the hospital 77% longer than women who delivered vaginally.
The overall medical costs for these women were also 76% higher, and they were 2.3 times more likely to return to the hospital in less than a month for wound complications or major systemic infections.
Calcium + Vitamin D = Less Weight Gain
Postmenopausal women who take calcium and vitamin D supplements have been shown to gain less weight than women who do not. A study conducted by Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland found that the effect was greater in women who had not been taking adequate amounts of calcium prior to taking the supplements. Researchers studied 36,282 postmenopausal women (aged 50-79 years) who were enrolled in the Women?s Health Initiative. These women were randomly assigned to receive either 1000 mg of calcium plus 400 international units of vitamin D or a placebo each day. Their weight was measured every year for 7 years.
After 3 years, women taking the supplements had a lower risk of gaining weight in both small (2.2-6.6-lb) and moderate (>6.6-lb) amounts, and they also had a higher likelihood of maintaining a stable weight (within 2.2 lb of their starting weight) or losing weight (>2.2 lb). At the end of the study, women who took the supplements weighed an average of 0.28 lb less than those who did not. The findings were reported in the May 14, 2007, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Iron Helps Improve Women?s Brainpower
A new study from Pennsylvania State University found that women with iron deficiencies, even moderate, can have trouble learning and remembering, compared with women with sufficient iron levels. Iron is essential for oxygenating cells throughout the body, and iron deficits have been linked to impaired brain development and learning in babies and children.
Women of childbearing age, however, are also at risk of having low iron levels. The findings were published in the March 2007 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. For the study, the researchers studied 113 women aged 18 to 35 years, 42 of whom had sufficient iron levels; the remainder had either iron deficiency or overt anemia. The participants were given standard tests of memory, attention, and learning. It was shown that the women with even moderate iron efficiencies scored lower on the tests; anemic women had the lowest scores.
The women were then randomly assigned to take either iron supplements or placebos for 16 weeks, after which they took similar cognitive tests. The women whose iron levels rose significantly also showed greater improvements in their test scores. The researchers said the results indicate a need for improved detection of people at risk for cognitive deficits due to iron deficiency.