CT Scans May Not Be As Risky As Once Thought, Study Finds

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto/AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- Doctors have long known that CT scans can be a double-edged sword. Their diagnostic power is pivotal in modern-day medicine, but their inherent cancer risks leave both physicians and patients wary.

Now, a new study presented at a major scientific meeting may alleviate some CT cancer fears -- but it may also fuel the controversy surrounding the tests.

The study of more than 10 million Medicare patient records suggests the cancer risks from the scans are much smaller than past studies claim. Prior research estimated radiation-induced cancer rates associated with these scans around one-and-a-half-to-two percent, but results from the Stanford study found that CT scans were only associated with a 0.02 to .04 percent higher risk of cancer in its study population.

"The bottom line here is that not enough work has been done in this area yet," said Dr. Pat Basu, faculty radiologist at Stanford University and co-author of the study. "We need to be sure not to over-scan people, but not forget the tremendous benefits from CT scans; they can save lives and make medical care cheaper."

Dr. David J. Brenner, professor of radiation oncology at Columbia University, takes issue with the methodology of the study. Only patients who had received no less than the radiation of about four or five CT scans were included in the final risk results. Those patients who had only a few CT scans in the years studied were not included in the final results.

Today, more than 62 million CT scans are performed in the United States, compared with three million in 1980. A CT scan can have 50 to 250 times more radiation than a conventional X-ray.

For this reason, some doctors have raised alarm on unnecessary CT scans. Indeed, many studies have shown that patients are unnecessarily getting CT scans, exposing themselves to radiation.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, agreed that the issue is in the amount of CT scans used on patients.

"We as a nation are in love with technology," said Lichtenfeld. "We're going in the complete opposite direction where I think we should go. We need to take a step back, respect technology, but understand the limitations of technology and not assume everything must be used all the time."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Dangerous Dose? Kids' Meds Are Hard to Measure

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Dosing directions for children's over-the-counter medications are misleading and hard for parents to understand, according to a study from the New York University School of Medicine.

Researchers sampled 200 of the top-selling cough/cold, allergy, analgesic and gastrointestinal over-the-counter (OTC) liquid medication for children and found that inconsistencies between labeled dosage and the provided measuring device could increase the likelihood of mis-dose when medicine is administered by caretakers in the home.

One-in-four OTC medications didn't even include a measuring device, despite guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration that recommend all children's medications to include them.

In response to growing concerns over accidental drug overdose in OTC children's medications, the FDA released new guidelines on how to create clear and easy-to-use dosing directions in November 2009.

The study examined over-the-counter products around the time the guidelines were released and documents the widespread inconsistencies in dosing directions and packaging that spurred the action by both the FDA and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents the makers of 95 percent of all OTC consumer medications.

"This study is intended to establish baselines.  The plan is to take another look in a year or so to see if changes have been made," says Dr. H. Shonna Yin, lead author on the study and assistant professor of pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine.

According to the CHPA, all member manufacturers are voluntarily participating in revisions to bring pediatric medications up to the new guidelines, though the results of these changes will not be reflected in the products immediately.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


'Uncertainty Is a Greater Stressor' than Risky Treatment, Researchers Say

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Patients waiting for a cancer diagnosis exhibit more anxiety than those preparing for invasive cancer treatments, according to a report by MedPage Today.

Dr. Elvira Lang of Harvard and her colleagues reported the results of their study assessing stress levels among patients waiting for diagnosis and treatments at the Radiological Society of North America meeting in Chicago.

"Uncertainty is a greater stressor than awaiting risky treatment," Lang told reporters.  "The invasiveness of a procedure has less influence on stress."

Breast biopsy patients showed significantly higher scores than those receiving treatment for liver cancer, according to the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI).

Lang suggested that physicians view the study as an implication that there is a need for them to diffuse their patients stress.  She added that doctors should also avoid negative suggestions such as "your results aren't that bad."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Quadriplegic Begs to Die, But Hospital Refuses

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ANTIOCH, Ill.) -- For the last 18 months, Dan Crews has been waging a battle to die -- a battle that he is losing.

