Would You Want to Know Your Risk for Every Disease?

If your doctor had a way to peek into your health future and determine that you had a higher—but not definite—risk of developing cancer, heart disease,  or any number of other scary illnesses, would you want to know?

It’s a question to start considering now that a procedure called genomic sequencing is set to become a standard part of your health-care routine in the not-too-distant future. Whole genome sequencing involves analyzing all of a person’s genes, obtained via a small blood sample, to find out which, if any, carry a predisposition to serious disease. For years, doctors have offered patients tests for specific genes that may cause illness—for example, the BRCA gene variants linked to a higher incidence of breast cancer. But genome sequencing looks at a person’s entire DNA and thus can uncover markers for a huge range of conditions.

On one side are groups such as the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG), which in March recommended that doctors tell patients about certain disease risk findings uncovered during genome sequencing—even if they were incidental findings discovered accidentally during testing for a different illness. The ACMG came up with a list of more than 20 medical conditions clinicians should look for (including specific cancers, retinal disease leading to blindness, and a genetic condition that causes high cholesterol)—whether a patient requests testing or not. The thinking is that if a predisposition for an illness is uncovered before symptoms show, the patient can get treatment or intervention early.

But a paper published today in the journal Trends in Biotechnology argues in response that doctors do not have the right to force patients to know their genetic disease risk for conditions they didn’t ask to be tested for. “The important point that we dispute is that the ACMG recommends that the patient or the patient’s parents should not have a choice about whether these extra tests are done and they receive the results,” explains Megan Allyse, PhD, a coauthor of the paper and fellow at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University School of Medicine.

There are other issues to consider too, says Allyse. For starters, looking for so many genetic disease risks can be very costly, and if positive results are reported to your insurance company, it may affect your premiums. Also, knowing that you have a predisposition to a genetic disease can trigger anxiety and stress—especially in light of the fact that the disease may never actually develop, even without any intervention.

TELL US: Would you want your doctor to tell you about any disease risk your genomic profile points to, even if it’s an incidental finding—or would you prefer to not know? Share your thoughts in the comments!

photo: Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock

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Would You Know If You Had Lyme Disease?

Have a mysterious-looking bug bite or rash? Don’t write it off—especially if you’ve spent a lot of time outdoors recently. It could be Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that you get from tick bites. But here’s the thing: Lyme disease might not look like a typical tick bite, according to a new research letter published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Lyme disease is what you get when you’re bitten by a tick infected with a dangerous bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, which then makes its way into your bloodstream. Early signs of the disease include a rash and flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, body aches, and fatigue. If left unchecked, it can wreak havoc on your nervous system, heart, and joints, says Steven E. Schutzer, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School.

The famous telltale sign of the disease is a skin rash that looks like a bull’s-eye—a reddish ring within a ring. But as it turns out, this may not occur or be recognized in about 30 percent of Lyme-disease cases, according to the new letter. Researchers looked at 14 patients with symptoms of early Lyme disease, but only four had the classic target-like rash. The other 10 participants’ rashes resembled insect or spider bites, dermatitis, or other skin conditions.

Mistaking Lyme disease for something else can lead to inappropriate or delayed treatment. That’s a serious problem since catching Lyme disease (and treating it) early ensures the best odds for a successful recovery, says Schutzer.

If you suspect that you’ve been bitten by a tick, hightail it to your doctor, who will help you determine the best treatment options for your specific case.

If you don’t have any issues with your central nervous system or your heart, your physician will likely give you oral antibiotics, says Schutzer. If, however, there’s evidence of neurological disease, then he or she might recommend IV therapy.

Schutzer stresses that treatment really depends on your individual case: “It needs to be a decision between the doctor and the patient,” he says, “but that means that the patient has to go to the doctor, as opposed to not doing anything.”

Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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Cyber Cheating: Would You Forgive Your Partner?

Hillary Clinton, Robert Pattinson, and Kourtney Kardasian all did it—they forgave their partners for cheating. Now, another famous couple has overcome infidelity: Huma Abedin, U.S. deputy chief of staff and secretary of state aid, has forgiven her husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner, after news of his cyber cheating became public in May 2011, according to a profile published recently in The New York Times.

Unless the cheater is habitually unfaithful and unwilling to change, couples can move past the pain of infidelity, says Jean Fitzpatrick, a New York-based psychotherapist and marriage counselor with more than 20 years of experience. The caveat? Both parties need to be up for putting in the necessary time and effort—and it won’t be easy.

If you’re trying to mend things with your guy, read these tips on how to truly forgive him and build trust in your relationship.

As Abedin told the Times: “It took a lot of work, both mentally and in the way we engage with each other, for me to get to a place where I said: ‘OK, I’m in. I’m staying in this marriage.’”

To get to that place, Abedin leaned on her family and one woman who knows how it feels to be in Abedin’s shoes: former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. The former first lady was living in the White House when Bill Clinton cheated on her with Monica Lewinsky.

Hillary’s advice, according to the article: “Every woman should have the ability and the confidence and the choice to make whatever decisions she wants to make that are right for her and not be judged by it.”

So what decision would you make if your partner cyber cheated? What if he real-life cheated? Would you give him a second chance?


Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

photo: Fuse/Thinkstock

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Would You Throw an Ultrasound Party?

Looking for a more interesting way to reveal the sex of your baby to your friends and family? Skip the Facebook post of your last doctor’s visit and order some hors d’oeuvres. Some ultrasound technicians are now offering baby shower packages that include live video and images of the fetus displayed in the comfort of your own home.

