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An excellent reminder. Experienced a similar irregular mammogram (my first one) myself last year -- turned out to be a cyst, no worries, but did drive home the importance of regular checkups.

"Being a scientist, I'm a horrible patient because I want to see the proof for anything a doctor tells me."

No, you are a good patient.

Seriously: Medical doctors can't be expert in all the medical fields which might be applicable to the problems faced by an individual patient. Even in a "single field" such as neurology, there are so many subspecialties that the patient is best advised to learn as much as possible and seek multiple opinions. Only by doing the research can we really have a hope to be able to evaluate our doctors' advice.

Why mention neurology? An anecdote---totally true: My wife was diagnosed by a reputable neurologist as having chiari malformation after having multiple MRIs and a cat scan, over a series of months, after three separate neurologists had previously said they didn't know what was wrong. But the diagnosis didn't seem to quite fit the symptoms (according to our research at the local university library and online using the primary medical literature), and a succession of second- and third-opinion chiari specialists said definitely not chiari. Then an MS specialist said (among other things) do more bloodwork and found a copper deficiency in ceruloplasmin and blood serum.

We had previously extensively researched her neurologic symptoms and found papers since the early 2000s on copper deficiency causing similar gait and peripheral nerve symptoms. These were alleviated somewhat by increasing copper consumption. Most such patients had copper problems because of bariatric surgery, overconsumption of zinc (zinc in lozenges to ward off colds, or overuse of zince-bearing denture cream)---none of that relevant in my wife's case. But a few patients had copper deficiency of unknown origin, perhaps as a rare, not understood copper metabolism difficulty of genetic origin (not Wilson's disease). That seems to be the case for my wife. In the event, copper pills had an immediate positive response, allowing my wife to walk again without the previous gait difficulties.

Note: anyone taking copper pills should seek the advice of the proper specialist physicians. Overconsumption of copper itself can cause serious neurologic and other problems.

great post. Thanks for addressing the issue. Thanks for the explanation. Thanks for the science. And thanks for the reminder.

In the 50s and 60s some shoe stores had flouroscopes that would let you see how your feet fit in your new shoes. A little to casual with the rads.

Great post! I like the sticker idea. Maybe it should say "I GROPED" or . . . maybe not. =)

In case folks haven't heard, there are fairly new evidence-based (yay science!) guidelines for mammograms: "Previous guidelines had recommended yearly mammograms for women age 40 and older, but the new guidelines instead called for women age 40 to 49 to discuss the benefits and risks of mammography with their doctors to decide whether a mammogram made sense."

The quote is from from an article by Christie Aschwanden that discusses the (surprisingly?) vehement, negative reaction to the new mammogram guidelines (and similar reactions to scientific studies on ibuprofen for long-distance runners and surgery for back pain).

I think the phenomenon relates to your point about "people wanting magic answers and magic pills instead of doing the hard work of taking better care of themselves." It's also very hard work to learn new information, and update our worldviews accordingly.

Or, as Aschwanden writes, "New evidence often meets with dismay or even outrage when it shifts recommendations away from popular practices or debunks widely held beliefs. For evidence-based medicine to succeed, its practitioners must learn to present evidence in a way that resonates."

A testament to your excellent teaching skills. Thank you.

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.