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New study casts doubt on lung cancer treatment

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – A controversial radiation treatment for patients who’ve had lung cancer surgery may not help elderly people live longer, U.S. researchers have found.

Postoperative radiotherapy, or PORT, is thought to cut the chances that a tumor will return. But it can damage the heart and lungs, which might cancel out any potential benefits — particularly in seniors.

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“Thus, these patients may be exposed to the side effects and complications of PORT without a clear benefit,” lead researcher Dr. Juan Wisnivesky, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, told Reuters Health by email.

The findings fuel an ongoing debate over how much treatment older cancer patients should get. Often those treatments have been tested in younger people and it’s unclear whether other age groups will reap the same benefits.

Side effects may take a higher toll on older people’s health, for instance, and they may not live long enough to see the positive effects of their therapy.

“The marginal benefit of the additional treatment gets smaller and smaller as patients get older,” said Dr. David J. Sher, a radiation expert at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who was not involved in the new work.

“Their overall fitness generally doesn’t warrant postoperative radiotherapy,” he told Reuters Health. “It’s a fine balance.”

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The new study, published in the journal Cancer, analyzed data on more than 1,300 Medicare patients who’d had surgery for early-stage lung cancer.

Such patients usually don’t get radiation therapy, but in this group the cancer had spread to lymph nodes in the chest. There is no agreement on what to do in that case, and earlier studies have come to mixed conclusions.

It turned out that about half of the patients, most of whom were over 70, had been treated with radiation.

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It’s hard to compare those who got radiation and those who didn’t directly, because different factors may have influenced the individual decisions to treat or not. But in their study, Wisnivesky and his colleagues did their best to account for patient characteristics, tumor size, type of surgery, complications and other possible differences.

No matter how they analyzed the data, however, they were unable to find a survival benefit linked to radiation treatment after surgery.

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According to Sher, the therapy typically costs between $10,000 and $15,000.

“That being said,” he added, “if it prevents the recurrence it also saves a lot of money later.”

Dr. Benjamin Smith, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said the kind of patients in the new study have a grim prognosis, with at most 20 to 30 percent surviving more than five years.

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“Some physicians want to try to do everything they can to get a benefit,” said Smith, who wasn’t involved in the research. “This data, however, makes me reconsider whether or not there truly is a benefit with respect to patient survival, which at the end of the day is the most important outcome.”

He said immediate side effects of radiation include fatigue, skin reactions and pain when swallowing. Down the road, it may also weaken the heart and the lungs.

“I don’t think that radiation is likely to cause life-threatening side effects, but it is certainly inconvenient and can impair a patient’s quality of life,” Smith told Reuters Health.

There is currently a rigorous clinical trial under way that may shed more light on whether postoperative radiation is a good idea for lung cancer that turns out to have invaded the lymph nodes in the chest — a relatively uncommon scenario.

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Meanwhile, patients and doctors should weigh the pros and cons together, said Smith.

“It’s worth patients having a discussion with their surgeon and radiation oncologist about whether or not to do radiation after surgery,” he said.

SOURCES: http://bit.ly/h73jcS Cancer, online February 13, 2012.

Mochila insert follows …

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A trio of Mars missions in the starting blocks

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"We have lift-off, we have lift-off!"

The summer race to land a space probe on Mars is off to a hot start.

Three countries -- The Hope Probe (United Arab Emirates), Tianwen-1 (China) and Mars 2020 (United States) -- have all taken their positions, hoping to take advantage of the period of time when the Earth and Mars are nearest: a mere 55 million kilometers (34 million miles) apart.

The neighboring planets only come this close once every 26 months -- a narrow "launch window" based on their relative positions in space.

Space agencies from all three nations plan to send rovers to the Red Planet to look for additional signs of past life and potentially pave the way to -- someday -- step foot on its surface.

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Here are 7 hilarious videos about wearing COVID-19 masks to send people who won’t wear them

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While late-night shows are off for a Summer break, Americans are glued to TikTok and Twitter for their humor and every folks have delivered.

The latest trend is to mock fools who refuse to wear masks. While many people who refuse to wear a mask tuck their tails and sulk as they walk away, some take it to a whole new level of fury. Those precious souls are being mocked and shamed all around the world.

Here are seven videos that are hilarious or adorable that encourage wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Wearing a mask is like wearing a lifejacket.https://twitter.com/mattbooshell/status/1280933495674732544

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Senior health adviser accused the CDC of ‘undermining’ Trump by publishing warnings about COVID-19 in pregnant women

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Surely everyone could agree that the priority during a global pandemic should be to save lives. That hasn't been the case.

According to the Washington Post, an adviser to the Department of Health and Human Services accused the Center for Disease Control (CDC) of trying to “undermining the president” by releasing factual information about the risks of getting the virus while pregnant.

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