Thursday, October 1, 2009

September is Prostate Health Month

Real men wear gowns...and learn how to prevent and control prostate issues. Whether it's time for a simple blood test or that test, you're not just doing it for yourself. You're doing it for your family and loved ones. The single most important way to take care of yourself and those you love is to actively take part in your health care.

Did you know?

  • prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men
  • other issues, such as Prostatitis and BPH, and enlarged prostate, can also affect a man's overall well-being.

What you can do:

  • make an appointment with your physician to discuss a prostate screening now.
  • commit to getting regular recommended exams.

On September 29th, Saint Mary's hosted a chili dinner (for men only!) with Dr. Don Hill, Internist for Millard-Henry Clinic. In recognition of Prostate Health Month, Dr. Hill’s seminar focused on health issues specific to men such as benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), prostatitis and prostate cancer.

It’s a Man thing:

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, men may be catching up to women in lifespan. But while the life-expectancy gap between men and women has shrunk to 5.2 years, the narrowest since 1946, men still need to pay more attention to their health.

Compared to women, men are more likely to:
Smoke and drink, and generally lead less healthy lifestyles.
Put off routine checkups and even ignore symptoms of a health problem.
Join in fearless, risky and dangerous behaviors.

The good news is that many of the diseases and health conditions that men face can be prevented or successfully treated if they are found early. Just like automobiles, men’s bodies need regular check-ups and maintenance to avoid serious breakdowns in the future.

The prostate, a walnut-sized gland located just below the bladder in men, is important to bladder control and normal sexual functioning – important issues to most men.

Common prostate disorders:

BPH, or enlargement of the prostate gland, is a common and manageable problem which will affect approximately 50 percent of men between the ages of 51 and 60 years. Up to 90 percent of men older than 80 years will be affected. In the United States, an estimated 14 million men have this condition.

Some common urinary tract symptoms of BPH include a weak or slow urinary stream, a feeling that the bladder is not empty and urinary frequency both day and night. “Symptoms of BPH typically develop slowly,” said Dr. Hill, “but may appear rapidly in some cases, such as when a patient is taking antihistamines.”

An appointment with your doctor is important if any of these typical symptoms persist. When properly treated, BPH symptoms can subside. According to Hill, treatment is usually medical early on, but may require surgery in advanced stages. Appropriate treatment can significantly improve the quality of life for men who have BPH.

Prostatitis, an inflammation of the prostate gland, is another common condition in men, and may account for up to 25 percent of all office visits by young and middle-aged men for complaints involving genital and urinary symptoms. It is often caused by infection and may develop rapidly (acute), or slowly (chronic).

Prostate cancer:

One of the most serious health risks men face today is prostate cancer – the most common type of cancer found in American men, other than skin cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer death in men. (Lung cancer is the first.)

The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for prostate cancer in the United States are for 2009:

192,280 new cases
27,360 deaths
One man in six will get prostate cancer in his lifetime.
One man in 35 will die of this disease.

The good news is that more than 2 million men in the US who have had prostate cancer at some point are still alive today. The death rate for prostate cancer is going down, and the disease is being found earlier, too.

Part of the reason for today’s significant decrease in the death rate from prostate cancer is that more men than ever have gotten serious about regular screenings.

In its early stages, prostate cancer usually doesn’t cause symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, symptoms may develop that are the same as for prostatitis and/or BPH. Additional symptoms include:

Chronic pain in the hips, thighs or lower back.
Blood in the urine or semen.

The lack of early symptoms and the overlap of symptoms with non-cancerous conditions make prostate cancer difficult to diagnose. That is why it is essential to get screened regularly. At this time, routine prostate cancer screening recommendations vary, so it is important to discuss with your doctor what is right for you.

Health issues can be stressful, no matter when they occur. Frequently, the anxiety they cause can affect those around us, especially our closest family members. One of the best treatments for health-related stress is to have the facts about your condition, and to act out of knowledge. The more you and your loved ones understand about a physical condition or illness, the better you’ll be able to take the right steps to manage it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Spread the Word NOT the Germs

To live well, you need to prepare for the H1N1 and seasonal flu this year.

Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center and community partners ask the River Valley as a whole to take a pro-active stance against the spread of seasonal and H1N1 influenza and other infections. While clean hands are the best protection against spreading germs and preventing infection, it is also important to always cover your sneeze or cough, properly care for wounds and disinfect commonly touched hard surfaces. Ask everyone around you to follow these guidelines, too.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza (“flu”) is a contagious disease caused by the influenza virus. It spreads from infected persons to the nose or throat of others. Anyone can get the flu, but rates of infection are highest among children. For most people, it lasts only a few days. It can cause fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills, muscle aches and fatigue. Some people get much sicker. Influenza can lead to pneumonia and can be dangerous for people with heart or breathing conditions. It can cause high fevers and seizures in children. On average, 226,000 people are hospitalized every year because of influenza and 36,000 die – mostly elderly.

The influenza vaccine can prevent influenza. It is recommended for anyone who wants to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with influenza or spreading influenza to others. An individual may pass the influenza virus on to others before symptoms appear – most adults will shed the virus at least 24 hours prior to the onset of symptoms. Because flu viruses are always changing, influenza vaccines are updated every year. Annual vaccinations are recommended.

The Pope County Drive-Thru Mass Vaccination Clinic will be held on Friday, October 30 at the Pope County Fair Grounds from 7am to 4pm. The clinic planners have been informed by the state to plan on administering both the seasonal and H1N1 vaccines at the drive through. If the supply of the H1N1 is limited it will only be administered to the high risk groups (1) pregnant women, (2) children, then (3) Health care workers. Vaccines will be free to the public.
With the news swirling with reports of seasonal and new 2009 H1N1 flu in our schools, universities and workplaces, preparing now for the possibility of an outbreak is critical. However, there are some bright spots in recent flu news:

A study by University of Maryland virologist reports that the H1N1 is unlikely to recombine with the seasonal flu virus. The study, reported in the online journal PloS Currents, eases fears that the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus will recombine with seasonal flu to mutate into a more lethal form.

Roche Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the antiviral drug Tamiflu, reports that the drug is fully effective against the 2009 H1N1virus. has reported results of testing which indicates that one dose of the H1N1 vaccine will confer immunity. Original thought was that two doses of the vaccine would be necessary to provide resistance. Results of the study were reported in The New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, September 10.

Good news aside, the history of this virus makes it likely that this flu season will be a record breaker.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

March Is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Colorectal cancer screening is one of four preventive measures that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has chosen to focus on for the next three years. There is ample reason for the choice: of the more than 49,000 people expected to die from colorectal cancer in 2009, appropriated screenings could save more than half.

Most people would admit to knowing that colonoscopies are recommended at age 50, but many delay because they consider the procedure embarrassing or are squeamish about pre-exam preparation. If you are 50 or older and have yet to schedule a colonoscopy, take a few minutes to read about colorectal cancers, the colonoscopy procedure and the benefits of screening and early detection.


Colonoscopies are used to diagnose a number of gastrointestinal issues, including colorectal cancers. Consider the following statistics:

• Ninety percent of colorectal cancers are curable when patients get an early diagnosis.
• High- and moderate-risk patients only account for about 25 percent of all diagnosed colorectal cases.
• The other 75 percent of people who develop the disease are age 50 or older and don’t have any risk factors.
• If everyone in America were to get his colonoscopy when recommended, then 25,000 lives would be saved each year.

Though 50 is the recommended age for most people to get their first screening colonoscopy, the American Gastroenterological Association recommends that people with a family history of colon cancer get their first colonoscopy at 40. Some ethnic groups are also at higher risk and should begin screening before age 50. Your physician can advise you on all age appropriate screening procedures. Ninety percent of colon and rectal cancers occur in patients 50 and older. If you are a patient of average risk, colonoscopies are recommended every 10 years after your first procedure.


Colorectal cancers are slow-growing, and it may be years before symptoms are detected. Therefore, regular screening is highly recommended. However, knowing what signs to look for can’t hurt.

If you suddenly begin experiencing any of the following on a regular basis, contact your physician:

• Any change in bowel movements: sudden diarrhea, bloody stools, constipation, or “thin” but solid stools;
• Unexplained weight loss;
• Stomach cramps;
• Bloating, gas, nausea, and vomiting;
• Feeling full or tired.

Because colorectal cancers are slow-growing, they are generally curable when found early on. And remember, if your colonoscopy shows no polyps or cancer, you are in the clear for a decade. If there are polyps, or even cancer, you will know, and you can begin treatment quickly.


Although no one knows what causes colorectal cancers, there are sub-groups more susceptible than others to develop a cancer of the colon or rectum. Factors that seem to increase risk for colorectal cancers include:

• Age 50 or older
• Personal history of colon cancer or polyps
• Family history or colon cancer or polyps
• Genetic colon disorders
• Inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
• Diet high in calories and fat or low in fiber
• Obesity
• Diabetes
• Inactive lifestyle
• Heavy drinking of alcohol
• Cigarette smoking


Johns Hopkins Medicine offers advice to help you make the best of this necessary test:
• Get a head start. Consider lightening up on your food intake two days before the test, avoiding hard-to-digest items such as meat, eggs, nuts, and leafy greens. Instead, eat lots of fiber in the form of vegetables and fruits, or start the liquid diet early, so there will be less to purge.
• Stock up. Get what you will need ahead of time, including clear liquids such as chicken or vegetable broth, apple juice, and bottled water with electrolytes. Buy extra-soft toilet paper, paper towels, or disposable baby wipes (be careful not to buy cleansing wipes containing scent or alcohol).
• Be gentle to yourself. Plan to take two days off work: the day before the test and the day of the test itself.
• Stay hydrated. A recent study shows that some laxative products made with sodium phosphate may contribute to dehydration and thus cause kidney damage. All laxatives cause some water loss, so drink plenty of fluids throughout the prep and after the test. Avoid both alcoholic and carbonated drinks before the procedure, as they increase dehydration.
• Reduce the opportunity for accidents. Stay home near a bathroom during the process.
• Prepare the bathroom. Line the wastebasket with a plastic bag. Instead of toilet paper, use wet washcloths or disposable wipes, such as unscented baby wipes (check that the product is flushable). Applied generously, petroleum jelly and hemorrhoid products can ease anal soreness that might develop. Soaking in a warm tub may help as well.
• Try to relax. Most people dread the actual scoping procedure, and feelings of anxiety or concern are normal. The mild sedative given for a colonoscopy relieves those problems, and you may not even remember the process. If you are feeling especially anxious, talk to your doctor beforehand about providing a mild tranquilizer or muscle relaxant for the procedure. And keep in mind that, compared with the preparation, the colonoscopy is usually over very quickly.
• Aftercare. You may feel some mild cramping or bloating and, rarely, nausea, up to a day afterward, caused by some air left in the colon. Eat lightly for a few days.
• Be relieved. When it's over, it's over. If the scoping shows no polyps or cancer, you are in the clear for a decade. If there are polyps, or even cancer, you will know, and you can be treated quickly.

Live Well Lunch & Learn Series Underway

Ninety guests were in attendance recently at Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center’s first “Live Well” Lunch and Learn seminar of 2009. Saint Mary’s will partner with several area physicians to continue this series of community wellness events, providing important information on current health topics. See pictures

Dr. Finley Turner, a family practice physician with Millard Henry Clinic, presented on “Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes,” discussing treatment and emphasizing preventive measures that can be taken to avoid metabolic syndrome, diabetes and associated risks and complications.

The term "metabolic syndrome" has been widely used in research to refer to a combination of related health factors that, when they appear together, create a higher risk for both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The value of the term is that it alerts both patient and physician that heart disease and diabetes, two seemingly disparate ailments, actually share common triggers.

According to Dr. Turner, metabolic syndrome is now a recognized diagnosis. By definition, a patient has the condition if he or she demonstrates three or more of these five risk factors:

• Abdominal obesity: For men, this is a waist size of 40 inches or greater; in women, a waist size of 35 inches or greater is an indicator of risk.
• Triglyceride level greater than 150 or being treated for high triglyceride levels.
• HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) of less than 40 in men; less than 50 in women.
• Blood pressure higher than 130/85, or treatment for high blood pressure.
• Fasting blood sugar greater than 100 mg/dL.

