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Dr. Oz’s Shameless Play For Ratings Discourages Life Saving Procedure While Demeaning True Cancer Survivors

The cardinal rule of practicing medicine is that old adage, “First do no harm.”

Unfortunately, Dr. Mehmet Oz, the TV physician who was given his big break by Oprah Winfrey, apparently missed that day in medical school.

In this week’s Time Magazine, Oz manages to scare people away from getting important colonoscopy procedures while trivializing anyone who has ever faced a truly life threatening bout with cancer or some other potentially life-ending disease – and all in the service of delivering a few rating points.

The piece is entitled, “What I Learned From My Cancer Scare.”

Sounds like a real page-turner, yes?

It’s not.

It’s not because, by any reasonable person’s definition let alone what we might expect from a licensed physician, Dr. Oz didn’t have a cancer scare- unless you consider a cancer scare to include being told that you could possibly develop cancer in 10 to 15 years if you don’t have a simple, routine and painless procedure that people all over the world experience every day which, in virtually every instance, completely resolves the problem.

Indeed, Dr. Oz’s terrifying cancer crisis was something more akin to a child skinning his knee and being told that if his mommy doesn’t put a little iodine and a band-aid on the boo-boo, the open wound just might possibly fall prey to a flesh eating bacteria that will take the poor child’s life.

In his Time Magazine story, the doctor recounts his harrowing ‘brush with death’. We learn of the shock the Oz experienced on learning he had a pre-cancerous polyp – the same kind that one of every four men who has a colonoscopy routinely discovers and one that simply requires being quickly snipped from the colon.

Oz goes on to describe the extraordinary difficulty of sharing this heartbreaking news with his wife and the pain of informing his children that not only was their dad facing this life-threatening crisis (that wasn’t) but that his situation meant that they would be more likely to face this problem in their own lives. Tragically, his children would have to begin getting their own colonscopies at 40 years of age rather than the more typically recommended age of 50.

Oh, the humanity!

Oz goes on to express his angst over the question that filled his psyche, “How could this happen to me?”

The story is dramatic, heart rendering, poignant… and absolute hogwash. What the good doctor experienced was, by his own admission, something completely and utterly routine.

Here is how one of the nation’s top colorectal specialists described what afflicted Dr. Oz–

… this was a tiny adenoma, the same as anybody else. Adenomas are frequently found on colonoscopy with a minimum rate of 15% for women and 25% for men. Adenomas are the type of polyp that could turn cancerous over time (10-15 years) and that is why we remove them.”

That sums it up rather nicely.

The reason a colonoscopy is recommended for those over 50 is because, with age, we are more likely to have these pre-cancerous polyps in our colons just as we are more likely to find pre-cancerous growths on our skin. These polyps, if allowed to continue growing may become cancerous in 10 to 15 years, are routinely snipped out of the colon just as pre-cancerous skin growths are removed before the growth can become something dangerous.

As a result, anyone with any knowledge of this medical procedure knows that having a polyp removed during a colonoscopy is nothing to lose a moment’s sleep over and a great advertisement for why colonoscopy is a worthwhile procedure for us all.

Remarkably, Oz discusses how people avoid getting this procedure because they are afraid to face up to the result. He’s right. It is no secret that human psychology is such that we tend to think that if we don’t know a problem is there, we can pretend there is no problem at all. We avoid the test to avoid any bad news.

That kind of thinking is exactly what gets people in trouble-particularly when any such problem can easily be brought to a successful conclusion simply by having the colonoscopy procedure.

Yet, after pointing out this problem, Oz goes on to scare the you-know-what out of anyone who falls into this category by making his own story far more dramatic than the reality.

It’s really very simple.

If you’re 50 years old – or 40 if there is a family history – get the colonoscopy. Any polyps you have will be removed and you will leave the physician’s office comfortable in the knowledge that you have nipped any future problem in the bud. Repeat the procedure every five years so that any polyps that may have gotten going during the interim can be removed. The result is that your colon will remain happy, healthy and cancer free.

