Blog Posts

Concerning Colorectal Cancer

March 17th, 2019

With cancer, the cells of a part of your body grow out of control. When this occurs with the cells of your colon or rectum, it’s colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is an equal-opportunity disease. It affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups. Aging is a key factor for this disease, so it’s more common in people ages 50 and older.

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the US, excluding skin cancer. ACS estimates there will be more than 100,000 new cases of colon cancer and more than 44,000 new cases of rectal cancer in this country in 2019. Colorectal cancer is also expected to claim more than 51,000 lives in 2019.

On a positive note, death rates from colorectal cancer have dropped over the last 30 years in both men and women, and are still dropping. This decrease is attributed to more attention being given to screening and early detection, as well as the development of improved methods of diagnosis and treatment.

As with other cancers, colorectal cancer is caused by changes, or mutations, in your cells’ DNA, which controls cell growth. Some of these mutations are inherited; they’re passed along in families. These include certain genetic disorders such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). With FAP, many growths called polyps form on the inner lining of the colon and rectum. Most colorectal cancers start as polyps.

Other mutations are acquired, meaning they occur during your lifetime and you don’t pass them on to your children. There are certain risk factors that can lead to these mutations in your DNA. Some risk factors you can’t control, like your age, but others you can control, and doing that can help you lower your chance of developing this cancer.

Many controllable risk factors are linked to your lifestyle habits, including diet, weight and exercise. The risk of developing colorectal cancer is higher in people who are overweight or obese, are inactive, or eat a diet high in red meats and processed foods. Other lifestyle habits that can have a negative impact include smoking and heavy drinking.

Colorectal cancer might not have symptoms in its earliest stages, and some of its symptoms are common to other disorders. But if you experience any unusual symptoms for four weeks or longer, see your doctor right away. Symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Diarrhea, constipation or a feeling that your bowel is not emptying completely
  • Blood in your stool that makes it appear black
  • Bright red blood coming from your rectum
  • Frequent gas pains, bloating or cramps
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Feeling very tired
  • A feeling of fullness in your belly, even after not eating for a while

If your doctor suspects colorectal cancer after you describe your symptoms, he or she will likely perform a digital rectal exam (DRE) to feel for lumps in your rectum. Your doctor may then order certain tests to confirm a diagnosis. Among these tests are a fecal occult blood test (FOBT), which looks for blood in your stool, and a barium enema, during which x-rays are taken of your colon and rectum after you drink a contrast liquid called barium.

Your doctor may also order a sigmoidoscopy, which looks inside your rectum and lower colon with a lighted scope, and/or a colonoscopy, which looks at your rectum and deeper into the colon. These tests are used to look for and remove polyps and/or take tissue samples for examination under a microscope for signs of cancer, which is called a biopsy.

Surgery is the most common treatment for colorectal cancer. Your doctor will remove the areas affected by the cancer using one of several techniques, which cut out varying sections of the rectum and/or colon. The technique used depends on the stage of the cancer and how far it has spread. But all of the techniques have the same goal: to remove as much of the cancer as possible.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are other options that are sometimes used, often following surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. Ablation is another treatment option that destroys cancerous tumors without surgery to remove them.

Ablation can be accomplished using radiofrequency waves, microwaves, ethanol or cryosurgery. These treatments are performed through a probe or needle that is guided by ultrasound or CT scanning technology.

Targeted therapy and immunotherapy are newer methods for treating colorectal cancer. Targeted therapy works differently than standard chemotherapy. It uses drugs aimed at specific genes and protein changes known to cause the cancer. Immunotherapy works to boost your body’s own immune system to fight against the cancer cells.

While not all cases of colorectal cancer can be prevented, you can take steps to lower your risk. Make changes to those controllable risk factors: eat healthy, manage your weight, exercise, stop smoking and moderate your drinking. Also, follow your doctor’s advice about when to get screening exams for colorectal cancer.

The outlook for people with colorectal cancer varies by the extent of the cancer, but is best when the cancer is found in its early stages. That can only be done if you’re vigilant about managing your risk factors, monitoring your body for symptoms and getting screened appropriately. Do that and you can be a survivor.

Fact graphics courtesy of
Fight Colorectal Cancer

LipiFlow: A Defining Therapy for Dry Eye

March 11th, 2019

Among eye disorders, dry eye disease is one of the most common. It affects 30 million Americans. It’s also one of the most uncomfortable. With it, your eyes feel dry and may itch, sting and/or burn. There’s also a feeling you’ve got something foreign in your eye. And even though it’s called dry eye, your eyes may tear a lot, too.

Dry eye disease is generally divided into two types. One is the aqueous deficient type, which means you’re not producing enough tears. The other is the evaporative type, which means your tears aren’t staying on your eyeball long enough to maintain a good protective layer on your eye’s surface.

