That’s the question Dartmouth’s Dr. Gil Welch asks in a column on the CNN website. He reflects on [recent] news about a test in development that might find a single cancer cell among a billion healthy ones — as so many news stories framed it. Welch analyzes:
“But it’s not that simple. The test could just as easily start a cancer epidemic.
Most assume there are no downsides to looking for things to be wrong. But the truth is that early diagnosis is a double-edged sword. While it has the potential to help some, it always has a hidden side-effect: overdiagnosis, the detection of abnormalities that are not destined to ever bother people in their lifetime.
Becoming a patient unnecessarily has real human costs. There’s the anxiety of being told you are somehow not healthy. There’s the problem that getting a diagnosis may affect your ability to get health insurance. There are the headaches of renewing prescriptions, scheduling appointments and keeping them. Finally, there are the physical harms of treatments that cannot help (because there is nothing to fix): drug side-effects, surgical complications and even death. Not to mention it can bankrupt you.
Americans don’t need more diagnoses, they need the right diagnoses.
I don’t know whether this test will help some patients. It might, but it will take years to figure that out. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*
Most medical centers routinely perform or require that breast tissue be sent to pathology for histologic examination. The authors of the article (referenced below) question whether this is useful when the breast tissue excised comes from an adolescent male with gynecomastia considering the benign nature of the condition.
Furthermore, the authors point out male breast cancer is rare and when it does occur it is most often in older males, not adolescent males:
In 2009, there were an estimated 1,910 new cases and 440 deaths related to male breast cancer, accounting for just 0.25% and 0.15% of all new cases of cancer and cancer deaths for males in the entire United States, respectively, with historical cohorts demonstrating that the peak incidence of male breast cancer occurs at approximately 71 years of age. More significantly, breast cancer becomes increasingly uncommon among younger age groups.
To look at the issue, the authors did a retrospective chart review of their patients younger than 21 years of age who had undergone subcutaneous mastectomy for gynecomastia between 1999 and 2010. A review of the literature was done, as was an informal survey of major children’s hospitals regarding their practice of histologic examination for adolescent gynecomastia. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*
As doctors, sometimes the biggest lessons that we learn about disease pathology are those that we learn from the people that have that disease. Diabetes is one such disease.
I recently gave a show-and-tell lecture about insulin pumps to the new interns and residents as well as the 3rd-year medical students on their pediatric clerkship with the inpatient endocrine service. We discussed different types of pumps (point A on the picture) and they got to push the buttons and send a bolus or change a basal rate. They also looked at real time CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitors, points C and D on the picture) sensors used to check glucoses levels every five minutes. Read more »