So, why was Oz so freaked out?

Beats me.

In describing Dr. Oz’s polyp, the physician who performed his procedure, CBS medical correspondent, Dr. John LaPook, said,

Statistically, most small polyps like his don’t become cancer. But almost all colon cancers begin as benign polyps that gradually become malignant over about 10-15 years.

Indeed, Oz was just another of these statistics-nothing particularly threatening or dramatic – except, of course, when Oz tells the story.

So, either Dr. Oz’s psyche is so sensitive that a routine matter easily resolved is enough to send his world reeling – despite allegedly having the medical knowledge to know that this was nothing much to sweat – or he knows a great ratings grabber when he sees one. I’ll leave it to the reader to reach a conclusion as to what might be the driving force behind Oz’s tale of terror.

I can, however, tell you how the Colorectal Cancer Coalition reacted to Oz’s histrionics when he first made a fuss over his experience on his TV show last September-

Did Dr. Oz scare you today?

The chances of your colonoscopy resulting in the made-for-TV near-death experience that Dr. Mehmet Oz detailed in a six-part video series on his show and website are highly unlikely. See, Dr. Oz didn’t have a near-death experience, and his colonoscopy story is very common. So can we cut it out with the hysterics, Dr. Oz? You’re scaring people.

Yes, there was a 10 percent chance it could have become cancerous over time, which is why it was removed. The rest of his overblown, overdone, overly-dramatic story, including his heartbreaking anecdote of having to tell his children (sob!) are for the mere benefit of getting people to watch his show.

Unfortunately, a side effect of Dr. Oz’s histrionics is that he’s taken a common condition and turned it into a death-defying act that will scare the living daylights out of anyone who may be approaching the screening age – or who may have already passed it. (If you’re like Dr. Oz and putting off that colonoscopy you naughty kid, go get screened!)

But the damage doesn’t end there.

Like many others before me and since, I happen to be someone who has had to tell my wife and children that I had been diagnosed with a cancer that could mean the end of my life in a rather short period of time. Not a pre-cancerous growth. Not “I might have a problem in 10 years and, oh, they can resolve the problem by just snipping something out in a fifteen minute procedure.”

No, it was looking like I was in some very immediate and serious trouble.

Of course, relaying this bit of information to your family is not a particularly pleasant experience and I’m one of the lucky ones who, after 6 months of chemotherapy (not a fifteen minute painless procedure), is still here to tell the story.

Imagine, if you will, how I -and the millions of others who have faced this difficult experience – might feel when Dr. Oz makes such a fuss about telling his wife that he might have gotten cancer in ten years if he hadn’t had the procedure that virtually insured that this wouldn’t happen?

It’s wrong on so many levels.

Yes, Oz is a television performer and, as such, must be concerned with his ratings if he wants to keep the big bucks flowing.

However, he is still a doctor and that comes with some responsibility- responsibility that Dr. Oz has sadly ignored. For this he should be very ashamed.

As for Time Magazine, would it have killed them to actually look into the reality of Oz’s non-crisis before putting this on their cover?

By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, June 2, 2011

June 3, 2011 Posted by | Consumers, Education, Health Care, Media, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Congressional Budget Office Looks At “RyanCare” Rationing And It Ain’t Pretty

The Congressional Budget Office has released its preliminary analysis (PDF) of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget, and I wouldn’t say it’s pretty. According to the CBO, Medicare beneficiaries will be left paying more for less. The CBO goes about this in a bit of a confusing way, setting a “benchmark” that corresponds to the cost of purchasing a private plan equivalent to Medicare, and then seeing how much more that plan would cost than Medicare under two different scenarios. Compared with either scenario, RyanCare costs a lot more than Medicare:

Under the proposal, most elderly people would pay more for their health care than they would pay under the current Medicare system. For a typical 65-year-old with average health spending enrolled in a plan with benefits similar to those currently provided by Medicare, the CBO estimated the beneficiary’s spending on premiums and out-of-pocket expenditures as a share of a benchmark: what total health-care spending would be if a private insurer covered the beneficiary. By 2030, the beneficiary’s spending would be 68 percent of that benchmark under the proposal, 25 percent under the extended-baseline scenario, and 30 percent under the alternative fiscal scenario.