The majority of people who have the evaporative type of dry eye disease, the more common of the two types, have a condition called Meibomian gland dysfunction, or MGD. The Meibomian glands make the oil component of tears. Oil is necessary so that your tears maintain that protective layer and leave your eyes with a good tear film.

Meibomian glands are located in the eyelids. There are about 25 to 40 glands in your upper eyelid and 20 to 30 in your lower. MGD is generally from a blockage of some of these glands with debris. This prevents the glands from secreting their oils effectively.

Traditionally, treatment for MGD included warm compresses over the eyelids to loosen any clogs in the glands. This was usually combined with manual massage of the glands to dislodge the debris blocking them.

These methods have had limited results for several reasons, one of the main being patients simply don’t do it. The treatment routine can be difficult to keep up with, so patients often don’t comply with it.

Another reason for failure may be that the heat from the warm compresses is insulated from the glands by the skin of the outer eyelid, so there’s not enough heat by the time it gets to the glands to make a difference. Also, patients often don’t have the know-how or dexterity to apply enough pressure while massaging the eyelids to be effective.

Another option to treat MGD was the physical expression of the Meibomian glands by a trained ophthalmologist. Unfortunately, this could be a painful experience for patients due to the heavy pressure on the eye necessary to accomplish the goal.

Then along comes the LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation System, which signals a breakthrough in the treatment of MGD and, in turn, dry eye disease. LipiFlow is designed to address the limitations of  traditional treatments.

LipiFlow combines the controlled application of therapeutic heat with a gentle, pulsating massage from a hand-held device. The two functions of the device work to liquefy then remove clogging debris from the glands, enabling them to function efficiently.

The LipiFlow device has two components. The first is a small eyepiece that resembles a large contact lens. The eyepiece slides beneath your eyelid and over the round portion of your eye. It delivers heat outward to the eyelids. It also protects the eye itself from the heat.

The second piece of the device sits outside your eye on the eyelid. It provides the pulsating massage of the glands that gently squeezes them to open up the blockages and express the oils. While not considered especially painful, the LipiFlow procedure is generally performed using drops to anesthetize your eyes and make you more comfortable.

LipiFlow has proven effective at treating MGD and dry eye. Clinical studies show it provides better results than traditional methods alone. In one study, patients receiving LipiFlow had a statistically significant improvement in objective measurements of Meibomian gland function and dry eye symptoms, while warm compresses did not.

In another study, the treatment increased the amount of time people with contact lenses, who are prone to getting dry eye, could wear their lenses by four hours. As a contact lens wearer, I can attest that that, too, is significant.

One of the physicians I work with offers LipiFlow at his practice, and he’s noted excellent results with his patients first hand. In his experience, 80 to 90 percent of his patients had significant improvement in their dry eye symptoms after adding LipiFlow to their existing treatment regimen. That’s pretty impressive.

LipiFlow is performed in your ophthalmologist’s office, and you can drive and do your regular activities immediately after. In some cases, patients notice some improvement in their symptoms right away. Most will begin to see a difference after three weeks, and the full benefit of the LipiFlow is usually seen by six weeks post-procedure.

There’re already 30 million Americans with dry eye disease, and that numbers is just going to get larger, mostly because we can’t put down our laptops and phones. When you use digital devices, you don’t blink as often as when you’re not in front of a screen, and that can lead to dry eye.

At least now you know there’s an effective treatment for dry eye disease if you should need it. But give your eyes a break once in a while and blink!

Defining Diet and Nutrition

March 4th, 2019

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word diet? Did you immediately think of a restrictive eating regimen that deprives you of your favorite foods? I think most people look at “diet” that way, and because they see it as depriving, they consider diet a bad thing.

For most people, a diet is a tool for losing weight. And according to a survey spearheaded by the International Food and Information Council, 77 percent of Americans are trying to lose weight. The sad truth, however, is most of them will fail to achieve sustaining weight loss if they approach their diets in the traditional way.

The better way to look at diet is in the context of overall nutrition. Nutrition is more than eating healthy food. It’s your total nourishment. And diet is more than an eating plan. It’s what you eat and drink every day, as well as the physical and emotional conditions associated with consuming them.

Having a nutritious diet is more than eating good food to fill you up. It’s also getting enough nutrients to keep you healthy and full of energy to perform your daily activities at a high level. A side benefit of good nutrition is you naturally get to and maintain a healthy body weight. (You get even better results when you add regular exercise.)

A critical feature of good nutrition and a healthy diet is variety. Eating a wide variety of foods helps ensure you get the important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your body needs to function properly.

