Prostate Cancer – Identifying your Risk and Getting Screened

Tuesday, September 18, 2012 8:58 AM comments (0)

Prostate HealthProstate cancer is one of the common cancers found in men (especially in those over 65). Although diagnosis of any type of cancer can be scary and lead to feelings of uncertainty, in most cases, prostate cancer is slow growing and can be easily managed and treated when identified at its early stages.

Michael McGuire, MD, Urologist at NorthShore, offers the following tips to men about determining their risk and identifying prostate cancer:

  • Know your family history. It is recommended that men starting at age 50 get screened for prostate cancer. If you have a family history of prostate cancer (especially from either your father or brother), earlier screening may be recommended.
  • Be aware of changes to your urinary system and sexual health. If you notice changes in your urination or erections, or find blood in your urine or semen, it is recommended to see a physician. It is important to note that these symptoms may be caused by another condition.
  • Maintain healthy living standards.  Eating a nutritious, balanced diet and staying active can help promote recovery and quality of life if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer.

While there are mixed reviews about when you should receive the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test, it is important to talk to your physician about any of your health concerns during your annual visit.

Do you know if your family medical history includes prostate cancer?


Ovarian Cancer – Simple Screening that Could Save your Life

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 12:48 PM comments (0)

Ovarian-CancerSeptember is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and an important time to recognize that this disease is the 5th leading cause of cancer deaths in American women.  The cause of ovarian cancer is poorly understood, and in addition, ovarian cancer can be much more difficult to detect than other types of cancer.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer may be vague and may mimic other common women’s health conditions.  Women and health professionals may attribute symptoms to menopause, aging, stress, changes in diet or depression.  This may result in a delay in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer.  The most common symptoms include:

  • Bloating or increased abdominal size
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Urinary symptoms
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full

Carolyn Kirschner, MD, Gynecological Oncologist at NorthShore, identifies some strategies available for women:

  1. In general, symptoms that last longer than a month, or become more frequent or severe than before, should be investigated.  This may be as simple as a pelvic exam in your doctor’s office, a pelvic ultrasound or more extensive testing.
  2. Become familiar with your family history.  The most important risk factor for ovarian cancer is a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.  A family history of ovarian cancer in a mother, sister or daughter triples your risk.  A personal or family history of breast cancer prior to age 50 or of bilateral (both breasts involved) breast cancer may indicate increased risk.  NorthShore’s Center for Medical Genetics can access your family cancer history and provide recommendations based on your personal risk.
  3. Currently, the only group of women for whom routine screening, in the absence of symptoms, is recommended are those with high risk, primarily carriers of the BRCA genetic mutation.  Prophylactic (preventive) removal of tubes and ovaries may be considered in these women.  The surgery is usually done using a laparoscopic technique which requires general anesthesia but is an outpatient procedure.  For women in the childbearing age group, birth control pills may have a protective effect on ovarian cancer.

Have you known someone with ovarian cancer? Do you know if it’s in your family history?


Guest Post: Beth Pieroth, PsyD, ABPP –Academics Performance After Concussion

Monday, September 10, 2012 9:21 AM comments (0)

Concussion-AcademicsConcussive injuries in sports have been a hot topic for a number of years.  As of July 2011, a new Illinois State law requires that any athlete who exhibits the signs of a concussion must be removed from that practice or game, and cannot be returned to play until he or she has been cleared by an appropriately trained healthcare professional.  However, the law makes no mention of academics and most youth athletes will attend school before they are cleared to return to the field of play.  Our attention should then turn to addressing the issues of injured students.

A concussion occurs when a person suffers a blow or force to the head that results in changes in his or her mental status; this includes confusion, disorientation, memory or mental cloudiness.  The individual may complain of headache, dizziness, nausea, visual changes or fatigue, and may experience problems with attention and memory.

