Archive for April, 2016

The psychology of seasons: Caring for your mental health

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Those who face this type of depression, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), feel a physiological response by the body to decreases in light exposure associated with the fall and winter months, according to Dr. Gary Bruss, program dean of the American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University, Southern California.

“This is one of the more biologically based forms of depression,” says Bruss. “SAD can be characterized by moodiness, heightened irritability, lack of interest in those things you usually take pleasure in, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, and difficulty concentrating that take place during those fall and winter months every year.”

Simply put, you may not feel as peppy as you normally do or have the same energy level or you may not want to be around people or follow your regular routine. If you are a student, you could see your grades declining and if you work, you may see your performance slipping.

Being proactive about your mental health and taking care of yourself can help address depression and mood swings. Bruss recommends engaging in exercise, going for a walk or meeting friends or family for coffee or some fun activity. He also adds it is important to eat a balanced diet, get enough rest at night, do nice things for yourself or find a hobby to help occupy your time.
 ”In the fall and winter, we tend to see an increase in seasonal affective disorder and in overall stress,” says Dr. Devin Byrd, dean of the College of Health Professions at South University. “Becoming more acutely aware of your habits, stress levels and social activities can help assess and counter-balance the onset of seasonal sadness or depression.”
 If you sense that the season may be negatively affecting your well-being, Byrd recommends you initiate a new hobby, increase exercise, watch what you eat and take measures to take an active role in social activities.

Light exposure therapy can combat the signs and symptoms of SAD. During this type of therapy, you sit near a device called a light therapy box. This box gives off a specific kind of light that mimics the natural light from the outdoors and can ease SAD symptoms.

If signs of depression appear in a family member, friend or co-worker, Bruss recommends talking with them and encouraging them to seek help if depression persists or worsens. He also points out that the holiday season can have a major impact on depression if a person has experienced the death of a family member, close friend or a pet. If the severity of the depression interferes with a person’s ability to function socially and/or professionally, then it’s time to seek help from a mental health professional, says Bruss.

“Seeking professional help is an increasingly common practice and people should not feel anxious about seeing a psychologist for psychotherapy or taking medication for depression if it’s needed – especially for a disorder that is based so heavily on our biology. The most important thing is to connect with a professional who can help you restore emotional balance, peace and happiness to your life,” Bruss says.

One size doesn’t fit all in reproductive health

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

About 600,000 women have hysterectomies each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet many of these highly invasive surgeries are medically unnecessary. And as more women realize they have options besides a hysterectomy, more women are seeking alternative solutions by consulting with their own doctors, tapping online medical resources, and discussing their experiences and options on websites like

The most recent year for which statistics are available, more than 90 percent of hysterectomies were performed for benign conditions; just 10 percent were done to treat cancer of the ovaries, uterus or cervix, according to a study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. Among the most common benign conditions treated were fibroids (35 percent), heavy periods (30 percent), endometriosis and pelvic pain. The CDC notes that fibroid tumors, endometriosis and uterine prolapse were the three most common conditions associated with hysterectomy.

“If a patient does not feel comfortable with a recommendation for surgery, they should seek a second opinion,” says Dr. Jessica Shepherd, assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and director of minimally invasive gynecology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. “As a woman, I feel it is imperative that we feel we have options, today, women dealing with reproductive health issues such as heavy periods or fibroids have non-surgical treatment options available, too. These options come in medical and surgical forms and I always want my patients to know all of them.”

For example, fibroids or polyps in the uterus can be removed with a procedure called MyoSure, which requires no cutting into or removal of any part of the uterus. The procedure can help patients reduce heavy bleeding caused by polyps or fibroids while retaining a fully functional uterus. Heavy periods, which affect more than 10 million women, can be treated with the NovaSure procedure, a five-minute, non-surgical procedure that can be performed in your doctor’s office. For more than 90 percent of women, the procedure can dramatically reduce menstrual bleeding or even stop it altogether.

