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Study Says 'Angelina Effect' Led to Increase in Breast Cancer Referrals and Testing


ABC/Rick Rowell(NEW YORK) -- A new study from the United Kingdom found a 2.5 percent increase in hereditary breast cancer referrals, which they linked to the publicity given to the BRCA1 gene when actress Angelina Jolie opted for a double mastectomy last year.

The study, published in the journal Breast Cancer Research, found that more than 4,800 referrals were made to medical clinics that specialize in treating women with a family history of breast cancer in the two months after Jolie's announcement. That figure is more than double the 1,900 from before her announcement, a phenomenon referred to as the "Angelina Effect."

Additionally, testing for BRCA genes doubled for six months following the news of Jolie's decision.

The researchers noted that the referrals were appropriate and not due to excess worry.

Other studies have noted a similar impact of Jolie's announcement, finding that it led to a surge in breast cancer referrals and BRCA testing.

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NFL Teams Up with National Domestic Violence Hotline


JumpStock/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The National Domestic Violence Hotline announced Thursday that the NFL has, "committed to providing significant resources to the organization" in order to help women who have been abused by their boyfriends or husbands.

“We have never had the funding needed to meet the demand for our services from those seeking help with domestic violence and dating abuse. Last year, because of this lack of resources, more than 77,000 calls went unanswered. Recent domestic violence incidents involving NFL players pushed the capacity of our organization to unprecedented levels,” said Katie Ray-Jones, president and chief executive officer of the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

“Because of this long-term commitment by the NFL to provide The Hotline with much-needed resources, our services will finally be accessible to all those who need us when they bravely take the first step to find safety and live a life free of abuse."

The move comes after the NFL has been hit with several high-profile cases of players arrested for domestic violence.

The group, who announced the agreement in a news release posted to its website, did not specify how much the NFL had given them.

The organization said that just days after the release of a video last week showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé in an elevator, the Hotline’s call volume increased by 84 percent.

“Our decision to enter into a long-term partnership with the NFL will help us immediately increase our ability to hire additional advocates, improve our infrastructure and provide more education about domestic violence that affects one in four women and one in seven men in their lifetimes,” said Maury Lane, who chairs the board of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “It is important that we answer their calls."

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Obama Administration Acts to Combat Antibiotic-Resistant Infections


shironosov/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and his administration acted on Thursday in an effort to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

According to a White House fact sheet, Obama signed an Executive Order directing key agencies and departments to take action on the matter. The administration released its National Strategy on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Thursday, which includes a five-year plan for preventing and containing outbreaks of resistant infections.

Included in Obama's Executive Order are the establishment of a new task force, establishment of the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, improvement over antibiotic stewardship, strengthened surveillance, promoted development of new and next-generation antibiotics and diagnostics and strengthened international cooperation.

The Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense and Veterans Affairs will be urged to review existing regulation governing antibiotic stewardship and more stringent regulation will be undertaken at office-based practices, outpatient settings, emergency departments and long-term care facilities. Additional federal agencies will be asked to engage the World Health Organization and its member states on a global action plan.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that antibiotic-resistant infections are associated with 23,000 deaths and two million illnesses in the U.S. each year. Those figures could cause an impact of up to $20 billion in direct health care costs and $35 billion in lost work productivity.

Obama also launched a $20 million prize, co-sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to promote the development of a, "rapid, point-of-care diagnostic test for healthcare providers to use to identify highly resistant bacterial infections."

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Researchers Call for More Funding for Study of Advanced Breast Cancer


monkeybusinessimages/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers say that not enough is being done to combat advanced breast cancer.

According to the published study, the experts say 1.6 million new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year. As many as one-fifth of those cases, about 320,000, are considered advanced.

While the survival rate for most women with advanced breast cancer is just two to three years, researchers say that the disease has not been sufficiently studied. Their guidelines, published in the journal Annals of Oncology, call for increased investment into research on advanced breast cancer.

Most research, the experts claim, is focused on early-stage breast cancer, providing few options for women diagnosed with advanced stages of the disease.

