Tests & Treatments

Information and new research about advances in discovering and treating diseases and conditions.


PriceCheck: Insurer Payments for IUDs Vary by $800 in California

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Earlier this year, KQED launched PriceCheck, our crowdsourcing project on health costs. We’re working in collaboration with KPCC public media in Los Angeles and ClearHealthCosts.com, a New York City startup looking at health costs.

On PriceCheck we’re shining a light on the opaque world of health care costs. We’ve asked what you, the members of our audience, have been charged for common medical tests and services, including mammograms and lower-back MRIs.

Now a PriceCheck update on IUDs, the long-acting contraceptive. (And it’s really long-acting — up to seven years for the hormonal type; up to 12 years for the copper IUD). You told us what you were charged and what your insurers paid for an IUD.

Like all FDA-approved methods of birth control, IUDs are supposed to be available at no co-pay to consumers under a requirement of the Affordable Care Act. Were they? The device alone generally costs several hundred dollars; a doctor’s charge to insert the device can be hundreds more.

Continue reading

Seeing Red During Breast Cancer Awareness Month

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Anne Loeser, NPR

The lump first surfaced in my breast in 1989, when I was 36 years old.

Despite decades of awareness months, survival has remained depressingly flat.

To many young women, a small lump like that wouldn’t be cause for alarm because most breast lumps are benign. But there’s a long history of breast cancer in my family, so I immediately consulted a renowned breast surgeon. “It’s nothing to worry about,” she said. My mammogram was completely normal. She thought the lump was merely normal breast tissue.

But four years later I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.

My treatment was among the most aggressive available: surgery (a double mastectomy), chemotherapy and five years of hormonal therapy to keep my hormone-sensitive breast cancer quiescent.

Since there was no further sign of my cancer after my surgery, I hoped that my hard-hitting trio of treatment had succeeded in blasting every last cancer cell. And whenever I made my annual visit to my oncologist, I was comforted by his reassuring words: “There’s no sign of your disease.” Continue reading

Five UC Hospitals Now Designated for Ebola Care

UCSF is one of the five centers designated. (Niall Kennedy/Flickr)

UCSF is one of the five centers designated. (Niall Kennedy/Flickr)

The five medical centers of the University of California will serve as designated Ebola treatment centers should a person in the state become ill from the virus.

While public health officials are calling on all hospitals in California to redouble preparations for screening and isolating patients at risk for Ebola, those who are confirmed to have the virus will be transferred to a UC medical center in San Francisco, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, or San Diego.

“As a public university, stepping up to a public health crisis, like a potential Ebola outbreak, is what we do,” says Brooke Converse, spokesperson for the UC Office of the President. “Our overall mission as the University of California is to serve Californians and serve the taxpayers and the public.” Continue reading

California Hospitals Prepare for Ebola

Kaiser Permanente's newly opened medical center in Oakland. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

Kaiser’s new hospital in Oakland is one of two sites that Kaiser has chosen to treat any Ebola patient that might present in its system. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

Hospitals in California are adapting to evolving guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control on how to best prepare for a possible Ebola patient. There are no known — or suspected — cases of the virus in California, but the infection of two nurses in Texas has hospitals here revamping their protocols.

Responsibility ultimately falls on each individual hospital to incorporate CDC guidelines into its own Ebola response plan. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is providing guidance, but the state’s chief of communicable disease control, James Watt, says state help can only go so far.

“The reality is that every hospital situation is unique. The physical layout of the hospital is unique and needs to be taken into account. Also the equipment that (each) hospital has,” he said during a press briefing last week. “That’s why it’s really important for the training and the planning to be done at the facility level. That’s not something that can be one-size-fits-all.” Continue reading

Ebola Is Not That Contagious, and 10 Other Quick Facts

Two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas contracted Ebola from a patient they were treating, but 44 of 48 others who came in contact with the patient, including his fiancee,  have completed their quarantine period and are cleared of the disease. The remaining four should complete their quarantine soon. (Mike Stone/Getty Images)

Two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas contracted Ebola from a patient they were treating, but 44 of 48 others who came in contact with the patient, including his fiancee, have completed their quarantine period and are cleared of the disease. The remaining four should complete their quarantine soon. (Mike Stone/Getty Images)

By Alison Bruzek, NPR

Basic information about Ebola isn’t as clear as it probably could be.

A recent poll by the Harvard School of Public Health, for instance, found that 38 percent of Americans are worried that Ebola will infect them or a family member in the next year, despite assurances that the U.S. will stop Ebola in its tracks.

We’ve put together a primer on what you need to know. We’ll update it as new information develops.

1. It’s Not That Contagious. Really.

Each person who contracts the virus spreads it, on average, to one or two other people. It’s not as contagious as HIV, SARS or measles.

