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Entries in New York (18)

Wednesday
Oct262011

Scan Van Brings Mammograms to the Street

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Breast Cancer Awareness Month is in full swing with walks, runs and no shortage of pink products for purchase. But the Scan Van in New York City has been pulling in women right off the street for mammograms.

Among the food trucks and street artists, the Scan Van parks on a different street every day and encourages women to walk in and get mammograms right on the truck -- or make an appointment to get one later.

Half of the patients who walk into the truck have no insurance and no way to pay for such screening services at a doctor’s office. But the van’s services are free.

“We’re serving an underserved population, and we make it really convenient because we’re pulling up to where she’s already going to be,” said Mary Solomon, the Scan Van’s program director.

Patricia Yamada, a 65-year-old Manhattan resident, approaches her last week of radiation treatment next week. The Scan Van caught her cancer last year.

“They saved my life. I would not be here without them and the whole program,” Yamada said.

Yamada had not had a mammogram in six years and had no health insurance.

“I saw in a newsletter that the Scan Van was coming to my neighborhood, within walking distance,” Yamada said.

After the doctor at the Scan Van told her something “abnormal” had turned up in her mammogram, the organization placed her with a hospital that could provide her with care and help her with grants to pay for further services to treat what turned out to be cancer.

Yamada went through surgery, chemotherapy and now, at the end of her treatment, said she’s cancer-free.

The current Miss USA, Alyssa Campanella, has been at the Scan Van this month, urging women to go inside and get a mammogram. She told ABC News that she had come across many women who ordinarily would never have gotten a mammogram and decided to come in for testing because it's free and convenient.

“We were parked on 18th Street the other day when I saw two women looking curiously at the van. I told them what we were doing and come to find out they were looking desperately for help getting a mammogram -- they had both done self-exams and found lumps but didn’t have any insurance or a way to pay for the service.”

The world of breast cancer screening was turned upside down when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, released new recommendations in 2009 saying that women should have mammograms only once every two years once they’d passed the age of 50. It also recommended against breast self-exams, saying yearly exams resulted in too many false positives.

Immediately, such organizations as the American Cancer Society spoke out against the new recommendations and suggested that women over 40 should still get annual mammograms and do breast self-exams. But the USPSTF stood by its 2009 findings in its 2011 screening guide.

ABC News reported on a Swedish study in June that suggested mammograms did save lives. The longest-running breast cancer study followed more than 100,000 women for 29 years. The researchers found that seven years of mammograms equaled 30-percent fewer breast cancer deaths when compared with women who did not receive mammograms at all.

A radiologist for the Scan Van, Dr. Richard Stapen, who has reviewed hundreds of abnormal mammogram X-rays over the past six years, told ABC News that the many breast cancers he found were because the women had come in earlier rather than later. The Scan Van suggests that women over the age of 40 should get mammograms once a year.

Stapen said the most devastating cancers statistically happen between the ages of 40 and 50.

“One fourth, or 50,000 of all diagnosed cases in a year, occur between age 40 and 50, so that’s 50,000 women who if they’d waited, wouldn’t be diagnosed until age 50,” Stapen said. “I’m sure if you’re one of these 50,000 diagnosed women, you’re happy you had a mammogram between 40 and 50.”

The Scan Van program, currently in its 24th year, credits itself with finding 732 cancer cases.

As she approaches her final week of radiation treatment, Yamada said all she can think about is writing thank-you notes to the organization that she believes saved her life.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct062011

Century-Old Bacteria Unearthed in New York Hospital

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It was 1897. William McKinley took office as president of the United States. A New York Sun editorial told 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon that, yes, there was a Santa Claus. And someone at the Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York City buried a time capsule full of bacteria in the cornerstone of the building.

On Wednesday, Dr. Martin Blaser, a bacteriologist and chair of the department of medicine at New York University, cracked open the capsule to take a closer look at the century-old microbes, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Blaser and his team found spores of the bacteria, called Clostridium perfringens, inside a small glass vial. These microbes still live in the intestines of modern humans, but don’t usually cause many infections these days, besides some forms of food poisoning. But at the turn of the 20th century, they often caused infections that led to gangrene.

