Category Archives: Life


Workplace Bullying

BullyThere are many forms of bullying in the workplace, whether it happens to be a co-worker who “forgets” to share important information, a clique that spreads gossip or even a boss who humiliates subordinates. These are all definitions of a hostile work environment that no one should have to be subjected to. Intimidation, threats and sabotage are also more examples of bullying. The worst type of bullying is harassment that has a lasting and profound effect on the target, according to Gary Namie, PhD, co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute and co-author of The Bully-Free Workplace.  All of these are just plain cruel to the bullied employee.

These instances might come in different forms.  If you have a workplace bully, they might focus on a specific target or a group of workers might single out a co-worker.  The more technology available today means that office cyber bullying is on the rise even though it is more often done face-to-face.  This behavior has different reasons for their behavior that might include trying to get ahead at work by sabotaging colleagues in an attempt to control them.  The workplace suffers from productivity, absenteeism and a high turnover of employees.

Those who are bullied end up with stress that can leave them unable to concentrate on their work and will put their jobs at risk.  When an employee suffers psychological distress it is linked to depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They might also have sleep disturbances and in some cases, even thoughts of suicide.  Not only does bullying create a hostile work environment, it’s a serious public health issue.

To deal with the workplace bullying the company policies and training of staff about behaviors that constitute bullying (including sexual harassment) need to be created and implemented. These are suggestions submitted by a 2016 literature review published in the Journal of Psychology Research and Behavior Management.  Even counseling or group therapy should be offered at the workplace.  These victims need to know that they are not alone, did not cause this and help is always available to them.

Some of the statistical numbers of are:

  • 56% of bullies are in positions of authority; just 18% of people who are bullied are bullied by peers.
  • 37 million Americans have been targets of abusive conduct at work.  More than 15 million have witnessed workplace bullying.
  • 60% of workplace bullies are men; 60% of targets of workplace bullying are women.
  • 11% of bullies were punished but kept their jobs; 15% quit or were terminated, per a 2014 study.

If this type of thing is going on in adult populated environments, what does this say for what the children of these people are probably learning at home?  This could be a behavioral problem in my personal opinion that could also affect their own children and their attitudes towards others. I have seen instances of school children being bullied and I have to wonder where the bullies learned this.  At home, naturally!

Dr Fredda Branyon


Life Lessons From The Elders

ElderIn an article I found, 3 centenarians shared their life stories and words of wisdom on longevity. This was especially interesting to me since my father was 100 years old when he passed and my mother was nearing 98.  

They all agreed that a positive attitude, gratitude and appreciation for living is apparent and plays a major role in longevity.  Age is, after all, just a number. This became quite evident when the 3 elderly people were interviewed in the LifeHunters video. They each had their own story. Their birth years are 1915, 1913 and 1914.

Their strength and positivity are apparent, along with a will to live and a continued interest in and curiosity about the world around them.  While times were changing throughout their lives, they kept on living and adapting to the new phases of their lives. It was noted that they each looked far younger than their chronological years and definitely didn’t act their age.  Positive attitudes are undoubtedly to credit for helping them stay young at heart.

The mind has definite power over your body, according to evidence, and these centenarians exemplified this.  Don’t assume your body and mind will fail as you age or it will probably follow suit. Keep positive while challenging and welcoming changes.

None of these centenarians were health nuts, but they each understand the value of eating real food, which was the only option when they were born.  Home-cooked food was all they were offered. Plus the fact that most families raised their own food and many raised their own meat. Reverting back to this traditional way of eating is the best route for health and longevity.

A woman, at 116, revealed her dietary secret as eating three eggs (two of them raw) and raw minced meat daily.  All the others mentioned the importance of variations of intermittent fasting. In Japan, many who live to 100 and beyond believe in eating until you are only 80% full.

More agreed upon traits were having strong positive relationships, fond memories and living in the moment.  They were all able to look back on their life experiences and relationships with appreciation and gratitude.  Research shows that the types of social relationships someone enjoys can actually put them at risk for premature death.  About 50% increased likelihood for survival for participants with stronger social relationships. They expressed that the newness of possessions wears off just as the joy they bring you.  Experiences improve your sense of vitality, and being alive during the experience and when you reflect back on it.

Regardless of their health, they tend to have positive attitudes, optimism and a real zest for life. Their motto seems to be living in the moment, living for the day and having no regrets. They do not dwell on what they have lost but appreciate all the living they have done and have yet to do. Keeping active physically, mentally and socially will help them to stay young and healthy.

