Monthly Archives: December 2011

What is liver cancer?

Primary liver cancer is cancer that begins inside the liver. This article focuses on primary liver cancer.

Secondary liver cancer is cancer that starts in another part of the body, such as the bowel, before spreading to the liver.

Liver cancer is the fifth most common type of cancer and the third most common cause of cancer-related death in the world.  The areas of the world that have the highest rates of liver cancer are western and central Africa, southeast Asia, Mongolia and China.  Just over half of all cases of liver cancer occur in China

There are two risk factors for liver cancer that explain this unusual geographical concentration of cases:

  • hepatitis B – a viral infection that is particularly common in certain parts of Africa and Asia
  • aflatoxin – a poisonous substance that can contaminate food and is found in Africa and east Asia

 

Primary liver cancer is a rare but serious type of cancer that mostly affects older people. The initial symptoms of liver cancer are often vague and non-specific. They include:

  • unexplained weight loss
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • vomiting
  • tiredness
  • jaundice – yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes

In many cases, cancer of the liver does not cause noticeable symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage.

 

The liver

The liver is one of the most complex organs in the human body and it performs more than 500 functions. Some of the liver’s most important functions include:

  • digesting proteins and fats
  • removing toxins (poisons) from the body
  • helping to control blood clotting (thickening)
  • releasing bile, a liquid that breaks down fats and aids digestion

Liver cancer is a serious condition because it can disrupt these functions or cause them to fail completely, which could prove fatal.

 

Risk factors for liver cancer include:

 

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

The reason obesity is a risk factor for liver cancer is that over time, high levels of fat in the body can damage the liver, similar to the way in which alcohol damages the liver. The medical term for this type of liver damage is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

People with type 2 diabetes also have a higher risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and liver cancer.

 

Screening

As liver cancer is a relatively rare condition, there is currently no national routine NHS screening programme for it because it would not be an effective use of resources.   However, regular check-ups for liver cancer (known as ‘surveillance’) are recommended for people known to have a high risk of developing the condition, such as those with a confirmed hepatitis C infection or those who have had cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) as a result of alcohol misuse, diabetes or obesity.  If you are in a high-risk group for developing liver cancer, having regular check-ups will help to ensure that the condition is diagnosed early. The earlier that liver cancer is diagnosed, the more effective the treatment is likely to be.

 

Outlook

Generally, the outlook for people with liver cancer is poor. This is because the majority of cases are detected at quite a late stage. However, if a cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, treatment options include:

  • surgical resection – surgery is used to remove a section of liver
  • liver transplant – the liver is replaced with a donor liver
  • radiofrequency ablation – a small electrical current is used to destroy the cancerous cells

However, these curative treatment options may not always be possible even if the cancer is diagnosed early. This is either because the liver is too damaged by scarring (cirrhosis) to survive ablation or resection of the tumor, or the person is not well enough to withstand the effects of a liver transplant.

Currently, only 1 in 10 people is diagnosed for liver cancer at an early stage. In most people who are diagnosed with liver cancer, the cancer has advanced too far to be cured. As a result, only 1 in 5 people live for a least a year after being diagnosed with liver cancer. Just 1 in 20 people live for at least five years.


Understanding Anemia — the Basics

What is anemia?

Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells. These cells are the main transporters of oxygen to organs. If red blood cells are also deficient in hemoglobin, then your body isn’t getting enough oxygen. Symptoms of anemia — like fatigue – occur because organs aren’t getting what they need to function properly.

Anemia is the most common blood condition in the U.S. It affects about 3.5 million Americans. Women and people with chronic illnesses are at increased risk of anemia. Important factors to remember are:

  • Certain forms of anemia are hereditary and infants may be affected from the time of birth.
  • Women in their childbearing years are particularly susceptible to a form of anemia called iron-deficiency anemia because of the blood loss from menstruation and the increased blood supply demands during pregnancy.
  • Seniors also may have a greater risk of developing anemia because of poor diet and other medical conditions.

