New Technology to Test For Cancer With a Single Drop of Blood

Miriam,  microRNA cancer detection device

Miriam, microRNA cancer detection device

A simple 3-D printed device my be leading the way in cancer detection in
the coming decades. “Miriam” is a device that can detect the presence of several different cancer from a single drop of blood. The best part is that the device only costs $500 to make!

Currently, most forms of cancer detection are very expensive to perform. Miriam would allow more frequent and widespread screening for these common cancers.

The device has been designed by technology company Miroculus and uses microRNA in the blood to detect cancer.

From the company’s website:

Our proprietary chemistry can detect microRNAs from body fluids or tissue without the need of a specialized technician or expensive lab machinery. Each well of this plate has our patented biochemistry that is looking for a specific microRNA. This biochemistry acts like a trap that closes only when the microRNA is present in the sample. Whenever a trap closes it will shine with green color.

The test takes approximately 60 minutes. The luminosity of the microRNA filled wells is uploaded to the cloud. The combination of luminosity in the wells is tested against a database that has details of various cancers. Common cancers have specific luminosity combinations. The results can then be downloaded with any smart phone.

In addition to cancer detection, the device may be able to check for reactions to various drugs in the future. The more data the system has in it’s database, the more drug reactions and illnesses it can help detect.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The year is moving incredibly quickly and we are almost up to September. The American Cancer Society has reminded us that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) aims to increase awareness of the disease and raise funds for research.

Breast Cancer continues to be one of the most dangerous forms of cancer, with death rates higher than any other form of cancer. More than 232,000 new cases diagnosed in 2013 and nearly 40,000 women died from breast cancer in the same year.

It is a very common and very deadly form of the disease, which makes it a focal point for a of cancer research.

In the past couple of years, public awareness of the gene mutations which are responsible for some breast cancers, has increased. This is largely thanks to Angelina Jolie, who had the gene mutation and undertook a double to avoid breast cancer.

With breast cancer, early detection is incredibly important. Take a read of the breast cancer early detection guidelines at

Stomach Cancer Signs & Symptoms

Stomach Cancer

Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer is responsible for nearly a million deaths each year and is one of the most deadly forms of cancer. Unfortunately because the symptoms are often confused with other illnesses, the diagnosis of stomach cancer is sometimes delayed, leading to patients presenting with stomach cancer that has progressed to an advanced stage. Prognosis is poor with a 5 year survival rate of between 5% and 15%.

Very often, in it’s early stages, stomach cancer produces no noticeable symptoms or it may show symptoms that are commonly seen in other less serious illnesses. When the symptoms of stomach cancer become easily noticed, often the disease is at an advanced stage and has metastasized to other parts of the body leading to a poor prognosis.

Stomach Cancer Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of stomach cancer at the three stages:

In the early stages of stomach cancer, if any symptoms are present they could be as simple as a loss of appetite (especially for hard to digest foods like meat), indigestion or heartburn, and abdominal discomfort. Those symptoms are frequently found in the general population and usually don’t signify the presence of stomach cancer, leading to most people ignoring those common symptoms.

In stage 2 (medium stage) the symptoms become slightly more worrisome, but are still not significant enough for most people to warrant a trip to the doctor. At this stage some weakness or a general feeling of fatigue may be experienced. In addition, some bloating of the stomach may be observed after meals.

In stage 3 (late stage stomach cancer) the symptoms become much more serious and easily noticeable. Symptoms include:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Nausea and/or Vomiting
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Bleeding which can be seen in the stool. Also this bleeding can lead to anemia
  • An illness caused dysphagia that is triggered by a gastric tumor

The problem with stomach cancer is that even the advanced stages of the disease show symptoms that may also be a gastric ulcer or stomach virus.

Stomach Cancer Causes

Most cases of stomach cancer are caused by a bacterium found in the stomach, called Helicobacter pylori.

Surprisingly, diet is not a consideration in most cases of stomach cancer, but some foods like pickled vegetables have been linked with a higher incidence. Cured meats are high in nitrates and nitrites that can be converted to bacteria that has been shown to promote stomach cancer in animals.

Cancer organizations suggest that a varied diet high in fruits and vegetables can help avoid stomach cancer, and in general a healthy diet is a great idea to avoid a number of cancers and heart disease.

Smoking is once again a promoter of cancer with a 40% increased risk for casual smokers and an 80%+ increased risk of stomach cancer for heavy smokers. Smokers tend to get stomach cancer in the upper regions of the stomach, especially the esophagus. Significant alcohol consumption is tentatively linked with stomach cancer, so once again moderation with alcohol is a good thing.

