Summer is almost here, and we’ve all heard how important it is to wear hats and sunscreen to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful rays – but few of us follow a regular regiment. Such was the case for David Duckworth, who watched his wife take sun protection seriously for years, but never thought he needed to, despite having fair skin.
When David’s employer offered a free skin cancer screening with Stanford dermatologists, he decided to take up the offer and get the freckles and dark spots on his face and arms checked out. The screening may very well have saved David’s life, as it caught a spot on his left collarbone that he hadn’t thought was abnormal. David’s diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma (the country’s most common form of cancer) has changed his every day behavior and made him an advocate of proper sun protection.
When I recently learned that my cholesterol was a bit high, I was told that a regular exercise routine and a couple of oatmeal breakfasts per week should do the trick to bring the numbers back to a normal range. But for Brenda Gundell, a genetic disease called Familial Hypercholesterolemia, or FH, means that simple lifestyle changes won’t make for a quick fix.
FH affects cholesterol processing from birth, and while the condition is common – affecting more than 600,000 people in the U.S. – it is diagnosed in less than 10 percent of those who have it. Gundell was only 15 when she first heard about FH; her father, just 39 at the time, had such extreme levels of total cholesterol that they led to a fatal heart attack. Fortunately for Gundell, while the disease can be destructive, it is, in fact, treatable. And, with the help of FH specialists at Stanford’s Preventive Cardiology Clinic, Gundell has kept her cholesterol in check for the last 17 years and is looking forward to a long life.
Grundell’s story is detailed in the Stanford Hospital video above.
Marjorie McFadden is not your typical 90-year-old. McFadden retired from her public-school job at the age of 85 and remained very social afterwards, regularly attending social gatherings and playing bingo and pinochle with friends. A condition called achalasia, an unusual tightening of the muscles at the lower end of the esophagus, changed all of that, and McFadden found herself unable to swallow food or water and losing a pound of weight a day. But an innovative procedure at Stanford – the per oral endoscopic myotomy, or POEM – now means McFadden is back to enjoying social gatherings again. Her story is captured in the Stanford Hospital video above.
Effective today, radiologists across California will be required by law to notify women when their mammography screening shows they have dense breast tissue. Approximately 50 percent of women have dense breast tissue – more fibrograndular tissue than fatty tissue as seen on a mammogram – so falling into this category is quite normal.
If you’re a woman with dense breast tissue, you’ll receive a letter in the mail that includes an explanation that this is a risk factor for developing breast cancer and that having such tissue may make it more difficult to detect a tumor. (However, having dense breast tissue is only a small risk factor for developing breast cancer and mammography is still considered the gold standard in breast-cancer screening.)
While this notification is meant to educate women about their own bodies and empower them to make better health-care decisions, it could also result in needlessly alarming or confusing patients. It’s important that women understand why they’re receiving this information and what they can do about it, which is why Stanford Hospital prepared the video above.
All of us are challenged in one way or another to stay healthy. But making smart choices doesn’t have to be difficult and, in fact, can be fun. That’s what Stanford Hospital & Clinics had in mind when it launched a month-long heart health challenge.
The 28-Day Heart Health Challenge focuses on simple changes people can make to their diets and exercise routines that can have a big impact on their heart health. Each day of the week features a different theme with a related challenge. For example, on Stress-less Saturdays you will be reminded of how detrimental chronic stress can be to heart health and be challenged to give meditation or yoga a try. On Meet A Doctor Monday you’ll be introduced to a Stanford physician who will describe what he or she does to keep the heart healthy and then be challenged to try out a similar strategy.
Robyn Horn, a Stanford Hospital employee and Scope contributor, has committed to take on the challenge full force, and she wants to share her experiences with the world. Every day this month, Robyn will try that day’s challenge and write about it in her Heart Health Challenge Blog.
And while the challenge may only be 28 days long, the hope is that after February is long gone, at least some of the information will stick and people like Robyn will continue making heart healthy choices for years to come.
Scoliosis is a painful and debilitating condition that causes the spine of an individual to curve like an “S.” For Jerry Stark, having degenerative scoliosis meant he could no longer work or even live much of a life: He was so bent over that he couldn’t see himself in his bathroom mirror, and his pain grew so great that life became all about managing the pain and little else. Stark eventually came to see Stanford orthopaedic surgeon Ivan Cheng, MD, who performed a minimally invasive technique that changed his life.
Watch the video to meet the new Jerry Stark.
From Dec. 24 to Jan. 7, Scope will be on a limited holiday publishing schedule. During that time, it may also take longer than usual for comments to be approved.
My colleague Sara Wykes, a smoker for 30 years, recently took the first step toward finding out what damage those decades of smoking may have done to her lungs. In the conclusion to this three-part series, Sara finds out results of her CT lung-cancer screening.
Last week I introduced you to my colleague Sara Wykes. Sara, a smoker for 30 years, has taken the first step toward finding out what damage all those of years of smoking may have done to her lungs. In this second part of a three-part series, Sara takes us through the CT lung-cancer screening process.
By the time I started working with Sara Wykes, a brilliant writer at Stanford Hospital (and a Scope contributor), she had already been cigarette-free for 15 years. Sara is that colleague who insists on whole-wheat bagels and egg-white omelettes while the rest of us indulge in egg bagels covered in layers of cream cheese or syrup-laden pancakes. Sara is also the one who reminds us how important it is to get our flu shots and to keep up with our daily exercise routine. I wouldn’t say that she’s a health freak, but she certainly takes good care of herself and nudges others around her to do the same.
So when I found out that not only Sara had been a smoker, but had smoked about a pack a day for 30 years, I was surprised. Clearly, Sara is a changed woman and has made her health a priority.
When our team began preparing for November’s National Lung Cancer Awareness campaign, Sara mentioned that she now qualified, based on newly approved guidelines, for CT lung-cancer screening. The screening, which is quick and painless, could potentially save Sara’s life: In 2011, the New England Journal of Medicine published results from the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial that showed a 20 percent mortality reduction in a high-risk population who had been screened using low-dose CT as compared to a control group screened using chest radiography.
Sara was very generous and brave by agreeing to have her screening journey filmed and shared; above is the first of a three-part series documenting her experience.
Nearly 50 years after the first Surgeon General warnings linking smoking to cancer appeared on cigarettes packages, millions of Americans have managed to break the addictive habit. And while a decrease in the numbers of smokers provides great reason to celebrate, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death. The damage that smoking does to the lungs still means a far higher risk of developing cancer.
Daya Upadhyay, MD, a pulmonary specialist focused on lung nodules, early lung cancer diagnosis and the impact of smoking and environment on lung health
Joseph Shrager, MD, chief of Stanford’s Division of Thoracic Surgery and expert in video-assisted thoracic surgery for early stage lung cancer
Heather Wakelee, MD, a medical oncologist with expertise in molecularly-targeted treatment of lung cancer who heads the thoracic oncology clinical research group
Billy W. Loo Jr, MD, PhD, program leader of thoracic radiation oncology and an expert inimage-guided stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) for early stage lung cancer
If you are in the Bay Area, and you or someone you know is a current or former heavy smoker, consider attending the panel. The event will be held from 7 – 8:30 PM at the Francis C. Arrillaga Alumni Center on the Stanford campus. Seating is limited; to register call (650) 498-7826.