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Free Throat, Head, Neck Cancer Screenings May Overstate Their Effectiveness

All over the country in May, hospitals are offering “Free Throat Cancer Screening.” A Google search turned up dozens of results for that specific term or the related “oral, head and neck cancer screening.”

Here’s one example, promoting “Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, May 8-14.”

This promotion uses ominous warnings:

Can you live without your voice?

What about your jaw?

Would you miss it if you couldn’t swallow food?

Throat cancer can take all of those things away, along with your ability to eat, talk and breathe normally. These debilitating problems can be prevented, but you have to catch cancer early.

Some promotions – such as this one – use celebrity pitches such as “If it happened to Michael Douglas, it can happen to you.”

Here’s one that states, “A 10-minute, painless screening could save your life.”

But where’s the evidence for that? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

Preventive Medicine – Is It Now Politically Correct To Brush It Aside?

As a class of human beings, cardiologists do not enjoy subtlety or nuance. Indeed, the reason most of them chose to specialize in cardiology, as opposed to specializing in some other organ system, is that the heart is the most unsubtle organ in the body. Unlike, say, the liver or the kidneys or even the brain (which, after all, just sit there), the heart does something quite obvious, and furthermore it does it 50 – 100 times per minute (so that even a physician with a very short attention span is likely to notice).

So perhaps it is not surprising that cardiologists seem to have entirely failed to mark certain emerging – and quite subtle – currents in the “preventive health” movement, and accordingly, continue to unabashedly seek more and more “preventive tools,” whatever the cost, with all the sensitivity and social awareness of the cousin who obliviously shows up at the funeral of the family priest wearing a pro-choice lapel pin. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Covert Rationing Blog*

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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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