Sunday, October 31, 2010

Advantages of a Health Advocate

With my mother in the hospital and my mother-in-law in a skilled nursing facility, I know what it's like being a health advocate. Just when a doctor delivers a serious diagnosis, the advocate can pay close attention (hopefully) while the patient sits stunned and scared.

Listening to the doctor and asking questions is a vital piece in healthcare issues. The advocate who speaks up for the patient and helps him/her better understand the illness also secures the care and resources to make the journey easier.

The health advocate can be a family member, trusted friend or co-worker or a hired professional (your insurance may cover this cost), someone who knows your medical history in depth and is calm, detail-oriented and can ask questions and convey responses clearly.

This is what a health advocate can do for you:

1. Ask questions and voice your concerns
2. Compile and update your list of medicines
3. Help with after-care--following medication and other treatment instructions
4. Help arrange transportation
5. Research treatment options, procedures, doctors and hospitals
6. Assist with insurance
7. Ask the "what's next" questions
8. Submit an advance directive to your doctor

According to physician and author Dr. Carolyn Clancy, "It's likely that you or a loved one will one day need a health advocate. For many patients, the benefits of having an advocate are priceless because he or she can help you understand your options and give you peace of mind so you can focus on your recovery."

Source: Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Medical Marvel: Cold Caps Save Hair During Chemotherapy

On ABC this morning there was a segment about a medical marvel--about 70% of breast cancer (and some other cancers) patients may save their hair by applying cold caps during chemotherapy. It's not an easy process changing the caps every 30 minutes for 7 hours but my cousin vouches that it has preserved all her hair (and she even grew some!) with her 3rd (or 4th?) bout of chemotherapy treatments for her Stage 4 colon cancer.

She contacted Penguin Cold Cap creator Frank Fronda and through him met a woman in her area who had successfully used the caps. Not only did this woman attend Eve's chemotherapy appointments, she graciously helped and instructed Eve's dream team how to properly apply the caps.

If you or someone you know has cancer and is traumatized about losing their hair, check into this treatment. It cannot help with all kinds of cancer (leukemia, etc.) but it can give you hope.

However, we are reminded (and I ardently agree) that just like a man is not his car, a woman is not her hair.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Angioplasty Does NOT Cut The Risk of Heart Attacks and Death

Angioplasty reduces angina, a cardiac-linked chest pain, in stable heart patients. It does not cut the risk of heart attacks or death in these patients even though the patients believe that they might have a heart attack within 5 years if they don't have the procedure. Consultation with their cardiologist does little to end this common misbelief.

Most cardiologists have reported that angioplasty mainly reduces pain and improves the quality of life. However, medication alone--in many cases--can achieve the same benefit.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cancer Screening: What's New

A screening called virtual colonoscopy is a less invasive means to identify colorectal cancer. According to a study at the American College of Radiology/American Roentgen Ray Society, the virtual colonoscopy examines the entire abdomen and pelvis for cancer. Study author Dr. Ganesh R. Veerappan said that this method of screening "should be considered as an alternative to optical colonoscopy for colorectal cancer screening or as a onetime procedure to identify significant treatable intracolonic an extracolonic lesions."

Imagine a simple annual 100% effective blood test to see if you have ovarian cancer. Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have developed this new kind screening.

Typically, patients don't know they have ovarian cancer because it is asymtomatic in its early stages. The new approach can detect this "silent killer" before it has reached very advanced stages (80% of patients are diagnosed at later stages.)

The implications may be "earth-shatteringly important" because "it's possible that there are also signatures for other cancers, not just ovarian, so (they're) also going to be using the same approach to look at other types of cancers."


The majority of biopsies being done are less invasive than ever before. That's because with the help of imaging in the form of CT scans, ultrasound and MRI, a needle is guided to remove tissue or fluids to test for disease. An "image-guided biopsy (also) allows more definitive diagnosis and shorter hospital stays," according to Dr. Robert Quencer, chair of radiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

The use of imaging guidance also enables more efficient and safer targeting of lesions.

Source: MedlinePlus, health information from the National Library of Medicine

For more on cancer screening and colonoscopy, visit

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chest Compressions Matter

Chest compressions are important in sudden cardiac arrest (total, abrupt and unexpected loss of heart function). Even before being treated with an electrical defibrillator to try to revive the heart's normal rhythm.

Learning chest compressions is simple. The procedure involves putting the heel of one's hand on the chest, locking the wrist, and pushing downward a couple inches repeatedly in a pumping action.

Source: MedlinePlus, health information from the National Library of Medicine

For more on CPR, visit

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Stent vs. Endarectomy

According to studies by the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and Institute of Neurology at the University College London and the Duke Stroke Center in Durham, North Carolina (CREST):
If you're 70 or older and have a blocked neck artery, opt to surgically widen the artery rather than having a stent put in because research has found that your chances of dying or having a stroke are 50% as likely than inserting a stent.

