Listening for the silent epidemic: Hepatitis C

It’s been called a silent epidemic, a woefully underdiagnosed disease with a whopping 40 percent mortality rate that only seems to be increasing with time.

Hepatitis C infections can cause chronic liver disease, liver cancer, a swollen abdomen, gastrointestinal bleeding, skin yellowing and fatigue. Yet many of the 4 million patients infected with Hepatitis C do not learn of their diagnosis for decades until they begin showing end-stage symptoms that are typically irreversible and difficult to manage and treat.

Why is this deadly disease not being diagnosed much earlier in its progression? The fact is that most people don’t get tested because they don’t realize they’re at risk. That means education and awareness are the most important weapons we have to stop Hepatitis C from inflicting this pain and suffering.

I sat down with Dr. Mohammad Alsolaiman, a gastroenterologist at Central Utah Clinic, to learn the key things we need to know to protect ourselves and our loved ones:

Older folks are at the highest risk
Alarmingly, it’s the baby boomer generation that comprises the vast majority of undiagnosed Hepatitis C patients — and yet they’re likely to not realize the need to be tested. Dr. Alsolaiman’s patients are always surprised to learn that many Hepatitis C infections occurred decades ago.

Undiagnosed Hepatitis C also comes at a very high price tag for society
Individuals who develop cirrhosis and end-stage liver cancer from Hepatitis C infection typically require a liver transplant, adding to an already overburdened list of patients waiting for a donor. And the cost of medical care for patients living with Hepatitis C is expected to nearly triple in just two decades, to $85 billion by 2027 if no intervention is undertaken.

There are many routes to infection
The leading risk factors for Hepatitis C are unprotected sex, drug use (including intra-nasal), blood transfusions prior to 1992, incarceration, tattoos, occupational exposure, and surgeries performed prior to the implementation of universal precautions. Patients who undergo hemodialysis or were born to an infected mother also are at risk.

Hepatitis C is fully curable in most of the patients
Unlike HIV infections, a Hepatitis C infection can be cured in most of the patients. In fact, even oral medication is an option, and newly available medications have made it possible to be free of the virus in 8-12 weeks. The success rate is more than 90 percent.

Hepatitis C drugs are far more advanced now
We’ve come a long way since the first Hepatitis C drug, Interferon, was introduced with a paltry 10 to 20 percent success rate with a very bad reputation for intolerable side effects. This has been replaced today with more powerful oral and effective drugs.

There’s no reason for people to suffer and die from a disease that is highly treatable when caught early. To find out more about Dr. Alsolaiman or to schedule an appointment to find out more, connect with Central Utah Clinic for information on services, locations, events and more.

This article was originally published in The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.

Seeing the signs: What to say when it’s time to take away the car keys

It’s an experience that Americans dread. As recent surveys by Caring.com and the National Safety Council indicate, most people would rather discuss funeral arrangements with their loved ones than taking away their driving privileges. But while this conversation is difficult, it is necessary for the safety of both your loved one and other drivers. I had the opportunity to interview Andy Cohen, CEO of Caring.com, to learn how to best have this conversation.

Build a case.

“A new survey on Caring.com reported that roughly 14 million Americans have been in a road incident caused by an elderly person,” Cohen stated. “It’s a difficult but necessary conversation that we need to have.”

Prepare for this conversation by keeping detailed records of traffic violations, minor accidents, and anything that causes you to worry. Watch for an increase in traffic tickets, getting lost on familiar routes in familiar areas, and getting into more fender benders.

You should also calculate the monetary savings that will benefit your loved one when he or she gives up driving, such the cost of gasoline, maintenance, car insurance, repairs and registration fees. Your approach should be caring, but it also needs to be thorough and specific.

Get support from other sources.

While it’s important to have the conversation directly with your loved one, it can be helpful to ask for support from other sources. Driving assessments can be used to confirm to your loved one that he or she should not be driving. Your religious adviser can help you handle this conversation in a compassionate, loving manner. In some cases, your loved one may listen to recommendations more easily when they come from an outside authority whom your loved one trusts rather than from a family member. As a last resort, you may ask your loved one’s physician to write a prescription stating, “No driving.”

