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New Evidence Prevention Is Best Medicine

An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, but more Americans carrying out five basic preventive measures would save well over 100,000 lives in the United States annually, according to a new report.

It contains numbers to back the main principle of the Partnershp for Prevention, namely, that more emphasis on preventing disease, not just treating it, is needed in the U.S. health care system, and would result in much more efficient use of money spent for it.

To read the report, click here.

On The Early Show Thursday, medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay outlined the report's highlights.

Among them, as described on the group's Web site:

Utilization rates remain low for preventive services that are very cost effective and have been recommended for years. Increasing the use of just five preventive services would save more than 100,000 lives each year in the United States.

  • 45,000 additional lives would be saved each year if we increased to 90 percent the portion of adults who take aspirin daily to prevent heart disease. Today, fewer than half of American adults take aspirin preventively.
  • 42,000 additional lives would be saved each year if we increased to 90 percent the portion of smokers who are advised by a health professional to quit and are offered medication or other assistance. Today, only 28 percent of smokers receive such services.
  • 14,000 additional lives would be saved each year if we increased to 90 percent the portion of adults age 50 and older who are up to date with any recommended screening for colorectal cancer. Today, fewer than 50 percent of adults are up to date with screening.
  • 12,000 additional lives would be saved each year if we increased to 90 percent the portion of adults age 50 and older immunized against flu annually. Today, 37 percent of adults have had an annual flu vaccination.
  • 3,700 additional lives would be saved each year if we increased to 90 percent the portion of women age 40 and older who have been screened for breast cancer in the past 2 years. Today, 67 percent of women have been screened in the past two years.

    Senay points out that taking steps today to prevent medical problems down the line can prove cost-effective as well as life-saving. There are simple, painless things you can take care of in advance that could help prevent disease, lower your risk of serious and costly medical problems, and detect disease and cancer before it's too late. Using preventive care instead of waiting until you have a problem to try to cure it is a much more effective way to handle your personal health.

    Her takes on the five steps the report focuses on:

  • An Aspirin a Day: It's a good idea for most adults to make a daily habit of taking an aspirin, especially those at increased risk for heart disease. Aspirin has been proven to help lower the risk of a cardiovascular event, such as heart attack or stroke, in both people who have had problems in the past and those that haven't. Aspirin is an effective and cheap way to lower your risk.

    "As always," Senay says, "I recommend you check with your individual doctor."

  • Increasing Smoking Cessation Aid and Advice: Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your health. The negative effects smoking has on your body are extensive. But so are the resources out there to help you quit. This report indicates that 42,000 additional lives could be saved each year if we increased the number of people who are offered advice, medication or other assistance towards quitting smoking.
  • Regular Colon Cancer Screenings: Early detection and treatment of colorectal cancer can save your life. This type of cancer often exhibits no symptoms in the beginning, so screening is the best method to catching it early. Screening can find precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Anyone over the age of 50, or who thinks he or she may be at a higher risk, should talk to his or her doctor about getting regular screenings. Fewer than 50 percent of adults are up-to-date with screening.
  • Flu Vaccinations: People over the age of 50 are at a much higher risk of complications from the flu. Not only do they have to deal with the flu itself, but extreme cases can cause such problems as pneumonia, hospitalization, and even death. For this higher risk group, annual immunizations against the flu can save time and money, and even lives down the road.
  • Increase the Number of Women Over 40 Getting Screened for Breast Cancer Annually: Early detection of breast cancer can save lives. Finding cancer before symptoms develop helps your chances of winning the battle. The sooner you learn that you have breast cancer and begin treating it, the better your chances are for successful treatment. Women 40 and over should have a screening mammogram every year.
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