Even though modern medicine keeps us from being sickened by Clostridium perfringens, Dr. William Schaffner, head of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, said Blaser still has good reason to study these aged organisms.

“He’s trying to see how different this particular strain of organisms is compared with present-day varieties of the bacteria,” Schaffner said. “We may find to our surprise that the bacteria are somewhat different.”

The widespread use of antibiotics, beginning with the 1928 discovery of penicillin, has had a lasting impact on lots of bacteria, particularly on their genes. Blaser told the Journal that he and his team will be looking for how these drugs might have affected Clostridium perfringens.

The key will be to get the microbes to wake up and start growing. Schaffner said the doctors who buried the time capsule would have known that these bacteria could survive for decades in the austere environment of the glass vial.

“These bacteria can go into hibernation, letting them survive eons without exposure to moisture,” he said. “Now, they’re going to put them in a hospitable environment, surround this spore with a high-grade liquid lunch inside a test tube, and we hope it will wake up and transform into something we can study.”

If the bacteria spores are still alive, Blaser’s team said they should start growing within 24 hours.

“It’s pretty cool if the spores are still viable, and will be cooler still if they actually find a genetic difference,” said David Topham, co-director of the New York Influenza Center of Excellence. “But it’s going to take some time to sort it out.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul262011

Calorie Values on Menus in NYC Make a Difference, Study Finds

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Does listing calories on menus really change consumer behavior?  According to a study conducted by the New York City Health Department, just barely.  

The authors surveyed customers at almost 170 fast food locations throughout NYC in the year before and the year after the regulation went into effect.  Overall, the amount of calories purchased did not change.  However, the authors do note changes in specific fast food chains.

For example, McDonalds saw a 5.3-percent drop in average calories purchased. Au Bon Pain saw a 14.4-percent drop and KFC only 6.4 percent. But calories purchased at Subway, authors report in the British Medical Journal, increased by 17.8 percent.
 
The impact of calorie values also depends on whether customers are paying attention to them. Only 15 percent of customers reported using the information to make their purchase choices.  But, those who did pay attention purchased on average 106 fewer calories than customers who didn’t see or use the info.

Based on these findings, it may not be enough to just post calorie values on the menus; as the authors state, “special attention should be focused on educating customers on how to interpret and use nutrition information.”
 
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul072011

Gay Marriage Quandary: Am I the Bride or Groom?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- On the first day that New York State allowed same-sex couples to start the process to get a marriage license this week, Sandra Rodriguez-Diaz and her lesbian partner Miriam Soriano had to make an "awkward" choice on the application form: Who was the bride and who was the groom?

Fredy H. Kaplan and Anthony Cipriano faced the same confusion filling out their personal information, according to a story in The New York Times -- until Kaplan declared to his partner of six years, "You're going to be the bride."

Clerks at city hall told baffled couples to wait until online application forms could be adjusted to accommodate same-sex couples, who captured the right to marry July 24 after New York joined five other states and the District of Columbia to legally sanction gay marriage.

As the right to marry gains momentum across the United States, same-sex couples are redefining the traditional roles of husband and wife, and bureaucrats are scrambling to keep pace with the social revolution.

"This kind of thing doesn't set well with [Mayor] Michael Bloomberg," said Richard Socarides, president of the national advocacy group Equality Matters and former advisor to President Bill Clinton on issues affecting gays and lesbians.

It only took Bloomberg -- one of the most vocal supporters of the gay marriage bill -- 24 hours to straighten out the mess, ordering the city clerk to update the online applications to rephrase the personal information categories to "Bride/Groom/Spouse A" and "Bride/Groom/Spouse B."

"I think it's important not to try to put gay couples in traditional heterosexual married roles," said Socarides.  "What we consider traditional roles of the husband and the wife, even in a heterosexual relationship, are certainly evolving into something different.  Just like everything else, it happens much more quickly in the digital age."