About 10% of stomach cancers show some kind of link to genetic factors and genetic testing is now available for families with a history of stomach cancer.

The Helicobacter pylori bacterium is responsible for between 65% and 80% of stomach cancers, so apart from maintaining a healthy diet and not smoking or drinking excessively, not a lot can be done to avoid this form of cancer.

Males are much more likely than females to contract stomach cancer with some studies suggesting that estrogen plays a role in protecting women from stomach cancer. You are three times more likely to develop stomach cancer if you are male.

Stomach Cancer Detection

In it’s early stages, it is unlikely that a general practitioner would advise tests for stomach cancer because the symptoms are so commonplace. If you have a family history of this type of cancer, it is advised that you get tested early and be vigilent as to the symptoms of this form of cancer.

After the doctor has performed an initial examination to eliminate other causes of the symptoms, lab studies will need to be ordered to confirm stomach cancer.

The other examinations a patient may be asked to do to confirm stomach cancer include:

  • A CT scan of the abdomen to determine the location of tumors.
  • A Gastroscopic exam which involves the insertion of a fiber optic camera into the stomach
  • An upper gastro intestinal series, which involves x-rays of the stomach and surrounding areas

Any abnormal tissue found during a gastroscopic exam may also need to be biopsied to determine if it is cancerous.

Blood tests can also help form a diagnosis and the blood is checked for anemia.

Stomach Cancer Treatment

Unfortunately stomach cancer is difficult to treat, particularly in the late stages. Treatment generally consists of surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. New forms of treatment are being trialled which may lead to better outcomes, but at the moment prognosis is usually not very good with this form of cancer.

Surgical treatment usually involves removing part of the stomach and possibly the surrounding lymph nodes. If the cancer has spread, the surgery may also involve the removal of part of the pancreas or intestines.

If the cancer has spread, the surgical option is often just a palliative solution and aims to extend life instead of curing the disease.

Chemotherapy is unfortunately not very effective in the treatment of stomach cancer and is usually only useful in palliative care and to reduce the size of any tumors. Sometimes chemotherapy is used prior to surgery to reduce the size of the tumors, then used again after surgery to help restrict any remaining cancer growth.

Radiation therapy is also used in combination with chemotherapy and/or surgery to help relieve pain and reduce the size of any tumors. Radiation therapy is also usually used as a palliative measure.

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian Cancer is the 8th most common cancer in the United States. As the name implies, it is a form of cancer that affects women’s ovaries and it affects mostly older women. Women have 2 ovaries – small organs which make eggs and secrete hormones.

Symptoms and Risk Factors
It is a form of cancer that is very subtle in it’s early stages with the symptoms often continuing unnoticed. The common symptoms include pelvic pain, problems eating, bloating and frequent urination. Those symptoms are frequently found in conjunction with other illnesses so it is often difficult to diagnose early on.

Most ovarian cancers arise from the surface of the ovary, but research has suggested that the fallopian tubes may be responsible for some instances of ovarian cancer.

If you find yourself with the symptoms of ovarian cancer more than 10 times a month, then it is time to have yourself examined for ovarian cancer. So for example if you suddenly experience pelvic soreness on 5 days, have difficulty eating on 3 days, experience bloating on 4 days and are older than 50 you should seek diagnosis immediately.

Less common symptoms can include back pain, general tiredness, involuntary weight loss and an abdominal mass. The bloating and pelvic pain are usually caused by a buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity. The pressure on the stomach from this fluid buildup is usually what causes changes to apetite also.

If you have a family member who has experienced ovarian cancer, your chances of experiencing the illness are twice as high. Unfortunately there are hereditary forms of ovarian cancer caused by gene mutations. So if you have a mother or grandmother who experienced ovarian cancer, you should consult a doctor early on if you experience symptoms, and get screened regularly when you are over 50.

Infertile women also have a higher risk of experiencing ovarian cancer as are women with endometriosis and women who have had estrogen replacement therapy.

Research has found that oral contraceptive pills are a protective factor against ovarian cancer. Long term studies have shown that women who used oral contraception for 10 years have a 50%+ reduction in their chance of contracting ovarian cancer.

Women who also had their first pregnancy at a young age also have a lower risk of contracting ovarian cancer, and women who have had their fallopian tubes blocked surgically also have lower risk.

