Women can add pelvic exams to list of medical tests they may not need as often — or at all
First, let’s review. We’ve been getting a lot of updates to cancer screening tests lately.
Pap Smears, a screening test for cervical cancer, were recommended to be done annually, until a group of experts in prevention concluded that every three years was equally effective. Most medical groups, including the American Cancer Society, agree on this one.
Then there’s mammography. I think everyone knows the debate around that. Every year or every other year? Starting at 40? or 50? The evidence points to every two years after age 50, although many doctors maintain younger and more often is better.
Women get them annually, even though we “lack data” that they do much for us.
But this latest one — about pelvic exams — caught me by surprise. It turns out there’s really not a whole lot of evidence that doing an annual pelvic exam makes any difference to a healthy woman’s continuing good health. (Again, we’re stressing healthy women. Women having symptoms are definitely candidates for a pelvic exam).
Here’s what the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says about the pelvic exam, after recommending it be done annually: Continue reading
By Rachel Dornhelm
The California HealthCare Foundation issued a new report on cancer in the state. (Flickr: briannaorg)
More than a million Californians are living with cancer, and a new report from the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF) takes a look at how the disease has affected the population over time.
Stephanie Teleki, senior program officer at CHCF, says some of the most welcome news is about childhood cancers. While the likelihood of a child developing cancer has crept up, the rate of children in the state who die from cancer each year has decreased 21% over the last two decades.
Overall — looking at kids and adults — cancer mortality rates have fallen 22 percent since 1989 and rates of new cancer diagnoses have dropped 9 percent.
On the more sobering side, the report found persistent disparities across race. For instance the mortality rates in California for African Americans were 30 percent to 90 percent higher than in other groups for all cancers. And despite the fact that whites are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, African Americans’ death rate from the disease is 40 percent higher. The inequity holds for prostate cancer, too: black men are two times more likely to die from that disease than whites. Continue reading
By Kamal Menghrajani
A counterfeit version of the cancer drug Avastin may have made its way into clinics here in California. The medicine is used to treat colon, lung, and other cancers, but several physicians may have unwittingly been giving patients a useless knock-off.
You may remember Avastin because it was considered a blockbuster drug for breast cancer treatment. That was until November of last year, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulled its approval for treating the disease. However, Avastin is still widely used for other types of cancer.
Earlier this month, the FDA sent letters to 19 doctors around the country warning that they may have fake Avastin. Sixteen of these physicians are here in California, all of them in Southern California.
The FDA says these clinics purchased the medicine from a foreign supplier under the names “Quality Specialty Products” or “Montana Health Care Solutions.” Volunteer Distribution, a company based in Tennessee, funneled the fake vials out to clinics. The company was not licensed by drugmaker Genentech to provide Avastin, and some doctors’ offices were fooled. Continue reading
Cancer survivor Rene Foreman (right) with her daughter, Michelle. (Photo: StoryCorps)
As I got in my car to go work this morning, I switched on NPR. Instead of the predictable sounds of host/reporter/interviewee, I was confused by what sounded like a computer talking.
Then I was riveted.
What I was hearing was the story of Rene Foreman, an Orange County woman, who had lost her voice box to cancer in 1999. Foreman’s piece is part of the StoryCorps project. As NPR reports, Rene now uses an electrolarynx. It’s a small device that Foreman holds against her throat to produce her voice, electronically.
Yes, initially she sounds something like a creature from Star Wars, but right away, I got past the strangeness. Foreman says she’s happier without her voice now than she was with her voice. She says, “it’s a small price to pay for being alive.” In addition, she enjoys the distinction that her unusual “voice” provides:
“People are really very kind, once they realize what the situation is,” she says. “I may go into a restaurant once, and if I go back there a year later, and it’s the same woman at the front desk, she’ll say, ‘Where have you been? We haven’t seen you for a while.’ So, I feel like a movie star.”
You have to listen to this remarkable woman speak to get the full impact of her story. The NPR feature is not even three minutes long. I guarantee if you hear five seconds of Foreman talking, you’ll be hooked.