Are Routine Pelvic Exams a Thing of the Past?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- "Put your feet in the stirrups and scootch your butt all the way down. Further down. Little further. Now, try to relax." These are the instructions that usually accompany the routine, often dreaded, pelvic exam that is de rigueur for most gynecological checkups.

Some women are resigned to this exam, others find it embarrassing and unpleasant, and still others may detest it so much they avoid seeking gynecological care in order to skip it -- but what if it wasn't always necessary?

What if women could safely go for two or three years, granted they were healthy and without symptoms of disease, without the hassle?

That is precisely what a commentary published in the January edition of the Journal of Women's Health is suggesting: in healthy, asymptomatic women, a pelvic exam doesn't have to be done yearly, and in women under 21, perhaps not at all. And many gynecologists feel that this assertion has been a long time coming.

Authors of the commentary argue that many of the reasons pelvic exams are employed today are unnecessary and could be replaced by less invasive techniques. The evidence suggests that less frequent pelvic examinations have no detrimental effect on health outcomes in everything from testing for STDS to prescribing hormonal contraceptives to screening for gynecological cancers.

The authors' arguments "are completely valid," says Dr. Diane Harper, director of the Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Research Group at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. "There are so many other health needs, including behavioral medicine, depression, coping skills, domestic violence, etc., that need to be addressed in the time that we used to do pelvic exams."

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is taking this issue to heart.

"It's something that's on their plate for discussion to have possibly new recommendations for the annual examinations in the near future," says ACOG representative Dr. Jessica Shepherd, a Louisville, Ky. based gynecologist. "The reason this is being addressed is that when we look at pelvic exams historically, they have just not been linked to an increase in diagnosis of things like ovarian cancer." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Shows Casual Video Games Lower Depression Symptoms

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(GREENVILLE, N.C.) -- Casual video games, such as family-friendly, non-violent puzzle games, can significantly lower symptoms of depression, according to a new study released Wednesday.

Researchers at East Carolina University's Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic conducted the year-long study of nearly 60 participants, all of whom were clinically depressed.  Researchers found that those who were exposed to the video games -- about half of the participants -- had their depression symptons go down by 57 percent.

Participants who played also had an average mood improvement of 65 percent and a reduction in anxiety by an average of 20 percent.

"The results of this study clearly demonstrate the intrinsic value of certain casual games in terms of significant, positive effects on the moods and anxiety levels of people suffering from any level of depression," said Dr. Carmen Russoniello, director of the Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic at ECU and the professor who oversaw the study.

"In my opinion the findings support the possibility of using prescribed casual video games for treating depression and anxiety as an adjunct to, or perhaps even a replacement for, standard therapies including medication," Russoniello added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Survey: Use of Temporary Doctors Increasing

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(IRVING, Texas) -- As a shortage of doctors ensues in the U.S., more and more hospitals and medical groups are resorting to hiring temporary physicians to fill in the gaps, according to a new survey released Wednesday.

The survey, conducted by the temporary physician staffing firm Staff Care, polled various facilities and found that 85 percent of them had used the part-time doctors sometime in the past 12 months.  This new average is an increase from the previous year, when the average was 72 percent.

Of those surveyed, 63 percent noted that the top reason for using temporary physicians was to have someone fill in until the facility could find a permanent doctor.

"There are simply too few physicians to fill all the available vacancies today," said Tim Boes, president of Staff Care.  "Temporary doctors are providing critical, interim patient care services for many healthcare facilities until they can find the full-time physicians they need."

The survey also found that psychiatrists and other behavioral health specialists were the most demanded temporary doctors.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Woman Sues Skechers Saying Toning Shoes Caused Hip Fractures

Photo Courtesy - WireImage/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A new lawsuit alleges that Skecher's Shape-up shoes can cause serious injuries.

An Ohio woman is suing the company after developing stress fractures in both hips -- which she blames on the shoes.

