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Health Care Reform, Swine Flu Top Health News for 2009
Date:12/30/2009

the CDC has confirmed 36,163 hospitalizations and 1,630 deaths linked to influenza since the end of August -- a number that is well within rates for prior flu seasons. Experts now worry that a second, winter wave of H1N1 flu is yet to come, although the virus remains tough to predict.

3. Changes in Cancer Screening Guidelines Spark Controversy. It used to be so simple: at a certain age and risk profile, Americans were advised to get various cancer screens at predictable intervals. That all changed in 2009. Early in the year, a long-simmering debate over the effectiveness of the PSA blood test for prostate cancer boiled over, with two major studies offering up arguments both pro and con for the test.

And in the fall, experts at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advised women to wait until age 21 to get their first Pap smear, and reduce frequency of testing to once every two years.

But the biggest firestorm centered on the mammogram, after a federal panel of experts in November advised that women in their 40s no longer needed the annual breast cancer screen. Breast cancer survivors, celebrities and groups as prestigious as the American Cancer Society all opposed the new recommendations, urging that decisions on mammography remain between a woman and her physician.

4. Obama Lifts Ban on Stem Cell Research. Early in March, President Obama signed a measure lifting an eight-year ban on federally funded research using embryonic stem cells sourced from all but 21 pre-existing lines. The ban, implemented early in President George W. Bush's first term, drew fierce criticism from scientists who said it stymied potentially lifesaving research, but it was supported by those who believe that tampering with embryos involves the taking of human life. Earlier this month, the U.S. National Institutes of Health announced the release of 13 new embryonic stem cell lines for use in taxpayer-funded research, with
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