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

To Prevent Dementia, Keep Your Heart Young

Picture 1Read more on  iVillage, Your Total Health

September 22, 2009 Posted by | Prevention | , , | Leave a comment

A New Way to Prevent Breast Cancer?

From Your Total Health, an NBC/iVillage website.  Read more…

Picture 2


September 10, 2009 Posted by | Breast Cancer, Oncology, Prevention, Uncategorized, Women's Health | 1 Comment

The War on Drugs: Give Peace a Chance

The War on Drugs: Give Peace a Chance

June 15, 2009

By Kate Johnson

Dr. Gabor Maté wraps a tourniquet around a patient’s arm and instructs him to pump his hand until a vein bulges below his elbow crease. Then he instructs the addict to inject himself with heroin. “I had never imagined that my  medical career would lead me to assist an addict’s self-administration of an illicit psychoactive substance in a musty Downtown Eastside hotel,”  he writes in his book “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts”. But “under the circumstances it was the best I could do for him”.

As a staff physician at the Portland Hotel and Insite, a residence and safe-injection site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Dr. Maté has dedicated his work to treating drug abuse and addiction. But unlike the soldiers in the War on Drugs, this soft-spoken crusader has rejected all “weapons”, preferring instead the tools of acceptance and caring. It is Peace, not War that will make a difference, he insists. “The pertinent question is not why the War on Drugs is being lost, but why it continues to be waged in the face of all the evidence against it,” he writes.

“Addictions are a response to a sense of emptiness,” Dr. Maté declared at a recent seminar in Toronto for people who work with addicts. Continue reading


June 15, 2009 Posted by | Addiction, Parenting, Prevention, Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Teenage Addiction: It’s All About Love

Teenage Addiction: It’s all about Love

June 13, 2009

By Kate Johnson

“Addiction is not a response to the availability of a substance, it is a response to pain.” Best-selling author, addiction treatment expert and parenting guru Dr. Gabor Maté literally brings tears to my eyes as I sit in a room full of people who care for addicted teens – and adults – every day.

Although I am a medical journalist, accustomed to hearing presentations about addiction and its treatment, Dr. Maté’s words touch a raw nerve. For Dr. Maté, the root of all addiction, whether to drugs, or tobacco, or shopping or eating, lies in emptiness – and an attempt to fill the void. Dr. Maté believes all humans feel some degree of emptiness that they attempt to fill. He has not said it, but perhaps the emptiness begins when the umbilical cord is severed, and grows with every step we take away from the womb. Continue reading


June 13, 2009 Posted by | Addiction, Parenting, Prevention, Psychology | , , , , | 2 Comments