PEM, Epilepsy and wine drinking

December 2, 2008 3:32:30 PM PST
There is a new tool for fighting breast cancer, a way to improve the lives of people with an illness that's difficult to treat and a study on what wine could be doing to women. It's all part of our medical trifecta.

First, a recently-presented study was conducted on a high-tech machine that few people have ever heard of. But it may grow in value when screening with mammography is not enough. It's called positron emission mammography, or PEM.

It is a screening tool that every woman over 40, and some younger women, should know well - the mammogram. But for some women with dense breasts, a mammogram does not provide adequately clear images. So MRI's are typically used.

Enter PEM.

A study of 200 patients with breast cancer found PEM can detect breast cancers as small as 2 millimeters and is more effective than an MRI.

PEM is also reported to be easier on patients, according to its manufacturers.

The study was done by researchers at the Center for Breast Care in Boca Raton, Florida, and researchers from the Naviscan, makers of the PEM machine. It was presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

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In another study, Dr. Hyunmi Choi of Columbia University Medical Center compared the long term effects of treating patients with temporal lobe epilepsy with surgery versus medication.

"Epilepsy surgery is underutilized because physicians often consider it as a treatment of last resort," Dr. Choi said.

The findings reported surgery both improved quality and length of life. Scott Harding was one of the patients whose life improved.

"I have my life back," he said. "It is an incredible feeling to be able to control your life, to feel confident that this problem that you experienced is gone."

The findings are reported in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Finally, alcohol can enliven festivities, but too much of it can be dangerous.

Now, a new study says women who drink more than two drinks a day might increase their risk for a heart problem.

More than 35,000 women over age 45 were studied for 12 years.

The research showed that those drinking more than two drinks a day had an almost 3 percent higher rate of atrial fibrillation that those who drank less.

The research was published in the latest Journal of the American Medical Association.

Atrial fibrillation can be a minor heart rhythm problem, but it can also turn serious and lead to strokes. A study from Denmark several years ago showed a modest relation between alcohol consumption and atrial fibrillation in men.


STORY BY: Medical reporter Dr. Jay Adlersberg


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