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A Bagels And Boobs Mammogram Party

I don’t always practice what I preach. Regular mammograms, for instance. Last year I realized I had skipped a few, so I decided to turn my procrastination into an opportunity to reach out to those of my patients guilty of the same thing.

I made arrangements with my hospital to monopolize half their schedule one Saturday morning, put flyers up in my office and talked it up like crazy to every eligible woman I saw. On the appointed day, I brought a whole bunch of bagels, half a dozen spreads (I asked the ladies to bring their own coffee), and we proceeded to have a blast! Or as much fun as you can have getting your boobs squished. Hey; it’s all in the name of early detection.

Last year’s final tally was a bakers dozen (twelve patients plus me), out of which about 5 people were called back for more views (mainly those with old films not readily available from other institutions), 2 benign biopsies were done, and one case of invasive breast cancer was diagnosed and treated. Not bad, I thought. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

From The CDC: Top Ten Greatest Public Health Achievements

The Center for Disease Control published the top ten public health achievements from 2001-2010, the first decade of the 21st century.  In no order they are:

  • Vaccine-preventable Diseases – new vaccines for herpes zoster, pneumonia, HPV and rotavirus have saved thousands of lives  When you add in the older vaccines for diptheria, pertussus, tetanus and measles/mumps millions of lives have been saved around the world.  (I saw diptheria in Haiti and it is horrible)

  • Tobacco Control- We have been battling tobacco since 1964 but there is finally progress with more states enacting smoke-free laws and raising cigarette taxes.  By 2010, the FDA banned flavored cigarettes and established restrictions on youth access.  We have a long way to go.  Smoking costs us all about $193 billion a year on medical costs and loss of productivity.


  • Motor Vehicle Safety –Enforcing seat belt and child safety legislation has reduced deaths from crashes.  Teen drivers have new policies too.
  • Cardiovascular Disease Prevention-During the past decade, age-adjusted heart disease and stroke deaths declined.  What worked? Treating hypertension, elevated cholesterol and smoking…along with improved treatment and medication. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Women Wait A Long Time For Mammograms In New York City

A recent audit of nine NYC’s Health and Hospitals Corporation found City Comptroller Liu described as dangerous delays in women’s health care. It takes too long for women to get screening and diagnostic mammograms.

The 2009 audit found women at Elmhurst Hospital had the longest waits – 50 working days (that would be 10 weeks, i.e. 2.5 months) for diagnostic mammograms, on average. You can find more details here.

According to the Times’ coverage:

Ana Marengo, a spokeswoman for the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs the public health system, said that the comptroller’s data was outdated…

At Elmhurst, she said, the wait as of December 2010 was 20 days for screening and 23 days for a general diagnostic test, as opposed to an urgent one. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medical Lessons*

Nearly 12 Million Cancer Survivors In The U.S.

The number of cancer survivors in the United States increased to 11.7 million in 2007, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Women survive more often, and survive longer, according to the report.

There were 3 million cancer survivors in 1971 and 9.8 million in 2001. Researchers attributed longer survival to a growing aging population, early detection, improved diagnostic methods, more effective treatment and improved clinical follow-up after treatment.

The study, “Cancer Survivors in the United States, 2007,” is published today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

To determine the number of survivors, the authors analyzed the number of new cases and follow-up data from NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program between 1971 and 2007. Population data from the 2006 and 2007 Census were also included. The researchers estimated the number of persons ever diagnosed with cancer (other than non-melanoma skin cancer) who were alive on Jan. 1, 2007. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

“Simple Blood Test” For Cancer: Breakthrough Or Nightmare?

That’s the question Dartmouth’s Dr. Gil Welch asks in a column on the CNN website. He reflects on [recent] news about a test in development that might find a single cancer cell among a billion healthy ones — as so many news stories framed it. Welch analyzes:

“But it’s not that simple. The test could just as easily start a cancer epidemic.

Most assume there are no downsides to looking for things to be wrong. But the truth is that early diagnosis is a double-edged sword. While it has the potential to help some, it always has a hidden side-effect: overdiagnosis, the detection of abnormalities that are not destined to ever bother people in their lifetime.

Becoming a patient unnecessarily has real human costs. There’s the anxiety of being told you are somehow not healthy. There’s the problem that getting a diagnosis may affect your ability to get health insurance. There are the headaches of renewing prescriptions, scheduling appointments and keeping them. Finally, there are the physical harms of treatments that cannot help (because there is nothing to fix): drug side-effects, surgical complications and even death. Not to mention it can bankrupt you.

Americans don’t need more diagnoses, they need the right diagnoses.

I don’t know whether this test will help some patients. It might, but it will take years to figure that out. Read more »

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