Today’s Headlines: Personalized Medicine, Surgery Survival and Stress and Depression

Online personalized cancer treatments not backed by evidence. Those diagnosed with cancer may be desperate for any treatment that might help up their odds. But a new study has found that websites selling cancer treatments they claim are personalized are often over-hyped and rarely based on real evidence. “The researchers screened 4,910 websites and focused on the top 55 websites that matched their criteria. Most of the websites were commercially sponsored (56 percent), while others were promoted by academic institutions (20 percent), private institutions (15 percent) and individual doctors (2 percent). An expert panel helped determine whether the advertised tests had enough evidence to back-up claims of helping to treat cancer. For example, if large randomized controlled trials or large analyses of such trials found the tests effective, the panel considered the information trustworthy. The panel found that a minority of websites (28 percent) sold tests they would endorse. And while 85 percent of the websites described benefits of their products, only 27 percent specified potential limitations.” The researchers emphasize that patients and their physicians need to be careful about using treatments sold online and should work together to evaluate if a certain treatment is right for them. (Fox)

Where you get your surgery done matters. When going in for a procedure, it’s tempting to think that all hospitals are equal when it comes to the work they do. New findings out this week give reason to do a little research before deciding where to go under the knife. “The team asked 1,500 hospitals for 2013 data on four risky surgeries, including number of procedures and patient deaths. For pancreatectomy (removing all or part of the pancreas, usually to treat cancer), predicted survival rates ranged from 81 percent to 100 percent. Of 487 hospitals reporting data, 203 had rates of at least 91.3 percent, which the team chose as the benchmark for quality. For esophagectomy (removing all or part of the esophagus), expected survival ranged from 88 percent to 98 percent. Only 182 of 535 hospitals had rates of at least 91.7 percent. For repairs of abdominal aortic aneurysm, survival ranged from 86 percent to 99 percent; 268 of 792 hospitals met the benchmark of 97.3 percent. For replacing the heart’s aortic valve, survival ranged from 92 percent to 97 percent; only 95 of 544 hospitals hit 95.6 percent.” The team hopes making these numbers public will help patients make better choices about where to have surgeries done and push hospitals to improve their numbers. (Reuters)

Combining stress and depression dramatically ups your heart risk. You’ve probably heard a lot about how stress can damage your heart, but a new study has found that stress combined with depression may signal an increased the risk of having a heart attack. “Researchers looking at the effect of significant stress and deep depression on nearly 4,500 patients with heart disease called the pairing a ‘psychosocial perfect storm.’ The combination of high stress and high depression symptoms may be particularly harmful for adults with heart disease during an early vulnerability period. Those who reported both high stress and high depression were 48 percent more likely than those with low stress and low depression to have another heart attack or die in the first 2.5 years of follow-up.” Experts point out that the findings are an association and don’t show cause and effect. But the findings could help providers identify those individuals most at risk who may need extra attention. (CBS)