Research and arrange alternative transportation.

Your loved one will undoubtedly find it difficult to give up independence, so the more you can do in advance to have alternative means of transportation available, the easier the transition will be.

A good transportation system will not only take a passenger from point A to point B but will also put your loved one in control of routes and final destinations. Also, the transportation system should maintain a senior’s sense of dignity and security.

“No one wants to be the one to take away Mom or Dad’s keys, but sometimes it can be crucial for their safety,” said Cohen. “Plus, many seniors would actually prefer to hear it from a family member than from a police officer on the road.”

Taking away the car keys is not a conversation anyone wants to have, but remembering to express your concerns firmly and honestly, inviting support from other sources that will provide additional love and support, and arranging alternative forms of transportation to best fit your loved one’s needs is a healthy approach to this transition.

This article was originally published on OCRegister.com. It has been republished here with permission.

The ‘juicy’ secrets and surprising benefits of juicing

As we get older, our bodies process food differently. We tend to have smaller appetites, chewing and swallowing can become more difficult, and preparing meals can become more of a challenge for a variety of reasons.

One trendy, healthy way to get added nutrients is through juicing. Whether you are a purist and press apples straight from the tree or rely on store-bought products to supplement your meals, juicing can be a healthy addition to your loved one’s dietary routine.

Eating whole fruits and vegetables is the best way to ingest nutrients as well as dietary fiber, but many older individuals are more likely to consume produce in inconspicuous liquid form. Best of all, vegetables like spinach, carrots, and kale can be incorporated into juice recipes without the consumer even tasting it. Flavors from the fruit you use typically overshadow those of the veggies.

If you struggle to get your loved one to fit produce into their diet, juicing is a healthy and palatable alternative. However, there are a few things to consider when choosing the healthiest juice possible.

Choose your ingredients wisely.

While there is no magical cure for all of the body’s aches and pains, natural nutrients in fruits and vegetables can be helpful in easing pain, reducing inflammation and bolstering immune system function. Certain varieties and combinations of produce can have both a targeted and overall beneficial effect on your body.

For instance, joint pain can be assuaged by juicing carrots, parsley, ginger, and leeks. Leeks and ginger are high in antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals that can help to reduce inflammation in the body. For a boost in immune and cardiac health, try a combination of pomegranate, orange, and garlic. Pomegranates lower cholesterol and blood pressure and increase the speed at which heart blockages (atherosclerosis) dissolve. With a little bit of research, you can find a healthy juice recipe for almost every ailment you can imagine.

Consider your juicing method.

There are a number of ways to produce your own nutrient-rich juices. Traditional or centrifugal processes use fast-spinning blades to pulverize produce. Heat and air are added during this process—two things that supposedly reduce the nutrients that actually make it into your glass.

Masticating or “cold-pressed” processes extract juice by pressing and grinding fruits and vegetables without adding heat. If you are looking for a ready-to-drink cold-pressed option, then brands like MUSE are a convenient way to reap the benefits without purchasing a machine and doing the work yourself.

Proponents of the raw food movement believe that cooking denatures important vitamins and minerals in food. It is true that some compounds like vitamin C are easily damaged by exposure to heat, air, and water. But, in some cases, cooking actually increases antioxidants and other beneficial components of certain fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, spinach, and carrots.

Depending on what you are trying to accomplish through juicing, it may not matter if your product is cold-pressed or made in a traditional machine.

Be careful not to juice everything.

Although most fruits and vegetables can be juiced, there are a few things to stay away from. This is especially important for seniors.

There is some disagreement over whether or not to peel fruits and vegetables before juicing, but it isn’t a black and white issue. Apples, grapes, cucumbers and even bananas can be processed and consumed without peeling. We waste a great source of nutrition by removing and discarding the skins and rinds of produce. However, there are a few items that are best consumed “naked.” Citrus fruits feature tough rinds that are still nutrient dense, but they also contain oils that can cause indigestion and stomach issues if consumed in large quantities. Try not to throw away the healthy white pith just underneath the rind, though. Mangos are best juiced without the skin as well since this part can cause allergic reactions in some individuals.

