Think Pink: Breast Cancer History, Risk Factors and Prevention [Infographic]

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 11:56 AM comments (0)

This October during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, help us spread the word about the importance of early detection and prevention.  Yearly mammograms can help identify breast cancer in its early, treatable stages and various lifestyle changes may help reduce your risk of developing the disease. 

NorthShore University HealthSystem has created a breast cancer infographic that includes a brief history of the disease, risk factors and preventative measures. Click on the image below to view our full breast cancer infographic and find out what you can do now to reduce your risk. 

breast cancer infographic

One Step at a Time: Katie Clarke’s Journey from Patient to Breast Cancer Mentor

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 2:47 PM comments (0)

Katie Clarke was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction at NorthShore Glenbrook Hospital, followed by four months of chemotherapy and a year-long course of Herceptin treatments at Evanston Hospital. 

Before her own diagnosis, and in memory of her best friend who lost her own life to the disease in 2006, Katie and her family would make a point of cheering on the participants of the three-day breast cancer walk in Chicago armed with motivational signs and licorice. This, and her own breast cancer journey, would later inspire Katie and her sister to found The Licorice Project.

In part one of this two-part series, Katie shares her NorthShore patient story, from her road to diagnosis, to what’s next for her and the passion project born from her experience with breast cancer:

Katie ClarkeHow did your journey to diagnosis begin?
In 2011, at the age of 45, I found a lump in my breast, despite the fact that I had diagnostic mammograms every six months for the previous 1 1/2 years and no family history of the disease. An examination, diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy confirmed the diagnosis. 

How did you feel in the weeks after diagnosis and during treatment? What was hardest? What was surprising?
I felt scared and overwhelmed in the weeks following my diagnosis. There were so many appointments, tests and decisions to make in a short amount of time. During treatment, I felt sick for a couple of days after chemotherapy but then felt fine for the next two weeks, and even went back to substitute teaching until the next round of chemo. I just did what I was told by the doctors; I kind of felt like I was on autopilot. 

I didn't really process my emotions until I was finished with treatment. Then I thought, "What just happened to me?" Once I regained my energy, I had trouble "re-entering" my active and hectic family life. My priorities had changed: I wanted to just relax and enjoy a slower-paced life with my family.

I would say the hardest times were recovering from surgery and the management of lymphedema. But what surprised me were the silver linings that I encountered, especially all the wonderful people I met along the way. 

What brought you to NorthShore for your treatment?
My father, Dr. William Kerr, is a physician at NorthShore. Evanston Hospital has been a part of my family's life forever. I have received all my medical care there. 

David Winchester, MD, Surgical Oncologist, was recommended by my OB/GYN’s office. Dr. Winchester and I live in the same community. We know each other personally through our children's sports teams. I never imagined I would become one of his patients. I’m honored to call him both my doctor and friend.  

I felt well cared for by everyone at NorthShore, especially everyone on my care team: Dr. Douglas Merkel (oncologist), Dr. Joseph Feldman (lymphedema), Dr. Kim Grahl (internal medicine), Dr. William Banzhaf (obstetrics and gynecology), Bonnie Ryszka (oncology nurse), Meg Madvig (Kellogg social worker), Maria Sobel (physical therapy for lympedema massages) and Patricia Piant (acupuncture). The staff at NorthShore is loving, knowledgeable and compassionate. I feel so lucky to have been taken care of by the incredible staff at NorthShore!

What do you know now that you wish you’d known before/during treatment?
I wish I had been more knowledgeable about the long-term effects of lymphedema. (Editor’s Note: Lymphedema is a swelling that occurs in arms and legs, but generally only in one limb. It’s caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system, which prevents lymph fluid from draining. Lymphedema can be caused by another condition or a disease that damages lymph nodes or vessels, like surgery, radiation, cancer and infection.)

Katie Clarke 2What helped you most during treatment?
Family members and friends accompanied me to all of my treatments (17 in total). I chose to use these days as an opportunity to spend unique quality time with friends and family. 