There are many types of anemia. All are very different in their causes and treatments. Iron-deficiency anemia, the most common type, is very treatable with diet changes and iron supplements. Some forms of anemia — like the anemia that develops during pregnancy — are even considered normal. However, some types of anemia may present lifelong health problems.

What Causes Anemia?

There are more than 400 types of anemia, which are divided into three groups:

  • Anemia caused by blood loss
  • Anemia caused by decreased or faulty red blood cell production
  • Anemia caused by destruction of red blood cells

Anemia Caused by Blood Loss

Red blood cells can be lost through bleeding, which can occur slowly over a long period of time, and can often go undetected. This kind of chronic bleeding commonly results from the following:

  • Gastrointestinal conditions such as ulcers, hemorrhoids, gastritis (inflammation of the stomach), and cancer
  • Use of no steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin ibuprofen
  • Menstruation and childbirth in women, especially if menstrual bleeding is excessive and if there are multiple pregnancies

Anemia Caused by Decreased or Faulty Red Blood Cell Production

The body may produce too few blood cells or the blood cells may not function correctly. In either case, anemia can result. Red blood cells may be faulty or decreased due to abnormal red blood cells or the a lack of minerals and vitamins needed for red blood cells to work properly. Conditions associated with these causes of anemia include the following:

  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Bone marrow and stem cell problems
  • Other health conditions

Sickle cell anemia is an inherited disorder that affects African-Americans. Red blood cells become crescent-shaped because of a genetic defect. They break down rapidly, so oxygen does not get to the body’s organs, causing anemia. The crescent-shaped red blood cells also get stuck in tiny blood vessels, causing pain.

Iron-deficiency anemia occurs because of a lack of the mineral iron in the body. Bone marrow in the center of the bone needs iron to make hemoglobin, the part of the red blood cell that transports oxygen to the body’s organs. Without adequate iron, the body cannot produce enough hemoglobin for red blood cells. The result is iron-deficiency anemia. This type of anemia can be caused by:

  • An iron-poor diet, especially in infants, children, teens, vegans, and vegetarians
  • The metabolic demands of pregnancy and breastfeeding that deplete a woman’s iron stores
  • Menstruation
  • Frequent blood donation
  • Endurance training
  • Digestive conditions such as Crohn’s Disease or surgical removal of part of the stomach or small intestine
  • Certain drugs, foods, and caffeinated drinks

Vitamin-deficiency anemia may occur when vitamin B-12 and folate are deficient. These two vitamins are needed to make red blood cells. Conditions leading to anemia caused by vitamin deficiency include:

  • Megaloblastic anemia: Vitamin B-12 or folate or both are deficient
  • Pernicious anemia: Poor vitamin B-12 absorption caused by conditions such as Crohn’s Disease, an intestinal parasite infection, surgical removal of part of the stomach or intestine, or infection with HIV
  • Dietary deficiency: Eating little or no meat may cause a lack vitamin B-12, while overcooking or eating too few vegetables may cause a folate deficiency
  • Other causes of vitamin deficiency: pregnancy, certain medications, alcohol abuse, intestinal diseases such as tropical sprue and celiac disease

During early pregnancy, sufficient folic acid can prevent the fetus from developing neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Bone marrow and stem cell problems may prevent the body from producing enough red blood cells. Some of the stem cells found in bone marrow develop into red blood cells. If stem cells are too few, defective, or replaced by other cells such as metastatic cancer cells, anemia may result. Anemia resulting from bone marrow or stem cell problems includes:

  • Aplastic anemia occurs when there’s a marked reduction in the number of stem cells or absence of these cells. Aplastic anemia can be inherited, can occur without apparent cause, or can occur when the bone marrow is injured by medications, radiation, chemotherapy, or infection.
  • Thalassemia occurs when the red cells can’t mature and grow properly. Thalassemia is an inherited condition that typically affects people of Mediterranean, African, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian descent. This condition can range in severity from mild to life-threatening; the most severe form is called Cooley’s anemia.
  • Lead exposure is toxic to bone marrow, leading to fewer red blood cells. Lead poisoning occurs in adults from work-related exposure and in children who eat paint chips, for example. Improperly glazed pottery can also taint food and liquids with lead.

