Category Archives: Cancer

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Body Scan Meditation & Cancer

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Many people turn to stress-reduction techniques like relaxation breathing, guided imagery, meditation, aromatherapy and the body scan meditation practice, because having to deal with cancer is so stressful. Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) and body scan meditation is recommended to be done together by therapists, wellness counselors and stress reduction teachers to help keep muscle tension low, minimize pain signaling, decrease worry and alleviate some fatigue.  However, this may not be the right stress-reduction method for everyone.

Body scan meditation involves the person lying flat on the floor on their back and in a quiet space.  While closing your eyes you focus on breathing in a slow, steady fashion with the voice of a therapist or teacher guiding your attention to parts of your body from your head to your toes.  When you are directed to tighten the muscles of your face and with an exhale of breath slowly releasing the tension, it is the PMR part that comes in to the therapy. You would then tighten the shoulder muscles, bring your shoulders to your ears, exhale your breath, and then release the tension.  You will continue this until reaching the muscles of your feet, curling up your toes, then releasing the tension with an exhale of breath. Progressively tightening and releasing the muscle groups while breathing in a controlled fashion is the goal so that your whole body can become fully relaxed.  This is sometimes called fully relaxing into the ground and is to feel comforting to your body and mind.

If this works for you it’s great, but some people with a cancer diagnosis may find the body scan meditation actually worsens their anxiety.  Stress from cancer originates with the body and by turning your attention to the body, your mind may hyper-focus on every single ache, twinge, tingle or other type of pain.  When this happens, the mind may get trapped into thinking about everything that is wrong with the body and may increase worry about where the cancer cells currently are, or if the cancer will come back to one body part or another.  Having a quiet room might actually magnify the worry about cancer because there are no distractions from thinking about your body that either has, or used to have, cancer.

It is possible to make this relaxation technique of body scan and progressive muscle relaxation work even while dealing with cancer by actively thinking about what is working in your body.  If you can take in a deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth, pull your shoulders down out of your ears, stretch your neck and make circles with your wrists and ankles while exhaling to release the tension in the joints, your body might still be able to use this technique.  Things that your body is still able to do while reminding yourself of that regularly, may be helpful for your mental well-being.

Walking practice, if you are able, is another way to enjoy the relaxation benefits of body scan meditation or PMR.  Take advantage of the wind, birds, trees, grass and squirrels while taking a walk to distract your mind from cancer thoughts.  Just moving the body is a distraction, so pay attention to it from head to toe and think about walking tall with good posture. Notice the movements of your arms and feet as they make contact with the ground.  Breathe slowly with purposeful inhales through your nose and exhale through your mouth.

Stress is not easy to manage when you have cancer and it may take multiple activities to get the benefits you are reaching for.  Just feeling a little less stressed is something worth working for, especially when dealing with cancer.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Drug

Immune System Drugs for Multiple Myeloma

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The immune system takes a real hit with multiple myeloma and makes it much harder to fight infections.  For this reason, your immune system is a focus in many of the mainstream treatments for multiple myeloma.  You might want to consult with your doctor to consider the different immune system drugs out there, what they do and how they work. You may also want to speak to an alternative physician to educate yourself on more natural ways to fight cancer.

Biologics are medicines that believed to help your immune system to control your myeloma. These drugs are made from living organisms and some can boost the immune system to help the body fight the disease.  Some suppress it to do the same thing and yet more destroy cancer cells directly or reduce the side effect of other treatments. We at New Hope Unlimited believe it is best to use your own biologicals to enhance the immune system.  But for the purpose of this article, I am reporting on what mainstream medicine is doing with a lot of synthetic drugs.

There are three medications taken as pills that is said to help your immune system point out and attack cancer cells.  They are also called immunomodulators or immune-modifying drugs.