It is often difficult for a newly concussed student to manage the demands of school and their grades may suffer if their injury is not appropriately addressed. If a student athlete suffers from a concussion the following steps for an optimal recovery are recommended:

  • After the student has been evaluated by an emergency room physician, primary care physician, athletic trainer or a concussion specialist, have them rest.  They should avoid stimulating activities, such as loud televisions or music, video games or computer use. 
  • It is often best to allow the student to stay home from school for a few days.  The noise and chaos of a school environment, along with the demands of focusing in the classroom, can cause an increase in the student’s symptoms.  Many students will attempt to go to school, only to end up in the school nurse’s office with a headache.
  • If symptoms are manageable, I encourage students to return to school.  Missing too many days of school will often result in increased anxiety about the amount of schoolwork to be made up and isolation from friends.  However, it is recommended that the students not be required to complete homework, quizzes or tests during the acute recovery period. 
  • Most students will require brief academic accommodations, typically 1-2 weeks.  Some may not require any accommodations because they do not have significant cognitive deficits from their concussions.  However, a small percentage of students will benefit from additional accommodations and this should be handled on an individual basis.  The student should undergo cognitive testing to better determine that type of impairment he or she is experiencing and ways to manage the symptoms.

Migraine Headache Surgery: A New Treatment Option

Thursday, September 06, 2012 9:39 AM comments (0)

Migraine-SurgeryRelief from migraine headaches can come in many different forms – from pain medication, preventative drugs, massage and acupuncture to at-home remedies including relaxation techniques and proper sleep.

Approximately 20 percent of women and 10 percent of men in the United States suffer from migraine headaches. Those who are able to identify “trigger” sites on the head or face where the migraine pain starts or localizes may be able to consider a plastic surgery treatment option. Botox, traditionally used to relax facial muscles to reduce wrinkles, can also be used to relax muscles around the nerves that may trigger migraines.

Michael Howard, MD, a plastic surgeon at NorthShore, works closely with our neurologists to evaluate candidates for migraine headache surgery.  Dr. Howard identifies some of the factors that may help determine if a patient is a good candidate for this surgery:

  • A diagnosis of migraine headache is confirmed with the patient’s neurologist. In most cases, success in reducing pain has not been achieved through other treatment methods, such as medication.
  • Specific trigger sites for headaches can be determined. These are often caused by a compression or entrapment of specific nerves in the head and neck region. 
  • A Botox injection test is performed at the trigger sites.
  • Patients with a positive result from injection—a 50 percent or greater reduction in migraine frequency, duration or severity —may be considered for this treatment.
  • Once patients are considered appropriate candidates, and trigger sites have been identified, the procedure finds the nerves responsible for the headaches through a small incision in the skin. The nerves are then cut and the incisions are closed. Recovery is fast and most patients are able to resume their normal activities within a few days.

Do you suffer from migraine headaches? Do you know your trigger sites?


Promoting Urological Health

Friday, August 31, 2012 10:48 AM comments (0)

Urological-HealthUrologists treat all conditions involving the urinary system in both men and women, including the kidneys and bladder. They also treat all conditions involving the male genital system (prostate, penis and testicles).

While urinary incontinence and bladder infections are some of the first conditions that may come to mind, urologists treat other major diseases, including cancer, kidney stones, infertility and sexual health concerns.

Even though urological conditions differ in severity, they are relatively common. The American Cancer Society estimates that urological cancers –of the bladder, kidney, prostate and testicles—account for nearly one quarter of all cancers in the United States. In infants and children, abnormalities of urological organs occur more commonly than in any other organ system.

Charles Brendler, MD, Co-Director of the John and Carol Walter Center for Urological Health, identifies some of the key preventative measures for maintaining urological health:

  • Visit your physician annually for a physical exam and laboratory tests. All men over 50 should undergo an examination of their prostate annually as part of their routine physical check-up, and men between the ages of 50-75 should undergo a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test to check for early prostate cancer.  If you have a family history of urological conditions, share this information with your physician.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (especially water) throughout the day, especially during the hot summer months. Staying properly hydrated will decrease the risk of developing both kidney stones and bladder cancer.
  • Make healthy diet choices and maintain a normal body weight. Unhealthy saturated and trans-fats, along with obesity, not only increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, but also promote the growth of several types of cancer, including prostate cancer.
  • Avoid smoking. In addition to being the major cause of lung cancer, smoking is also the leading cause of bladder cancer.
  • Maintain proper hygiene. This may decrease the risk of developing bladder infections, particularly in women.

What are you doing to reduce your risk of urological conditions? What other questions do you have about urological health?


Living with Asthma

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 8:45 AM comments (0)

Asthma SymptomsBreathing isn’t something that many of us ever have to actively think about or struggle with – unless maybe we’ve pushed ourselves too hard in a workout. However, asthma—a common disorder affecting more than 34 million Americans—caused by an inflammation of one’s airways can significantly impact breathing.

