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Doctors struggle with 'the talk'... about vaccines

Dr. Lisa Stern

Rebecca Plevin/KPCC

Dr. Lisa Stern says sometimes the best approach is to put the risk of vaccination in perspective. She tells parents she's more worried about a child tripping and hitting his head than about his having a negative vaccine reaction.

Dr. Marshall Sachs

Rebecca Plevin/KPCC

Dr. Marshall Sachs says he's convinced some parents to immunize their children by sharing his memories of treating kids who had diseases that are now vaccine-preventable.

For decades, vaccinations were a given. And why wouldn't they be? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers vaccines one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century.

That was the case when Dr. Lisa Stern trained to be a pediatrician two decades ago. At that time, she says, there was no need to learn how to talk to parents about the benefits of vaccination.

"We just told them what they were going to get, … and that was the end of the conversation," she says.

But these days, it's not always that easy.

Tactics for the talk

When families come see her at Tenth Street Pediatric Medical Group in Santa Monica, Stern says she leaves a lot of time at checkups to talk about vaccines.

She says just a handful of the families she sees at are completely opposed to vaccinating their kids, while she estimates that about 20 percent have other concerns, including the number of shots and their ingredients.


The new IUD: Not your mother's Dalkon Shield

IUDs - Close Up

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Dr. Andrea Ruman, a primary care provider at UCLA's Arthur Ashe Student Health & Wellness Center, holds two hormone-releasing IUD's: The Mirena, left, and the Skyla. Both work by slowly releasing a hormone that thickens cervical mucus and blocks sperm.

Copper IUD


Copper is toxic to sperm, according to WebMD. The copper IUD - called the ParaGard - makes the uterus and fallopian tubes produce fluid that kills sperm, according to WebMD.

IUDs - Dr. Andrea Ruman

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Dr. Andrea Ruman, who specializes in internal medicine at UCLA's Arthur Ashe Student Health & Wellness Center, says more university students are interested in IUD's.

IUDs - Close Up

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

The Skyla, left, and the Mirena, right, are more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.

In 1974, a type of intrauterine device – the Dalkon Shield – was pulled off the market, amid reports that it caused serious pelvic infections, sterility, and even death. The Copper-7, another IUD that came under fire, was pulled in 1986.

But what's come on the market in recent years is not your mother's IUD: The new brands are completely different, and, experts say, extremely effective and safe.

In fact, IUD's have been endorsed as one of the best forms of birth control for teens and young women by two key groups: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Planned Parenthood also supports that recommendation.

Meet the new IUD's

Today's devices look like tiny, plastic toothpicks. They're T-shaped, and have strings on the bottom.


Double mastectomy: New information, tough choices

Kai Chan Vong/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

Pink breast cancer ribbons

Women: check out Monday's story by KPCC health reporter Elizabeth Aguilera on double mastectomies. It is a thought-provoking report about the tough decisions women face when they are diagnosed with cancer in one of their breasts.

Elizabeth was following up on a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association of 190,000 breast cancer cases in California. The researchers found a big increase between 1998 and 2011 in the percentage of women with early-stage cancer in one breast who were choosing double mastectomies.

The study also found that those women were not improving their chances of surviving their original cancer. Removing both breasts does not guarantee that the original cancer won't return. The researchers found that survival rates were essentially the same for women who had a lumpectomy followed by radiation. 


Journal formally retracts disputed vaccination study

AIDS Healthcare Foundation Offers Free Meningitis Vaccinations

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Last month we told you about the latest viral flare up over vaccines and autism. The journal Translational Neurodegeneration published - and then quickly pulled - a study "purporting to find that black children are at substantially increased risk for autism after early exposure to the measles-mumps-rubella [MMR] vaccine," as described by the blog Retraction Watch. 

The journal said it had pulled the article because of  "serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions," and it promised "definitive editorial action...pending further investigation."

People in the anti-vaccination movement immediately hurled accusations of a coverup. In the meantime, Translational Neurodegeneration appears to have concluded its investigation. Here is an editorial note the journal published this past Friday:


Next up for #PriceCheck: How much for diabetes test strips?

About 23 million adults have Type 2 diabetes, and most of them are overweight or obese.


Using a test strip and glucose meter.

If you have diabetes: How many test strips do you use each day to check your blood sugar? And how much do they cost?

As I’ve waded into the next phase of our #PriceCheck collaboration, I’ve learned these are not simple questions.

The basics

People with diabetes have a problem with insulin - a hormone that regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Either their bodies don't produce it (Type 1 diabetes, which only affects about 5 percent of diabetics), or don't use it properly (Type 2 diabetes, the most common form).

Diabetics must constantly check their blood sugar levels. This involves a glucose meter. You insert a test strip into the meter, then use a special needle to prick a finger and place a drop of blood on the test strip; the meter displays the result.

The number of test strips people use each day "varies depending on the frequency that you need to be testing," explains Manny Hernandez, the president of the Diabetes Hands Foundation, which connects diabetics with information and social networks.