Many people like to add leafy greens like kale and spinach to their fruit juices and smoothies, but there are a few varieties that must be avoided or approached with caution. Rhubarb greens can be harmful and release toxic substances, so keep these out of your juicer. Carrot greens have received a bad reputation, but they are not actually poisonous. Some people may have a sensitivity to this part of the vegetable, so if you aren’t sure whether you or a loved one might have a reaction, then it is best to steer clear of them.

Purchase your produce wisely.

When juicing or making smoothies, especially when using whole ingredients with skins and greens intact, it is wise to opt for organic produce. Although fruit and vegetable peels are great sources of concentrated nutrients, pesticides tend to accumulate in the peels of conventionally produced fruits and vegetables and even on the green tops of root vegetables.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has pioneered a “Dirty Dozen” list that ranks produce items according to the amount of pesticide residue they contain. Apples happen to top the list as the worst offender, which is a shame since apple peels are extremely beneficial. If you plan to use conventional produce, be sure to thoroughly wash, and even peel certain items. Pesticides and insecticides can remain even if you take these precautions, so carefully consider purchasing at least some ingredients in organic form.

As we age, it’s even harder to treat your body right and get the nutrients you need, but diet has a significant impact on overall health and the proper function of the body. Juices can be used as a natural dietary supplement in lieu of processed vitamin capsules and tablets, or you can craft your own produce combinations to help improve specific areas of your health.

Achieving proper nutrition through real foods is better than opting for meal replacement shakes and pills, but it is important to approach juicing with common sense and do your research or consult with a physician or nutritionist if you have any questions.

This article was originally published on agingcare.com. It has been republished here with permission.

5 Fun activities to share with your loved one in a nursing home

It’s Sunday afternoon and you’re getting ready to visit your grandma at her nursing facility, but you are at a loss of how the two of you can spend fun, quality time together. What are some things you can do that both of you will enjoy? This time is precious and it’s important to make the most of it. Below is a list of different creative activities you and your loved one can do while they are in a nursing facility.

Crafts

Whether or not you’re a creative person, simple crafts can be a fun way to add some color to your time together. Crafts you and your loved one can do range from making holiday decorations to scrapbooking and even painting.

Mark Walker, director of therapy at Orem Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing, says their staff enjoys providing seasonal and holiday-oriented craft projects for their residents.

“We just finished doing a Valentine’s project where we cut out hearts and placed them all over the facility.” Not only are these activities fun, but they can also help your loved one’s cognitive and motor skills.

Hand massages

Some nursing facilities, such as Provo Rehabilitation & Nursing, offer hand massages as one of their regular activities. You can give your own loved one a hand massage or manicure as a way to rejuvenate and relax them. Regular touch also communications multiple positive emotions that can create a deeper connection. Try using essential oils or hand lotion in their favorite scent.

Make connections (phone call, storytelling)

Use your time together to share and collect memories and stories. Chances are your loved one has some great stories from growing up that you haven’t heard yet. Once they are gone, those stories may be lost forever. Take the time to ask them about their life and favorite memories. Consider journaling or recording these conversations so you can keep them for years to come.

Entertainment

Another way to bond with your loved one is to find a mutual love of some sort of entertainment and enjoy it together. Whether it’s reading a book, playing a board game, listening to music, or watching a favorite movie, entertainment is the perfect way to spend an afternoon with each other. Many facilities, such as Orem Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing, provide different types of media that you can enjoy together. Consider inviting your loved one’s friends at the nursing facility to enjoy with you.

“Usually our biggest focus is on hobbies that our residents do at home,” said Walker. “We often start up a bowling session, which is great for balance and upper body strength, and the Wii gaming system is an excellent tool. We like the Wii Fit Program because it encourages standing balance and weight shifting activities.”

Outings

While you may have to take a few precautions, going out or exercising can be a fun way to spend time with your loved one. You can garden, go out to lunch, see a play, walk to the park, or even stretch outside. The fresh air and quality time is sure to make for a wonderful day together.

