Friday, October 29, 2010

Evaluating magnetic resonance mammography

Breast cancer detection can be a contentious area of debate. A recent article published in the British Medical Journal is presented here. The article acts as a reply to an article written by Dr. Kell who argued that MRI was providing no benefits to patients who've already been diagnosed with breast cancer. My reply points out that cancer detection rates are not necessarily a good way to evaluate a new screening method after years of monitoring a population (ie. in longitudinal studies). It sounds counter-intuitive but the reasoning is simple: If you're monitoring a population and you add a new screening method that is more sensitive, then it picks up more tumours as it is initially applied but by catching those tumours it has created a population that has fewer tumours remaining which lowers the cancer detection rate. Thus comparing cancer detection rates after years in a longitudinal study might be a very bad way to compare the efficacy of a new screening method! Surprised?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Unnecessary testing and thermography

Spotlight-on-Science recently wrote an article about the problems with thermography – you can check it out here. At present many companies exist which offer breast cancer screening by thermography (taking a simple thermal image of the surface skin of the breast), however, finding a medical doctor / radiologist who is equipped to interpret the thermogram image is much harder (and an absolutely necessary step for thermography to be useful to the patient). Unfortunately, thermography has been shown to have a terrible sensitivity to catching cancer though it has received a lot of hype.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

News Brief: Hunger Still at Astronomical Levels

Recent news reports have indicated that the number of hungry people in the world has dropped to 925 million - down from just over 1 billion.

The cause of the decline was primarily attributed "to better economic prospects in 2010 and the fall in food prices since mid-2008."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Humorous Aside: Einstein's inspiration?

Einstein gave us so many scientific contributions. Not the least of which was a relationship between energy and matter and insights into the nature of time.  I wonder if his inspiration for these theories went through any stages like this:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hunger deaths comparable to World War 2 deaths

I decided to write this article and put it on my blog for World Food Day. Maybe I’m a dreamer but it would be great if one day we lived in a world where no one went hungry.

No one knows for certain how many hungry people die every day but according to United Nations figures, malnourished and starving people are dying 3 times faster than people were dying on an average day of World War 2! Chronic mass starvation and malnourishment deaths are not well reported – they are not typically considered newsworthy because by many people's thinking they are not news if they are a chronic problem (news being something that's new, chronic problems being something that’s old). The lack of worldwide knowledge of the scale of this problem is staggering. Even if the United Nations’ published numbers [1] are grossly exaggerated, the problem is still of massive proportions.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Be cautious with thermography

The Huffington post recently published an article by a medical doctor on the greatness of thermography as a mechanism for breast cancer detection, you can access it here.

As a breast cancer researcher, I took issue with this article because it was written by a medical doctor and provides women with some highly questionable advice (for instance: "Thermography is a better technology [than mammography]"). Dr. Northrup does not appear to be equipped to determine which technology (mammography or thermography) is better. Dr. Northrup’s main reason for believing that thermograms are the best in breast cancer detection is because of this very old study (30 years old in fact):