White Coat Underground

Archives for November, 2009

The color of flesh

In medicine we use all of our senses to evaluate patients. If I open up an abscess and I’m overwhelmed by the smell of rotted cheese, I can be pretty sure the abscess started as a sebaceous cyst. If I hear a “whooshing” sound over the abdomen in a smoker, I look more closely for…

The struggle to promote the scientific practice of medicine and the fight against pseudo-science and quackery just got a big boost. The newly-announced (but long in the making) Institute for Science in Medicine was launched this morning with an inaugural press release calling attention to quackery in the current U.S. health reform bills. Many of…

Captain of the men of death

I have in front of me a weathered copy of Cecil’s Textbook of Medicine from 1947. It belonged to my father, who graduated from medical school in the 1940s. Even then, it was known that pneumoccus, a common bacterium, can live harmlessly in the nose and throat and only sometimes causes disease. Pneumoccocal disease was…

A news item this week profiles a northeast naturopath who is using thermal imaging to screen for breast cancers. This is a frightening development. The news about conflicting mammogram recommendations has women wondering what the right approach really is. The question in the new USPSTF recommendations is one of values. The science says that a…

Fake medicine to get Ontario’s imprimatur

I live about ten miles due north of “Canada’s automotive capital”. We often look across the straits to the medical system in Ontario, one in which all citizens have a provincial insurance card. We see how everyone has access to care—or at least some care. I’ve treated many Canadian patients who have access to American…

We already know about the Huffington Post’s war on science and its shameless publication of snake oil ads disguised as journalism. Now, Mark Hyman, an evangelist for the cult known as “functional medicine”, is giving even more bad flu advice (and shilling for his books). He begins his blathering, misleading sales pitch with this bit…

Those of you who gave to DonorsChoose will find an email in your inbox with a gift card. This is free money for you to donate to any project you wish. It represents matching funds from Hewlett-Packard, so don’t let it go to waste. Next, commenting. I keep a very open comment policy, since dialog…

Cannabis and cancer cachexia

One of the most frightening symptoms of advanced cancer is “cachexia”, or severe, unintentional weight-loss and wasting. It’s a terrible prognostic sign, and the only truly effective treatment is removal of the cancer. Treatment of this syndrome has the potential to improve quality of life in patients with advanced cancers. Various types of medications, including…

Kid’s got autism? Get ‘em high!

Today over at Science-Based Medicine, Dr. Novella has a review of the so-called “biomed” movement in autism treatment. Anyone should be able to understand the desperation of parents with sick kids, but grief can lead to very bad decisions. As physicians, one of our jobs is to guide people away from these decisions and not…

Skeptics’ Circle #124 is up

The latest Skeptics’ Circle is up at Beyond the Short Coat.   The Giants’ Shoulders #17 is also up at scibling Eric Michael Johnson’s place.  Go and read!\