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Sierra Leone to Start Three-Day Nationwide Lockdown to Stop Ebola


Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Sierra Leone is set to begin a three-day lockdown Thursday night at midnight to curb the spread of Ebola, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Government authorities have ordered the country's six million people to stay in their homes from Sept. 19 through Sept. 21, while volunteers go door-to-door to screen for Ebola and take infected people in hiding to Ebola facilities, according to Doctors Without Borders, which called the endeavor "coercive."

"Large-scale coercive measures like forced quarantines and lockdowns are driving people underground and jeopardizing the trust between people and health providers," Doctors Without Borders said in a statement to ABC News. "This is leading to the concealment of cases and is pushing the sick away from health systems."

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has sickened at least 5,357 people since March, killing 2,630 of them, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization. This is the largest Ebola outbreak since the deadly virus was identified in 1976, and the virus has killed more people in the last six months than it had in the previous 38 years combined.

Doctors Without Borders said it will be "extremely difficult" for government health workers to screen patients in this way without proper expertise. And even if the effort was successful, there would be too many Ebola patients to fit into existing facilities.

"Without enough beds to treat patients who have Ebola we will fail to stop it spreading even further," Doctors Without Borders said. "What Sierra Leone and Liberia urgently need are more beds in case management centers, and they need them now."

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Mother's Dying Wish Granted After Her Nurse Takes in Her Son


Courtesy of Tricia Seaman(HARRISBURG, Pa.) -- When Tricia Somers was given the devastating diagnosis that she had terminal liver cancer last spring, her main concern was figuring out who would care for her 8-year-old son, Wesley.

Somers, a single mother, didn't have any family she believed could take on caring for a child and her parents had died years earlier. But Somers was determined and has found a unique solution for her situation after asking her favorite nurse, Tricia Seaman, to care for her son.

Somers made her big request the day she was supposed to be discharged from the hospital. Somers and Seaman had become friendly while Somers underwent numerous diagnostic tests.

When Seaman visited Somers on her final day in the Pinnacle Health's Community General campus in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, she had no idea of Somers' intentions.

The long-time nurse told ABC News that after Somers said that her diagnosis was terminal, she asked one question.

"She said, 'If I die will you raise my son?'" recalled Seaman.

Seaman said she initially had no answer for the big request.

"I didn't know what to say in that moment," said Seaman. "I told her I was flattered enough [that she] asked me. I said to her, 'Why don't you take a little time with this.' ...I was trying to be very diplomatic, everything in me said was saying 'Yes I'll do it.'"

Seaman and her family had actually been in the process of becoming foster parents and had just accomplished the first step after they were approved to be adoptive parents. They also are the parents of three teenage girls and a 10-year-old son.

Somers, who is now in hospice, spoke to ABC News affiliate WHTM-TV in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, about her decision to ask Seaman to take care of her son.

"She came in and I just felt this overwhelming feeling of comfort," Somers told WHTM-TV. "It was strange. I never had that feeling before and I thought she is going to take care of me. She is the one."

Seaman said after the request, she and her family started to visit with Somers and Wesley, first going to her apartment and then inviting them over to see their house. She said she wanted to make sure that this placement seemed like a good fit.

"The first time she was here, I said, 'Does everything look okay to you? Is it what you had in mind?'" said Seaman. "I felt like I was interviewing. ...She said it was perfect."

When Seaman spoke to her husband Daniel about the idea of adopting Wesley, he simply told her, "We need to do something to help this lady," Seaman recalled.

As Seaman and Somers became closer, 45-year-old Somers started grueling chemotherapy that left her barely able to walk. Some days she was unable to get Wesley to school because she couldn't walk to her car or was too tired to get out of bed.

Eventually she became so weak she was hospitalized.

At that point, Seaman along with her family decided it was time to not only take Wesley into their family, but Somers as well.

"At one point I said, 'I can't be your nurse anymore. I'm your family now,'" said Seaman. "I talked to her and said I want you to come [home]. She kind of fell apart and cried. She said, 'I'd love to.'"

Seaman said when Somers arrived in May, doctors thought she would survive for only a month. But with care and time, Seaman said Somers has improved and can now walk without the help of a cane.

Seaman said she and her husband have signed paperwork to become Wesley's legal guardians after Somers' death. This summer, the entire family, Somers and her son included, were able to go on vacation together.