One recommendation is to keep your plate colorful with foods of a variety of hues. The elements that produce the color in these foods are actually nutritious substances. These substances can help lower your chances of getting certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease, as well as some cancers.

Fruits and vegetables are among the most colorful foods. They provide added protection by decreasing free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage cells, which can, as a result, lead to the development of many diseases.

A nutritious diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. It also includes whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, protein in the form of lean meats and seafood. A healthy diet doesn’t eliminate any group of foods, like some popular fad diets today, but instead concentrates on portion sizes.

For help with food choices and portion sizes, consult the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture. And don’t forget to balance your healthy eating with physical activity.

With a healthy, nutritious diet, you don’t have to deprive yourself of all the foods you love. But think about these foods before you eat them and decide which ones are really important to you.

Consider eating only the foods you absolutely love and avoiding the foods you find mediocre. That way you can eliminate the foods you can really live without and replace them with healthier options like fruits and vegetables.

By assessing your eating patterns, you can mindfully include foods you love that might be considered unhealthy. With careful planning, you can eat those foods but in a more controlled manner.

Now you know that diet is not a dirty word, and it’s possible to eat healthy and still have your favorite foods. Here are a few other tips for enjoying the eating experience, courtesy of the University of Minnesota:

  • Start small. Pick one thing to change and focus on that until you get comfortable with it, then move on.
  • Acknowledge and honor your hunger. Pay attention to what your body wants. Allow yourself to feel hunger. It’s very satisfying to eat after experiencing hunger.
  • Get rid of distractions. Turn off the televisions, computers and cells phones. Focus on your food.
  • Lose the “good” and “bad” labels. If you’re putting energy into taking better care of yourself, then you deserve treats, snacks and junk food from time to time without judgment.
  • Eat with others. Share the pleasure of the food itself with others. You get valuable emotional support from family members and friends when you eat together.
  • Stop before you feel full. It takes your brain about 20 minutes before it gets the message your belly is full. But there’s a point before that when your hunger is satiated. Keep in mind that a typical portion is more than you need.

Diets that restrict calories can do more harm than good. Often, people lose weight initially, but the weight loss is usually unsustainable. When they go off the diet, they generally gain all the weight back, and sometimes more.

Calorie-restrictive diets are not healthy for your body. You need to eat enough calories for your body to function properly. A nutritious, balanced diet gives you all the calories, vitamins and nutrients you need. It also helps you, along with exercise, to lose and/or maintain weight by keeping your metabolism operating optimally.

So, eat well and enjoy!

Caring For Baby Teeth

February 17th, 2019

How to get your child started on the right path to good oral hygiene.

Long before they take their first steps and possibly before they utter their first words, babies will develop their first couple of teeth. Typically, it’s the lower front teeth or central incisors that show up first, and when they do, it’s time to start caring for them.

https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/baby-teeth

A baby’s 20 primary teeth are already present in the jaws at birth and typically begin to appear when a baby is between 6 months and 1 year.

Though baby teeth will eventually fall out, decayed baby teeth can lead to poor speech development, negatively impact a child’s ability to digest his or her food and cause the permanent teeth to come in crooked.

That’s why it’s important for parents to begin caring for their child’s teeth as soon as they show up. It’s also important to note that caring for a baby’s teeth is a little different than caring for an older child’s teeth.

For those first few baby teeth, it’s best for parents to clean them as well as the front of the tongue using a damp washcloth or pediatrician-approved finger brush dotted with what amounts to a grain of rice worth of cavity-preventing fluoride toothpaste.

Cleaning a baby’s gums with either the toothpaste-dotted wash cloth or the finger brush is also recommended as this helps to fight bacterial growth long before the permanent teeth show up.

One thing to keep in mind when using a finger brush is to throw out the brush after a month or so and start using a new one as the brush tends to become a breeding ground for bacteria that can eventually damage the teeth and gums.

As baby’s grow into toddlers they tend to want to try brushing their teeth themselves, but parents should always monitor their toddler’s brushing habits and perhaps even finish the job for them to ensure the cleaning is thorough.

Of course, parents will eventually find that one of the more difficult tasks they’ll take on is to get their children to brush their teeth regularly. There are a couple of tips parents can follow to make sure tooth-brushing is not perceived as a chore.

For starters, let children pick out their own toothbrush. A toothbrush with a favorite character or color will help make the job of tooth-brushing seem more fun to the child. So too will brushing together with other family members.


Select a specific time, such as right before bed, and have the entire family brush its teeth together. That will allow the child to see the job of tooth-brushing as a family activity during which the child can learn good habits by watching mommy and daddy.

