August 29, 2014

Mayo to offer Madison-produced colorectal cancer screening test

exactsciencesMayo Clinic will be first to offer a new in-home colon cancer screening test. Mayo developed Colonguard along with Madison-based Exact Sciences Corporation. Mayo Clinic chair of gastroenterology and hepatology Dr. Vijay Shah said Colonguard will be a game changer in detecting colon cancer at its most treatable stages.

“This new and simple test, which can be done on the convenience of one’s own home, will revolutionize colon cancer screening,” said Shah. “The current approaches for colorectal cancer are sub-optimal, and a large number of individuals who should be screened are not screened.” While colorectal cancer is highly preventable with screening, it remains the second-leading cancer killer in the United States.

Exact Sciences CEO Kevin Conroy said the list price for the test is $599, with a proposed cost to Medicare of $502. “This is a great value, particularly when you look at the costs of treating colon cancer,” he said. Conroy, who moved his firm to Wisconsin from Massachusetts in 2009, said collection kits are ready to be shipped to patients whose physicians order them. Right now Madison is the only lab location set up to process test results.

According to the Exact Sciences website, Colonguard works by detecting specific, altered DNA sequences in cells that are shed from the lining of the colon into the stool from pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions. The test also includes a hemoglobin detection component which identifies the presence of blood in the stool – another possible indicator of colorectal cancer.

State falling short on cancer prevention efforts

ACS logo

ACS logo

The American Cancer Society is calling on Wisconsin lawmakers to make a number of improvements it argues would help with efforts to combat the disease.

The ACS has released its annual report on state policies that deal with cancer-prevention and treatment efforts. It finds Wisconsin failing to meet recommended benchmarks in nine of the 12 areas the group examines, which include funding for screening programs, along with access to Medicaid programs and palliative care. The grades are based on a red-yellow-green scale, with green indicating a state meets or exceeds benchmarks. Wisconsin earned a green in three areas for its high tobacco tax rate of $2.52 per pack of cigarettes, its statewide indoor smoking ban, and for having an effective pain management policy for cancer patients.

While the state earned a “red” designation in five categories, Sara Sahli with the ACS Cancer Action Network singled out two areas in particular they believe the state needs to focus on for improvement; tobacco prevention and control funding and state-mandated Physical Education requirements for youth.

Sahli says the state needs to dramatically increase the funding it provides for tobacco control and prevention efforts. While the Centers for Disease Control recommends Wisconsin spend $57 million a year on those efforts, the state currently only provides about $5.2 million in funding. She says that’s down 66 percent since 2009.

As for P.E. classes, Sahli says they want the state to require 30 minutes a day of physical education for elementary students and 45 minutes daily for middle and high school students. Currently, the state only requires three days a week and sets no minimum time requirement.

Nationally, no states met all 12 of the benchmarks the organization measured.

State loses out by not expanding BadgerCare

Robert Kraig

Robert Kraig

Are health insurance rates in Wisconsin higher than necessary? If they are, one groups argues it could be because of Governor Scott Walker’s decision not to accept a full expansion of federal funding for BadgerCare.

Robert Kraig is with Citizen Action of Wisconsin, which released a report showing Wisconsin insurance rates average $250 more per year because of Walker’s decision. “What this data found is that, not only turning down the Medicaid money had no impact on people on Medicaid, on BadgerCare, it impacted all people in terms of their insurance rates,” Kraig said. “For not taking the Medicaid money, it was over $250 a year for every person. And that comes out of the general economy and out of peoples family budgets.”

Walker continues to maintain that he’s protecting taxpayers – because the federal government can’t be counted on to keep Medicaid funded in the long term. “The reality is, anyone who’s counting on the federal government to come through with funding, here or anywhere else across the country is living in a alternative universe, because this is a federal government that’s already $17 trillion in the hole,” said Walker. “They’ve reneged on Medicaid and other promises in the past. I’ve every reason to believe based on the past record, the federal government will renege again, so I didn’t want the taxpayers of this state to be on the hook.

A Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimate also doesn’t come up in the governor’s favor – the agency found the state could have saved more than $500 million over three and a-half years, and served some 87,000 more adults a month under BadgerCare Plus.

First human case of West Nile virus reported for 2014

File photo

File photo

The state has recorded its first human case of West Nile virus for the year.

The mosquito-borne virus was found in an Ashland County resident, although state health officials are offering no details about the person or their current condition. State Division of Public Health epidemiologist Diep Hoang Johnson says it’s a critical reminder though that the virus still poses a threat in Wisconsin and that “this disease can effect anyone, in any age group.”

Last year, 21 Wisconsin residents were diagnosed with symptomatic infections and two patients died from complications related to the virus. Johnson believes the number of people who become ill is actually much higher, but the cases just go unreported unless the symptoms are serious. A West Nile infection can cause a person to develop a fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, nausea, vomiting, rash, and fatigue. Because of the flu-like nature, many people may contract the virus without even knowing what they have.

The first reported human case comes about month later than last year, which Johnson attributes to the relatively cool summer keeping mosquito populations down.

Advocacy group works to end domestic abuse among teens

Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen along with Patti Seger, executive director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen along with Patti Seger, executive director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

One in three teens is affected by dating violence, yet 81 percent of teens’ parents don’t believe it’s an issue, especially in the lives of their children. That’s according to Patti Seger, executive director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. She says there are great consequences for failure to recognize and respond to teen dating violence. “Teens experience dating violence are more likely to engage in substance abuse, eating disorders and risky sexual behavior that could lead to teen pregnancy. The rate of suicide or suicide attempts increases dramatically.”

Seger says teens are reluctant to report abuse and seek help — and violence can follow teens into adulthood. That’s why it’s important to educate youth and teens early and often, she says. They want to gear their latest efforts to teens via text messaging — a favorite mode of communication among that age group.

Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen says Seger’s group and others like it do great work, but the government also needs to do more to educate and help prevent such violence. “Hopefully we can make schools and communities safer for them; hopefully we can prevent young people from being victimized and get into trouble and have their lives thrown off track; but hopefully along the way we can also prevent them from becoming adult abusers themselves.”

AUDIOState Attorney General JB Van Hollen calls teen dating violence a specific, but as of yet, a relatively unknown issue.

Amber Oldroyd, director of retail at Verizon Wireless; Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen; Patti Seger, executive director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Amber Oldroyd, director of retail at Verizon Wireless; Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen; Patti Seger, executive director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Seger says the biggest misconception about teen dating violence is that it doesn’t happen. “There’s a huge failure to recognize that teen dating violence exists.”

Verizon Wireless encourages everyone to donate their old wireless devices in any condition from any carrier to their HopeLine program. After getting those devices refurbished and recycled, the money generated is distributed to the community for the cause. The phone company presented a $30,000 grant to End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin to help provide support, education, and training.

Approximately 1.5 million high school age teens experience some form of physical violence from a dating partner each year, according to Amber Oldroyd, director of retail at Verizon Wireless.  The grant from Verizon will help End Domestic Abuse WI continue to develop its programs to serve teens in need.