Published on 25th July 2019 by samanthamilton

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.

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Newborn Babies

Charity reports that newborn baby screening is not adequate.

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?

Read: Empathy Questions


Government pledges to end smoking in England by 2030

Medical news highlights the recent release of the green paper by the government, a document setting out priorities for the nation’s health.

Men and women spend over 20% of their lives in poor health, equating to 19 years for women and 16 for men.

The policy document aims to reduce these figures and includes recommendations on smoking, sleep, diabetes, exercise and dental hygiene.

This policy follows on from previous steps such as watersheds for junk food ads and banning energy drink sales to children.

Although these plans are welcome, there is a concern that inadequate funding for councils will cause difficulties in turning them into a reality.

What can we learn from this?

The government’s approach to health has continually changed throughout the years to a now more preventative approach.

This is because the most prevalent diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, mainly originate from preventable causes such as smoking and obesity.

The aim of prevention is to support the public in maintaining good health, so to prevent ill health occurring in the first place.

Prevention also benefits the health service economically, as preventing diseases, although costly, is likely to be more cost-effective than treatments for life-long disease.

Question to think about: Discuss the factors contributing to the prevalence of preventable diseases, such as diabetes.

Read: Challenges facing the NHS

Clinical Trials

A clinical trial in Glasgow brings hope to patients with ‘incurable’ cancer

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.

Read: Depth and Breadth of Interest Questions

Words: Katie Burrell

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