Helping others will come back to you hundreds-fold as well as being a lifelong learner.  They sincerely wish they had taken their studies more seriously early on in life. Educations early in life is regarded as a crucial point and correlated with a longer life.

Based on years of data the following is reported for those centenarians at age 70:

  • 37% were overweight
  • 8% were obese
  • 37% were smokers (for an average of 31 years)
  • 44% reported only moderate exercise
  • 20% never exercised at all

However, Israeli physician Nir Barzilai of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York emphasizes you should not disregard the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices.

The words of wisdom from these centenarians are “keep right on to the end of the road.”  Be independent as you can but don’t be reluctant to ask for help when you need it. Behave well to other people and show them respect.  Help them as much as you possible can, and it will be repaid hundred-folds.

It seems to me all the above advice from these centenarians should be valued by those of us approaching this stage of life.  What better advice to take than that experienced by someone who has actually lived it?

Dr Fredda Branyon


Graphene to Detect Cancer Cells


Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have shown that by interfacing brain cells onto graphene, they can differentiate a single hyperactive cancerous cell from a normal cell, pointing the way to developing a simple, noninvasive tool for early cancer diagnosis.  This system is able to detect the level of activity of an interfaced cell, according to Vikas Berry, associate professor and head of chemical engineering at UIC. Berry led the research along with Ankit Mehta, assistant professor of clinical neurosurgery in the UIC College of Medicine.

Graphene is very sensitive to whatever happens on its surface and is the thinnest known material.  The nanomaterial is composed of a single layer of carbon atoms that are linked in a hexagonal chicken-wire pattern.  All of the atoms share a cloud of electron that move freely about the surface. Berry also said that the cell’s interface with graphene then rearranges the charge distribution in the graphene and modifies the energy of atomic vibration as detected by Raman spectroscopy.  She refers this to a powerful workhorse technique that is routinely used to study graphene.

The atomic vibration energy in graphene’s crystal lattice does differ, depending on whether it’s in contact with a cancer cell or a normal cell.  This is because the cancer cell’s hyperactivity leads to a higher negative charge on its surface and the release of more protons.

The electrons in graphene’s electron cloud are pushed away by the electric field around the cell.  This changes the vibration energy of the carbon atoms. Raman mapping with a resolution of 300 nanometers, allowing characterization of the activity of a single cell, can pinpoint this change.

The journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces published the report that looked at cultured human brain cells, compared normal astrocytes to their cancerous counterpart and the highly malignant brain tumor glioblastoma multiforme.  They are now studying the technique in a mouse model of cancer with results that look very promising. Down the road the experiments would be with patient biopsies.

They could use this technique to see if the tumor relapses once a patient has brain tumor surgery.  They would need a cell sample that they could interface with graphene and look to see if cancer cells are still present.  This same technique might also work to differentiate between other types of cells or the activity of cells.

They may be able to use it with bacteria to see if the strain is Gram-positive or Gram-negative and might be able to use it to detect sickle cells.  Berry and other coworkers introduced nanoscale ripples in graphene earlier this year causing it to conduct differently in perpendicular directions, useful for electronics.  The graphene was wrinkled by draping it over a string of rod-shaped bacteria and vacuum-shrinking the germs.

The earlier work was essentially flipped over so that instead of laying graphene on cells, they laid cells on graphene and studied graphene’s atomic vibrations.

Co-authors on the study are Bijentimala Keisham and Phong Nguyen of UIC chemical engineering and Arron Cole of UIC neurosurgery.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Cancer & PTSD

Cancer & PTSD

Heather Miller recently wrote an article on the effect of cancer causing PTSD, that I found interesting and had never thought of before.  It all began when going through radiation and her oncologist asked her to use the moisturizers and soaps that her office provided.  There was a very unique smell of rich emollient oils and flowers in the moisturizer.

She later found a small tube of the moisturizer shoved in the back of her bathroom drawer.  By smelling it again, it sent her back to those last days of active treatment, mainly the irritated skin, the exhaustion and the general feeling that her body had been sucked dry like a raisin.  When the fragrance hit her she wanted to throw the tube out the window.

In the scope of post-traumatic stress disorder this would be a pretty trivial incident and that her experience of cancer treatment was far from being the worst out there.  Someone is always suffering more from cancer, but her instant recognition of that moisturizer fragrance and the fight-or-flight feelings it inspired, were suddenly all too real.