Skecher's Shape-ups have a distinctive round sole.  They are marketed as toning shoes, the fastest-growing segment of the athletic shoe market.  Toning shoes are meant to help you get in shape as you walk or work.  But at least one person says rather than helping them, the shoes hurt them.

Holly Ward, 38, says her routine involves physical therapy and she has pins in her hips.  She blames Skechers Shape-ups for her injuries.

Shape-ups are advertised as helping you get in shape and helping reduce pain.  Kim Kardashian and former NFL quarterback Joe Montana have appeared in commercials for Shape-ups.

Ward says she wore the shoes during her work as a waitress and while on walks and developed severe pain after five months.  According to her lawsuit, she had fractures in both hips near where they meet the thigh bones even though she has the healthy bone density of a young woman.

"The femoral bone is the strongest bone in the human body and I fractured not one but two of them without being in a car crash or any traumatic incident," she told ABC News.

ABC spoke to half a dozen orthopedists and most were skeptical that shoes alone could cause stress fractures.

Skechers told ABC that "since this lawsuit is brand new, we have not had an opportunity to review Ms. Ward's allegations and millions of people wear Shape-ups without experiencing what Ms. Ward alleges."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Black Patients More Likely Than White Patients to Be Re-Admitted

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Eliminating the racial gaps in U.S. health care remains a national priority.  One of those gaps involves hospital readmission rates. A new study finds black patients within the Medicare system are more likely than white patients to be readmitted within 30 days of a hospital visit for three common conditions, with differences related to race and where the care was received.

Heart problems or an episode of pneumonia are some of the most common conditions bringing the elderly into America's hospitals, but what happens to many of these patients in the first 30 days after they go home? "It's a time in which patients are very vulnerable to developing a complication that might end up with them coming back into the hospital," says Dr. Karen Joynt from Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital.

She along with co-authors analyzed data involving more than three million Medicare patients, admitted to hospitals nationwide from 2006 to 2008 for heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia. Researchers looked at how many of these patients were readmitted to the hospital during the first 30 days after being discharged. "Black patients overall had a 13 percent higher odds of readmission than white patients across all three conditions," according to Joynt. The study appears in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association. "Patients discharged from hospitals that served a high proportion of black patients had about a 25 percent higher odds of readmissions."

Researchers say understanding why black patients are readmitted to the hospital more often than white patients may help improve the quality of care they receive. "It's a time in which patients often have to adjust to new medications, new physicians sometimes, new follow up plans, new nutrition plans and that's a time where we're really seeing a disparity between patients who may have more resources to support them once they come out of the hospital," Joynt says. Involving family whenever possible may also help in improving patient outcomes. 

Researchers say this study is one of the first nationwide looking at how the  most common medical conditions are affecting Medicare patients.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Early Hair Loss Could Mean Higher Risk of Prostate Cancer

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PARIS) - A new study suggests that early hair loss in men may show an increased risk of prostate cancer later in life, reports HealthDay News.

Researchers at the European Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris found that men with prostate cancer were two times more likely to have started balding in their 20s, although it did not suggest that those who developed the early signs of male pattern baldness would develop prostate cancer earlier.

Study authors said they will work to determine whether this finding may help them narrow down prostate cancer screening.

"At present, there is no hard evidence to show any benefit from screening the general population for prostate cancer," said study author Dr. Philippe Giraud from the European Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris. "We need a way of identifying those men who are at high risk of developing the disease. Balding at the age of 20 may be one of these easily identifiable risk factors, and more work needs to be done now to confirm this."

The team said it is too soon to conclude that early male pattern baldness and prostate cancer are indeed linked.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Men Sleep Better than Women After Drinking

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) - A new study suggests that a woman's sleep is disrupted more than a man's after drinking alcohol, reports HealthDay News.

The study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found that the difference may rest in differences in metabolism.

