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

Latest Posts

Avastin’s Approval Revoked: Harvard Health Publications Uncovers The FDA’s Process

Last week, the FDA revoked its 2008 approval of the drug Avastin to treat breast cancer, concluding that the drug does little to help women with breast cancer while putting them at risk for potentially life-threatening side effects. Avastin will remain on the market (and so be potentially available to women with breast cancer) because it has also been approved to treat other types of cancer.

In a statement, FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said this:

FDA recognizes how hard it is for patients and their families to cope with metastatic breast cancer and how great a need there is for more effective treatments. But patients must have confidence that the drugs they take are both safe and effective for their intended use. After reviewing the available studies it is clear that women who take Avastin for metastatic breast cancer risk potentially life-threatening side effects without proof that the use of Avastin will provide a benefit, in terms of delay in tumor growth, that would justify those risks. Nor is there evidence that use of Avastin will either help them live longer or improve their quality of life.

Why does this happen? Read more »

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

Guidelines For The Treatment And Prevention Of Frostbite

Led by Scott McIntosh, MD and his colleagues, the Wilderness Medical Society has published “Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Frostbite” (Wild Environ Med 2011:22;156-166). These guidelines are intended to provide clinicians about best evidence-based practices, and were derived from the deliberations of an expert panel, of which I was a member. The guidelines present the main prophylactic and therapeutic modalities for frostbite and provide recommendations for their roles in patient management. The guidelines also provide suggested approaches to prevention and management of each disorder that incorporate the recommendations.

In outline format, here is what can be found in these guidelines: Read more »

This post, Guidelines For The Treatment And Prevention Of Frostbite, was originally published on Healthine.com by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

Video Describes Procedure To Determine The Cause Of Your Snoring

Our office has produced a new video describing “where” snoring comes from determined by a simple procedure known as sedated or sleep endoscopy. At its most basic definition, snoring is noise produced from a vibrating mucosal surface in the upper airway.

Though snoring can be defined simply, the tough question is WHERE are these vibrating mucosal surfaces? Because unless one can define WHERE the snoring is coming from, successful treatment can’t be pursued definitively.

An office exam performed while a patient is awake is suboptimal as the patient is awake… and not snoring. As such, it is an educated guess where the snoring problem is stemming from.

To this end, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Fauquier ENT Blog*

Navigating Cancer Post-Treatment: Who Will Help You?

It is completely understandable if you associate the term “cancer survivor” with an image of glamorous, defiant Gloria Gaynor claiming that She. Will. Survive. Or maybe with a courageous Lance Armstrong in his quest to reclaim the Tour de France.  Or perhaps it is linked for you with heroic rhetoric and pink-related racing, walking and shopping.

Phil Roeder from flickr.com

I never call myself a survivor because when I hear this term, I recall my experience following each of four cancer-related diagnoses. It has not been triumphant. It’s been terrifying and grueling.  It hasn’t taken courage to get through the treatment.  It’s taken doing the best I can. I am not still here because I am defiant.  I am here because I am lucky, because I am cared for by good clinicians who treated my cancers based on the best available evidence, and because on the whole, I participated actively in my care. But mostly I am here because each successive diagnosis was made as a result of being followed closely with regular checks and screenings and because my doctors responded effectively to questionable findings and odd symptoms.

There are 12 million Americans living today who have been treated for cancer. Not only are we at risk for recurrences but, as Dr. Julia Rowland, director of the Office of Cancer Survivorship at the National Cancer Institute, notes, “Research shows that there are no benign therapies.  All treatment is potentially toxic and some therapy may itself be carcinogenic. Today, people are living long enough to manifest the health consequences of efforts to cure or control their cancer.”

Who amongst our clinicians is responsible for helping us watch out for those consequences for the balance of our lives? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

The Vocal Strength Of A Lion Helps Us Understand The Weak Voice In Some Humans

Researchers in Iowa have discovered what makes a lion or tiger roar so effectively. Apparently, there is a layer of fat within large feline vocal cords that makes the vocal cords especially prone to vibrate easily with minimal exhalation effort.

What import does this have to humans?

Well, there are patients who have a very weak voice due to vocal cord atrophy as well as vocal cord paralysis. Standard interventions include voice therapy as well as surgical procedures using an implant or injectable material in order to “bulk” up the vocal cord.

In fact Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Fauquier ENT 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…

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 »