JUNE = AIDS AWARENESS MONTH

By Elizabeth Meier

June is AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) awareness month in the United States – a month to create awareness of the virus that has taken the lives of more than 25 million people since 1981. Education and awareness has given way to improved care, and a higher survival rate, however, AIDS remains a critical world health issue and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality, states the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

The pulmonary complications of HIV/AIDS are a common issue adding “significantly to patient morbidity and mortality. Imaging plays a vital role in the diagnosis and management of lung of complications associated with HIV. Accurate diagnosis is based on an understanding of the pathogenesis of the processes involved and their imaging findings. Imaging also plays an important role in selection of the most appropriate site for tissue sampling, staging of disease and follow-ups… Almost 70% of the patients suffer at least one respiratory complication during the course of their illness” (NCBI). Diagnostic imaging can help doctors and/or radiologists differentiate between the specific infections that HIV/AIDS patients commonly acquire, making treatment more specific and effective.

Last year, TIME Magazine reported on a new drug treatment, approved by the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration,) that will actually prevent infection in healthy people. “The drug, called Truvada, which is already approved for the treatment of HIV in infected patients, works by lowering the amount of virus circulating in people’s blood. But clinical trials show that it can also protect uninfected high-risk people from acquiring the virus, if they take the drug daily before and after exposure.” While it cannot cure AIDS, “the drug can thwart HIV’s ability to take hold in healthy cells and start an infection, by blocking the activity of an enzyme that the virus needs to replicate.” This is in addition to treatment methods already being used, including “highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART), medications that must be used together—often called a drug cocktail, which doctors use to fight HIV infection. These medications attack HIV at multiple points in its growth cycle and are more effective in suppressing the virus. Combining drugs also limits the risk that HIV will become resistant to these medications.” (MSN HealthyLiving)

Still, this issue is not one that will disappear overnight or anytime soon. The best hope we have is to educate the population and create awareness of this horrible epidemic to help lower the frightening statistics. With advancing technology and increased awareness, there is hope that one day that the number of people suffering from this virus can be exponentially decreased and even one day that the virus can be eradicated. Until that time, educate yourself, and your friends and family, on the facts about HIV/AIDS.

Information from the CDC – Center for Disease Control:

HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection, when a person’s immune system is severely damaged and has difficulty fighting diseases and certain cancers. Before the development of certain medications, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Currently, people can live much longer – even decades – with HIV before they develop AIDS. This is because of “highly active” combinations of medications that were introduced in the mid-1990s.

HIV is spread primarily by:
• Not using a condom when having sex with a person who has HIV. All unprotected sex with someone who has HIV contains some risk. However:
o Unprotected anal sex is riskier than unprotected vaginal sex.
o Among men who have sex with other men, unprotected receptive anal sex is riskier than unprotected insertive anal sex.
• Having multiple sex partners or the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can increase the risk of infection during sex. Unprotected oral sex can also be a risk for HIV transmission, but it is a much lower risk than anal or vaginal sex.
• Sharing needles, syringes, rinse water, or other equipment used to prepare illicit drugs for injection.
• Being born to an infected mother—HIV can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breast-feeding.
HIV cannot reproduce outside the human body. It is NOT spread by:
• Air or water.
• Insects, including mosquitoes. Studies conducted by CDC researchers and others have shown no evidence of HIV transmission from insects.
• Saliva, tears, or sweat. There is no documented case of HIV being transmitted by spitting.
• Casual contact like shaking hands or sharing dishes.
• Closed-mouth or “social” kissing.

If you or someone you know is in need of affordable diagnostic imaging for their HIV/AIDS related pulmonary and/or respiratory issues, please visit MRI Scan Group’s website at http://mriscangroup.com/ for a list of imaging centers nationwide that can provide the care you need at a price you can afford.

UPCOMING EVENTS:
June 27th is National HIV/AIDS Testing Day, and was established in 2005 as an annual observance to promote HIV testing. For more information on testing locations and how you can get involved, go to http://aids.gov/news-and-events/awareness-days/hiv-testing-day/.

RESOURCES:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2954374/

http://healthland.time.com/2012/07/17/truvada-5-things-to-know-about-the-first-drug-to-prevent-hiv/#ixzz2WghI4GOl

http://healthyliving.msn.com/diseases/aids-hiv/fighting-the-virus-treatment-options-for-hiv-and-aids-1

http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/basic/#origin

http://mriscangroup.com/

May Flowers Bring… Skin Cancer?