For the last 24 years -- since he was paralyzed at age three in a car accident -- Crews has been a quadriplegic, able to speak and eat, but not breathe on his own.

"Just imagine having your arms and legs strapped down 24 hours a day, seven days a week and not being able to do anything about it and not going anywhere," said the 27-year-old, who lives with his mother in Antioch, Ill.

"I have no friends," Crews told ABC News. "I have no education. No education prospects. No job prospects. I have no love prospects. All I want is to no longer live like this."

The Supreme Court ruled a decade ago that a person can refuse medical treatment -- provided they are competent. And that is the biggest hurdle for Crews.

The head psychiatrist at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa, where Crews has received most of his treatment since he was airlifted from the accident, says he is depressed and that overrides his ability to make a life or death decision.

The hospital did not return calls for comment, but medical records obtained by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel revealed that psychiatrists and mental health professionals have ruled Crews is depressed and must be treated before they will agree to such an irrevocable step.

Crews is now on antidepressants, but has refused psychiatric care. When he tried to starve himself, doctors threatened to use a feeding tube and he relented. But he hasn't changed his mind about dying.

An estimated five to 10 percent of spinal cord injury patients contemplate suicide, six times higher than in the general population, according to the Kessler Institute in New Jersey, one of the nation's top rehabilitation centers. It treated the late actor Christopher Reeve, who was paralyzed in a riding accident.

"Quality of life is determined more by support and reintegration into the community rather than level of severity or injury," said Loran C. Vocaturo, Kessler's director of neuropsychology. "Paraplegics don't do better than quads. It's more about the perception of their health status and level of care giving."

But, said Youngner, "there is a difference between being depressed and unhappy. Clinical depression is an ethical diagnosis and a checklist of symptoms. If people are taking the position he is depressed, he has no chance."

And that is precisely the case with Crews, who prays every day that he will die.

He doubts the hospital will reverse its decision -- ever.

"They have been screwing with me and destroying my life," he said. "Unless someone breaks into my house and kills me or there's a drive-by shooting where I live, I can't win this fight."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


House Expected To Vote Wednesday On Child Nutrition Bill

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., joined Democrats Tuesday in calling for the swift passage of the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act,” which the House is expected to vote on Wednesday.

“We should pass this legislation immediately,” Pelosi said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. “It’s about our competitiveness. It’s about our national security. It’s about our moral responsibility to our children.”

The $4.5-billion Senate bill, which passed with unanimous consent in August, would expand eligibility for school lunch programs, establish nutrition standards for all school meals, and encourage schools to use locally sourced food. It would also raise the reimbursement rate to $0.06 per meal, marking the first time in over 30 years that Congress has increased funding for school lunch programs.

“The future prosperity of our country depends on having a highly educated and skilled work force that’s ready to compete, but kids that have food insecurity learn at a slower rate than their peers, have significantly lower math skills are much more likely to repeat grades. Simply put they don’t have the same chance to succeed,” Pelosi said.

The Obama administration Tuesday also urged House passage of the legislation. “This bill...would make significant improvements to nutrition programs that serve millions of children across our country each day,” according to a White House Statement of Administration Policy. “Passage of this legislation also would help advance the Administration's goal of solving the problem of childhood obesity within a generation, which is at the heart of the First Lady's Let's Move! campaign.”

Although the House had been considering an $8-billion version of the bill, they will vote Wednesday on the bill as passed by the Senate. “We will not make any changes because we want to be able to send it to the president," Education and Labor Committee Chairman Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said on the call.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Study Links Drug Use to Traffic Deaths

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A new study shows an increased link between fatal car accidents and drug use, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The NHTSA study showed that drug use reported by states among fatally injured drivers rose from 13 percent in 2005 to 18 percent in 2008.

The study included drivers who were tested for illicit drugs, legally prescribed drugs and over-the-counter medicines after their death. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, however, pointed out that drug testing of fatally injured drivers is often not conducted.

