Aetna to pay $17 million after mailing revealed patients’ HIV meds

Aetna has reached a $17 million settlement after a class action lawsuit argued the health insurer breached the privacy of thousands of customers when they mailed out envelopes with large display windows revealing patients were prescribed HIV medications.

Aetna has reached a $17 million settlement after a class action lawsuit argued the health insurer breached the privacy of thousands of customers who take HIV medications.

Court documents state the company sent patients envelopes with large, clear display windows that revealed they were prescribed HIV medications.

The mailing, sent on July 28, was sent to about 12,000 customers in at least 23 states.

Aetna agreed in the settlement, which requires court approval, to pay at least $500 to customers whose privacy was breached through the revealing envelopes. The company also agreed to pay $75 to customers whose names were improperly disclosed to a mail vendor.

FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2014, file photo, a pedestrian walks by a sign at Aetna headquarters in Hartford, Conn. CVS Health, the second-largest U.S. drugstore chain, is buying Aetna, the third-largest health insurer. The evolution won't happen overnight, but in time, shoppers may find more clinics in CVS stores and more services they can receive through the network of nearly 10,000 locations that the company has built. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

Aetna said in a statement the company is “implementing measures designed to ensure something like this does not happen again.”  (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

Aetna said in a statement the company is working to remedy the situation.

“Through our outreach efforts, immediate relief program and this settlement, we have worked to address the potential impact on members following this unfortunate incident,” the statement read.

“In addition, we are implementing measures designed to ensure something like this does not happen again as part of our commitment to best practices in protecting sensitive health information,” the company stated, noting it’s taking steps to prevent other mishaps.

The lawsuit originated in Pennsylvania with a 52-year-old Bucks County man whose sister learned he was taking HIV medications when she saw the Aetna letter mailed to him.

Aetna’s July mailing, according to a Legal Action Center press release, “was an attempt to address privacy concerns raised in two lawsuits filed against the insurer in 2014 and 2015.”

Adolescence these days starts at age 10 and continues to 24, scientists say

Puberty used to occur around age 14, but now has lowered to the age of 10 because of improved health and nutrition in much of the developed world.

Young people continuing their education for longer, as well as delayed marriage and parenthood, has redefined common perceptions of when adulthood starts, scientists wrote in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.

Societal and biological changes have prolonged the adolescent years from the ages of 10-19 to now ending at 24 years old, scientists said, leading to a debate about whether new policies would benefit or “infantilize” the older adolescents.

Puberty used to occur around age 14, but now has lowered to the age of 10 because of improved health and nutrition in much of the developed world, the BBC reported.

“Although many adult legal privileges start at age 18, the adoption of adult roles and responsibilities generally occurs later.”

– Prof. Susan Sawyer

As a result, in the past 150 years the average age for a girl’s first menstruation has become younger by four years in industrialized countries like the U.K.

Young people are also getting married and having children later, the report said. In 2013, the average age for a man to enter their first marriage was 32.5 years and 30.6 years for women across England and Wales, the report said, citing U.K.’s Office for National Statistics, which represented an increase of almost eight years since 1973.

Other biological arguments for why the definition of adolescence should be extended include that the body continues to develop, the channel reported. For example, the brain continues to mature past the age of 20, working more efficiently.

Professor Susan Sawyer, director of the center for adolescent health at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, calls the dynamic “semi-dependency.”

“Although many adult legal privileges start at age 18, the adoption of adult roles and responsibilities generally occurs later,” she said.

Sawyer said the current definition of adolescence is “overly restricted.” She told the outlet that this social change needs to inform policy, including extending youth support services until the age of 25.

“The ages of 10-24 years are a better fit with the development of adolescents nowadays,” she said.

Preemie baby placed in plastic bag survives, mom calls him ‘my little fighter’

Baby Markcus Cropper, Jr weighed 1 pound, 10 ounces at birth. Mother says he is her "little fighter."

A grateful mother is sharing remarkable photos of her baby son after being in a neonatal unit for 81 days. Little baby Markcus Cropper was born premature at 23 weeks, weighing in at 1 pound 10 ounces and measuring just 7.8 inches.