Where did the idea for The Licorice Project come from?
Shortly after my treatment began, I started mentoring others and sharing resources and tips that had been helpful to me. It’s so important to connect with others who have “been there, done that” and can help manage expectations. At the same time my sister, Kendra, was getting involved in the Chicago startup scene. Together, we wondered what we could do to help make the journey less overwhelming for future breast cancer patients and the people who care about them. We searched for a way to use technology to connect and empower people but to also facilitate offline relationships. The Licorice Project was our answer.

Our goal is to change the breast cancer experience by connecting people locally, sharing resources, and making it easier to give and receive help. We focus on the practical, social and emotional aspects of having breast cancer, and strive to complement what the medical community and other cancer organizations are doing. 

Why Licorice? 
While participating in our first breast cancer walk, we were touched by those who came out to cheer us on and give us treats—like licorice. That inspired us to begin our own family tradition of handing out licorice to walkers in Chicago as they passed through our neighborhood. This simple gesture made people feel happy and upbeat and brought a smile to their faces. Our hope is that The Licorice Project will improve the lives of everyone affected by breast cancer and spread a little unexpected joy along the way.

What’s next? For you? For The Licorice Project?
I feel great! I will continue to have my blood work done and see my doctors every three months. I’m passionate about mentoring newly diagnosed patients and honored to serve on the Oncology Patient Advisory Board at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center.

As for The Licorice Project, we are focused on building our local community and the team. Eventually we hope to expand it to numerous locations across the U.S. so we can provide hope and inspiration to as many people as possible.

What advice would you give to newly diagnosed women?
The best advice someone gave me was to take this journey in stages, one step at a time, otherwise it will be too overwhelming. Try to accept help from others—it’s good for you, your family and the people who want to support you.

 

Crossing the Finish Line: Race-Day Tips for New Marathoners

Friday, October 11, 2013 10:31 AM comments (0)

marathonYou’ve come all this way. You’ve spent months training and run hundreds of miles to prepare for race day. Don’t let a preventable injury keep you from crossing that finish line or ruin the prospects of running marathon number two in the near future.

From mile one to the final stretch, stay injury-free with these tips from Carrie Jaworski, MD, Director of Primary Care Sports Medicine at NorthShore: 

  • Don’t try something new on race day. This rule applies to nearly everything. Don’t eat a food you haven’t eaten during training. It could upset your stomach and result in more time than you would like spent in the restrooms along the race route. Don’t wear clothing you haven’t worn before, from shorts and shirts to socks and shoes. Untested clothing might feel fine at mile five but by mile 18 you could be dealing with race-ending chafing or blisters.
  • Start slow and maintain a steady pace. Don’t let the excitement at the starting line get the best of you. There are 26.2 miles ahead of you, so conserve your energy and start slow. Passing and weaving amongst the thousands of runners at the starting line also increases the possibility of injury from tripping and falling. Maintaining a steady pace means you’ll finish strong instead of struggling to the end. 
  • Have a plan about fluid intake. Prepare ahead of time by staying hydrated on the days leading up to the race. Your urine should be clear yellow, not dark. On race day, you should alternate water and an electrolyte drink at the pace you established during your training. Be careful to avoid drinking at every fluid station, as that can increase your risk of hyponatremia (low blood sodium). A good rule of thumb is to drink 4-6 ounces every 15-20 minutes after the first 30-60 minutes of exercise.  Be sure to consume gels with water. And don’t forget to hydrate after the race as well!
  • Listen to your body. If the race doesn’t go as planned, don’t ignore what your body is telling you. There are medical aid stations throughout the course and at the finish line to help you if you are unsure. Remember, no matter what happens, you have already succeeded by all the hard work you put in to get to the starting line.
  • Bring a change of clothes. Always have a change of warm, dry clothes waiting for you after the race. You’ll need to keep your muscles warm to avoid cramping after the race is over. Depending on the weather, if you sit in sweat-soaked clothes for too long, you risk developing hypothermia.
  • Stretch! Make sure to stretch and roll out sore muscles soon after finishing the race. Stretching after the race is an important way to help minimize muscle soreness the next day. Scheduling a massage for the next day is good too!

Wishing Chicago Marathon runners, old and new, a happy and successful race day from NorthShore University HealthSystem. 

