Review Category : Health

Veteran’s Futile Call to VA Prompts Congress Members to Act

iStock/Thinkstock(BEDFORD, Mass.) — A video shows Army veteran Dennis Magnasco trying to schedule a doctor’s appointment at his local VA hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts. But a nearly five-minute phone call became a maddening stream of automated audio messages.

And just when it sounds like Magnasco will be transferred to a representative to help him schedule an appointment, he is looped back to the beginning of the original recording, again and again.

The problem of trying to get in the door of VA hospitals is one Magnasco said he’s heard from veterans many times.

Magnasco, who served as an Army infantry medic, works as a district representative and veteran’s liaison for Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA). Magnasco told ABC News he gets great care from the VA, but it’s difficult to gain access to the system.

The issue is one Moulton, a fellow veteran, has been working to solve. He introduced the Faster Care for Veterans Act last month with Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). The bill is designed to improve the way veterans access health care by introducing self-scheduling technology that could be used on a smartphone or computer. The legislation is expected to receive a hearing in mid-March.

As for Magnasco, his congressional co-workers watched him try to get a VA hospital appointment for two days. That’s when they decided to pull out the video camera.

Since the video was posted on Moulton’s Facebook page on Feb. 10, it has been shared over 24,000 times and viewed almost 969,000 times.

It’s also gotten the attention of Moulton’s fellow members of Congress.

Fifteen have signed up to co-sponsor the bill since the video was posted, bringing the total number of co-sponsors to 20 (12 Republicans and eight Democrats).

“For far too long, our nation’s veterans have been underserved by inefficient and outdated systems,” Moulton said in a press release last month. “I get my care from the VA and I’ve waited hours for appointments and months for referrals. It doesn’t have to be this way. We owe it to our nation’s veterans to utilize the technology available to the private sector. Improving access to healthcare through a platform like this would ensure that our veterans will get the best care when they need it.”

Magnasco told ABC News that his VA hospital has since fixed the issue with the automated recording.

“But it’s really a systemic problem throughout the VA,” he said.

James Hutton, director of media relations at the Department of Veterans Affairs, told ABC News in a statement that “the technical issue that was described in the video posted February 10 was corrected and the Congressman’s district office was advised of the correction. We appreciate the notification of the issue.”

Earlier this month, the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs found that a VA clinic in Colorado Springs was incorrectly reporting veteran appointments. The Inspector General reviewed 450 appointments over a one-year span and determined that there were 60 cases in which the VA said a veteran had scheduled an appointment within the government’s 30-day target, even though in actuality it took longer. Sixty-four percent of the appointments showed that veterans did not receive timely care.

ABC News has reached out to the Bedford VA for comment.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Racial Divide in Cancer Narrowing, But Still Unequal

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Historically, African Americans have faced higher cancer death rates than their Caucasian counterparts. But is this still the case?

In a study published in A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, researchers at the American Cancer Society analyzed recent survey data collected by the National Cancer Institute to characterize these differences and see what has changed over the years.

The study broke down states, types of cancer, and gender for cancer incidence and mortality.

The good news is the gap in cancer death rates between African Americans and white people is getting smaller.

Some inequalities remain, however.

African American women with breast cancer die more often than white women with the same disease, and that gap is getting worse. Overall, the research team estimates that nearly 200,000 African Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2016.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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New Guidelines May Help Doctors Recognize Sepsis Faster

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Sepsis, a life-threatening inflammatory condition linked to infection, is a common and costly problem.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 million Americans were hospitalized with sepsis in 2008. And in 2011, hospitals spent $20 billion dollars caring for patients with life threatening infections.

In a new series of studies published in JAMA, an international panel of experts provides updated guidelines for doctors caring for very sick patients who are at risk of sepsis. The study is anticipated to be widely read by health providers and could change clinical practice.

Specifically, they offer healthcare providers a new clinical definition of sepsis, as well as easy-to-use tools to diagnose sepsis at the bedside. Together, these guidelines may help doctors recognize sepsis faster and could help reduce death due to sepsis therefore lowering associated hospital costs.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Colorado Boy Turning Into ‘Stone’ Because of Rare Skin Condition

Natalie Rodgers/YouCaring(ALAMOSA, Colo.) — Relatives of a Colorado boy are searching for answers after they say he developed a rare skin condition that is “turning him to stone.”

Jaiden Rogers was first diagnosed with so-called stiff-skin syndrome at age 7. Three years later, the disease covers so much of his body in rock-like lesions that he is on oxygen and unable to go to school.

Rogers’ mother, Natalie Rogers, said they are searching and hoping for a doctor or treatment that can help Jaiden get better. She said doctors are even using chemotherapy medications in an effort to slow the growth of the lesions.

“It started as small little patch and it spread all over,” Rogers told ABC News. “They’re trying to slow it down as much as it can, until we can find something.”

Stiff-skin syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that leads to lesions with increased fibrotic tissue that can cause the hard or “rock-like” appearance. The disease can progress over time and cause mobility issues, especially over lower body joints, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Rogers, of Alamosa, Colorado, said the effect on Jaiden goes beyond dealing with the lesions across his body.

