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What do parathyroid glands do?

Our parathyroid glands are four tiny glands that lie in our neck, just to the sides of our thyroid gland. When normal, they are the size of a grain of rice or a small flat bean.

These glands control calcium balance in our bodies. They do this by producing a hormone named parathyroid hormone (PTH). PTH acts on our bones, kidneys, and gut to keep the right amount of calcium in the right places.

When one or more of these glands become abnormal, they produce too much of this hormone (PTH). This can cause our bones to...

Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations Revisited

Are you confused about breast cancer screening recommendations? If you are, you are not alone.

Multiple organizations have come out with conflicting studies, data, and recommendations. Those advocating for reduced screening argue that screening does not improve the death rate from breast cancer; that women who have biopsies that are found to be benign suffer significant psychological harm; and that cancers are found that would never cause death.

Significant flaws have been found in these arguments by physicians who have committed their careers to understanding and treating breast cancer. There are multiple problems with the scientific methodology, assumptions, endpoints and analyses used in these critiques of mammogram screening recommendations. One problem is that medical science currently does not have the ability to distinguish between lethal cancers and those that will not cause death. Based on rigorous scientific data, we do know that the best way to improve survival from breast cancer is to detect it before it becomes clinically obvious and to treat it early.

None of the major oncology organizations support the guidelines calling for reduced screening. A letter to the New England Journal of Medicine ....

Lung Cancer Screening Saves Lives: So Why Aren't We Doing It?

The American Cancer Society recently came out with a recommendation about lung cancer screening for high-risk patients:

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Do you have chronic diarrhea?

Many people suffer from chronic diarrhea, not realizing that many times the cause can be found and corrected. Chronic diarrhea is defined as loose stools that last for at least 4 weeks. It usually means more than 3 or 4 loose bowel movements per day. Chronic diarrhea can have a substantial negative impact on quality of life and overall health. Many people with this problem have to stay near a toilet and are afraid to even leave the house because of fear that they will not be able to control their bowel action. It is particularly troubling if there is associated incontinence.

Chronic diarrhea can be caused by intestinal infections, endocrine disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, food sensitivity or allergy and a side effect of medications. These problems can often be diagnosed with a careful history and appropriate diagnostic testing.

There is one particular ..

Two key questions to answer in a suspected cancer workup

There are two questions to be answered if cancer is suspected:

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What test is best for breast screening?

I often get asked why can’t a woman just get a breast MRI rather than a mammogram. The imaging tests that we do for breast cancer screening and evaluation of abnormalities have different strengths and weaknesses.

Mammograms are very useful as a screening tool. They can be done quickly and read efficiently by the breast radiologist. They have minimal radiation exposure. They can be done by a mobile coach in locations that are more convenient to patients. They are excellent for identifying abnormal calcium deposits within the breast tissue and for seeing disrupted tissue and masses. They may be less effective in women who have dense breast tissue but the digital techniques have helped some with that. 

Ultrasound is a great tool for evaluating a mass or tissue asymmetry found on mammograms. It can distinguish between a benign appearing solid mass, a fluid filled cyst, a mass that is suspicious for cancer, or normal appearing breast tissue. There is no radiation exposure. It is less reliable as a screening tool because it can be dependent on the skill of the physician or technologist doing the procedure. It is possible to miss abnormalities or to mis-interpret normal findings as abnormal. There are studies underway evaluating using an automated version of ultrasound as a screening test but the results are not conclusive and this is not considered ready for standard practice.

Breast MRI is a highly sensitive test that is very dependent on...

Dodging A Bullet (Spike's Ordeal)

This post is reposted with permission from Spike O’Neill – see his original post here.

Some of you may have heard of my recent health scare. For those of you who heard and sent along your well wishes, I thank you. For anyone who hasn't, please allow me to share a scary story of ignorance and arrogance that almost cost me big time.

About a month ago, I was carrying my 8 year old daughter on my shoulders. We were leaving a family outing and she was griping about being tired. I didn't have to carry her very far, but when I put her down I noticed a weird ache in my jaw and in both arms, as well as a dull thick ache and a kind of puffiness in my hands. It went away pretty quickly and I blew it off as a pinched nerve or something. But when I felt the same thing a week later after lifting a few boxes in my garage I was a bit more concerned.

I tried again to dismiss the incident, but I have to give it up for my family, who INSISTED that I go see my family doctor just to be sure. I saw my Doc, who had just given me a complete physical a couple months ago, He checked me over, gave me an EKG and suggested a stress test just to be sure. I figured what the hell? Better to be safe than sorry right?

I had no idea how good that advice really was.

I took my stress test 4 days later at Swedish Hospital's Cherry Hill facility. A stress test is just you on a treadmill, wired to a bunch of stuff that measures heart function, pulse and blood pressure. Well, the normal EKG they gave me before the test started went completely sideways a few minutes later when they fired up the speed and incline of the treadmill. That's when they brought in Dr. Peter Demopulos, cardiologist.

Dr. Demopulos said that...

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