Thursday, May 24, 2012
Tests alone not much help By Dr. Anthony Policastro

There is an old medical joke that goes the most important part of the stethoscope is the part that goes between the two earpieces. The implication is that anyone can use a stethoscope. However, knowing what you are listening to is the most important part of its use. The better you are at doing that, the better your use of the stethoscope will be. That same thing is true about any other laboratory test or procedure that we perform. It means very little just to get a test done without any background. One has to have the training and experience to know what test to order, when to order it and how to interpret the results. For example, the normal blood count for an individual is between 36% and 48%. People with counts outside of that range could have a problem. Suppose we did a lab test on a series of children and the result came out to be 33%. That result is outside the normal range. However, the normal range only covers 90% of the population. 5% of the normal population will be above that range and 5% will be below that range. In this particular child, the most likely diagnosis is a normal result for that child. However, if the child was 1 year of age, it might mean something else. At that age some children drink a lot of milk. They get so many calories from milk that they do not eat much other food. There is no iron in milk. Therefore, a one-year-old that drinks a lot of milk could have an iron deficiency. The count could be 33%. Some children have inherited anemia. Sickle cell anemia is the most famous of these inherited anemias. It is also the most severe. There are other inherited anemias that are milder. They might be associated with a count of 33%. An adolescent girl who loses a lot of blood with her periods can become iron deficient. Thus, she might have a count of 33%. The bottom line is that an abnormal number means very little. What is important is the history and physical exam that goes with that number. Some people think that lab tests and other procedures can give all the answers. In actuality they do not have much meaning all by themselves. Everything we do has to have the necessary background information. Only by using that information can the real meaning of things be determined. The individual that demands a test from a physician does not understand this. The individual who gets upset when a physician does not do additional tests does not understand this. The answer is the same as the joke about the stethoscope. The most important part of any test is the ability of the physician to use his/her training to be able to interpret what that particular test means in that particular patient.

National Cancer Survivors Day Nanticoke Cancer Care Center is hosting a Celebration Of Life on Sunday, June 3, at the Seaford Moose Lodge from 1 to 3:30 p.m. to commemorate National Cancer Survivors Day. Everyone is invited to attend. This 25th annual worldwide celebration of life will be held in hundreds of communities worldwide. Cancer survivors, caregivers, family members, friends, and healthcare professionals will unite to show that life after a cancer diagnosis can be meaningful and productive. "Come learn how surviving cancer is an attitude about life and living each day to the fullest," says Terri Clifton, National Cancer Survivors Day Coordinator for Nanticoke Cancer Care Center. The celebration includes entertainment and door prizes.

Local survivors, Carol Kinsley, will speak about her personal journey, and Jerry Jones will provide musical entertainment. "Despite the adversities, cancer survivors face each day with courage and dignity and serve as an inspiration to us all," says Clifton. For more information about Nanticoke's National Cancer Survivors Day events, contact Clifton at 629-6611, ext. 2577. Visit for more information about National Cancer Survivors Day.

Diabetes education offered Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, Seaford, will hold a four-session diabetes education program on June 6, 13, 20 and 27 from 5 to 7 p.m., at the hospital. Pre-registration is required and the program may be reimbursable by insurance. This four-session program includes weekly education sessions and individualized meal planning for diabetes self-management. The goal is to give you the self-management skills to control your diabetes. Family members/significant others are welcome to attend the weekly sessions. To register and to obtain additional information regarding the course, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Diabetes Education department at 629-6611, ext. 2446.

Community CPR classes Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer community CPR classes to anyone interested in learning CPR at the Nanticoke Training Center located on Water Street in Seaford. Participants will learn how to perform the basic skills of CPR on adults, children, and infants and how to help an adult, child, or infant who is choking and use of the AED. This classroom-based, video, and instructor-led CPR course offers families, friends, and community members the opportunity to learn CPR and need a course completion card. Classes are open to participants ages 12 and up. This program is specifically designed for those who prefer to learn in a group environment with feedback from an instructor. The target audience is those who have a duty to respond to a cardiac emergency because of job responsibilities or regulatory requirements. Cost is $40. Payment and registration is required by no later than five business days prior to the class. Late registrations may be accepted if seating is available. To register and to obtain a listing of class dates/times, contact the Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Training Center office at 629-6611, ext. 8919. Pre-registration is required.

Free dental clinic Maryland's Eastern Shore Mission of Mercy (MOM) clinic will offer a two day free dental clinic the weekend of March 13-17, 2013, at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center in Salisbury. The focus of this mission is to provide treatment of immediate dental needs to the under served populations on the Delmarva Peninsula. Anyone 19 years of age or older is eligible to receive services including extractions, restoration (fillings) or cleanings. All of the treatment will be provided by volunteer board registered dental and medical professionals at no cost to those receiving care. For more information and to sign up to volunteer, call 443-365-5776 or visit