Baby Markcus Cropper Jnr. weighing just 1lb 10.1oz. See SWNS story NYBAG; A mum has shown off her thriving "little fighter" after he was born so prematurely he had to be placed in a plastic BAG. Christina Hahn, 27, gave birth to tiny Markcus Cropper Jnr. weighing just 1lb 10.1oz when she was just 23 weeks and six days pregnant The 7.8"-long infant was so small in fact he had to be transported to an incubator in a plastic sack - which is about the same size a pencil case. But mum-of-one Christina this week posted a comparison photo of little Markcus, now five months old, weighing a healthier 12lbs. Christina and the tot's father Markcus Snr, 20, were overwhelmed during their 81-day stay at the hospital unit and the dedication of nurses and doctors. Christina, of Chincoeeague Island, Virginia, said: "It was so so scary giving birth and then asking 'is he dead?' He was just so so small.

The plastic bag kept Markcus from getting hypothermia.  (Christina Hanh/SWNS)

The amazing photos show the baby was so small he had to be transported to an incubator in a plastic bag, which was the size of a pencil case.

Baby Markcus Cropper Jnr. weighing just 1lb 10.1oz. See SWNS story NYBAG; A mum has shown off her thriving "little fighter" after he was born so prematurely he had to be placed in a plastic BAG. Christina Hahn, 27, gave birth to tiny Markcus Cropper Jnr. weighing just 1lb 10.1oz when she was just 23 weeks and six days pregnant The 7.8"-long infant was so small in fact he had to be transported to an incubator in a plastic sack - which is about the same size a pencil case. But mum-of-one Christina this week posted a comparison photo of little Markcus, now five months old, weighing a healthier 12lbs. Christina and the tot's father Markcus Snr, 20, were overwhelmed during their 81-day stay at the hospital unit and the dedication of nurses and doctors. Christina, of Chincoeeague Island, Virginia, said: "It was so so scary giving birth and then asking 'is he dead?' He was just so so small.

Doctors said survival rate for Markcus was 50 percent.  ( © Christina Hahn / SWNS.com)

Baby Markcus Cropper Jnr, with mum Christina Hahn and dad Markcus Snr. See SWNS story NYBAG; A mum has shown off her thriving "little fighter" after he was born so prematurely he had to be placed in a plastic BAG. Christina Hahn, 27, gave birth to tiny Markcus Cropper Jnr. weighing just 1lb 10.1oz when she was just 23 weeks and six days pregnant The 7.8"-long infant was so small in fact he had to be transported to an incubator in a plastic sack - which is about the same size a pencil case. But mum-of-one Christina this week posted a comparison photo of little Markcus, now five months old, weighing a healthier 12lbs. Christina and the tot's father Markcus Snr, 20, were overwhelmed during their 81-day stay at the hospital unit and the dedication of nurses and doctors. Christina, of Chincoeeague Island, Virginia, said: "It was so so scary giving birth and then asking 'is he dead?' He was just so so small.

The 5-month-old now weighs 12 pounds.  (Christina Hahn/SWNS)

Now five months old, his relieved mother Christina Hahn posted a picture of little Markcus, weighing 12 pounds.

“It was so so scary giving birth and then asking ‘is he dead?’ He was just so so small,” the 27-year-old mother from Chincoteague Island, Virginia said, as reported by news service SWNS.

“At lots of points we both thought that we would lose him and he pulled through — it was a miracle.”

BABY BORN 4 MONTHS PREMATURE READY TO HEAD HOME

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the average length of pregnancy is 38 weeks. When Hahn’s water broke at 23 weeks, she and the baby’s father, Markcus Sr., were warned by doctors the newborn may not survive.

“It was weird seeing him in the bag, but it kept him from getting hypothermia. That was only a short time until he was put in an incubator cot,” the mom said.

“Markcus then needed lots of steroid shots for his lungs to work properly because they were so underdeveloped.”

When Hanh’s water broke, doctors at her local hospital in Chincoteague said they could not admit her until she was 24 weeks. Luckily, a special neonatal facility two hours away was able to take the mother.

Markcus was born and cared for at Norfolk’s Children’s Hospital of The Kings Daughter.

ARTIFICIAL WOMB SUSTAINS PREMATURE BABY LAMBS FOR WEEKS

NIH data shows survival rates for premature babies have increased to 65 percent, but Christina recalled “two days before I gave birth the neonatal team told me due to the age of gestation it was only 50 percent survival rates outside the womb for Markcus.”

Fortunately, Markcus is healthy besides a potential hearing problem in the right ear.

The proud mother said “Markcus is adorable, I am so proud of him. He’s my little fighter.”