Meet Your Protein Needs Without Meat

Thursday, October 10, 2013 2:44 PM comments (0)

Protein is an essential element of a healthy, well-balanced diet. In fact, protein makes up a large part of all your body’s cells, which is why it is so important that you get enough each day. And that’s especially true for those following a vegetarian, nearly vegetarian or vegan diet who don’t get their daily requirement from protein-rich sources like meat. The good news is that reaching your daily protein needs doesn’t mean having to include more meat or even any meat all.Vegetarian-Protein

Just how much protein do you need on a daily basis? Women need approximately 46 grams and men 56 grams of protein each day. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers need to add additional protein to their diets. On average, it is recommended that they get 70 grams each day. Athletes and active individuals also require more protein based on the length, frequency and intensity of their workouts, which could mean increasing their protein intake by 50% more than a non-active man or woman.

Nearly every food contains some amount of protein but there are plenty of protein-rich, vegetarian-friendly options out there too. It might surprise you just how much protein there is in some of these healthy, meatless foods.

Jennifer Panicko, RD, LDN at NorthShore, shares some of the best veggie-friendly options to maximize daily protein intake:

  • Lentils. These pack a serious protein punch with 18 grams of protein per cooked cup. 
  • Greek yogurt. All dairy products are good sources of protein but Greek yogurt kicks it up a notch with approximately 20 grams per 6-ounce serving.
  • Chickpeas. There are 8 grams of protein per serving of chickpeas. Chickpeas also happen to be the main ingredient in hummus. Put it on crackers or veggies for a high-protein snack.
  • Beans. This one won’t surprise you. Most beans—black, pinto, soy—are heavy hitters when it comes to protein, with approximately 7 to 10 grams per serving. They’re also lower in calories than meat-based proteins and have lots of fiber and antioxidants.
  • Fruits and vegetables. That’s right! They are great sources of protein as well. Avocados have about 5 grams of protein per serving and a cup of spinach has 5 grams too.
  • Eggs. Many vegetarians won’t eat eggs but for lacto-ovo vegetarians (consume dairy and eggs), they are a great source with 6 grams per egg.
  • Tempeh and Tofu. These whole soy alternatives are great sources of protein with 8-12 grams per 3-ounce serving.
  • Quinoa. This grain is a complete protein, meaning it has the same protein content and quality of an egg! This super grain packs 8 grams of protein in 1 cooked cup.

What are some of your favorite vegetarian protein sources?

Finding the Style of Yoga That’s Right for You

Friday, October 04, 2013 1:11 PM comments (0)

yogaIntrigued by yoga but not sure where to start? For beginners, yoga’s many styles and moves might be a bit overwhelming but don’t be deterred. Yoga is a great exercise for people of all ages, activity levels and body types; it’s just a matter of finding the one or combination of styles that’s right for you.

Finding the right style of yoga comes down to assessing your current level of fitness/ability and determining what you hope to achieve by adding yoga to your fitness routine.  Some styles are better suited to athletes looking to increase flexibility and stamina, while other more gentle styles are ideal for those with injuries or chronic medical conditions. But no matter the style, all yoga increases strength, flexibility and balance, while also releasing tension and calming the mind. After all, the goal of yoga is to create a bond between the mind and the body. 

Polly Liontis, Yoga Instructor and Licensed Massage Therapist, highlights some popular styles of yoga and discusses the health benefits and required fitness levels of each:

Hatha yoga focuses on breathing exercises and basic poses. Its more basic approach makes it an ideal style for beginners who need to accustom themselves to yoga’s poses and relaxation techniques.
Benefits: Hatha reduces stress, increases concentration and promotes a feeling of overall relaxation. It’s also great for the core.
Who can do it? Anyone, regardless of age or ability, can do Hatha!

Iyengar yoga is a form of Hatha yoga that focuses on alignment and precision during movement. Often straps, blankets and blocks are used to enable beginners and those with injuries to achieve the correct positioning without putting excess stress on muscles and joints.
Benefits:  Like all styles of yoga, Iyengar is a mind and body exercise. It promotes balance, builds muscle and can help with recovery after an injury.
Who can do it? Iyengar yoga is a gradual yoga. By including props and allowing one to progress slowly from one move to the next, it’s great for just about anyone, especially those with less mobility after an injury.