“He’s very outgoing,” she said. But “he’s on so many meds, most of the time he’s tired and strung out.”

The boy’s doctors did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment, but the NIH says there is no proven treatment. Regular exercise and physical therapy can help patients maintain movement, according to its website.

There have been a host of different medications tested by doctors on the condition, including steroids, immune-suppressant drugs and light therapy but none has been proven to work effectively, according to the NIH.

Rogers said the lesions first appeared under the skin and then became more visible. “It’s like little marbles and some of it is flat and hard,” she said.

She and her husband, Tim Rogers, are hoping that, by sharing Jaiden’s story, they can find help for the disease, which is so rare it has only been reported in medical literature case reports from researchers.

The family is trying to raise funds on the YouCaring website, but is mostly looking for help treating the disease and slowing its progression.

“Literally, it’s turning him to stone; he’ll be entombed in himself if we can’t find something,” Rogers said.

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Boy with Cerebral Palsy Creates His Own Triathlon

Courtesy of Castle Howard Triathlon(DERBY, England) — After successfully competing in a triathlon, a 9-year-old British boy with cerebral palsy decided to start his own for kids with disabilities.

Bailey Matthews, who was diagnosed at 18 months with the disease, crossed the finish line at the Castle Howard Triathlon last July with the crowd excitedly cheering him on. A video of Matthews ditching his walking frame, falling down twice and then completing the race by walking on his own went viral last year with more than 800,000 views on YouTube, even getting the attention of celebrities such as Simon Cowell.

So Matthews decided to create his own triathlon for kids with disabilities just like him called the Be More Bailey Triathlon.

“It isn’t a triathlon just for children with disabilities it is for every child,” Matthews told ABC News.

The Be More Bailey Triathlon, slated for July 17 in Derby, United Kingdom, will challenge kids to swim for 50 meters, bike for 2.5 kilometers and finish the race by running for 750 meters.

“The great thing about this event is that it’s purely based on participation, excitement and fun,” Dean Jackson, the triathlon’s organizer, told ABC News. “There’s no timing with this. You get in and finish at your own time.”

“Bailey wanted grannys and uncles and guardians doing the triathlon with the child,” Jackson, who is the founder of endurance sports company Huub added. “It’s all him and it’s fantastic to have such a vision.”

Matthews’ triathlon is one part of Jackson’s Jenson Button Trust Triathlon, where participants compete. The Be More Bailey Triathlon will happen in between qualifying rounds for kids who can’t wait to cross the finish line.

“It will give them the chance to join in and do the same as everybody else,” Matthews said.

Matthews’ father, Jonathan, said he’s proud that one of his son’s passions has turned into an event beneficial to their community.

“It’s quite overwhelming because originally when he did his triathlon, it was just a family day out,” the Doncaster, England man told ABC News. “Bailey’s outlook on life is very positive. If he gets down about being disabled, he keeps it to himself. I think that’s what he’s doing with this. He wants to help other children and help give them the confidence that he’s got.”

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Report: Mastectomies Increased 36 Percent from 2005 to 2013

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new report published Monday finds there has been a dramatic increase in the number of mastectomies over the past decade.

Although breast cancer rates remained the same, the rate of women getting mastectomies increased 36 percent from 2005 to 2013, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Overall, the rate of mastectomies increased from 66 in 100,000 women in 2005 to 90 in 100,000 women in 2013. Women getting double mastectomies more than tripled, going from nine out of 100,000 women in 2005 to 30 out of 100,000 women in 2013. As a result, one third of all mastectomies were double mastectomies in 2013.

Additionally, the rate of women without cancer getting preventative double mastectomies increased from two per 100,000 women to four per 100,000 women in 2005.

AHRQ Director Rick Kronick said in a statement that the report shows changing attitudes toward health and a new willingness to treat mastectomies as “preventative” measures to diminish the chance of developing cancer.

“This brief highlights changing patterns of care for breast cancer and the need for further evidence about the effects of choices women are making on their health, well-being and safety,” said AHRQ Director Rick Kronick. “More women are opting for mastectomies, particularly preventive double mastectomies, and more of those surgeries are being done as outpatient procedures.”

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CDC: Elevated Health Risk in Lumber Liquidators Flooring

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Certain types of flooring made by Lumber Liquidators may be riskier to your health than first thought, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The CDC found exposure to formaldehyde and laminate flooring made by Lumber Liquidators was higher than originally estimated. This means the flooring poses three times the risk of cancer.

People with the flooring are also more susceptible to eye, nose, and throat irritation, according to the CDC.

Lumber Liquidators said all laminate flooring sold since May 2015 has been sourced form North America or Europe, and it does not pose the same danger as flooring from China.

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Celebrity Trainer Jeanette Jenkins Shares Workout Secrets

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — It’s awards season, and stars are displaying their toned bodies on the red carpet.