“This procedure works very well and can also be done in the office setting,” says Shepherd. “For every procedure, there are those patients that may not be a candidate for them and that is why a detailed conversation with your doctor is important. Feel comfortable asking questions and getting all the information you need.”

Some serious conditions may only be treatable by hysterectomy. According to the National Women’s Health Network (NWHN), these include: invasive cancer, unmanageable infection or bleeding, and serious complications during childbirth, such as rupture of the uterus. Shepherd also adds: “Fibroids do cause heavy bleeding and sometimes the size of the fibroid can be very large and they may require a more invasive surgery. Therefore it is important to talk to your gynecologist about your fibroids and all the options that can treat them.”

However, NWHN “believes that unnecessary hysterectomies have put women at risk needlessly, and that health care providers should recognize the value of a woman’s reproductive organs beyond their reproductive capacity and search for hysterectomy alternatives before resorting to life-changing operations,” according to the organization’s website.

“Before making any serious decision about a health issue, patients should consult their doctor and educate themselves as much as possible about their specific condition and their treatment options,” Shepherd says. “In the end, we as women should celebrate our bodies and having engaging dialogue with your gynecologist and other women only encourages healthy lifestyles. In my forum for women’s health care we discuss all the topics that you may not want to or feel embarrassed about. We want you to open up about these topics and feel empowered!”

Visit her Viewpoint with Dr. Shepherd on Facebook and Twitter at, and

To learn more about non-surgical treatment for heavy periods, polyps or fibroids, visit

Iron matters for every body

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

IDA can sap the energy of even the most energetic individuals. Flora Migyanka, a mother and fitness enthusiast, learned firsthand the impact of this condition. “I couldn’t drag myself out of bed and felt an overwhelming feeling of fatigue,” she says. “I had labored breathing and horrible headaches. I do a lot of yoga and even the simplest poses caused me to become short of breath. I was always cold and just didn’t feel right.”

IDA occurs when someone does not have enough iron to produce sufficient red blood cells or makes red blood cells that are too small. There are many causes of IDA, but the most common include: blood loss, a lack of iron in the diet or an inability to absorb iron. While fatigue is the most common symptom of IDA, many patients also experience other symptoms, such as shortness of breath and an increased heart rate. Unfortunately, IDA is often missed because these symptoms can be attributed to other causes.

“Many times, health care professionals do not connect these common symptoms to a treatable condition like IDA,” says Robin Wachsman, an oncology nurse and nationally recognized IDA expert who currently practices at the West Clinic in Memphis, Tenn. “Health care professionals need to act as detectives and find the underlying causes of a patient’s suffering and patients need to be forthcoming about how they’re feeling. This is especially the case with IDA because, once diagnosed, the condition can be managed.”

But even after diagnosis, some patients do not share lingering symptoms with their health care provider. It is important to remember that there are many treatment options for IDA, including diet and medications. It may take time for a health care professional to identify the best way to manage a patient’s condition, so it is important for patients with IDA to keep their health care provider informed about how they feel.

The Iron Matters campaign was recently launched by AMAG Pharmaceuticals Inc. to spread the word about IDA, its causes and symptoms. At, visitors can get more information about the condition, read stories of other IDA patients and learn from experts. For those who have already been diagnosed, there are also tips for living with IDA.

Anyone who suspects they may be suffering from IDA should speak with a health care professional. -Always consult with a physician before taking a medication or supplement to treat IDA.

Trouble remembering to take your medications? Text message reminders may help

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

Americans are busy people, and with everything that goes on in our daily lives, remembering to take a prescribed medication can be a challenge. But studies show that forgetting your medications has consequences, including creating a more serious and even dangerous health issue.

According to The New England Journal of Medicine, nearly 70 percent of medication-related hospital admissions in the United States are the result of not taking a prescription medication as directed by a doctor.


The good news is that there are new technologies that are helping remind patients to take their medicines, such as text messages that arrive at a precise day and time. In fact, a recent study of 580 patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes or hypertension showed that text messaging could help patients stick to their medication schedules. 