These three are:

  • Thalidomide (Thalomid) that lowers the blood supply to cancers.  Prior to its use to treat myeloma in the late 1990’s, it was used as a sedative and nausea medication for pregnant women until it was found to cause birth defects.
  • Lenalidomide (Revlimid) is a stronger form of thalidomide and has fewer side effects, but it can still cause numbness, rashes and fatigue that thalidomide does.  They both have a risk of shortness of breath or seizures.
  • Pomalidomide (Pomalyst), the newest drug of this type, which was approved by the FDA for multiple myeloma, is similar to the others.  One big difference is that it has been found to be effect longer.

Common side effects of all three of these drugs include low blood counts, a “pins and needles” feeling or pain in the arms and legs and a higher risk of blood clots that can travel to the lungs from the leg.  There are even more side effects for each drug that your doctor will discuss with you.

Other drugs are:

  • The drug interferon boosts the immune system and encourages healthy cells to move toward the cancer cells to destroy them.  This drug is injected into the skin 2 to 3 times a week and you may feel flu-like symptoms after it’s given to you.
  • Monoclonal Antibodies are man-made and supposed to work on one type of target.  
  • Daratumumab (Darzalex) attaches to multiple myeloma cells and will kill them and signal your immune system to attack them. If one of the other treatments hasn’t worked, you will get this one.  There may be a reaction a few hours after getting the drug such as coughing, wheezing, trouble breathing, runny nose, headache or rash. If any of these happen to you, your doctor may need to adjust your dose or add another medicine with it to lessen or stop your symptom.
  • Elotuzumab (Empliciti) works much in the same way as daratumumab with the same reactions and side effects.  More side effects are weakness or numbness in your hands and feet and respiratory tract infection.

Some biologics are in development in clinical trials.  Your doctor might suggest you join in one of these to try.  They are adoptive T-cell transfers, which use the body’s T cells (white blood cells that help fight disease) to destroy the cancer.  Vaccines would work like more-common vaccines to jump-start the immune system to attack cancer cells.

Wouldn’t there possibly be a natural alternative treatment to build the immune system? Consult with your doctor as to the best drug that will fit for you. There are many options for edications listed above.

Dr Fredda Branyon

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Financial Dangers of Cancer

Money is something that no one likes to talk about and it becomes even more stressful when you’re sick. When cancer comes our way, the financial challenges are too big for us to ignore. Survivors are nearly 3X more likely to file for bankruptcy than those without a cancer history, so it’s important to face our financial considerations up front.

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Those facing cancer are usually so stressed out and fuzzy minded that they find it difficult to work.  After serious thought it might even be wise to consider doing a financial downsizing on your obligations to help you through the days ahead.  Some choices might seem humiliating, but by downsizing it might make your life simpler and even less space to have to deal with keeping clean and updated.  This may not be what you want, but it might help keep you financially afloat until you are able to return to work.

One of the most important things you can do is to anticipate your financial challenges when you learn you have cancer.  Some of the potential issues you will probably face are the need to take at least some time off work. You will still have co-payments even with health insurance, as some things just aren’t covered under most plans.  Those supplements and other complementary treatments that will help with side effects are most likely all out-of-pocket expenses and the experimental treatments that might be suggested aren’t covered by your insurance.

More help might be required for keeping your household going such as walking your dog and help with house cleaning and childcare.  If the facility for your cancer center is far from your home, you will need to factor in travel costs and possibly hotel rooms along with parking at the hospital and/or other places during your stay.

You can look for help at the following places:

  • Some of the big pharmaceutical companies will help with drug costs.  Get paperwork started before you start treatment. Ask the medical team about this right off.
  • Many non-profits are there to help cancer patients where you can get help with housing, transportation, housework, buying wigs, food, exercise coaching and complimentary therapies like massage and yoga.  Ask your medical team what’s available in your area. Use all options available to you.
  • Financial navigation coaches are provided at most large cancer centers that will help you pick your way through the confusing landscape of cancer care.
  • Help with drug costs can be utilized through the Partnership for Prescription Assistance at www.pparx.org.
  • Financial Treatment Project has just begun pilot programs in Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in Washington and Tufts University in Massachusetts.
  • The Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition brings many organizations together than help cancer patients.  Search by zip code to find things near you.
  • The CancerCare Copayment Assistance Foundation at www.cancercarecopay.org helps with co-payments as also groups at www.lls.org/support/financial-support/co-pay-assistance-program and www.healthwellfoundation.org.

