Australian Medical News Brief September 2016

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Welcome to Medshop Australia’s monthly series, News Brief, where we talk about what you may have missed. These are mostly articles we’ve posted in our social media news feeds. We consider them the most newsworthy events in Australian health and medicine from the last month. You will find links to the original articles. Let’s look back and review the top stories from September.
     
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As reported by the Newcastle Herald, Australian researchers have declared that many thyroid cancer patients in Australia are being operated on unnecessarily. Given that the rate of thyroid cancer detection has increased three-fold in recent decades, on the surface, this doesn't seem like a cause for concern.
 
Researchers from the Australian National University suggest that while this increase is in part due to the early detection of thyroid cancers. They are concerned with the number of operations being performed to remove more small tumours that don't always require treatment. They are advocating for more individualised care and assessment of patients, to minimise costs and to avoid subjecting patients to surgery when there is not a clear need for it.
   

Doctors, nurses and other health practitioners need better mental health support

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As reported by The Age newspaper, A recent study showing that the suicide rate of female health professionals is double the suicide rate of females in other occupations. This startling realisation along with other studies into the mental health concerns of health workers demonstrate a need for improved support and services.
 
The authors of this study cite reasons such as occupational stress, home/life pressures and ready access to prescription drugs as leading influences. Other factors include long working hours, work/family conflict and anxiety about making critical mistakes.Women in fields of medicine that are strongly dominated by males have also reported bullying and harassment and have experienced prejudice that makes it more difficult for them to progress or get ahead in their careers.
 
There are some changes underway to help alleviate these concerns with bodies like the Doctor's Health Advisory Services and the Royal Australian College of Surgeons jumping on board to help address this tragic reality.
     
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As reported by Medical News Today, baby-brain is a commonly used term during pregnancy to account for the changes in brain function resulting from hormonal fluctuations. New research published in the journal of Psychoneuroendocrinology has shows how the decision-making function of the brain is affected by hormones released at different times of the menstrual cycle and during pregnancy.
 
The hormones in question are progesterone and estrogen  and their influence on difference regions of the brain. The study results have uncovered that the hormone estrogen that is released during ovulation increases function on memorisation tasks, such as remembering words, or names. While progesterone is linked to increased spatial visual functions. This exciting research opens up the door for us to learn more about the role these hormones play in regulating or stimulating brain function.
     
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As reported by Yahoo News, the government confirmed that there will be no changes to Medicare services. The consolidation of shopfronts and streamlining of services caused some concern about the prospective privatisation of Medicare services. The government has attested that from the patient's perspective there will be no change in the processing of rebates or payments. This declaration is a sigh of relief for many Australians who rely on Medicare services for their health and well-being.
   
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As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, close to 70 percent of Australians' with private health cover have considered cancelling their policy in the last year. With almost 80 percent of people believing that health insurance is overpriced and more concerned with generating profit than providing reasonable health care and services. It is not surprising considering the average health insurance premium has increased by 35% since 2010.
 
This is a serious issue and will but a lot of pressure on the public health system if more and more people decide to forego private health insurance. Because Australia does have a relatively good public health system, many people do not see the benefits of private health insurance as being significant.
 
The Medical Technology Association of Australia are the body responsible carrying out this research, they are also committed to working towards solutions to help bring health insurance premiums back down to a more reasonable level. The government is also committed to increasing consumer satisfaction with private health insurance.
 
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