There are many different treatment and coping mechanisms available for those who have asthma. Rachel Story, MD, Allergist at NorthShore, provides some brief information about what can be done to help prevent and reduce asthma symptoms:

  • Allergens can trigger asthma.  Many people with asthma have allergies, which can trigger asthma symptoms. Common allergens include house dust mites, animal dander, molds and pollen. Avoiding allergic triggers and treatment of allergies will help your asthma.
  • Irritants can trigger asthma. Smoke, fumes, strong odors, pollution, weather changes and humidity can trigger asthma symptoms.  No one should smoke around you, in your home or your car.  On days of high pollution and humidity staying in an air-conditioned environment can help control your asthma.
  • Viral and bacterial infections such as the common cold and sinusitis will trigger asthma. During the cold and flu season (and all year!) be sure to wash your hands to prevent infections. Also, be sure to get your flu shot in the fall.
  • Asthma has different triggers in different people so individualized therapy is important. Personalized plans for treatment may include:

    o   Identifying allergic and irritant triggers and putting environmental
         controls in place to reduce symptoms
    o   Medications such as a rescue inhaler to improve breathing when you
         have symptoms and (for some people) a daily medication to prevent
    o   An asthma action plan that tells you what to do on a daily basis and
         when you’re having symptoms

What do you do to manage your asthma conditions? Has your asthma improved as a result?


A Curved Back – Identifying Scoliosis

Thursday, August 23, 2012 10:50 AM comments (0)

Scoliosis TreatmentOur backs are responsible for helping with movement, posture and overall support. Without a healthy, strong backbone we couldn’t do much. Some children develop an abnormal curve in the spine (otherwise known as scoliosis), that if not properly treated can lead to problems. While there isn’t a set determining factor—such as genetics—for developing scoliosis, it is more common in females.

Our backs are responsible for helping with movement, posture and overall support. Without a healthy, strong backbone we couldn’t do much. For unknown reasons, some children develop an abnormal curve or curves in the spine (otherwise known as idiopatic scoliosis, an example of the unknown reason), that if not properly treated can lead to problems. While there isn’t a set determining factor—such as genetics—for developing scoliosis, it is more common in females.

Some of the common signs to look for when identifying scoliosis include:

  • Prominence (“hump”) on the back or ribs
  • Uneven shoulders
  • Uneven wait
  • Clothes not fitting right on both sides of the body

Eldin Karaikovic, MD, PhD, identifies some of the scoliosis treatment options:

  • Regular doctor check-ups – Depending on the curve progression, it may only be necessary to visit a physician every 4-6 months to measure progress until skeletal maturity.
  • Braces – Braces, now usually made from plastic, are designed to fit each individual patient. These braces typically do not include the neck and chin. Although they should be worn most of the time (23 hours), they can be removed for sports, showering and other activities. 
  • Genetic Testing – While a single "scoliosis" gene has not been identified, the condition does run in families. Within the last year a test has become available to predict possible progression of spine curvature. This test –only available currently for Caucasians—is painless and reduces the amount of radiation and follow-up visits needed. 
  • Surgery – If other treatment methods do not prove successful, surgery is another option. This is often done based on the degree of curvatures and its rate of progression.

Do you know anyone who has or had scoliosis?


Back-to-School – Safety Tips for Beyond the Classroom

Monday, August 20, 2012 1:17 PM comments (0)

Gearing up for school often involves more than just prepping for the classroom and after-school routine. While the roads may seem a little less trafficked in the summer months with no more school drop off and carpooling schedules, as the new year starts it’s important to refresh our minds about street safety.

Street-safetyJacque Quick, RN, gives some quick reminders for drivers for keeping you, your kids and others safe on the road:

  • Slow down and be especially alert in the residential neighborhoods and school zones.
  • Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs. 
  • Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully. 
  • Watch for children on and near the road in the morning and after-school hours. 
  • Reduce any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings. Put down your phone and don’t talk or text while driving. 
  • Use caution when you open a car door. Be alert for the bicyclist!

She also reminds kids to be safe by making sure to:

  • Cross the street with an adult until they are at least 10 years old.
  • Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. 
  • Never run out into the street or cross the street in between parked cars. 
  • Walk in front of the bus where the driver can see them.

What safety tips do you remind your kids of before returning to school?