If you’re not sure what to do with your loved one who’s staying in a nursing facility, try one of these activities. Remember, the important thing is that you make the most of your time together.

This article was originally published on The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.

UTI: Can you feel the burn?

If you are experiencing burning while urinating it could mean one of two things: The toilet is, in fact, on fire. Or you may have a urinary tract infection.

What are some symptoms of a urinary tract infection?

Along with a burning sensation while urinating, symptoms for a UTI also include a frequent need to go to the bathroom, nausea, strong-smelling urine, itching, and muscle pains. In a nutshell, UTI’s are as unpleasant as they are common. But the burning question is what causes this infection and how can one prevent them from occurring?

What are some causes?

According to the Office on Women’s Health, some common culprits include delaying trips to the bathroom when the urge arises and improper wiping after a bowel movement. Older adults may experience a UTI due to diabetes, the reduced production of estrogen, and kidney stones.

They also estimate that about one in five women who get UTIs will get another one. It’s likely for some women to suffer from three or more UTIs in one year. If you are prone to UTIs, ask your doctor about your treatment options. Your doctor may ask you to take a small dose of medicine every day to prevent infection. Or, your doctor might give you a supply of antibiotics to take at the first sign of infection.

What are some proven forms of prevention?

In older adults, practicing good hygiene is the most reliable way to avoid getting a UTI or other undesirable infections. “Having good hygiene helps avoid urinary tract infections, said Jeremy Withers, Director of Nursing at River’s Edge Rehabilitation and Living Center. “Also, it’s important to keep your loved one as dry as possible, and the most critical aspect is hydration. Make sure your loved one is hydrated.” Women’s health recommends drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water per day to stave off infection.

Cranberries are berry good for you.

Despite changing trends in treatment, the go-to method for treating UTIs is antibiotics. However, some studies have found success with pure cranberry juice and supplements. “Cranberry supplements can help treat them or prevent them from happening as often,” said Jeremy. Once scrutinized as a new age trick, cranberry has emerged with a nod from some scientists as an effective method for treating and preventing urinary tract infections.

To better understand its effectiveness, it’s helpful to understand how infection settles in. “The bacteria responsible for more than 95 percent of urinary tract infections are a pathogenic strain of the same E. coli bacteria found in the lower intestine. If not for these fimbriae, the flow of urine would simply wash the bacteria away. But once they’re securely latched onto the urinary tract walls, they quickly start reproducing,” wrote livescience.com contributor Diya Chacko.

Experts admit cranberry juice is not strong enough to kill bacteria. But it does pack enough punch to prevent it from attaching to the intestinal walls. “Cranberries contain large amounts of a chemical called proanthocyanidin, or PAC. PAC functions almost like a shield as it forces the fimbriae to crumple so they can’t attach to the surface of the cells in the urinary tract,” wrote Diya.

So drink your water, and take your cranberry supplements. By taking preventative measures and seeking treatment should an infection persist, you can avoid getting burned by a urinary tract infection.

Eye specialist says proper nutrition can treat and reverse common vision problems

Dr. Robert Abel Jr, MD author of the new book, The Eye Care Revolution, will reveal which nutrients are essential for the care and feeding of your eyes

For 40 years, Dr. Robert Abel Jr. has dedicated his professional life as an ophthalmologist to preserving vision. As a founding partner in a large eye care practice in Delaware, he operates on four hundred cataract patients a year, but he treats six times that number without surgery.

“We know that specific foods and nutritional supplements have value in treating specific diseases, and we also now know there are also certain foods and supplements that specifically encourage eye health,” says Dr. Abel, author of the book, “The Eye Care Revolution.”

