Dense Breast Tissue: What It Means for You

Tuesday, October 06, 2015 9:02 AM comments (0)

DenseBreastTissueMammograms are an important early detection tool – and the best screening option – for breast cancer. During your mammogram your doctor will be able to learn more about your breasts, such as the density of your breast tissue. If it’s discovered during your mammogram that you have dense breast tissue, what does it mean?

Dense breast tissue refers to the mixture of fibrous, glandular tissue and fatty tissue within the breast. Breast tissue is considered dense if you have more of the fibrous and glandular tissue, but not much fat.

Barb Guido, APN-CNP, Nurse Practitioner in our High Risk Breast Program at NorthShore, provides the following information about dense breast tissue:

  1. Dense breast tissue can only be seen on mammograms. While common (and normal), dense breast tissue cannot be determined on your own by touch or feel. It is also not related to breast size. Dense breast tissue is easily identified on mammograms because it appears differently than non-dense tissue. NorthShore patients will be notified in writing if you have dense breast tissue. You will be informed that you have dense breast tissue within the result letter that is sent to the address you provided to central registration.
  2. It is more common in some women. Dense breast tissue is more likely to be found in women in their 40s and 50s and premenopausal women.
  3. Those with dense breast tissue may have a slight increased risk of cancer. Though the reason for the link is unclear, but it is advised that those with dense breast tissue may need additional types of imaging, e.g. ultrasound.
  4. Breast cancer tumors/masses can be harder to detect on mammograms in women with dense breast tissue. Dense breast tissue appears white on a mammogram; the same is true for all tumors and masses. This can make it difficult to distinguish healthy tissue from tumor/mass.

If you have dense breast tissue, you should talk with your physician about next steps. Together, you and your physician can determine if any additional testing is right for you. You can also make an appointment in the High Risk Breast Program to schedule a personalized breast risk assessment. Your physician and the staff in the High Risk Breast Program at NorthShore can determine which tests are appropriate for you.

When was your last mammogram? Do you have your next one scheduled? 


Cyberbullying: Identifying the Signs and Protecting Your Kids

Monday, October 05, 2015 9:08 AM comments (0)

cyberbullyingToday, bullying doesn’t necessarily stop once your child walks through the front door. Cyberbullying, an extension of traditional bullying, uses electronic technology and communication mediums—from emails and texts, to messages on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter—to send threatening and insulting messages anytime and anywhere. How do you protect your child when the threats are happening online? What is the role and responsibility of the school when bullying is happening both on and off school grounds? How do you know when it’s happening to your child?

Benjamin Shain, MD, PhD, Child-Adolescent Psychiatry, answers questions on cyberbullying and bullying to help parents and teachers find the best and most effective ways to protect kids:

How is bullying defined?
Bullying has been defined as having three elements: aggressive or deliberately harmful behavior 1) between peers that is 2) repeated and spans a length of time and 3) involves an imbalance of power, (e.g., related to physical strength or popularity), making it difficult for the victim to defend himself or herself. Bullying behavior falls into four categories: 1) direct-physical (e.g., assault, theft), 2) direct-verbal (e.g., threats, insults, name-calling), 3) indirect-relational (e.g., social exclusion, spreading rumors), and 4) cyber. The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey of students in grades 9 through 12 in the United States indicated that during the 12 months before the survey, 22.0% of girls and 18.2% of boys were bullied on school property, 22.1% of girls and 10.8% of boys were electronically bullied, and 6.0% of girls and 5.8% of boys did not go to school one day in the past 30 because they felt unsafe at school or on the way to or from school.

How can you tell the difference between a joke and cyberbullying? When should you be concerned? When should you get the other parents involved?
Note the definition of bullying in the above question. Look for repeated aggressive or harmful behaviors involving an imbalance of power. That said, there is little you can do to monitor without being highly intrusive. Some teens need this but most do not.

What is the best way for schools to handle cyberbullying when they find out about it? Is it different from the way they would or should handle regular bullying?
There is little difference in consequence between cyberbullying and the face-to-face variety. Schools are in a unique position to intervene. Parents are limited in what they can do and most bullying does not meet the threshold for legal involvement. My belief is that schools should handle all bullying as bullying.