By: Elizabeth Meier

Skin Cancer is the most common form of cancer, with approximately 2 million people in the U.S. diagnosed with non-melanoma cancer each year. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that in 2009, “61,646 people in the United States were diagnosed with melanomas of the skin, including 35,436 men and 26,210 women. 9,199 people in the United States died from melanomas of the skin, including 5,992 men and 3,207 women.”

Deemed Skin Cancer Awareness Month by the CDC, the month of May has brought about days of extreme heat and sun exposure to much of the United States. Although the month is at an end, this does not mean we should ignore the extreme dangers of the sun! Many U.S. states have experienced record-breaking heat waves already this year, and the first day of summer is still nearly a month away!

“Melanoma is the most dangerous and common form of skin cancer. However, melanoma is nearly 100% curable, especially when detected early,” says MaineHealthCancer.org. The importance of awareness and prevention cannot be stressed enough. That is why so many organizations are providing safety information to the public to help lower the skin cancer. Rite Aid Pharmacies are presenting the Road To Healthy Skin Tour, in which they will be performing free skin cancer screenings across America during May – August of 2013. Check out their website for the dates they will be near you, at http://www.skincancer.org/events/tour.

MaineHealthCancer.org urges people to follow the ABC’s of sun safety:
A. Avoid unprotected sun exposure when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
B. Block out the sun by using sunscreen (and re-apply every 2 hours).
C. Cover your body with protective clothing, a hat, and sunglasses.

There are several types, or stages of skin cancer and melanoma cancer. Melanoma cancer is categorized into five (5) stages, from Stage 0 to Stage IV, and Recurrent Melanoma. The recommended treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. If the physician suspects metastatic melanoma (Stage IV), other diagnosis and staging tools may include a blood test for LDH (lactate dehydrogenase) levels or imaging studies such as chest X-ray, CT (computed tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and PET (positron emission tomography) scans, states skincancerabout.com. Cancer.org reports that, “imaging tests may also be done to help determine how well treatment is working or to look for possible signs of cancer recurrence after treatment.”
The use of diagnostic imaging in late stage Melanoma cancer can be expensive, especially when combined with the costs of treatments. Using a patient referral service like MRI Scan Group can help greatly reduced imaging costs. They contract with imaging facilities across the United States to offer extremely discounted self-pay rates to patients. Contact MRI Scan Group today for your imaging needs! Visit their website at http://mriscangroup.com/ or call them at 1-866-674-8840.

Resources:

http://mainehealthcancer.org/Cancer%20Information/Melanoma/Pages/default.aspx

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/prevention/overview/Patient/page3

http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/statistics/

http://skincancer.about.com/od/diagnosis/a/diagnosis.htm

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-melanoma/detailedguide/melanoma-skin-cancer-diagnosed

http://mriscangroup.com/

Know Before You Go: MRI Knowledge

by Norman McPhail

What is more important when getting an MRI: Cost or Quality? Is a more expensive scan better quality than a lower priced scan? The simple answer is no, price and quality are not related. In order to weed through the pricing scramble, you will first need to figure out the type of scan you need. Different scans will require a different MRI. Start by asking your doctor to recommend what type of MRI is best for your exam. Just like everything else, MRI Scanners come in many shapes, sizes, quality and pricing. Price deviation in the United States is mainly due to the lack of competition and patient information. Bottom line; do your homework when choosing an MRI facility. Knowledge is everything.

Differences between MRI Scanners
1. Strength of magnet (1.5 Tesla to .25 Tesla) is the most important thing to look for when getting an MRI. The lower-field magnets work for a lot of scans but sometimes a high-field magnet is needed for adequate detail. A high-field MRI increases the signal-to-noise ratio which improves the quality of the image (less grain). It also can measure blood-oxygen levels to help map neural (nervous system) activity in the brain & spinal cord. Check with your doctor for recommended Magnet Strength.

2. Open MRI . If someone is claustrophobic, has a fear of suffocation or space restrictions, an Open MRI is the way to go. However, Open MRIs use a lower field magnet and do not produce as good an image as a high-field MRI.

3. Wide Bore MRI. Traditionally MRI scanners have a tunnel measuring 22 inches wide and are limited by the size and weight of the patient. Wide bore units have a larger tunnel, measuring 6” more space in diameter, than traditional MRI scanners and can handle larger patients (up to 500lbs). An Open MRI is also an option.