Dr. Abel says by using an understanding of nutritional chemistry and other means it is possible to control or eliminate many of the factors that contribute to the development of serious eye diseases:

 

  • Controlled clinical studies show that the risk of developing cataracts can be decreased by more than half by eating fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C, as well as the antioxidants vitamin A, E, lutein, and glutathione boosters.
  • The risk of developing glaucoma can be lowered by consuming high levels of vitamins C, Omega 3, and B12. Also rhythmic breathing and avoiding blood pressure medications in the evenings.
  • The risk of developing macular degeneration can be reduced by maintaining high levels of vitamins A, D, E, the carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein, DHA, and the amino acid taurine (found in egg whites).
  • Diabetic retinopathy can be delayed or prevented by consuming vitamin C along with alpha lipoic acid, Quercetin, and other bioflavonoids.

What is the ideal dietary regimen for someone concerned about preserving or improving eye health? In his book, “The Eye Care Revolution,” Dr. Abel lists the Top Ten Foods for Sight:

  1. Cold water fish (sardines, cod, mackerel, tuna) are an excellent source of DHA, which provides structural support to cell membranes and is recommended for dry eyes, macular degeneration, and sight preservation.
  2. Spinach, kale, and green leafy vegetables are rich in carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein protects the macula from sun damage and from blue light.
  3. Eggs are rich in cysteine, sulfur, lecithin, amino acids, and lutein. Sulfur-containing compounds protect the lens of the eye from cataract formation.
  4. Garlic, onions, shallots, and capers are also rich in sulfur, which is necessary for the production of glutathione, an important antioxidant for the lens of the eye.
  5. Non-GMO soy, low in fat and rich in protein, contains essential fatty acids, phytoestrogens, vitamin E, and natural anti-inflammatory agents.
  6. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins A, C, E, and beta-carotene. Yellow and orange vegetables, like carrots and squash, are important for daytime vision.
  7. Blueberries and grapes contain anthocyanins, which improve night vision. A cup full of blueberries, huckleberry jam, or a 100 mg bilberry supplement should improve dark adaptation within 30 minutes.
  8. Wine, known to have a cardio-protective effect, has many important nutrients, which protect the heart, vision, and blood flow.
  9. Nuts and berries are nature’s most concentrated food sources. Grains, such as flaxseed, are high in the beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower cholesterol and stabilize cell membranes.
  10. Extra-virgin olive oil, is a healthy alternative to butter and margarine.

Dr. Abel says to maintain eye health, drink six eight-ounce glasses of filtered water every day to keep properly hydrated, as water helps create the fluid in our eyes.

New Dietary Supplement for Eye Health: Eye Complex CS (Clinical Strength)

“While we should depend primarily on whole foods to meet our nutritional needs, we should use vitamins and supplements as an insurance policy,” says Dr. Abel.

For eye health, Dr. Abel has formulated a special multivitamin, Eye Complex CS, which contains important nutrients supportive of the retina and having a protective effect on the lens:

 

Vitamin C 250 mg N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) 50 mg Selenium .05 mg
L-Glutathione 2.5 mg Alpha Lipoic Acid 25 mg Vitamin E 100 IU
Lutein 10 mg Zinc 7.5 mg Bilberry 40 mg
Zeaxanthin 0.5 mg Taurine 50 mg Riboflavin B-2 15 mg
Vitamin B-6 10 mg Vitamin B-12 0.1 mg Rutin 100 mg
Grape Seed Ex 25 mg Citrus Bioflavonoids 100 mg Chromium .05 mg
Ginkgo biloba 20 mg Beta Carotene 10,000 IU Eye Bright 100 mg
CoQ10 10 mg Green Tea Ex 50 mg Green Tea Ex 50 mg

ABOUT DR. ROBERT ABEL, JR., MD (www.eyecomplexcs.com)

Dr. Abel earned his medical degree at Jefferson Medical College in 1969, completed his ophthalmology residency at Mt. Sinai Hospital and was a Cornea Fellow at the University of Florida. A board certified ophthalmologist, Dr. Abel is on the staff of the Christiana Care Health System. He is a former Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at Thomas Jefferson University. He founded and has been Medical Director of the Medical Eye Bank of Delaware since 1981. He teaches locally and internationally on numerous subjects, including cornea, cataract and nutrition. He instructs the Cornea Microsurgery Workshops at the Academy of Ophthalmology meetings annually and has been on the Academy’s Committee of International Ophthalmology.