But even as modern heterosexual couples are moving beyond stereotypes, cultural perceptions of gay couples -- one is assertive and masculine, the other more feminine and submissive -- still persist.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr202011

Teacher Forgives Students Whose Fight Resulted in Her Miscarriage

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The lesson New York Spanish teacher Lissedia Batista wants to leave her students with goes far beyond verb conjugations.

Although Batista miscarried after she was accidentally pushed while trying to break up a fight between two of her students, she returns to the classroom this week with only forgiveness and understanding for the pair.

"They're so young, and for something like that to follow them for the rest of their lives? I think they were already stressed enough with the fact that they felt they caused the death of someone's child," Batista, who teaches at Exploration Academy in the Bronx, told the New York Post.

The accident that ended with the loss of Batista's unborn child began when two 15-year-old students, one in ninth grade and the other in tenth, argued over a classroom chair, Marge Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Education, told ABC News at the time of the accident.

When Batista tried to break up the fight, she was accidentally pushed and fell to the ground.  She was rushed to the hospital where doctors determined that she had miscarried.

Batista said she would not press charges against the two teenagers because she didn't want them to end up in the criminal justice system, someone close to Batista told ABC News affiliate WABC-TV in New York.

Despite her loss, Batista seems more worried about the welfare of the two students than she is about her own.

"You don't know how some people might take it.  Some people just really go into deep depressions, and teenagers nowadays have a lot to go through and they are the ones that commit the most suicides out of all the age groups.  I didn't want something like that to happen at all.  I don't hold any sour feelings toward them at all," she told the New York Post.

While Batista's actions might seem extraordinarily self-sacrificing, psychologists say that forgiveness is the key to healing.

"People need to know that letting go and forgiveness is something that benefits themselves.  The instinct when hurting is often times thinking about what's going to make the other person feel the pain, eye for an eye.  But what will really helps you heal is to forgive.  Regardless of the other person, forgiveness is the best thing for you," said Ryan Howes, a Pasadena, California, psychologist.

Research seems to support this concept. Studies have found that forgiveness is healthy, both psychologically and physically.  Those who are better forgivers tend to have lower blood pressure, lower stress levels, fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, and better relationships.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr062011

New York Councilman Wants Toys Banned from Unhealthy Happy Meals

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- An overweight New York politician is on a crusade to eliminate toys from fast food meals that he says promotes unhealthy eating habits in children.

"If we can get the fast food industry to lead in this healthy quest by doing happy meals that have a nutritional value we would definitely change the tide of childhood obesity," New York City Council Deputy Majority Leader Leroy Comrie told ABC News.

"It would be a tremendous help to parents and families if they could have a healthy option with the toy, because the kids want the toy," said Comrie. "The kids scream up and down for the toy."

Comrie, who has been reported to have tipped the scale at 350 pounds, admits that his own health issues had a role in the proposal's development.

"I've always struggled with food and my weight," said Comrie.

"Eating unhealthy food becomes engrained in children's minds because they're getting used to having a toy with a cheeseburger or their chicken nuggets," said Comrie. "Why not put the toy with a salad?"

Under Comrie's proposal, fast food meals that come with a toy could not exceed 500 calories or 600 milligrams of sodium. Meals offering toys would also have to contain either a half cup of fruit or vegetables or one whole serving of a whole-grain product.

Violators would be charged $200 for their first offense and as much as $2,500 for repeat violations.

While Comrie does not name McDonald's in his complaint, the restaurant chain is well-known for their trade marked Happy Meals that are marketed toward children.

McDonald's did not respond to a request for a comment on Comrie's proposal.

Andrew Rigie, the vice president of the New York State Restaurant Association, challenged Comrie's plan.

In an email statement to ABC News Rigie said, "We need to find more effective ways to combat obesity than by taking toys away from children and choices away from their parents."