Anemia associated with other conditions usually occurs when there are too few hormones necessary for red blood cell production. Conditions causing this type of anemia include the following:

  • Advanced kidney disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Other chronic diseases — examples include cancer, infection, and autoimmune disorders such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis

 

What Is Heart Disease?

The heart is the center of the cardiovascular system. Through the blood vessels, the heart pumps blood to all of the body’s cells. The blood carries oxygen, which the cells need. Cardiovascular disease is a group of problems that occur when the heart and blood vessels aren’t working the way they should.

Here are some of the problems that go along with cardiovascular disease:

  • Arteriosclerosis (say: ar-teer-ee-oh-skluh-row-sus): also called hardening of the arteries, arteriosclerosis means the arteries become thickened and are no longer as flexible.
  • Atherosclerosis (say: ah-thuh-row-skluh-row-sus): a buildup of cholesterol and fat that makes the arteries narrower so less blood can flow through. Those buildups are called plaque.
  • Angina (say: an-jy-nuh): people with angina feel a pain in the chest that means the heart isn’t getting enough blood.
  • Heart attack: when a blood clot or other blockage cuts blood flow to a part of the heart.
  • Stroke: when part of the brain doesn’t get enough blood due to a clot or a burst blood vessel.

How Do You Get Heart Disease?

Heart disease isn’t contagious — you can’t catch it like you can the flu or a cold. Instead, certain things increase a person’s chances of getting cardiovascular disease. Doctors call these things risk factors.

Some of these risk factors a person can’t do anything about, like being older and having other a family history of heart disease. But people do have control over some risk factors — smoking, having high blood pressure, being overweight, and not exercising can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

What Are the Signs of Heart Disease?

Many people do not realize they have cardiovascular disease until they have chest pain, a heart attack, or stroke. These kinds of problems need immediate medical attention.

If it’s not an emergency and a doctor suspects the person could have cardiovascular disease, tests can be performed to find out more about how the heart and blood vessels are working. These tests include:

  • Electrocardiogram (say: eh-lek-tro-kar-dee-uh-gram). This test records the heart’s electrical activity. A doctor puts the patient on a monitor and watches the machine to see the heart beat and determine if it’s normal.
  • Echocardiogram (say: eh-ko-kar-dee-uh-gram). This test uses sound waves to diagnose heart problems. These waves are bounced off the parts of the heart, creating a picture of the heart that is displayed on a monitor.
  • Stress test. For this test, the person exercises while the doctor checks the electrocardiogram machine to see how the heart muscle reacts.
  • Catheterization (say: kah-thuh-tuh-ruh-zay-shun). In this test a long, thin tube is inserted into the patient’s body to inject a special dye, which can show narrowed areas in arteries due to plaque buildup.
  • Carotid (say: kuh-rah-tid) artery scan. This test uses sound waves to check for blockages in the carotid artery, a large blood vessel in the neck that supplies blood to the brain.

Surgeries

If a patient has cardiovascular disease, the doctor will talk about how stopping smoking, losing weight, eating a healthy diet, and getting exercise can help. The person also may need to take medicine, undergo surgery, or both.

There are different surgeries for the heart and blood vessels. These include:

  • Angioplasty (say: an-jee-uh-plas-tee). This opens a blocked vessel by using a balloon-like device at an artery’s narrowest point. The doctor may also insert a stent, which is a tiny, stainless steel tube that props the vessel open and makes sure it stays clear.
  • Atherectomy (say: ah-thuh-rek-tuh-mee). This involves cutting the plaque out of an artery, so blood can flow freely.
  • Bypass surgery. This involves taking part of an artery or vein from another part of the body (like the arm or leg) and using it to channel blood around a blocked area in an artery.
  • Pacemaker implantation. A pacemaker is a small electronic device that’s put inside the body to regulate the heartbeat.
  • Valve replacement. If a heart valve is damaged or isn’t working, a surgeon can replace it.
  • Carotid endarterectomy (say: en-dar-tuh-rek-tuh-me). During this procedure, a surgeon removes plaque deposits from the carotid artery to prevent a stroke.

