Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

The Best Time To Be Treated For A DVT

You know I am a cancer survivor – 15 years down the road from a leukemia diagnosis and enjoying a 10 year remission. So whenever something seems weird about my health it’s cancer coming back, right? Wrong! Just how wrong was proven last night. I am writing this from my hospital bed in Seattle.

The first symptom of a possible problem came three days ago when I had soreness in my right calf. A pulled muscle? Maybe. But I had not noticed straining it. Back at the gym the next day I had soreness again but thought it was no big deal. Last night it was worse. It hurt some to walk. I got home and, after my wife and son were asleep, got ready for bed. I had a slight fever and then noticed the right calf was not only sore, but swollen and warm. Very strange. I’d never seen that before.

Trying not to be stupid I called the 24-hour consulting nurse. She immediately began to focus on deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a worrisome condition that affects about two million Americans a year and can lead to a life threatening situation. She had a doctor call me. Normally those doctors would rather make a house call then send you to the more costly emergency room. But not this time. “Dr. Steve” urged me to go to the ER rather than let a DVT progress and endanger my life. An ultrasound exam would determine if it was really a DVT. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*

Helpful Breast Cancer Q&A

Preya Ananthakrishnan, MD

Attendees of the breast cancer awareness symposium “Bridging the Gap: Promoting Breast Cancer Prevention, Screening and Wellness” were given the chance to submit questions on breast cancer in the minority community. This is the first part of these questions answered by Dr. Preya Ananthakrishnan, Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgery and a host of the event.

Q: I am a 51 year old Black women, whose mother died 13 years ago from breast cancer & her sister was diagnosed last year. I had a mammography 2 weeks ago and got the dreaded come back letter. Should I get genetic counseling?

Dr. Ananthakrishnan: I would suggest that your sister with the breast cancer get tested first, and if her test result is positive then you should get tested. Furthermore, it is likely that even though you got a “call back” letter after your mammogram, it is very possible that you don’t actually have a breast cancer. I would advise you to go in as soon as possible to work up whatever abnormality was seen. If you do in fact have a breast cancer, then you should certainly undergo genetic testing yourself.

Q: What is considered “early detection” of breast cancer?

Dr. Ananthakrishnan: Early detection is finding a breast cancer before symptoms actually occur. This could be by finding it on a mammogram before actually feeling a lump in the breast, or by finding a small lump before it becomes a big lump. Early detection can sometimes allow for less aggressive treatments and improved outcomes.

Q: Is radical mastectomy surgery still performed? I hear little about it now. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Columbia University Department of Surgery Blog*

Is The Young Pharmaceutical Rep Right?

I loved my old status. Perhaps, reveled in it would be a better description. I was a crotchety, generic medicine-only doctor.** Sadly, my status changed today. Dabigatran (brand name Pradaxa) was the culprit.

It was a little nerve racking. I wrote the order, looked at it, thought it out again, talking to myself: “John, are you sure you don’t want to do it the old way? [pause to think] No, I am embracing the new.”  And then, I closed the chart and handed it to the nurse.

“What’s that? Pradaxa?” asked the nurse. “Stop the Lovenox? You sure?” My face must have told the story.

Eight days had passed since dabigatran’s approval. “That’s plenty of time to mourn warfarin’s demise,” I thought. Enough studies, enough blogs — it was time for the rubber to hit the road. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

A 32-Year-Old Had A Stroke: Could It Happen To You?

The Shermans

Deanna and Rebecca Sherman

As many as 15% of Americans have a blood disorder (called anti-phospholipid antibody syndrome - APS) that can increase their risk for blood clots and stroke. While these antibodies are especially common in people with certain auto-immune diseases like SLE (systemic lupus erethematosis – or “lupus”) quite a few people have them without ever knowing it. In fact, most people with APS remain asymptomatic their entire lives – but for an unlucky few, the disorder can cause devastating consequences.

I interviewed Rebecca Sherman about her recent stroke caused by APS. Listen to the podcast here.

Dr. Val: Tell me about the events leading up to your stroke.

Sherman: I was a young, healthy 32-year-old with no idea that I had anti-phospholipid antibodies in my blood. One morning when I was washing my face at my boyfriend’s house I suddenly noticed that one side of it was frozen. I was standing in front of the bathroom sink and I fell to the floor with the washcloth in my hand. I couldn’t walk or talk – the whole right side of my body didn’t do what I wanted it to do. So I threw the washcloth at my boyfriend’s head (with my left hand). Luckily my aim was good (he was asleep in bed) and the bed was near the door to the bathroom -  the cold, wet object caused him to jump out of bed and find me. Read more »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »