People Conveniently Forget Just How Much Marathons Hurt When Asked About Them Later

After more than 30,000 runners pounded the (windy and rainy) streets of Massachusetts in today’s Boston Marathon, it’s easy to wonder what drives people to put themselves through that kind of pain again and again. You have to qualify with a speedy previous marathon time (or commit to raising a serious chunk of change for charity) to even toe the line in Boston, so most of these people already know how their body feels after running 26.2 miles.

So what gets them to hand over their credit card info and sign up for yet ANOTHER punishing race? Turns out, a new study published in the journal Memory found that marathon runners significantly underestimate their postrace pain when asked about it a few months later.

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For the study, Przemyslaw Bąbel, PhD, a professor of psychology at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, quizzed 62 men and women at the finish of the 2012 Cracovia Marathon about their pain. He asked them to rate “the intensity of the pain they were in, its unpleasantness, and the positive and negative emotions they were feeling,” according to Christian Jarrett, PhD, who wrote about the study on the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest blog.

Immediately after the race, runners reported an average pain intensity of 5.5 on a 7-point scale. Bąbel checked in with the marathoners either three or six months later and asked them to recall that level of hurt. Regardless of how much time had passed, they rated their postrace pain as an average of 3.2 on that same scale.

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While all of the runners underestimated their soreness, their overall emotional state at the finish seemed to affect how well they remembered things. Runners who really struggled (that is, they suffered more and had more negative emotions like distress) tended to recall their pain levels more accurately. Ouch.

So while the intense pain many marathoners feel (including the elite ones!) can be rough, it seems like time heals all (mental) wounds—maybe just at different rates.

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4 Surprising Tricks to Beat Pain

You’ve slammed your finger in the door (ouch!), and in that first minute, well, you pretty much think you’re going to die. But don’t freak: Instead, stay calm and cross your fingers. That simple move may be enough to numb the pain a bit, according to a recent study study published in Current Biology.


After inducing a harmless burning sensation in the fingers of volunteers, researchers found that it’s possible to lessen the feeling by crossing one finger over the other. Why? Turns out how you feel pain is related to where you feel it. By crossing your fingers, you change where your fingers are in relation to one another, and that confuses your brain (in a good way).

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“[The burning] feels painful because of a three-way interaction between the nerve pathways that tell the brain about warmth, cold, and pain,” study co-author Elisa Raffaella Ferrè, a research student at the University College London, explained to Health. Having volunteers cross their fingers helped them feel better, suggesting that “changing body posture might trick the brain” in a way that reduces pain, Ferrè added.

But what about all your other aches and pains? There are plenty of other surprising natural tricks to try when you’re hurting. Here are three more science-backed tactics to fight back.

Listen up

Putting on some tunes you love can help soothe your aches, according to a recent study in the journal Plos One. Researchers applied heat to people’s skin in order to cause discomfort. Those who got to jam to their favorite songs reported less pain than those who listened to other sounds or silence, even when the researchers controlled for the placebo effect.

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Press here

After giving people with recurring headaches a chance to try either muscle relaxants or acupressure, researchers in a 2010 study found that those in the acupressure group had less pain than those treated with pills. Try it: When you feel a head pounder coming on, apply steady pressure with both thumbs at the base of your head on either side of your spine on and off until you feel better.

Fantasize about food

Next time you have killer menstrual cramps, try imagining chocolate ice cream or your mom’s perfectly buttery mashed potatoes—a 2008 study found that food visualization worked better for pain relief than other imagery, like scenery, or walking around.

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Additional reporting by Amelia Harnish

Find Out Why Your Boobs Hurt With This Useful Chart

A twinge there, an ache there—breast pain is something most women have experienced at one point or another. Luckily, in most cases, it’s nothing to worry about, says Sharon Rosenbaum Smith, MD, a breast surgeon at Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. Your period, your workout, or even wearing the wrong bra can cause breast tenderness.

Next time your boobs hurt, use this chart to figure out the cause.

