January 6, 2011

National Action Plan for Alzheimer's Disease is Law

Well it was bound to happen. President Obama signed the National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA) into law on January 4, 2011. This provides Alzheimer's disease with its first national plan to fight the disease. According to the author this was needed to abate the threat to bankrupt the US healthcare system.

I thought from all the press about diabetes and the rate of diabetes increase, that diabetes is what will bankrupt our healthcare system. I am happy for the Alzheimer's Association as this is a big step in finding ways to stop the spread of Alzheimer's disease and I do not want to belittle this accomplishment.

Now, if you will permit me, I need to rant about the American Diabetes Association and their lack of getting anything similar done. I don't know how we as patients are going to be able to influence the leadership of the ADA to do something similar, but I feel there is a need and it is long past time that someone lit a very hot fire under their backsides.

It seems that if they are doing any lobbying, it is very ineffective and they are spending the money in unproductive activities. It seems to me that the powers of ADA are more interested in anything other than getting the recognition on a national or even world wide basis. Otherwise, we should be seeing more activity and be reading more press about the accomplishments of the ADA.

Thank goodness, the International Diabetes Federation seems to have more interest and is working with governments around the world to put forth the need for diabetes recognition. This is a lot harder than working with one government. So to the ADA, I issue a challenge to quit being so sedentary and start accomplishing something which will bring more press to diabetes.

So before I forget it, please read the short article about the Alzheimer's plan here. Wish them well and start working on ADA to get something accomplished.

January 5, 2011

Benefits Found for Colonoscopies

Bob Pedersen, a fellow Type 2 blogger first wrote about his experience of having a colonoscopy here (link is broken and site no longer exists). It was humorous and to the point. They put me under as well using an IV and a slow drip. I have had five of these and only one that was without polyps. All have been negative for cancer. The first was at age 55 and one polyp was considered by the physician as about six months precancerous.

Now a study from Germany offers strong evidence that they can prevent colorectal cancers throughout the colon. The study appears in the January 4 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

A colonoscopy is one of the most effective cancer screening and prevention exams. That being said, recent studies have raised issues that a colonoscopy may not be useful in detecting some colorectal cancers. However, the issue raising studies were done in Canada. Colonoscopies are the standard in Europe and the US and apparently are better used.

Most in Canada are performed by surgeons and primary care doctors and not gastroenterologists who specialize in the exam. This could be what has caused the problem with the studies.

We definitely have a need for the exam to be performed with the flexible fiberoptic scope with a video camera as the other exams are not as accurate and the fecal occult blood testing often did not see results until cancer was already in place and doing damage. Granted they were lower cost and while there was strong evidence that they were effective, there is still some serious questions about whether more cancer is prevented using the old tests.

There are some problems in the US because gastroenterologists are not required to document the thoroughness of the exam and many people to not receive information after the procedure showing a map of the colon and where the polyps were found. In Germany the quality assurance measures have been introduced nationwide.

I have had both types of exam where I received a complete report and map and then I have not received a complete report. Some standardization needs to be put in place and patients need this complete information.

Since most colorectal cancers take five to seven years to develop on polyps, I agree that the exam needs to take place at least every five years at a minimum. When polyps are found on a regular basis, then I agree that every three years should be normal as are mine. The recommendation is that people should have the exam starting at age 50 unless there are indications for earlier exams.

Do I dare ask questions of or about the gastroenterologist? Yes, everyone should ask at least two questions when the schedule is set for the exam. They are the detection rate for the person performing the colonoscopy and what documentation will be presented upon completion and will it be for the entire colon. If it not for the entire colon, then think seriously about finding another gastroenterologist.

Read about the article on the study here and here. Also view an excellent slide show on colorectal cancer overview here.