If someone you know is undergoing one of these procedures, you might be worried. The good news is that these surgeries can help prevent heart attacks, strokes, and other problems. The amount of time the person will need to spend in the hospital may vary, depending on the operation and the person’s health. The person may be tired and worn out after the surgery, but you can help by making a “Get Well” card and paying a visit.

Can Kids Get Heart Disease?

Kids usually don’t have any symptoms of heart and blood vessel problems. But by starting heart-healthy habits right now, kids can reduce the chance they will ever need to worry about cardiovascular disease.

So what should you do? Don’t smoke, for one. And be sure to eat healthy, exercise, and maintain a healthy weight. Your heart and blood vessels will thank you later!

What is Asthma? What Causes Asthma?

Asthma is a disease affecting the airways that carry air to and from your lungs. People who suffer from this chronic condition (long-lasting or recurrent) are said to be asthmatic.

The inside walls of an asthmatic’s airways are swollen or inflamed. This swelling or inflammation makes the airways extremely sensitive to irritations and increases your susceptibility to an allergic reaction.

As inflammation causes the airways to become narrower, less air can pass through them, both to and from the lungs. Symptoms of the narrowing include wheezing (a hissing sound while breathing), chest tightness, breathing problems, and coughing. Asthmatics usually experience these symptoms most frequently during the night and the early morning.

Types of Asthma

Child-Onset Asthma

Asthma that begins during childhood is called child-onset asthma. This type of asthma happens because a child becomes sensitized to common allergens in the environment – most likely due to genetic reasons. The child is atopic – a genetically determined state of hypersensitivity to environmental allergens.

Allergens are any substances that the body will treat as a foreign body, triggering an immune response. These vary widely between individuals and often include animal proteins, fungi, pollen, house-dust mites and some kind of dust. The airway cells are sensitive to particular materials making an asthmatic response more likely if the child is exposed to a certain amount of an allergen.

Adult-Onset Asthma

This term is used when a person develops asthma after reaching 20 years of age. Adult-onset asthma affects women more than men, and it is also much less common than child-onset asthma.

It can also be triggered by some allergic material or an allergy. It is estimated that up to perhaps 50% of adult-onset asthmas are linked to allergies. However, a substantial proportion of adult-onset asthma does not seem to be triggered by exposure to allergen(s); this is called non-allergic adult-onset asthma. This non-allergic type of adult onset asthma is also known as intrinsic asthma. Exposure to a particle or chemical in certain plastics, metals, medications, or wood dust can also be a cause of adult-onset asthma.

Exercise-Induced Asthma

If you cough, wheeze or feel out of breath during or after exercise, you could be suffering from exercise-induced asthma. Obviously, your level of fitness is also a factor – a person who is unfit and runs fast for ten minutes is going to be out of breath. However, if your coughing, wheezing or panting does not make sense, this could be an indication of exercise-induced asthma.

As with other types of asthma, a person with exercise-induced asthma will experience difficulty in getting air in and out of the lungs because of inflammation of the bronchial tubes (airways) and extra mucus.

Some people only experience asthma symptoms during physical exertion. The good news is that with proper treatment, a person who suffers from exercise-induced asthma does not have to limit his/her athletic goals. With proper asthma management, one can exercise as much as desired. Mark Spitz won nine swimming gold medals during the 1972 Olympics and he suffered from exercise-induced asthma.

Eighty percent of people with other types of asthma may have symptoms during exercise, but many people with exercise-induced asthma never have symptoms while they are not physically exerting themselves.

Cough-Induced Asthma

Cough-induced asthma is one of the most difficult asthmas to diagnose. The doctor has to eliminate other possibilities, such as chronic bronchitis, post nasal drip due to hay fever, or sinus disease. In this case the coughing can occur alone, without other asthma-type symptoms being present. The coughing can happen at any time of day or night. If it happens at night it can disrupt sleep.