More about your  breasts:

12 Things That (Probably) Don’t Increase Breast Cancer Risk

6 Questions Every Woman Has About Her Breasts

5 Myths and Facts About Sagging Breasts

Almost 1 Million Bikes Recalled After Rider Becomes Paralyzed

Trek Bicycles has issued a recall of of almost 1 million bikes after a series of accidents, one of which left a rider paralyzed.

The recall includes all Trek models equipped with front disc brakes and a quick release lever that opens past 180 degrees on the front wheel. This lever can get caught in the disc brake, causing the wheel to come to a sudden stop or completely separate from the bike frame, according to an official notice posted on Trek’s web site.

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Roughly 900,000 bikes sold in the U.S. and 98,000 from Canada have the combination of disc brakes and the release lever, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The bikes included in the recall were in stores nationwide from September 1999 and April 2015, selling for between $480 and $1,650.

Trek reported three accidents that resulted in injuries, including a fractured wrist, facial injuries, and one that resulted in the rider becoming quadriplegic.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is advising anyone who owns one of these bikes to stop riding it immediately. Owners can bring their bike to any authorized Trek retailer where they will install a new quick release lever for free. The Wisconsin-based company will also provide a $20 coupon for Bontrager, a bike accessories retailer, to anyone who participates in the recall.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you,” reads the company’s recall notice. “We want you to safely enjoy cycling on your Trek bicycle.”

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The Safest Place To Sit On a Train or Plane

Since the tragic Amtrak derailment, I’ve faced a dilemma when I board my train to and from work: Where is the safest place to sit? I think of the eight victims who died, and how their choice of seat determined their fate.

I used to always head for the first car, a designated quiet area, so I could read or daydream in peace. After a Metro-North train in New York struck a passenger car at a crossing in February, and rails  pierced the first car of the train, I moved toward the middle of my commuter train—generally a good place to be, as it turns out.

In a derailment like the one on May 12, all cars were affected. But if a broken rail is to blame or a train strikes a car at a crossing, “Sitting in the middle of a car can be somewhat safer since it’s more likely the forward part of the train and cars would be dislodged from the track,” Bruce Becker, a consultant for the National Association of Railroad Passengers, tells

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Window seat dwellers, take note: In case of a train crash in which windows shatter, passengers in the aisle seat would be less likely to be struck by glass. And you might not want to park yourself in the café car, either, because of the tables fixed in place: “When there’s a great release of momentum and then a train rapidly decelerates, people get moved around violently and quickly,” says Becker, “so there’s the opportunity of a blunt force injury.”

As for planes, don’t grumble if you’re assigned a seat in the rear—it’s likely the safest spot, per an oft-cited analysis by Popular Mechanics that examined commercial airline crashes. Another choice safety spot is seating within five rows or less of an exit, finds research from the University of Greenwich.  Just avoid taking off your shoes, napping or putting on a video within the first three minutes or last eight minutes of flights (aka Plus Three/Minus Eight,  in expert speak). That’s when crashes are most likely to take place, notes Ben Sherwood in The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Life—and you want to be on alert for anything amiss.

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I know, generally, that I’m safe on the rails. As newscasters have repeatedly reassured Americans since the latest Amtrak accident, train travel is far safer than traveling by car—ditto for planes and buses. The passenger death rate in cars, vans, sports utility vehicles and light trucks was 0.49 per 100 million passenger miles in 2012 (the latest data available), versus 0.04 for buses, 0.02 for trains and 0.00 for airlines, per the nonprofit National Safety Council.

Still, I’m sticking with the middle of the train. Circumstance and luck may ultimately determine your general risk of getting into any accident, but I’ll gladly give up the peacefulness of a quiet car for a little more peace of mind.

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Doctors Often Miss This Rare Infection That Causes Back Pain

THURSDAY, July 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) — People with back pain that doesn’t improve with treatment could have a rare type of spine infection, new guidelines suggest.

