New Autism Diagnosis to Leave Millions of Children without Medical Attention

Agence France Presse
Febraury 6, 2012

A proposal to use new diagnostic criteria for autism has roiled the US medical community, with many experts concerned that the move could exclude children affected by some forms of the disorder.

The American Psychiatric Association recommended last month that a new category called “autism spectrum disorder” be established to incorporate several forms of autism which were previously considered separately.

These include autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder.

Under this new approach, all four would be considered a variation of autism.

But critics are concerned that this may deprive patients of access to welfare, educational and health services that are based on the old definition set by the APA.

The APA defended its decision, saying that the new criteria establishes degrees of severity for the disorder and would help provide more targeted treatment for patients.

“The proposed criteria will lead to more accurate diagnosis and will help physicians and therapists design better treatment interventions for children who suffer from autism spectrum disorder,” argued Doctor James Scully, medical director of the association.

But Fred Volkmar, head of the Children’s Psychiatry Department at Yale University, believes this revision would exclude up to 60 percent of children now suffering from Asperger’s disorder.

Volkmar said he came to this conclusion by applying the new criteria to a study he conducted in 1993 on children suffering from Asperger’s and other forms of autism.

“We went back to the old data, and we looked at the new definition, and we were worried, actually,” he told AFP.

“In our work we looked at our preliminary data in high functioning children, Asperger children, and about 60 percent lose their diagnostic. It’s huge!”

“They (American Psychiatric Association) say it’s not true. I hope it’s not true, but they are now in a position of having to respond to this.”

According to Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer of Autism Speaks, the largest private foundation in the world dedicated to research of the disorder, it is too early to know “whether there will be or not excluding people who do really have autism spectrum.”

But she said her foundation is “committed to funding research that will explore whether or not the criteria are excluding people, and our goal is to insure that ultimately no one is excluded or is denied services.”

The proposed changes have been in the works for the past 15 years because studies “show well now that Asperger’s disorder is a form of autism,” noted Eric Fombonne, chair of the Children’s Psychiatry Department at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

And if the APA decided in 1994 to consider Asperger’s separately, it was simply because “at that point we did not know if it was different or just a variation of autism.”

Therefore, it was necessary to categorise it separately to study it, he said.

Laughable: Doctors Have no Clue why Thyroid Cancer is on the Rise

Thyroid cancer, which affects about 11 people per 100,000 each year, seems to be on the rise. It’s a trend that baffles medical researchers.

by Shari Rudavsky
Indianapolis Star
January 16, 2012

National Cancer Institute statistics suggest that in recent years the number of cases of this often curable cancer has increased by about 6.5%. Over a decade, that has added up to make thyroid cancer the fastest-increasing cancer, says Tod Huntley, an otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon with the Center for Ear, Nose, Throat and Allergy in Indianapolis.

“Ten years ago, if I saw four new thyroid cancer patients a year, it would have been a lot,” says G. Irene Minor, a radiation oncologist with Indiana University Health Central Indiana Cancer Center. “Now sometimes I see that many in a month, and I have seen three in a week.”

Thyroid cancer is more common in women younger than 45, Minor said. Doctors don’t know why that’s the case, but thyroid problems in general — such as hyper- or hypo-thyroidism — are more common in women.

The thyroid helps regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight. Thyroid cancer is three times more common in women than men.

Why is it more prevalent?

Experts remain divided on the cause of the increase.

Some attribute it to better screening. Many smaller tumors are picked up on ultrasounds or scans done for other reasons, says Michael Moore, a head and neck surgeon with Indiana University Simon Cancer Center.

Autopsies conducted on people who died for non-thyroid-related reasons reveal that as many as 80% of people older than 60 have a thyroid lump or malignancy that went undiagnosed, Moore says.

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