Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shonky breast tests

"Shonky" is a splendid Australian word that is not fully translatable but is apt in this case. "Fraudulent" goes nearest to its meaning

CANCER specialists warn that private clinics offering unproven breast screening methods as a "safe" alternative to mammograms could be putting women's lives at risk.

Clinics selling botox, liposuction and spray tans are increasingly providing breast cancer screening that uses thermal imaging and "electrical impedance" technology. The methods are being marketed to women as young as 20, with claims they can detect cancer years earlier than mammograms.

Experts say the technologies are not backed by sufficient scientific evidence and those offering the tests often have little medical training. In many cases no doctor's referral is required and there are concerns that potentially life-threatening cancers could go undetected.

The education and research director with the Cancer Council WA, Terry Slevin, said commercially driven breast-check clinics were popping up around Australia.

"There's a prospect of women becoming very confused about what is or isn't proven, valid, scientifically rigorous breast cancer screening and I worry that that will lead to some women being diagnosed with breast cancer at a much more advanced, dangerous stage than might have otherwise been the case if they'd used more reliable technologies," Mr Slevin said.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has already removed two screening devices from its list of registered medical goods, for making unsubstantiated claims. Another two companies using similar products are under investigation but cannot be named for legal reasons.

The Cancer Council and the Australian Medical Association say the industry's "aggressive" advertising is misleading and have written to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission asking them to also take action against clinics.

The letter includes complaints against one centre which, as well as offering spray tans, facials and laser therapy, provides "digital infrared thermal imaging", which it claimed could "improve early detection of breast disease by showing thermal abnormalities present in the body". Unlike a mammogram, in which the breast is compressed between two plates and an X-ray taken, a thermogram does not require contact with the imaging machine.

A spokeswoman for the Therapeutic Goods Administration said mammography was the only breast examination technique that had been supported by objective, randomised clinical trials.


Broccoli could provide potent pill to treat six million osteoarthritis sufferers

This is total speculation so far -- another example of trying to show that anything unpleasant is good for you and anything popular is bad for you. It's so predictable

Broccoli has been hailed by scientists as a 'super food' for joints which could cure millions of arthritis sufferers. The green vegetable is rich in the compound sulforaphane and initial research has suggested this may play a key role in protecting bones and joints and stop them from wasting away.

Scientists at the University of East Anglia have found the chemical blocks the enzymes that cause joint destruction in osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of arthritis. The team are now launching a new project that they hope will lead to a new broccoli-based treatment for Britain's six million arthritis sufferers.

Professor Ian Clark said: 'We all know broccoli is good for you but this is the first time it has been linked to a osteoarthritis. 'We know there is a chemical, sulforaphane, in broccoli that can slow down cartilage destruction and we want to see if this can actually get into the joints and stop the progress of the condition.

'The UK has an aging population and developing new strategies for combating age-related diseases such as osteoarthritis is vital - to improve the quality of life for sufferers but also to reduce the economic burden on society.'

Around 30 patients will be fed the cruciferous vegetable ahead of joint replacement operations. They will then be examined after their surgery to see if sulforaphane has successfully entered their joints. If the test is found to be effective then more patients will be recruited for a larger clinical trial.

Professor Clark said: 'The results could mean we prevent many, many more needing to go for surgery because progress of the disease will either be slowed down or completely halted. It really is a breakthrough project.' Currently, people suffering from arthritis can only choose between short-term pain relief or joint replacement operations.

Arthritis Research UK and the Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC), is funding the £650,000 project.

Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of disability in the UK where it affects around six million people. It is a degenerative joint disease which gradually destroys the cartilage in the joints, particularly in the hands, feet, spine, hips and knees of older people.

Broccoli has previously been linked with reducing the risk of cancer and is regarded as a 'super food'. However, there has not yet been a major study of its effects on joint health.


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