The infection — called vertebral osteomyelitis — could lead to paralysis or death if it’s not diagnosed and treated correctly.

The condition is often overlooked because it causes back pain, a common problem typically caused by a pulled muscle or back injury, according to the guidelines published July 30 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“Back pain is so common — and usually not caused by infection — that diagnosis often is missed or delayed,” guidelines lead author Dr. Elie Berbari, associate chair of education, division of infectious disease, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., said in a news release from the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Vertebral osteomyelitis affects two to six out of 100,000 people a year. The condition develops when bacteria enter the blood stream and lodge in a spinal disc. The infection is most common in older people.

“The infection causes severe pain that often wakes the person at night and does not go away after pain management or rest. If that’s the case, the doctor needs to start considering that something else is going on, especially if the patient has a fever,” Berbari said.

A simple blood test can alert a doctor that a patient may have vertebral osteomyelitis, and an MRI and biopsy can confirm it. Treatment typically involves six weeks of intravenous antibiotics. However, about half of patients may have to undergo surgery to remove the infection, Berbari said.

More information

The North American Spine Society has more about spinal infections.

Here Are the Two Alternative Therapies That Actually Work for Neck Pain

By Steven ReinbergHealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 3, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Two alternative therapies — acupuncture and the Alexander technique — appear equally beneficial for the long-term relief of chronic neck pain, new research reports.

Both therapies involve educating patients in ways to relieve stress, as well as improve posture and balance. These techniques appeared to help reduce neck pain in the 12 months following treatment compared with drugs and traditional physical therapy, the British researchers said.

“In general, it is difficult to find long-term treatments that have a positive effect on chronic neck pain,” said lead researcher Hugh MacPherson, of the department of health sciences at the University of York. “But, both acupuncture and the Alexander technique lessons did.”

With both techniques, patients learned methods they could use in their daily life, he said.

“They could make changes in coping that didn’t involve medication and they were able to apply what they learned in a way that made a difference,” MacPherson said.

While the treatments themselves had an effect, what the patients learned about integrating the lessons of acupuncture or the Alexander technique into their lives is what likely made a difference over the long term, he suggested.

During acupuncture, patients have thin needles inserted into specific points on the body to relieve pain. The Alexander technique is an educational process that teaches people how to avoid unnecessary muscular and mental tension to help restore natural balance. This may help reduce pain during everyday activities, the study authors said.

“These two methods are physical therapies that don’t require unsafe medications, but do provide interaction that leads to long-term benefits,” MacPherson said.

Either method is something people with neck pain should consider, he said.

“If you are not getting a benefit from your traditional therapy and you do not want to keep taking medication and you want a more self-help physical therapy that will involve long-term changes, then acupuncture and Alexander technique would be good options,” MacPherson said.

The report was published Nov. 3 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

For the study, the researchers randomly assigned more than 500 patients from the United Kingdom who had chronic neck pain to one of three treatment groups. One group received usual care for neck pain that may have included medication or traditional physical therapy. The other two groups received either 12 acupuncture sessions or 20 one-on-one Alexander lessons. Each treatment group received 600 minutes of the intervention, the study said.

Both acupuncture and the Alexander technique were linked to better pain relief than either painkillers or physical therapy as scored on a pain questionnaire, MacPherson said. Neither of the alternative treatments appeared to offer a significant benefit over the other, however, the study found. And, neither alternative treatment was linked to any serious adverse side effects, the report said.

The Alexander technique generally isn’t covered by health insurance companies, according to the American Society for the Alexander Technique. Costs usually range between $75 to $130 per session, the society said.

Acupuncture may be covered by some insurance companies, according to the University of California, San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine. Sessions cost approximately $125, and some practitioners may offer discounts for payments at the time of service, the University of California San Diego said.

Dr. Houman Danesh, director of integrative pain management at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, said both methods are worth a try.

It’s not clear why these methods work, “but we are finding that they do help,” he said.