Vinyasa yoga seeks to synchronize movement with breath. The key to Vinyasa is to flow smoothly from one movement to the next, which is why it is also frequently referred to as Vinyasa Flow.
Benefits: Vinyasa gets you moving more than Hatha so there’s the added cardiovascular benefit. It also builds lean muscle, improves strength and flexibility, and tones abdominal muscles.
Who can do it? It’s a bit more physically demanding and fast-paced than Hatha, but Vinyasa is still great for beginners and those looking to move from beginner to intermediate level. 

Ashtanga yoga is a form of power yoga that is fast-paced and intense with lunges and push-ups. The six-move sequence flows rapidly from one strenuous pose to the next and is paired with Vinyasa-style breathing. 
Benefits: Like with any style of yoga, Ashtanga reduces stress and improves coordination and balance. It’s quite a workout too, which means the added benefit of potential weight loss and full-body toning. 
Who can do it? Ashtanga yoga is best for fit people who wish to maintain or increase their strength and stamina. It would be helpful to be familiar with the six basic poses in the Ashtanga sequence before jumping into an Ashtanga class.

Bikram yoga, also known as hot yoga, is practiced in a humid room with temperatures kept at 95 - 100 degrees. All Bikram sessions are 90 minutes and consist of the same 26 poses and two breathing exercises.
Benefits: The heat of Bikram facilitates a deeper stretch, and increased perspiration helps flush and cleanse toxins from the body. It’s a gently intense workout with weight-loss possibilities.
Who can do it? The heat might make it a bit of a stretch (no pun intended) for beginners but after you’ve gotten the hang of the heat and the poses, it’s a good yoga style for intermediates looking to push themselves to new levels.

Have you tried yoga? Do you have a favorite style?

Ovarian Cancer: Early Diagnosis Is Essential

Monday, September 30, 2013 1:35 PM comments (0)

Dr. KirschnerCurrently there is no early detection test for ovarian cancer. Until such a test exists, raising awareness about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer is essential to early diagnosis. If diagnosed and treated early, ovarian cancer survival rates are over 90%. 

As part of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Carolyn Kirschner, MD, Gynecologic Oncology, answers questions on ovarian cancer, from things you can do now to reduce your risk to the early symptoms you just might overlook. 

What are some early signs of ovarian cancer that might be overlooked or ignored? How do you know when it is time to see a doctor? 
Abdominal pain, bloating, being full after eating a little, new constipation or diarrhea, urinary frequency, fullness in the pelvis, low back pain, nausea/vomiting, fatigue are all possible symptoms of ovarian cancer—but are vague and may be symptoms of other problems. If symptoms occur several times per week for a month, medical care should be sought. Start with a good primary care physician who can do an exam and then possible imaging studies.

What is the most cost-effective screening test for early detection of ovarian cancer?
Most experts would say that screening should only be performed on women who are at increased risk of ovarian cancer, for example those with a BRCA gene or a strong family history of ovarian cancer. These people may be screened with ultrasound and serum (blood) CA125. Unfortunately, there may be false positives, especially in younger women, which may result in unnecessary tests or even surgery.

Is it possible to mistake ovarian cancer for fibroids on both a transvaginal ultrasound and a pelvic MRI?
Yes, mistaking ovarian cancer for fibroids can happen. Fibroids are common and ovarian cancer is not. Fortunately, imaging has greatly improved, so this mistake does not happen commonly these days. If there are any questions or concerns about a diagnosis, a woman who undergoes ultrasound and/or MRI imaging can and should request a disc with the images on them and get a second opinion.

If there is a family history of the disease but no BRCA gene mutations, is your risk for developing ovarian cancer still higher? What can you do to reduce that risk?
Most ovarian cancer is not hereditary, so risk should be the same as the general population, which is less than 2%. While never having children seems to be associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer, I would never recommend getting pregnant just to decrease the risk. If you are premenopausal, oral contraceptives may decrease your risk. Birth control is protective because it prevents ovulation. It is theorized that breaks in the surface of the ovary, which occur with ovulation, may result in injuries that can lead to cancer. Vitamin D may also be protective. 