Another good idea is to be flexible, especially when it comes to what toothpaste your child uses. As children develop their own tastes, they may not like the taste of the typical minty adult-style toothpaste that mommy and daddy use, and that’s OK.

There are plenty of child-oriented toothpastes available that provide the same cavity-prevention and cleaning power as adult toothpaste but come in flavors that children will like better such as strawberry or bubble gum.

Again, the idea is to get your child into the habit of brushing regularly so that they develop good habits and maintain good oral health. The best way to do that is to get them started early and find ways to make tooth-brushing an activity they actually look forward to.

Holding Off Heart Disease

February 17th, 2019

It’s February, and you know what that means – it’s American Heart Month. It’s that annual opportunity to review what we know about heart disease. And it’s our chance to be sure we’re doing everything we can to prevent or manage it in our lives.

After all, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US. In fact, one in every four deaths in this country is the result of heart disease, to the tune of about 610,000 deaths each year. What’s more, almost half of all Americans are at risk for developing the condition. The good news is heart disease is preventable in most people.

Heart disease encompasses a wide array of different conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels. These include arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects, heart infections and the main form of heart disease, coronary artery disease (CAD).

 

Heart disease is often grouped with stroke and related conditions under the more global term cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD involves a number of diseases of the heart and circulatory system. Other conditions that fall under CVD include heart attack, heart failure and valve disorders.

While stroke, heart attack and the other CVD disorders are serious conditions, we’ll concentrate our discussion today on heart disease and primarily on CAD, its most prevalent form.

CAD is a disorder of your coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply your heart muscle with fresh, oxygenated blood. In CAD, the coronary arteries become blocked with a fatty material called plaque, which prevents the oxygen and nutrients from getting to your heart. This can lead to a heart attack and to the death of  heart muscle tissue.

Common symptoms of CAD include chest pain or discomfort, a sensation of pressure or squeezing in the chest, shortness of breath, nausea and feelings of indigestion or gas. Symptoms of heart disease can differ in women and may include dizziness or lightheadedness; anxiety; jaw, neck or back pain; cold sweats and fainting.

There are certain factors that put you at a higher risk for developing CAD. They can also make it more likely existing heart disease will get worse. Some of the risk factors, such as age, having a family history of heart disease or a history of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy cannot be changed.

Age is a big factor. Your risk increases if you’re a women over age 55 or a man over 45. The same is true if your father or brother had heart disease before age 55, or your mother or sister had it before age 65. These are all things you can’t do anything about.

There are other risk factors, however, that you can control. These include having high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol, having diabetes or prediabetes, smoking, being overweight or obese, being physically inactive, eating an unhealthy diet and drinking a lot of alcohol. These are the risk factors you should be putting your energy into.

The best way to determine your risk for CAD or other type of heart disease is by partnering with your doctor. He or she will evaluate your blood pressure, cholesterol level, blood glucose to check for diabetes, weight, personal and family medical history, and lifestyle.

Your doctor can then recommend steps to lower your risk for heart disease or treat the condition if you already have it.

If you are at risk for heart disease or have been diagnosed with it, there are some steps you can take to reduce the chance of getting heart disease or keep it from getting worse. Your doctor may recommend simple lifestyle changes and/or drug treatments.

One of the changes you can make to reduce your risk of heart disease or slow its progression is by controlling your high cholesterol and high blood pressure. This can often be done by adjusting your diet and getting more exercise, but it may require medications. Be sure to have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly.

Lifestyle changes are pretty much common sense. They including eating a heart-healthy diet rich in high-fiber foods and low in saturated and trans fats; becoming more active; getting and staying at a healthy weight; quitting smoking; drinking alcohol in moderation and managing stress, which can have a negative effect on your heart.

If you’re at high risk for heart disease or already have it, your doctor may recommend you take an aspirin every day to reduce your chances of having a heart attack. Don’t take aspirin on your own without talking to your doctor first, however. It isn’t the best course of action for all people.

Now that you’ve been reminded about the basics of heart disease and CAD, you can better take care of your heart health.

Learn About Low Vision

February 10th, 2019

Do you worry about your vision? Many of us do. Vision loss is a common condition in the United States. It’s estimated that 25 million Americans are blind or visually impaired. One in 28 Americans ages 40 and older have low vision. Since low vision is so prevalent, I thought we ought to learn more about it.

First of all, let’s define low vision. It’s a significant visual impairment that can’t be corrected by any type of prescription lenses, or by medication or surgery. Low vision can make it difficult to perform your daily activities, as well as to read, use a computer, drive and watch TV. This can make you feel cut off from the world around you.

Low vision can also affect your mobility. It can interfere with your ability to get around independently. When mobility and communication are hampered, it can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, and quality of life can be negatively affected in some people.