The study, by OptumRx, a leading pharmacy benefits management company, found that patients receiving text message reminders had higher rates of taking their medication as instructed (known as “medication adherence”) than those who did not – 85 percent vs. 77 percent. The adherence rates for those taking medication for diabetes were even higher – 91 percent vs. 82 percent. Even patients older than 60 showed significant improvement in their adherence with the use of text messages. 

“Many of us are using our phones to do more – check the weather, read a news article, research information on a medical condition. It makes sense that reaching patients through technology could improve their adherence, and now we have the evidence to prove that it can, even among older patients,” says Dr. Brian K. Solow, chief medical officer of OptumRx. 

The study’s findings on diabetes adherence also are important, Solow says. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 26 million people in the U.S. had diabetes as of 2010. 

“Diabetes continues to be a growing, global health issue with devastating complications, including heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and amputations. Ensuring that people with diabetes stay on their medication as directed can go a long way in helping them maintain and improve their health,” Solow says. 

To find out if text message reminders are available to you, contact your pharmacy benefits manager or visit 

Grocery shopping for classroom success

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

Plan your family’s meals ahead of time and pay close attention to the amount of protein you serve your children at breakfast. Kids should eat about 20 grams of protein before heading off to school to help avoid hunger pangs during morning classes. Breakfast is also a golden opportunity to feed your child brain-boosting nutrients such as omega-3 fats and B vitamins, as well as vitamin D to help boost immunity.

“One piece of advice I have for parents is to take a couple minutes to read nutrition labels while at the grocery store,” says Registered Dietitian Elizabeth Ward. “Some foods are nutritionally superior to others.- For example, I only feed my family Eggland’s Best eggs because they taste great and provide more key nutrients than ordinary eggs.”

When compared to ordinary eggs, one large Eggland’s Best egg provides twice the amount of omega-3s to support brain cells and promote healthy vision, three times more vitamin B12 to aide in proper brain function and four times more vitamin D to help with calcium absorption and boost immunity. These eggs also have 25 percent less saturated fat than ordinary eggs and contain 10 percent of the daily recommended amount of protein.

Berries make an ideal side dish at breakfast because they contain compounds that help shield brain cells from every day wear and tear. Whether they are fresh, dried or frozen, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries and strawberries are bursting with powerful antioxidants that can protect the brain and may enhance memory.

When your student is eating nutrient-rich foods, be sure they are properly hydrating as well. Mild dehydration affects concentration and may cause headaches. Younger children need about 57 ounces of fluid daily, while pre-teens and teens need between 71 and 81 ounces. Although water is the preferred fluid source, low-fat milk and 100 percent juice count toward daily liquid needs, too.

Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the impending school year get the better of your family’s health. Planning meals ahead of time can help nourish your little Einstein’s mind and keep your family happy and healthy.

Find recipe ideas for the school year, including this Eggland’s Best Brainy Burrito, at or

Eggland’s Best Brainy Burrito

Makes one burrito

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes


1 large Eggland’s Best egg

1 low-fat whole wheat tortilla

1 tablespoon low-fat refried beans

1/4 cup low-fat cheddar cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons salsa

1/2 avocado, sliced


* Spray nonstick skillet with cooking spray.

* Beat egg; pour into skillet and cook, stirring continually, until slightly set, about two minutes.

* Add cheese.

* Spread refried beans on tortilla.

* Cover with a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds.

* Spread egg and cheese filling down the center of the tortilla. Add salsa and sliced avocado.

* Fold one side of the tortilla over filling. Fold up bottom. Roll securely.

Undergoing a cosmetic medical procedure? What you need to know!

Saturday, April 9th, 2016


As the quest for the perfect body and flawless face continues, many consumers have turned to spas, salons and walk-in clinics for cosmetic medical procedures at bargain prices. With the number of these facilities increasing, more consumers are influenced to believe that certain cosmetic procedures are easy, inexpensive and risk-free.