The Alexander technique is used by many patients after suffering a stroke, and patients have reported good results, Danesh said.

“Patients should have conversations with their doctors about these methods,” he said. “It’s something they should try.”

More information

For more about neck pain, visit the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.





Tiger Woods's Knee Injury: Is It OK to Play Through the Pain?

Golfer Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open earlier this week while grimacing with pain due to a knee injury. On Wednesday, he announced that that he’d be out for the season because he needs surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). So what exactly is an ACL tear, and did Woods make it worse by playing with the injury?

ACLs are fibrous bands of tissue that connect the upper and lower leg bones in a crisscross shape in the middle of the knee joint. They give the knee stability.

ACL tears, which can occur if the joint is bent backward or twisted when the foot is planted firmly on the ground, are “probably the most common season-ending injury in sports,” says Sherwin Ho, MD, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Chicago and a team orthopedist for the Chicago Blackhawks.

ACL tears are not common injuries in golfers. “Golf is not one of those types of activity that will cause an ACL injury unless you’re just awful,” says Dr. Ho. But Woods injured his a year ago while running. He had surgery in April to clear out damaged cartilage, and he also happens to have double stress fractures in the shinbone of the same leg.

An ACL injury would pose no problems for the average weekend warrior, says Dr. Ho, who is also a spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “The majority of people will do fine with an isolated ACL tear and a normal, pedestrian, human golf circuit.”

Woods, however, played 91 holes over five days to win the U.S. Open.


Surgery to repair a damaged ACL is not as easy as stitching the torn pieces together. The procedure, called an ACL reconstruction, involves rebuilding the ligament “by taking tissue either from elsewhere in the knee or from a tissue bank and making a brand new ligament for them,” says Dr. Ho. “That is a very reliable, dependable surgery.”

But it’s not always necessary to surgically repair the damage. If you have a torn ACL but don’t have any pain or swelling, you may be able to avoid surgery. For example, a recreational skier with an ACL injury who avoids moguls and jumps might not need surgery. But if you’re a 20-year-old extreme skier, then “no, he’s got to have his ACL fixed,” says Dr. Ho.

If you have other knee injuries, such as a torn meniscus (a pad of cartilage that prevents the bones from rubbing together), you probably do need surgery, says Dr. Ho. The longer you play sports, the worse the damage in those cases. “They’re going to lose more of their cushiony tissue and it will lead to early arthritis,” he says. “With an ACL tear, it’s not as clear cut. You can function fine without an ACL.”

In Woods’s case, “it was his knee that made the decision for him,” says Dr. Ho. He had the option of having his knee repaired all at once, but he chose to have the cartilage repaired first and the ligament reconstruction at a later date.

After surgery

After a ligament is repaired, there is a risk of developing arthritis earlier than normal, but that depends on the amount of damage to the cartilage. When the knee is destabilized by an injury, its more likely that the end of the bones will rub together and wear away the cushiony pads that protect them.

“If you look at the chicken bone, that white glistening stuff [is cartilage]. When that’s gone, you’re bone on bone, and that is essentially arthritis,” says Dr. Ho. “The risk is very high if the damage to the cartilage in the knee is greater than 50%.”

Grade 2 cartilage damage indicates that the surface of the cartilage is broken, and over time this can worsen and become grade 3 damage.

If Woods has grade 2 or mild grade 3 damage, it probably won’t affect his career too much, according to Dr. Ho. “If he manages it correctly, he can have a long, full career before he develops arthritis,” he says.

When Is it OK to play through the pain?

What about knee injuries among average, non-superstar athletes? Dr. Ho says the risk of further injury can depend on your symptoms and how often they recur.

“If every time you go out running it swells or hurts, you need to see a physician,” he says. “And if the pain on a scale of 1 to 10 is more than 5, that’s a good reason to see a doctor.”

If, like Tiger, you have an unstable knee that gives out on a regular basis, you also need to see a doctor. “Those situations are the ones we worry about—that they are doing further damage to the knee,” says Dr. Ho.

