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Natural Cancer Treatment for Thyroid Cancer Facts

What is Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancer is a group of malignant tumors that originate from the thyroid gland. The thyroid is a gland in the front of the neck. The thyroid gland absorbs iodine from the bloodstream so it can produce thyroid hormone (it regulates body metabolism and temperature, it affects the heart rate, and its lack is associated with decrease in energy levels or fatigue). The thyroid gland contains two types of cells: follicular cells, which are responsible for the production of thyroid hormone; and C cells, which make calcitonin, a hormone that participates in the calcium metabolism.

A healthy thyroid gland is barely palpable. A normal gland has two lobes on each side of the windpipe, joined by a narrow strip of tissue called the isthmus. If a mass develops in the thyroid, it is felt as a lump in the neck. A diffusely swollen thyroid gland is called a goiter, which may be due to iodine deficiency. The gland is located on the trachea (windpipe) just below the larynx (voice box) Thyroid tissue growths are known as nodules. Ninety percent (90%) of all thyroid growths are benign and ten percent (10%) of thyroid nodules are malignant. Cancer cells can spread into neighboring tissues and organs, and enter the lymphatic system and the bloodstream.

Here are four types of thyroid cancer:

Papillary Thyroid Cancer: Papillary cancer develops in the follicular cells and grows slowly. It is usually found in one lobe; only 10% to 20% of papillary cancers appear in both lobes.

Follicular Thyroid Cancer: Follicular cancer also develops in the follicular cells and grows slowly, yet is less common. When detected early, it can be treated successfully.

Papillary and follicular cancers make up 80% to 90% of thyroid cancers, and are grouped under the term differentiated thyroid cancer. When detected early, especially in people below the age of 45-50 years, it can be treated successfully.

Medullary Thyroid Cancer: Medullary cancer develops in the C cells. It can be controlled if it is found and treated before it spreads to other parts of the body. Medullary cancer accounts for 5% to 10% of thyroid cancers.

Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer: This is a very rare and aggressive form of thyroid cancer that takes its origin from differentiated thyroid cancer or other benign tumors of the gland, and in its giant cell variety is often rapidly fatal.

Natural Cancer Treatment for Thyroid Cancer

AP John Cancer Research Institute offer natural treatments for Thyroid Cancer as well as several other types of natural cancer treatments and detox diets. Thyroid cancer is a group of malignant tumors that originate from the thyroid gland. The thyroid is a gland in the front of the neck. The thyroid gland absorbs iodine from the bloodstream so it can produce thyroid hormone (it regulates body metabolism and temperature, it affects the heart rate, and its lack is associated with decrease in energy levels or fatigue). The thyroid gland contains two types of cells: follicular cells, which are responsible for the production of thyroid hormone; and C cells, which make calcitonin, a hormone that participates in the calcium metabolism.

A healthy thyroid gland is barely palpable. A normal gland has two lobes on each side of the windpipe, joined by a narrow strip of tissue called the isthmus. If a mass develops in the thyroid, it is felt as a lump in the neck. A diffusely swollen thyroid gland is called a goiter, which may be due to iodine deficiency. The gland is located on the trachea (windpipe) just below the larynx (voice box) Thyroid tissue growths are known as nodules. Ninety percent (90%) of all thyroid growths are benign and ten percent (10%) of thyroid nodules are malignant. Cancer cells can spread into neighboring tissues and organs, and enter the lymphatic system and the bloodstream.

Risk Factors

What causes thyroid cancer?

Doctors do not know what causes most cases of thyroid cancer. However, scientists have observed that thyroid cancer affects women two to three times as often as men and occurs more frequently in whites than in blacks. Scientists do not fully understand the reasons for these patterns; they continue to study thyroid cancer to try to learn what may increase a person’s risk for this disease.

One known risk factor is exposure to radiation during childhood. Before doctors knew of its dangers, radiation therapy was used to treat acne and to reduce swelling and infection in organs such as the thymus, tonsils, and lymph nodes. People who received radiation to the head and neck as children have a higher- than-average risk of developing thyroid cancer many years late. Scientists are doing studies to determine whether other types of radiation exposure also can cause thyroid cancer.

