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Brain scanners for benefit scammers, and other health stories

Our roundup of the health news headlines on Tuesday 13 December.

This morning, the Telegraph reports that disability benefit claimants could be hooked-up to a brain scanner to find out if they are ‘genuinely experiencing pain’. The news comes from a report by the Royal Society about the advances in brain imaging techniques which ‘could soon be used to determine whether people are unfit for work or merely malingering’. It looks like just one step up from the scene in the Office where Gareth suggests sticking pins in the legs of people in wheelchairs to test if they really are disabled.

The Telegraph seems to have already made up its mind on the outcome of these proposed tests with the headline: ‘Brain scans could tell if benefit cheats really are in pain’, or maybe in the Telegraph’s world everyone on benefits is a benefit cheat?

The Mail has a large map of England depicting the ‘postcode lottery that blights our dementia care’. The accompanying article reports that, in some parts of England, people with dementia are 53 times less likely to be given drugs to combat their symptoms than those in other areas.

The Department of Health report also found that, in places such as Hampshire and Cumbria, GPs are twice as likely to spot Alzheimer’s disease than in others. The Mail reports that the Government has ‘repeatedly promised’ to make dementia a priority by ‘ensuring GPs send higher numbers of patients for memory tests’. Just to reiterate, that’s the government telling GPs to make more referrals.

One in 100 secondary schoolchildren is affected by ME according to a report in the Guardian. The news comes from a study in the medical journal, BMJ Open, which found ‘far more children than previously thought’ are missing school due to undiagnosed chronic fatigue syndrome.

The findings, which indicate 1% of secondary school pupils suffer from ME, are in contrast to two previous studies which estimated that the rate was just 0.06%. The research is based on a study of 2,855 pupils aged 11-16 in Bath. However, the Department of Education warned everyone not to get too excited, believing it ‘unwise’ to draw any conclusions from a study of three schools in Bath.

Finally, when the pickings of health stories in the nationals are slim, you can always rely on the Mail for a good cancer-busting story and today is no exception.

The paper reports that a new vaccine could help to beat 70% of cancers, according to research from the University of Georgia and the Mayo Clinic in the US. ‘In tests it shrunk breast tumours by 80%, and researchers believe it could also tackle prostate, pancreatic, bowel and ovarian cancers.’  The drug, which could be on the market by 2020, harnesses the power of the immune system to fight tumours instead of directly attacking cancerous cells.