"We just want to Trish to live life to the fullest and...we love her and love Wesley," said Seaman. "He's a very smart little boy. We want to see him get an education and be successful and know that he's not alone. He has a family. He's not going to be all by himself."

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Artificial Sweeteners May Increase Blood Sugar Risks


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(REHOVOT, Israel) -- Many people use artificial sweeteners to avoid sugar and the increased risk of type 2 diabetes that comes with too much of the natural stuff, but new research shows the fake substitutes may be equally bad.

In a study published Thursday in the journal Nature, researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel found that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharine may lead to type 2 diabetes just like eating sugar does.

The researchers say the millions of microbes, largely bacteria, in your digestive system may be the reason.

In a number of experiments in people and lab mice, researchers observed the interaction between gut microbes and the consumption of the sweeteners.

Some of the human participants and mice experienced a two- to fourfold increase in blood sugars after consuming artificial sweeteners for a brief time.

Medical experts agree that high blood sugar levels can eventually lead to diabetes.

The researchers cautioned that the study needs to be repeated before they can properly determine if artificial sweeteners can actually increase the risk of developing diabetes.

"I think this issue is far from being resolved," says Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute of Science.


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Food and Beverage Companies Trim Trillions of Calories from Products


iStock/Thinkstock(CHAPEL HILL, N.C.) -- In wake of the news that American waistlines are larger than ever comes a report that 16 major food and beverage companies have made good on their pledge to reduce calories in their products.

The companies, acting in concert through the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, had pledged to remove one trillion calories from the market between 2007 and 2012, and 1.5 trillion by 2015.

They've actually reduced far more: 6.4 trillion calories, according to a report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"The 16 companies collectively met their pledge and exceeded their pledge," said lead researcher Shu Wen Ng, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ng said the reduction translates to about 78 fewer calories per person daily.

The calorie reductions came from food categories such as sugar-sweetened beverages, snacks, cereals, candies, cookies and fats and oils.

The 16 companies are Bumble Bee Foods, Campbell Soup Co., ConAgra Foods, General Mills Inc., Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods Inc., Mars Inc., McCormick & Co., Nestle USA, PepsiCo Inc., Post Foods/Ralston Foods, Hillshire Brands, Coca-Cola Co., Hershey Co., the J.M. Smucker Co. and Unilever.

Ng cautions that while companies have improved their products, the focus in the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation effort was on calories only.

"We can't say anything about other nutrients or ingredients," Ng added. She acknowledges that more work is needed.

"Our diets are a function of a lot more than calories," she said.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week that the average waist size among American adults expanded more than an inch -- from 37.6 inches to 38.8 inches -- between 1999 and 2012.

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Researchers Say PTSD and Food Addiction May Be Linked


Image Source White/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and food addiction may be linked, researchers say.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, researchers surveyed 49,408 women who found that those women who self-identified as having PTSD symptoms also had the highest rate of self-reporting food addiction symptoms.

Approximately eight percent of respondents reported having many PTSD symptoms, about 73 percent had some symptoms and 19 percent reported none. Among those women with the highest number of PTSD symptoms, 18 percent also self-identified as having food addiction symptoms.

The study's authors have theorized that those people suffering from PTSD may be using food to cope with psychological stress.

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Researchers May Have Found Link Between Migraines and Parkinson's Disease


wavebreakmedia/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers believe that they have linked frequency of migraine headaches to increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

According to the study, published in the journal Neurology, researchers studied data from 5,620 people for 25 years. Researchers say 430 of the study's participants had migraine headaches with aura in mid-life. Of those who suffered from migraines, 2.4 percent later developed Parkinson's Disease, while only 1.1 percent of those without migraines developed Parkinson's.

The study also found that 19.7 percent of those who suffered from migraines later experienced Parinsonian symptoms, compared to 7.5 percent who did not have the headaches.

The study was limited to patients in Iceland, so further research will need to be conducted to determine if the link between migraines and Parkinson's Disease can be extrapolated to a larger population.

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Enterovirus D68 Prompts Hospital Wards to Ban Child Visitors


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Several hospitals have banned children from visiting patients amid fears of a respiratory virus that has sent some children to the hospital gasping for breath.

