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Hospital Markets $99 Spiral CT Scan, Claims It Could Save Your Life

A hundred bucks doesn’t buy much these days. A crisp Ben Franklin can be exchanged for

  • 50 Big Macs
  • A Broadway show ticket
  • A night in a New York City hotel (just joking)
  • A college textbook (paperback)
  • Your life

Your life? Yes, 5 crumpled Andy Jacksons can save your life, as was reported earlier this year in a front page article in The Plain Dealer, Cleveland’s only daily newspaper. University Hospital is now offering a $99 spiral computed tomography (CT scans) of the chest in individuals who are at increased risk of developing lung cancer. The rationale is that if cancers can be detected early, then the cure rate for surgical removal is very high.

Gary Schwitzer, medical blogger and press watchdog, tries to bring some balance to the distorted media coverage of CT lung cancer reportage.

The test is Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at MD Whistleblower*

Many Smokers Just Need That Extra Push To Help Them Quit

Researchers found that while the vast majority of smokers want to stop, the vast majority who wanted to got little support from their health care providers. Not that they’d approached their provider, either.

68.8% of current cigarette smokers said they would like to completely stop smoking, and 52.4% had tried to quit smoking in the past year. However, 68.3% of the smokers who tried to quit did so without using evidence-based cessation counseling or medications, and only 48.3% of those who had visited a health-care provider in the past year reported receiving advice to quit smoking.

Little overall change has been observed in these measures in the past decade. However, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Electronic Cigarettes May Help Smokers Quit, But Are They Safe?

Kicking the cigarette habit is one of the best things that smokers can do for themselves. Nicotine replacement products, prescription medications, and counseling can all help. What about the newest tobacco substitute, the electronic cigarette? Despite the appeal of so-called e-cigarettes, we don’t know enough about their safety or effectiveness to give them the green light.

Electronic cigarettes come in a variety of shapes. Some look like cigarettes, pipes, or cigars, while others are disguised as pens or other more socially acceptable items. Whatever their shape, they all are built around a battery-operated heating element, a replaceable cartridge that contains nicotine and other chemicals, and an atomizer that converts the chemicals into an inhalable vapor.

A study published this spring in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine concluded that electronic cigarettes may help smokers quit. Whether they are a safe way to quit is another question—preliminary studies from the FDA, New Zealand, and Greece raise some concerns.

There are three reasons to worry about electronic cigarettes. First, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Misleading Medical Tweets Could Cause Harm

This is not a lesson about the limitations of 140-character messages on Twitter.

Rather, it is a warning about careless Tweets that mischaracterize the real meat of the message in longer stories linked to in the Twitter message. As I wrote on Twitter in response to these two episodes, “Better not to Tweet on complex health care topics than to mischaracterize your own story with a misleading 140 characters.”

First, my friend Andrew Holtz caught the fact earlier this week that Men’s Health Magazine tweeted:

If you’re a smoker, you NEED to get a CT scan. Here’s why:

That “here’s why” link took you to a Men’s Health Magazine story, that despite being headlined “The Medical Test Every Smoker Needs,” went on to explain:

Don’t run out and ask for a CT scan, though. More than 96 percent of the positive screens in the study were false positives, which could subject you to unnecessary surgery, cancer treatments, and the complications that come with them. They’re also expensive: A chest CT scan can cost up to several thousands of dollars.

So look at how silly Men’s Health looked on this confusing back-and-forth message:

1. You NEED to get a CT scan.
2. It’s a test “every smoker needs”
3. But don’t run out and ask for one.

Then this morning I caught AARP doing the same thing. They tweeted:

Are you a smoker? CT scan those lungs – they’re proven to cut risk of lung cancer death for 55-plus:

That links takes you to a story that includes caveats such as the following: Read more »

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

Should Smokers Be Tested For Lung Cancer With Regular CT Scans?


If you are a smoker, or love someone who smokes, the specter of lung cancer is ever looming. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to detect lung cancer in its earliest and most curable stages, much like the goal of mammograms for breast cancer?

Although it seems like common sense to do such advance checks—a process called lung cancer screening—studies to date haven’t shown that finding lung cancer early translates into fewer deaths from the disease.

A new report in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that screening heavy smokers with yearly low-dose CT scans can reduce deaths from lung cancer by 20% compared to screening with chest x-rays. The results are from the National Lung Screening Trial, which included more than 53,000 current and former heavy smokers between the ages of 55 and 74. (Preliminary results from this trial were covered in the Harvard Health Letter and in the Harvard Health blog.) Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health 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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