Most people with diabetes have health problems such as high blood pressure and cholesterol that increase one's risk for heart disease and stroke. When combined with diabetes, these risk factors add up to big trouble. With diabetes, you are two to four times more likely to die of a heart attack. In fact, more than 65% of people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.

“The number one most important treatment for diabetes is lifestyle change,” said Turner, “which can also be the most difficult.”

Three major components of lifestyle changes are diet, exercise and mindset. While the diabetic diet has seen frequent changes in the past, it has now become rather standardized. The Mediterranean diet is a healthy option, and is high in fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains and olive oil. The DASH diet is similar, but with increased dairy and a more restricted sodium intake.

Exercise recommendations are at least 30 minutes, preferably 60 or more, of continuous or intermittent moderate activity (brisk walking) five times per week, preferably daily. “This does not mean walking around the block, visiting with the neighbors,” Turner explained, “or taking the dog out and stopping every 50 feet to check things out. It means being, and staying, active.”

Changing the way you think about how you live is key to maintaining better health, but is hard to do. “I can diet, and I can exercise,” said Turner, “but as I’ve proven to myself about a dozen times now, not for long. I kind of like the way I live, so changing my mindset becomes the most challenging part.”

Medications are an important part of treatment for diabetes and related complications, but Dr. Turner repeatedly emphasized that “With diabetes, as with metabolic syndrome, lifestyle changes will do you worlds more good than medications ever can.”

Clinicians and registered dietitians with the hospital and Saint Mary’s Outpatient Therapy Center (OPTC) were on hand as well. Sixty-two attendees took advantage of blood glucose screenings, nutritional information and samples provided by the OPTC prior to lunch and Dr. Turner’s presentation.

The Outpatient Therapy Center offers group classes which educate those with diabetes on how to best manage living with the disease. Specific topics such as healthy eating, monitoring blood sugars, staying active, coping with lifestyle changes, medication management, problem solving and reducing the risk of potential complications are discussed. For more information on the services provided at Saint Mary’s Outpatient Therapy Center, call 479-968-3733.

Those living with diabetes are also welcome to attend a free support group that meets on the second Tuesday of each month in CafĂ© 3 at Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center. Attendance averages 25 to 30 people who come from all around the River Valley. The informal meetings provide information and education on successfully living with diabetes without major complications.

Saint Mary’s next “Live Well” lunch and learn is scheduled for April 8, and will offer information on colorectal cancer prevention and screening procedures. According to the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death in the United States. When detected early, however, colorectal cancer is 90% curable.

Dr. Mike Bell, Dr. Craig Mizes and Dr. Vinh Nguyen, general surgeons with Millard Henry Clinic, will all take part in this upcoming seminar. Dr. Mizes will present on colorectal cancer and the colonoscopy procedure, followed by a question and answer session including Dr. Bell and Dr. Nguyen.

The event will begin at noon in the Saint Mary’s annex building. Admission is $5 and includes a healthy lunch and registration for door prizes. Reservations are required. For more information or to reserve your seat, please call 479-964-9355.

Women's Health Initiative

Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center is joining the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health in celebrating National Women’s Health Week 2009. This year marks the tenth anniversary for this nationwide initiative that empowers women to make their health a top priority.

During this week, which runs from Mother’s Day, May 10 through May 16, families, health organizations, businesses, communities, the government and individuals will come together to raise awareness about women’s health issues, and to educate women on simple steps they can take to improve their physical and mental well-being for a longer, healthier and happier life.

Saint Mary's will celebrate National Women’s Health Week with the kickoff to its “Live Well” Women’s Seminar Series on Tuesday, May 12th. Joe Cloud, M.D., gynecologist with Millard Henry Clinic will discuss women’s general health topics, with a focus on age-appropriate preventive screenings. Dr. Cloud’s presentation is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the Saint Mary’s annex. Decadent chocolate treats and door prize drawings should sweeten this opportunity to learn more about these important women’s issues. For more information and to reserve your seat, call (479) 964-9468.

According to Cloud, “National Women’s Health Week is important because it encourages women to take time for their own health. Women are most often the main caregivers for their families. As a result, they may forget to make their own health a priority. During this week, and with the continued seminar series, we want to remind women that they too need to see the doctor, make sure that their screenings are up to date and just take the time to think about their own well-being.”

