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September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Many people are not familiar with thyroid cancer considering it is not one of the more common cancers in the United States. Thyroid cancer is quite treatable. Therefore, it is very important to be aware of this disease.

“The thyroid is a small gland at the base of your neck that looks like a butterfly and produces hormones which regulate the body's metabolic rate...”
<p>The thyroid is a small gland at the base of your neck that looks like a butterfly and produces hormones which regulate the body's metabolic rate...</p>
  • What is the thyroid?
  • Where is the thyroid located?
  • What is the function of the thyroid?

These are all very important questions. The thyroid is a small gland at the base of your neck that looks like a butterfly and produces hormones which regulate the body's metabolic rate as well as heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development and bone maintenance.

Thyroid cancer, which affects women more often than men, cannot be prevented. However, the treatment for thyroid cancer has been found to be successful. Surgery can be performed as well as a therapy which includes radioactive iodine. After a thyroidectomy or the total removal of the thyroid gland, on-going hormone therapy is necessary. It is rare that thyroid cancer spreads throughout the body. However if indicated, radiation and chemotherapy can be considered in these situations.

The American Thyroid Association discusses four types of cancer. They are listed below in the order of most to least common.

  • Papillary Thyroid Cancer accounts for about 70% - 80% of the diagnosed cases and can affect people of all ages. Papillary cancer tends to grow slowly. Even if it spreads to the lymph nodes, the general outlook is still very positive.
  • Follicular Thyroid Cancer makes up 10% - 15% of thyroid cancer in the United States. This is a significant decrease in the number of cases compared to those with papillary thyroid cancer. Patients tend to be older in age. In addition to spreading to the lymph nodes, this type of cancer can grow in the blood vessels and possibly spread to the lungs and bones.
  • Medullary Thyroid Cancer – only accounts for 5% - 10% of all thyroid cancers. It could be based on hereditary and other endocrine problems. Genetic testing can be performed.
  • Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer only affects less than 2% of the patients with thyroid cancer. This cancer is the most aggressive type and least responsive to treatment.

According to Dr. Tom Connally, the Medical Director of the Norman Regional Health System Endocrine Surgery Program and an expert in the area of minimally-invasive thyroid and parathyroid surgeries, "It is important to discuss your treatment options with a physician to determine the most effective method for you based on your situation, age, health and medical history."

The overall prognosis for thyroid cancer is very optimistic, considering it is curable for the vast majority of patients diagnosed. And that is very good news for people facing a diagnosis of thyroid cancer.

What is West Nile Virus?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

West Nile virus is a term we continue to hear. What is this virus? Is this a local virus? Can this affect my family? These are important questions to have answered.

“The virus can have varying results on individuals based on their central nervous system.”
<p>The virus can have varying results on individuals based on their central nervous system.</p>

The West Nile virus has documented cases around the world and first spread to North American in the late 1990s. It has continued to spread across the continental United States as well as Canada. The West Nile virus is mainly spread via the bite of an infected mosquito. A mosquito can become infected when they feed on an infected bird and in turn can infect both humans as well as other animals. While it is extremely rare, the virus could be spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.

The virus can have varying results on individuals based on their central nervous system. While most people infected with the virus experience no symptoms, those who do may have dizziness, headaches, a rash, muscular issues, body aches and/or intestinal problems. It can cause febrile illness which is when the body temperature spikes. People with the minor symptoms are most likely to have a complete recovery, although fatigue could continue for weeks or even months.

Anyone over the age of 60 as well as those with certain medical conditions are susceptible to a more severe impact. These medical conditions may include diabetes, cancer and those with a compromised immune system. While it is very rare, encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, and meningitis, an infection of the lining of the brain as well as the spinal cord, are neurological illnesses that could result from West Nile Virus. It has only affected about 1% of those infected by West Nile Virus.

People who spend a lot of time outdoors for work or other activities are at a higher risk because of their increased exposure. Wearing long sleeves, long pants and socks could help protect your skin. In addition, insect repellent with DEET could be beneficial as well. At this time, there is not a vaccination for West Nile virus or medications to treat the virus. There are only over the counter remedies to reduce the symptoms for those with mild reactions. Individuals with severe outcomes may need to be hospitalized. Our best defense is to minimize the potential of getting mosquito bites.

According to Dr. Patrick Cody, Medical Director of Norman Regional Health System's EMSSTAT Emergency Services, "Mosquito-borne viruses are interesting because they are an excellent example of how we can impact a disease by prevention measures. If we use public health resources to reduce mosquito populations and decrease mosquito exposure (ie., the "fight the bite" ads), we can stop the disease in its tracks."

