We look back at the week's most intriguing health headlines.
If your doc recommends you get screened for ovarian cancer, here’s why you should do your homework and, if necessary, push back: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released new recommendations against routine screening due to the high percentage of false-positives, which often result in unnecessary invasive surgery and ovary removal. The task force based its finding on the largest study to date involving 78,216 women, half of which received transvaginal ultrasounds and CA-125 blood tests while the other half went unscreened. There was no measurable advantage for the women undergoing screening tests–death rate for ovarian cancer was the same for both groups. What’s more, almost 10 percent received readings indicating they had cancer when they did not, leading in many cases to unnecessary surgery and treatment. Sadly, health experts admit there are currently no effective screening tests for early detection of ovarian cancer. What’s a woman to do, then? Be aware of the latest news and if you experience symptoms of ovarian cancer, talk to your doctor immediately.
The world’s largest hamburger chain is adding to their menu. As of Monday of this week, McDonald’s began posting calorie counts for their burger and fry offerings on both their indoor and drive-thru menus. In an effort to help educate consumers, McDonald’s USA president said it was a voluntary move. While the menu hasn’t changed, it’s likely that patrons’ food selections will. That Angus bacon and cheese burger doesn’t sound quite as appetizing when it’s promoted with a 790 calorie count, does it?
Physicians who doubt acupuncture as an effective pain reliever may need to rethink their position: A new study suggests that the pins-and-needles approach may actually work, even if it’s just in the patient’s mind. Studies involving nearly 18,000 adults suggest that acupuncture, admittedly a not-so-Western approach to pain control, may actually be a viable option for sufferers of chronic headaches, backaches and arthritis, even if only for its placebo effect. Results showed that needle-based acupuncture treatment worked better than traditional pain relief and slightly better than fake acupuncture (treatment that sometimes used needles on different areas of the body). And frankly, when you’re suffering with chronic pain, do we really care how we get rid of it as long as we do get rid of it?
If you’re one of the countless folks who endure the fish burps from your fish oil supplements or cram in your omega-3 meals each week in hopes of fending off heart disease, rejoice! Well, sort of. The good news is that you may no longer have to take supplements or meet your omega-3 quota each week. Study results released in Tuesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association show that there is no proof that consuming supplements or an omega-3-rich diet will stave off heart disease, despite what researchers said 10 years ago. As Alice Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University, says, “I think the bottom line is supplements are not always the answer.” Note, though, that this study only looked at the cardiovascular benefits of fish oil supplements—not at other benefits, including fighting rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. So don’t trash your supplements or stop serving salmon just yet.