Those affected by PTSD may have a different group of symptoms that may include one or many of the following:

  • Nightmares or flashbacks
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Recurring, unwanted thoughts
  • Avoiding certain situations or people
  • Loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable
  • Strong feelings of guilt, hopelessness or anger

In 1980 PTSD was first recognized as a disorder but in 1994 the diagnosis was applied to cancer patients.  According to the doctors PTSD affects a significant number of cancer survivors.  Nearly 1/3 of Hodgkins lymphoma patients suffered from persistent or worsening PTSD according to a 2011 study.  The study showed that 1 in 5 breast cancer patients had PTSD symptoms 3 months after treatment and parents of childhood cancer survivors may also experience PTSD.

The more the cancer treatment is, the higher the chances are that it may cause PTSD.  Those suffering from PTSD are more likely to avoid recommended follow-up care.  This condition may begin immediately after the traumatic event, or may surface months or even years later.  A combination of psychotherapy, support groups and medication is usually involved in treatment.

Anyone feeling like they may be struggling with PTSD can find help from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America on-line referral service.  The American Psychosocial Oncology Society operates a phone hotline that can provide short-term help: (866-276-7443).  There is a database of 1,000 therapists nationwide with APOS who have experience working with cancer patients and survivors.

Never be ashamed to seek counseling from the above organizations.  There is a lot of help out there for you, so you aren’t alone.

Dr Fredda Branyon


Early Surgery-Risk of Death


Priority should be taken over timing to ensure that patients are healthy enough for surgery and have access to specialists.  Even though delaying surgery after a diagnosis of uterine cancer can increase a woman’s risk of death, operating too soon can be just as detrimental for some.  The Penn Medicine physicians report this information in a new study that was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.  The women in the study who had surgery within the first 2 weeks after diagnosis had a significantly increased risk of death within 5 years, compared with those who had surgery 3 or 4 weeks after their diagnosis.

More than 200,000 cases were investigated and examined in the U.S.  Almost 2/3’s of the 140,078 cases were considered low-risk cancers. Those patients who had surgery in the first or second week after their diagnosis had a 14% increased risk of death within 5 years compared to those who had surgery in week 3 or 4.  The 68,360 women with high-risk cancers jumped to 20%. This suggests that the risk is likely rooted in the delivery of care rather than the cancer itself. Patients undergoing early surgery in both risk groups were more likely to die within 30 days of their operation.  They were also more likely to be black, have advanced stage of the disease, have no insurance or be on Medicaid and receive care at low-volume hospitals.

According to David I. Shalowitz, MD, a fellow in Gynecologic Oncology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania he suspects that physicians diagnosing endometrial cancer may believe that the best thing they can do for those patients is to operate as soon as possible, because the wait could cause the cancer to progress, resulting in a worse outcome.  Their results suggest that pre-surgical care and referring patients to a gynecologic oncologist may be more important.

In 2016 over 60,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with endometrial cancer, or cancer of the lining of the uterus.  As obesity rates rise, this number is expected to grow. According to the National Cancer Institute, being obese increases a woman’s risk of endometrial cancer.  The overall survival rate is 82%.

The researchers also found higher mortality rates in women with low-risk cancers whose surgery took place 8 or more weeks after diagnosis.  Long wait times have been associated with the poorer survival outcomes in breast, rectal and bladder cancers, but past studies of endometrial cancer have produced mixed findings.  Poor access to care, insurance status and pre-existing conditions like heart disease are some factors that could delay surgeries.

As time-to-surgery increased, the 5-year survival rates worsened from 84.5% at 8 weeks to 82.1% at 11 weeks, and to 78.6% at week 15.  They found no increased risk of death for those women with high-risk cancers who had surgery after the third week, suggesting that the type and extent of disease at diagnosis contributes more to survival outcomes than progression of disease during the wait for surgery.

They now suggest that the target interval between diagnosis and treatment should be less than 8 weeks, especially for those women with low-risk cancers.  Wouldn’t it make more sense anyway to be sure the body was healthy and built up by natural homeopathic treatment prior to undergoing surgery? I would think if the body was not in the best possible health, surgery would present as a greater risk.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Father's Day

Notes On The Bathroom Mirror

Father's DayI found a really neat article on a novel well to honor your guy on father’s day. The purpose of the day is to spoil that husband or father, right? Just make sure that your man knows he is special to everyone.  It’s easy for a woman to be honored with gifts, cards, flowers, treats and the like, but a little harder for that man.

Giving him a gadget or a grill is nice, but wouldn’t he feel better if we made him feel the most loved by actually telling him?  Hebrews 10:24 NIV quotes “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…”  Put your feelings into words along with those actions.  Write a personal message on the bathroom mirror where he will see it first thing upon rising.

