Welcome to this week’s medical news round up! In our latest edition, we bring you the healthcare topics that have been under the microscope over the past week, just in time for your med school applications.
Joining us this week: newborn babies, smoking and clinical trials for cancer.
Want weekly news delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters here!
The charity Genetic Alliance UK have recently reported that babies are missing checks for rare and serious health conditions.
Currently, the NHS offers a blood test for newborns that screens nine conditions, including cystic fibrosis. However, other European countries screen for twenty conditions and the US for over fifty.
Although these conditions are rare, they can be life threatening. Genetic Alliance UK reports that there are affordable ways to include more conditions than there are currently in the screening tests.
The UK National Screening Committee says recommendations are based on evidence and that they are regularly reviewed. They weigh the risks and benefits to aid their decisions on which conditions to screen.
The committee is due to review new conditions for screening in September.
What can we learn from this?
Newborn screening, otherwise known as the ‘heel prick test’, is a blood test usually taken in the first week after birth. It aims to detect rare illnesses as early as possible, to allow the best chance for treatment and survival.
On the surface, to screen for as many conditions as possible seems a logical way forward. However, screening is a complex area of public health.
Screening results can be false and cause extreme anxiety and upset for families. This mainly depends on the accuracy and reliability of the screening tests. Therefore, even though there may be a test for a disease, if that test not sufficiently reliable, it may cause more harm than good.
Question to think about: How do you think screening for diseases can impact on patients and their families?
A recent trial involving high-precision radiotherapy provides hope for those with cancer previously thought of as incurable.
The study, SABR-COMET, includes patients who previously had treatment for cancer that then returned in up to five places in the body, also known as metastatic cancer.
Metastatic cancer is generally considered incurable. However, this trial finds that this type of radiotherapy can double how long patients can live without cancer.
The findings are “game changing” and the first of their kind to prove that this type of therapy can be successful.
What can we learn from this?
Our understanding of cancer and the potential treatments are continually developing and becoming more sophisticated. This news story about a recent trial shows that research is vital in this field and can make a huge difference to patient’s lives.
Cancer research is fast-paced and expanding to include new discoveries in genetics, artificial intelligence, technology, imaging and pharmacology.
Question to think about: Discuss the importance of research in medicine for both patients and clinicians.