Eye disorders and injuries to the eye are the primary causes of low vision. These include diseases like macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, and genetic conditions like retinitis pigmentosa, as well as conditions like cataracts and traumatic brain injury, including head injuries, brain tumors and stroke.

There are a few common types of low vision. The first is the loss of central vision in which there’s a blur or blind spot in the middle of your vision, but your peripheral, or side, vision remains intact. This can occur with macular degeneration because the macula is responsible for central vision.

Low Vision Chart

  • 20/30 to 20/60, this is considered mild vision loss, or near-normal vision.

  • 20/70 to 20/160, this is considered moderate visual impairment, or moderate low vision.

  • 20/200 to 20/400, this is considered severe visual impairment, or severe low vision.

  • 20/500 to 20/1,000, this is considered profound visual impairment, or profound low vision.

  • less than 20/1,000, this is considered near-total visual impairment, or near-total blindness.

  • no light perception, this is considered total visual impairment, or total blindness.

 

Other types of low vision include loss of peripheral vision. With this, you won’t be able to distinguish anything at one or both sides, or anything directly above and/or below eye level. Loss of peripheral vision can happen with glaucoma and stroke. With blurred vision, both your near and far vision is out of focus. Cataracts can cause this.

There’s also a condition called generalized haze, when it seems like there’s a film covering everything you look at. Extreme light sensitivity is another common type of low vision. This is when regular amounts of light feel overwhelming. With night blindness, another type, you cannot see outside at night or in dimly-lit places indoors. Various eye disorders can cause these conditions.

Anyone can be affected by low vision, but it’s more common as we get older. That’s true, in part, because conditions that often cause low vision, such as macular degeneration and glaucoma, most commonly develop as people age.

Low vision is more frequently seen in people over age 45 and even more frequently seen in people over age 75. In fact, one in six adults over age 45 has low vision, and one in four adults over 75 has it.

The best way to catch and control the diseases and conditions that lead to low vision is by having regular eye exams by an eye care specialist. But if you notice any changes in your vision, contact your eye doctor right away.

Your eye doctor will perform a complete eye exam to diagnose low vision, including tests designed to check your vision and look for eye diseases. Your doctor will test your eyes for visual acuity or how well you see. He or she may use different instruments and lights when testing your vision.

If your eye doctor diagnoses low vision, he or she may refer you to a low vision specialist. A low vision specialist will help you learn new ways to use your remaining vision, modify your home and teach you how to use devices to aid your vision. Visual rehabilitation is part of this process.

Visual rehabilitation begins by recognizing the challenges of vision loss and making adjustments to maximize what vision you have left. It’s a process of learning how to do tasks, such as reading and writing, in news ways.

For example, if you have a blind spot, you may be asked to imagine the object you want to see is in the center of a large clock. You’ll be told to move your eyes along the clock numbers and note when you see the object most clearly. The doctor will tell you to use the same viewing direction when you look at other objects to see them as clearly as possible.

There are also many low vision aids that can help you see when doing your everyday activities. These includes a variety of optical magnifiers, including those that attach to your glasses, those that are handheld and those that stand on their own hands-free.

Telescopes can help you see things that are far away. They can be handheld or attached to your glasses. Non-optical aids that are available include everyday devices that talk. Some examples are watches, timers and blood sugar monitors that have an audio component.

There are also electronic devices such as video magnifies in portable and desktop formats. These devices combine a camera and a screen to make objects, like printed pages, forms and pictures, look larger.

Also helpful to those with low vision are audio books and electronic books that allow you to increase word size and contrast. The latest technology in smartphones, tablets and computers can read aloud or magnify what’s on the screen.

Low vision may be preventable in people with diabetes if they maintain healthy blood glucose levels. The best way to prevent the progression of low vision is by getting your eyes examined regularly so your doctor can catch and manage the eye disorders that can contribute to low vision. Do your eyes a favor, keep an eye on them!

Skin Tightening Technology

January 29th, 2019

If you think about it, your skin is pretty amazing. It’s your body’s largest organ, and it serves a bunch of functions. For example, it protects you from the outside elements, regulates your body temperature, and detects sensations such as heat, cold, pain and pressure. And it regenerates itself about every 27 days.

A drawback of skin, though, is it tends to wrinkle as we get older. The fine lines and wrinkles you can get on your face can make you look older than you really are or feel, and that can affect your self-confidence. There’s always BOTOX, fillers and even facelifts to get rid of the wrinkles and give you a more youthful appearance.

Now, there’s also TempSure Envi. Approved by the FDA about a year ago, TempSure Envi is becoming a staple in most dermatologists’ offices in this country. It’s a different way to reduced wrinkles and tighten up sagging skin, and it’s safe and painless.