Diet is important. Cancer risk is increased with obesity. I recommend a plant-based, whole-grain diet. Limit saturated fats, white flour and refined sugar. I am a firm believer in exercise for weight control and sanity.

Keep in contact periodically with the genetics staff, in case there is a breakthrough in this area.  NorthShore has a high-risk clinic through Division of Gynecologic Oncology, and this may be a good way of staying on the "cutting edge.” 

What is the best scan for ovarian cancer? CT, MRI, ultrasound or PET?
Each has its advantages. The ultrasound is the least invasive, least expensive and does not use radiation. The CT and MRI look at anatomy. The PET looks at function. For screening, the ultrasound is best.

A Health Reporter's Personal Experience with Prostate Cancer - by Dr. Barry Kaufman

Friday, September 27, 2013 1:45 PM comments (0)

When the fourth biopsy in four years revealed some of the cancerous cells were now more aggressive than during the previous four years of active surveillance, I found it very hard to accept that the other shoe had actually dropped. I'd been sailing along with a Gleason 3 + 3, the least aggressive prostate cancer category. I hoped/believed the numbers would stay that way as I lived through the rest of my 70s and into my 80s and who knows how long from there. After all, my father had lived with prostate cancer and died from unrelated issues at 86.

As with so many other men, I had the first biopsy after a PSA test suggested a possible problem. In my case the PSA had risen slowly over a decade from 1.4 to 3.7, but being 67 at the time and research changing some of the previous thinking about PSA levels in older men, the initial urological surgeon and I decided a biopsy was a reasonable option.  

My fears after getting the news from the fourth biopsy were:

  1. How do I decide whether to stop active surveillance and treat the cancer?
  2. If I decide on treatment, which treatment and with whom?  

dr. KaufmanNavigating My Treatment Options
The urologist who had been following me urged surgery (he performs robotic prostatectomy) and I provisionally scheduled the operation for six weeks hence. I needed time for the biopsy site to heal, digest the diagnosis, and collect and process more information.   

As a dentist turned health reporter, my almost 40 years as a health journalist turned out to be a mixed blessing as I tried to intelligently navigate the daunting amount of often contradictory and confusing information, even for a health professional. I discovered one of my greatest strengths as a reporter—the ability to thoroughly and unemotionally research virtually any health topic—failed me dismally because this time I was too emotionally involved. I would read the same sentence or paragraph over and over or talk at great length to trusted sources and come away even more confused. Yes, get the cancer out. No, you can safely keeping watching. Surgery? Robotic or open? Radiation? But what type? Or perhaps one of the less tested treatment options? You can imagine the toll this emotional roller coaster took on my family: Arline my wife of 41 years and my two sons.

Finding My Advocate: A Six Week Journey
As the six weeks dwindled to two, I still felt uncertain—and frightened—about my decisions and options. While agonizing on the phone one night with my older son he said, “Stop it, Dad!  More than most, you are in a position to find one voice you can trust who can guide you to a decision that you and mom can live with. Find that voice."

I did: Dr. Charles Brendler, Co-Director of Northshore's John and Carol Walter Center for Urological Health.  I was referred to Dr. Brendler by a close personal friend of mine, who is also a physician and serves as a department head at a major Chicago medical center. He told me Dr. Brendler was the person he would see if he were in my position. Now I understand why.

During the nearly two hours Dr. Brendler spent with Arline and me, he painstakingly reviewed my medical records, gently and carefully examined me, and, for most of the two hours, engaged with us in heartfelt conversation. He reassured both of us, spoke caringly about our feelings on the personal and intimate issues unleashed by prostate cancer and its treatment, and offered compassionate understanding and objective advice.

Three decisions emerged from our meeting. Two involved additional confirmation of the status of my prostate cancer, one via MRI (Dr. Brendler supported my desire to have the scan) and the other through a second opinion of the interpretation of my four biopsies.  The third and most important was the deciding to accept Dr. Brendler’s recommendation to see a urologic surgeon, who, because of his unparalleled skill in performing open prostatectomies, would be the best fit for me. 

