What’s New in Wellness

Breast cancer drugs urged for healthy high-risk women

Should healthy women take drugs to lower their risk of breast cancer? In April, an influential panel of experts said the answer is yes, but only for certain women who are at increased risk because of breast cancer in the family or a personal history of breast lumps or other problems. Two drugs, tamoxifen and raloxifene, can lower the risk, and may be worth taking even though both can have serious adverse effects like blood clots and strokes, the experts said. The panel, the United States Preventive Services Task Force, recommended that for healthy women ages 40 to 70, doctors help assess the odds of breast cancer and offer to prescribe one of the drugs for patients whose risk is above average — but only if their chances of developing blood clots and strokes is low. Because of the adverse effects, the panel also advised that the drugs not be prescribed for women unless they are at increased risk of breast cancer.

Doctors may see these drugs as a rare opportunity to lower the risk of cancer, but some women see them as simply trading one risk for another. Many healthy women, even if they are at increased risk, refuse the drugs, asking why they should take pills to lower the odds of a disease they may never get anyway, especially when the drugs can have dangerous or unpleasant side effects. With pluses and minuses on both sides, the take-home point of this information is to have a serious conversation with your doctor about your level of breast cancer risk.

Natrelle 410 breast implant approved

The newly approved implant is a silicone shell filled with clear silicone gel. The silicone gel is firmer (more cohesive) than Allergan’s previously approved implant. The Natrelle 410 breast implant is available in different shapes and sizes. It is indicated for breast augmentation for women at least 22 years old and for breast reconstruction.

Late-stage breast cancer therapy

A new drug for late-stage breast cancer has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.Genentech’s kadcyla (ado-trastuzumab emtansine) is for use in patients with HER2-positive, late-stage breast cancer who were previously treated with another anti-HER2 drug called herceptin (trastuzmab) and a class of chemotherapy drugs called taxanes, which are commonly used to treat breast cancer. Kadcyla delivers the drug to the cancer site to shrink the tumor, slow disease progression and prolong survival. It is the fourth approved drug that targets the HER2 protein.

Relief for migraine sufferers

In January the FDA approved the zecuity (sumatriptan) skin patch system for adults who have migraines with or without aura. The single-use, battery-powered patch applied to the upper arm or thigh offers relief of migraine-related nausea as well as migraine headaches. Of the 16 million U.S. adults with migraines, 8 million have migraine-related nausea and typically avoid use of oral medications. People considering the patch should talk with their doctor, because conditions such as heart disease or uncontrolled high blood pressure would disqualify them from taking the drug.

New IBS drug

The FDA has approved linzess, a new kind of drug that relieves constipation and pain for some adults with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In drug trials, people with IBS with constipation (a subtype of IBS called IBS-C) had more frequent and better bowel movements and less abdominal pain after taking daily doses of linzess. The drug often began working within the first few days of treatment. Studies of people with chronic constipation (long-term constipation not caused by other conditions) showed that one in five patients returned to normal bowel movements after taking linzess. And on average, chronic constipation patients taking linzess had more frequent bowel movements, less straining and less bloating and discomfort.

Study sees more breast cancer at young age

The incidence of advanced breast cancer among younger women, ages 25 to 39, may have increased slightly over the last three decades, according to a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The actual case numbers were small, but the increase was statistically significant. Researchers said it was worrisome because it involved cancer that had already spread to organs like the liver or lungs by the time it was diagnosed, which greatly diminishes the odds of survival.Some outside experts questioned whether the increase was real because the finding was based on an analysis of statistics and expressed concerns that the report would frighten women needlessly.

For now, the only advice the researchers can offer to young women is to see a doctor quickly if they notice lumps, pain or other changes in the breast and not to assume that they cannot have breast cancer because they are young and healthy, or have no family history of the disease. It’s also important for all women to know whether they have dense breast tissue, which can significantly hamper early diagnosis with mammogram and ultrasound.

Overactive bladder drug for women

The FDA has approved oxytrol for women, the first over-the-counter treatment for overactive bladder in women 18 and older. (It will still be available only in prescription form for men). Oxytrol for women is in the form of a patch and is applied to the skin every four days. You should see it on store shelves this fall. Oxytrol helps relax the overactive bladder muscle that leads to symptoms such as the sudden need to urinate and leaking of urine. Bladder training and pelvic floor exercises are other common treatment options. Most women who develop overactive bladder are 45 to 60 years old. It’s estimated the condition affects more than 20 million American women. Many do not seek professional medical help because of embarrassment. According to the National Association for Continence, those who suffer with bladder problems wait on average seven years before seeking treatment.

New treatment for rheumatoid arthritis

With some 1.5 million Americans suffering from RA, any new treatment option is welcome news. Last fall, the FDA approved Pfizer’s xeljanz (tofacitinib), a first-of-its-kind treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Xeljanz is approved for use by patients not helped by methotrexate, the usual first treatment for RA. It’s a pill taken twice a day. Xeljanz is a type of drug called a Janus kinase or JAK inhibitor. Blocking JAK mutes the inflammation responses responsible for RA. But because it inhibits immune responses, xeljanz adds to a person’s risk of serious infections, cancers and lymphoma. The drug will carry a “black box” warning about these risks. Because xeljanz dampens out-of-control immune responses, it’s also being explored as a treatment for other autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis.

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