Woman sues hospital over nude photo taken of her on operating table

Photo Illustration

A woman has sued the Pennsylvania hospital where she once worked over nude photos taken of her while she was on the operating table.

Sheila Harosky sued Washington Hospital, its chief executive and the doctor performing her surgery. She alleges invasion of privacy and medical malpractice, among other claims in the lawsuit filed Dec. 12.

The 45-year-old said she discovered the photos when she returned to work after an incisional hernia surgery in September 2016. Harosky told the Tribune-Review a colleague approached her with the photos on her cellphone saying, “I’ve got something for your scrapbook.”

The hospital claims the photos were an extension of a practical joke Harosky participated in by putting fake intestines on her body before the surgery.

While she admitted playing a joke on her doctor, Harosky said she didn’t give permission for the photos to be taken.

The hospital said it fired the nurse who took the photos and no longer allows the doctor to perform surgeries. But Harosky, who worked as an operating room secretary, said in her lawsuit she was subjected to harassment from other employees.

Harosky took an extended leave of absence as recommended by her doctor. She told the Tribune-Review she was fired once her leave ended in October.

The hospital said it “afforded accommodations” for Harosky’s return, but she refused the accommodations.

Both Harosky and her lawyer claim the hospital treated her like the wrongdoer instead of the victim. It is unclear what damages she is seeking.

Severe flu in California brings medicine shortages, kills 27

California is reeling from a particularly severe surge in cases of the flu—with pharmacies running out of medicine, packed emergency rooms and a rising death toll.

State health officials say that 27 people younger than 65 have died of the flu in California since October. That’s compared to three the same time last year, The Los Angeles Times reports.

According to health officials, there’s no region of the state where people were being spared from the flu.

At UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, the emergency room saw more than 200 patients on at least one day, mostly because of the flu.

“The Northridge earthquake was the last time we saw over 200 patients,” emergency room medical director Dr. Wally Ghurabi said, citing the 1994 disaster that killed dozens and injured thousands.

In San Bernardino and Riverside Counties east of Los Angeles, emergency rooms are so crowded that ambulances aren’t immediately able to unload their patients, preventing them from responding to incoming 911 calls, said Jose Arballo Jr., spokesman for the Riverside County Department of Public Health.

FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2013, file photo, Walgreens' pharmacist, Jennifer de Jesus, left, administers a free influenza vaccine to Ana Navarro, 33, during the Binational Health Week event held at the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles. The flu has hit California so hard this year, pharmacies have run out of medicine to treat it, emergency rooms are packed and the death toll is rising. The Los Angeles Times reports that 27 people younger than 65 have died of the influenza in California since October.  (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

In this Oct. 1, 2013, file photo, Walgreens’ pharmacist, Jennifer de Jesus, left, administers a free influenza vaccine to Ana Navarro, 33, during the Binational Health Week event held at the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

And some hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area are limiting visitors under the age of 16 as a precaution, since young people can be more vulnerable to effects of the flu.

Medical experts say this year’s flu season may be outpacing last year’s because it’s peaking earlier. The flu season is typically at its worst around February.

Though the flu killed three Californians by this time last year, 68 people had died from it by the end of February, according to state data

Still, many doctors say the recent surge in flu cases have been unusually severe.

National health officials predict the flu vaccine may only be about 32 percent effective this year. But most people in California and the rest of the country are catching a particularly dangerous strain of influenza that the vaccine typically doesn’t work well against.

“It tends to cause more deaths and more hospitalizations than the other strains,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, Los Angeles County’s interim health officer.

Meanwhile the preferred drug to treat the flu, known as Tamiflu, has been hard to find at many California pharmacies.

CVS spokeswoman Amy Lanctot said increased demand for Tamiflu in California may have led to some stores being temporarily out of stock. Other pharmacies reported that they were running low on the medicine or were out completely.

There isn’t a national shortage of Tamiflu, suggesting that pharmacists’ shelves were emptied this week by a sudden surge in demand, said Bob Purcell, spokesman for the San Francisco-based pharmaceutical company Genentech, which makes the drug.

Caroline Bringenberg was prescribed Tamiflu on Wednesday but the 25-year-old Los Angeles resident said her local CVS had run out of it. Her pharmacist told her all of the drugstores’ supplies in the area had been depleted.

Bringenberg tried a nearby independent pharmacy but it also had run out.

“I’ve just sort of given up,” Bringenberg said through sniffles. “I think honestly it would make me feel worse to be in the car driving all over town, so I’ve just opted for ibuprofen and DayQuil.”