Dr. Abel has done active research on corneal transplants, corneal pathology, contact lenses and drugs as they relate to the eye. He holds two patents on artificial corneas and has received the AAO Honor Award and the Senior Honor Award. Dr. Abel is the author of the popular new book, “The Eye Care Revolution,” which teaches patients how to treat and reverse common vision problems, and he has written eight other books. Other information concerning eye care can also be found on his website, EyeAdvisory.com. He was also voted “TOP DOC” by Delaware Today Magazine. In his spare time, he practices Tai-Chi, and studies alternative medicine systems.

Service at the Local Christian Aid Center

4 reasons why thinning hair doesn’t mean the end of the world

It’s the stuff some nightmares are made of. For some, it’s being trapped in a snake den. For others, it’s standing in public in nothing but your underwear. But one fear most older adults all share is the fear of losing our hair. In a society that relishes its long locks, anyone touting a “magical cure” can name his price.

One inevitable fact of life is that thinning hair is a common byproduct of aging. Studies show that up to 50 percent of women over the age will experience hair loss. Sadly, many of us have a genetic predisposition to hair loss, called androgenetic alopecia.

“As we age, overall density changes and individual strands become finer,” explained dermatologist Doris J. Day in her article for Prevention.com.

Before you silently accept your follicle-deprived fate, here are some methods that have shown to reduce the rate of hair loss.

1.You are what you eat.
Your hair is a direct reflection of your diet, so if you don’t like what’s happening on your head, you should pay attention to what’s going in your mouth. Good nutrition has a variety of benefits for your health, but your hair stands to benefit from a diet loaded with protein, zinc, iron, and vitamin B12.

“We know that a nutritious diet is key to healthy skin, functioning organs, an alert mind, and good strong hair. Our kitchen staff really go the extra mile in making sure the food is not only delicious, here at arroyo, but that it is just what our residents need,” said Pamela Fernandez, LPN at Arroyo Vista Nursing Center.

At any age, good nutrition is clearly evident in the condition of our hair. “A strand of hair is composed of mostly protein, which means your hair needs protein to grow,” wrote WebMD contributor, Joseph Saling. “At any given time, about 90% of your hair is in the growing phase. For each individual hair, this growing phase lasts 2 to 3 years. At the end of that time, hairs enter a resting phase that lasts about three months before they are shed and replaced by new hair. If you don’t get enough protein in your diet, a disproportionate number of hairs may go into the resting phase.”

2. Get a massage.
Many people have found success in performing a daily scalp massage. According to Livestrong.com contributor, Shemiah Williams, a three-minute scalp massage not only stimulates the scalp and improves circulation it reduces stress. However, there is no medical evidence fully supporting massaging the scalp as a proven method for preventing hair loss.

3. The heat is on.
Ironically, sometimes our efforts to improve our hair’s appearance is the very thing contributing to its departure. Heated styling products are one of the biggest culprits to increased hair loss.

“Certain hair appliances that use high heat to help style your hair can lead to damaged hair and breakage, which can look like baldness,” wrote contributor Krisha McCoy. “Damaging hair appliances include blow dryers, flat irons, curling irons, and other devices that apply heat to your hair.”
Krisha added that these hot hair appliances cause the most damage to your hair when you use them on wet hair. Some devices get so hot they boil the water in your hair shaft, which leaves your hair brittle.

4. Avoiding certain medications.
If you need added incentive to improve your health to the point of decreasing your medications, hair loss could be a strong motivator. Many prescription medications contribute to increased hair loss in men and women.

“Among the medications that can potentially cause hair loss are blood thinners, vitamin A supplements, some arthritis medications, antidepressants, gout medications, medications for certain heart problems, blood pressure medications, and birth control pills,” wrote Krisha. The good news is that your doctor may be able to prescribe an alternative medication.

According to an ABC News report, men will spend over $1 billion on hair treatment products this year. Men also will spend some $60 million on vitamins and nutritional supplements with dreams of keeping their hair on their head instead of their brush. With new products hitting the store shelves on a seemingly weekly basis, it’s important to research the effectiveness of these methods to determine which ones look promising or should get the brush off.