"In many instances, dermatologic surgeons, who are properly trained and experienced in performing cosmetic medical procedures, are sought to correct the mistakes of inexperienced and unqualified physicians," says Dr. Susan Weinkle, president-elect of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS). "Consumers should be aware that lower prices do not mean equal training and treatment, and should be cautious that these discounted prices could put their health at risk as a result of the provider's inadequate training and lack of expertise."

Dr. Weinkle and the ASDS urge consumers to recognize that all cosmetic procedures are medical procedures that should be performed by a qualified physician or under the close supervision of an appropriately trained physician.

Serious side effects, such as burns, infections, scars and pigmentation disorders can occur when consumers visit non-physicians or physicians who do not specialize in dermatology and perform treatments like laser hair removal, deep chemical peels, acne therapy and other procedures, says Dr. Weinkle. Non-physicians do not have the necessary medical training, and physicians who are not board-certified in dermatology lack the qualifications to determine and optimally perform the best treatment for your concern, or to handle complications adequately, should they occur.

"It's critical that consumers take precautions and understand that dermatologic surgeons with the experience and knowledge of the health and function of the skin should perform cosmetic surgery procedures," Dr. Weinkle says.

The ASDS suggests consumers follow these tips before undergoing any cosmetic medical procedure:

  • Check credentials: Research the physician before undergoing the procedure to ensure that he or she is board-certified in dermatology. To find a board-certified dermatologic surgeon, visit
  • Don't rely on price: If a procedure's cost seems too good to be true, it probably is. Bargain-priced treatments may end up costing you in the long run if they cause harm, need correction or are ineffective.
  • Make sure a doctor is on-site to closely supervise: Most cosmetic surgery procedures should be performed by a physician. If the physician is supervising a procedure, make sure he or she is immediately available on-site to respond to any questions or problems that may occur while the procedure is being performed.
  • Ask questions: Always ask questions no matter how minor your questions may seem. Good questions include the following: Who will perform the procedure? Is this treatment right for me? What if something goes wrong? What procedures are in place to deal with an emergency? What training does the staff have? Is this laser, device or technique appropriate for my skin type? How many of the procedures do you perform in a month? May I see before and after photographs?
  • Be sure your medical history is taken: Before undergoing any cosmetic surgery procedure, make sure the physician is aware of your medical history, including allergies to medications and previous surgeries.
  •  Don't be afraid to walk away: Trust your instincts. If it doesn't feel right, find a more reputable location.

For more information and to download a free pre-cosmetic surgery questionnaire, visit

Protecting Your Feet From Skin Cancer

Friday, April 8th, 2016


Walking on the beach, frolicking in the surf, participating in sports, strolling through a theme park while on vacation – your feet will carry you through a lot of fun this summer. But can paying attention to them help you avoid the most common form of cancer in America? Possibly, experts say.

Each year, more than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Yet only 32 percent of Americans use sunscreen to protect themselves from the sun's damaging rays, NCI says in its Cancer Trends Progress Report.  Even when sunscreen is applied, the feet are often neglected.

"While skin cancers typically appear on areas of sun-exposed skin like the face, arms and hands, they can also occur on areas that get much less sun, such as the feet," says Dr. Joseph Caporusso, a podiatrist and president of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). "With flip-flops and sandals being common summer foot attire, more Americans than ever are exposing their feet to the sun's potential harmful rays."
Sun exposure, however, isn't the whole story when it comes to skin cancers on the feet. More often, skin cancers of the feet can be linked to exposure to viruses or chemicals, chronic inflammation or irritation, or even inherited traits, according to APMA.
"Unfortunately, the skin on our feet is often overlooked during routine medical checkups," Caporusso notes. "Yet, foot health can be an indicator of overall health. It's important for everyone to have their feet checked regularly by today's podiatrist for any signs or symptoms of skin cancer."
Some tips for protecting your feet this summer:
* Apply the same broad-spectrum sunscreen you use on the rest of your body to your feet, including the tops, on and between the toes, and even the soles of your feet. Reapply every two hours when you're out in the sun and more frequently if you spend a lot of time in and out of the water.
* Conduct regular self exams of your feet. Look for signs of problems, such as cracking or sores. Keep in mind that freckles and moles on the soles of the feet are very unusual, and may be a sign you should see a podiatrist.
* Be aware of the warning signs for malignant melanoma – the most deadly type of skin cancer. This type of cancer may occur on the skin of the feet and on occasion, beneath a toenail. Learn the ABCDEs of melanoma: Asymmetrical lesions, Border irregularity, Color variation, Diameter larger than a pencil eraser, and Evolving characteristics of any of the ABCD traits. If you notice a mole, freckle or lesion with any of these characteristics, have your health care provider take a look.
* Skin cancer of the feet can easily be mistaken for other, less serious problems. For example squamous cell carcinomas, the second-most-common type of skin cancer, may resemble a plantar wart, fungal infection, eczema, an ulcer or other common dermatological condition.
* Skin cancers in the lower legs, ankles and feet may look very different from those that occur in the rest of the body. Podiatrists are uniquely qualified among medical professionals to treat lower extremities, so their knowledge and training can help patients detect both benign and malignant skin tumors early.

