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What you should know about multiple myeloma

Michael Milder, MD

Michael Milder, MD
Oncologist, Swedish/Ballard

Recent news about the health of the distinguished journalist, Tom Brokaw, has focused attention on multiple myeloma, a malignant disease of the bone marrow. Myeloma is characterized by an uncontrolled growth of marrow plasma cells, which normally produce antibodies for our immune system. In its advanced stages, the overgrowth of these cells and their associated proteins can cause anemia, painful bone destruction, and kidney failure.
 
Until about 10 years ago, advanced myeloma was uniformly fatal with a typical survival of about 3 years. Recent years, however, have seen a remarkable improvement in treatment possibilities for myeloma. This began with the discovery that autologous stem cell transplantation could produce complete remissions and longer survival. In addition, a variety of chemotherapy drugs administered in combination with corticosteroid drugs, now produce responses in up to 80% of patients. This means about 80% of patients are surviving longer than 3 years after chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplant.
 
Not all patients with myeloma require chemotherapy. Myeloma can exist in an early stage for years. This is called smoldering myeloma. Chromosome analysis is routinely done on myeloma cells and allows us to identify patients with more aggressive forms of the disease, and those requiring treatment due to signs of organ damage or bone pain.
 
The Swedish Cancer Institute has been a participant in clinical trials leading to the development of some of the effective new treatments for myeloma. We are currently participating in a study of pomalidomide, a newly approved agent, for patients with relapsed myeloma. Another study offers an investigational drug, MLN9708, for newly diagnosed patients.
 
While the new drugs are more effective and better tolerated than previous chemotherapy, all  ...

Education programs after cancer

Brian Aylward, BS, CHES

Brian Aylward, BS, CHES
Health Education Specialist

At the Swedish Cancer Institute, we understand that completing treatment for cancer presents a new set of circumstances. For this reason, we offer free education programs to help patients explore these questions with others who are preparing to complete or who have completed cancer treatment.
 
In these eight-week groups you will have the opportunity to:
  • Make peace with the impact of cancer treatment
  • Reduce the stress cancer places on relationships
  • Overcome the fear of recurrence
  • Renew hope and increase resilience
 In a safe and supportive environment, individuals who are preparing to complete or have completed cancer treatment are invited to sign up for these practical life-skills classes. We will gently explore life after treatment and share plans for survivorship.
 
ACT – After Cancer Treatment: What’s Next?
An eight-week group designed for men and women to learn practical life-skills to help rebuild after active cancer treatment is ...

When stress takes a toll on your heart

Paul Huang, MD

Paul Huang, MD
Interventional Cardiologist & Medical Director, Swedish Heart & Vascular

When you face danger, your body’s built-in alarm system triggers the production of adrenalin and cortisol. Adrenalin makes your heart beat faster and cortisol produces sugar to help you physically and mentally react. Your body returns to normal when the danger is over.

Unlike cavemen, barbarians and knights, we don’t face extreme danger very often. Unfortunately, every-day stress also triggers your alarm system.

Work. Commute. Kids. Relatives. Friends. Death of a loved one. Money. Everything in life can cause stress.

Stress takes a toll on your body — including your heart. Because stress can linger, your body continues to produce extra adrenalin and cortisol.

When your body’s alarm system doesn’t turn off, you may eat more, exercise less, lose sleep, argue more, forget things, get depressed, or smoke or drink more than usual. These things put an added burden on your heart and increase your risk of heart disease. Recent studies have shown that laughter and positive thinking promote heart health, while anger and job stress can increase the risk of heart attacks.

Here are some tips to protect your heart from stress:

4 alternatives to a hysterectomy

Eleanor Friele, MD

Eleanor Friele, MD
Obstetrician/Gynecologist, Swedish Healthcare for Women

There are many reasons women need a hysterectomy.