Because the ovaries produce the estrogen and progesterone hormones that some cancers require to grow, ovary removal can halt or slow cancers that occur specifically in women (such as breast cancer).

In terms of genetic risk factors, carriers of some BRCA mutations have an increased risk of ovarian cancer. BRCA2 and BRCA1 gene mutations make up about 5% to 13% of ovarian cancers. Modern medicine allows women to understand their genetic risk factors more comprehensively so discuss this with your doctor.

Initially your doctor will do a physical examination to determine if there are any masses or fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity. A blood test for ovarian cancer markers will also be conducted, that specifically looks for CA-125. An ultrasound may also be carried out.

For the diagnosis to be confirmed, surgery must be undertaken to take biopsies and inspect the abdominal cavity. Cancer cells will most likely be found in the abdominal fluid if a patient has ovarian cancer. The symptoms aren’t very useful in early stages of ovarian cancer because they can point to many other illnesses. Only at the later stages of ovarian cancer do the symptoms easily confirm ovarian cancer.

Tubal ligation will drastically reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and some women who have a long family history of ovarian cancer may take this option. The use of oral contraceptives will halve the risk of ovarian cancer.

Regular screening and being attentive to the symptoms of ovarian cancer is one of the best ways to prevent the disease taking hold.

Surgical treatment is an option for malignant tumors that are confined to the ovary. If the tumors are aggressive, surgery may be used in conjunction with chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is often used after surgery to treat any tumors that are not easily removed during surgery and to stop any cancer cells spreading.

Radiation may be effective in the early stages of the illness, but due to the location of the ovaries it is not safe to use a high dose.

Unfortunately because of the difficulty in spotting the symptoms of ovarian cancer early on, prognosis is generally not good for ovarian cancer. More than 50% of women presenting with ovarian cancer are already stage III or stage IV (stage I and II being early development). By stage III and stage IV the cancer has already spread from the ovaries into other parts of the body.

Early diagnosis of ovarian cancer has a survival rate of over 80-95%, stage II has a range of 60-70%, stage III 30-45% and stage IV <20%.All up the survival rate for ovarian cancer at all stages is 47%. If caught before spreading the survival rate is 92%. The key with ovarian cancer, like many other forms of cancer, is to look at your family history, look for symptoms and get tested early!

Skin Cancer Detection

Skin Cancer Detection

Skin Cancer Detection

When you have any questions about skin cancer, a dermatologist can set your mind at ease and assist you to handle the situation if it arises. A lot of people detect some thing on their skin that causes alarm however they just aren’t convinced if they should visit a specialist. At the very least, it is important to make an appointment with your family doctor or dermatologist. He or she can make it easier to determine whether or not to go to the specialist. Normally, it is always safer to err to the side of caution.

Risk Factors:
If you or someone in your family has encountered skin cancer in past times, it will be important for you to arrange for frequent appointments with a dermatological doctor. They are able to keep close track of your skin and look out for specific indications of melanoma. These kind of consistent appointments are set up to not simply keep you healthy but also to provide you with some assurance.

There are more risk factors that are typically important. Should you have very fair skin and are likely to sunburn easily or blister or you are quite sun sensitive, you ought to be examined routinely. If you have unusual looking skin moles or perhaps an large number of moles, you need to be inspected habitually. These check-ups become far more essential for anyone who is observing that a number of the skin moles may be changing shape or size, or both.

Less common risk factors consist of people that have a history of x-ray therapies to take care of acne or those taking certain types of prescription drugs. Though none of these variables will guarantee you will experience skin cancer, they are elements which should be talked over with the skin doctor regularly. Regardless of what the price tag on the consultation, each visit is worthwhile. Remember that the earlier a problem is observed, the more opportunity you and the skin doctor have to take care of it.

Dubious Lesions:
Self-examination is just one method in which you are able to protect against cancer of the skin. After the ailment spreads, the prognosis often takes a negative downturn so the aim is to try to find anything out of the ordinary or suspicious regularly. This disease can affect people of any age, races, and socioeconomic status.

When you are assessing your whole body, keep an eye out for a number of things that would bring about a trip to the skin doctor. These things include skin moles that are expanding, areas on the skin that have a tendency to either bleed or scab up but never appear to recover and new moles that are beginning to pop up. In each of these predicaments, an examination by a dermatologist is important. If you notice something which isn’t going to match some of these particular categories however, you think it appears strange, call your physician straight away and create a meeting.