Readers’ views on medical testing for seniors and physicals for student athletes

September 26, 2011
Why does Mom still get mammograms?

Boy, was your article “Years pass, but the tests never end” [Sept. 13] spot on! About a year ago I had this discussion with my 85-year-old mother after she had her annual mammogram. She hates doing it and constantly complains about how painful it is. After she watched a friend 20 years her junior go through a double mastectomy, chemo and radiation, multiple reconstructive surgeries and complications, I asked her what she would do if they found something. Silence.

I worry about a lot of things with my Mom: heart failure (she has a pacemaker), leukemia (stage 0), driving at her age and living alone in a single-family house. But since there is no history of breast cancer in our family, losing her to this disease isn’t even on my radar. Why does she do it? Because the doctor says she should and Medicare pays for it.

Linda Davidson, Gaithersburg

Testing student athletes

While I agree with Ranit Mishori’s conclusion in “Sports physicals put doctors on the spot” [Sept. 13] that we should continue to perform pre-participation exams, I take exception with the main study she cites that criticizes their effectiveness in identifying athletes with heart defects. She reports that of 158 athlete victims of sudden death, 115 had received a PPE and only one had the potentially fatal abnormality diagnosed.

These data reflect only the actual victims and ignore the number of potential victims who perhaps were identified and excluded from competition. It is no surprise that when looking only at the failures it would appear that the system failed! We have been doing PPEs at a large university athletic department for over 30 years, and have identified and excluded at least three student athletes with potentially fatal abnormalities. These are the kinds of successes that such a study would have missed.

Steve Fahey

U-Md. Health Center,

College Park

Screening youths in order to protect them from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the right thing to do! While doctors argue whether it is worth having children cardiac-screened, our children are dropping dead each day. March 3, the day Wes Leonard died, would have been our son’s 24th birthday, but he was a victim of SCA.

Andrew was only 18 years old, without any previous warning, pain or sickness, just death as the first symptom. Many thousands of youths die each year from SCA in the United States alone, but this goes unreported because there is no requirement to diagnose and report SCA as a cause of death. There is no mandatory national registry for SCA.

Ask and demand to have your children cardiac-screened. We sure wish we had. Our children each deserve a long and healthy life, and we must check their hearts with EKGs to protect them. Relying on a pre-participation examination is not sufficient; PPEs do not adequately check the heart function.

Rita and Richard Helgeson,

Silver Spring

www.andrewhelgeson.org

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