Some of the most common are:

  • Heavy periods that are not controlled on hormones or an inability to take hormones to control the period.
  • Large fibroids that press on the bladder or the bowel, or are so large they can be felt on the abdomen.
  • Endometriosis (usually if this is requiring a hysterectomy it is due to both pain and bleeding).
There are several treatments to avoid hysterectomy:

  • Uterine artery embolization where microscopic plastic beads are inserted into the uterine arteries to block the majority of blood flow to the uterus.  This causes the uterus to slowly shrink in size.  The uterus may decrease to half of its normal size within 2-3 years.  Initially there is a lot of inflammation of the uterus as it loses its blood supply.  The pain associated with this will usually require ibuprofen and narcotics.  Most women stay in the hospital for overnight, and it is usually about 2 weeks before you are feeling well enough to resume normal activities.
  • Myomectomy, a surgical removal of the fibroids.  There are two ...

What to do for a sudden change in your hearing

Kathryn Samaniego
Sudden hearing loss is a condition that warrants you seeking medical management immediately.  If you notice a drastic change in your hearing, don’t assume its wax or fluid in your ear. It could be wax or fluid but it also may be a sudden hearing loss; either way you will likely benefit from medical treatment.

Sudden changes in hearing can happen overnight or over a few days and can be accompanied by loud ringing in the ear (tinnitus), dizziness/vertigo and/or fullness or pressure in the same ear.  They typically will occur in one ear and in very rare cases will occur on both sides.

The National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports the incidence of sudden sensorineural hearing loss at approximately 4,000 new cases a year.  Sensorineural is a term used to denote hearing loss that occurs at the cochlea, the organ for hearing.

There are many causes of sudden hearing loss but it is  ...

Are you at risk for heart disease?

Nimish Muni, MD

Nimish Muni, MD
Cardiologist

About half of all Americans have at least one of the three main risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Other risk factors include diabetes, overweight/obesity, poor diet, inactivity, alcohol use and family history.

More people die from heart disease than any other medical condition. Controlling these risk factors is the most effective method of prevention.

What is your risk for heart disease? Find out by taking a free online Heart Risk Test.

If you need care, we have a team of cardiologists who can evaluate your risk, show you how to reduce that risk, and help you take the first steps to a healthy future.

Five tips for finding a cardiologist:

  1. Convenience. Care close to home or work makes life easier. Swedish has more than 35 cardiologists in 20 locations throughout the Greater Puget Sound area.

  2. Credentials. Cardiologists at Swedish are board certified by their national professional organizations.

  3. Quality. The American College of Cardiology has recognized Swedish cardiologists for being leaders in safe, high-quality care that reduces the risk of death among heart patients. Find out more about our quality outcomes.

  4. Reputation ...

Parent's guide to newborn testing, screening, and prevention measures

Robyn K. Rogers, MD

Robyn K. Rogers, MD
Pediatric Hospitalist

When picturing the first days of an infant’s life, what we look forward to the most is love. We express our love in so many ways: skin-to-skin, breastfeeding, swaddling and snuggling. 
 
Love also means keeping them safe. 
 
Advances in maternal-infant health are one of the greatest success stories of the 20th century, with a drop in the death rate of 99%. But some of those dangers only stay in the past through constant vigilance. Behind every screening test and preventive measure is a careful, research-driven rationale. Here are seven newborn tests, screenings, and prevention measures you should know about:
 
Vitamin K injection 
Vitamin K is vital for blood to clot properly. Newborns cannot make Vitamin K and it is poorly transferred in breast milk. Without this injection, babies are at risk for spontaneous bleeding from the umbilical cord, mucus membranes, even in the brain. Giving Vitamin K has greatly reduced this "hemorrhagic disease of the newborn," but rates are increasing as more parents refuse it. Oral Vitamin K has not been shown to prevent this potentially devastating disease. 
 
Hepatitis B vaccine
This is an anti-cancer vaccine. Before this vaccine existed, approximately 10,000 kids under age 10 contracted hepatitis B each year. Most had no known exposure to it. Kids are more likely than adults to get very sick and to have complications. Vaccination at birth has greatly reduced rates of pediatric liver cancer due to hepatitis B. 
 
Antibiotic eye ointment
This prevents bacterial eye infections. Some of these infections are associated with sexually transmitted bacteria, but not all of them are. Negative testing or a monogamous relationship does not ...
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