How does a parent’s use of computers impact children? How can we set healthy examples that could contribute to less negative, and potentially bullying, situations?
Children learn more by example than what we tell them. I don't think we can have rules that apply to all (e.g., limit screens to X hours per day) as there is wide variation in needs and abilities of both parents and children. However, parents should consider rules when usage becomes excessive (e.g., seems to limit other activities) and redirection is not effective. How to handle bullying (as both victim and bully) can be modeled by example, as well, with parents talking about how they handle electronic situations as they arise.

How closely should you watch the way your kids use Facebook and their phone? Is it going too far to ask to see messages they send and receive?
Think of how you supervise kids in face-to-face interaction. Most kids navigate going to and from school and participating in class with some, but very limited, parental supervision. Some kids need much more supervision. Electronic situations are something that parents can supervise much more closely, as they are often with the child, or at least in the same house, when the communication occurs. Nonetheless, even if monitoring could be done (children will find ways to circumvent even the strictest supervision), children view supervision as highly intrusive. In addition, studies have shown that electronic communication is used heavily by children for support, which means close monitoring interferes with the support they are receiving from friends and peers. So, yes, for most children, it’s not recommended to ask to view all electronic communication.

Is it safer for kids not to have access to cell phones or social media? 
For most kids, electronic communication is not only the way they stay "in the loop" with their friends, but it is also the main way that they obtain social support. Taking this away protects them (and sometimes that is necessary) but it also denies them avenues for normal social and emotional development.

If your child is on the receiving end of a cyberbully’s attentions, how should they respond? When should they seek an authority figure's help?
First thing is to encourage them to bring in a parent for advice. I can’t emphasize enough, though, that I mean advice and not control. As soon parents clamp down on communication or take unwanted action, the child will stop communicating with them. An authority figure is useful when the actions are repeated and damaging.

What signs of bullying should a parent look for if a child is unwilling to communicate about what is going on inside or outside of school?
First, be patient. You may need to wait but typically waiting patiently and being there for support works faster than putting pressure on a child to communicate when they clearly do not want to. Second, look for signs of depression: overt sadness, angering more easily, isolating more, declining grades, less interest in seeing friends and other activities that had been considered fun. Some of this, such as self-imposed isolation, you may see as a consequence of normal development. However, when it is sudden, or combined with other problems, consider a mental health evaluation.

Why do the bullied often become bullies?
Kids are commonly both bullies and victims. Unfortunately, being a victim may teach children that imposing one’s power on another is important, which predisposes them to becoming a bully. As a parent, if you encounter this, talk to your child about his/her behavior and consider a mental health evaluation if the behavior persists.

If you do discover your child is being bullied, online or off, should you talk to your children and the parents of the other children involved before getting the school involved? Should the schools be told right away?
For a bullying victim, being a victim is highly embarrassing in and of itself. First, consider interventions that are less of a "deal," as long as they are effective at stopping the bullying. On the other hand, bullying involving threats or encouraging a child to commit suicide should be brought to the attention of the authorities immediately.

Does your child communicate with his or her friends online? How closely do you monitor activity?


Women’s Health: The Benefits of Kegels

Friday, September 25, 2015 8:11 AM comments (0)

There are many things that women can do to stay healthy – whether it’s getting sufficient calcium to getting regular mammograms and pelvic exams as women age. But what is one of the most common exercises that women tend to forget? 

Kegel exercises help strengthen the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor – a series of muscles and tissue between the hips – supports a woman’s womb, bladder and bowels. The pelvic floor can be weakened in women from pregnancy, childbirth, aging and weight gain. If the pelvic floor muscles are weakened, it can cause many symptoms including urinary incontinence and discomfort. Mary Conte, MD, Obstetrics & Gynecology at NorthShore, recommends that women regularly do Kegel exercises. 

So what are Kegel exercises? Think of the muscles used to stop peeing; those are the muscles utilized while doing Kegels. Practice squeezing these muscles and holding them for 3 seconds and then relaxing. Try to do this a total of 10 times, 3 times a day. When you start, do the exercises lying down, then as you get stronger you can do them sitting or standing. 

Dr. Conte often recommends Kegel exercises for:

  • Pregnant and postpartum women. The pelvic floor can be stretched and weakened with pregnancy. Daily Kegels during pregnancy and after childbirth can help maintain pelvic floor support, treat incontinence and prevent hemorrhoids. Kegels should be done every day to maintain muscle strength.
  • Patients experiencing stress incontinence. Stress incontinence is when urine is leaked while laughing, coughing, sneezing, jumping, or lifting something heavy. Kegels can help prevent these leaks.
  • Young women. Regular Kegel exercises help keep the muscles toned and contribute to a most satisfying sexual experience. 