If you still hate to talk about money try One Study at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4933128, where it found that cancer patients who filed for bankruptcy had a higher mortality rate than patients who did not.  Face your finances – it’s good for your health! Less stressed is important!

Dr Fredda Branyon

City

Where You Live Affects Dying of Cancer

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There is a new study that finds where you live may determine your likelihood of dying from cancer.  This study of Americans dying from cancers varies dramatically by where they live. It is said that currently lung cancer kills more people in the U.S. than any other cancer and the death rates are also more than 20X higher in some parts of the country than others.  The highest death rate in the nation from lung cancer in 2014 was in Union County, Florida where there were 231 deaths per 100,000 residents. Summit County, Colorado had the lowest death rate with only 11 deaths per 100,000 people. Now, think about it, 2004 was 14 years ago. I’m sure its more than that now since the death rate of cancer has gone up.

There appeared to be similar differences across cancers among more than 3,000 counties and cities in the U.S.  Dr. Ali Mokdad, lead author on the study and Professor of Global Health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle believes that these significant disparities among US counties are unacceptable.  The study,” Trends and patterns of disparities in cancer mortality among US counties, 1980-2014” examined 29 different types of cancers and analyzed the mortality rates and how they have changed. These findings were published in JAMA.

More than 19.5 million Americans died of cancer in the 35 years examined.  The combined national mortality rate from all cancers combined fell by 20%.  However, 160 counties did show increases in all-cancer death rates over the same period, raising questions concerning the access to care, prevention efforts, treatment and other issues.  So the question is, what is causing cancer to be so much more fatal in one part of the country than in other parts?

County level trends in the study included:

  • Liver cancer where mortality increased in nearly every county.  Large increases were also found in California, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico and Texas.
  • Even though fewer Americans now smoke than in previous decades, parts of the South and many rural areas still show high rates of this deadly habit.  High rates of lung cancer were shown in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi and rural Alaska.
  • Most counties had decreases in breast cancer death rates since 1980, but high mortality rates along the Mississippi River had the lowest rates in parts of the West, Midwest and Northeast.
  • High rates of prostate cancer were shown in counties in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia.
  • The highest death rates from kidney cancer were identified along the Mississippi River as well as in Oklahoma and Texas along with certain areas in Alaska and the Dakotas with the larger Native American populations showing rates higher than the national average.

It is Dr. Christopher Murray’s (Director of IHME) belief that state and local health officials and other health policy decision-makers and cancer advocates take note and act on this important evidence to save more lives in their communities.  Five counties with the highest mortality rates from lung cancer in 2014 are Union County in Florida, Powell, Perry, McCreary and Breathitt Counties in Kentucky. Five counties with the lowest mortality rates are Summit, Eagle and Pitkin Counties in Colorado, Cache County in Utah and Presidio County in Texas.  From breast cancer the highest mortality rates were in Madison, Holmes, and Coahoma Counties in Mississippi, and Madison and East Carroll Parish in Louisiana. Five counties with the lowest mortality rates were in Summit, Pitkin and Eagle counties in Colorado, Aleutians East Borough in Alaska and Presidio County in Texas.

Counties with the highest mortality rates from prostate cancer were Madison County in Mississippi, Macon, Wilcox and Perry counties in Alabama and Phillips County in Arkansas.  The lowest mortality rates were in Summit and Pitkin Counties in Colorado, Aleutians East Borough in Alaska, Presidio County in Texas and Noble County in Ohio.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Smart Needles

A smart needle is embedded with a camera to help doctors perform safer brain surgery. The device was developed by the University of Adelaide researchers in South Australia and uses a very tiny camera to identify at-risk blood vessels. The probe is the size of a human hair and uses an infrared light to look through the brain.

The probe uses the Internet of Things to send the information to a computer in real-time that alerts doctors of any abnormalities. The University of Western Australia and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital were in collaboration for the project where a 6-month pilot trial of the smart needle was run.

