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Health Headlines - August 16

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:24pm
NFL Players Take a Pill to Track Heatstroke

A pill that measures core body temperature as it passes through the digestive system has become the newest protective device for some of the NFL's most massive players.

The Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles are using the device to gauge the effect of suffocating heat on huge athletes going through intense August workouts in pads and a helmet, the Associated Press reports.

Without the pill, monitoring is anything but an exact science. Four years ago, the Vikings' 335-pound right tackle Korey Stringer died of heat stroke 15 hours after practice, his body temperature over 108 degrees. His trainers said he had shown no signs of overheating on the field.

Now, a player takes the pill, which costs around $30 each, every day before practice. Team trainers come up behind him periodically throughout the day and hold an electronic sensor close to his back. The pill transmits a core temperature reading and allows trainers to decide when the player needs to pull back and cool down.

The device, know as the Core Temp Ingestible Core Body Temperature Sensor, was developed in the late 1980s by HQ Inc., of Palmetto, Fla., as a research tool used for a number of projects, including monitoring how certain pharmaceutical drugs affect the body's core temperature.

The pill has evolved in the past couple of years or so into a protective device for athletes -- in football, tennis, running and other sports -- who train in intense heat, according to marketing director Susan Smith.

Lung Cancer Test Focus of a Controversy

A simple, painless test that can spot lung cancer, the world's deadliest cancer, when it is smaller than a pea has taken center stage in a rapidly growing controversy.

Current and former smokers are rushing to get the special kind of X-ray that some physicians are urging for lung cancer detection but which has not yet conclusively been shown to save lives.

But the federal government, the American Cancer Society and a raft of cancer specialists say those most at risk should wait for the results of a huge federal study on the test, called a spiral or helical CT scan. Answers may come as soon as next year, according to an Associated Press report.

The rush was triggered by last week's lung cancer deaths of ABC newsman Peter Jennings and "Dallas" star Barbara Bel Geddes, and the news that Christopher Reeve's widow Dana Reeve has lung cancer.

No one disputes that the test detects lung abnormalities as small as 5 millimeters (less than a fifth of an inch). The dispute is over whether that's a good thing.

For every cancer these scans detect, many more "false positives" occur -- harmless bumps and lumps leading to painful, expensive and unnecessary biopsies and surgeries. Complications can include lung collapse, bleeding and infection.

"The concern that we have is false positive rates," which range from 25 percent to as high as 60 percent, said Tom Glynn, the America Cancer Society's director of science and trends. "What we don't want to do is create even more anxiety" by backing a test that is so imprecise, he told the AP.

Screening proponents say there's no mystery about how deadly the disease is, and that survival improves the sooner it is detected. About 172,570 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year and 163,510 will die of it, AP reports.

EPA Releasing New Pesticide-Testing Rules

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is set to release its first-ever rules governing how pesticide makers can test their toxic products if the testing involves exposure to people, the Washington Post reported.

The newspaper said it had obtained the rules -- to be released to the public in a matter of weeks -- from an environmental advocacy group. Some lawmakers and medical experts are criticizing the proposals for the very idea that people are exposed to the tests at all, the Post said. Specifically, critics said the rules failed to adequately protect children and pregnant women.

The proposals, to take effect in six months after the public has a chance to comment, would include creation of an independent board to gauge whether each set of tests met established ethical standards. The rules wouldn't apply to testing conducted before the guidelines became law, the Post said.

An EPA spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said the agency was in favor of letting pesticide makers test products such as mosquito and tick repellants on pregnant women and children, the newspaper said.

For many years, the federal government allowed manufacturers to conduct pesticide studies on people. A moratorium on the practice was imposed in 1998 by President Bill Clinton, who said such studies could harm volunteers. The Bush administration, which initially supported the moratorium, abandoned it in 2003 to satisfy a court ruling in favor of pesticide makers, the Post said.

Ga. Doctor Accused of Aiding Flesh-Eating Treatment

A Georgia doctor has been accused of helping an unlicensed practitioner who allegedly treats cancer patients with a flesh-eating herbal paste that causes horrible disfigurements.

The state's board of medical examiners has accused Lois March, an ear, nose and throat specialist , of aiding and abetting Dan Raber's practice over the last three years by providing pain medication to patients who had received the treatments, the Associated Press reported. One patient's flesh was eaten so badly from his shoulder that the bone was exposed.

Raber is under investigation and could face a felony charge of practicing medicine without a license. Raber claims on his Web site to offer a paste made with bloodroot that dissolves cancerous tissue, and when used in conjunction with his enzyme tablets, can eliminate cancer from the body. His Web site advises those considering his treatments to arrange for pain management through a licensed physician.

The medical board said that seven patients had sought treatment from Raber for breast cancer and that March knew or should have known that use of the paste "mutilated their breasts and caused excruciating pain."

"All I can tell you is I'm not guilty," March said when reached by telephone at her office. "These are wild accusations that aren't true."

Health Tip: If Your Child Has a Seizure

Children have seizures for reasons ranging from high fevers to underlying medical conditions.

While they can be terrifying, seizures usually last only a few minutes, according to The Nemours Foundation.

If your child has a seizure, here's what to do:

Gently place your child on the floor and remove any nearby objects.
Loosen clothing around his or her head or neck.
Don't try to prevent the shaking.
Don't put anything in your child's mouth.
Roll your child onto his side. If he vomits, keep him on his side and clear his mouth out with your finger.
Don't give your child anything to drink until he is fully alert.
Call the doctor immediately.

Seek emergency medical care if your child:

Has a seizure lasting more than five minutes.
Has difficulty breathing.
Turns a bluish color on the lips, tongue, or face.
Falls or hits his or her head during a seizure.

Health Tip: Preventing Canker Sores

If you're prone to canker sores, you can ease the pain and help prevent them from returning with these tips from the Nemours Foundation:

Avoid eating abrasive foods, such as potato chips and nuts. These can irritate gums and other delicate mouth tissue.
Use only soft bristle toothbrushes, and brush your teeth and gums gently.
Avoid spicy, salty and acidic foods, which can aggravate tender mouth sores.

Food Fact:
Tea for tumors.

Research shows one kind of tea can be up to 100 times more potent at blocking growth of cancer cells than another. While all tea (green, oolong or black) contains antioxidant compounds called catechins that protect against cancer (especially of the lung, breast, colon, stomach and skin) by neutralizing free radicals, green tea contains about 7 times more catechins than black tea. Green tea also has unique catechins that block an enzyme involved in breast, prostate and colon cancers. Green tea is 10 to 100 times stronger than black tea in blocking the growth of cancer cells. Catechins also prevent heart disease and stroke, primarily by defending against the harmful effects of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

Fitness Tip of the day:
Butt buster.

Want one exercise that works five major muscle groups? We've got it! Try squats, which work your quads, hamstrings, glutes, abs and lower back -- and you can do them anywhere. To increase resistance, add dumbbells or barbells to your reps.

FAQ of the day:
What is a "serving?"

All the nutrition information on a food label is based on one serving, the amount most typically eaten of that food. For example, a serving of salad dressing is 2 tablespoons. These serving sizes are not necessarily the amount you eat at a typical meal. Take breakfast cereal. The box may define a serving as one cup, but if you typically pour twice as much into your bowl; that's two servings, which means you'll be taking in twice the calories listed. Always consider the portion size when you read the nutrition information on the label.
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