August 17, 2010. Maris is a 57-year-old woman in excellent health.  She has not seen a doctor in years. Divorced, she lives by herself, but spends occasional evenings with her daughter and son-in-law.  A successful businesswoman, Maris gardens, serves on the board of a community theater and plays a mean game of bridge. It is 10:11 a.m. when Maris presents to the emergency room. Three hours earlier, her legs became wobbly while ...

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Sex or death: The difficult decisions of prostate cancer treatment Sex or death: The difficult decisions of prostate cancer treatment As part of my role as a clinical nurse specialist in a busy prostate clinic, I see men (with their partner) as part of their decision-making process for active treatment for prostate cancer. The purpose of the appointment is for me to explain the results of their prostate biopsy, dispel any ...

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7:00 a.m. Lights on.   Coffee, black and a banana. Paperwork.  27 patient visits, 3 emergencies, 35 phone calls.  Lots of computer time. Some laughs and a few tears. Paperwork.  Last family meeting.  Coffee, black.   In between: Thursday. Was not completely successful in explaining to my frantic patient with the multi-page lab printout, how the problem was not that her tests were bad, but that the computer had used the wrong “normal” range ...

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Health screening is part of good preventive care, though over-screening can lead to increased costs, and potential patient harm. Health care professional societies have recently developed excellent public service announcements describing the dangers of over-testing, and new research suggests that though additional medical interventions are associated with increased patient satisfaction, they also lead (ironically) to higher mortality rates. And so, in a system attempting to shift to a “less is more” ...

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Does owning cancer equipment change treatment patterns? Today’s article follows the money trail to expose a different form of bias: the kind that takes place when doctors own their own diagnostic and therapeutic equipment. For people living with cancer, this kind of bias can have a particularly painful impact. Radiation therapy brings out medical bias In the United States, cancer is the second most common cause of death, killing nearly 600,000 ...

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I have a new favorite doctor show, “The Knick” on Cinemax, airing on Friday nights.   The show stars Clive Owen as the charismatic cocaine-addicted chief of surgery Dr. John Thackery at a fictitious New York City hospital called The Kickerbocker at a time when surgery was one foot out of the barbershop.  The tagline is, as they say, priceless: “Modern medicine had to start somewhere.” On the third episode, last Friday ...

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The electronic medical record that my office uses features a clinical protocol button that we are encouraged to click during patient visits to remind us about potentially indicated preventive services, such as obesity and tobacco counseling and cancer screenings. I once tried it out while seeing a 90-year-old with four chronic health problems. The computer suggested breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and cervical cancer screenings: three totally inappropriate tests for the ...

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Oh yeah.  Hot dang.  All right.  Groovy. Boom goes the dynamite. I had a very great day yesterday. I saw three patients who had recent diagnoses of cancer.  Yeah, those two statements seem to contradict.  They don't.  Each person I saw gave me a clear view of how the practice I've been building over the past 18 months is making a difference.  A big, big difference. The first patient was a guy who is ...

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Delivering bad news: Dont pass the buckWhen I was a fellow, part of our training involved doing consults for patients, most of whom had just learned they had cancer or recurrence of disease. These consults were never easy, but the importance of sitting with someone who had just learned of their diagnosis was an integral part of learning the medicine and art of oncology. Even after many ...

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Last week a patient said to me, "You live your whole life thinking you're going to have time to enjoy life later on, and then this happens." Then he started to cry because we had just reviewed his recent CT scans and some of his lab results and he had a new diagnosis of a type and stage of cancer that meant he likely had about eight months to live. ...

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