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Health Highlights: July 20, 2017

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Republican Senator John McCain Has Brain Cancer

Sen. John McCain, who was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, has been diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer.

A statement released from McCain's office Wednesday night said the cancer, known as a glioblastoma, was discovered after a procedure to remove a blood clot above his left eye last week at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix.

"Subsequent tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot," the statement said. "Treatment options may include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation."

McCain, a well-respected politician known for his independent nature, was a former Navy pilot who was captured and held as a prisoner during the Vietnam War. He is 80.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), called McCain a hero, the New York Times reported.

"He has never shied from a fight, and I know that he will face this challenge with the same extraordinary courage that has characterized his life," McConnell said told the newspaper. "We all look forward to seeing this American hero again soon."

Dr. Eugene Flamm, chairman of neurosurgery at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, told the Times that "a glioblastoma is the most common and most malignant of brain tumors."

The median survival is about 16 months, Flamm added.

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Study Suggests Many Alzheimer's Patients Don't Have the Disease

Many people believed to have Alzheimer's may not have the disease, according to researchers.

Their four-year study was launched in 2016 and will include more than 18,000 Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia. PET scans are being used to determine if their brains contain the amyloid plaques that are one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's, the Washington Post reported.

Results from 4,000 patients tested so far show that only just 54.3 percent of MCI patients and 70.5 percent of dementia patients had the plaques.

While a positive test for amyloid does not mean someone has Alzheimer's, a negative test definitively rules it out, the Post reported.

The findings, presented Wednesday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in London, could lead to major changes in diagnosis and treatment.

"If someone had a putative diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, they might be on an Alzheimer's drug like Aricept or Namenda," said James Hendrix, the Alzheimer Association's director of global science initiatives who co-presented the findings, the Post reported.

"What if they had a PET scan and it showed that they didn't have amyloid in their brain? Their physician would take them off that drug and look for something else," he said.

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Rare Form of Mad Cow Disease in Alabama

A rare form of mad cow disease has been found in Alabama, state officials say.

Atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy was confirmed in an 11-year-old beef cow, according to a statement from state Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan, the Associated Press reported.

This is only the fifth case of this type of mad cow disease confirmed in the United States, the U.S. Agriculture Department says.

The cow was not slaughtered and its meat didn't enter the food chain, McMillan said.

The state said this a "rare and spontaneous" case of the disease, which can occur in older animals, the AP reported.

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Boy Who Had Double Hand Transplant Making 'Amazing' Progress: Doctors

An American boy who two years ago became the first child in the world to have a double hand transplant is making "amazing" progress and can now write, feed and dress himself, and even swing a baseball bat, according to his doctors.

They said they're amazed at the progress made by Zion Harvey, who is now 10, BBC News reported.

Zion was born with two hands but had to have them amputated at age two due to sepsis, a life-threatening infection. His kidneys also failed and he received a kidney transplant at age four.

Tests show that Zion's brain has rewired to take account of his new hands, said Dr. Sandra Amaral, a member of the team treating Zion at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, BBC News reported.

"He is able to swing a bat with much more coordination, and he can write his name quite clearly," she said. "His sensation continues to improve. It's amazing. Now he can pat his mother's cheek and feel it."

Zion's doctors describe his recovery in an article in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal.

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