Robert McLaughlin, research leader and Chair of the University of Adelaide’s Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, said the researchers were also looking at other surgery applications for the device, including minimally invasive surgery. Surgeons previously relied on scans taken prior to surgery to avoid hitting blood vessels but the smart needle was a more accurate method that highlighted their locations in real-time.

There are approximately 256,000 cases of brain cancer a year and about 2.3% of the time you can make a significant impact that could end in a stroke or death. The smart needle would help that as it works sort of like an ultrasound but with light instead. There is also smart software that takes the picture, analyses it and then can determine if what it is seeing is a blood vessel or tissue.

There was a trial at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital that involved 12 patients who were undergoing craniotomies. A needle with a 200-micron wide camera was successfully able to identify blood vessels during the surgery. Professor Christopher Lind said having a needle that could see blood vessels as surgeons proceed through the brain was a medical breakthrough.

This will open the way for safer surgery and allow them to do things they’ve not been able to do before. The smart needle will be ready for formal clinical trials in 2018. According to Professor McLaughlin, they hope manufacturing of the smart needles will begin within five years.

This project was partially funded by the Australian Research Council, the National Health and Medical Research Council and the South Australian Government. It’s only too bad that it takes so long to get something this promising up and operating. Just think of the lives this could save!

Why couldn’t this be used in conjunction with Naturopathic/Alternative treatment to overcome cancer by having that strong immune system?

Dr Fredda Branyon

Unknown Facts About Cancer Can Kill You

Robert Preidt, a HealthDay Reporter, reveals from a new survey that cancer isn’t inevitable, but many don’t know that several lifestyle factors affect their risk of developing the disease. In fact, just 1 in 2 Americans is aware that obesity can raise the risk of cancer and less than half understand that alcohol, inactivity, processed meat, eating lots of red meat and low consumption of fruits and veggies are linked to cancer risks.

There is a crisis in the awareness of cancer prevention, according to Alice Bender, head of nutrition programs at the American Institute for Cancer Research. More of a percentage of Americans believe that stress, fatty diets and other unproven factors are linked with cancer. This information comes from the institute’s 2017 Cancer Risk Awareness Survey.

It’s a real concern that people don’t recognize alcohol and processed meats increase our cancer risk. The established factors that do affect cancer risks are confused with headlines where the research is unclear or inconclusive. Some highlights of the survey findings are:

❖ Fewer than 40% of Americans know that alcohol affects cancer risk.
❖ Only 40% know that processed meats are associated with cancer risk.
❖ 50% of Americans are aware that being overweight spurs cancer risk, which is up
from 35% in 2001.

In the U.S. nearly 1/3 of common cancers could be prevented through diet, weight management and physical activity, which equates to ½ when factors like not smoking and avoiding sun damage are added. Alcohol has been linked to at least six cancers. These include colon, breast, liver and esophageal. Bacon, hot dogs and other processed meats may raise the risk of colon and stomach cancers. Only ½ of Americans know that obesity increases the risk of several cancers and a healthy weight is the second most important way, after NOT smoking, to reduce the cancer risk.

It seems it’s easier to worry about genes or uncontrollable things rather than your everyday choices in preventing cancer. Being physically active, staying a healthy weight and eating a plant-based diet has the potential to prevent hundreds of thousands of cancer cases each year. We all need to do our part in these simple eating habits to combat our cancer risks. Healthy eating each day may not prevent cancer, but it will certainly lessen our risks.

Let’s all do our part in protecting our family with offering the healthy and safe foods while avoiding the previously mentioned cancer causing foods.

–Dr Fredda Branyon

New Cancer Drug Delivery Method

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) from the Florida campus have developed a new drug delivery method that produces strong results in treating cancers in animal models that includes some hard-to-treat solid and liquid tumors. TSRI Associate Professor Christoph Rader led the study, and the article was published online in the journal Cell Chemical Biology.

