Teen athletes, screening ECGs, and AEDs

screening ecgsThe debate over screening ECGs

When my son was a teenager, he participated in several school sports, including track and field.

And it always freaked me out when I heard a news report about a young teen athlete suddenly dying on a track or a basketball court.

The stories were similar: young, seemingly healthy teenagers died because no one knew they had a problem with their hearts.

Every time I wondered if I should immediately take my son to his pediatrician and demand an (electrocardiogram) ECG to make sure his heart was OK.

I had to remind myself that these … Continue reading

How to prevent colon cancer

Colon cancer on the rise in young adults

I recently read a disturbing report that colon cancer is on the rise in Millenials and GenXers.

People born in 1990 now have double the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer, compared with those born around 1950 when the risk was lowest, the researchers said.

The overall risk is still very low for that age group, but the study certainly suggests that lifestyle factors—obesity, diets high in processed foods, sedentary habits—could be a factor.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month!

A healthy diet and exercise are … Continue reading

We’re doing too many screening and diagnostic tests

More tests = more money

Anyone who has read my blog over the years knows this is a subject I come back to again and again: the overuse of screening and diagnostic tests.

It’s a problem in our healthcare system for a couple of reasons.

First, the majority of healthcare providers are paid based on volume. In other words, the more patients they see, the more tests they run, the more surgeries they perform, then the more they get paid. It doesn’t matter if the outcome is poor, because they still get paid. In fact, they make even more money … Continue reading

Baby boomers and HCV screening

harvoni and hcv screeningDon’t get health advice from commercials!

While nursing my cold last weekend, I was watching TV and one prescription drug commercial caught my eye. (One of oh so many. FTC—please make these go away!)

Actually, the ad didn’t mention any drug by name, but it was sponsored by Gilead Sciences, the makers of the new hepatitis C drug, Harvoni.

The commercial was aimed at baby boomers, who were advised to get tested for the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

One in 30 baby boomers could have HCV and not know it, the voice over said, “…because Hep C can hide Continue reading

Annual exams vs. annual wellness visits

Happy New (Calendar) Year!

It’s the start of a new year or, in health insurance lingo, the start of a new calendar year deductible. I’m reposting this from last January, because this month is the best time to start trying to schedule that annual exam or annual wellness visit (it could take weeks, after all, to get an appointment!)

I usually advise people to get any screening tests or annual exams done early in the year, just in case an abnormality is found and more testing/treatment is necessary.

Especially with the current trend towards enormous deductibles (up to $14,300 for Continue reading

“Bridge Over Diagnosis”

I’m going with an overdiagnosis theme this week.

Here’s the latest healthcare parody video from pharmacy professor James McCormack, as he continues his much-appreciated effort to raise awareness of overscreening, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment in this country.

As usual, this video is full of supporting statistics and excerpts from leading healthcare journals, so take time to pause the video and really understand the information being shared.

As I said in a previous post, overdiagnosis and the resulting unnecessary treatments cost hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

Equally bad, if not worse, I think, is … Continue reading

Risk Benefit Theater – Screening mammograms

I’m all about high-value, evidence-based healthcare.

I’ve written a lot of posts about the problems, including high costs, of overscreening and overtreating. (We spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year on unnecessary healthcare!)

So I love this video by Andrew Lazris, MD, and Erik Rifkin, PhD. They use the visual of 1000 women sitting in a theater to illustrate why screening mammograms are not the life savers many women think they are.

A picture (or video) is worth a thousand words, isn’t it?

I understand Lazris and Rifkin want to create more videos to … Continue reading

Life Line Community Healthcare and Life Line Screening

Buyer Beware

I’ve posted before about the limitations of Life Line Screening.

The screening tests they offer in their basic “wellness” package are either not recommended at all because they aren’t effective screening tools (carotid ultrasound), or are not recommended for the general public (abdominal aortic aneurysm ultrasound). Please read my previous post for more information on that: Don’t reach for Life Line Screenings

Screening tests are best discussed with your primary care physician. He or she will help you know which tests are right for you—based on your age, health history and family history—as well as how often they … Continue reading

Don’t reach for Life Line screenings

I first posted about Life Line screenings two years ago. I’m re-posting today as this post still gets a lot of traffic and I wanted to reopen the comments. 

life line screeningsOvertreating, overspending

I just received an invitation in the mail!

Not to a party or a wedding or anything fun, but to a Life Line Screening event being held at a local church. The letter says they’re holding a spot for me on this particular date, but I must call NOW to confirm and register, because spaces are LIMITED!

“These aren’t just routine medical procedures—they can help save your life”

Oh, … Continue reading

Skin cancer screening guidelines

skin cancer“Insufficient evidence”

Many years ago I had a primary care doctor who used to perform a total body skin examination (TBSE) on me every year as part of my annual exam.

Of course, those all-inclusive physicals are a thing of the past. I haven’t had a physician perform a TBSE for a long time.

I often wondered about that. A TBSE seems like a relatively easy and harmless way to quickly screen for skin cancer. The goal, of course, is to find a melanoma, the deadly skin cancer, when it’s small and possibly curable.

But the go-to source for screening … Continue reading

Screening kids for lead poisoning

The high lead levels in Flint, Michigan’s water supply have been news for several months. There’s been a lot of finger pointing and congressional hearings and such, but the bottom line is that because an agency didn’t do its job properly, the health of many kids was put at risk.

Lead poisoning is especially serious in infants and young children, as it interferes with brain development.

Sadly, the situation in Flint is not unique. Washington, DC, had a similar crisis a few years ago, and just last week my home state, Washington, reported that 34 water systems had lead … Continue reading

Screening eye exams in older adults

Just yesterday I posted about the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the fine line they walk between providing evidence-based recommendations for screening tests and making medical specialist groups happy.

Sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

The task force recently gave an “I” grade to vision screening in patients over 65. An I grade, or Insufficient evidence, means that the task force can’t definitively say that the benefits of vision screening in older adults outweigh the possible harms.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) doesn’t agree.

Specifically, the task force reviewed the evidence for primary care doctors screening for … Continue reading

Don’t use the Instant Blood Pressure app

Aura Life, the makers of the popular smartphone blood pressure app Instant Blood Pressure, probably made a mistake when they initially used the well-known medical research complex Johns Hopkins in their marketing campaign.

Aura Life boasted their app “uses a patent-pending process developed by a team from the Johns Hopkins University—a world leader in health innovation.”

Baffled, Johns Hopkins sent Aura Life a cease-and-desist letter, but they also decided to do some research into how well the blood pressure app performed.

Not well.

The researchers recently released their findings that showed the Instant Blood Pressure app, which uses an… Continue reading

The S-RAY – Dental imaging without radiation

One of the great things about living in Seattle is that because we are home to so many biotech companies, I often hear about innovative devices before they’re on the market.

I like to see (sometimes) where health technology is taking us.

I just saw a news report on a new dental imaging x-ray that actually isn’t an x-ray because it doesn’t use radiation. Instead it uses ultrasound, and it’s called the S-RAY.

I’ve posted before about the dangers of too much radiation from imaging studies, including dental x-rays. Dentists frequently order x-rays every year, even though the American … Continue reading

Be informed – PSA screening tests

PSA stands for Prostate-Specific Antigen. It’s a blood test used to screen for prostate cancer.

Doctors used to recommend an annual PSA test for men over 40. But now we know that the PSA is not a good screening tool. It results in a high number of false positives, and not all forms of prostate cancer need to be treated.

Too many men have received unpleasant, expensive treatment they didn’t need.

In an excellent YouTube video, Dr. Mike Evans explains more:

In 2012 the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended against Continue reading