2. Ebola Is Not Airborne…

Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids, such as blood, sweat, saliva, breast milk, feces, urine and semen. However, infectious disease specialists say Ebola is not an airborne disease, like the flu. Continue reading

Gov. Brown Meets with Nurses Over Ebola Preparedness

Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials meet with California nurses to discuss Ebola preparedness. (Brad Alexander/Office of the Governor)

Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials meet with California nurses to discuss Ebola preparedness. (Brad Alexander/Office of the Governor)

Gov. Jerry Brown met with top public health officials and nursing union leaders Tuesday to discuss efforts to prepare for Ebola. The meetings came on the heels of new guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Monday night.

There are no known cases of Ebola in California. But after two nurses in Texas became infected after treating an Ebola patient there, the CDC is now recommending that hospitals provide better protective equipment for health workers, and hands-on training for how to put it on and take it off.

But the California Nurses Association (CNA) says the guidelines don’t go far enough. Continue reading

My Pain Was Well-Treated in the ER; Its Cause Harder to Find

Joshua Johnson is KQED Public Radio's morning news anchor.  (KQED News photo)

Joshua Johnson is KQED Public Radio’s morning news anchor. (KQED News photo

By Joshua Johnson

“You will not apply my precept,” he said, shaking his head. “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”
–Sherlock Holmes, admonishing Watson, in “The Sign of the Four” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

My back hurt like hell.

I thought I’d slept on it funny — twisted my body into a pretzel in my sleep and woke up with a stinging pain in the left side of my back — and I even hit the gym that day, training through the pain.

But even a big, tough guy like me couldn’t endure a night of restless sleep, writhing in pain. By Friday morning wonder had turned to fear: the stabbing spasms sat right above my kidney – and just a few weeks ago my doctor had told me of some lab results about kidney function that he had said we should keep an eye on.

I contacted my doctor’s office, but they couldn’t get me in.

Midway through my shift, I completed a newscast, grabbed my bags and drove myself to the ER at UC San Francisco.

The doctors and nurses there treated me with kid gloves: easy, since there was no one waiting at the ER early on Friday morning. I told them I had severe back pain — eight on a scale of one-to-ten — and suspected my kidneys were the culprit. Continue reading

Early Elective Deliveries Down in California, Still More Work to be Done

(Getty Images)

Doctors, advocates also working to reduce rates of babies born by caesarian-section. (Getty Images)

By Brittany Patterson

In California, about 500,000 babies are born every year. Statewide efforts to reduce early deliveries and maternal death have netted improvements, but more work is still to be done, said advocates who gathered this week to share notes on how to improve maternal and child health across the state.

One specific bright spot was reduction of early elective deliveries — where a woman chooses to deliver her baby early, defined as between 36 and 39 weeks. These are scheduled deliveries that are not medically necessary. But babies born before 39 weeks are more likely to have feeding and breathing problems, trouble keeping themselves warm, and infections.

In 2010, 14.7 percent of births in California were scheduled before 39 weeks. Today, in-part because of intense campaigning, that rate has dropped to less than three percent of total births at about half of the state’s hospitals. The effort to decrease the practice was spearheaded by the March of Dimes, but strengthened by data collected and synthesized by the California Maternity Data Center. Continue reading

Ebola May Be Deadly, But It’s Not That Contagious

(Adam Cole, NPR)

(Adam Cole, NPR)

By Michaeleen Doucleff, NPR

Update on Oct. 8: The Ebola patient in Dallas, the first diagnosed with the virus in the U.S., has died.

Holy moly! There’s a case of Ebola in the U.S.!

That first reaction was understandable. There’s no question the disease is scary. The World Health Organization now estimates that the virus has killed about 70 percent of people infected in West Africa.

The Ebola case in Dallas is the first one diagnosed outside Africa, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. And the health care system in Texas didn’t quarantine the man right away. He was sick with Ebola — and contagious — for four days before he was admitted to the hospital. Continue reading

Why Advocates Say Brown’s Veto of Livestock Antibiotics Bill is a Good Thing

(iStock/Getty Images)

(iStock/Getty Images)

By Joe Rubin

Senate Bill 835 was crafted as a measure aimed at limiting antibiotic use in livestock. To those concerned about the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, it might seem surprising that Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill earlier this week. Yet advocates believe that in striking down the bill, California is poised to take a leading role on the issue.

‘The governor sent a message that he isn’t going to accept fig-leaf solutions to tackle this problem.’ — Natural Resources Defense Council spokesman    

Here’s why: Critics had assailed the bill as too industry-friendly and unlikely to make much impact on antibiotic resistance.

SB835 would have codified a recent Food and Drug Administration voluntary ban on the use of antibiotics for growth-promoting purposes. The measure had sailed through the Legislature. But a coalition, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Consumers Union and several leading medical experts on antibiotic resistance, quietly created a campaign urging the governor to veto the bill. Continue reading