What to Look For

Can thyroid cancer be detected early?

The National Cancer Institute recommends that anyone who received radiation to the head or neck in childhood be examined by a doctor every 1 to 2 years. Also, people should see a doctor if they have a family member with medullary thyroid cancer. The most important part of a checkup is the careful examination of the neck, feeling for lumps in the thyroid and enlargement of nearby lymph nodes. A thyroid scan (scintogram) or ultrasonography may be recommended for people at risk for thyroid cancer.

What are symptoms of thyroid cancer?

The most common symptom of thyroid cancer is a lump, or nodule, that can be felt in the neck. Other symptoms are rare. Pain is seldom an early warning sign of thyroid cancer. However, a few patients have a tight or full feeling in the neck, difficulty breathing or swallowing, hoarseness, or swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms can be caused by thyroid cancer or by other, less serious problems. If a person is experiencing symptoms, a doctor should be consulted.

Tests

The doctor can use several tests to learn the size and location of a thyroid nodule and/or to help determine whether a lump is benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous.) For example, the doctor may order blood tests to check how well the patient’s thyroid is functioning. Also, a radioactive iodine scan can outline abnormal areas of the thyroid. For the scan, the patient is given a very small amount of a radioactive substance (usually iodine I-131 or technetium TC-99m), which collects in the thyroid. An scanning instrument can then detect “cold spots”- areas in the thyroid that do not absorb iodine normally. Because cold spots can be benign or malignant, further tests are necessary.

Ultrasonography is another technique for producing a picture of the thyroid. In this procedure, high-frequency sound waves, which cannot be heard by humans, pass into the thyroid. The patterns of echoes produced by these waves are converted into a picture (sonogram) by a computer. Doctors can tell whether nodules are fluid-filled cysts, which are usually benign, or solid lumps that might be malignant.

The only sure way to tell whether a patient has thyroid cancer is to look at cells from the thyroid with a microscope. There are two ways to obtain a sample of thyroid tissue: by withdrawing cells using a needle (needle biopsy) or by surgically removing the tumor (surgical biopsy). In either case, a pathologist examines the tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells.

If the needle biopsy does not show cancer, the doctor may give the patient thyroid hormones. These hormones make it unnecessary for the thyroid to produce its own hormones, and the gland, including the nodule, shrinks and becomes inactive. If the needle biopsy is not conclusive or if the thyroid hormones are not effective, the patient usually has a surgical biopsy.

When thyroid cancer is diagnosed, doctors may do more tests to learn about the stage (extent) of the disease. The results of these tests help doctors plan appropriate treatment.

Stages

Once thyroid cancer is found (diagnosed), more tests will be done to find out if cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. This is called staging. A doctor needs to know the stage of the disease to plan treatment.

Papillary and follicular thyroid cancer

The following stages are used for papillary and follicular thyroid cancer:

– Stage I

  • In patients younger than 45 years, cancer may have spread within the neck or upper chest and/or to nearby lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body
  • In patients aged 45 years and older, the tumor is 2 centimeters (about ¾ inch) or smaller and in the thyroid only

– Stage II

  • In patients younger than 45 years, the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, such as the lung or bone, and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes
  • In patients aged 45 years and older, the tumor is larger than 2 centimeters but not larger than 4 centimeters (between ¾ and 1½ inches) in the thyroid only

– Stage III

The cancer is found in patients aged 45 years or older. The tumor either:

  • is larger than 4 centimeters; or
  • may be any size and has spread just outside the thyroid and/or to lymph nodes in the neck

Stage IV is divided into Stage IV-A, Stage IV-B

– Stage IV-A: The cancer is found in patients aged 45 years or older. The tumor may be any size and has spread within the neck and/or to lymph nodes in the neck or upper chest

– Stage IV-B: The cancer is found in patients aged 45 years or older. The tumor may be any size and has spread to neck tissues near the backbone or around blood vessels in the neck or upper chest and may have also spread to the lymph nodes.

