New Research Clarifies Role of Hormone Replacement Therapy

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 9, 2013

The benefits of hormone therapy for relieving menopause symptoms may outweigh the risks.

If you’re a woman nearing or beginning menopause, you probably have questions about whether to use hormone replacement therapy for relief of menopause symptoms such as hot flashes or night sweats. Recent findings from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), published in October 2013, may help you and your doctor evaluate the benefits and risk of hormone therapy in the context of your own health history.

Researchers analyzed more than 27,000 postmenopausal women, ages 50-79, in two hormone therapy trials (estrogen plus progestin and estrogen alone) over a 13 year period. They concluded that hormone therapy is helpful in managing the symptoms of menopause (such as hot flashes or night sweats) in younger women (ages 50-59); however, they cautioned against the use of hormone therapy to prevent chronic diseases, particularly in older women, due to an increased risk of adverse events.

Among women in the 50 to 59 year age group, researchers found that fewer than 1 in 100 had adverse events during five years of hormone therapy use, while the risk of adverse events were four to five times higher among the older women.  Furthermore, because younger women were more likely to experience menopausal symptoms that were relieved by hormone therapy, the quality-of-life benefits outweighed the risks of adverse events in these women.

Read More »

Concerns about Memory Loss May Identify Alzheimer’s Risk

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 30, 2013

What's the difference between an attention lapse and memory loss?

Have you ever had trouble remembering the names of unfamiliar people? Those of us in middle age and beyond may wonder if this is a warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Rebecca Amariglio, from the Department of Neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), offers some insight into the differences between lapses of attention, a normal part of aging, and memory loss, a sign of something more serious.

“Lapses of attention include walking into a room and forgetting why you walked in. This is likely a part of normal aging. Memory loss is categorized as a decline in the ability to recall conversations, remember appointments, or remember recent events,” notes Dr. Amariglio. Memory loss can also be a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.

Read More »

A Dose of D May Lower Blood Pressure

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 28, 2013

A recent study shows that vitamin D supplementation may help African-Americans lower their blood pressure.

There are a variety of things that you can do to help lower your blood pressure, such as exercise more, consume less salt, quit smoking, and eat low-fat foods. Now, African-Americans may be able to add “take more vitamin D” to that list.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attacks, heart failure, and stroke, and is 40 percent more common in African-Americans than in other American ethnic groups. Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) recently collaborated with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital in a study that shows that vitamin D supplementation may help African-Americans lower their blood pressure. The study was published in the March 13, 2013, online edition of the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

Read More »

New Breathing Device Helps Patients Battle Lou Gehrig’s Disease

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 7, 2013

Dr. Christopher Ducko (right) implanted a diaphragm pacing system to help extend the life of ALS patient Scott Murphy (left).

Scott Murphy, a Massachusetts father of three, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2004. ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurological disease that leads to a gradual loss of muscle function. As ALS progresses, patients lose their ability to perform the most basic tasks, like walking, swallowing and even breathing. Most patients with ALS only live 3-5 years after diagnosis. Miraculously, Scott has been able to survive well beyond that; however, continued weakening of his chest muscles and diaphragm (the muscle that helps draw air into the lungs) recently posed a new threat to his health.

Until recently, the only way to help patients like Scott was the use of a mechanical ventilator, which can be confining and costly. But a Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) surgical team, led by Dr. Christopher Ducko in the Division of Thoracic Surgery, has given Scott and other ALS patients a better option in delaying their need for a ventilator. In October 2012, BWH became the first hospital in New England to implant a diaphragm pacing system in an ALS patient.

During the surgery, small electrodes, which condition the weak diaphragm muscle and improve its function, were implanted in Scott’s diaphragm. Research indicates that this will help Scott breathe more easily and postpone his need for a ventilator by up to 18 months. Additionally, unlike a ventilator, the diaphragm pacing system operates quietly and makes it possible for Scott to be mobile.

Read More »

Reducing Repeat Surgeries after Breast Cancer

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 30, 2013

Surgical oncologist Mehra Golshan, MD, (left) and members of the AMIGO team perform a practice run of a lumpectomy procedure on Nov. 15, 2012.

When Jane Davis was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2012, she began learning as much as she could about the disease. Davis quickly discovered one of the most startling statistics about breast cancer — that up to 40 percent of women in the U.S. who undergo a lumpectomy to remove a tumor require a second surgery. That’s because surgeons often are unable to microscopically remove the entire tumor during the first surgery.

Dr. Mehra Golshan, Director of Breast Surgical Services at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, is trying to change that with his research using image-guided therapy, available through the Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating (AMIGO) suite at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, to perform more precise breast surgeries.

Read More »

New Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines Expand Eligibility

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 17, 2012

The new guidelines expand lung cancer screening eligibility to 94 million Americans.

A lung cancer screening and surveillance task force led by a Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) physician team, and established by the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS), is strongly recommending new lung cancer screening guidelines that promote the expanded use of low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scans.

Based on recent research showing that low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) screening can help reduce lung cancer deaths, the task force is now recommending annual LDCT lung cancer screening for the following patients:

  • Smokers and former smokers between the ages of 55 and 79 who have smoked the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years.
  • Smokers and former smokers between the ages of 50 and 79 who have smoked the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years and have other factors that raise their risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Long-term lung cancer survivors up to the age of 79 (to detect a second case of primary lung cancer).

Read More »