06Jun

The sharp decline in cancer screenings due to the suspension of elective medical procedures has prompted doctors to turn to alternatives, and none have seen a greater increase than in-home colon screening tests.

Screening for colorectal cancer has typically meant a trip to an outpatient surgical center for a colonoscopy or for a somewhat less invasive sigmoidoscopy. During the initial months of the pandemic when COVID disrupted medical care, there was an 86% decline in colon cancer screening, according to the Epic Health Research Network.

Decades ago, medical researchers found testing for the presence of blood in stool could be an effective indicator for potential colon cancer. Patients with abnormal fecal immunochemical test (FIT) results are referred for colonoscopies.

Despite the ready availability of FIT and a second type that detects cancer biomarkers, most doctors continued to recommend colonoscopies for all their over 50 year old patients. Many doctors never even discuss other options, so few patients are aware there are alternatives.

“Some patients are definitely surprised that there are options for colon cancer screening other than colonoscopy,” Lisa Ravindra, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said in an article on the JAMA Network.

Yet the in-home tests are as good at early detection as a colonoscopy, said Dr. Alex Krist, chairman of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. “The data show the tests are equally effective at saving lives,” he told The New York Times.

Because of the rising incidence of colon cancer, the Task Force is expected to recommend lowering the age at which screening should begin to 45. Colonoscopies should be done every 10 years, annually for FIT and every 3 years for Cologuard, the biomarker test.

While routine screenings have increased, Michael Sapienza, chief executive officer of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, said, “I’m still hearing from a lot of people that we’re not seeing a ton of [routine] screening colonoscopies.”

As a result of the COVID-caused delay in diagnostic testing and the consequent delay in treatment, the National Cancer Institute predicts 4,500 more deaths from colorectal cancers over the next decade. A Lancet study estimated a 15.3–16.6% increase.

Speaking to The Times, Dr. Rachel Issaka, a gastroenterologist at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said colon cancer screenings, of any type, “are considered non-urgent, but they’re not optional.”

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Green Key
Jun 6, 2023

Chronic Pain Patients Find Telehealth Cost Effective

Telehealth continues to demonstrate its popularity, this time among people suffering with chronic pain.

At their annual meeting this month, itself held online, anesthesiologists heard that patients who met with their pain specialist remotely were overwhelmingly satisfied with the experience.

Conducted by the UCLA Comprehensive Pain Center in Los Angeles, the survey period began in August 2019, long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients at the pain center were given the option of in-office or remote appointments by video or phone. The 1,398 patients who chose the remote options had a cumulative 2,948 virtual appointments.

According to an account of the study by Healthcare Finance the virtual meetings saved patients both time and money. Half saved at least 69 minutes commuting and a roundtrip of 26 miles or more. They also saved a median $22 in gas and parking fees for each virtual visit.

Initial visits for new patients or existing patients with new conditions were best served by in-person office appointments, the report said. Thereafter, follow-up appointments could be conducted remotely. Anesthesiologists participating in the conference estimated that up to 50% of visits could be virtual.

Before the pandemic, telehealth growth was limited by rules limiting the types of visits Medicare and Medicaid and private insurers would reimburse. Those limits were waived during the pandemic, resulting in a rapid expansion of virtual medical consults.

Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

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Green Key
Jun 6, 2023

To All Medical Lab Professionals – Thank You!

This is National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, a time to mark the vital contribution of those who work behind the scenes.

This is National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, a time to mark the vital contribution of those who work behind the scenes.

We at Green Key Resources say THANK YOU to all the technicians, scientists and pathologists who fill such an important role in the current coronavirus crisis. You are the professionals analyzing patient samples to provide the critical clues for diagnosing and treating the COVID-19 disease.

Medical Laboratory Professional Week takes on a special significance this year, because of the critical work these healthcare workers are doing to fight the pandemic. While the rest of us maintain social distance, laboratory professionals handle the specimens from the sick and those who may be. They are the ones who analyze the test swabs and the blood samples.

They may not ever meet a patient, but they are as much a part of the frontline as the nurses and doctors and others who do.

Year round, their work informs doctors, nurses and researchers about the illness of their patients, confirming initial diagnoses or prompting the treatment team to reassess when the results differ.

All of these professionals have specialized training. Pathologists are physicians, sometimes called a “doctor’s doctor,” who analyze biopsies and the more complex analytical tests, particularly in difficult situations. Medical laboratory scientists, technologists and clinical laboratory scientists may perform many of the routine tests in a lab, but are most often involved in specialized testing and quality control. Many are specialists in a specific area such as hematology, cytogenetics, microbiology and immunology.

In most labs, it is the technicians who conduct the routine tests. They do most of the detective work, consulting with pathologists and laboratory scientists in unusual cases or complicated testing.

So think of these laboratory professionals this week and tweet your thanks with the #LabWeek tag.

Green Key Resources is grateful to all of the people working hard to fight this pandemic.

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