TempSure Envi is actually an advanced version of existing technology that uses radiofrequency energy to stimulate the production of collagen in the middle layer of the skin, the dermis. Collagen is a protein fiber that, along with elastin, makes up the supporting structure of the skin.

Collagen gives skin its firmness, and there’s a natural slowdown of collagen production in the skin as we age. TempSure Envi jumpstarts this process by stimulating the cells that make collagen using heat. The new collagen then works to smooth fine lines and wrinkles, and tighten skin.

Radiofrequency energy is not new to dermatology practice, but TempSure Envi’s enhancements make using it safer and more comfortable. In the past, the use of radiofrequency energy on the face and body always came with the risk of skin burns from the heat it generated. TempSure Envi reduces this risk to almost nothing.

That’s because TempSure Envi is completely temperature controlled. It has a system built in that provides heat at a precise, therapeutic temperature consistently during treatment so it doesn’t damage the top layer of skin.

TempSure Envi’s safety controls automatically cease radiofrequency energy delivery once the selected temperature is reached. Energy delivery is resumed when the temperature falls below the selected mark.

Maintaining a precise temperature throughout treatment adds significantly to safety and enables the treatment to be performed more accurately, allowing for effective, consistent results. It also makes the treatment more comfortable for the patients. In one study, 99 percent of patients described the TempSure Envi procedure as pain free.

It takes less than an hour to get a TempSure Envi treatment, so it’s something you can have done over lunch time. There’s no downtime, so you can go back to work and your other activities immediately. You might see a little redness on your face after treatment, but that will go away pretty quickly.

From what I’ve read, you’ll likely notice some difference in your skin right away after your first treatment session, but the full results of the TempSure Envi aren’t’ seen until a few weeks later. That’s because it takes a little time for collagen production to take place and for the collagen to then tighten your skin.

TempSure Envi is effective beyond the face as well. It comes with massage heads that work to reduce the appearance of cellulite. TempSure Envi can be used to treat most areas on the body that need tightening, including your abdomen, arms, legs and buttocks.

TempSure Envi doesn’t hurt, but you can feel the radiofrequency energy at work. During a facial treatment, you’ll likely feel it as a gentle warming sensation around the area being treated. During a body treatment to reduce cellulite, you’ll feel a massaging sensation as well as the warmth.

There are a few drawbacks of TempSure Envi. For one, it takes more than one treatment session to get the full benefit. Dermatologists generally recommend three to four sessions, depending on the area treated and the goal of treatment, to achieve optimal results.

In addition, dermatologists also suggest maintenance treatments every six months to a year to keep your results intact. Of course, you don’t have to do this. It’s totally your choice, but it’s recommended for best results. Cost of the procedure varies per physician and location, but TempSure Envi can also be pricey.

Like any procedure you might be considering, take the time to weigh all the pros and cons before you decide to go with TempSure Envi. Be honest with your doctor – and yourself – about what you hope to achieve with it or any cosmetic procedure.

TempSure Envi may help make your skin look more youthful, but you still have to live a healthy life to look your very best.

Another BC Breakthrough

January 20th, 2019

A couple of months ago, we looked at some of the research being done on breast cancer and learned about some of the breast cancer breakthroughs that’ve been made. Since then, a study’s results were released regarding another potential treatment for an aggressive form of breast cancer. I thought I’d end the year with some good news about a deadly disease.

The study’s findings were reported in The New England Journal of Medicine and presented at a meeting of the European Society for Medical Oncology in Munich, Germany in October. The study looked at the effect of adding an immunotherapy drug to chemotherapy for women with advanced cases of triple-negative breast cancer.

This cancer is called “triple-negative” because it doesn’t have docking points for the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and it’s lacking human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER 2). These are proteins that anti-cancer medications can latch onto to kill tumor cells.1 Without these proteins, the medications have little effect on the tumors.

About ten to twenty percent of breast cancers are triple negative. Triple-negative breast cancer is diagnosed in nearly 40,000 American women each year. It is twice as common in African-American women than in white women, and more likely to occur in younger women.

Triple-negative cancer often resists standard cancer therapies, so survival rates are poor. It’s a deadly form of breast cancer. It accounts for 30 percent to 40 percent of all invasive breast cancer deaths. The October study looked at the effectiveness of Tecentriq (atezolizumab) when taken along with the chemotherapy drug Abraxane (nab-paclitaxel).

In the past, immunotherapy alone had little effect on any form of breast cancer. It’s believed to be because breast cancer cells don’t have as many genetic abnormalities than other cancers that the immune system can recognize as foreign and attack.

Combining immunotherapy with chemotherapy, however, was found to overcome this problem. The right chemotherapy, given at the right dose, the study discovered, ignites the immune system by killing cancer cells that then leave substances behind that the immune system’s cells can detect and attack.