While Tamiflu doesn’t eliminate influenza, it can lessen the severity of symptoms and how long they last. It works best when taken within two days of when patients start to feel sick.

For those who haven’t gotten the flu, health officials recommend getting the vaccine, washing their hands often and avoiding close contact with anyone coughing or sneezing.

Why spending time outdoors could help your child’s eyesight

kids on screens

Kids seem to spend endless hours on smartphones, games consoles, computers and tablets these days.

Playing on electronic devices certainly doesn’t help their waistlines, but do you ever wonder what regular device use is doing to their eyesight?

While there isn’t much research out there yet about the impact of screens on eyesight – after all the iPhone was first unveiled by Apple in only 2007 – experts are concerned about growing levels of short-sightedness in children.

And they suggest the best thing parents can do to prevent it is to encourage youngsters to spend more time outdoors in the sunlight.

How short-sightedness is on the rise

There has been a massive rise around the globe in short-sightedness – or myopia as it’s officially known – over recent decades.

“We know that myopia or short-sightedness is becoming more common,” says Chris Hammond, professor of ophthalmology at King’s College London and consultant ophthalmic surgeon at St Thomas’ Hospital.

“It has reached epidemic levels in East Asia, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, where approaching 90% of 18-year-olds are now short-sighted.

“In Europe, it’s potentially getting up to 40% to 50% of young adults in their mid-20s who are short-sighted now in Western Europe. It’s been gradually rising over the decades of the 20th Century from around 20-30%.”

Why has it become so much more common?

Annegret Dahlmann-Noor, consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London says lack of natural light seems to be the key issue.

“The main factor seems to be a lack of exposure to direct sunlight, because children who study a lot and who use computers or smartphones or tablet computers a lot have less opportunity to run around outside and are less exposed to sunshine and because of that seem to be at more risk of developing short-sightedness.”

Prof Hammond says: “It may be that there’s no coincidence that in East Asian countries, the most myopic ones all correlate with the maths league tables.

“These kids are being pushed with very intensive education from a very young age and spend a lot of time indoors studying everything close up and very little time outdoors.

“Therefore the concern is that all close work – like playing with the iPad and iPhone – carries the potential that it could make them more short-sighted.”

So should we stop or limit screen use?

Well that’s much easier said than done! Any parent will know that youngsters are like dogs with bones when it comes to their beloved phones and trying to get them off their devices is pretty much impossible – certainly without a massive argument.

Dr Dahlmann-Noor, who is a mother of three, says trying to stop screen use is probably an unrealistic aspiration.

“You can only tell them that it might make their eyes uncomfortable, it might make them short-sighted and they should not use it as much as they like to.

“But, hand on heart, I don’t think we can get away from this because they also have to do their school homework on laptops and iPads and they do their searches for background information on screens.

“If you’re a teenager and you have got revision to do for GCSEs or A-levels then you can’t really switch off, can you? So I don’t think we will be reducing the screen use, really, in years to come.”

Time outdoors is the key

The best thing to do, say the experts, is to get children playing outside as much as possible.

“Protective of myopia development is time outdoors – sport and leisure outdoors are protective of eyesight,” says Prof Hammond.

“In a perfect world, probably on average across the week and the weekend, two hours a day outdoors is protective of becoming short-sighted in children.”

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He says myopia research done in Sydney, Australia showed that only 3% of Chinese-heritage children living in Sydney – who spent two hours a day outdoors – were short-sighted by the age of six, compared to nearly 30% of six-year-olds in Singapore.

“So again, suggestive that the outdoor lifestyle is good for our eyes.”

And don’t forget your veg

Dr Dahlmann-Noor says diet is also an area where families can help with eyesight.

“We always tell parents about omega-3 essential fatty acids, and vitamins A, C and E and nutrients that are good for the back of the eye.

“Healthy diet really is important – in terms of getting oily fish, avocados, green vegetables, green leafy vegetables as much as possible.

“Or in children, all these supplements that you can buy over the counter that are good for the brain, also happen to be good for the eyes – they’re just not marketed for that.”

She also recommends regular annual eye checks.

How would I know if my child was becoming short-sighted?

According to NHS Choices, signs that your child may be short-sighted include:

  • needing to sit near the front of the class at school because they find it difficult to read the whiteboard
  • sitting close to the television
  • complaining of headaches or tired eyes
  • regularly rubbing their eyes

When someone’s short-sighted, the eyes have grown slightly too long, which means light rays focus just in front of the retina, at the back of the eye, so distant objects to appear blurred, but close objects are seen clearly.