A class of pharmaceuticals known as antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) includes some of the most promising next-generation antibody therapeutics for cancer. A cytotoxic payload can be delivered in a way that is tumor-selective and 3 of the ADCs have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but are not attached to a defined site on the antibody as yet. They have been working on this technology for some time and it is based on the rarely used natural amino acid selenocysteine that we insert into our antibodies. The engineered antibodies are referred to as selenomabs.

Antibodies are large immune system proteins that recognize unique molecular markers on tumor cells called antigens. Antibodies, on their own, are usually not potent enough to eradicate cancer, but their high specificity for antigens makes them ideal for drug delivery straight to tumor cells.

For the first time it has been shown that selenomab-drug conjugates (ADCs that utilize the unique reactivity of selenocysteine for drug attachment) are highly precise, stable and potent compositions and promise broad utility for cancer therapy. The ADC’s stability is critical to its effectiveness and researchers found that their new ADCs showed excellent stability in human blood in vitro and in circulating blood in animal models. Also, the new ADCs were highly effective against HER2 breast cancer and against multiple myeloma. The ADCs did not harm healthy cells and tissues.

The drug significantly inhibited the growth of an aggressive breast cancer and four of the five mice tested were tumor-free at the end of the experiment which was a full six weeks after their last treatment.

They plan to investigate similar ADCs in the future. Rader and TSRI Professor Ben Shen were awarded $3.3 million from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health to test highly cytotoxic natural products discovered in the Shen lab using selenomabs as drug delivery vehicles.

Both Rader and Li are authors of the study, “Stable and Potent Selenomab-Drug Conjugates” along with several others of the National Cancer Institute and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center. The National Institutes of Health, the Intramural Research Program of the National Cancer Institute, the Lymphoma Research Foundation, the Klorfine Foundation and the Holm Charitable Trust, supported the study.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Calluses & Throat Cancer Relationship

I thought the article I read by Ana Sandoiu was interesting, and one I had never even suspected. We all develop calluses at one time or the other, but some calluses and corns can become severe and very inconvenient. In some rare cases, an extreme thickening of the skin is a symptom of a particular form of esophageal cancer. They are researching the link between foot calluses and cancer in mice and humans.

Putting too much pressure on the skin or subjecting it to excessive friction causes calluses. This thickening of the top layer of skin is our body’s way of protecting that skin underneath. However, some calluses can become severe enough that the hardened skin has to be removed with a razor. It is recommended by the American Podiatric Medical Association that those with diabetes or circulatory problems have their feet checked because the calluses can lead to more serious problems.

Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom has conducted new research that examines the link between keratin (the protein found in the outer layers of the skin that play a key role in forming calluses) and a form of esophageal cancer called tylosis. Tylosis affects more than 8,000 people in the U.K and causes severe thickening of the skin in the hands and feet. Tylosis is associated with an esophageal cancer risk of over 95% and referred to as tylosis with esophageal cancer (TOC).

Esophageal cancer in the U.S. ranks as the 11 th leading cause of death, which equates to almost 16,000 people that are estimated to have died from the disease in 2016. There are other research investigations on the link between tylosis, calluses and esophageal cancer, but this study focuses on a particular gene found to play a crucial role in thickening the skin.

Researchers used genetically modified mice to study the iRHOM2 gene and found it to control keratin expression that is linked to TOC. Some mice had the iRHOM2 gene removed and they developed a much thinner epidermis on their paws, compared to those mice that still had the gene. They also found reduced expression of keratin 16 (K16) in iRHOM2-free mice. K16 is a cytoskeletal scaffolding protein that can be found in abundance at the pressure-bearing points in the footpad of mammals. The K16 levels in humans with TOC were also examined and they found a similarly heightened expression of the protein. It suggests that the iRHOM2 gene does help to regulate K16 in both humans and mice, and that iRHOM2 has been identified as a regulator of K16. This is the first study that demonstrates that iRHOM2 binds to K16 and this interaction increases in TOC patients. Because K16 is highly expressed in disease states such as
epithelial cancers and inflammatory dermatoses, there might be a broader significance for the role of iRHOM2 in the pathophysiology of these disorders that still remains to be explored.

