Beyond Cancer, Other Problems

By Scott LaFee

December 9, 2015 7 min read

Advances in cancer treatment have significantly boosted survival rates: More than 9 million Americans are now on the other side of the iconic 5-year survival rate marker. Among survivors of childhood cancer, the five-year rate exceeds 80 percent, with many expected to live decades after diagnosis and treatment.

But a new study in JAMA Oncology suggests some childhood cancer patients will face tough times in adulthood, primarily from medical and emotional problems whose origins date back to their original treatment.

While late effects data for adults is scarce, researchers at Stanford University say it appears young cancer survivors are at greater risk of diseases of the digestive system, cardiovascular disorders, neurological issues, respiratory problems, and, of course, a recurrence of their original cancer or a new type altogether.

Good Vibrations

Premature babies frequently experience breathing problems, including sleep apnea, which is when they may dangerously pause in their breathing. A small study out of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University suggests one remedy might be a little tickle every now and again.

Researchers placed a device in the mattresses of 36 preemies that produced a small vibration at intervals. The idea was to heighten the babies' sensitivity to changes, such as breaks in breathing. They found the vibrations cut incidences of sleep apnea in half.

Body of Knowledge

The focusing muscles of the eyes move approximately 100,000 times a day. To give your legs a similar workout, you would need to walk 50 miles every day.

Get Me That, Stat!

Pedestrians using wheelchairs have a 36 percent higher chance of being fatally struck by an automobile than the overall pedestrian population, according to a study by researchers at Georgetown University. Men were five times likelier to be hit than women; older wheelchair users are at greater risk than younger. Almost half of fatal accidents between 2006 and 2012 occurred at intersections involving wheelchair users in a crosswalk.


1: estimated percentage of U.S. general population infected with hepatitis C virus.

17: estimated percentage of incarcerated Americans infected with hepatitis C.

Source: Tianhua He, Annals of Internal Medicine

Doc Talk

Agonal: a word used to describe a major negative change in a patient's condition, usually preceding immediate death, such as a complete cessation of breathing or a dire change in the patient's vital signs.

Phobia of the Week

Catapedaphobia: fear of jumping.

Never Say Diet

The Major League Eating record for turducken is 7.75 pounds in 12 minutes, held by Sonya Thomas. Turducken is a dish consisting of a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck stuffed into a deboned turkey. "Turduckenmas" is all of the above stuffed inside Sonya (presumably still with bones).

Hypochondriac's Guide

Jumping Frenchmen of Maine disease is characterized by an unusually sensitive "startle" reflex. It was first identified among a group of French Canadian lumberjacks in the late 1800s. The cause is unknown, but may be an extreme conditioned response to a particular situation, such as a tree about to fall on you.


"When you get old, you can't talk to people because people snap at you. That's why you become deaf, so you won't be able to hear people talking to you that way." — American author Edward Albee

Medical History

This week in 1844, the first dental anesthetic — nitrous oxide, or "laughing gas" — was used by Dr. John M. Riggs for a tooth extraction on Dr. Horace Wells. The previous day, Wells had attended a demonstration of the effects of inhaling nitrous oxide gas by a travelling lecturer, Gardner Quincy Colton. At this demonstration, Wells noticed that a man intoxicated by nitrous oxide suffered a laceration to his leg, but claimed to feel no pain. He arranged his own tooth extraction to test the gas' anesthetic potential.


What is the main symptom of high cholesterol?

1. Fatigue

2. Weakness

3. Weight gain

4. None of the above

Answer: 4. None of the above. There are no specific symptoms of high cholesterol. You need a blood test to know for sure.

Sum Body

Nine trace minerals your body requires, but only in tiny amounts (less than 20 milligrams daily):

1. Iron

2. Zinc

3. Manganese

4. Copper

5. Fluoride

6. Molybdenum

7. Iodine

8. Chromium

9. Selenium


Actinomyces are bacterial species typically found in the oral cavity and, particularly, the gums. Many are opportunistic pathogens, such as A. israelii, which can cause abscesses in the mouth and elsewhere. The bacterium is also responsible for inflammation of the inner layer of the heart (endocarditis).

Medical Myths

The notion that we use only 10 percent of our brains is popular and enduring, dating back to at least 1907. It was notably popularized by Dale Carnegie in his 1936 book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," which misguidedly quoted psychologist William James as saying "the average person develops only 10 percent of his latent mental ability." In fact, modern neuroimaging shows the entire brain works all of the time, just some parts work harder than others depending upon need.

Med School

Q: When does the human brain stop growing?

A: In terms of size, around age 18, though there remains some serious refinement through age 25 when the prefrontal cortex is fully developed. In a larger sense, though, the brain never stops developing, changing and adapting throughout life.

Last Words

"Dictionary." — English linguist Joseph Wright (1855-1930), who once edited the English Dialect Dictionary.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by otherCreators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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