– Stage IV-C:The cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lung or bone, and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Medullary thyroid cancer

The following stages are used for medullary thyroid cancer:

– Stage 0 (Carcinoma in situ)

  • No tumor is found in the thyroid but the cancer is detected by screening tests

– Stage I

  • The tumor is 2 centimeters or smaller and in the thyroid only

– Stage II

  • The tumor is larger than 2 centimeters but not larger than 4 centimeters and is in the thyroid only

– Stage III

The tumor is either larger than 4 centimeters or may be any size and has spread just outside the thyroid and/or to lymph nodes in the neck.

– Stage IV

Stage IV is divided into Stage IV-A, Stage IV-B and Stage IV-C

Stage IV-A: The tumor may be any size and has spread within the neck and/or to lymph nodes in the neck or upper chest.

Stage IV-B: The tumor may be any size and has spread to neck tissues near the backbone or around blood vessels in the neck or upper chest. Cancer may also have spread to lymph nodes.

Stage IV-C: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lung or bone, and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes

Anaplastic thyroid cancer

Anaplastic thyroid cancer is considered to be Stage IV thyroid cancer. It grows quickly and has usually spread within the neck when it is found. Anaplastic thyroid cancer develops most often in older people.

Recurrent thyroid cancer

Recurrent disease means that the cancer has come back (recurred) after it has been treated. It may come back in the thyroid or in other parts of the body.

Types of Treatment

Surgery is the most common form of treatment for thyroid cancer that has not spread to distant parts of the body. The surgeon usually removes part or all of the thyroid and any other affected tissue, such as lymph nodes. (If the patient has a surgical biopsy, the biopsy and the removal of the thyroid may be done in the same operation). A doctor may remove the cancer using one of the following operations:

  • Lobectomy removes only the side of the thyroid where the cancer is found. Lymph nodes in the area may be taken out (biopsied) to see if they contain cancer
  • Near-total thyroidectomy removes all of the thyroid except for a small part
  • Total thyroidectomy removes the entire thyroid
  • Lymph node dissection removes lymph nodes in the neck that contain cancer

Surgery may not be recommended when a patient is found to have thyroid cancer that has spread. Treatment usually includes some form of systemic therapy (treatment that can kill or slow the growth of thyroid cancer cells throughout the body), such as chemotherapy, radioactive iodine therapy, and/or hormone therapy.

Patients with localized papillary or follicular thyroid cancer also may receive treatment with I-131 (a larger dose than that used in a thyroid scan). The patient swallows the iodine, which collects in any thyroid cancer cells that remain in the body after surgery. By damaging such cancer cells, the radioactive iodine helps prevent the disease from recurring. The patient must remain in the hospital for a few days while the radiation is most active. The treatment may be repeated at a later time.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation for thyroid cancer may come from a machine outside the body (external radiation therapy) or from drinking a liquid that contains radioactive iodine. Because the thyroid takes up iodine, the radioactive iodine collects in any thyroid tissue remaining in the body and kills the cancer cells.

Hormone therapy uses hormones to stop cancer cells from growing. In treating thyroid cancer, hormones can be used to stop the body from making other hormones that might make cancer cells grow. Hormones are usually given as pills. Hormones usually are given to patients who have had surgery to remove the thyroid and/or treatment with radioactive iodine. The hormones replace those that are normally produced by the thyroid. This treatment also slows down the growth of any remaining thyroid cancer cells. The doctor may need to do follow-up tests to determine whether the patient is receiving the proper amount of the necessary hormones.

Regular follow-up is very important after treatment for thyroid cancer. Follow-up care may include periodic complete physician exams, x-rays, scans, and blood tests.

Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer

Treatment may be one of the following:

  • Surgery to create an opening in the windpipe, for tumors that block the airway. This is called a tracheostomy
  • Total thyroidectomy to reduce symptoms if the tumor is in the area of the thyroid only
  • External-beam radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Clinical trials of chemotherapy and radiation therapy following thyroidectomy
  • Clinical trials studying new methods of treatment of thyroid cancer

Medullary Thyroid Cancer

Treatment may be one of the following:

  • Total thyroidectomy for tumors in the thyroid only. Lymph nodes in the neck may also be removed
  • Radiation therapy for tumors that come back in the thyroid as palliative treatment to relieve symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life
  • Chemotherapy for cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, as palliative treatment to relieve symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life

Recurrent Thyroid Cancer

The choice of treatment depends on the type of thyroid cancer the patient has, the kind of treatment the patient had before, and where the cancer comes back. Treatment may be one of the following:

  • Surgery with or without radioactive iodine. A second surgery may be done to remove tumor that remains
  • Radioactive iodine
  • External-beam radiation therapy or radiation therapy given during surgery to relieve symptoms caused by the cancer
  • Chemotherapy
  • Clinical trials of new treatments

Treatment by stage

Treatment of thyroid cancer depends on the type and stage of the disease, and the patient’s age and overall health.

Stage I and II Papillary and Follicular Thyroid Cancer

Treatment may be one of the following:

  • Surgery to remove the thyroid (total thyroidectomy). This may be followed by hormone therapy and radioactive iodine
  • Surgery to remove one lobe of the thyroid (lobectomy), followed by hormone therapy. Radioactive iodine also may be given following surgery

Stage III Papillary and Follicular Thyroid Cancer

Treatment may be one of the following:

  • Surgery to remove the entire thyroid (total thyroidectomy) and lymph nodes where cancer has spread
  • Total thyroidectomy followed by radiation therapy with radioactive iodine or external-beam radiation therapy

Stage IV Papillary and Follicular Thyroid Cancer

Treatment may be one of the following:

  • Radioactive iodine
  • External-beam radiation therapy
  • Surgery to remove the cancer from places where it has spread
  • Hormone therapy
  • A clinical trial of new treatments, including chemotherapy

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3 Reasons Gluten Intolerance May Be More Serious Than Celiac Disease

Recent news stories have downplayed the significance of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, even going as far as suggesting that it doesn’t exist. But a growing body of evidence has proven that gluten intolerance is not only real, but is potentially a much larger problem than celiac disease.

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About a year ago I wrote an article called “Is Gluten Sensitivity Real” which critiqued a spate of news reports suggesting that nonceliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) doesn’t exist. These news stories referred to a study indicating that some people who believed they were reacting to gluten were actually reacting to a class of poorly absorbed carbohydrates (which include wheat, among many other foods) called FODMAPs.

You can read the full article above for details, but the takeaway was that the study those stories were based on in no way disproved the existence of NCGS, nor did it overturn the large body of evidence that links it to a variety of health problems ranging from type 1 diabetes, to allergies, to schizophrenia, to autism spectrum disorders. There is little doubt among those who are familiar with the scientific literature that NCGS is a real condition. 

Yet despite this, we continue to see headlines in the media like this:

  • Time for Some Grains of Truth About Gluten
  • Eat More Gluten: The Diet Fad Must Die
  • Why We’re Wasting Billions on Gluten-Free Food

These stories—and many other like them—argue that nonceliac gluten intolerance is rare, and that people who eliminate gluten from their diet are just silly fad followers. In this article, however, I’m going to present three reasons why NCGS is not only a bonafide condition, but may in fact be a much more serious problem than celiac disease.

#1: Celiac disease is far easier to diagnose than NCGS

According to some estimates, for every diagnosed case of celiac disease (CD), there are 6.4 undiagnosed cases that remain undiagnosed—the majority of which are atypical or “silent” forms with no damage to the gut. (1) This silent form of CD is far from harmless; it is associated with a nearly fourfold increase in the risk of death. (2)

I believe that patients with NCGS are even more likely than patients with CD to go undiagnosed. Most gastroenterologists today know how to screen for celiac disease. They will typically test for antibodies to antibodies to alpha gliadin, transglutaminase-2, deamidated gliadin, and endomysium, and if positive do a biopsy to determine if tissue damage is present.

However, we now know that people can (and do) react to several other components of wheat above and beyond alpha gliadin, the component that is implicated in CD. These include other epitopes of gliadin (beta, gamma, omega), glutenin, wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), gluteomorphin, and deamidated gliadin. What’s more, people can react to other types of tissue transglutaminase, including type 3—primarily found in the skin—and type 6—primarily found in the brain. (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)

Why the “gluten intolerance haters” are wrong.