Thanks to new technology and smaller hardware, technicians can now conduct 3D and 4D ultrasounds outside of their clinics, prompting women to invite friends along for the fetal festivities. Chad Berry helps run Miracles Imaging in Lehigh Acres, Florida with his wife, Camie, a certified sonographer. They started offering baby shower packages three years ago and have recently added a “gender reveal package” to their available options. The reason for their at-home services was a product of limited options in their area and developments in the ultrasound technology, Berry says. “When we first started, our equipment had to fit in a minivan but now it’s the size of a laptop and fits in a briefcase so we can easily zip it up and take it places,” he says.

For $ 249, women can book an ultrasound at the location of their choice, which includes 20 to 30 3D images of the baby and a 4D video recording as well, says Berry. Although medical ultrasounds usually last a total of 18 minutes, Berry says shower ultrasounds can last up to 30 minutes depending on the location of the baby and the interest of the mom or the party guests.

In order to book a baby shower ultrasound with Miralces Imaging, Berry and his staff require mothers to be under the care of physician. They also have a medical director on staff they can call if they have questions or discover an issue with the fetus. In the past six months, they’ve conducted 15 off-site baby shower ultrasounds.

Although an extended ultrasound is loads of fun for your eager family members, it does pose some possible health risks, says Debra Wickman, MD, co-founder of SHE: Sexual Health Experts, a dedicated sexual health practice. “We think of ultrasounds as being really safe because it’s not radiation, but they can generate heat, and too much may affect the fetus,” Wickman says. The ultrasound probe heats more rapidly near bone, so the larger the baby is, the more likely the probe is to pass over boney areas, she explains. And if technicians are trying extra hard to get a good look at the baby’s face, they may be adding unnecessary heat there as well, she says.

Overheating is probably not a worry if the ultrasound is limited to 30 minutes, Wickman explains, but she is concerned about the pressure of the technicians to get high-quality images of the baby. “Patients have told me that technicians can get pretty rough trying to move the abdomen around to better position the baby so they can see the face or genitals (for a gender-reveal),” she says.

Typically moms-to-be have two ultrasounds of their growing baby—one in the first trimester and one in the second, says Wickman. It’s usually okay to have additional ultrasounds, just make a point to find a technician that is properly certified and has the correct training. Also, Wickman advises against using the high-energy Doppler component of the ultrasound unless recommended by a doctor, which looks at blood flow.

Sound Off: Would you throw an ultrasound party?

Image: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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Would You Take “Female Viagra?”

Put the aphrodisiacs aside. Soon, you may be able to sniff your way to a sexier mood. Australian researchers are currently recruiting women for a new clinical trial that will test a nasal spray intended to boost female sexual arousal.

The new drug, Tefina, marketed by Trimel Pharmaceuticals, consists of a testosterone gel that is absorbed into the body through the nose. The company refers to the medicine as a “use-as-required treatment for women experiencing Female Orgasmic Disorder” and would be administered 2-8 hours before a “planned sexual event” with the hopes of increasing the probability for an orgasm.

Testosterone—often referred to as the desire hormone—is one of the main driving forces in the sex drive of both genders, says Monnica T. Williams, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Louisville. But although increasing testosterone levels may improve libido, it doesn’t necessarily affect a woman’s ability to orgasm, she says.

Moreover, anorgasmia (inability to orgasm) and low libido (desire to have sex) are two separate issues, Williams says. And what aids one may not necessarily solve the other. For instance, many women have a hard time reaching orgasm due to the effects of antidepressant medication, which isn’t a hormonal issue, says Williams. Thanks to the rewiring of the neural pathways, it can be harder to climax, even if your sex drive is high, she explains.

A low sex drive, on the other hand, can be the result of lots of different factors—not just low testosterone, Williams says. “If you don’t have the desire to have sex, whether or not you can orgasm won’t make a big difference,” she says.

Energy levels, for example, can seriously impact your mojo, says Patti Britton, PhD, MPH, author of The Art of Sex Coaching. “If someone has really low energy, it doesn’t matter how much testosterone they have in their body,” she says. And the list of libido-killers goes on. “You have to take into consideration your thought patterns, your emotional state, your physiology, and your mechanical skills,” says Britton.

With that in mind, if you’re suffering from low libido, there are other options to try before reaching for a sniff of T. And while they can’t guarantee you a big O, these natural libido boosters can help you better navigate the obstacles of sexual pleasure:

Work Up a Sweat
A good workout can be a wonderful libido booster, says Britton. Sure, it seems like you’ll be more tired post-kickboxing, but moving your body can help you loosen up, relieve tension, and boost blood flow—all things that can help you elevate desire, says Britton.

Swap Your BC Method
Hormones in your birth control pill essentially put the ovaries to sleep, freezing ovulation, which halts testosterone production. The pill also renders the other 50 percent of your testosterone useless, thanks to the super-potent artificial estrogen it contains. Opting for a non-hormonal baby blocker (like the copper-coil IUD Paraguard) can help improve the testosterone shortage.

Switch Into Airplane Mode
Our addiction to smart phones mixed with our attention-deficit culture can make it difficult to switch from work mode to relationship mode, says Britton. Taking a mini “E (electronics) fast” at least once a day and shutting down your devices can help you better manage switching off your analytical side and giving into your primal (not digital) urges.

Check Your Meds
Some prescription medications, like antidepressants, anti-anxiety and hypertension-treating drugs have been shown to contribute to a low libido. Even antihistamines can dry out the vagina, which can make sex uncomfortable. Talk to your doctor about alternative options that have fewer negative sexual side effects, recommends Britton.

Additional reporting by Women’s Health staff.

Image: Pixland/Thinkstock

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