Do Cancer Screenings, H1N1 Vaccine Work?

Do cancer screenings really work?

Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez pointed out an article in the Oct. 21 New York Times, in which the American Cancer Society is now saying that dectecting cancers and going in for cancer screenings is "not necessarily the right thing."

"Right now it's a complicated issue. And we want to be clear to people that we don't want people to delay or avoid screening for a variety of cancers," CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton told Rodriguez. "Screening is very important and has been shown to save lives."

According to Ashton, the article stemmed from a little frustration felt by the cancer community in dealing with certain types of cancers (breast and prostate cancers) where screening and early detection has not been shown to have quite the impact in terms of catching late stage cancers or saving lives as they had hoped.

"People, bottom line, should talk to their doctors and not just skip screenings altogether," Ashton said.

Ashton also addressed viewer questions via Skype.

"We have a 13-year-old daughter and she has gotten swine flu from, we think, classmates who have been coughing. And I just had a concern about the cough - how long it's contagious and how long this cough is going to last," asked Craig in North Carolina.

Ashton pointed out that this question arose when Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith came down with H1N1, because a lot of doctors are not doing confirmatory testing.

Although "controversial," Ashton said "we know that children can shed the virus for as long as seven to 10 days, but the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) didn't want to say to people you have to keep your children home for a week or two weeks because that would not be logistically feasible. We say 24 hours after a fever is gone, but, again, if you're concerned, err on the side of caution. We let Harry come back after two days with no fever."

What it comes down to is our hygienic practices, Ashton explained. This includes washing your hands, coughing into your elbow or if your child has classmates who have had H1N1 and they're still coughing and sneezing - they probably should not be in school.

When asked if she would give the H1N1 vaccine to her daughter, Rodriguez said she's "leaning toward it, finally" after everything she has heard.

"We are giving our children the vaccine," Ashton added. "In fact, I'm happy to say they arrived in my office last night. I took the H1N1 vaccine myself at the end of the day yesterday, and I'll be giving it to my children in a couple of weeks because they just got their seasonal flu shots in the last week.

"There are no firm guidelines about how to space that out for children yet. We're probably going to hear something from the CDC soon, it might be two to four weeks."

Unless you have asthma or an underlying condition, Ashton recommends the mist version of the H1N1 vaccine, which is what her children will have.

Getting you child vaccinated is a hot topic these days.

"And I think we say in medicine...it only has to happen once," Ashton said. "I think the risks of this virus really far surpass the risks - even though they're low - of the vaccination."

Since H1N1 seems to be really targeting the young, Ashton also suggests that parents talk to their pediatricians.

Allergies are also a common concern regardless of the season for some.

"My husband has allergies all year round and regular antihistamines don't seem to be helping much, are there any natural remedies he might be able to use?" asked Susan from Westchester County, N.Y., via Skype.

"Two important things - the gold standard for treating seasonal allergies are a medication called Singulair, which stops the symptoms before they start. So they should ask about Singulair. The other thing is holistic things like honey, vitamin C, even removing the drapes behind you might really help his allergy symptoms," Ashton said.

If you have any general medical questions you'd like to ask Dr. Ashton, go to Dr. Ashton's Twitter page.
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