Monday, July 4, 2011

More medical/cancer news

I seem to be in a summary mode but there are three more articles of note this morning.Some I understand and some I don't. Well maybe I sort of understand these but not completely. Is it chemo brain? Are they complicated? Or am I not as smart as the average bear?

- The government is mandating doctors and hospitals convert to digital records in five years. But the incentives don't kick in until next year and the deadline is 2015. (In my math, this is 2011 and 5+2011=2016 but we have always known the government has its own math system.) I do like this idea that medical records will go digital. I find it absolutely ridiculous that patients are forced to carry big files of confidential paperwork from appointment to appointment. I remember in the past if I was going from one appointment to another in the same hospital, sometimes I had to carry my own file with me (and got to read parts of it - one time I went to the cafeteria and sat down for some heavy reading/deciphering of doctor scribbles.) But if it you have to take them from one office to another in separate facilities, how do doctors refer to your files when you call in with questions if you file is elsewhere? If its in the computer they can look it up easily and see all your issues in one place.

- There are new horizons in place in determining how cancer spreads. (Warning, science lesson in this article.) Basically (what I think I have figured out from this) is that it is now known that cancer cells hijack the development of cells and takes them back to stem cells and turns them into other thingies and it all gets really confusing... But this is considered a major breakthrough in that cancer researchers now have another direction to go in, I think. This is complicated and requires lots of thought to decipher but it sounds very promising.

- There is another attempt to explain cancer risk reduction. I am very confused on this risk reduction business. I mean I understand that if you don't smoke you reduce your risk of lung cancer, etc. But I don't understand what they mean by a 1.6% or 2.4% risk reduction. What exactly does that mean? If you have a 10% lifetime risk (I am making this up) of getting breast cancer, does a 1.6% risk reduction mean you can reduce your risk to 8.4% (10-1.6=8.4) or to 9.84%. (10%x1.6%=.16% and 10%-.16%=9.84%) I don't get it. This article tries to explain it here: "For instance, in a general population of 1 million women, even a 1.6% absolute risk reduction amounts to 16,000 fewer cases of cancer. In contrast, a 3.2% reduction in a higher-risk group – postmenopausal women with a family history – amounts to only 2,560 fewer cases, according to the model." The first sentence gives me a clue but the second sentences confuses me. Brain overload. I think I need to ask my doctor to explain this as she would to a five year old.

Maybe I can just say that cancer is confusing to all of us.

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