Patients with Parkinson’s Fighting Back

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Oklahomans living with Parkinson's can now fight back at their disease with a new boxing program. Through a partnership between Norman Regional Health System (NRHS), The Health Club and the Oklahoma Parkinson's Foundation, two Norman Regional Rehabilitation therapists were able to be trained at the non-profit Rock Steady Boxing Program. The program uses boxing classes and coaches to help improve the lives of those with Parkinson’s disease.

“The program uses boxing classes and coaches to help improve the lives of those with Parkinson’s disease.”
<p>The program uses boxing classes and coaches to help improve the lives of those with Parkinson’s disease.</p>

Starting in June, The Health Club will offer Rock Steady Boxing classes every Tuesday and Thursday at 1:00pm. Rock Steady Boxing is a class taught by certified professionals who use a non-contact, boxing inspired fitness routine to improve the ability of people with Parkinson’s to live independent lives. The philosophy behind the program comes from the equipment and exercises used by boxers. Some of the equipment includes heavy bags, speed bags and punch mitts. The goal is to increase core strength, improve balance and posture as well as flexibility and speed.

Rock Steady is a national non-profit that not only has its own gym where classes are taught, but also trains others in their unique program for people living with Parkinson's. Debbie Bennett, an NRHS occupational therapist and Stacy Hyden, an NRHS physical therapist are the two therapists who trained in Indianapolis and became certified trainers in the program.

Parkinson's disease is a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination. It affects about half a million people in the United States although the numbers may be much higher. Exercise can help people with Parkinson's improve their mobility and flexibility. It can also improve their emotional well-being. Exercise may improve the brain's dopamine production or increase levels of beneficial compounds called neurotrophic factors in the brain.

It is exciting to have such interest in the program which was launched on June 2nd. At a recent open house to educate our community about the benefits of the program, over 50 people were in attendance.

The classes are open to anyone diagnosed with Parkinson's Diseases, however, in order to participate, an initial assessment is required. The Health Club is located at 3720 W Robinson St #124 in Norman. To inquire about the cost of the assessment, class fees or equipment, you may contact Lisa at (405)307-1722.

June is Men’s Health Month – Make Your Health a Priority!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

In honor of Father's Day and Men's Health Month, it is the time to bring attention to the importance of prevention and early detection. Now is a perfect opportunity to send out reminders that men need to schedule their regular health screenings as well as follow through with early treatment.

“men need to schedule their regular health screenings as well as follow through with early treatment”
<p>men need to schedule their regular health screenings as well as follow through with early treatment</p>

Here are some general guidelines to follow on the frequency of various screenings for men ages 40 – 60.  Depending on your medical history, your family history as well as some other factors, you physician may recommend a different schedule for you.

  1. A Routine physical exam - During your exam, your provider may ask you about:
    1. Mental Wellbeing
    2. Nutrition and Physical Activity
    3. Tobacco products and alcohol consumption
    4. Safety issues – Do you wear a seat belt? Are your smoke detectors in working order?  Do you have a weather plan in place?
  2. Blood Pressure Screening
    1. A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80. The top number is called the systolic number and the bottom number is the diastolic number.  Here is a tip on how to remember the difference.  The D in diastolic refers to the D in the word Down or the bottom number.
    2. You should checked more frequently if your blood pressure is high.
    3. According to the National Institutes of Health, you are considered to have high blood pressure if your numbers are above 120/80 mm Hg. 
      1. Pre-hypertension occurs when the systolic number is between 120 and 139 or the diastolic number is between 80 and 89 mm Hg.  In this case.
      2. When the systolic number is greater than 139 or the diastolic number is higher than 89, you want to contact your physician and schedule an appointment.  Do not wait for an annual exam.
    4. If you have certain conditions including diabetes, heart disease, problems with your kidneys, discuss the frequency of your blood pressure screenings with you provider.
  3. Your height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) should be checked at every exam.
  4. Cholesterol Screening and Heart Diseases Prevention
    1. This should be checked every 5 years starting at the age of 35.
    2. Discuss the frequency of this test if you have heart or kidney disease, diabetes or other conditions.
  5. Diabetes Screening –
    1. Tests include an A1C blood test, an FPG test, which is the fasting plasma glucose test and an oral glucose tolerance test. 
    2. Frequency of these tests should be every three years once you are 45 years and older. 
  6. Colon Cancer Screening
    1. Under the age of 50, you should be screened if you have a family history of colon cancer or polyps.
    2. If you are between the ages of 50 to 75, you should be screened for colon cancer.
      1. A stool occult blood test can be done every year.
      2. Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years along with the stool occult test every three years. 
      3. A colonoscopy should be done 10 years
  7. Dental Exam –
    1. Schedule a dental appointment one or two times per year.
    2. They will perform a cleaning and an oral exam.
    3. Many dentists will also provide an oral head and neck cancer screening.
  8. Eye Exam
    1. Between the ages of 40 and 54, you should schedule an eyes exam every 2 to 4 years.  The frequency increases to 1 to 3 years once you are 55 to 64 years old.
    2. Depending on your medical history and current condition, your physician may want to see you more often especially if there are signs of glaucoma or cataracts.
  9. Prostate Cancer Screening
    1. Over the past 5 -10 years, the recommendations for annual prostate screenings have changed. Questions in the medical community have arisen regarding PSA tests (Prostate Specific Antigen).  The benefits of the test may no longer outweigh the harm caused by the test. 
    2. Men over 50 should discuss their personal situation with their provider to discuss their course of action.  Tests and exams are now typically only performed when symptoms arise and not preventively.
  10. Lung Cancer Screening –
    1. The non-invasive and painless test is a computed tomography (CT) scan of the chest area. A radiologist looks at the image produced by the scan. A patient is notified of any abnormal findings by a specialized nurse navigator. If the findings are normal, patients will receive a letter with this result. It is recommended that patients share all results and findings with their primary care physician. This screening provides a baseline or point of reference for additional tests you may need throughout your life.
    2. The screening is recommended for people who:
      1. Are between the ages of 55 to 74
      2. Have smoked more than a pack a day for 30 years
      3. Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years
      4. Have been exposed to second-hand smoke for an extended period of time
      5. Had or have a job with exposure to radon, asbestos or diesel exhaust
    3. The Lung Screening is a new service offered by Norman Regional Health System.  The cost is only $79.  Insurance will not be billed.