When Arline and I exited Dr Brendler's office and walked through the parking lot, we looked at each other and breathed the first sigh of relief in more than a month because we knew we had found peace with my prostate cancer journey. We followed through on each of the decisions and three weeks after our fateful meeting my prostate was removed by the surgeon Dr. Brendler recommended. The cancer was locally contained and completely removed.

Thanks to active surveillance, I had four years without treatment. And thanks in large part to Dr. Brendler, I remain totally continent and am on the road back to sexual function seven months post-surgery. I’m grateful beyond words that when my son urged me to find the one voice I could trust, the voice I heard was Charles Brendler's.  

 

Ready to Hit the Books: Healthy Kids Make Happy, Successful Students [Infographic]

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 1:51 PM comments (0)

The kids are back in school and already busy with homework, classes and practice. Don't let hectic schedules put your children’s health in detention. Parents can do plenty to help their children stay healthy and succeed in school—from ensuring they get adequate sleep and regular exercise to serving up balanced meals and more. After all, children’s health has been shown to be directly linked to success in school. 

Our latest infographic explores the connection between children’s health and academic performance with health information and tips from the experts at NorthShore University HealthSystem. Click on the image below to see the full infographic. 

Prostate Cancer: Knowing Your Risks and Options

Thursday, September 19, 2013 11:57 AM comments (0)

prostate cancerProstate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. If detected and treated early, prostate cancer survival rates are high and associated with good functional outcomes. As part of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Brian Helfand, MD, PhD, Urologist at Northshore, answers questions about prostate cancer risk, early signs and symptoms, recommended screening, as well as current treatment options for prostate cancer and recovery after treatment.  

If there is a family history of the disease, does that increase your risk? When should someone with a family history of the disease begin screening?
Prostate cancer is one of the most inheritable of all cancers. As such, risk factors that are most associated with prostate cancer are first-degree family history (father, brother, uncle, etc.) and race (i.e. African-Americans). Based on statistics, a man with a first-degree connection to the disease is almost two times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than a man without a family history. Although there is some debate regarding the routine use of PSA screening, I’m a firm believer that if there is a family history, one should start undergoing annual PSA screening by the age of 40.

After treatment, how often should a patient return to their physician for further tests and screenings?
After surgery, patients should have an initial post-operative PSA in about four to six weeks and then every three to four months (based upon their urologist's preference). After two years of having an undetectable PSA, I suggest my patients get PSAs every six months.

What is a normal PSA?
I always tell my patients that you should compare your PSA to what is "normal" for your age group. Most men age 50 and younger have a PSA below 0.7ng/ml. For simplicity, you could use a cutoff of 1.0ng/ml. It’s important to point out that having a PSA value that is above your age group does not mean that you have prostate cancer. It does, however, mean that you are statistically at a slightly increased risk for being diagnosed with the disease. For that reason, you should continue to be screened with PSA on an annual basis at least. 

There are other factors that should go into the interpretation of PSA before deciding to perform a prostate biopsy and these include: PSA values that have been rising over time, family history of prostate cancer, African-American heritage and history of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Remember, PSA is not a perfect test but it has saved many lives and it’s still the best test for prostate cancer screening.

Are there preventative measures that could potentially reduce one’s risk for developing the disease?
It’s possible that a heart-healthy diet low in fats and simple sugars may help reduce one’s risk of developing prostate cancer. There is emerging evidence that obesity is a driving factor for benign growth of the prostate (referred to as BPH or benign prostatic hyperplasia) and that it could also contribute to one’s risk for prostate cancer. Extra weight may also make it harder to detect the disease until it is advanced. Obesity also is thought to contribute to prostate cancer recurrence. That’s why it’s important for men to realize that a heart-healthy diet can help keep their prostates healthy too!

How likely is a patient’s sexual function to be affected after treatment? What surgical options result in the best possible outcome as far as recovering sex life?
I tell my patients that your post-operative sexual function is significantly related to your age and pre-operative function. In general, treatment for prostate cancer (radiation or surgery) has never improved a man's erectile function. However, if a man is young, not diabetic or obese and had good erectile function prior to surgery, he has a very good chance of having normal erections post-op.