This article was originally published on Orange County Register. It has been republished here with permission.

New technologies to treat breast cancer

Women handle a variety of roles. We are managers, leaders, caregivers, team players, examples, role models, sisters, aunts, grandmas, and moms. Our interests vary as wide as the opportunities that support them. Yet one concern that unites us is the fear of breast cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, around 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed this year.

Dr. Bruce McAllister, Chief Medical Officer and Radiation Oncologist with the Central Utah Clinic Cancer Center, understands this concern and offered some advice and information about early breast cancer detection and treatment.

What are the warning signs of breast cancer?

“There are a lot of warning signs for detecting breast cancer,” explained McAllister. “The most important one is a lump or mass in the breast. This is especially suspicious if it is hard, has an irregular border, and doesn’t hurt.”

In truth, a trait in the early stages of most forms of cancer is a painless lump or mass. Unfortunately, this circumstance is often tempting to ignore. Doctors encourage women to be proactive when discovering such symptoms.

“Even if it is round and soft and does hurt, you should bring it to the attention of your physician so he or she can decide whether or not it needs to be biopsied,” cautioned Dr. McAllister.

What technologies can be used to detect and treat breast cancer?

To detect the onset of breast cancer early, patients may be encouraged to discover some of the new technologies being used by cancer treatment centers. One of the newer procedures at the Central Utah Clinic is an MRI (magnetic resonance image) of the breast.

“Screenings were done with mammograms and ultrasounds,” said Dr. McAllister. “And still should be. All women over the age of 40 should get an annual mammogram as long as they remain in good health. But some women are at particularly high risk of breast cancer, so it’s good to add another test, namely an MRI of the breast, to see if we can detect the onset of cancer early.”

Candidates for this type of testing include women with genetic mutations or those who have a very strong history of breast cancer in the family.

There have also been advancements in radiation and chemotherapy. “At our facility, we have both medical oncologists and radiation oncologists,” said Dr. McAllister. “As a radiation oncologist, I only use radiation. But the medical oncologists use some of the more targeted therapies in addition to chemotherapy and in addition to hormone therapy.”

How can I minimize side effects of treatment?

One of the many desires of women undergoing treatment for breast cancer is to live a normal life amid treatments. For women using radiation therapy for treatment, some may wonder what things can be done to avoid or minimize the negative side effects of treatment.

“There are skin lotions you can use for relief, but overall there isn’t a lot you can do as a patient to prevent burning of the skin,” admitted Dr. McAllister. “But there is a lot I can do as the physician. For example, I can use the latest technologies such as 3-D Conformal Radiation Therapy and Field-in-Field techniques to reduce hot spots in the dose we deliver to the breast, which in turn prevents or reduces burning of the skin.”

3-D techniques enable the physician to target beams of radiation that match the shape and dimensions of the breast and later match the radiation to the shape and dimensions of the cavity where the mass was prior to surgery. As part of the process, the radiation oncologist takes 3-D images of the breast and cavity. A computer analyzes the exact shape, height, width and depth of the breast and cavity. Then the machine targets beams directly onto the breast for a few weeks and then onto the cavity for a week or two. One of the benefits of using 3-D Conformal Radiation Therapy is that the physician can direct higher levels of radiation precisely onto the cancerous tumor, thus providing a stronger and more effective treatment in trying to shrink or eliminate tumors.

“As this 3-D process targets the breast itself, it affects as little of the surrounding tissue, such as the lung and heart, as possible. In this way, I can increase the chance of cure and reduce the chance of side effects. In addition, for some women, we are beginning to use breast boards that hold the patient in the prone position vs. the supine position. Laying the woman on her stomach allows the breast to fall away from the chest wall giving more distance between the breast and the lung and heart. This extra distance allows us to spare the lung and heart from radiation even more than before.”

For more information about the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, or to make an appointment with Dr. Bruce McAllister, connect with Central Utah Clinic for information on services, locations, events and more. www.centralutahclinic.com