As with any exercise, remember to consult your doctor before you start. Don’t forget to be proactive! Exercising is better at preventing a problem than treating one. 



Alzheimer’s Disease – Knowing Your Risk

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 8:39 AM comments (0)


Alzheimer's DiseaseIt’s one thing for an elderly relative, friend or loved one to be forgetful from time to time, but if you begin to notice changes in memory, thinking and problem solving you may want to consider getting him or her screened for Alzheimer’s disease. While the progression of this condition may vary from person to person, there are tell-tale signs to help determine diagnosis.

Dr. Chad Yucus, Neurologist with NorthShore, recommends looking for the following warning signs for those who may be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (AD):

  • Repetitively asking the same questions during conversation
  • Getting lost or disoriented in familiar surroundings
  • Frequently forgetting common words
  • Having trouble managing your finances and/or checkbook when it never used to be a problem 
  • Forgetting important dates, such as family members’ birthdays and anniversaries

While it can be normal to have any of these problems occur once in a while, they become concerning if they begin to affect the person’s daily life. 

Along with warning signs, Dr. Yucus also outlines some of the most common risk factors for developing this condition, including:

  • Age and sex: Alzheimer’s is most common in those who are 65 years of age or older, and more frequently affects women.
  • Lifestyle: Those who are sedentary and socially isolated have a higher risk for having changes in memory and thinking.
  • Family history:  Those with a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with Alzheimer’s disease have a modest increased risk of developing the condition themselves.
  • Genetics:  Inheriting certain genes, like the APO-e4 , can increase the chance that a person will develop AD—but having the gene does not make development of the condition inevitable.   More rarely, and usually associated with early onset of AD, there are inherited genes which do run in families and directly cause the condition.

Do you know someone with Alzheimer’s disease? What recommendations would you have to others who are just finding out someone they know has this disease?



A Passion for Care: Dr. Jorge Saucedo on Working in Cardiology

Monday, September 21, 2015 2:46 PM comments (0)

Dr. Jorge SaucedoJorge Saucedo, MD, has had a love for medicine since he was a student, which has led to his success as the Division Chief of Interventional Cardiology at NorthShore. He now shares his experience and some helpful tips on heart health, as well as some of his most interesting personal passions.

When did you know you wanted to go into medicine? Was there a particular moment of realization? Where did it all start?
For me, it was when I was finishing high school. Outside of the U.S., you begin medical school right after high school (there is no college, and medical school is longer).  For me at the age of 17-18, it was more like “I guess I will go into medicine”. I truly fell in love with medicine at the end of my second year of medical school. My love for the profession has increased with every year that goes by.

When did your attention turn to cardiology? What led you to this specialty?
The second hardest decision was to choose between surgery and internal medicine when finishing medical school. The decision was made the night before the interviews. In regards to cardiology, this was easy. As soon as I started my internal medicine training, I knew I wanted to become a cardiologist.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Spending quality time with patients. I also enjoy doing complex interventions, particularly in patients with heart attacks.

What do you find most challenging about cardiology? Treatment of patients?
Keeping up with how tremendously fast the field evolves.

What do you think is the most important thing everyone should know about their heart/the care of their heart?
Prevention is crucial. Watch your blood pressure, know your cholesterol levels, exercise and don't use tobacco products.

What can/should people do themselves to improve their heart health?
Maintain healthy eating and sleeping patterns, and do not abuse alcoholic drinks.

One of your other passions is opera and classical music? Where did this passion start?
When I was around 15 years old. Both, music and voce have been a fascination to me.

Is there any particular performer or performance that inspires you?
I have had the privilege of hearing the best opera singers on the best world stages. I love Mozart and Verdi operas. Obviously, Spanish tenors like Placido Domingo are on the top of my list. Hearing Joyce DiDonato was also truly inspirational.

If you could perform anywhere or for anyone, where or who would it be?
If I had any talent, I would love to perform at Teatro alla Scala in Milano or the Lyric in downtown Chicago. Maybe the roles of Manrico in Il Trovatore or Mario Cavaradossi in Tosca.


Fresh Recipe: Marinara Sauce

Thursday, September 17, 2015 10:15 AM comments (0)

marinara-recipeWith fall approaching fast, we’re looking forward to the cooler air, warmer clothes and comfort food. Our latest recipe lets you enjoy a hearty dish with a healthy twist that is great to add over pasta, chicken or roasts. 