4. Short Bore Magnets. A lot of modern high-field (1.5 Tesla or greater) magnets now come with a short bore tunnel (49”) which gives the patient more of an open feel, and will help with anxiety and claustrophobia.

Having a basic knowledge of MRI scanners will make you a better, more informed consumer. You do not want to have to schedule a 2nd exam because the scan was not right and didn’t produce the image needed to properly diagnose your condition. The more you know before you schedule your exam, the better. For more information, go to http://mriscangroup.com.

SAFETY FIRST: Diagnostic Imaging in the U.S.

by Elizabeth Meier

Though MRI scans are generally low-risk, three patients in Brazil recently suffered cardio-respiratory arrests and died after routine MRI scans. This occurred at a private hospital near Sao Paulo, Brazil, during which each was supposedly injected with a contrast agent to improve the visibility in the MRI images. MRI scans were suspended by Brazilian authorities until the outcome of a full investigation was completed. It turned out that a nurse technician, operating without the supervision of the head nurse, injected the chemical perfluorocarbon in the patients’ veins, instead of contrast used regularly during an MRI. The chemical turned into a deadly gas when mixed with the patient’s blood, leading swiftly to a cardiac arrest. A tragedy such as this enforces the need for rigorous safety guidelines with regards to diagnostic imaging.

Americans crossing the border into Mexico to receive discounted diagnostic imaging scans has become a common practice in recent years. This is largely due to the fact that most Americans don’t know that the same scan can be found in the United States for the same price or less! Unfortunately, not all countries have the stringent health and safety guidelines that facilities in America operate under. There is no need to take that kind of chance with your health and safety. One of the most well known organizations in America, who works to ensure these guidelines are met, is the American College of Radiology (ACR). The ACR’s MRI Accreditation Program evaluates staff qualifications, quality control, MR safety policies and image quality to ensure the health and safety of the patient and facility staff. Each piece of diagnostic imaging equipment must pass a strict evaluation process in order to be ACR accredited. The question is, how should you go about finding an ACR accredited facility near you, that you can actually afford?

Thankfully, there are services, like MRI Scan Group, who offer patients access to their network of over 400 ACR accredited facilities across the United States. They have a “SAFETY FIRST” approach, and only accept ACR-accredited, quality imaging facilities into their network of nationwide imaging centers that accept cash paying patients. For those in need of affordable diagnostic imaging in an uncertain economy, the MRI Scan Group offers safe, quality, reliable options for uninsured and underinsured patients. MRI Scan Group has a team of patient representatives available to assist patients in finding an ACR accredited facility nearest them at a price they can afford. They will help schedule the scan you need quickly, and are happy to answer any questions you might have. MRI Scan Group’s network of centers is growing everyday to meet the demands of patients in need. They do the legwork for you, and have compiled their network of ACR accredited centers who can offer the scan you need at the price you want.

http://www.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,composto-quimico-matou-pacientes-diz-policia,1025593,0.htm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-21253019

http://www.acr.org/Quality-Safety/Accreditation

http://www.mriscangroup.com/

YOU BETTER SHOP AROUND… FOR AN MRI!

By Norman McPhail

Being uninsured and needing an MRI in the United States can be an overwhelming experience. The health care/diagnostic imaging business is a tangled web of confusion. Prices for a scan can set you back upwards of $2,000 per scan (Ouch)! The question is: How can you find a competitive priced scan to fit the uninsured budget?

In an emergency, you might not have the option to choose a facility for imaging services. Uninsured diagnostic imaging patients usually don’t need to have the scan done same day and thus have time to shop. The problem is that most people without insurance don’t realize that they CAN shop around. But YOU do! The best way to fight back is to do your homework. Just like when you are buying a car or new TV; shop around! You can search by price or location & scan type. If you do your research right, you could save THOUSANDS of dollars.

Imaging rates are negotiated between insurance companies, physicians, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies. The negotiated rates are normally shielded and not made available to the public. These shielded rates make it a muddy mess for uninsured patients to research and compare prices. The good news is that negotiated rates only apply to insurance companies. You do have options being uninsured and needing to pay for your health care out of your pocket.

My go-to tool for diagnostic image shopping is the internet! The internet will help you find the imaging services you need, for a price that won’t break the bank. Price comparison websites such as Healthcare Blue Book, New Choice Health and MRI Scan Group can assist you in making an informed decision that won’t break the bank. Affordable imaging is available at your fingertips, so get those piggies moving!