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'prevention' posts

Preventing Pertussis

We currently have a pertussis (whooping cough) epidemic occurring in Washington State. Infants under 6 months of age are particularly vulnerable but anyone, even if you are fully vaccinated, could potentially contract the disease and spread it.

(Is it really an epidemic? Yes: an epidemic (of a disease) affects many persons at the same time, and spreading from person to person in a locality where the disease is not permanently prevalent.)

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a very contagious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. Among vaccine-preventable diseases, pertussis is one of the most commonly occurring ones in the United States (CDC).

What are the symptoms of whooping cough?

The early signs for pertussis are ...

What you need to know about breast screening

In 2009, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) created significant controversy and confusion for both providers and patients when they revised their breast screening guidelines. (The USPSTF is promoted as an unbiased group that reviews relevant studies and makes guideline recommendations. Specialists may be asked to review the guidelines but no breast specialists (surgeons or radiologists) were on the actual review panel.)

The guideline development process aims to weigh the potential benefit of services against the potential harm, and make recommendations accordingly. For breast screening, the harms considered were “psychological harms,” imaging tests and biopsies in women who were ultimately found not to have cancer, inconvenience, and the possibility of treating a cancer that might not have been life threatening. Radiation exposure was considered to be a minor concern. Regarding benefits – the only benefit considered was reduction in death rates from breast cancer.

These USPSTF guidelines recommend...

Prostate Cancer Screening

This week a large European consortium updated the data on a huge study on prostate cancer screening. The study included over 160,000 men in eight European countries followed for an average of 11 years. The men were randomly assigned to prostate cancer screening with the PSA blood test or no screening. The primary endpoint of the study was death from prostate cancer. The current report in the New England Journal of Medicine gave an additional two years of follow-up data over the prior reports.

As expected with longer follow-up, the benefits from screening have become more clear. The study now shows a 29% decrease in the number of men dying from prostate cancer in the screened group. This confirms the expected benefit for early detection.

This publication comes at a time of great controversy regarding prostate cancer screening here in the United States...

Mercer Island Half Marathon and Colon Cancer Prevention

On Sunday, March 25, 2012, the Mercer Island Rotary Club will be hosting the 40th Annual Mercer Island Half Marathon. Children and adults of all ages participate and we anticipate more of the same this year. In addition to the half marathon race around the Island, there will also be a 10K Run, a 5K Run and Walk and a Kids’ Dash. So anyone can participate!

Swedish and the Swedish Cancer Institute are sponsors of this signature event. We are so excited to be part of this event again. One of the main purposes of the day is to raise awareness of colon cancer prevention.

In addition to the various runs and walks, you can still visit, have fun and maybe learn something new. You can also visit the “COLOSSAL COLON”! For the first time you get to walk through the colon and see what the inside looks like! Just don’t get lost in there. Don’t worry, it doesn’t smell!

This year will be particularly special as the 40th anniversary run. In honor of the anniversary, the Mercer Island Rotary Club has collected the “40 Faces of Colon Cancer”. This is a terrific idea. It’s a way to make colon cancer personal and real. Patients of all ages, races and backgrounds have agreed to share their personal stories and cancer experiences. Each story is unique as are the individuals with cancer. What they have in common is a passion to raise awareness of colon cancer and the need to get screened.

Colon cancer is unique among cancers in that nearly all can be prevented with appropriate screening.

Upcoming livestream on colonoscopy, colon cancer, and colon health

If you're 50 (or nearing it), you should be thinking about getting your colonoscopy. Not a pleasant thought, but it's important for everyone to get screened at 50. If you don't know much about colonoscopies, why they are important, or have questions that you're too embarassed to ask, tune in to the livestream next Wednesday between 9 a.m. and noon (Pacific Time) at www.swedish.org/colonlive.

Drs. Raman Menon and Nicholas Procaccini are hosting a livestream to discuss the benefits of colonoscopy, and why it is important that everyone at age 50 get screened. Patients at risk and those with family members who have had colon cancer may need earlier screening. March is colon cancer awareness month – and Swedish is committed to identifying new ways of communicating to better inform and to provide a new level of education to the community.

You'll be able to watch them chat live, narrate recorded colonoscopy procedures, and answer your questions live (and you can submit them anonymously - so no need to feel embarassed).

What is colon cancer?

Colon, or colorectal, cancer is cancer that starts in the large intestine (colon) or the rectum (end of the colon). Other types of cancer that can affect the colon include lymphoma, carcinoid tumors, melanoma, and sarcomas. These are often rare but can often be detected by a colonoscopy.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is the endoscopic examination of the large bowel and the distal part of the small bowel with a CCD camera or a fiber optic camera on a flexible tube passed through the anus. By having a colonoscopy, doctors are able to see potential ulcerations or polyps within the colon. During the procedure, if these are found, doctors have the opportunity to biopsy or remove suspected lesions.

Why a livestream of a colonoscopy?

The American Cancer Society says that colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. However, if caught early it often leads to a complete cure. Education and awareness is our goal. Because of awareness, the death rate for colon cancer has dropped in the last 15 years ...

Are You Up to Date on Your Pap Smear?

Recent changes to Pap guidelines may have you wondering when exactly you need to have a pap smear and in turn, how often you really need an annual exam with your gynecologist. Here I’m going to review the new pap guidelines so you can determine if you are up to date! Of course, every patient should check with their physician about what they recommend regarding the timing of cervical cancer screening because some specific populations may have different recommendations. These are just the general guidelines.

Pap smears are a screening test for cervical cancer. They have helped decrease the incidence of cervical cancer by more than 50% in the last 30 years. Over the last decade we’ve also begun testing for HPV (or Human Papillomavirus) which is by far the most common cause of abnormal pap smears and cervical cancer. It is an incredibly common sexually transmitted virus that can be spread by genital to genital contact but also oral to genital and manual to genital contact. It has been estimated that 75 to 80 percent of sexually active adults will acquire a genital tract HPV infection before the age of 50. Luckily, most HPV-infected women, especially younger women, will mount an effective immune response to the virus and will never develop dysplasia or cancer.

HPV is not like herpes —YOU CAN GET RID OF IT! The amount of time it takes to get rid of the virus varies but most experts think it takes an average of 8-24 months. Women with persistent HPV infections are more likely to get dysplasia and if it goes undetected or untreated, over time it can develop into cancer. HPV infections of the cervix do not cause symptoms and can only be detected by pap screening. Unfortunately we don’t have a cure for HPV, but vaccinations are available and FDA approved for girls and now boys ages 9-26. More on HPV is sure to show up in future blog posts, so stay tuned!

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends starting pap screening ....

How to prepare for a colonoscopy & what it's like

In many cases, people who have had colonoscopy will say that the procedure itself was fine, since it is performed while the patient is under sedation. However, people tend to feel less favorable about the prep involved prior to the procedure. I recently had my first colonoscopy and decided to document my personal experience of the prep process on video to share with others.

Other frequently asked questions about colonoscopy:

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