This Week in Health: Chemo after breast cancer could affect employment

Chemotherapy cancer treatment
Women who receive chemo for breast cancer are less likely to be working four years later.
Credit: Thinkstock

Chemo for breast cancer could affect employment

Study subjects: Over 2,000 women from LA and Detroit who were diagnosed with nonmetastatic breast cancer

Location of study: U.S.

Results: Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System have found an association between chemotherapy and unemployment. In a recent study, women with early-stage breast cancer who received chemo as part of their initial treatment were less likely to be working after four years. Of the more than 1,000 women who were under the age of 65 and did not experience cancer recurrence, three-quarters were working at the time of diagnosis. However, 30 percent were no longer working four years later.

Significance: Researchers say that lingering effects from chemotherapy, like long-term nerve damage, may make it harder for some women to return to work. “Or it may be that in the current economy, it’s really hard to keep your job or get it back after you’ve missed a lot of work or stopped working during treatment,” said Dr. Reshma Jagsi, an associate professor at the University of Michigan Health System. She added that the findings support efforts to identify patients who can safely avoid chemotherapy.

Chili pepper extract provides migraine relief

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: 18 headache sufferers

Results: Capsaicin, the chili pepper extract that gives the plant its heat, was shown in a recent study to significantly improve migraines. When participants were asked to use capsaicin intranasally to treat their migraines without using any other medications, nearly three-quarters experienced complete relief. The majority of others reported at least some improvement in pain. “When we gave this nasal spray to patients, what was amazing was that two out of three patients reported relief in less than three minutes,” said neurologist and migraine expert Dr. Anjan Chatterjee.

Significance: Capsaicin works by desensitizing the trigeminal nerve, which supplies the blood vessels that become enlarged and enflamed during a headache. It does not change the natural course of the headache, but blocks the sensation of pain. The only downside of the nasal spray (called Ausanil) is stinging in the nose that lasts anywhere from two to 10 minutes. Even so, 17 of the 18 study participants said it wasn’t enough to keep them from using the product again.

Aggressive prostate cancer and vitamin D deficiency

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: 667 men aged 40 to 79 who’d had abnormal prostate exam results

Results: Vitamin D deficiency was found to be an indicator of aggressive prostate cancer among men in a recent study. All of the men included in the research were prompted to undergo their first prostate biopsy due to abnormal prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests and/or digital rectal exams (DRE). Researchers say that men with low levels of the vitamin were significantly more likely to either have fast-spreading prostate cancer or stage two tumors. Another key finding was that African American men were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer if they had low vitamin D levels.

Significance: “Vitamin D deficiency seems to be important for general wellness and may be involved in the formation or progression of several human cancers,” Dr. Adam B. Murphy, an assistant professor in the Department of Urology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement. According to Murphy, it would be wise to be screened for vitamin D deficiency and treated. Researchers say that skin color determines cumulative vitamin D levels from sun exposure, which may help partly explain why African American men appear to be at higher risk.

Rates of maternal deaths in childbirth go up in US

Location of study: Worldwide

Results: On a global level, both child and maternal deaths during childbirth are on a sharp decline. However, maternal death rates in the U.S. are increasing at a startling rate. In a recent study, the United States was among eight countries that actually exhibited a spike in maternal deaths. According to a Washington Post report, roughly 18.5 percent of U.S. mothers died for every 100,000 births in 2013. This translates to nearly 800 fatalities.

Significance: The research shows that maternal education and income growth have significantly reduced child deaths worldwide. Researchers say that for each additional year of school that mothers complete, child deaths drop by over 8 percent. Vaccines and other drug innovations also seem to play an important role. But the reasons for the increased maternal death rate in the U.S. are unclear to researchers.

 Content provided by ZipTrials, a trusted source for the most up-to-date medical news and trending health stories.


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