Personalizing lung cancer care through biomarker testing

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Over the last decade, the scientific community has gained a greater understanding of genetic mutations, or abnormalities, associated with the development and progression of cancer; these mutations are also known as biomarkers. The presence or absence of a biomarker can help physicians determine the most appropriate treatment approach for each individual patient based on their specific type of cancer.

In some cancers, like breast cancer, testing for biomarkers is already an established best practice.

However, for other cancers, the regular use of biomarker testing is still gaining momentum; non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is one example.

NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer – in fact, about 85 percent of patients with lung cancer are diagnosed as having NSCLC. Today, there have been multiple biomarkers identified and believed or known to play a role in the development and progression of this disease. One of these biomarkers is a mutation in a protein known as epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR); it is one of the most common biomarkers identified in NSCLC patients. Another biomarker being closely studied in NSCLC is anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) rearrangements. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancers have EGFR mutations, while another two to seven percent have ALK rearrangements.

There have been significant advancements in the research of NSCLC over the past 10 years including increased knowledge of biomarkers, which can inform treatment decisions.

Traditional surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, which can remove or kill some normal cells along with cancer cells, were once the only options; however, targeted therapies are now an option for some patients who have a biomarker. Targeted therapies generally work by influencing the processes that control growth, division, and spread of cancer cells, as well as the signals that cause cancer cells to die naturally (apoptosis), the way normal cells do when they are damaged or old.

“The discovery of genetic mutations and the process of testing for them – known as biomarker testing – is changing the diagnosis and treatment landscape for patients with cancer,” said Kevin Lokay, vice president and business unit head, Oncology, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. “It allows us to determine if a patient’s cancer is associated with a genetic mutation, leading to a more detailed diagnosis and giving us the tools we need to map out an individualized treatment approach for each patient.”

Ideally, biomarker testing happens immediately after a patient is diagnosed with a disease like lung cancer to help ensure that he or she can start on the most appropriate treatment as early as possible.

A team – that may include pulmonologists, pathologists, oncologists and other health professionals – typically works together in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with lung cancer, including biomarker testing. There are multiple steps involved in biomarker testing for patients with advanced NSCLC, including:

* Taking a sample of lung tissue from a patient

* Analyzing/confirming type of lung cancer

* Testing the tissue sample for biomarkers

* Determining an individualized treatment approach

What can you do? You can increase the awareness of biomarker testing. If you or a loved one is diagnosed with lung cancer, be empowered by asking about biomarker testing. You can learn more about the biomarker testing process via an easy-to-understand brochure titled, “Individualizing Your Lung Cancer Care: Informing Decisions Through Biomarker Testing,” which can be found on and was developed by Boehringer Ingelheim in collaboration with the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) and EmergingMed.

Healthcare professionals involved in the care of patients with lung cancer can find out more through Boehringer Ingelheim’s Let’s Test initiative ( to learn more about the importance of automatically testing for biomarkers in advanced NSCLC and the importance of a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to testing.