Dr. Ho also notes that the amount of stress on your knee can vary. Woods injured his left knee, which is particularly important because he’s a right-handed golfer.

“He might have gotten by a little longer if it was his right knee, but the left knee is the one you torque and load up, and so that’s why it’s harder—you can’ t make the weight shift,” he says.

Dr. Ho marvels that Tiger was able to play as long as he did. (See pictures of athletes playing through the pain on

“It’s so hard to force yourself to load up and take a full swing and end up on that painful left knee. He could hold it right through the swing and then collapse in pain,” he says. “Mentally, the guy’s tougher than anybody out there.”

By Theresa Tamkins

Related Links:Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries: Topic OverviewAnterior Cruciate Ligament ACL Surgery: Surgery OverviewPersonal stories about having surgery for an ACL ‘Knee detective’ says Tiger’s injury is not career-threatening, but are we getting the whole story?

Babies in Pain: 141 Procedures Is Average for ICU stay

Newborn babies who spend time in the intensive care unit (ICU) undergo an average of 141 painful or stressful procedures during their stay, including suctioning of the nose and throat, heel sticks, and needle jabs, according to a new study. What’s more, they get some sort of pain relief or comfort only 20% of the time.

The study, which was published July 2 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was conducted in France, but the results apply to the United States as well.

“These neonatal ICUs in France are delivering state-of-the-art care and are as aggressive about treating pain as we are in the U.S. and Canada,” says study coauthor K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, DPhil, a professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Pharmacology, Neurobiology, and Developmental Sciences at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

The results are “dramatically surprising,” he says. They “really call attention to the fact that there’s a huge burden of pain and suffering experienced by newborn babies in the ICUs.”

An average of 141 painful and stressful proceduresIn the study, Ricardo Carbajal, MD, PhD, of the Hopital d’enfants Armand Trousseau in Paris, and colleagues had 13 ICUs in the Paris area record the number of painful and stressful procedures experienced by a total of 430 babies in their first two weeks in the hospital.

Overall, they found the babies had an average of 141 procedures during the stay, of which 70% were painful and 30% were known to be stressful, such as having their mouth suctioned or being weighed.

There was an average of 12 painful procedures per baby per day.

Some type of pain relief was used in about 20% of the painful procedures; they included giving the baby a sugar solution to drink, a pacifier to suck on, or both. Pain-relief medication was used only 2% of the time.

It’s not that doctors and nurses are uncaring or are callously performing unnecessary procedures, says Dr. Anand. “I don’t have a shred of doubt that any of these procedures were not necessary,” he says. “They are necessary for the survival of these babies.”

One reason for the high number of procedures is that technological advances have allowed smaller and smaller babies to survive, and more infants are spending the first few weeks of their lives in an ICU. Such babies undergo a lot of tests, including heel sticks to provide spots of blood to test for jaundice, blood sugar levels, and electrolytes.

Why so many painful procedures?Some doctors and nurses may fear that routine pain relief, even if it’s a sugar solution, may harm the baby, says Anna Taddio, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and a clinical specialist at the Hospital for Sick Children. (She was not involved in the JAMA study but published her own study about infant pain in the July 1 issue of Canadian Medical Association Journal.)

Many studies have shown that babies experience less pain if they drink a sugar solution, but none have looked at whether it’s safe to give a sugar solution a dozen times a day. Some health professionals worry that it may cause elevated blood sugar levels in the baby, she says.

You want to treat pain “with something that works quickly and safely, that’s easy to give, doesn’t cost a lot of money, and doesn’t cause serious side effects,” she says. “There are not too many drugs that fit that bill.”

However, some pain relief techniques are definitely being underused, according to Dr. Anand, who says there were a total of 42,413 painful procedures counted during the study, but “skin-to-skin contact was barely used—4 to 10 times—total,” says Dr. Anand. “This is amazing.”