"The New York State Restaurant Association looks forward to working with the City Council and other groups in a meaningful way to help educate children and parents about nutrition and healthy lifestyles," said Rigie.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr012011

Teen Overcomes Tourette's with Risky Procedure

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- As with many nine-year-old boys, Robbie Lettieri of Long Island, N.Y., just couldn't sit still. He incessantly opened and closed his mouth without speaking, moved his fingers and coughed even though he wasn't sick. Soon, random incomprehensible vocal outbursts accompanied his repetitive motions.

"I thought it was a phase," Robbie's father, Jay Lettieri, said.

But what started as minor tics only grew worse as Robbie aged. By nine, he was diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome, a neurobiological disorder that brings on sudden uncontrollable motor tics. Robbie's tic episodes have grown so traumatic that he has broken bones during his convulsions.

Nearly 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome, according to the Tourette Syndrome Association. While there's no cure for the disorder, doctors typically prescribe medication to treat the symptoms.

Robbie was prescribed 42 different kinds of medications in six years, including antidepressants and anti-hyperactive drugs, which were intended to help him control his symptoms. But Jay Lettieri said the medication did not seem to work for Robbie's worsening symptoms. Indeed, the side effects of the medications were so extreme that Robbie attempted suicide three times while taking the medications.

Robbie's neurologist recommended deep-brain stimulation, an experimental procedure that requires surgically implanting a device deep in the brain. With the switch of a button, the device emits electric impulses to specific parts of the brain that help to control the misfirings that could be causing the tremors.

Deep-brain stimulation is used as a treatment to manage epilepsy. The procedure has also been used to manage some cases of depression and Tourette's, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve the procedure for these cases .

While the procedure is often done while the patient is awake, Robbie's tics were so severe that his doctors had to place Robbie under anesthesia.

Robbie's parents said they saw changes in Robbie almost instantly after the procedure. And, within a few weeks, Robbie's tics completely stopped.

Robbie, who once couldn't be left alone, now says he has gained a new sense of independence.

"I dreamed of it but I never thought it would come true," Robbie said. "It's turned my life around."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar242011

Transgender Woman Sues New York over Genital Surgery Law

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Joann Prinzivalli's New York City birth certificate still reads: Paul Joseph Prinzivalli Jr., male, even though she transitioned to a woman more than a decade ago.

She attempted a transition from man to woman in the 1970s, fully prepared to have genital surgery, but her psychiatrist rejected her request.

Prinzivalli, now 57, eventually changed her name and has legal documents -- a driver's license and a Social Security card -- but her birth certificate doesn't match.

She wants to take the final step to secure her identity, but the New York City Health Department has demanded she have sex reassignment surgery -- on her genitals.  Thirty years ago, she was healthy enough, but today Prinzivalli is morbidly obese and has type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and a blood disorder that would make surgery dangerous.

She is now one of three transgender New Yorkers who are challenging the city in a lawsuit, saying that requiring surgery amounts to discrimination.

The lawsuit was filed by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) in the state Supreme Court, arguing that many transgender people cannot afford the surgical procedures.  They say a doctor's verification that they have fully transitioned is enough.

The federal government allows transgender Americans to change their gender marker on their passports and Social Security accounts with a doctor's certification that the person has had appropriate clinical treatment.

"When transgender people are forced to present an ID that does not match, they are laughed at and turned away at the DMV or applying for a job," said Noah Lewis, the TLDEF lawyer who is defending the New Yorkers.  "The cost is prohibitive for some people and insurance often denies those claims.  Some people feel that surgery is not necessary or appropriate for them."

The New York City Health Department requires written proof, "satisfactory to the department that the applicant has undergone convertive surgery," which it defines as genital surgery.

"We are very sympathetic to the petitioners' concerns and recognize that this is a complex issue," wrote Gabriel Taussig, chief of the New York City Health Department's administrative law division, in a statement.  "The health department must be satisfied that an applicant has completely and permanently transitioned to the acquired gender prior to the issuance of a new birth certificate."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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