Hospitals in upstate New York -- including SUNY Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse -- are the latest to restrict young visitors as Enterovirus D68 spreads primarily among children nationwide. State health departments have reported possible cases in 27 states, and experts say the virus likely infected thousands.

"In the upcoming weeks, more states will have confirmed cases of EV-D68 infection," the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on its website.

ABC News' Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser noted this practice of keeping kids away from the hospital isn't uncommon. It also happens during the regular flu season.

"Frequently during periods when particularly contagious viruses are spreading in communities, hospitals implement restrictions on visitations by children," Besser said.

Enterovirus D68 starts off like the common cold but can quickly turn serious and cause children to have difficulty breathing -- especially if they have asthma. In the most extreme cases, children are so sick they need to be put on a ventilator in a hospital's intensive care unit. No children have died from the illness so far.

The age restrictions on visitors vary from hospital to hospital. For instance, Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis is only restricting people under 18 from visiting its neonatal intensive care unit. Meanwhile, SUNY Upstate isn't allowing people under 16 to visit its children's hospital at all, according to ABC News' Syracuse affiliate WSYR. And American Fork Hospital in American Fork, Utah, isn't allowing anyone under 14 to visit its nursery or pediatric ward.

Hospitals are also restricting people who are sick -- with perhaps a cough or a cold -- from visiting these wards.

The CDC has officially confirmed only 130 enterovirus D68 cases in 12 states, but experts say this number probably doesn't reflect the scope of the outbreak as a whole.

Since the CDC does not require hospitals or state labs to report enterovirus D68 cases, and many state health departments are unable to test for it, experts say the reported cases are just the tip of the iceberg.

New Jersey became the 27th state to announce possible enterovirus D68 cases.

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Liberian Refugee Befriends Family of Ebola-Infected Doctor


iStock/Thinkstock(OMAHA, Neb.) -- As an American doctor recovers from Ebola at a Nebraska hospital, a Liberian refugee who works at the hospital has tried to provide extra comfort to the doctor's family.

Dr. Richard Sacra arrived at the bio-containment unit at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha earlier this month after being infected with Ebola in Liberia. When Sacra arrived for treatment, Patricia Taye, a housekeeper at the medical center, immediately asked if she could meet with Sacra's family.

Taye, who works on the same floor as the bio-containment unit, left Liberia as a refugee in 2001 and has not been back since. Since her mother and sister still live in Liberia, Taye told ABC News she was eager to thank the Sacra family for their work providing help and medical relief in the country.

"I asked the doctor and nurses to show me the family. When they showed me the family, I greeted them and was so happy to see them," Taye said. "I'm really praying for him right now."

Taye even cooked them a favorite Liberian dish, cassava leaves, as a way to thank them for their work.

"When I met them and I asked them, 'When you were in Liberia what kind of food did you eat?'" said Taye. "I cooked them traditional food and brought it to them."

Sacra was infected in Liberia, where he was treating patients in a maternity ward.

The Ebola outbreak has devastated the county, straining an already weak health system. According to the World Health Organization, 1,137 of the 2,218 known deaths have been in Liberia. The other West African countries affected by the unprecedented outbreak include Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal.

"Every time my mom [in Liberia] calls me, crying. It's a lot of suffering there," Taye said. "It's like World War II back home, because every day people die on the street."

Taye said she has been praying with Sacra's family for his recovery and hopes she can one day thank the doctor in person.

"I really want to talk to him about my people. My people really need attention and need medical care," Taye said.

Sacra's family told reporters Tuesday that the 51-year-old physician continues to recover. He is one of four American health workers known to have contracted Ebola while treating patients in West Africa.

Debbie Sacra said that her husband's appetite "has returned in a big way," noting he was able to eat enchiladas and chicken soup.

Debbie Sacra also cheered President Obama’s announcement this week that 3,000 people, including troops and support, would be deployed to fight the Ebola outbreak, which the president described as "spiraling out of control."

"I'm encouraged that more help is going to be on the way," she said. "I hope it gets there as soon as possible."

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Fashionistas Turn to Surgery to Rid 'Boot Bulge'


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Temperatures are falling and fashionistas everywhere are putting away their strappy sandals and pulling out their knee-high boots.

For women whose larger calf size makes it impossible to zip up those tight-fitting boots, there's a plastic surgery procedure growing in popularity to fight that dreaded "boot bulge."