The results of the recent study were that the combination of Tecentriq and Abraxane made both drugs more effective in battling triple-negative breast cancer. The study showed that adding the immunotherapy drug to the chemotherapy helped lower the risk of disease progression, and of death, by 20 percent compared to treatment with chemotherapy alone, which is the standard treatment.

Researchers agree that more work is needed to study potential side effects of Tecentriq. The drug also has to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration before it becomes widely available in this country.

If you’d like to be part of the process to study an investigational drug like Tecentriq or any new procedure or device to treat breast cancer, consider participating in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are research studies to test the safety and effectiveness of these treatments before they can become standard treatments.

There are four phases of clinical trials. After a treatments has been carefully studied in a lab, clinical trial can start. Phase 1clinical trials help determine if a treatment is safe for human use. During this phase, a small group of volunteers are monitored for side effects. Different doses of the medication are usually also tested.

Phase 2 trials concentrate on whether the treatment is effective against the cancer using the dose or method determined during phase 1. Phase 3 trials focus on whether the treatment being studied is better than the current standard treatment. If the new treatment is determined to be safer or more effective, it is sent to the FDA for approval.

Phase 4 clinical trials include long-term follow-up and monitoring to study the effects of the treatment once it’s been FDA approved. If you’d like to find out more about clinical trials on breast cancer treatments, check out these websites:

With today’s screening tools and advanced treatments, a breast cancer diagnosis isn’t a certain death sentence. But you have to be an active partner with your doctor in helping to detect the cancer early so treatment can be started when it’s most effective.

It’s your job to perform routine breast exams to feel for lumps and look for any changes in your breasts. Get regular physical breast checks from your doctor as well. Follow your doctor’s recommendations about how often to get mammograms for a closer look inside your breasts. Breast cancer is most survivable when found and treated early.

Is It Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis?

January 14th, 2019

Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) are types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Crohn’s and UC have many things in common: they both cause inflammation, swelling and sores in the lining of the digestive tract, and they’ve got many symptoms in common. Yet, they’re distinct disorders that affect different areas of the GI tract.

It’s estimated that 1.6 million Americans suffer with IBD. It occurs in men and women equally, but is more common in Caucasians than in other ethnic groups. Crohn’s and UC can occur at any age, but are most often diagnosed before age 30, especially Crohn’s, which is most common between the ages of 15 and 30.

There are a couple of factors that differentiate Crohn’s and UC. For one, Crohn’s can develop anywhere in the digestive tract, from the mouth to the rectum, while UC is confined to the large intestine (colon). In addition, Crohn’s can penetrate into the deep layers of the lining of the digestive tract, while UC stays in the top layers.

There’s another difference between Crohn’s and UC. In Crohn’s, the inflammation can “skip” portions of the intestine. It can affect two separate sections and leave areas of normal tissue in between diseased portions. UC doesn’t do that. It affects a continuous portion of the large intestine.

Both types of IBD have similar symptoms, which can be aggravated by outside factors such as diet and stress. Those factors can trigger flare-ups of Crohn’s and UC. Symptoms of these disorders include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bloody stools
  • Urgency to have bowel movements
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Doctors don’t know the exact cause of Crohn’s disease and UC, but they run in families so researchers suspect genetics are a factor. Both Crohn’s and UC are disorders of the immune system, which is the body’s natural defense system. The immune system releases defensive substances in response to foreign or invading cells it detects in the body.

It’s believed that in Crohn’s and UC, something triggers the immune system to mistakenly recognize cells of the lining of the GI tract as “foreign” and attack them, causing inflammation. Inflammation comes from the Greek work for “flame”. It literally means, “to be set on fire.” That explains most of the IBD symptoms.

Because the symptoms of Crohn’s and UCs are similar, your doctor will need to use tests to diagnose which disorder you have. Proper diagnosis is critical because treatment is based on the type of IBD you have.

While Crohn’s and UC both have abdominal pain as a symptom, the pain of UC is typically found in the lower left side of the abdomen. Knowing this may help your doctor determine which set of tests to order for you, because tests differ for the diagnosis of Crohn’s and UC.

If your doctor suspects Crohn’s, he or she may order certain endoscopy tests to get a better look at your digestive tract. Endoscopy is a minor procedure during which a small instrument with a camera and light on its end is threaded through your GI tract to look for abnormalities.

For Crohn’s disease, your doctor might use an instrument that is inserted into your rectum to look at the bottom half  of your digestive system. This is a colonoscopy. Your doctor also might use a scope that is inserted into your mouth to examine the upper part of your digestive system. This is an upper endoscopy.