Until now (September 10, 2010) many experts thought that the lesser-invasive stenting procedure would be safer.

Source: MedlinePlus, health information from the National Library of Medicine

For more on heart disease and stroke, visit

Thursday, October 14, 2010

No Rest For Car-Man

We finished a movie. I lingered in my office going over my email. Then I ambled into the bedroom to join Car-man.

I moved over to snuggle into his arms and we fall asleep.

I awakened to his laughter. I had pushed him over to the end of the bed. He had been dreaming about dogs (maybe this is a good sign--I want one). In his dream, one dog in particular, a German Shepherd, leaned against him with his full weight. Car-man moved to steady himself...and he almost fell out of bed.

I gave him half the bed and we both settled into restful slumber.

I don't know what I was dreaming about (I have an overblown imagination) when I yelled, "Help."

Poor Car-man. No wonder he dragged himself out of bed this morning.

This whole scenario could be a problem if it happened regularly. Studies have shown that "men who slept for short periods of time were much more likely to die over a 14-year period."

Why? It may be that sleep problems may contribute to clogged arteries or disrupt the immune system.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lifelong Healthy Weight Ups Your Chances For Not Dying of Colon Cancer

We've heard so much about obesity lately--how it can ruin your health. Well, here's another reason to avoid lifelong obesity: Your chances of survival as a postmenopausal woman are greater if you are diagnosed with colon cancer. And losing weight after the fact may be too late.

There have already been several studies revealing the association of excess body weight to a higher risk of colon cancer. In an Iowa Women's Health Study obese women had a 45% greater chance of all causes of death than women within a healthy weight range and a 32% greater chance of dying from colon cancer.

Source: MedlinePlus, health information from the National Library of Medicine

For more on cancer and obesity, visit

Friday, October 8, 2010

Smoking: You Can Get Help to Stop

Nicotine craving is a major hurdle. Some people try to kick the smoking habit by applying an antidepressant drug delivered through a patch on the skin, hopefully to reduce the craving, making it easier to quit. The drug proved not to be better than a placebo.

According to studies taken place at Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California, Dr. Joel D. Killen and his team determined that successful smoking cessation has to be a combination of pharmacologic aids and behavioral changes.

Good news from Medicare:

"Medicare will now pay for cessation counseling for any beneficiary who wants to quit (smoking). Until now, this service was covered only for Medicare recipients who had a smoking-related illness or symptoms of such an illness," according to a 9/1/2010 article written by Eleni Berger.

Smokers will be able to get counseling for 2 cessation attempts (at 4 sessions per attempt) but a qualified physician or other Medicare-recognized practitioner must provide the counseling.

Medicare Part D allows Medicare beneficiaries who are eligible to get prescription medication that can help the process.

Source: MedlinePlus, health information from the National Library of Medicine

For more on smoking, visit

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

PTSD and Cognitive Impairment

After physicians studied 10,481 veterans 65 and older, it was reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society on September 2, 2010 that people with post-traumatic stress disorder are at significantly greater risk for cognitive impairment (dementia) than their peers who had combat injuries but no stress disorder.

New studies will hopefully show whether the risk of dementia can be reduced by effectively treating PTSD.

"Confirmation of a causal link between PTSD and cognitive impairment in late life would have enormous global implication in a world facing a rising societal burden of dementia, a shrinking workforce to sustain its economies, and the difficulties of containing human violence," according to Dr. Soo Borson of the University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle. Moreover, "Soldiers and other U.S. war veterans are just one of many groups exposed to deeply traumatizing experiences with lifetime effect."

Source: MedlinePlus, health information from the National Library of Medicine

For more on PTSD and Mild Cognitive Impairment, visit

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Be Nice, Work Less and Stay Warm: It May Lower Your Chances of Getting a Heart Attack or Stroke

Those having competitive or aggressive personalities may be at increased risk of heart attack or stroke, a recent study revealed.

It was found that those traits caused a greater thickening of arteries of the neck.

Out-of-shape men need to rethink "working overtime." Working more than 45 hours per week more than doubled their risk of dying of heart disease, according to a recent Danish study.

Winter sports tourists are at greater risk for heart attacks due to low temperatures, high altitude and inadequate conditioning, according to Dr. Berhard Metzler of the European Society of Cardiology.

Source: MedlinePlus, health information from the National Library of Medicine

For more on behavior changes , anger and heart disease, visit

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fall Risk vs. Perceived Fall Risk

A study conduct in Sydney, Australia, of 500 people ages 70-90 reported that "both actual and perceived fall risk contribute independently to a person's future risk of falling. People with a high level of anxiety about falling are most likely to suffer a fall."

Most of the participants in the study had a clear perception of their fall risk. But about 1/3 of them either under- or over-estimated their risk.

Information taken from MedlinePlus, health information from the National Library of Medicine

For more on falls, barrier-free aids, and accident prevention, visit