–Dr Fredda Branyon

Benefits of Daily Aspirin

A study led by Cardiff University concludes that stomach bleeds that are caused by aspirin are considerably less serious than the spontaneous bleeds that can occur in people not taking aspirin. The finding that was published in the journal Public Library of Science, with the extensive study of literature, reveals that while the regular use of the drug increases the risk of stomach bleeds by about a half, there is no valid evidence that any of these bleeds are fatal.

It was quoted by Professor Peter Elwood from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, “Although many people use aspirin daily to reduce the risk of health problems such as cancer and heart disease, the wider use of the drug is severally limited because of the side effect of bleeding from the stomach”. Their study shows that there is no increased risk of death from stomach bleeding in people who take regular aspirin and that there will be better confidence in the drug and wider use of it by older people, leading to important reductions in deaths and disablement from heart disease and cancer across the community.

The leading causes of death and disability across the world are from heart disease and cancer. Research has shown that a small daily dose of aspirin can reduce the occurrence of both diseases by about 20-30%.

Research has also shown that low-doses of aspirin given to patients with cancer along with their chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, is an effective additional treatment reducing the deaths of patients with bowel, and possibly other cancers, by a further 15%. This particular recent study was systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials to ascertain fatal gastrointestinal bleeding events attributable to preventive low-dose aspirin: no evidence of increased risk can be found in Public Library of Science.

This type of study provides the strongest evidence for drawing causal conclusions because it draws together all of the best evidence.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Breast Cancer Screening

Breast cancer screening should definitely not be stopped at a specific age, as there is no sufficient evidence to suggest screening should be stopped. The study was co-authored by Dr. Cindy Lee, assistant professor in residence at the University of California-San Francisco, and team. They presented their findings at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting, held in Chicago, IL.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among American women, following skin cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, and more than 40,000 women will die from the disease. Even though these are grim statistics, breast cancer death rates have been falling in the U.S. since the late 1980’s. This is a trend that has been attributed party to earlier detection as a result of the screening.

The gold standard of breast cancer screening is mammography. The technique uses x-rays to identify early signs of breast cancer as calcifications or tumors in breast tissue. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines issued in 2009 recommended that women aged 40-49 and at average risk of breast cancer, should make an individual, informed decision as to whether they undergo mammography, but those aged 50-74 should undergo mammography every 2 years. For those women aged 75 and older there is insufficient evidence to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening mammography according to the USPSTF. However, the American Cancer Society recommends that women aged 56 and older should undergo mammography every 2 years and screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and expected to live 10 more years or longer.

There is a lot of controversy, debate and conversation regarding the different breast cancer screening guidelines among the major national organizations. Randomized and controlled trials assessing mammography outcomes have excluded women aged 75 and older and the data has been based on results of small, observational studies. More than 5.6 million screening programs that took place at 150 facilities across 31 U.S. states between January 2008 and December 2014 were assessed by researchers.

The researchers applied four standard performance measures: cancer detection rate, recall rate (% of mammograms that require follow-up testing), positive predictive value for biopsy recommended and biopsy performed. The team used data from more than 2.5 million women aged 40 and older, then they were divided into age groups by 5-year intervals up to the age of 90.

Positive predictive value represented the number of cancers identified through mammography that resulted in biopsy or recommended biopsy. Higher cancer detection rate, higher PPV2 and PPV3, and lower recall rate reflected an optimal mammography performance.

The team identified an overall mean cancer detection rate of 3.74, a 10% recall rate, a 20% PPV2 rate and a 29% PPV3 rate for every 1,000 patients. They also identified an increase in cancer detection rate and a gradual rise in PPV2 and PPV3 rates and fall in recall rates with increasing age. The evidence for age-based mammography cessation was not provided for ages 75 and 90.

It was concluded that their findings suggest it should be a woman’s individual choice as to whether she wants to cease or continue with the screening at age 75 and older. The benefits of screening after the age of 74 may outweigh the risks, but further investigation is needed.

Dr Fredda Branyon