Some suggestions for 8 days are as follows:

  • Thank him for giving his all at work and at home.
  • Thank him for making sure you have everything that you need.
  • Give him thanks for leading the family in the ways of the Lord.
  • A special thanks for teaching you about Jesus.
  • Thank him for making your home a special place you want to be.  Proverbs 24:3-4 NIV “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”
  • Thank him for showing you how to fight hard and finish well while keeping the faith.
  • A special thank you for helping you to rise up when you fall.
  • Thank him for believing in you and for being your #1 fan.

The job of the father is to model the love and ways of our Heavenly
Father.  Praise him for making an honest effort to recognize the hard work it takes to be a good and Godly dad.

Most of all, give him all the hugs and kisses and “I Love You’s” you can.  Don’t just restrict this to his special day, but remember to carry this forward day after day.  That’s how he will know that you really, truly care and love him whole-heartedly!

Dr Fredda Branyon


Facts for Holistic Care

HolisticWhen you commit to holistic care you are treating the whole person through mind, body and spirit.  A combination of traditional, and what your doctor might call complementary medicine, is the definition of holistic care.  An example might be treating cancer with chemotherapy and acupuncture. Chemo and radiation are proven to fight the disease, but their side effects can be hard to live with. Using holistic treatment as well may help to ease some of these problems while improving your well-being.

Around a third of adults use a treatment outside of the mainstream medicine.  They won’t cure your cancer but they can improve your quality of life. There are also some science-backed ways to relieve side effects.

With acupuncture a trained therapist will insert very fine needles into your skin at specific points.  This may ease your pain and nausea. Receiving radiation for your head or neck cancers can cause dry mouth and mouth pain that acupuncture might help to relieve.

Mind-body techniques are shown through research that your mental state can affect your health.  Meditation, hypnosis and guided imagery are techniques that can help you relax and focus on something besides your pain.  Your medication side effects may also be eased.

Gentle movement and exercise can help to relieve the extreme tiredness and stress, which will help you to sleep better.  A regular exercise program may even help those with cancer to live longer, according to studies.

If you talk with a registered dietitian about the foods you need to prevent or treat nutrition problems, it might manage treatment side effects and help your body fight infection and more.

Holistic care is sometimes confused with alternative care.  Skipping standard treatments is risky and can cause unpleasant and sometimes serious side effects.  When avoiding or delaying mainstream medical treatments, you give the disease more time to grow. However, it seems to me that using alternative medicine prior to using any chemo treatments would be advisable, as it will build your body up first in preparation.  Remember that diets that claim to cure cancer are unproven, expensive and harmful.

Before choosing holistic treatment, be sure to check with your doctor, as he knows your condition and the medications you are taking.  Steer clear of any treatment claiming to cure cancer and if your doctor recommends this treatment. You should ask if this treatment has been proven in human studies and is it widely used, as well as the potential side effects and drug interactions.

Again, it is important to talk with your doctor about trying any holistic methods, as he needs to know what you are putting into your body.  A recommendation from your doctor for a complementary and alternative medicine practitioner might be possible.

Always have a list of questions about holistic treatments that you want to try to your doctor’s appointment to receive some safe choices for you.  Bring all the information concerning the specific treatment you want to try from a medical journal or government sponsored health websites. Get the pros and cons and check out the possible side effects.  Your doctor should be able to advise you which products and practices are based on false or unproven claims.

Dr Fredda Branyon


High BP Meds Block Cancer

Postdoctoral Researcher Guillaume Jacquemet and Academy Professor Johanna Ivaska have screened already approved drugs and discovered that calcium channel blockers can efficiently stop cancer cell invasion in vitro.  These blockers are currently being used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) but their potential use in blocking cancer cell metastases has not been previously reported.

Cancer’s ability to kill is because of its spreading throughout the body and forming metastases.  Developing drugs that can block the ability of these cancer cells to disseminate is a major anti-cancer therapeutic avenue.  It is a very lengthy and expensive process to develop new drugs and many of the promising drugs fail the clinical trials because of unanticipated toxicity and side effects.  Finding some new targets for the drugs already in use to treat other diseases is an emerging area in developing anti-cancer therapies.

Identifying anti-hypertension drugs as potential therapeutics against breast and pancreatic cancer metastasis was a big surprise.  These drugs were not known to be present in cancer cells and no one had considered the possibility that they might be effective against aggressive cancer types.

The research team from the Turku Centre for Biotechnology that is lead by Professor Johanna Ivaska has focused their efforts on understanding how these cancer cells move and invade the surrounding tissue.  The aggressively spreading cancer cells express a protein called Myosin-10, which drives cancer cell motility. These expressing cancers have a large number of structures called filopodia that are sticky finger-like structures.  The cancer cells extend to sense their environment and to navigate.