So, imagine a scenario where the patient is reacting to deamidated gliadin, glutenin, gluteomorphin, and either transglutaminase-3 or -6, but not reacting to alpha gliadin or transglutaminase-2—which are the antibodies used to screen for CD by most doctors. They will remain undiagnosed, and may continue to eat gluten for the rest of their lives, putting themselves at serious risk for autoimmune and other diseases.

This is not a hypothetical situation. In fact, I see cases like this all the time in my practice. Here is a screenshot from a recent test I ran on a patient. I use a much more thorough test for wheat and gluten intolerance called Array 3 from Cyrex Laboratories. Unlike other tests, it measures antibodies not only to alpha gliadin and transglutaminase-2, but also many of the other components of the wheat protein I mentioned above, as well as transglutaminase-3 and 6.

gluten chart copy

This patient is not reacting to alpha gliadin or transglutaminase-2. Had they been tested by their conventional doctor, they would have been told that they do not have celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

However, as you can see, she is reacting quite significantly to several different components of wheat, including:

  • Native and deamidated gliadin and gluteomorphin, which are compounds produced during the digestion of wheat.
  • Glutenin, which is the other major fraction of the wheat protein, along with gliadin.
  • Gliadin-transglutaminase complex, which indicates that the patient is experiencing an autoimmune reaction to wheat.
  • Transglutaminase-3, which is expressed primarily in the skin, and to a lesser extent in the brain and placenta.
  • Transglutaminase-6, which is expressed in the brain and nervous system.

When this patient consumes wheat or other gluten-containing foods, she may not experience the classic digestive symptoms associated with CD or NCGS, because she is not producing antibodies to transglutaminase-2 (which is mostly expressed in the gut). Instead, her intolerance of wheat could manifest in skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, and in neurological or brain-related conditions like depression, peripheral neuropathy, or ADHD. (9, 10)

Worst of all, if this patient had not had this test, and had continued to eat wheat and gluten for the rest of her life, it’s likely that she would have been at much higher risk for the long list of serious conditions that are associated with gluten intolerance, such as multiple sclerosis, ataxia, diabetes, and even Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). (11, 12, 13, 14)

Unfortunately, this patient is not the exception—she is the rule. I’ve seen so many test results just like this, where the patient would have been misdiagnosed as not having gluten intolerance had they gone to a conventional doctor.

This presents another obvious problem, of course: if very few health care providers are doing the correct testing for gluten intolerance (like the panel from Cyrex above), then how can we possibly know what the true prevalence of NCGS is? We can’t—but given everything I’ve written above, we can certainly suspect that it’s much higher than currently believed.

According to Cyrex Labs, 1 in 4 people that take the Array 3 panel test positive for some form of wheat or gluten intolerance. Granted, this is not a representative sample, since most people that take the Cyrex panel are dealing with chronic illness of some kind.

Even with the limitations of current testing, however, some researchers have speculated that NCGS may affect as many as 1 in 10 people. (15) I suspect this is accurate, if not conservative.

#2: Current cultural attitudes toward NCGS mean more people will remain undiagnosed

There has been a big backlash in both the mainstream media and on social media channels against the idea of gluten intolerance. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, uninformed journalists and armchair Facebook scientists continue to argue that NCGS is some kind of widespread collective delusion—simply a figment of the imagination of anyone who claims to experience it. And for reasons that I do not fully understand, they do so with an almost religious fervor.

The “gluten intolerance haters” seemed to emerge in force after a paper published by Gibson et al. in 2013 made the rounds in the media. This study found that a group of patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) were not sensitive to gluten, but instead were reacting to a group of poorly absorbed carbohydrates called FODMAPs. (16) Aside from the fact that this study did not in any way disprove the existence of NCGS, from a practical perspective the study findings would not have changed the behavior of most people with IBS who identified as being gluten intolerant, since wheat and many other gluten-containing grains are FODMAPs and should thus be avoided by these patients.