Hope for tomorrow’s treatment

While levels of myopia are likely to continue to rise, the hope is that researchers will find ways to reduce its progression.

Dr Dahlmann-Noor says: “What we need to look at, in terms of research and development, is ways of modifying the impact that these activities have on their visual development.”

Prof Hammond adds: “There are eye drops and other treatments to slow myopia progression. But in terms of preventing myopia itself, there isn’t any data out there at the moment in terms of ‘Could the drops we use to slow progression stop myopia developing at all?’

“I think it’s going to be the logical next step of research studies, as in countries like urban China – where 10% of children in each class per year are becoming short-sighted from about the age of six – there’s an argument for saying we should be trying to prevent it.”

Taiwan dentist must repay mother for training fees

File photo: Close up of a dentist examining a patient's teeth

Taiwan’s top court has ordered a man to pay his mother almost $1m (£710,000) for raising him and funding his dentistry training.

The mother signed a contract with her son in 1997, when he was 20 years old, stating he would pay her 60% of his monthly income after qualifying.

She took him to court after he refused to pay her for several years.

The son argued it was wrong to demand a financial return for raising a child, but the court ruled the contract valid.

He has been ordered to make back payments, as well as interest, to his mother.

‘Responsibility to provide’

The mother, identified only by her surname Luo, raised both her sons after she and her husband divorced.

Ms Luo said she had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars funding both her sons through dentistry school, but became worried they would be unwilling to care for her in old age.

Subsequently, she signed a contract with both of them stipulating they would pay her a portion of their earnings as repayments for the school fees, up to a total of $1.7m.

The elder son reached an agreement with his mother and settled the contract for a smaller amount, local media report.

However, the younger son, identified by his last name Chu, argued that he was very young when he signed the agreement, and the contract should be considered invalid.

Mr Chu also argued that he had worked in his mother’s dental clinic for years after graduating and had helped her make more than the amount he was now ordered to pay her.

A Supreme Court spokeswoman told the BBC the judges had reached their decision mainly because they thought the contract was valid since the son was an adult when he signed it and was not forced to do so.

Under Taiwan’s civil code, adult offspring have the responsibility to provide for their elderly parents, although most parents do not sue if their children fail to take care of them in old age, the BBC’s Cindy Sui in Taipei reports.

This case is seen as particularly unusual because it involves a parent-child contract, our correspondent adds.

Germany migrants: Doctors oppose asylum seeker age tests

Two refugees sleep on a bench on the grounds of the State Office of Health and Social Affairs (LAGeSo) in Berlin on 9 October 2015, where they wait for their registration.

German doctors have spoken out against proposals for young asylum seekers to undergo mandatory medical tests to ascertain their age.

The German Medical Association (Bundesärztekammer) said the checks were ethically wrong and unreliable.

Conservative politicians have called for tests such as X-rays to make sure young migrants are not lying about being under 18 to avoid deportation.

It follows outrage over the killing of a girl, allegedly by an Afghan migrant.

The 15-year-old was stabbed with a kitchen knife outside a shop in Kandel, in south-western Germany, last week.

An Afghan refugee, who says he is the same age, is accused of attacking her after she broke off their relationship.

After the killing, the girl’s father said of the suspect: “There’s no way he is ever only 15… We hope that through the process we will now know his true age.”

‘Great uncertainties’

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies, the CSU, wants all young asylum seekers to undergo medical tests if their age is in doubt. Methods include doing an X-ray on the hand to assess bone development, or measuring teeth.

But Frank Ulrich Montgomery, president of the German Medical Association, said the tests had a large margin of error.

“The investigations are complex, expensive and burdened with great uncertainties,” he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

“If you were to do this with every refugee it would be an interference in their human welfare.”

German experts believe many young male migrants lie about being under 18 to get better access to housing and support.

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Currently officials try to determine the age of new arrivals through verbal interviews, while medical tests are voluntary.

The CSU says it will push for the tests to become compulsory in coalition talks with the Social Democrats, who oppose such a move.

“I want everyone who comes into our country and claims to be a teenager to be medically checked for their age,” said the CSU’s Joachim Herrmann, Barvaria’s interior minister.

“Young people cost the state more money in special care and have a lower criminal liability. The state can not basically leave it that way.”

