Stories We're Following this Week

News + Insights from around the Web + The Patient's Playbook Bottom Line. 

They’re Larger. They live longer. So, Why Don’t Elephants Get Cancer More?



“Every baby elephant should be dropping dead of colon cancer at age 3.”

—Dr. Joshua D. Schiffman, co-author of a study in JAMA, which found that elephants
are exceptional cancer fighters (NYT)

Bottom Line: Evolutionary medicine continues to provide great insights into the war on cancer. When researchers studied the deaths of 644 elephants in zoos, less than 5% had succumbed to cancer. But for humans, 11% to 25% of us will die of cancer even though we weigh less and live shorter lives than these magnificient animals. The clue may be in our commonly shared TP53 gene, which plays a cancer-fighting role. Humans have only one copy of TP53, but elephants have evolved to the point where they have an entire arsenal.

This Doctor Wants to Prescribe Better Food for Everyone

Molly Maloof, National Geographic

Molly Maloof, National Geographic

“I actually think that there should be a six-hour workday. People should be given an hour to exercise and work and 20 minutes to meditate. And they should have that extra time to spend with their families and cook.”

—Dr. Molly Maloof, a health-optimization consultant, on her vision of the future (National Geographic)

Bottom line: Until the day comes when our DNA can be decoded and analyzed for maximum health potential, the best route to maintaining wellness is pretty simple: eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods, get plenty of exercise, manage your stress levels, make smart lifestyle choices, and develop a bond with a caring internist who gets you in for exams and early-detection and preventive measures such as mammography, colonoscopy, and PSA tests.

How To Talk To Your Child About Cancer



"We teach our children how to be honest, we teach them the importance of being authentic to their true self. How authentic would I be if I hid my illness from my daughter?"

— Maimah Karmo, founder of Tigerlily Foundation, who had initially been urged by family and friends to not share her breast cancer diagnosis with her 3-year-old daughter (U.S. News & World Report)

Bottom line: Talking about any serious diagnosis can be daunting, but it’s especially fraught when you’re sharing the news with young children. Karmo offers sound advice and practical tips that can help. 

Do You Really Have High Blood Pressure, or is it "White-Coat Hypertension"?



“An estimated 15% to 30% of people who have high blood pressure at the doctor may have normal or only slightly elevated readings otherwise.”

NBC News reports on “white-coat hypertension”

Bottom line: Many people experience elevated blood pressure when they are stressed, caffeinated, or simply in the presence of physicians—what's known as "white-coat hypertension." The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends that if you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension, you should confirm your diagnosis with an at-home test before starting treatment.

For Back pain: Physical therapy May not Be as effective as time



“We do real potential harm to patients when we accelerate them down a pathway too rapidly and that can end in expensive, invasive procedures." 

—Dr. Julie Fritz, lead author of a recent study in JAMA, which concluded that, for patients with
lower back pain, time is often the best treatment (NPR)

Bottom line: As with the majority of conditions, you always need to think carefully about the correct intensity and timing of treatment. For back pain, you typically want to move slowly through various approaches to alleviate distress, first trying rest, then physical therapy, and then maybe steroidal injections to see if the pain subsides. You’d resort to surgery last, and only if absolutely necessary. For help on getting to the No-Mistake Zone in medicine, no matter the diagnosis, read "Chapter 11: Step 3—Treatment" in The Patient's Playbook.

What We Can learn from The Heartbreaking Loss of Caleb Bratayley

Thirteen-year-old YouTube star Caleb Logan Bratayley died unexpectedly, on October 1, from an undiagnosed heart condition, leaving his fans stunned. Caleb's family told Good Morning America that the family has a history of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a serious heart condition that can result in abnormal heart rhythms. 

Bottom line: October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month, and Lisa Yue, founder and executive director of the Children's Cardiomyopathy Foundation, provides tips at the Huffington Post on what parents can do to learn about their own family's risk, including signs and symptoms to watch for.