Category Archives: Lab Tests & Diagnostics

Cataract surgery is fast and safe, but many patients still get costly test before their operation

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EyeBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

Requiring patients to get blood work and other tests before undergoing cataract surgery hasn’t been recommended for more than a dozen years.

There’s good reason for that: The eye surgery generally takes less time than watching a rerun of “Marcus Welby, MD” — just 18 minutes, on average.

“It’s so low risk it’s almost like saying you’re going to get your nails done.”

It’s also incredibly safe, with a less than 1 percent risk of major cardiac problems or death.

Yet more than half of Medicare patients received at least one pre-operative test in the month before undergoing surgery to remove cataracts in 2011, a recent study found. Continue reading

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Video explains panel’s new mammography recommendations

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FACTS AND MYTHS –

By the US Preventive Services Task Force

MYTH: The Task Force recommends against screening for breast cancer in women younger than 50.

FACT: Evidence shows that mammography screening can be effective for women in their 40s. Based on the science, the Task Force’s draft recommendation states that the decision to start regular mammography screening before age 50 is an individual one and should be made by a woman in partnership with her doctor. Continue reading

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So you have dense breasts. Now what?

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catharine-becker-2

Catharine Becker at her home in Fullerton, California on April 14, 2014. Becker started to get mammograms at age 35 because she had a family history of breast cancer (Photo by Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News).

By Barbara Feder Ostrov
KHN

Earlier this year, Caryn Hoadley received an unexpected letter after a routine mammogram.

The letter said her mammogram was clean but that she has dense breast tissue, which has been linked to higher rates of breast cancer and could make her mammogram harder to read.

“I honestly don’t know what to think about the letter,” said Hoadley, 45, who lives in Alameda, Calif. “What do I do with that information?”

Millions of women like Hoadley may be wondering the same thing. Twenty-one states, including California, have passed laws requiring health facilities to notify women when they have dense breasts. Eleven other states are considering similar laws and a nationwide version has been introduced in Congress.

The laws have been hailed by advocates as empowering women to take charge of their own health. About 40 percent of women have dense or extremely dense breast tissue, which can obscure cancer that might otherwise be detected on a mammogram.

But critics say the laws cause women unnecessary anxiety and can lead to higher costs and treatment that doesn’t save lives or otherwise benefit patients. Continue reading

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Diabetes testing in symptomless adults may not lower risk of death | Reuters

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GlucometerExpanding diabetes screening in adults to catch the disease early does not appear to keep people from dying of cardiovascular causes, according to a report designed to help shape U.S. treatment guidelines.

Earlier detection did seem to slow the progression of so-called prediabetes to full-blown diabetes, but it had no impact on the risk of death from heart or blood vessel disease 10 years later, researchers found when they analyzed studies conducted from 2007 to 2014.

via Diabetes testing in symptomless adults may not lower risk of death | Reuters.

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Seattle Children’s and Mayo Clinic team to slash genetic testing costs – Puget Sound Business Journal

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Seattle Children's Whale LogoSeattle Children’s hospital and Mayo Medical Laboratories are creating a partnership to develop ways for children’s hospitals around the country to decrease costs and errors that come from unnecessary lab testing.

via Seattle Children’s and Mayo Clinic team to slash genetic testing costs – Puget Sound Business Journal.

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Do you really need counseling on your Alzheimer’s gene test?

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From WBUR’s CommonHealth:

A new Brigham and Women’s Hospital study finds that we may not need quite as much genetic counseling as we’d thought. Particularly on relatively cut-and-dried findings, like test results on a common gene that raises the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Listen to WBUR host Anthony Brooks speak with Dr. Robert C. Green:

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Health news headlines – October 24th

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Silhouettes of U.S. Soldiers at night in Iraq

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As Ebola lapses get spotlight in Texas, Seattle union nurses say they’re unprepared – Puget Sound Business Journal

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Ebola NIAID

An electron micrograph scan shows the Ebola virus emerging from an infected cell. (NIAID/NIH)

Workers with Service Employees International Union Healthcare 1199NW say they’re worried they lack training in the proper procedures for cleaning rooms to manage Ebola patients.

Nurses and housekeepers at some hospitals say this reduces front-line defense against infectious diseases.

via As Ebola lapses get spotlight in Texas, Seattle union nurses say they’re unprepared – Puget Sound Business Journal.

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Many women receiving unnecessary Pap tests

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Cytological specimen showing cervical cancer specifically squamous cell carcinoma in the cervix. Tissue is stained with Pap stain and magnified x200. PHOTO courtesy of NCIBy Stephanie Stephens,
Health Behavior News Service

As many as half to two-thirds of women who’ve undergone hysterectomies or are older than 65 years in the United States report receiving  Pap tests for cervical cancer.