I believe that good, nerve-sparing surgery significantly helps with the recovery of erectile function. This can be done by a urologic surgeon who is trained in the technique and frequently performs the operation. In addition, I believe that all men should start (at minimum) a rehabilitation program before and immediately after surgery that helps to recover nerve function. This could involve taking drugs like Cialis before and after surgery.

If you do suffer from sexual dysfunction after prostate cancer treatment, what can you do to aid/improve recovery?
Unfortunately, there is no universal solution for every man but there are many different options that are available for treatment of sexual dysfunction after surgery. Prostate cancer patients should have an assessment of psychological function and desire for sexual activity following surgery. Many men get nervous about intimacy following surgery and an evaluation by a trained professional can help relieve a lot of this anxiety.  

If there are erectile issues after treatment, many men respond to simple medical therapies like Viagra and Cialis. This is often a starting point. If you fail to respond to these therapies, other interventions such as a vacuum erection device or injection therapies can be used to obtain an erection. As always, regular exercise and a heart-healthy diet help increases your chances of a successful recovery.

What are the differences between robotic laparoscopic surgery and conventional open prostatectomy in terms of recovery?
I think the answer is surgeon experience. There are many urologists who can perform open surgery with excellent outcomes (great cancer control, erectile function and continence). And there are many urologists who can perform robotic surgery with similar outcomes. It’s most important to be treated by an urologist who is comfortable and experienced with a radical prostatectomy. Having said that, robotic surgery has recently become the most commonly used surgical intervention for prostate cancer. When compared to open surgery, robotic surgery offers significantly less blood loss and a shorter hospital stay. Although not proven, it’s likely that the robotic surgery offers increased visualization of the area by the surgeon which provides an opportunity to spare more nerves and create a nice connection between the bladder and urethra. These are both associated with increased erectile function and increased continence.

What does active surveillance involve? Why would someone choose to do that instead of actively treat their cancer?
We have come to a "new era" of understanding prostate cancer and realized that many men have prostate tumors that may not harm them during their lifetime (benign-type prostate cancer). This is because many prostate tumors grow very slowly and other medical problems may ultimately harm a man before the prostate cancer spreads

Unfortunately, there is currently no diagnostic test that can tell whether one has a lethal prostate cancer or more benign-type tumor; therefore, we have developed a program of surveillance in which we avoid treating patients with prostate cancer until there is evidence that it has an aggressive component. This involves actively and regularly monitoring men through the use of PSA tests and prostate biopsies. While this does increase the number of times that a man is evaluated by an urologist, it avoids overtreatment, like unnecessary surgery or radiation that could cause erectile problems and/or incontinence. Currently, NorthShore University HealthSystem has the largest program in the Midwest.

Leukemia: Knowing the Symptoms

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 9:29 AM comments (0)

Many typically associate cancer with a specific part of the body, like the breast, prostate or colon; however, it can develop and affect more just a part of the body. Approximately 43,000 people are diagnosed with leukemia each year. Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Blood cells, both white and red, are made in bone marrow. With leukemia, bone marrow produces an abnormal amount of white blood cells, which cannot function like normal white cells. As the disease progresses, the accumulation of these abnormal cells can cause anemia, bleeding, infections and eventually could spread to other areas of the body.

Leukemia can develop in both children and adults, and is the most prevalent cancer found in children under 14 years old. Depending on the type of leukemia, symptoms may become apparent almost immediately or gradually develop and become more noticeable over the course of months or even years. Treatment plans will vary depending on the type of leukemia, as well as your age and current health.

Alla Gimbelfarb, MD, Hematology at NorthShore, identifies some of the signs and symptoms of leukemia that many overlook :

  • Anemia
  • Increased susceptibility to infections and illnesses
  • Consistent fatigue, tiredness and overall weakness
  • Bruising and bleeding
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent headaches
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Has leukemia touched someone in your family? During National Leukemia/Lymphoma Month help raise awareness about its signs and symptoms.

Tags: cancer
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