Stories We're Following This Week

News + Insights from Around the Web + The Patient's Playbook Bottom Line. 

A single blood test for all cancers?



"I think one of the biggest breakthroughs we can see in cancer in the next few years is this possibility that there could be a blood test or a urine test that detects early-stage cancer."

—A $24 billion biotechnology company is launching a new startup that plans on creating a simple blood test to detect any cancer. (Forbes)

Bottom Line: Biomedical research is exploding with good news. And there may well come a day when the genetic clues from a single drop of blood transforms our ability to prevent, detect, and treat cancer. To reap the benefits of future biomedical advances, patients and their quarterbacks should consult with experts on their condition, keep abreast of the latest developments, and competently partner with their doctors to ensure they're receiving the best care. 

Who's Looking at Your Medical Records?



"I’ve talked to hundreds of people who said their medical records were hacked, snooped in, shared or stolen.... It has destroyed their faith in the medical establishment."

—A reporter who spent the past year reporting on the federal patient-privacy law known as HIPAA shares what he learned. (ProPublica)

Bottom Line: As the story notes, "Health providers are allowed to share your medical information with those treating you, to pay doctors and hospitals for your health care, to help run their businesses, and to oversee the quality of care delivered to you." And in the majority of cases, it's not a problem. But if you belive your privacy has been violated, request a list of who has looked at your electronic records. Try to first resolve the problem directly with your care provider. And if you're still not satisfied, file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights' Complaint Portal Assistant

3 Natural Ways to Prevent Osteoporosis



"When osteoporosis weakens the vertebrae, they gradually become wedge-shaped, creating the pronounced curve in the upper back that’s often called a 'dowager’s hump.' Once that happens, neither starch nor willpower will straighten your spine."

—A doctor gives tips on preventing bone loss naturally. (Everyday Health)

Bottom Line: Osteoporosis is a common, but not inevitable, part of aging that affects both men and women. Weight-bearing exercises, diet, and better lifestyle habits are natural ways that can help some to better maintain bone density. But it's important to seek the advice of a physician to ensure there aren't underlying disease factors, and to discuss whether medications might be right for you.

The Terrible Beauty of Brain Surgery



“Marsh touched the brain again. This time, [the patient] Hasanaj lifted his arm rapidly into the air, as if it had been pulled by the string of a puppeteer… I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was like a robot had been switched on.”

—Literary phenom Karl Ove Knausgaard shadows a world-renowned neurosurgeon. (NYT Magazine)

Bottom Line: Physicians—even brilliant ones like Dr. Henry Marsh, who helped pioneer the awake-craniotomy surgery described in this essay—are human and fallible, just like us. They try their very best. They feel deep joy over their successes. They anguish over their terrible failures. As Knausgaard peers over Dr. Marsh’s shoulder to give readers a vivid landscape portrait of the human brain, he also reveals what makes this great surgeon tick—what drives him to be among the very best.

Got a great story we should be following? Let us know in the comments below.