Medical News That Left You Confused

It’s been quite awhile since I last wrote.

It appears that my Muse took a leave of absence, which left me with little urge to blog this past month.

Maybe it was the dank, gray, rainy month of May that drained me of my energy.

But, today, with the warm sun and cool breeze, I once again feel compelled to try to clear up topics that I suspect have left you bewildered.

So, without further ado, let’s begin, shall we?

Cellphones are killing you

A short while back, there was a British study looking at the rising incidence of brain tumors. They had doubled from 2.5 cases/100,000 individuals to 5/100,000.

One of their conclusions was that this was due to the increased use of cellphones.

I’ve covered this topic before, and as I stated then, there are no studies conclusively linking cell phone use and brain tumors and there’s no scientific rationale as to how the electromagnetic radiation from a cellphone could induce a tumor.

Nevertheless, they threw this out there, because there’s an association, and, it gets your study in the news and gets you interviewed by CNN.

Association is not causation.

Much has changed in our lives from 1995-2015. There’s been a huge increase in all technologies, as well as, changes in pollution, lifestyles and diet.

This group chose cellphones, but, hey, how about all the water (and the associated BPA) we drink from plastic bottles, for example. Surely that has increased dramatically over the last 20 years.

My point being, that there’s an element of carelessness in throwing out arbitrary correlations. It adds nothing to the debate, but only serves to further increase our already excessive social anxiety. So, I say, just ignore it, or use a Bluetooth headset if you’re freaked out.


Poor Melania.

She goes into the hospital for a procedure and the event is dissected endlessly.

Most physicians agree that she most likely had a benign angiomyolipoma, which has a proclivity to bleed. These are treated (and essentially cured) by cutting off the blood supply (embolization).

However, the procedure can be painful, and then you must take great caution to have the individual rest, since too much activity can result in bleeding in the scar that’s produced.

However, we all love a good mystery, and the conspiracy theorists are all postulating everything from cancer to plastic surgery as being the real reason.

I’m a little amazed that “naked Melania undergoing surgery” weren’t appearing on the internet (although they may now).

She’s fine, just cut her some slack.

The woman who needed the liver transplant

Recently, there was a heart rending story of a young woman who had undergone treatment for metastatic colon cancer.

The cancer had spread to her liver. Studies have shown that, on occasion, aggressive treatment of these metastases can result in long term survival, perhaps even cure.

However, her treatment had left her with a liver that was failing, and the thought was to give her a liver transplant.

As expected, the insurance company said, “No”, because there is simply no proof that this will lead to her being cured.

However, due to her remarkable persistence, and the incredible press she received, United Healthcare reversed their decision.

Now, the first thought is to cheer, however, before you do, realize that this woman may still die from her disease, and someone who truly would have benefitted from that liver may not get it.

These are moral and ethical dilemmas that are not as cut and dry as one may think.

We do not have infinite resources. Medical decisions should be primarily based on medical science, otherwise they are just experiments.

That being said, if the Cleveland Clinic, who agreed to do the transplant, truly thought it worthwhile, they should pay for it. maybe from a grant, or maybe from their endowment.

This may strike you as harsh, but let me remind you about the frenzy to do bone marrow transplants on women with breast cancer in the 90’s.

There was story after story about a 40 something woman with 3 small children being refused this treatment, because the HMO’s were all greedy bastards (They are, but that actually didn’t apply here.)

In the end, it was shown that the procedure did not work. Those women still died.

The mantra, “Well, you’ve got to do SOMETHING” is a often a bad one in medicine, because it can lead to experiments for which there is no good scientific basis.

And doing the wrong thing for a person can often be much worse than doing nothing.

Getting a PSA

Under the heading of, “Oh for Christ’s sake, make up your mind!” the latest recommendation is for men to get a PSA “after talking about it with their doctor”.

Why? Were many men getting them after speaking to their mailman or grocer?

The caution about getting a PSA started because it was felt that men were getting treated for cancers that were of no clinical significance.

I know this is a hard concept to swallow, but in many cases, prostate cancer can be extremely slow growing and poses no threat to a man’s life expectancy.

However, because the precaution was made across the board, guess what happened?

We started seeing more men present with advanced and often incurable cancers. Something that had been on the decline since the late 90’s.

So, now, they’re back to telling men to consider getting a PSA if they are at risk.

I get one every year, and I firmly believe in them. Get the test.

Well, that’s enough for one day. Next time, I may tackle the “Right to Try Act”.

Just remember, the next time you read ANY medical news story-STAY SKEPTICAL!!

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