For UC, doctors often use a test with an instrument inserted into the rectum that examines the rectum and lower colon. This type of endoscopy is a sigmoidoscopy. Your doctor may also suggest you get a total colonoscopy, which examines the entire colon.

If you’re diagnosed with Crohn’s or UC, your doctor may prescribe certain medications. He or she may start you on a course of corticosteroids or other anti-inflammatory medicines. A medication to suppress your immune system may also be prescribed. Later, your doctor may add a biologic, such as STELARA® or ENTYVIO®, as a combination therapy.

You may be asked to keep a diary to try to uncover foods or situations, such as those that are especially stressful, that trigger flare-ups of these disorders. Once you identify your triggers, you can work to decrease or eliminate them with diet and lifestyle changes.

Medical treatments are the mainstay for Crohn’s and UC, but in severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Surgery is generally used in cases where there are complications from the disorders. These complications may include bowel perforation, excessive bleeding, development of a cancerous growth or severe, uncontrollable inflammation.

For Crohn’s, surgery may involve removing diseased sections of the digestive tract. In severe cases of UC, the surgical removal of the entire large intestine and rectum may be required.

Whatever you do, don’t self-diagnose. If you’re suffering any of the symptoms of IBD, see your doctor and let him or her diagnose Crohn’s or UC the right way!

 

Think About Your Thyroid

January 7th, 2019

Happy New Year! I hope your holidays were joyful – and safe. January is generally the time when we set our priorities for the year. Many of us make resolutions to improve our bodies on the outside, such as losing weight. But here, we’re going to take a closer look at our bodies on the inside. Today, we’re going to think about our thyroids.

The thyroid is a gland that’s part of the body’s endocrine system. It’s responsible for making and releasing a steady amount of thyroid hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones regulate metabolism, the process of breaking down the food you eat into energy. Your metabolism affects how fast your body performs its daily functions.

Thyroid hormones regulate many body processes. These include your breathing, heart rate, body weight, temperature, cholesterol level, muscle strength and even women’s menstrual cycles. It’s important that these hormones stay at a consistent level in your bloodstream.

The thyroid is shaped a little like a butterfly and sits at the base of your throat just below your voice box. It’s about two inches long and has two lobes that lie on either side of your windpipe. The lobes are connected by a small strip of tissue called an isthmus.

The main hormones produced by the thyroid are triiodothyronine or T3 and thyroxine or T4. T3 and T4 are made by special cells called follicular epithelial cells. The thyroid also makes calcitonin in its C-cells.  Calcitonin regulates the amount of calcium and phosphorus in your blood and inhibits the breakdown of your bones.

The amount of T3 and T4 in your blood is controlled by two other glands, the pituitary in the center of the skull below the brain, and the hypothalamus in the brain. The hypothalamus produces a hormone that signals the pituitary to release its thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH tells the thyroid to release more or less T3 and T4 to maintain a balance.

When there’s an imbalance, too much or too little T3 and T4 in your blood, your body reacts. Too little thyroid hormone is a condition called hypothyroidism. It occurs when your thyroid doesn’t make enough of its hormones. Too much thyroid hormone is called hyperthyroidism.

With hypothyroidism, your metabolism slows down. Common symptoms include weight gain, sluggishness, fatigue, dry skin and hair, intolerance to cold, and depression. With hyperthyroidism, your metabolism speeds up. Symptoms include irritability, racing heartbeat, muscle weakness, weight loss and sleep problems.

There are multiple causes of thyroid disorders like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism may be caused by inflammation of the thyroid gland that can lower the amount of hormones produced or by a hereditary disease of the immune system called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. An iodine deficiency can affect the production of thyroid hormone as well.3 Removal of the thyroid also gives you hypothyroidism.

Causes of hyperthyroidism include Grave’s disease, a condition in which the entire thyroid is overactive. Sometimes, just one or a few nodules inside the thyroid produce too much hormone. Too much iodine can cause some people to have too much thyroid hormone and some to have too little.

Treatment of these disorders focuses on restoring normal blood levels of the thyroid hormones. Treatment for hypothyroidism is hormone replacement with a synthetic version in pill form. Your doctor will monitor your hormone levels with periodic blood tests and adjust your dose accordingly.

Treatment for hyperthyroidism is a little trickier. To normalize hormone levels, your doctor may use medications to block hormone production or radioactive iodine to disable your thyroid. Another treatment option is removal of the thyroid. This will give you hypothyroidism, as can the radioactive iodine. Then, you’ll have to take the hormone replacement therapy.

Thyroid disorders, including hypothyroidism, are lifelong conditions. But by following your doctor’s instructions and having your hormone levels monitored regularly, you can still live a normal, healthy life.

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