If Medicare’s beneficiaries are getting less for more, Medicaid’s are simply getting less, period:

Federal payments for Medicaid under the proposal would be substantially smaller than currently projected amounts. States would have additional flexibility to design and manage their Medicaid programs, and they might achieve greater efficiencies in the delivery of care than under current law. Even with additional flexibility, however, the large projected reduction in payments would probably require states to decrease payments to Medicaid providers, reduce eligibility for Medicaid, provide less extensive coverage to beneficiaries, or pay more themselves than would be the case under current law.

As the CBO recognizes, a lot of what Ryan is doing isn’t saving money so much as shifting costs. Poor people and seniors don’t need less health care because Medicare and Medicaid are providing less health care. They just have to pay for more of it on their own. And as the CBO says, it’s hard to imagine Congress simply ignoring their pleas for help:

Under the proposal analyzed here, debt would eventually shrink relative to the size of the economy — but the gradually increasing number of Medicare beneficiaries participating in the new premium support program would bear a much larger share of their health care costs than they would under the current program; payments to physicians and other providers for services provided under the traditional Medicare program would be restrained (as under the two scenarios); states would have to pay substantially more for their Medicaid programs or tightly constrain spending for those programs; and spending for federal programs other than Social Security and the major health care programs would be reduced far below historical levels relative to GDP. It is unclear whether and how future lawmakers would address the pressures resulting from the long-term scenarios or the proposal analyzed here.

By: Ezra Klein, The Washington Post, April 5, 2011

April 5, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Congress, Conservatives, Consumers, Economy, Federal Budget, GOP, Health Care Costs, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics, Rep Paul Ryan, Republicans, States | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ignorance of Arrogance

It never fails. During every election in recent memory, just about every candidate has campaigned on a slogan of reforming health care. The key word here is “slogan” as when you look back on what has been done over the years, we can all agree that absolutely nothing has been accomplished.

The times have now changed. Health reform bills have been passed in both the US House and most recently by the US Senate. There has been extensive and often heated debate on both sides over the last year, however we have gotten to the point of soon actually doing something substantive on this issue. The bills are now in conference and there is talk of expediting a final bill via “ping-ponging”. That suits me just fine.

I find it very interesting and exhausting to see the shifts in the discussions that have taken place over these last few months. People are screaming at the top of their voices because they are adamant against health reform going forward. It seems that these same people were perfectly content when health reform was just a slogan. We now hear rants of loss of “freedom and liberty” from the “backroom deals” of “radical democrats”. There is extreme talk of patients being separated from their doctors by all of the proposed changes in the proposed bills.  All of a sudden, there is concern about the “process” and it’s “constitutionality”. Much of this concern and criticism is coming from many of my physician colleagues, some representing their on personal interests, others representing “front groups”.  These same colleagues have taken extreme measures in expressing their objections, including vicious personal attacks on their fellow physicians and unprecedented attacks on Board members of the American Medical Association (AMA) . I find it quite distasteful and unprofessional for any physician, AMA member or not, to behave in such a fashion. We have sunk so far with the vile rhetoric, it seems now that the only layer left under our feet is the thin shelving just above hell.

It’s time to grow up people. You can’t have it both ways. If you demand honesty and transparency when you are out of power, demand the same when you are in power. It is quite obvious that this consistency was no where on the radar screen during the past decade. Tea, just like kool-aid, will definitely stain your teeth….stop drinking!. This is no longer your father’s medicine. It’s a new day and a new time. Throwing around terms like “freedom” and “liberty” are just not going to work anymore. These are simply buzz words for “I am no longer the top dog”. It’s time for you to stop playing the victim. There is a greater good that must be accomplished.

President Obama addresses American Medical Association on Health System Reform

January 5, 2010 Posted by | Health Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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