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Latest Posts

NYT Reports On Research That Links Height To Cancer Risk

Female models may be tall and beautiful, but they are also at markedly increased risk of developing cancer. The New York Times reported on a fascinating research article regarding height of a women and risk of cancer.

Specifically, for every four-inch increase in height over 5 feet 1 inch, the risk that a woman would develop cancer increased by about 16 percent, especially for:

• Colon Cancer (RR per 10 cm increase in height 1.25, 95% CI 1.19—1.30)
• Rectal Cancer (1.14, 1.07—1.22)
• Malignant Melanoma Read more »

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

The Case For Mammograms: Friends And Family Might Be A Greater Influence Than Doctors

Most women in their 40′s believe they should have annual mammograms, regardless of what screening regimen their doctor might recommend.

So say researchers in Massachusetts who surveyed women (primarily white, highly educated) ages 39-49 presenting for annual checkups. They gave the women a fact sheet about the new USPSTF guidelines on mammogram screening in their age group, and asked them to read one of two articles either supporting or opposing the guidelines. The researchers then asked women about their beliefs, concerns and attitudes about breast cancer and mammogram screening. Here’s what they found –

  • Women overwhelmingly want annual mammograms – Close to 90% of women surveyed felt they should have annual mammograms, regardless of what their doctor might recommend.
  • Women overestimate breast cancer risks – Eighty eight percent overestimated their lifetime risk for the disease, with the average estimate being 37%. (The correct lifetime risk for breast cancer is 12%). This is consistent with previous research on breast cancer beliefs.
  • The media may not influence women’s opinions about screening guidelines – Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Blog That Ate Manhattan*

Medical Journalism And The Patient’s Voice In The Media

Yesterday’s post was not really about Avastin, but about medical journalism and how patients’ voices are handled by the media.

L. Husten, writing on a Forbes blog, cried that the press fawned, inappropriately, over patients’ words at the FDA hearing last week, and that led him to wonder why and if journalists should pay attention to what people with illness have to say, even if their words go against the prevailing medical wisdom.

There’s a fair amount of controversy on this. For sake of better discussion in the future, I think it best to break it up into 3 distinct but inter-related issues:

1. About health care journalism and patients’ voices:

A general problem I perceive (and part of why I started blogging) is how traditional medical journalists use patients’ stories to make a point. What some of my journalism professors tried to teach  me, and most editors I’ve dealt with clearly want, is for the reporter to find a person with an illness, as a lead,  and then tell about the relevant news, and provide some expert commentary – with at least one person speaking on each “side” of the issue, of course – and then end the story with some bit about the patient and the future.

I argue that this form of medical journalism Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medical Lessons*

PR Company Facebook Lurker Offends Breast Cancer Survivor On Behalf Of Genzyme

Marilyn Mann is a very smart woman. She’s a securities lawyer. But she’s also educated herself about health care out of necessity. She’s a breast cancer survivor and she has a daughter with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic disease causing very high LDL-cholesterol. She is one of the administrators of a Facebook group called Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH) Discussion Group – intended primarily for people with FH or their family members.

Recently, Mann got a message from a PR woman who had joined the Facebook page.

“Hi Marilyn,

A few months ago, I had emailed you about some research I was doing about a new treatment for FH. I am now working with a pharmaceutical company, and the company currently has a drug in development to help treat people with severe FH that may not be responding to current therapies. Read more »

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

Mammogram Frequency Should Be Dependent On More Than A Woman’s Age

I read the LA Times article by Shari Roan, Study urges more individual mammogram guidelines, with interest.  As Roan notes, guidelines to date have mainly focused on a woman’s age and not her other risks factors.

The American Cancer Society recommends that healthy women undergo screening mammograms every one to two years beginning at age 40 regardless of risk factors. In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended a different schedule which urged the inclusion of an individual’s personal risks:  screening for women ages 40 to 49 should be based on individual risk factors and women ages 50 to 74 should be screened every two years.

Monday, a paper was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (full reference below) which argues for a more personalized approach to screening mammograms.

The study by Dr. Steven R. Cummings, senior author and senior researcher at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, and colleagues was based on a computer model comparing the lifetime costs and health benefits for women who got mammograms every year, every two years, every three to four years or never. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

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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