Back to School – Get your Exam, Shots and Screening Scheduled Early

Thursday, August 16, 2012 7:22 AM comments (0)

ImmunizationsSummer vacation is here! While it may seem early, it’s often best to get your child’s required physical and immunizations scheduled and completed before it gets too close to class being back in session. This way your kids can have all appropriate screening and their vaccines updated so they are kept safe from illness and don’t infect others.

Kenneth Fox, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, gives parents some tips on preparing for back-to-school shots: (Please note this is just a sample list of vaccines needed. Please refer to your office guidelines for shots).

  • Children should have the primary series of all the following vaccines by 0-12 months of age:
    o Diphtheria , tetanus and pertussis (Whooping cough)
    o Polio
    o Haemophilus influenzae Type B
    o Prevnar 13 (Pneumococcal)
    o Measles, mumps and rubella
    o Hepatitis (A and B)
    o Varicella (Chickenpox)
    o Rotavirus (oral)

Booster doses of several of these occur between 12 and 18 months and then again between ages 4 -6 years. Influenza vaccines are yearly beginning at 6 months of age.

  • Children age 10 years old should have booster doses of Tetanus and pertussis vaccine (Tdap).
  • Meningitis vaccine (Menactra) is at age 11. 
  • Human papillomavirus vaccine for girls and boys  (3 doses) can begin as early as age 9 and should be completed before child becomes sexually active. 

Most kids don’t like being pricked by needles or look forward to getting shots. Dr. Fox gives some advice on how to ease the pain of getting shots:

  • Be honest, direct, clear and calm.
  • Give some notice. Don’t give it too early; one day is fine for most kids.
  • Bribery is often effective. Offer your child special treats for easy cooperation, promise Band-Aids and fun for after the visit.
  • Explain that vaccines are not optional and are necessary to keep us healthy. 
  • “Blow the pain away.”  Have your child blow gently at the site of vaccine.

When do you usually schedule your child’s back-to-school appointments? Do you have any tips to help with shots?


For more information, visit the Illinois Department of Public Health, Immunization Program website.




Safety First - The Prescription for a Long, Fun Fall Sports Season

Monday, August 13, 2012 11:41 AM comments (0)

Fall-SportsAs summer vacation winds down, you and your kids may be getting ready for the upcoming academic year and school sports season. This preparation may include revisiting equipment needs, as well as scheduling an annual or sports physical.

Depending on the sport and school, many students who plan to play on their school’s sports team are required to get a sports physical before he or she is allowed to practice or play. Even if your child isn’t playing a sport, physicals are recommended for students starting in kindergarten through high school.

Cherise Russo, DO with NorthShore, gives her recommendations for prepping for the school sports season:

  • Schedule an annual physical with your child’s physician. Physicals are an opportunity to get a comprehensive look at your child’s growth, weight, body functions, mental state and maturity. They help to provide a good year-over-year baseline for your child’s health record. Make sure to schedule your child’s back-to-school physical at least two weeks before tryouts and practices in case any tests or labs have to be checked prior to receiving clearance.
  • Do an equipment evaluation. Depending on the sport, your child may need new equipment and clothing. Be sure that helmets, shoes and clothing fit appropriately. It’s also not a bad idea to see if any of the guidelines or safety measures on equipment has changed since the last year.
  • Prevent Heat Illness.  Heat illness ranges from heat cramps to heat stroke.  When heat illness strikes, it is important not to try to practice through it! Inform your athlete to notify coaches if he or she is not feeling well during practice.  Be prepared before the first day of practice.  Gradually increase workouts and intensity approximately two weeks before practice.    Wear loose-fitting clothing and stay well hydrated.  Urine should look like lemonade and not concentrated like apple juice.
  • Start good hydration habits. Two hours before exercise an athlete should drink at least 16 oz of fluids.  During exercise, drink at least 7–10 oz every 20 minutes or sooner if thirsty.  After a workout or competition, drink 24 oz (3 cups) per pound body weight lost through sweat. These are general guidelines and vary among individuals.  It is also helpful to try to drink fluids with electrolytes, like sodium, as drinking only water may make things worse. It is best to limit and eliminate the consumption of caffeinated beverages.
  • Get to know your certified athletic trainer (ATC).  Reassure your athlete that he or she shouldn’t  be afraid to see the athletic trainer if  an injury is suspected. The athletic trainer can help your child get back to playing at a top performance level sooner.

How many sports are your kids involved with at school?

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