The study noted that a positive test for drug use did not mean that the driver crashed as a result of the drug use.
Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Iowa Egg Farm Linked to Salmonella Outbreak Cleared by FDA

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(GALT, Iowa) -- The FDA has cleared the way for an Iowa farm to resume egg shipments after more than 1,800 cases of Salmonella were linked to their eggs.

In a press release Tuesday, the FDA said Wright County Egg will be allowed to sell eggs from two hen houses that have been cleaned and no longer pose a health risk.

Egg shipments have not left the farm since being linked to a multi-state Salmonella outbreak in August.

“During the outbreak, I said that FDA would not agree to the sale of eggs to consumers from Wright County Egg until we had confidence that they could be shipped and consumed safely,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg. “After four months of intensive work by the company and oversight, testing, and inspections by FDA, I am satisfied that time has come.”
Wright County Egg released a statement Thursday in response to the announcement by the FDA.

“Extraordinary measures have been put in place to put our egg farms at the forefront of food safety and to protect the health of our birds, and our team has worked tirelessly over the past several months to ensure that the past situation is never repeated,” said Peter DeCoster, Wright County Egg’s chief operating officer.

DeCoster said the farm will continue to work with Salmonella experts to implement standards above and beyond those required by the FDA.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Facebook Infidelity: Cheating Spouses Go Online

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Facebook has apparently become the new "lipstick on your collar."

Twenty percent of divorces involve Facebook and 80 percent of divorce lawyers have reported a spike in the number of cases that use social media for evidence, according to a survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

It's so common that there's a website dedicated to Facebook cheating.'s founder says he started the site after his now ex-wife had an affair with an old flame she re-ignited on Facebook.

The site is an outlet that gives tips on how to catch a cheating spouse in the age of social networks and heartbreaks across the Web.

Stories of infidelity posted on such websites illustrate how the social media network has helped to reconnect former lovers.

The Rev. Cedric Miller, a pastor in New Jersey, made headlines recently when he called Facebook a "portal to infidelity" and told his parishioners to delete their accounts after 20 couples confessed that Facebook led them astray.

Miller himself took a leave of absence because of his own (non-Facebook) sexual transgressions. He later admitted to having a three-way sexual relationship in the past.

A connection is made and it starts out platonic and can later turn into something more. But such connections cannot solely be blamed on Facebook, therapists say.

"Before it was e-mail, then before that it was the phone," said marriage counselor Terry Real. "The problem is not Facebook, it is the loss of love in your marriage."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Senate Passes Food Safety Bill

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate finally passed a food safety bill on Tuesday that lawmakers had been sitting on for around a year-and-a-half.

Just after returning from a week-long break for the Thanksgiving holiday, senators voted 73-25 to pass the measure. The House must now pass the bill before it can head to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

The $1.4 billion bill aims to prevent massive outbreaks of tainted food by giving the Food & Drug Administration the authority to order mandatory recalls and require more frequent inspections of high-risk food processing plants.

An estimated 76 million illnesses are caused by food-borne contamination each year in the U.S.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Americans could find themselves taking 50 to 100 percent more vitamin D to keep up with recommended daily levels, if a prominent health organization has anything to say about it.

In a new report, the Institute of Medicine, or IOM, an independent, nonprofit organization connected to the National Academy of Science, released dietary recommendations for vitamin D and calcium Tuesday.  Estimated average requirements for the two nutrients were set in 1997 and have not been updated since.

The IOM assigned a committee of experts to review more than one thousand studies related to vitamin D and calcium.  The review committee found that the majority of Americans and Canadians receive the appropriate amount of vitamin D and calcium, except for girls ages 7-to-18.  The report also found that postmenopausal women taking supplements may actually be getting too much calcium, which could increase their risk for kidney stones.

Standing by previous recommendations, the committee says infants and children ought to receive 200 to 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, and older children and adults should get 1,000 to 13,000 milligrams.

The committee made more significant changes to vitamin D recommendations.  Previous estimated average requirements recommended 400 International Units (IUs) a day for everyone.  The new IOM report recommends that infants receive 400 IUs of the vitamin per day and 600 IUs for children and adults.  Committee members said that people aged 71 or older may need a bit more -- about 800 IUs per day. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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