Kate Johnson's Medical Musings

Life through the eyes of a medical journalist

Mammography Screening – Are the Harms worth the Benefits?

November 16, 2009

By Kate Johnson

As I reported today, decisions about breast cancer screening just got tougher for women in their 40’s with today’s release of new guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Taskforce (USPSTF).

Backing off from its previous guidelines (2002), the task force now recommends against annual mammography for normal-risk women in this age-group, where it used to recommend for it. The new recommendation is to have the test every two years instead.

This is a major change from the task force, which is a leader in mammography screening guidelines. It goes against the recommendation of many other major U.S. groups, including the American Cancer Society, which is strongly critical of the USPSTF move.

So, why the disagreement?

It’s a debate over the harms versus the benefits of screening. Continue reading

November 16, 2009 Posted by | Breast Cancer, Oncology, Prevention, Women's Health | , | 1 Comment

Breast Cancer Genes? Test or Not?

By Kate Johnson – first published in MORE Magazine. Read more

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November 14, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Celiac Disease – How Wide is the Genetic Reach?

November 13, 2009

By Kate Johnson – first published on my iVillage Health Beat blog – read more.

To find out about a high-profile athlete with Celiac, click here.

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November 13, 2009 Posted by | Celiac Disease, Parenting | , | 1 Comment

H1N1 – Looking After Number One?

hockeyWith H1N1 upon us, the vaccine scarce, and distribution sluggish, the true scope of this illness is finally presenting itself. The symptoms are selfishness, presumptuousness, delusions of grandeur and bad manners. More serious illness can come with dishonesty – and this presentation is becoming more prevalent. Decisions about who should have priority for a potentially life-saving vaccine should not be difficult. They are based on facts. In my opinion, these should be medical facts like pre-existing health, and known risk factors. But there’s also the argument that inherent value to society is a legitimate consideration. It is for this reason that healthcare workers have been encouraged to the front of the vaccination lines. But beyond the delivery of medical care at a time of medical crisis, there are many other people whose services might be considered essential by some. What about professional hockey players? This guest editorial from sports journalist Bob Babinski touches on the complexities of pandemic priorities.

Fanning the Flames with a Swine Flu Controversy: Skaters Jump the Queue Foregoing Transparency

By Bob Babinski

A senior staffer of Alberta Health Services has been fired . The Calgary Herald newspaper is receiving messages from hockey fans who say they’ll no longer support the Calgary Flames. And the government in Alberta continues to ask questions about how health department officials last week released coveted supplies of the H1N1 vaccine to inoculate Flames hockey players, their families, and other team personnel. Continue reading

November 5, 2009 Posted by | H1N1 | Leave a comment

Should I Get the Shot? The H1N1 Vaccine Dilemma

By Kate Johnson  –   November 1, 2009

As a medical journalist in Montreal I’ve been fielding calls from friends and family in other parts of the country, asking my advice on whether they should get the H1N1 vaccine. While I am still waiting here, the decision is upon them.

I am not a doctor, I remind them. We’ve already heard our doctor’s advice, they say.

And yet they are still unsure. Why?

It has to do with trust. Continue reading

November 1, 2009 Posted by | H1N1, Uncategorized | , | 3 Comments