Occupational Asthma

This type of asthma is triggered by something in the patient’s place of work. Factors such as chemicals, vapors, gases, smoke, dust, fumes, or other particles can trigger asthma. It can also be caused by a virus (flu), molds, animal products, pollen, humidity and temperature. Another trigger may be stress. Occupational asthma tends to occur soon after the patients starts a new job and disappears not long after leaving that job.

Asthma is Incurable

Asthma is an incurable illness. However, with good treatment and management there is no reason why a person with asthma cannot live a normal and active life.

 Asthma Episode / Attack

An asthma episode, or an asthma attack, is when symptoms are worse than usual. They can come on suddenly and can be mild, moderate or severe.

  • The muscles around your airways tighten up, narrowing the airway.
  • Less air is able to flow through the airway.
  • Inflammation of the airways increases, further narrowing the airway.
  • More mucus is produced in the airways, undermining the flow of air even more.

In some asthma attacks, the airways are blocked such that oxygen fails to enter the lungs. This also prevents oxygen from entering the blood stream and traveling to the body’s vital organs. Asthma attacks of this type can be fatal, and the patient may require urgent hospitalization.

Asthma attacks can be mild, moderate, severe and very severe. At onset, an asthma attack does allow enough air to get into the lungs, but it does not let the carbon dioxide leave the lungs at a fast enough rate. Carbon dioxide – poisonous if not expelled – can build up in the lungs during a prolonged attack, lowering the amount of oxygen getting into your bloodstream

What Is High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure rises and falls during the day. When blood pressure stays elevated over time, it is called high blood pressure, or hypertension. Blood pressure is typically recorded as two numbers — the systolic pressure (as the heart beats) over the diastolic pressure (as the heart relaxes between beats). A consistent blood pressure reading of 140/90 mm Hg or higher is considered high blood pressure.

 Systolic blood pressure

Systolic pressure is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart beats. It is shown as the top number in a blood pressure reading. High blood pressure is 140 and higher for systolic pressure. Diastolic pressure does not need to be high for you to have high blood pressure. When that happens, the condition is called “isolated systolic hypertension,” or ISH.

Diastolic blood pressure

Diastolic pressure is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart relaxes between beats. It’s shown as the bottom number in a blood pressure reading.  The diastolic blood pressure has been and remains, especially for younger people, an important hypertension number. The higher the diastolic blood pressure the greater the risk for heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. As people become older, the diastolic pressure will begin to decrease and the systolic blood pressure begins to rise and becomes more important. A rise in systolic blood pressure will also increase the chance for heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure. Your physician will use both the systolic and the diastolic blood pressure to determine your blood pressure category and appropriate prevention and treatment activities.

High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard. It also hardens arterial walls. High blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, the first- and third-leading causes of death for Americans. High blood pressure can also cause other problems, such as heart failure, kidney disease, and blindness.

Causes of High Blood Pressure

The causes of high blood pressure vary. Causes may include narrowing of the arteries, a greater than normal volume of blood, or the heart beating faster or more forcefully than it should. Any of these conditions will cause increased pressure against the artery walls. High blood pressure might also be caused by another medical problem. Most of the time, the cause is not known. Although high blood pressure usually cannot be cured, in most cases it can be prevented and controlled.

How Is Blood Pressure Tested?

Having your blood pressure tested is quick and easy. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and recorded as two numbers systolic pressure “over” diastolic pressure. For example, the doctor or nurse might say “130 over 80” as a blood pressure reading.  Both numbers in a blood pressure reading are important. As we grow older, systolic blood pressure is especially important.

To test your blood pressure, your doctor will use a familiar device with a long name. It is called a sphygmomanometer (pronounced sfig’-mo-ma-nom-e-ter), and may look something like this.

 

 

Effect of high blood Pressure on your Body.

Brain: High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke. Very high pressure can cause a break in a weakened blood vessel, which then bleeds in the brain. This can cause a stroke. If a blood clot blocks one of the narrowed arteries, it can also cause a stroke.

Eyes: High blood pressure can eventually cause blood vessels in the eye to burst or bleed. Vision may become blurred or otherwise impaired and can result in blindness.