Cloud offered these important steps toward improving your physical and mental health and lowering your risk of certain diseases:
  • Get at least 2 ½ hours of moderate physical activity, 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or a combination of both each week.
  • Eat a nutritious diet.
  • Visit a health care professional for regular checkups and preventive screenings.
  • Avoid risky behaviors, like smoking and not wearing a seatbelt.
  • Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress.
The Saint Mary’s “Live Well” series was created in partnership with area physicians to provide the community with current medical information and services that promote living well and maintaining good health. “Live Well” includes a Lunch & Learn series, as well as the Women’s Seminar Series. The women’s seminar series will feature a broad range of women’s health topics ranging from general health in the teens and twenties through reproductive health, birth control methods, bone and breast health, menopause and immunizations through the sixties and beyond.

Meeting the unique health care needs of women requires having both physicians and services committed to these patients. The talented and experienced women’s health specialists on staff with Saint Mary’s include: Dr. Cloud and Dr. Jody Callaway, Gynecology, Millard Henry Clinic; Dr. Michael Escue, Dr. Vickie Henderson and Dr. Dean Papageorge, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Millard Henry Clinic; and Dr. Larry Battles, Gynecology, Russellville Gynecology Clinic.

With comforting environments and advanced medical treatments and technologies, these physicians offer female patients the level of quality care needed to help maintain good health through all stages of life.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

March Is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

The April Live Well seminar will feature a presentation by Dr. Mizes, in the Saint Mary’s Annex, followed by a panel discussion and question and answer session including Drs. Bell and Nguyen. These experienced physicians will share their expertise on colorectal cancer risk factors, signs and symptoms, types of screening tests and ways to discuss colorectal cancer and cancer prevention with your primary care physician. A healthy lunch will be served, and all guests will receive a gift and the opportunity to register for door prizes. Admission is $5 per person. Reservations are required. For more information, including date and time, please call Saint Mary’s Community Relations at 479.964.9355.

Facts About Colon Cancer

Did you know that colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer killer overall and third most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States in both males and females? These statistics from the American Cancer Society are alarming. However, there are also statistics that show that colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, thanks to what is now known about effective prevention. It is also one of the most curable cancers if detected and treated in its early stages.

Colorectal (large bowel) cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Together, the colon and rectum make up the large bowel or large intestine. The large bowel's main job is to reabsorb water from the contents of the intestine so that solid waste can be expelled.

Most colorectal cancers originate from benign wart-like growths on the inner lining of the colon or rectum called polyps. Not all polyps have the potential to transform into cancer. Those that do have the potential are called adenomas. It takes more than 10 years in most cases for an adenoma to develop into cancer. This is why some colon cancer prevention tests are effective even if done at 10-year intervals.

Who is at risk for colorectal cancer?

A report from the American College of Gastroenterology states the following:

• Everyone age 50 and over: 93% of cases of colorectal cancer occur in persons 50 years of age and over. The average age to develop colorectal cancer is 70 years. Current recommendations are to begin screening at age 50 (age 45 for African-Americans) if there are no risk factors other than age for colorectal cancers.

• Men and women: Men tend to get colorectal cancer at an earlier age than women, but women live longer so they “catch up” with men. Thus, the total number of cases in men and women is equal.

• Anyone with a family history of colorectal cancer: Special screening programs are used for those with a family history of colorectal cancer. A well-documented family history of adenomas is also an important risk factor.

• Anyone with a personal history of colorectal cancer or adenomas at any age, or uterine or ovarian cancer diagnosed before age 50: These groups should be checked by colonoscopy at regular intervals, usually every 3 to 5 years.

Act with Knowledge:
Colorectal screening tests are not popular. Many adults put off testing because they are squeamish about the procedures, which may require patients to collect stool samples or have an instrument inserted into the rectum.
Screening advocates point out that the unpleasantness is a small price to pay to avoid a painful and deadly disease, and most people who have had the tests say they are no big deal. The worst part of a colonoscopy, many people find, is not the test itself (usually performed under sedation), but the “prep,” which requires a day at home taking supercharged laxatives to empty the intestines.