The killing of the teenage girl in Kandel is the latest case to spark calls for age testing in Germany.

An Iranian asylum seeker is already on trial for allegedly raping and killing a 19-year-old student in Freiburg in October last year. He initially claimed to be 16, but his own father told a court he was 33.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

Woman receives bionic hand with sense of touch

Scientists in Rome have unveiled the first bionic hand with a sense of touch that can be worn outside a laboratory.

The recipient, Almerina Mascarello, who lost her left hand in an accident nearly a quarter of a century ago, said “it’s almost like it’s back again”.

In 2014 the same international team produced the world’s first feeling bionic hand.

But the sensory and computer equipment it was linked to was too large to leave the laboratory.

Now the technology is small enough to fit in a rucksack, making it portable.

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Bionic hand ‘sees and grabs’ objects automatically

The development team included engineers, neuroscientists, surgeons, electronics and robotics specialists from Italy, Switzerland and Germany.

How it works

The prosthetic hand has sensors that detect information about whether an object is soft or hard.

These messages are linked to a computer in a rucksack that converts these signals into a language the brain will understand.

The information is relayed to Almerina’s brain via tiny electrodes implanted in nerves in the upper arm.

In tests Almerina – who was blindfolded – was able to tell whether the object she was picking up was hard or soft.

She told me: “The feeling is spontaneous as if it were your real hand; you’re finally able to do things that before were difficult, like getting dressed, putting on shoes – all mundane but important things – you feel complete.”

This represents another advance in neuroprosthetics, the interface between machine and the human body.

Professor Silvestro Micera, a neuroengineer at EPFL in Lausanne and Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa told me: “We are going more and more in the direction of science fiction movies like Luke Skywalker’s bionic hand in Star Wars – a fully controlled, fully natural, sensorised prosthesis, identical to the human hand.”

A robotic prosthesis better than the human hand is still a long way off, but the team believe it might eventually be a reality.

Prof Paolo Rossini, a neurologist at University Hospital Agostino Gemelli, Rome said: “Once you can control a robotic prosthesis with your brain you can think about creating one that allows more complex movements than a hand with five fingers.”

The researchers paid tribute to Almerina and the other amputees who joined the project.

Almerina was able to keep the bionic hand for six months, but it has now been removed, as it is still a prototype.

The scientific team say they hope to miniaturise the technology even further so that a sensory bionic hand can be commercialised.

Almerina told me that when the bionic hand is perfected, she would like it back for good.

Breast size dissatisfaction ‘affects self-examination’

Woman self-examining breast

Women unhappy with their breast size are less likely to carry out regular self-examinations, a study suggests.

The study, published in the journal Body Image, examined 384 British women.

The research found these women were also less confident about their ability to detect a change in their breasts and slower to see a doctor if they did detect a change.

Inspecting their breasts “may trigger negative emotions, such as shame and embarrassment”, the researchers said.

Most of the women surveyed had some degree of dissatisfaction with their breast size:

  • 31% wanted smaller breasts
  • 44% wanted larger breasts

Most common cancer

A third admitted they rarely or never engaged in breast self-examination.

The NHS advises women to make sure they know how their breasts usually look and feel at different times of the month, so they are aware of any changes.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with more than 55,000 women diagnosed every year.

Of the women surveyed, 55% said they would see their doctor as soon as possible if they detected a change in their breasts.

However, one in 10 admitted they would delay for as long as possible or not see their doctor at all.

Breast cancers detected early are usually easier to treat and more likely to be cured.

Prof Viren Swami, of Anglia Ruskin University, who conducted the research, said: “For women who are dissatisfied with their breast size, having to inspect their breasts may be experienced as a threat to their body image and so they may engage in avoidance behaviours.

“Promoting greater breast awareness may be a useful means of helping women view their breasts in more functional terms, rather than purely aesthetic terms.”

Dany Bell, from Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Feeling unhappy with your body mustn’t prevent people from making these vital checks.

“A breast lump is the most common symptom of breast cancer, so checking regularly could mean catching it earlier.”

He said it was important that both men and women performed these self-examinations.

Sophia Lowes, from Cancer Research UK, said the study “didn’t consider other factors such as social background that might affect whether they get breast changes checked out”.

She said it was important women were aware of what their breasts normally looked and felt like, so they were more likely to notice any changes.

“If you do spot something unusual, tell your doctor,” she said.

“In most cases, it won’t be cancer – but if it is, finding it early can make a real difference.”