Journal: The Medical journal of Australia
Clinical research has established exercise as a safe and effective intervention to counteract the adverse physical and psychological effects of cancer and its treatment. This article summarises the position of the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) on the role of exercise in cancer care, taking into account the strengths and limitations of the evidence base. It provides guidance for all health professionals involved in the care of people with cancer about integrating exercise into routine cancer care. Main recommendations: COSA calls for: exercise to be embedded as part of standard practice in cancer care and to be viewed as an adjunct therapy that helps counteract the adverse effects of cancer and its treatment; all members of the multidisciplinary cancer team to promote physical activity and recommend that people with cancer adhere to exercise guidelines; and best practice cancer care to include referral to an accredited exercise physiologist or physiotherapist with experience in cancer care. Changes in management as a result of the guideline: COSA encourages all health professionals involved in the care of people with cancer to: discuss the role of exercise in cancer recovery; recommend their patients adhere to exercise guidelines (avoid inactivity and progress towards at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise and two to three moderate intensity resistance exercise sessions each week); and refer their patients to a health professional who specialises in the prescription and delivery of exercise (ie, accredited exercise physiologist or physiotherapist with experience in cancer care).
Coeliac disease is an immune-mediated systemic disease triggered by exposure to gluten, and manifested by small intestinal enteropathy and gastrointestinal and extra-intestinal symptoms. Recent guidelines recommend a concerted use of clear definitions of the disease. In Australia, the most recent estimated prevalence is 1.2% in adult men (1:86) and 1.9% in adult women (1:52). Active case finding is appropriate to diagnose coeliac disease in high risk groups. Diagnosis of coeliac disease is important to prevent nutritional deficiency and long term risk of gastrointestinal malignancy. The diagnosis of coeliac disease depends on clinico-pathological correlation: history, presence of antitransglutaminase antibodies, and characteristic histological features on duodenal biopsy (when the patient is on a gluten-containing diet). Human leucocyte antigen class II haplotypes DQ2 or DQ8 are found in nearly all patients with coeliac disease, but are highly prevalent in the general population at large (56% in Australia) and testing can only exclude coeliac disease for individuals with non-permissive haplotypes. Adhering to a gluten free diet allows duodenal mucosal healing and alleviates symptoms. Patients should be followed up with a yearly review of dietary adherence and a health check. Non-coeliac gluten or wheat protein sensitivity is a syndrome characterised by both gastrointestinal and extra-intestinal symptoms related to the ingestion of gluten and possibly other wheat proteins in people who do not have coeliac disease or wheat allergy recognised by diagnostic tests.
Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are infectious diseases whose incidence has increased in humans in the past 20 years or could increase in the near future. EID agents may represent a threat to blood safety if they infect humans, cause a clinically significant illness, include an asymptomatic blood phase in the course of infection, and are transmissible by transfusion. EID agents are typically not well characterised, but there is a consensus that we can expect ongoing outbreaks. Strategies to manage the risk to blood safety from EIDs include ongoing surveillance, regular risk assessments, modelling transfusion transmission risk, and deferral of donors with a recent travel history to outbreak areas. The 2015-16 Zika virus (ZIKV) outbreak in the Americas is the largest reported ZIKV outbreak to date, and it highlights the unpredictable nature of EID outbreaks and how quickly they can become a major public health problem. This ZIKV outbreak has provided evidence of a causal link between the virus and microcephaly in newborns. In assessing the potential risk of ZIKV to blood safety in Australia, it should be noted that a relatively small number of imported ZIKV infections have been reported in Australia, there have been no reported cases of local ZIKV transmission, and the geographical distribution of the potential ZIKV mosquito vector in Australia (Aedes aegypti) is limited to northern Queensland. Moreover, reported transfusion-transmitted ZIKV cases worldwide are rare. At present, ZIKV represents a low risk to blood safety in Australia.
The clinical practice guidelines on pregnancy care have been developed to provide reliable and standardised guidance for health professionals providing antenatal care in Australia. They were originally released as the Clinical Practice Guidelines: Antenatal Care in two separate editions (modules 1 and 2) in 2012 and 2014. These modules have now been combined and updated to form a single set of consolidated guidelines that were publicly released in February 2018 as the Clinical Practice Guidelines: Pregnancy Care. Eleven topics have been updated and new guidance on substance use in pregnancy has been added. Main recommendations: The updated guidelines include the following key changes to practice: recommend routine testing for hepatitis C at the first antenatal visit; recommend against routine testing for vitamin D status in the absence of a specific indication; recommend discussing weight change, diet and physical activity with all pregnant women; and recommend offering pregnant women the opportunity to be weighed at every antenatal visit and encouraging women to self-monitor weight gain. Changes in management as a result of the guidelines: The guidelines will enable pregnant women diagnosed with hepatitis C to be identified and thus avoid invasive procedures that increase the risk of mother-to-baby transmission. Women can be treated postpartum, reducing the risk of liver disease and removing the risk of perinatal infection for subsequent pregnancies. Routine testing of all pregnant women for vitamin D status and subsequent vitamin D supplementation is not supported by evidence and should cease as the benefits and harms of vitamin D supplementation remain unclear. The recommendation for health professionals to provide advice to pregnant women about weight, diet and physical activity, and the opportunity to be weighed will help women to make changes leading to better health outcomes for themselves and their babies.
Chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC) is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders, with a global prevalence of 14%. It is commoner in women and its prevalence increases with age. There are three subtypes of CIC: dyssynergic defaecation, slow transit constipation and normal transit constipation, which is the most common subtype. Clinical assessment of the patient with constipation requires careful history taking, in order to identify any red flag symptoms that would necessitate further investigation with colonoscopy to exclude colorectal malignancy. Screening for hypercalcaemia, hypothyroidism and coeliac disease with appropriate blood tests should be considered. A digital rectal examination should be performed to assess for evidence of dyssynergic defaecation. If this is suspected, further investigation with high resolution anorectal manometry should be undertaken. Anorectal biofeedback can be offered to patients with dyssynergic defaecation as a means of correcting the associated impairment of pelvic floor, abdominal wall and rectal functioning. Lifestyle modifications, such as increasing dietary fibre, are the first step in managing other causes of CIC. If patients do not respond to these simple changes, then treatment with osmotic and stimulant laxatives should be trialled. Patients not responding to traditional laxatives should be offered treatment with prosecretory agents such as lubiprostone, linaclotide and plecanatide, or the 5-HT4 receptor agonist prucalopride, where available. If there is no response to pharmacological treatment, surgical intervention can be considered, but it is only suitable for a carefully selected subset of patients with proven slow transit constipation.
Sarcoidosis is a systemic disease of unknown aetiology, characterised by non-caseating granulomatous inflammation. It most commonly manifests in the lungs and intrathoracic lymph nodes but can affect any organ. This summary of an educational resource provided by the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand outlines the current understanding of sarcoidosis and highlights the need for further research. Our knowledge of the aetiology and immunopathogenesis of sarcoidosis remains incomplete. The enigma of sarcoidosis lies in its immunological paradox of type 1 T helper cell-dominated local inflammation co-existing with T regulatory-induced peripheral anergy. Although specific aetiological agents have not been identified, mounting evidence suggests that environmental and microbial antigens may trigger sarcoidosis. Genome-wide association studies have identified candidate genes conferring susceptibility and gene expression analyses have provided insights into cytokine dysregulation leading to inflammation. Sarcoidosis remains a diagnosis of exclusion based on histological evidence of non-caseating granulomas with compatible clinical and radiological findings. In recent years, endobronchial ultrasound-guided transbronchial needle aspiration of mediastinal lymph nodes has facilitated the diagnosis, and whole body positron emission tomography scanning has improved localisation of disease. No single biomarker is adequately sensitive and specific for detecting and monitoring disease activity. Most patients do not require treatment; when indicated, corticosteroids remain the initial standard of care, despite their adverse side effect profile. Other drugs with fewer side effects may be a better long term choice (eg, methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, azathioprine, mycophenolate), while tumour necrosis factor-α inhibitors are a treatment option for patients with refractory disease.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a fibrosing interstitial lung disease associated with debilitating symptoms of dyspnoea and cough, resulting in respiratory failure, impaired quality of life and ultimately death. Diagnosing IPF can be challenging, as it often shares many features with other interstitial lung diseases. In this article, we summarise recent joint position statements on the diagnosis and management of IPF from the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand and Lung Foundation Australia, specifically tailored for physicians across Australia and New Zealand. Main suggestions: A comprehensive multidisciplinary team meeting is suggested to establish a prompt and precise IPF diagnosis. Antifibrotic therapies should be considered to slow disease progression. However, enthusiasm should be tempered by the lack of evidence in many IPF subgroups, particularly the broader disease severity spectrum. Non-pharmacological interventions including pulmonary rehabilitation, supplemental oxygen, appropriate treatment of comorbidities and disease-related symptoms remain crucial to optimal management. Despite recent advances, IPF remains a fatal disease and suitable patients should be referred for lung transplantation assessment.
Abnormal uterine bleeding refers to any change in the regularity, frequency, heaviness or length of menstruation. There are several potential causes for bleeding disturbance, the two most common being primary endometrial dysfunction and fibroids. Management of abnormal uterine bleeding involves both medical and surgical options and will largely depend on a patient’s fertility plans. The use of levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine devices for heavy menstrual bleeding is increasing in Australia, and they are considered first-line medical management for women accepting of hormonal therapies. Tranexamic acid, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the combined oral contraceptive pill and oral progestins offer alternatives. Hysterectomy offers a definitive surgical approach to abnormal uterine bleeding and is associated with high levels of patient satisfaction. Women wishing to preserve their fertility, or avoid hysterectomy, may be offered myomectomy. Submucosal fibroids should be removed via hysteroscopy in symptomatic or infertile patients. Intramural and subserosal fibroids may be removed via an open or laparoscopic approach. There are several minimally invasive options, including uterine artery embolisation, magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound and endometrial ablation, but patients should be aware that there is insufficient evidence to ensure fertility preservation with these procedures and further research is needed. Areas for additional research include cost-effectiveness of treatments and quality of life comparisons between management options using patient reported outcome measures to evaluate patient satisfaction.
Australia has one of the highest rates of antidepressant use in the world; it has more than doubled since 2000, despite evidence showing that the effectiveness of these medications is lower than previously thought. An increasing placebo response rate is a key reason for falling effectiveness, with the gap between response to medications and placebo narrowing. Psychotherapies are effective treatments, but recent evidence from high-quality studies suggests that their effectiveness is also modest. Combined treatment with medication and psychotherapy provides greater effectiveness than either alone. The number of patients receiving psychotherapy had been declining, although this trend is probably reversing with the Medicare Better Access to Mental Health Care initiative. Antidepressant medications still have an important role in the treatment of moderate to severe depression; they should be provided as part of an overall treatment plan that includes psychotherapy and lifestyle strategies to improve diet and increase exercise. When medications are prescribed, they should be used in a way that maximises their chance of effectiveness.
Vitamin D has been proposed to have beneficial effects in a wide range of contexts. We investigate the hypothesis that vitamin D deficiency, caused by both aversion to sunlight and unwholesome diet, could also be a significant contributor to the triumph of good over evil in fantasy literature.