"These (gender) differences may be related to differences in alcohol metabolism since women show a more rapid decline in BrAC (breath alcohol concentration) following alcohol consumption than men," said lead author J. Todd Arnedt, an assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Michigan.
Researchers studied 59 women and 34 men before they went to bed -- some of whom had consumed alcohol to the point of inebriation, others who drank non-alcoholic beverages before bed. The research found that women who had drank alcohol slept less and woke up more frequently than men who had drank.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


CDC: New Hepatitis C Infections Remain Stable

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(GALVESTON, Texas) - New figures from the Centers for Disease Control suggest that new cases of the hepatitis C virus have remained stable since dropping dramatically in the early 1990s, reports WebMD.

Researchers attributed the dramatic drop in infections and the resulting stabilization to a decline in the use of needles by illicit drug users. Illicit IV drug use is now the most common cause of new HCV  infections.

“New IV drug users are still being infected in high numbers, but they represent a very small percentage of the pool of people who are infected,” researcher Miriam J. Alter, PhD, of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, told WebMD.

Among other findings, researchers found that there was little evidence that tattoos and similar practices were responsible for major contributions to the number of HCV infections. A sizable portion -- 14 percent of new HCV infections -- occurred in people who admitted to having sex with an infected partner or multiple partners.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Recycled Phones Could Save Lives

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(STANFORD, Calif.) - Josh Nesbit had a simple idea - one that turns old cell phones into lifesavers.

As the goalie on Stanford University's soccer team, Nesbit earned a full scholarship. But it was his hustle off the field that makes him a superstar.

During his sophomore summer break four years ago, Nesbit volunteered at an AIDS clinic in Malawi, one of Africa's poorest, least-developed nations. In Malawi, 85 percent of the people live in rural areas and most survive on a dollar a day. Nesbit volunteered at St. Gabriel's Hospital to help children with HIV.

"This particular hospital was serving about a quarter-million people, spread a hundred miles in every direction. So you literally had patients walking 60, 80, a hundred miles to access care. Basically one nurse would get onto a motorcycle and drive 10 hours a day trying to track down patients," Nesbit said.

Often, community health workers, who travel miles to isolated African villages to see patients, have to lug boxes of medical records with them. Paper records can be lost or damaged, especially on long trips.

His idea was to use high-tech open source software on a laptop, along with some solar power, and give away old cell phones so that local health workers can work on the frontlines of global health.

Back at Stanford, surrounded by high-tech engineers, Nesbit found a software guru who could help make it happen. Then, back in Malawi, Nesbit set up an ad hoc network using solar panels, a laptop and cell phones. With the software, paper records could be transformed into text messages. Soon the health workers were texting a hundred miles in each direction.

The new technology allowed workers at St. Gabriel's to respond to emergencies, diagnose patients, and keep track of their medical records, all via texts -- saving time, resources, and lives.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Labor of Love: Woman Carries Her Daughter's Baby

File Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHICAGO) - A mother's love takes many forms. For Kristine Casey, 61, it meant giving the gift of motherhood to her infertile daughter by carrying and giving birth to her own grandson.

With the help of hormone supplementation, Casey, who had gone through menopause 10 years earlier, became pregnant during her second round of in vitro fertilization, the Chicago Tribune reported.

She carried full term and gave birth via Cesarean section to Finnean, her first grandchild, last week at Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago. Although Casey's daughter, Sara Connell, 35, had been unable to carry a pregnancy to term, her egg and her husband Bill's sperm were used in the procedure, making the couple Finnean's biological parents.

"The idea of having a family member being open to doing this for us was so extraordinary for us," Sara Connell told the Tribune.

In the world of surrogate parenting, the Connell's scenario is not as uncommon as you might think. The first case of such an arrangement dates back to 1987 when a South African woman gave birth to her triplet grandchildren. More recently, ABC News' Good Morning America spoke with 56-year-old Jaci Dalenberg of Wooster, Ohio, who gave birth to triplet girls that she carried for daughter Kim Coseno in 2008.

Casey, who is retired, told the Tribune that giving birth to her own three daughters were three of the happiest days in her life and she believed that serving as a surrogate to her daughter was a spiritual calling. She had kidney complications after the birth that were quickly resolved.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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