Better patient education for mammograms

I’ve mentioned in several posts that I think screening tests, especially mammograms, are used too widely in this country. Every woman over age 40? Every year? It’s overkill.

Even the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) only recommends a screening mammogram every other year between the ages of 50 and 75.

But most women still think the yearly mammogram is health care at its finest.

Related post: Screening mammograms—benefits vs harms

The British medical journal, Lancet, recently published a study that shows women who are better informed about the risks and benefits of screening mammograms are less likely to … Continue reading

Ken Burns films “Emperor of All Maladies”

I read a lot of medical and nursing history, and I loved the Pulitzer-prize winning book “Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” by Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD.

And I love the PBS films by Ken Burns, such as The Civil War and Baseball.

So I was excited to find out that Ken Burns has produced a new PBS documentary based on the book. The six-hour special, Emperor of All Maladies, will air in three, two-hour parts on March 30. March 31, and April 1.

For more about the book, here’s the … Continue reading

Screening mammograms – benefits vs. harms

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a short article on screening mammograms that included a spiffy infographic on the benefits vs. the harms.

Looking at the graphic I can easily see that if 10,000 50-year-old women are screened, 10 will be “saved”, but 940 will undergo an unnecessary biopsy and 57 will be overdiagnosed. (For copyright reasons I can’t reprint the graphic here, but you can view see it yourself by clicking on the above link.)

The author of the article explains:

Another possible harm of screening is overdiagnosis. This means finding something on a mammogram

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Tanning beds are dangerous to your health

Isn’t Florida known as the “Sunshine State”?

Then why do they have so many tanning beds?

That’s what I learned in a recent New York Times article regarding the dangers of tanning beds: Warning: That Tan Could Be Hazardous.

Here in the Sunshine State, there are more tanning salons than McDonald’s restaurants, CVS stores or Bank of America branches, according to a 2014 study by University of Miami researchers.

Interesting. I would have expected my city of Seattle (and yes, it is just as gray and wet as rumors say) to have more, but it doesn’t. And for that … Continue reading

Save money – Cleaning for a Reason

Free housecleaning for women undergoing cancer treatment

I write a lot of posts complaining about the high cost of health care, and cancer care specifically.

Related post: The high costs of cancer drugs

So it’s a nice change to be able to give a shout out to a non-profit group that seeks to take some of the burden off women with cancer.

Finances aside, cancer treatment can be a huge drain on an individual’s or family’s time and energy. Keeping up with house cleaning chores is often the first thing to go, and few families can afford house cleaning … Continue reading

The high cost of cancer drugs

Exploring the “unreasonable, unsustainable” and “immoral” costs of treatment

If you or a friend or a family member have been impacted by the outrageous price of cancer drugs ($100,000 or more/year), take 15 minutes to watch this segment from a recent episode of the news magazine “60 Minutes.”

Heck, watch it even if you don’t have cancer because everyone is affected by the skyrocketing costs of all drugs, not just those that treat cancer. Health care prices go up, health insurance premiums, deductibles and copays increase, and taxpayers pay out more for Medicare and Medicaid.

Related post: The cost Continue reading

Six resources to help cope with the high cost of cancer care

cancer care resourcesThis is another guest post from Kristen Reineke of I’ve written before about the ruinously high cost of cancer care, and although Obamacare limits out-of-pocket spending, deductibles and cost-sharing can still be in the thousands of dollars. Also, many associated expenses are not covered by insurance at all, such as transportation. Kristen has provided a great resource list for you or any one you know facing cancer treatment. FN

Cancer Care Resources

As if hearing the words “you have cancer” wasn’t bad enough, you soon come to find out just how costly cancer treatment can be.