It was found by the team that calcium channel blockers target specifically these sticky fingers and render them inactive which efficiently blocks the cancer cell movement.  Therefore, it is thought that they might be effective drugs against cancer metastasis. There is much more work required at this stage to assess if these drugs would be efficient against the cancer progression.

The team is currently assessing the efficiency of calcium channel blockers to stop the spreading of breast and pancreatic cancer using pre-clinical models and analyzing patient data.  More information can be found in the Nature Communications journal.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Optimism & Women

Optimism & Women

Optimism & Women

Honor Whitman wrote an interesting article on women and how optimism might boost their longevity.  I thought this was an interesting view and so, so true. How many people look at the glass as half empty rather than half full?  This, in some instances, could be a matter of life or death for some women. The research suggests that women who have a positive outlook on life are less likely to die prematurely than those who are less optimistic.

Eric Kim, co-lead author of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, and colleagues, say that their findings suggest people should look at boosting their optimism as a way to improve their overall health.  Their findings were recently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.  

The definition of optimism is a mental attitude characterized by positive thinking, whereby a person is hopeful and confident that good things will happen.  There are studies that suggest people who are optimistic tend to have better mental and physical health than those who are pessimistic. A negative outlook on life and always expecting the worst, seems to generate the worst.

The University of Illinois conducted research last year and found that optimists were twice as likely to have better heart health than their pessimistic counterparts.  For the study they set out to investigate if having a positive outlook on life might influence the risk of death from various medical conditions. Most medical and public health efforts focus on reducing risk factors for diseases, and evidence has been mounting that enhancing psychological resilience might also make a different.  The findings are suggesting that we should make efforts to boost optimism, which is shown to be associated with healthier behaviors and healthier ways of coping with life challenges.

I have personally seen optimism make life easier for a friend when fighting for her life with pancreatic cancer.  She always looked at the positive side and I am convinced this is what extended her life.

Dr Fredda Branyon



They Don’t Just Taste Great!


Those delicious snacks of nuts are rich in fiber, low in saturated fats and have high levels of antioxidants.  They are probably the most nutritious snacks out there, according to new research, and the benefits are more wide-ranging than we think.  Nuts also contain vitamins and minerals in addition to their various antioxidants and have definitely earned their spot in the “superfood” category.

It has also been shown through research that nut consumption will reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer, as well as the health benefits might extend well beyond these major diseases.  The Imperial College London in the United Kingdom and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Norway researchers analyzed a range of existing studies and tracked down the associations between nuts intake and the risk of various illnesses.  These findings have been published in the journal BMC Medicine, which consisted of a meta-analysis of 29 existing studies from around the world, including Europe, Australia and Asia.

The medical research databases PubMed and Embase were used to search for prospective studies of cardiovascular disease (CVD), total cancer cases, all-cause mortality rates and cause-specific mortality rates in 2016.  About 819,448 participants that included over 12,300 cases of coronary heart disease, more than 18,600 cases of CVD and 18,400 cases of cancer, were included in the analysis. The link between nut consumption and mortality was studied from a variety of causes, such as respiratory disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, infectious disease and kidney disease.  All kinds of tree nuts were included in the research such as hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts and pine nuts, which are actually legumes.

Just that little handful of nuts a day is enough to cut the risk of various diseases and is associated with an overall 22% decrease in the risk of all-cause mortality.  In fact, as little as 20 grams a day (a handful) can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by almost 30%, CVD by 21% and of all cancers by 15%. The risk of respiratory disease was also shown to decrease by 52%.  Eating nuts will also decrease the risk of diabetes by almost 40% and the risk of infectious diseases by 75%. Tree nuts and peanuts both seemed to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, CVD and mortality, but only peanuts reduced the risk of stroke.  A decreased risk of cancer was linked only to tree nuts.

Under the assumption that the observed associations are causal, they estimate that approximately 4.4 million premature deaths in the regions covered, including North and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Western Pacific, may be attributable to a nut intake below 20 grams per day.  

They found a consistent reduction in risk across many of the different diseases, which is a strong indication of underlying relationships between nut consumption and different health outcomes.  Nuts and peanuts are high in fiber, magnesium and polyunsaturated fats are nutrients and are beneficial for cardiovascular disease risks, and can reduce cholesterol levels. Mixed nuts were shown to improve insulin resistance and decrease inflammation in patients with metabolic syndrome.  Nuts can also help fight oxidative stress, possibly reduce cancer risk, and there is some evidence that suggests nuts might actually reduce your risk of obesity over time. Sounds like a winning snack to me!

Dr Fredda Branyon