Screening Can Be a Real Safety Net

"Screening With Holes in It?" [July 19] struck a nerve with me. Why was this story presented with such bias against these mobile services?

My mother was recently diagnosed with an asymptomatic 90 percent blockage of one of her carotid arteries. This diagnosis may have never been made had she not decided on a whim to undergo a vascular scan by one of these mobile services. She decided to undertake the scan after hearing a radio advertisement for it. She thought: "$109? that's not bad for a scan that might save my life."

One would think that her regular physician would order such scans routinely for his elderly patients. However, despite her annual checkups, he has never suggested she undergo such testing. It's hard to imagine why not. Is it the expense? Or the other factors mentioned in the article? In any case, the patient should be informed of the options for such scans so that, in consultation with their physicians, they can make educated decisions regarding their own health care.

My mother is scheduled for surgery in the next few days -- surgery that will likely prevent her from suffering a stroke. None of the arguments against these mobile services convince me that the harm they do outweighs the good.

Heather L. Greenstone, PhD


Your story did not say who sent the letters inviting people to take the screening tests at the First Christian Church of Falls Church. My letter came from my long-term-care insurance provider, General Electric Capital Assurance Co. They had written me for several years, and I finally decided to go because at my annual checkup in April, my doctor said nothing about getting an ultrasound screening for an aneurysm. (I am a 75-year-old former smoker.)

For the cost of a letter, my insurance carrier may get the benefit of a stroke or broken hip avoided, while my costs include the cost of the screening as well as any costs of a misdiagnosis.

Perhaps this favorable cost/benefit ratio for them is the reason General Electric Capital Assurance recommends this screening so strongly and ignores the advice of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to avoid most of the screening tests. But my insurance company sends me information and the doctors do not; I am left with the perhaps irrational feeling that my insurance company cares more about my health than the doctors.

William G. Rhoads


In D.C. and Elsewhere, Primary Alternatives

I was disappointed to see that an entire Health section devoted to alternative medicine [July 12] completely left out any mention of the doctors who specialize in alternative medicine, naturopathic physicians.

Naturopaths are medically trained primary care physicians who practice using standard diagnostic techniques and pharmaceutical drugs, plus herbal medicine, nutrition, dietary counseling, nutritional supplements and homeopathy. They are the best of both worlds; educated as medical doctors and using treatments that integrate standard therapies with alternative ones. In addition, they are experts in supplements and herbs, making them the best resource for information on drug-supplement interactions.

Naturopathic doctors hold undergraduate degrees that include premedical courses and medical degrees from a four-year accredited naturopathic medical school. They are licensed in 13 states, five Canadian provinces and Washington. In many of these states naturopaths can be considered primary care providers, and patients can get insurance reimbursement for their naturopathic care.

Naturopathic medicine is a growing and needed profession, and naturopaths offer what many patients are looking for -- holistic and integrated primary care. For more information, see

Elise Schroeder

The Healing Arts Center of Georgetown


Fiber, Straight Up

"You Want Fiber With That?" [July 19] was an amusing insight into the lengths companies will go to make use of a health need. But "the big decision," isn't the choice between "chocolate milkshake or fruity candy." Your emphasis on a marketing gimmick failed to include common-sense and healthier alternatives.

Products like psyllium husks don't make companies rich. Maybe some readers can be enticed to care for their bodies only if products come with synthetic additives. But I'll take my fiber straight, no preservatives, artificial flavors or colors required. It doesn't taste that great, but it solved a few complaints including acidic refluxate, which caused intermittent laryngitis, and put an end to occasional constipation.

Sure, it is important to check with one's physician. And my allergist suggested my periodic hoarseness was caused by reflux. That was hard to believe. I had no other symptoms. He suggested fiber. I bought psyllium husks. I tried it. It's no taste treat. But it works.

There are other "natural" products that don't add unwanted ingredients to our daily diets. I want healthy suggestions, not fad approaches, even if they are fun.

Mary Jane Owen