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Baby boomers may face a silent killer

August 7, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Baby boomers need to be aware of a silent killer: abdominal aortic aneurysms, or "AAA."AAA can grow, without painful symptoms, until it ruptures, and then it is often too late.

David Backulich was diagnosed with prostate cancer, lymphoma, and bladder cancer. However, tests for cancer revealed another deadly problem.

"In a way, I say the cancer saved my life," said Backulich.

David had two aneurysms.

An aneurysm is where a portion of an artery balloons, and it can eventually rupture.

"Aneurysms are increasing in incidence and they are becoming more common," said Dr. Martin Back, vascular surgery, Tampa General Hospital.

Dr. Back says AAA is the 13th leading cause of death. Nine out of 10 patients who have AAA that ruptures will die. However, it may not be deadly if it's caught early.

"A single ultrasound, if the aorta is found to be a normal size in the abdomen, that patient will likely never develop an aneurysm," said Dr. Back.

If the aorta is larger, doctors can check it regularly until the aneurysm grows to the point when surgery is needed.

"I never knew anything about them until they found the one on me. Then I got educated quick," said Douglas Bell, AAA patient.

Males are at high risk for AAA. Others at high risk include people with high blood pressure, those over 60 years of age, and smokers or former smokers.

Guidelines suggest men and women over the age of 60 with risk factors should have an ultrasound.

"A lot of medical care is dependent upon the patient bringing things up with their physician," said Dr. Back.

 

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