Something as simple as skin-to-skin contact, such as laying an infant between the mother’s breasts, is known to ease an infant’s pain.

“Skin-to-skin contact with the mother or father stimulates the body’s own mechanism that dampens the incoming painful stimuli,” he says.

Pain is thought to have lasting aftereffectsDr. Anand thinks that health-care providers should be more concerned about the long-lasting effects of pain, rather than pain relief.

“I think there is an extravagant degree of concern about the dangers of pain relief,” he says. “Pain is not given the necessary degree of attention it deserves.”

Studies have found that newborns are more sensitive to pain than older infants and children, and painful procedures early in life can have long-lasting effects.

“We do know that repeated pain exposure causes babies to have altered pain processing,” says Dr. Anand. Some infants may grow into children who have a lower- or higher-than-normal response to pain, and some may be at risk for chronic pain conditions, he says.

There are things that parents can do to make sure their infant receives pain relief in the hospital. Babies were more likely to get pain relief if the parents were present and the procedure was performed during the daytime, according to the study.

Dr. Anand recommends that parents be proactive about asking about pain relief for their infant.

“It’s literally their right to ask for pain relief,” he says. “I think what parents can really do is to be at the bedside and ask the staff, ‘What are you doing to make my baby comfortable? What are you doing to avoid the pain and stress that my baby may be perceiving?’”

By Theresa Tamkins

(PHOTO: 123RF)

Related Links:Premature Infant: Getting to Know the ICUOpen Communication With the NICU StaffWhat You Should Know About Painkiller AddictionExpert Advice on Getting Health Insurance and Affordable Care for Chronic Pain

Breast Cancer: Aspirin, Ibuprofen May Cut Risk

By Theresa TamkinsWEDNESDAY, Oct. 8 ( — Can taking aspirin or ibuprofen reduce your risk of getting breast cancer? One of the largest studies of its kind suggests that the answer might be yes.

In the past, researchers have flip-flopped on the issue, so they recently combined some of the best data—from 2.7 million women in 38 separate studies—to look for solid evidence. And they found it.

Women who took aspirin had a 13% lower risk of breast cancer than those who didn’t, while those who took ibuprofen had a 21% lower risk.

The findings were published this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

While it might be tempting to try to reduce your own risk by popping these over-the-counter pain relievers, known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), the researchers sound a note of caution: The pills can cause bleeding in your digestive tract. And some types of NSAIDs have been linked to risk of heart problems.

“I would not recommend that women use NSAIDs for breast cancer prevention,” says study author Bahi Takkouche, MD, PhD, of the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. “NSAIDs may have very strong secondary effects. The results of this study just show that women who are taking NSAIDs for other reasons probably have a lower risk of breast cancer.”

Next: Why the link is plausible, but not proven

This type of study can’t prove conclusively that NSAIDs are responsible for the lower risk of breast cancer. According to the experts, some other factor could be responsible for the reduction in cancer risk.

However, the link is plausible, says coauthor Mahyar Etminan, PharmD, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

“[NSAIDs] are strong inhibitors of the enzyme cyclooxygenase—COX—which is an important enzyme that is responsible for producing inflammatory mediators,” Etminan says. “Inflammation and inflammatory mediators are thought to be important in the pathology of [breast cancer].”

Research in animals suggests that NSAIDs might be more helpful fighting certain types of breast cancer than others—which could explain why past studies in women with breast cancer have had mixed results. For example, there’s some evidence that NSAIDs may be more effective at preventing cancers that over-express the HER2 gene, according to an editorial published with the study.

Etminan says the first randomized controlled trial looking at NSAIDs and cancer is now underway in the United Kingdom. In the study, known as the REACT trial, women at high risk for breast cancer are taking celecoxib to see if the drug can lower their risk. If this and other large trials show that NSAIDs are truly effective, then doctors may start to recommend them to women for breast cancer risk reduction.

“As of today, NSAIDs should not be part of any breast cancer therapy,” Etminan says.


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