Here are highlights from the February issue of Mayo Clinic Health
Letter. You may cite this publication as often as you wish.
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Molecular Breast Imaging: Better Way to Spot Cancer in Dense Breast
Mayo Clinic researchers have developed a new tool to better identify
tumors in women with dense breast tissue. The February issue of Mayo
Clinic Health Letter covers this technology, called molecular breast
Breasts are a mixture of fatty and dense tissue. About one-half of women
younger than age 50 have breast tissue considered dense on mammogram
images. The same is true for about one-third of women over 50. On a
mammogram, dense tissue and tumors both appear white. Spotting a tumor
in dense tissue has been compared to looking through a frosted glass
MBI offers a clearer picture and detects three times as many cancers in
women with dense breast tissue than traditional mammography does. Like
mammography, MBI requires that the breast be compressed between two
plates. However, MBI needs only about one-third of the pressure used for
a mammogram. Prior to the imaging, a short-lived radioactive tracer is
injected into the womans arm vein. Two 10-minute images are taken of
each breast using gamma radiation. (Radiation levels from MBI are
comparable to the dose thats delivered from one digital screening
mammogram.) If tumor cells are present, they absorb the tracer like a
sponge and illuminate on the image.
MBI supplements — rather than replaces — mammography, which remains an
accurate screening tool in women with non-dense breasts. The Food and
Drug Administration approved MBI as a screening tool in 2010. While MBI
is not widely available at all medical centers, that is expected to
change over the next few years. MBI costs around $600.
Strokes: Recognizing Signs, Controlling Risks
Strokes are the fourth-leading cause of death and the leading cause of
disability in the United States. The February issue of Mayo Clinic
Health Letter includes an eight- page Special Report on stroke,
covering risk factors, prevention, warning signs and treatment options.
Here are some highlights:
What happens: A stroke occurs when the blood supply to parts of the
brain is suddenly altered. Ninety percent of strokes are ischemic
strokes. They occur when the arteries to the brain are narrowed or
blocked, causing severely reduced blood flow. Equally serious, though
less common, are hemorrhagic strokes — occurring when a blood vessel in
the brain bursts or bleeding starts in the artery of the brain. Both
types of strokes can cause brain cells to die or become damaged,
resulting in temporary or permanent changes to the mind and body.
Warning signs: Symptoms may occur suddenly and sometimes last just a
short time. They can occur in different combinations. Traditional
symptoms include numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of the face
or body; difficulty speaking or trouble understanding others; blurred,
decreased or double vision; dizziness, trouble walking or loss of
balance; and rapid onset of a severe headache.
Emergency treatment: The success of treatment depends on promptness. One
of the most effective medications for ischemic stroke must be
administered within 4.5 hours after the stroke begins.
TIAs: A transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a ministroke,
is a brief episode of stroke-like symptoms. Like an ischemic stroke, a
TIA occurs when a clot or plaque blocks blood flow to part of the brain.
The blockage is temporary, and symptoms typically disappear within an
hour. Some symptoms may last a few minutes. But fleeting symptoms should
not be ignored. Its possible to be having a stroke even when symptoms
disappear. Anyone with stroke symptoms should seek emergency care.
Risk factors: Some risk factors cant be changed. Family history plays a
role and so does age. The stroke risk doubles in every decade after age
55. Men are at higher risk than women. American blacks are more likely
to have strokes than other ethnic groups. Unmanaged diabetes, heart
disease and obstructive sleep apnea increase the risk of stroke.
Controllable risk factors include hypertension, unhealthy cholesterol
levels, heavy alcohol use and inactivity.
A second stroke: A stroke survivor is at increased risk for a second
stroke. Within five years, 24 percent of women and 42 percent of men
will have another one.
Prevention: Strokes and recurrent strokes often can be prevented by
reducing risk factors and undergoing preventive treatment. Its wise to
talk with a doctor about personal stroke risks and prevention strategies.
Mayo Clinic Health Letter is an eight-page monthly newsletter of
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