This prevalence is surprising in light of the 2003 U.S. Preventive Services Taskforce guidelines recommending that women discontinue Pap testing if they have received a total hysterectomy without a history of cervical cancer and if they are over age 65 years with ongoing and recent normal Pap test results.

Performing these unnecessary tests can result in stress for the patient, increased costs, and inefficient use of both provider and patient time, concludes a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“During this time of health care reform, we could probably use our resources more wisely,” said corresponding author Deanna Kepka, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor at the University of Utah’s College of Nursing and Huntsman Cancer Institute. Continue reading

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Only half of US adults being screened for diabetes

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GlucometerBy Sharyn Alden
Health Behavior News Service

A study in American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that only half of adults in the U.S. were screened for diabetes within the last three years, less than what is recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

As the rates of obesity have increased, so does the incidence of type 2 diabetes, which also increases the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Up to one-third of people with diabetes are undiagnosed, note the researchers. Continue reading

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Quantifying the ‘Angelina Jolie effect’

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Actress’ impact on genetic testing for breast, ovarian cancer is ‘global and long lasting’

Angelina Jolie - Photo courtesy of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Angelina Jolie – Photo courtesy of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office

By Mary Engel / Fred Hutch News Service

Sept. 18, 2014

The so-called Angelina Jolie effect not only is real but has been “global and long lasting,” leading to a twofold increase in the number of women getting genetic testing to help determine their risk for hereditary breast cancer, according to new studies from the United Kingdom and Canada.

The number of women found to have a genetic mutation that increased their risk also has doubled.

And contrary to concerns that women at low risk for hereditary breast cancer would flood testing centers, researchers said that those being tested are women like Jolie who have a family history of breast cancer or who have personal risk factors such as ethnicity.

Certain ethnic groups, including Ashkenazi Jews, have a higher prevalence of BCRA mutations, which significantly increase breast cancer risk.

Women got the correct message

“What surprised us was that we didn’t get the worried well,” said Dr. Andrea Eisen, head of preventive oncology for breast cancer care at the Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre in Toronto and an author of the Canadian study, in a phone interview.  “We got women who got the correct message. That was gratifying.”

Jolie disclosed in a May 2013 op-ed in The New York Times that she had undergone a preventive double mastectomy after finding that she carries the rare BRCA1 gene mutation, which dramatically raises her risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Continue reading

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How much will your x-ray cost? You can find out in New Hampshire

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This KHN story also ran in the .

When Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield became embroiled in a contract dispute with Exeter Hospital in N.H. in 2010, its negotiators came to the table armed with a new weapon: public data showing the hospital was one of the most expensive in the state for some services.

Local media covering the dispute also spotlighted the hospital’s higher costs, using public data from a state website.

When the dust settled, the insurer had extracted $10 million in concessions from Exeter. The hospital “had to step back and change their behavior,” said health policy researcher Ha Tu, who studied the state’s efforts to make health care prices transparent.

New Hampshire is among 14 states that require insurers to report the rates they pay different health care providers —and one of just a handful that makes those prices available to consumers.

The theory is that if consumers know what different providers charge for medical services, they will become better shoppers and collectively save billions.

In most places, though, it’s difficult, if not impossible to find out how much you will be charged for medical care. And with more people enrolled in high-deductible insurance plans, there is a growing demand for accurate price information. Continue reading

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How Racism Creeps Into Medicine – The Atlantic

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Illustration of the lungs in blueIn 1864, the year before the Civil War ended, a massive study was launched to quantify the bodies of Union soldiers. One key finding in what would become a 613-page report was that soldiers classified as “White” had a higher lung capacity than those labeled “Full Blacks” or “Mulattoes.” The study relied on the spirometer—a medical instrument that measures lung capacity.

via How Racism Creeps Into Medicine – The Atlantic.

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Variation in hospital charges for blood tests called ‘irrational’

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RedBloodCellsBy Roni Caryn Rabin
KHN

One California hospital charged $10 for a blood cholesterol test, while another hospital that ran the same test charged $10,169 — over 1,000 times more.

For another common blood test called a basic metabolic panel, the average hospital charge was $371, but prices ranged from a low of $35 to a high of $7,303, more than 200 times more.

The wide disparity in hospitals’ listed charges for routine blood tests at California hospitals was revealed in a study published in the August issue of BMJ Open. The study examined the listed charges for routine blood tests performed in 2011. Continue reading

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