Preventive services can really save lives.  Remember these are standard recommendations that need to be altered to meet your specific needs.  It is very important to put your health as a priority.  Be proactive and stay healthy!

Act FAST and Be a Hero

Monday, May 2, 2016

Considering May is Stroke Awareness Month, it is the perfect time to remind everyone of the simple ways to detect any signs and symptoms of a stroke. When someone’s heart stops functioning properly, they may be having a heart attack. A similar term is now used with a stroke. A stroke can be referred to as a brain attack.

“We can be a hero and help save someone. The word to know is FAST.”
<p>We can be a hero and help save someone. The word to know is FAST.</p>

A stroke occurs when oxygen can no longer reach the brain. The arteries leading to the brain can be blocked or the vessels may rupture. According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the leading cause of disability as well as the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. We can be a hero and help save someone. The word to know is FAST. It is actually an acronym that represents:

  • Face
  • Arm
  • Speech
  • Time

Face – The face is usually relatively symmetrical. If you notice that one side of someone's face begins to droop, this could a sign that he or she is having a stroke. The brain is no longer able to communicate to the muscles within the face and one side starts to hang down.

Arm – If someone begins to have weakness and the inability to maneuver an arm or a hand, this also could be a result of a stroke. You may ask them to raise both arms and see if they are able to control them.

Speech – When an individual has difficulty forming words or proper sentences, this too is a sign that cannot be ignored.

Time – Once a person displays even one of these signs or symptoms, there is no time to wait. He or she needs specialized medical treatment as fast as possible. You should not put them in your car and drive them to the hospital. It is imperative that 9-1-1 is called. The first three hours are extremely critical. A clot-busting medication can only be effectively administered within this short time period. Even if the 3 hour window has been surpassed, it is still important to contact 9-1-1.

Norman Regional Health System (NRHS) has designated as a Certified Stroke Center by the Joint Commission. According to the Joint Commission, this designation has been awarded based on the exceptional effort and best practices unique to patients who have experienced a stroke. They are used to create the opportunity for better long-term outcomes. The ability to provide this level of care should provide our community with peace of mind.

EMSStat is NRHS's emergency medical service that serves Norman, Moore and the surrounding communities. When they are informed of a potential stroke, they begin communicating with the emergency room so that the appropriate personnel are onsite to provide immediate care upon arrival. The clot busting medication is called Tissue Plasminogen Activator or tPA for short. This medication will be administered upon arrival in the emergency room. The faster it is administered, the more brain cells can be saved. According to Tom Gremling, MSN-E, RN, NRHS Stroke Training Center Coordinator at NRHS, "Studies show that early detection and activation of the EMS system is imperative when dealing with stroke. At the time of a stroke event, a billion brain cells a minute are dying off, so remember Time is Brain, act FAST!"

By acting FAST, you can be a hero. You have the ability to save a life or the quality of someone’s lifestyle. Remember: Face, Arm, Speech and Time.