Arteries: As people get older, arteries throughout the body “harden,” especially those in the heart, brain, and kidneys. High blood pressure is associated with these “stiffer” arteries. This, in turn, causes the heart and kidneys to work harder.

Kidneys: The kidneys act as filters to rid the body of wastes. Over time, high blood pressure can narrow and thicken the blood vessels of the kidneys. The kidneys filter less fluid, and waste builds up in the blood. The kidneys may fail altogether. When this happens, medical treatment (dialysis) or a kidney transplant may be needed.

Heart Attack: High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack. The arteries bring oxygen-carrying blood to the heart muscle. If the heart cannot get enough oxygen, chest pain, also known as “angina,” can occur. If the flow of blood is blocked, a heart attacks results.

Congestive Heart Failure: High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for congestive heart failure (CHF). CHF is a serious condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to supply the body’s needs.

What You Need To Know About Diabetes


Diabetes is an ailment that affects the body’s ability to produce insulin. This is the hormone produced by the torso, which aids in transforming sugars to energy. Symptoms may include frequent urination, increased appetite, reduction of weight, increased thirst and fatigue. Although such indications are not risky, combination of these indications might imply that a person has diabetes. In addition, if untreated such ailments may become severe and place a person in serious danger of heart failure.

Diabetes Treatment
For many individuals, diabetes treatment remains a mystery. For several decades, men and women had been directly thinking that such disease is not curable; that as soon as the patient is diagnosed with diabetes positively, he or she will be diabetic forever.

Identifying the Diabetes Causes
We have to admit that obesity is one of the diabetes causes ascertained by medical experts and research workers. The technical aspect of too much fat development in the patient’s body, obesity is a severe issue in the United States and other Western nations. Foods incorporating excessive white flour, refined sugar, saturated oil and fat, as well as not much vitamins and fiber can make a person susceptible to obesity development. As fat tissues resist the insulin whenever the torso secretes it, obese individuals are more susceptible to acquiring type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes Symptoms
It is crucial to understand that not all diabetes cases will manifest diabetes symptoms, unless the condition is serious. Some people can manifest early indications. A particular early diabetes indication for instance is low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia.  A person with hypoglycemia will experience hunger, sweating, dizziness and trembling, as the insulin has missed the aimed blood sugar.

Diabetes Diet – What You Should Follow
A diabetic diet ought to be a healthful meal suitable to you own tastes, necessities, level of activity and way of living.   Its objective is to deliver the nourishment and calories a diabetic patient requires while regulating normal blood sugar levels.

Diabetes Type 2
This is the most typical type of diabetes. Diabetes type 2 often affects overweight adults, those with a family history of diabetes, or gestational diabetes in the past. This particular type of diabetes is not induced by the incapability of the body to secrete insulin, but instead through the incapability of the body to utilize the insulin produced efficiently. Symptoms may include nausea, frequent urination, thirstiness, and constant infections, losing weight, fatigue and slow healing of wounds.
Type 1 Diabetes

Often, this type of diabetes is recognized as an autoimmune disorder, a result of the failure of the body to fight infections. Because of this, the body starts to penetrate its own tissues and in this situation, the beta cells within the pancreas that secrete insulin are affected.  In order to survive longer, people suffering from type-1 diabetes must take daily insulin injections. Devoid of daily insulin shots, the patient is at danger of going into insulin shock, which may lead to a diabetic coma.
Diabetes Mellitus
Typically, diabetes mellitus happens whenever the body either fails to secrete to react to insulin. This is the hormone substance within the body which turns blood sugar to energy. In case it fails to manifest, most of the sugar will remain within the blood causing  a condition called hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia can damage the kidneys, as well as cause nerve damage and affect heart vessels.

Identifying Gestational Diabetes 
This is a unique kind of diabetes found only in pregnant women. About 4 percent of all mothers to be suffer from gestational diabetes. The manifestation of this disease begins whenever the body is not ready to process insulin effectively, which can trigger an increased blood sugar level similar to type-2 diabetes. This often transpires during the second trimester and typically vanishes after delivery. If untreated, such disease may affect the mother and the fetus.