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Health News Round-Up: ‘Genetic Counseling’ to Comprehend Cancer Risks

What Does My Genetic Test Tell Me? Genetic Counseling Can Explain

Recent health news from across the Web: specialized support for genetic testing, a fresh quit-smoking option, hypoglycemia dangers, and more.Genetics can tell us a lot, so long as we understand how to interpret them. In some cases, our genes can make us vulnerable to certain inherited diseases. One such example is breast cancer; mutations in the BRCA gene family are linked to 5-10% of all cases (and up to 15% of ovarian cancer cases). Genetic testing has made it possible to determine whether a person carries a specific mutation. Yet taking such a test — especially if the result is positive — could raise more anxieties than it puts to rest. The specialized field of genetic counseling is one way to fill knowledge gaps and help individuals understand what results they may receive, and what exactly that means for their health and future risk.

A recent study found that of women who elected to undergo testing for BRCA mutations, few were offered genetic counseling. However, those who received the service reported better understanding of their personal results and more satisfaction with the knowledge they gained. As the cost of these tests lowers to more affordable levels and more people may choose to take them as a predictive measure, it may not be feasible for all patients to access genetic counseling (which is covered as a preventive service under the Affordable Care Act). But for some, especially individuals with a strong family history of an inheritable disease, it may be worth requesting more information or asking a doctor or specialist whether genetic counseling before getting tested would be a good idea.

(Genetic counseling is rare among BRCA-tested women; Reuters)

Compassionate Dementia Caregiving and Decision-Making

Huffington Post contributor Marguerite Manteau-Rao asks readers to put themselves in the shoes of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive decline. In five unique scenarios, she explores different sources of physical and psychological pain, some evident (losing things), some not (overwhelming noise). By understanding the root cause of the upset, a caregiver may be able to approach a difficult encounter with more patience and compassion.

(5 Compassion Practices for Dementia Caregivers; Huffington Post)

Also on the Huffington Post, Marie Marley writes candidly about the push-pull of the sensitive decision some caregivers must make: to place a loved one in a skilled care facility. Sometimes, she acknowledges, this may be in the best interest of the loved one’s health and safety. For caregivers of patients with dementia, her reassuring and practical words can help guide a difficult and personal inner dialogue.

(Nursing Home Placement: Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t; Huffington Post)

Nighttime, Daytime — Hypoglycemia Deserves Attention Any Time

In a recent survey, about one-third of diabetes patients did not report to their doctor or clinician when they experienced a nighttime hypoglycemic episode. This common diabetes complication happens when blood sugar levels drop low, and can come with symptoms of trembling, blurry vision, and difficulty concentrating. Patients with diabetes who experience night sweats or disturbed sleep, or wake up extremely tired or with a headache, may be having hypoglycemia overnight. But if you have such an episode, day or night, don’t forget about it just because it passes. Talk to your doctor or clinician about your symptoms and learn how to manage a hypoglycemic episode safely and effectively.

(New research shows that people living with diabetes are not managing night-time hypos: a serious complication of the condition; MNT)

Other News

  • A new drug aimed at controlling the progression of multiple sclerosis has shown remarkable improvements in relapse rates compared with current therapeutics, as well as reduced disability in patients with another version of the condition. Since the new drug’s side effects are not as harsh, this development could open up treatment options for patients with earlier-stage disease, who might not have been good candidates for the older drugs. (Roche drug may set new benchmark in MS, data suggest; Reuters)
  • By helping protect seniors from getting influenza sickness, the flu vaccine also lowers the risk of developing pneumonia as a consequence of flu. Bottom line: get vaccinated! (Flu-associated pneumonia tied to skipped flu vaccine; Reuters)
  • Support is growing for the proposed changes to Medicare billing that would allow physicians to be reimbursed for discussions about advanced care planning. Both professional organizations and surveys of public opinion have shown this favorable trend. (Public Rallies Behind Medicare Payment for End-of-Life Talks; Home Health Care News)
  • The current standard of screening for potential heart attack requires several blood draws over a period of up to 24 hours. This more sensitive method requires just one blood sample and could help get some patients with chest pain out of emergency care more efficiently. (New test helps ER docs rule out a heart attack; Reuters)
  • For a long time, ‘healthcare’ and ‘comparison shopping’ were mutually exclusive concepts. But some services are working to make medical costs more transparent; the phone hotline in this article even works with insurance providers to reimburse patients who choose the more cost-effective option. (Why Most People Don’t Shop Around For Medical Procedures; NPR)
  • Returning to the independence of home from the close oversight of a hospital stay can be an adjustment, and new research supports that feeling adequately prepared for discharge contributes to satisfaction. The growing trend of case management supports this finding; at Residential Home Health, our Transitional Nurse Liaisons help make seamless transitions home. (Patients who feel ready to leave the hospital are more satisfied; Reuters)
  • In a recent study, participants who switched to a cigarette with lower nicotine content actually smoked less. By the end of the study, subjects in the low-nicotine group reported less cravings, and more of them were ready to quit. The researchers are optimistic that stepping down the nicotine level may be a successful new step toward quitting. (Low-nicotine cigarettes may reduce smoking, encourage quitting; Reuters)