Many … Continue reading

How “lump-sum” cancer insurance policies work

lump sum cancer insurance policiesThis is a guest post by Kristen Reineke of I’ve posted previously about Alternatives to Obamacare, and critical illness plans are a relatively simple supplement to standard comprehensive health insurance plans. Cancer, specifically, is an expensive diagnosis, and my new ACA-compliant health plan not only has costly premiums, but a huge deductible (over $10,000). Most of the leading cancer hospitals in Seattle (University Medical Center, Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance) are not in my network, which could also lead to higher out-of-pocket costs. Kristen explains how these critical illness or “lump-sum” policies Continue reading

Sunscreen and vitamin D

sunscreen vitamin dDon’t avoid all sun exposure

Vitamin D just won’t get out of the news. I posted about it a couple of weeks ago, and here I am commenting again on something else I read.

Actually, a friend sent me a link to a health care blog that referred to a recently-published study out of Sweden. Swedish melanoma researchers followed almost 30,000 women (I’m not sure why just women) for 20 years and concluded:

We found that all-cause mortality was inversely related to sun exposure habits. The mortality rate amongst avoiders of sun exposure was approximately twofold higher compared

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Health care apps – Skin cancer detection

skin cancer detectionThe Doctor Mole skin cancer detection app

I was browsing through some smartphone apps last week and I ran across one called Doctor Mole. At first I thought it had something to do with the garden pest—I have an infestation of moles plowing through my vegetable garden every evening, so they are much on my mind.

I thought, “Yes! An app to tell me how to get rid of moles!”

Nope. Wrong kind of mole.

But I was still interested. I had heard of these skin cancer tracking apps, so I decided to take a look and see what … Continue reading

Sunscreens – What works?

sunscreensHere comes the sun

Although sunscreen could and should be used year-round, we buy more sunscreen products in the summer months. And it’s a good time to stock up on your favorite product, because this is also when you’ll find the best sales.

But do you know what to look for when choosing a product? Do you understand what SPF means and which ingredients offer effective protection? If you aren’t reading labels, and are judging by brand, price or marketing claims alone, you might not be getting the best deal.

UVA and UVB rays

First, why use sunscreen at all? … Continue reading

Is mouthwash necessary for good oral health?

is mouthwash necessaryMouthwash possibly linked to oral cancers

Earlier this month, a group of dental researchers in Glasgow, Scotland reported a link between frequent use of alcohol-based mouthwash (3 times per day) and oral cancers, such as mouth, throat, tongue and vocal cords.

similar study came out of Australia in 2009. The theory is that alcohol “increases the permeability of the mucosa” to carcinogens, such as nicotine or acetylaldehyde (a breakdown product of the alcohol).

But other analyses have found no such significant link.

Certainly smoking, chewing tobacco, drinking and poor oral health are all risk factors for developing oral … Continue reading

Do you need an annual mammogram?

mammogramThe latest report

Most of my nursing career was in breast cancer, so I like to stay current on the most recent research on screening, diagnosis and treatment.

Earlier this week, the British Medical Journal released a pretty stunning report:

In conclusion, our data show that annual mammography does not result in a reduction in breast cancer specific mortality for women aged 40-59.

In normal language that translates to “annual mammograms don’t save lives.”

Aaron Carroll, MD, writes on his blog:

This study is going to make a whole lot of people upset. It’s a large, well designed

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How often for a Pap smear?

Screening guidelines often don’t agree

One of the mandatory benefits of health insurance, thanks to Obamacare, is that preventive or screening services are covered without charging copays or coinsurance.

Preventive care is not really “free,” of course, because we pay higher premiums and higher copays and deductibles for other health care. It’s more like pre-paid.

(Oh, and make sure the doctor and testing facility (lab or radiology) are in your network, or the care won’t be covered.)

But I’ve found it more and more confusing to know which screening exams are covered, and how often, because different medical “authorities” seem … Continue reading

End-of-life care: Physician-assisted suicide

assisted suicide scott adamsA son’s anguish

Have you ever read the comic strip Dilbert?

Created by Scott Adams, it is a wonderfully humorous and satirical cartoon about a white-collared worker, Dilbert, who exists in a world of partitioned office cubicles and micromanaging bosses. It’s very funny.

But this morning I ran across Scott Adams’s blog and read his very angry, very painful, very un-funny post about his dying father.

I hope my father dies soon.

My father, age 86, is on the final approach to the long dirt nap (to use his own phrase). His mind is 98% gone, and all he has

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