More importantly, however, in the last two years since the Gibson paper new studies have been published that directly contradict Gibson’s findings and strongly suggest that patients with IBS do, in fact, react adversely to gluten—and not just FODMAPs.

For example, a new double-blind, randomized trial out of Iran was specifically designed to determine whether a group of IBS patients reacted to gluten specifically, or simply improved for other reasons on a gluten-free diet. (17) Here’s how it worked:

  1. 80 patients followed an “almost-gluten-free” diet (dietary compliance was considered optimal if consumption of gluten was below 100 mg/day, the equivalent of roughly 1/8 tsp of wheat four).
  2. After six weeks, the 72 patients that complied with the diet and experienced significant improvement were then randomized into two groups: Group A, and Group B.
  3. Group A (35 patients) was given a 100 g packet containing a gluten meal (free of FODMAPs). Group B (37 patients) was given a placebo packet (100 g) containing rice flour, corn starch, and glucose.
  4. Patients in both groups consumed the powders for six weeks, while both groups continued on gluten-free diets.

After six weeks of the diet symptoms were controlled in only 26% of the gluten group, compared with 84% of the placebo group. In the gluten-containing group, all symptoms—especially bloating and abdominal pain—increased significantly one week after starting the gluten.

The authors point out that it is important to properly identify gluten intolerance and distinguish it from FODMAP intolerance because some recent research suggests that long-term low FODMAP diets may have adverse effects on the gut microbiome. One study found that a low FODMAP diet compared with a habitual diet reduced the proportion and concentration of Bifidobacteria, one of the most beneficial species of bacteria in the colon. (18) (Authors note: I will be exploring this issue in more detail in a future article.)

But I would add another equally serious consequence of misdiagnosing gluten intolerance as FODMAP intolerance, which is the increase in risk for numerous and sometimes serious diseases that occurs when someone with NCGS continues to consume gluten.

#3: Many doctors and patients aren’t serious enough about NCGS treatment

This last point is a natural consequence of the first two. If detecting NCGS in conventional medical settings is unlikely, and there is a strong cultural backlash against it, where does that leave the millions of people that are likely suffering from NCGS without even knowing it?

Even if they do suspect that they are gluten intolerant, they might be dissuaded from pursuing a strict gluten-free diet by their friends, social media contacts, or even their doctor, all of whom are likely uninformed on this subject and do not understand the deficiencies in conventional testing or the complexity of the topic.

Based on the research I’ve reviewed in this article, and several others I linked to here, we should be more aggressive—not less—in diagnosing and treating gluten intolerance.

We need greater access to test panels like Cyrex Labs Array 3, which is the only commercial test outside of a research setting that screens for antibodies to many of the proteomes in wheat, instead of just testing for alpha gliadin. We need better training for doctors on how to recognize the myriad of symptoms and conditions associated with gluten intolerance, so they don’t make the common mistake of assuming that the patient isn’t gluten intolerant if they don’t have digestive problems. And we need some prominent journalists to educate themselves, step forward, and take responsibility for treating this as the serious, potentially life-threatening problem that it is.

Even without access to tests like Array 3, an elimination/provocation trial where gluten is removed completely from the diet for 60 days and then reintroduced is still considered to be an accurate method of assessing gluten intolerance. Doctors should be much more proactive about recommending this to patients, and despite the claims of some mainstream nutritionists and dietitians to the contrary, there is no risk to removing gluten from the diet. (19) If anything, people on a gluten-free diet are more likely to increase their intake of essential nutrients, especially if they replace breads and other flour products with whole foods (rather than with gluten-free flour alternatives).

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that many people that are intolerant of gluten are also intolerant of other food proteins found in foods like dairy, eggs, and unfortunately, coffee. Studies have shown that about 50 percent of patients with CD show intolerance to casein, a protein in milk. (20)

This may explain why up to 30 percent of CD patients continue to have symptoms or clinical signs after adopting a gluten-free diet. (21) For this reason, I recommend a completely grain- and dairy-free diet during the gluten challenge period. (Check out my 14Four program for a great way to get started with this.)

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