"It's definitely a thing," said Dr. Matthew Schulman, a board certified plastic surgeon on New York City's Upper East Side, "especially this time of year when some women aren't able to wear the boots they want."

That was the case for Sabrina, who lives in New York City and asked that her last name not be used.

"I'm a fairly fit person, I always exercise. It wasn't an area I could fix on my own," she said. "I assumed that if you could have liposuction on your stomach, why not on your calves?"

Sabrina had her surgery last year.

Schulman said that unhappiness with legs -- specifically from the knee down -- is common among his patients. But it's a very difficult area to treat.

"If the woman is an avid bike rider or runner and it's all muscle, the procedure isn't possible. There has to be at least a little fat there to perform the procedure," he said.

The patient is put under anesthesia for the procedure, which takes between an hour and hour and half, Schulman said.

"It's a tricky procedure," he said, "you're using microliposuction to take out very small amounts of fat."

The recovery time, too, is a factor. Schulman said it can take up to 10 months to be fully recovered from calf liposuction, though most women are about 85 percent recovered after four or five months. A woman who gets the procedure done this fall won't be in her tight fitting, knee-high boots until next year.

That's fine for Dyan, a woman from Long Island whose unhappy to be facing yet another boot season with calves too big to fit into the fashion-forward kind she wants to wear.

"I've purchased $200 boots and taken them to a shoe maker to have an extra panel of leather sewn in but it doesn't look the same and I ended up throwing them out," she said.

Dyan said she gained weight when her father passed away and while she's lost some, it's been mostly in her upper body.

"I'm determined to do this," she said. Dyan's planning her calf lipsocution for this fall.

If Dyan were to ask Sabrina, she'd get an enthusiastic endorsement for the operation.

"I couldn't be happier," Sabrina said. "I got a few pairs of stretch Stuart Weitzmans."

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Most New Cancer Drugs Target DNA, Report Finds


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- One American dies of cancer every minute, according to the latest Cancer Progress Report from the American Association for Cancer Research.

The report, unveiled Tuesday, highlights major advancements this past year in cancer research, diagnosis and treatment. Among its key findings and predictions:

  • More than 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2014. The number of people who die from cancer worldwide is projected to rise to 14.6 million by 2034.
  • While cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death in U.S. children, more than 50 percent of cancers are diagnosed in those older than 65.
  • In the past year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved six new cancer therapies, five of which belong to a relatively new class of drugs known as molecularly-targeted agents because they are designed to attack highly specific cancer proteins.

While improved cancer screening tools and research have led to earlier detection and therapies in the fight against cancer, declining research budgets have slowed progress. And, as the population continues to age, the numbers of cancer diagnoses are expected to dramatically increase, the report warned.

Additionally, cancer health disparities persist among low-income and minority populations.

For more on the report, watch the video below of a cancer roundtable moderated by Dr. Richard Besser, chief health and medical editor for ABC News:

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Prescription Drug Deaths Continue to Rise


iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says deaths from opioid prescription painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin nearly quadrupled between 1999 and 2011.

According to CDC data, there were 4,263 deaths linked to opioid drugs in 1999.  In 2011, the number of deaths climbed to nearly 17,000.

“The numbers we’re seeing are definite underestimates,” said Dr. Holly Hedegaard, injury epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics and one of the lead authors of the CDC report.

According to the report, the number of deaths linked to a combination of opioids with benzodiazepine drugs, like Xanax or Klonopin, was also on the rise.

In 2011, nearly a third of opioid-related deaths occurred in combination with benzodiazepines -- a considerable jump from only about 13 percent in 1999.

The report also concluded that the group with the greatest increase in death rates was Americans between 55 and 65 years old.  Dr. Robert Waldman, an addiction medicine consultant not involved with the research, says one explanation may be the medical community placing more emphasis on treating pain symptoms.

Dr. Waldman says while this has led to relief for patients, it may have also led to more aggressive treatment of pain -- and with it, more use of prescription painkillers.

The rise in deaths from opioid prescription painkillers appears to be slowing down in younger age groups. Health experts say that is likely due to a combination of increasing drug awareness, law enforcement activities and drug treatment programs.

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