Katrina Herrejon, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at NorthShore, shares her recipe for marinara sauce – a great source of potassium and antioxidants. 

Recipe makes 5 servings


2 lbs. plum tomatoes, stem and core removed 

1 sprig of oregano 

1 bay leaf

1 garlic clove, skin removed 

1 ½ tsp sugar

¾ tsp salt 

1 tbsp olive oil

¼ of a large onion, chopped (2oz)

½ zucchini, grated (1.5oz)

½ carrot, peeled and grated (1oz)

3-4 basil leaves, sliced into ribbons

Black pepper to taste


  • Quarter the tomatoes and place them in a food processor.  Blend until smooth.
  • Transfer the tomato puree to a large pot.
  • Add the oregano, bay leaf, garlic, sugar and salt to the puree.   Simmer for 30 minutes until reduced.
  • Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet and sauté the onion, zucchini and carrot until the carrot is soft and the onion is golden brown. 
  • Add the sautéed vegetables to the tomato puree and cook the sauce an additional 15 minutes.  
  • Remove the oregano, garlic clove and bay leaf from the sauce and discard.  
  • Add the basil and black pepper.   Serve warm.

Nutrition Information (per ½ cup serving): 

  Calories   71

                Fat         3g

                Carb       10g

                Fiber     2g

                Protein 1g



Skipping a Beat: Signs and Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 11:05 AM comments (0)

afib-heart-healthAtrial fibrillation (AFib) is an irregular beating of the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) and occurs with increasing frequency as people age. The American Heart Association estimates that there are more than 2.5 million cases of AFib in the United States, many of them unrecognized.

While AFib is usually not life threatening, it is a medical condition that can be serious if untreated.  AFib often requires medication to minimize the chance that complications of the rhythm occur. AFib can lead to poor blood flow in the body, weakened heart muscle, and sometimes causes blood clots to develop that could lead to stroke. Unfortunately, the signs of symptoms of AFib can differ widely from patient to patient.

Dr. Wes Fisher, Cardiologist at NorthShore, lists the different symptoms of AFib to be aware of:

  • Heart palpitations: this feels like your heart is fluttering, racing or a flip-flopping sensation in your chest
  • Awareness of your hearting beating, especially in an irregular or rapid fashion
  • Chest pain, pressure or discomfort at rest or with exertion
  • New fatigue or weakness
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • New shortness of breath

While it is important to know the symptoms of AFib, not all people experience symptoms. Sometimes AFib is discovered through an annual physical exam or another diagnostic test. Dr. Fischer stresses the importance of your annual physical to monitor any changes over the years.

Atrial fibrillation is more common in adults and the risk of the arrhythmia increases for adults over the age of 65. There are three different types of atrial fibrillation varying in severity: 

  • Intermittent AFib is when the symptoms come and go but stop on their own. The symptoms may last for a few minutes or a few hours. 
  • Persistent AFib is when your heart rate does not go back to normal on its own and requires treatment from your doctor to go back to normal. 
  • Permanent AFib will often require medications, such as blood thinners, to help control your heart rate and avoid blood clots. 

When is the last time you had your annual physical?



A Caregiver's Love: Russ Bond Shares His and His Husband's Journey Through Prostate Cancer

Monday, September 14, 2015 9:19 AM comments (0)

russ bond

Patient Don Tabler was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, with some charts giving him only six years to live. His husband Russ Bond cared for him throughout his 12-year journey with prostate cancer.

Here, Russ discusses the important role of a caregiver as well as the care his husband received at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center, including the cutting edge treatments and clincial trials that helped Don's doctor, Daniel Shevrin, MD, Medical Oncology and Palliative Medicine, improve and maintain his quality of live and extend his survival far beyond what was intially projected.


Suicide Prevention: Identifying Risk Factors and Noticing the Warning Signs

Thursday, September 10, 2015 9:18 AM comments (0)

suicideAccording to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide was the 10th leading cause of the death in the U.S. in 2009. That year there were 37,000 suicides, with one million reported attempted suicides. In the same year, suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24.

