Silent Health Threats

Battling Breast Cancer Together
Barbara and Mike have been married for 41 years. A year ago, Barbara, 63, was told she had stage one breast cancer. While she was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, Mike felt a lump on his chest.

Prostate Cancer Treatment

High-intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, is the latest in prostate cancer treatment. Urologist Dr. Robert Pugach describes the minimally invasive procedure.

"I went out, and got in the car and put my seat belt on," Mike says. "It was a little uncomfortable. I didn't think a whole lot about it. A couple weeks after that, I was in to see my doctor. He wrote me two orders, and the one that really got to me was that he wrote me one for a mammogram. I understand what women go through now."

Mike was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. Because the cancer was so advanced, he underwent a modified radical mastectomy to remove his entire right breast and surrounding tissues.

"I've been told that the odds of both of us having breast cancer at the same time, on the same side, were astronomical," Mike says.

Oncologist Dr. Lawrence Piro explains that the odds for a woman getting breast cancer are about one in eight, while the odds for a man developing the disease are about one in 1,000. "So the odds of the two of them having breast cancer are about one in 8,000."

Women are advised to check their breasts for lumps or abnormalities regularly, and men should do the same. "One can never go wrong by being familiar with one's body and detecting changes," Dr. Piro says.

Dr. Piro demonstrates how to perform a self-breast exam with the help of the Plexus Pink Breast Chek Kit.

Produce The Doctors: Long QT Syndrome
For years, Jan was misdiagnosed with having panic attacks and epilepsy. After suffering blackouts, a massive seizure and cardiac arrest, doctors determined she had long QT syndrome, a heart rhythm disorder that can cause fast, chaotic heartbeats.

On, Jan asked The Doctors to discuss long QT syndrome.

Symptoms of long QT syndrome include fainting, seizures and episodes that can mimic panic attacks. In some cases, it can lead to sudden death. The Doctors and cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Kathy Magliato explain long QT syndrome and treatments available for the disorder.

Acid Reflux

• Do you notice that you develop acid reflux when you eat certain foods? Gastrointestinal surgeon Dr. Kevin Reavis explains why this happens and reveals a new treatment for the problem.

Dr. Travis explains what causes gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and how to prevent it.

More on acid reflux disease.

When is a Cyst Serious?
When 14-year-old Austin began having serious headaches and nausea three years ago, he and his mother, Jennifer, thought it was a sinus infection.

Antibiotics did not help the symptoms, and a CT scan showed Austin had an arachnoid cyst on his brainstem. Arachnoid cysts are sacs filled with cerebrospinal fluid that develop on the arachnoid membrane, which is one of the three membranes that cover the brain. The cyst is a benign legion but can cause symptoms if it develops and grows too large in a location such as the brainstem. They develop in about four percent of the population, but only 20 percent of the cysts are symptomatic. Symptoms are determined by the location of the legion and can include headaches, nausea, seizures, vision problems and an excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain.

Skull base surgeon Dr. Hrayr Shahinian explains that he oftentimes will monitor arachnoid cysts to see if symptoms go away. Over time, however, Austin's symptoms worsened, and Dr. Shahinian decided to operate and remove the cyst.

Dr. Shahinian uses an animation to illustrate how he removes the cyst from the brainstem. Austin, Jennifer and Dr. Shahinian join The Doctors to reveal how the teen is doing just three months after surgery.

Test for Stroke Risk
Jessica, 24, has a family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, migraines and strokes, and both her mother and grandmother died of brain aneurisms. She asks The Doctors if there is a simple test to see if she is at risk for a heart attack or stroke.

"The people who are at risk for stroke are the same group of people at risk for heart disease and the same group of people at risk for peripheral vascular disease," says Dr. Magliato.

Among those who are at risk for stroke, heart disease and peripheral vascular disease are people who are overweight, smoke or have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Dr. Magliato and Sue, a Doppler technician from West Coast Ultrasound, perform a non-invasive ankle brachial index test on Jessica to determine her risk for peripheral vascular disease.

"[The test is] inexpensive, non-invasive and can be done in a doctor's office or in a vascular lab," Dr. Magliato says.

Can Marijuana Cure Cancer?
Studies have shown that in the laboratory chemicals in cannabis have been found to halt the growth of prostate cancer cells. In another study, researchers found that long-term marijuana smokers were 62 percent less likely to develop head and neck cancers than those who did not smoke the drug.

"There's been a lot of interest in this for a long time," Dr. Piro says. "And there are actually some chemicals called cannabinoids, and specifically a lipid molecule — a fat molecule — that appears to have some anti-cancer effects in the laboratory. There are some intriguing findings in people [about head and neck cancers], but let's remember that it's definitively shown now that excessive smoking in young men causes testicular cancer, and there is a possible link with causing bladder cancer. So the answer to this isn't to smoke and think that you won't have cancer. The answer is to study it further in the laboratory."

Dr. Piro says that the cancer-fighting chemicals and molecules could be made into a drug, possibly given intravenously, to battle cancer.

"Most of the common chemotherapy drugs come from plants," Dr. Piro continues. "I'd say the story with cancer [and cannabis] is it's intriguing, it's interesting, it needs more study in the laboratory. But it doesn't mean to go out and smoke."

"We do know it causes some cancers," E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork says. "So be careful."

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OAD 12/3/09