Thursday, May 26, 2005

Break Out the L'OREAL!

You can feel safe now in covering up the grey. In the latest edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the latest study on hair dye concludes that it doesn't cause cancer. Did anyone think it did? By the looks around my place of employment, a cancer center no less, you wouldn't have thought it, but I digress.

What is the deal anyway with the new trend of not only having one color, but two? My brunette wife came home a few weeks with not ony auburn highlights but blonde as well. Of course you still have your single dye people such as the girl serving my mocha blast from Baskin Robbins last night. She had just a section of purple in her silky black locks which, kind of matched some of the flavors. To each his own I guess.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Single Malt Whiskey: The New Cancer Preventative

Now, I have heard it all. An independent consultant for the global drinks industry, who has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Heriot-Watt University, touts that "whisky can protect you from cancer -- and science proves it."

According to Mr. Swan, the ellagic acid in single malt whiskey acts as a "free radical scavenger" that "absorbs" or "eats up" free radicals produced from eating. "The free radicals can break down the DNA structure of our existing cells, which then leads to the risk of the body making replacement rogue cancer cells," he said. While it may be true that antioxidants may help ward off free radicals, what he forgets to mention is that alcohol use can lead to liver damage, esophageal cancer and a myriad of other diseases. Not to mention the addictive habits that illicit many of today's social ills such as drunk driving and mental or physical abuse.

Let's take a look at Mr. Swan's profile from the EuroMedLab Glasgow 2005 News March issue. Mr. Swan "assists the quality aims of blue chip brewers, wine makers, and spirits distillers as well as small producers in 5 continents...He is a member of the scotch malt whiskey society taste panel...(here's the kicker) His particular love is the quality and varied flavours of single malt scotch whiskies." Yea, I bet it is. Can you say "Major Conflict of Interest" here. I knew you could. Sounds like to me his particular love is lining the insides of his pockets with pounds, euros or whatever they're using over there now by espousing half truths that ordinary people will take as fact.

Statements like this is just outright irresponsible. I found no more than 28 articles touting this supposedly great news! What Mr. Swan here is doing is taking a small part out of the whole picture and using it solely for the benefit of his clients. Most of these articles make small mention of the damaging effects of alcohol use.

What is disappointing about irresponsible statements like this is that it sets back the healthcare industry's efforts to educate the public about true preventative measures for cancer. Yesterday, I was reviewing news articles of when our cancer clinic was first opened in 1937. Guess what one of the major challenges cited to the success of the program was? Education of the public to the truths about cancer prevention and treatment. Overcoming the belief that cancer was a communicable disease was a monumental challenge in that day. At least then they didn't have news articles stating that it was.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

CT / MRI Physician Self Referrals

One of the Cancer Centers I lead has an Imaging Center within it. It is an added convenience for all of our cancer patients to be able to have any of their diagnostic scans without leaving the building. This has worked great until the Medical Oncology group in our center decided to build their own Imaging Center twenty minutes away.

Of course, we hear the "We're not going to send any patients from here there." Uhhhh, yea. If you build it, they will come (especially if you own a significant stake). We first noticed a drop in CT scans then we heard from a mutual patient that they had a scan at this new facility. We didn't even know it existed. While the state I'm in is a Certificate of Need state, it doesn't cover CT scanners under a certain price range if I'm correct. Needless to say we were a little surprised.

Upon further investigation you would expect that we would find that they had purchased a new 32 or 64 multi-slice CT scanner. Only the best for their patients, right? Not a chance. What did they purchase and install? A refurbished Siemens unit. Let's say that it is not exactly top of the line.

Soon, we start having patients ask our receptionist why they have to travel 20 minutes to have a CT scan when they can have one right here without leaving the building. Hmmmmm....... We have a very astute receptionist who questioned what reason the Medical Oncologist gave for sending them away. They stated that he said "we like the techs better down there." Yea, right. While the patient is thinking technologists we all know they were thinking "technical charges!" This was a patient that lives a half a mile away from our facility. This has been repeated several times. We even had a patient that lives in another state that presented for treatment and they sent them 20 minutes away to the new center. These are cancer patients for pete's sake. They would like to be home resting and not driving all over town.

In the May 2 Wall Street Journal, Donald Ryan of CareCore National Inc. a firm that analyzes imaging claims to help control costs for insurers, states that "Utilization goes through the roof" when physicians have a financial investment in a center that provides diagnostic imaging scans. Talk about a major conflict of interest. And not to mention the ethical issues this presents. But, it appears this is the wave of the future. I can go to my PCP and he'll attempt to send me to his group's Imaging Center 25 minutes away when we have the equipment downstairs.

Guess what's next? A PET/CT Scanner. Rad Onc will be next to follow. Physicians are continually siphoning off the profitable business from hospitals and leaving the non-profitable non-insured patients for the hospital to provide care. To boot, they're doing it on inferior equipment and its usually non-PACS meaning it can't be visualized on multiple PC's. Hospital's better get a better lobby or there are going to be quite a few of them heading for closure.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Up for Air

I would like to apologize for the lack of posts here as of late. Preparing for this year's Relay for Life had literally sucked the life out of me. Now that it is over I hope to get back to blogging on the issues of the day.

Speaking of the Relay, while it was a huge fundraising success, the event left much to live for. As usual, we were deluged with heavy storms while setting up. Something about setting up a tent while it was beginning to thunder and storm just didn't seem very wise. I was beginning to wonder if the hospital would still cover my salary for the day if I got struck by lightening. Thankfully, the rain stopped before the event begin and didn't return until about 5 the next morning when it begin to fall from the sky like the day's of Noah. Needless to say they called the whole event around 5:30. Of course, there were only about 10 people left at the whole event so I'd say that had something to do with it.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has killed this event in our city by splitting it into 5 separate events according to what region of the county you live. There just aren't enough teams to carry the event throughout the night. A good majority of the teams pack it up after the luminary ceremony and that just leaves a few of the hard core campers. Without enough teams, there isn't even enough people to hold the events scheduled throughout the night. In addition, the poor planning and organizational skills of the ACS committee only added to the demise of this year's event. But, I digress...