Suicide is a major health issue but it’s also a potentially preventable one. While there are several risk factors for suicide, any person who expresses suicidal thoughts or the intent to commit suicide should be taken seriously.  Risk factors for suicide include:

  1. Prior suicide attempts
  2. History and family history of mental disorders
  3. History and family history of substance abuse
  4. History of physical violence and sexual abuse
  5. Chronic illness and/or chronic pain
  6. Exposure to the suicidal behavior of family and friends

Knowing and acting on the signs of suicide exhibited by others could save thousands of lives each year. If someone appears depressed and/or expresses suicidal thoughts, it's important to listen closely and take that person seriously. It's especially important to be concerned if someone exhibits any of these signs and has also attempted suicide in the past, as most successful suicides were preceded by one or more attempts. 

Benjamin Shain, MD, PhD, Psychiatry at NorthShore, shares some of the warning signs of suicide and discusses what you can do to help a person who might be contemplating suicide:

  • Risk-taking behavior. Those who are contemplating suicide might “tempt fate” by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving at dangerous speeds. 
  • Losing interest in previously important activities and friends. Unexplained loss of interest in things like sports, work and volunteer activities might also be combined with a withdrawal from interactions with friends and self-imposed isolation.
  • Researching methods of suicide. Searching suicide online or buying anything that could be used to commit suicide is an important sign to watch for.
  • Talking about death and hopelessness. Conversations and discussions might center on death and wanting to die or on feelings of hopelessness and lacking reasons to live. Potentially suicidal people might also talk about being a burden to family and friends or experiencing unendurable pain.
  • Extreme shifts in mood. Periods of deep depression could be punctuated by feelings of elation, happiness or rage.
  • Increased substance abuse. A history of substance abuse is a risk factor for suicide but increased use could be a warning sign of suicidal thoughts.
  • Noticeable changes in sleep patterns. This could either be exhibited as sleeping too much or suffering from insomnia. 
  • Giving away possessions. Suddenly giving away multiple items that seemed important to the person in the past.

What should you do if you notice these behaviors in a friend or family member?

First, discuss your observations or concerns with the person and/or other friends or family members. Make sure to listen to the person’s concerns and what might be stressful for them. It's essential to urge the person to speak to their primary care physician and/or a mental health professional. If you believe they are an immediate risk to themselves, call 911. 


Power Up: Exercises Every Athlete Should Know

Tuesday, September 08, 2015 12:30 PM comments (0)

Plank exerciseAthletes come in all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities. Differences aside, all athletes should supplement their sports routine with additional training to build strength and prevent injury. Whether you are a dedicated yogi, marathon runner or recreational-league champion – the exercises below can help keep you strong, healthy and injury-free.

Valerie Damlos, PT, OCS, CMP, Clinic Manager of Outpatient Rehab Services at NorthShore, gives tips on some of the best exercises to add to your routine. Keep in mind that proper technique is very important, so be sure to familiarize yourself with each step. 

  • Squat. When preparing for a squat, stand so your feet are shoulder width apart, then turn your toes slightly outward. As you prepare to squat, push your butt back and lower yourself down as if you are going to sit in a chair. Remember to press your weight down through your heels and to keep your back straight. Make sure that your knees stay aligned with your feet and do not go inward. Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
  • Bridge. Lie on your back and bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor, hip width apart. Tighten your core and lift your hips in the air, keeping your back straight throughout the motion. To modify the exercise, tighten your gluteal (butt) muscles or only raise your hips as high as you can. To make the exercise more challenging, try lifting one leg off the ground, keeping your hips level. Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
  • Plank. Facing the ground, place your hands directly under your shoulders with your feet on the ground. Push yourself up and hold the position so you are supporting your body weight in a straight line.  Keep your head aligned with your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Keep your core completely engaged and do not allow your back to arch or sag. To modify this exercise, drop your knees to the ground while keeping a straight line from your shoulders to your hips and knees. To make the exercise more challenging, support your plank from your forearms. Hold for 10-30 seconds and perform 5-10 repetitions. 
  • Push Up. Starting in the plank position, look straight down between your hands, keeping your head aligned with your shoulders. Lower your body, bringing your elbows to a 45-degree angle away from your sides. Push up to the starting position and repeat. Keep your core engaged throughout the movement and keep your back straight. Lower your chest first and not your head. Remember to keep your head pulled back as you lower. To modify your push up, drop your knees. To make it more challenging, push up with your feet on a step or chair. Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions. 

As with any exercise routine, it is important to not overexert yourself. If you are in pain or are just starting a workout regime, you should consult with your doctor.

What is your favorite exercise to do? How to you make your exercises more challenging?

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