Jeanette Jenkins, the Hollywood trainer who has worked with celebrities including Alicia Keyes, Kelly Rowland and Pink, appeared on Good Morning America on Monday to reveal just how she helps those star achieve their red carpet-ready bodies.

“We do cardio, sculpting and then we balance it with yoga and Pilates. These are people who have been working out already consistently and then they’re like ‘I’ve got to look amaze for this red carpet,’ and then we kind of take everything up a level,” she said.

In the three to six weeks leading up to the red carpet event, Jenkins’ clients work out daily for about two hours every day.

“Most of the time the women are in gowns and their arms are open so I make sure I really hit those arms and the upper body,” she said.

Another red carpet-ready star secret is nutrition – particularly lowering sugar intake, Jenkins said.

“So it’s like no more processed foods. No sugars. And no eating past 7:30, 8 o’clock,” she said.

Jenkins’ biggest advice beyond hitting the gym is self-confidence.

“My number one thing is never no self-hate,” she said. “So you can’t work out with me and be like, ‘I hate my legs, oh my God, I hate my abs.’ You have to love yourself.”

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HPV Cases Declining Despite Teens Not Getting Vaccinated, Study Says

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new study suggests that the HPV vaccine is working even better than expected, but still too few teens are getting it.

The HPV vaccine, known to prevent the main causes of cervical cancer and genital warts, has been embroiled in controversy from the moment the vaccine hit the market in 2006. Despite the slow uptake, a new study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers published in PEDIATRICS found that the vaccine has had an impact on HPV prevalence.

They compared diagnosis rates of the four strains of HPV covered by the vaccine from 2003-2006 and 2009-2012, and they found that the prevalence of these strains fell by nearly two-thirds in women aged 14 to 19 since the advent of the vaccine.

This decline was steeper than the researchers expected, considering that only half the women surveyed had actually received the vaccine.

The authors suggest that a “herd effect” may be in play, where even unvaccinated people are protected from a disease if many people around them are vaccinated. A smaller decline was found in women aged 20 to 24, which may be because only a third of the women in this group received the vaccine.

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Teen Cancer Survivor Gives Back to Same Organization That Helped Pay Off His Medical Bills

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — When Brady Lucas was diagnosed with cancer as a child, his family didn’t have to pay for any of his medical costs, thanks to a charity that helps families of pediatric cancer patients at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, where he was treated.

Now a 19-year-old sophomore at Penn State, Lucas wants help other children who are battling cancer.

“Ever since I was eight, I wanted to attend Penn State right away because it’s the university that saved my life,” Lucas told ABC News.

Lucas, along with his fraternity Phi Kappa Sigma, participated in THON, the school’s year-long campaign that culminated in a 46-hour dance marathon, which ended Sunday. THON gives millions of dollars to Four Diamonds, a charitable organization that pays for treatment costs not covered by insurance for pediatric cancer patients at Penn State Hershey, in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Lucas was one of 15,000 students who volunteered for THON and his fraternity was one of 430 student organizations participating in the dance marathon.

Phi Kappa Sigma was also the same fraternity that “adopted” Lucas’ family in 2011, as part of the Four Diamonds program, offering them emotional support while he recovered after being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

Four Diamonds was also the organization that paid for Lucas’ medical costs that weren’t covered by his insurance.

“It was an amazing experience because when I was in the hospital [the fraternity members] would find me, or my dad would text them right away, and they would all just text me and Snapchat me and tweet me and say, ‘You’re good Brady. You’ll get better. We’re all thinking about you,'” he recalled. “It was more of emotional support for me.”

Lucas has now been in remission for five years. He was happy to be on the dance floor for the second year in a row, not only representing his fraternity, which he joined in 2014, becoming its fundraising chair, but also as a THON featured speaker, encouraging other participants to keep dancing.

THON captain Graceanne Domino told ABC News that Lucas was “one of the most energized dancers” during the danceathon.

“Brady just has the most grateful personality. I think that’s the best way to put it,” the senior public relations major continued. “There’s been many Four Diamond kids who have continued to be involved past their treatment, but Brady is just incredibly grateful. You don’t have to talk with him for too long to sense that he just pours his heart and soul back into the Penn State community.”

Lucas, who was on the dance floor when he spoke with ABC News Saturday, said he hadn’t been able to sit or sleep since THON started.

“I have no idea what time it is or when it is,” the teen said. “One of the students turned my phone time to military time so I don’t have an exact idea.”

Lucas said he stayed motivated to dance because of the children at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.

“It’s more cool for me to be able to stand for all the children that unfortunately can’t have the opportunity to stand or who are fighting every single day to just live their lives,” Lucas told ABC News. “I hope that one day every single child can grow up and attend a university or college, and their parents can see them graduate high school — the little milestones that we often don’t think about.”

In 2014, THON raised more than $13 million to help children battle cancer. There’s no word on how much the campaign raised this year.

Lucas said, “No matter the total, hopefully it shows we care about a disease that hopefully won’t be there…because we’ll find a cure.”

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