Should we stop calling it prostate “cancer”?

“We do ourselves a disservice when diagnoses as wildly different as a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme (a brain tumour that is virtually 100% fatal) and prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (a prostate condition more likely to make you pee frequently than to kill you) are both described as cancer.”

So claims a thoughtful Globe and Mail reflection called Can the Word ‘Cancer’ Be More Harmful Than the Disease? by health columnist André Picard. It’s all about the power of words – and particularly the C-word. Continue reading

“Distracted Doctoring” – updating your Facebook status in the O.R.

Do you know what your O.R. team is up to while you’re lying there out cold during surgery? The New York Times has taken a revealing peek at the impact of electronic devices like smartphones on modern medical care – and it’s not a pretty picture.

The troubling issue is that your doctors, nurses and techs can be focused on the screen and not the patient, even during moments of critical care.  This includes the neurosurgeon making personal calls during an operation, a nurse checking airfares in the O.R., and a frightening poll showing that half of technicians running bypass machines during open heart surgery had admitted texting while working on a cardiac procedure Continue reading

Things your doctor may not know

Before surviving a heart attack, I was what you might consider a model patient. I was always  cooperative, deferential  and polite with few if any health issues to worry my doctors. Physicians have the letters M.D. after their names, and know all about medicine. I had no reason to ever doubt them.

But all that pretty much changed forever after I was misdiagnosed with indigestion in the middle of a heart attack – despite presenting with textbook symptoms like chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain radiating down my left arm.   Continue reading

Why isn’t California disciplining its dangerous doctors?

Until he was banned in California from operating in 1967, Dr. Walter Freeman performed over 3,500 "ice pick lobotomies" through his patients' eye sockets.

You’d like to think that the doctor trusted to make treatment decisions for you or your family members would be in big trouble if he/she were found guilty of practice violations like “delivering substandard care, wrongly diagnosing surgical patients, improperly leaving surgical equipment in a patient, alcohol/substance abuse, or physical illness/impairment”.  But such is not the case, according to the non-profit watchdogs over at Public Citizen, who claim that the state of California has become delinquent in disciplining 710 physicians with documented records like this.

In fact, 102 of these California doctors have been designated by peer reviewers as an “immediate threat to health or safety” of patients – yet are still allowed to practice medicine in the state.  One question: are their patients aware of this?

Here’s the report:  Continue reading

Remedial training for neurosurgeons: “Don’t bill for procedures you didn’t do!”

Dr. Vishal James Makker is an Oregon neurosurgeon with movie star good looks, a bedside manner that’s been described as “charming”, and a distressingly questionable track record for performing multiple spinal operations on his patients. In fact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalists at ProPublica have revealed that an analysis of Medicare data shows that Makker had the highest rate of repeat surgeries in the U.S. –  a rate that’s nearly 10 times the national average.  Continue reading

“You can lead a cardiologist to water but, apparently, you cannot make him drink”

When it comes to interventional cardiology – that’s using balloon angioplasty* and metal stents to open up blocked coronary arteries – it seems that medical evidence is still taking a back seat to doctors’ deeply ingrained practice patterns. Case in point, a warning from the health journalism watchdogs at Health Beat:

“Even though many well-designed clinical studies conclude that drug therapy alone can reduce the risk of heart attack and death in people with stable coronary artery disease just as well as more expensive invasive procedures, many cardiologists continue to use interventions like propping open blocked arteries with costly stents instead of first trying medication.”

Or, as the Los Angeles Times put it in a piece called Cardiologists Rush to Angioplasty Despite Evidence for Value of Drugs:

“You can lead a cardiologist to water but, apparently, you cannot make him drink.”  Continue reading