Author Archives: Christina Corey

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

By Alan Baumgarten, MD, MPH

March is colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and a great time to raise awareness about this preventable disease.
Colorectal Cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Colorectal Cancer affects people in all racial and ethnic groups and the risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with advancing age. More than 90 percent of cases are in people aged 50 and older.

So here is the good news, if everyone age 50 and older were screened regularly, 6 out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented. The providers and staff of The Family Health Centers can work with you and your family members to insure that you receive the right colorectal screening test at exactly the right time.

What is Colon Cancer Screening?
• If you’re aged 50 to 75, get screened for colorectal cancer regularly. If you’re between 76 and 85, ask your doctor if you should be screened.
• Some people are at a higher risk than others for developing colorectal cancer. If you think you may be at increased risk, talk to your doctor about when to begin screening, which test is right for you, and how often to get tested.
• There are several screening test options. Talk with your FHC provider about which is right for you.
• Colonoscopy (every 10 years).
• High-sensitivity guaiac fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) (every year).
• Sigmoidoscopy (every 10 years, with FOBT or FIT every three years).
• Sigmoidoscopy alone (every 5 years).
• Stool DNA test (FIT-DNA) every one or three years (Cologuard).
• CT colonography (or virtual colonoscopy) every five years.

Other Colorectal Facts
Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. You could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important.
Symptoms that you should ask your FHC provider about include—
• Blood in or on the stool (bowel movement).
• Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away.
• Losing weight and you don’t know why.
These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer. So if you have questions, see your FHC provider.

What You Can Do To Prevent Colorectal Cancer?
• Be physically active.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Don’t drink too much alcohol.
• Don’t smoke.
• Follow a diet that is high in fiber and low in saturated fats.

Remember
Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. It is one of only a few cancers that can be prevented through screening.

February is American Heart Month

By Lisa Choe Scott, MD, The Family Health Centers

The month of February reminds us of Cupid, love, chocolates and red hearts. But did you know there is another reason to go red?

February 2, 2018 is the 15th annual National Wear Red Day. Unfortunately, 1 in 3 women die from heart disease or stroke. Women show different symptoms with these events compared to men, so they sometimes don’t notice the symptoms or will write them off as something else.  For this reason, National Wear Red Day was started to raise awareness of heart disease.  More on heart attack symptoms in women here.

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in men and women. On average someone dies of heart disease every 40 seconds, but this can be prevented by educating ourselves about and taking action.

How can we improve our heart health?

1. Schedule a visit with your doctor for a regular check up. We can work with you to establish goals to improve your heart health.

2. Add exercise to your routine. Start slow if this isn’t already in your routine. You can begin with walking 15 minutes 3 days a week, and work your way up to 30 minutes over the course of the next few weeks. Any activity is better than none!

3. Take steps to quit smoking. If you are currently smoking, cut back or quit to decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke significantly.

4. Increase healthy eating habits. Decrease the fast-food runs, and plan to cook at home at least 3 times a week. Decrease salt in your favorite recipes and replace it with fresh herbs and spices. You can also cook in advance over the weekend and eat leftovers during the week if time is a constraint during your work week. Weekly meal planning and on-the-go snacks can significantly reduce not only your fast food intake, but also your monthly food bills.

5. Take your medications as prescribed. Medications for high blood pressure and cholesterol are important to decreasing your risks for strokes or heart attacks. Talk to your doctor about the medications you are on, and never quit taking these meds on your own.

On Friday February 2nd, The Family Health Centers team will wear red  to raise this awareness, as we strive to work with you to improve heart health. So, are you ready to go red? We are!

Why January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

By Laurie Panzer, PA-C
The Family Health Centers

Approximately 12,000 American women are diagnosed with Cervical Cancer each year. We can decrease this amount!

The medical community has improved the way we screen for cervical cancer. We now screen for the Human Papillomavirus, which causes Cervical Cancer. Today Cervical Cancer is one of the most preventable cancers because of a simple screening test called the PAP smear, and the availability of the HPV (Human Papillomavirus Virus) vaccine.

Good news ladies: Cervical Cancer screening is easier than ever, and is not something that you must do every year.  All women should start having PAP smears at age 21. During your 20’s you will need a PAP smear every 2 years if your tests are normal. For women 30-65 years old, it is recommended to have a PAP test with HPV screening just once every 5 years.

These screening recommendations change if you have abnormal results. Women older than 65 do not need to have additional PAP smears if prior results were normal.

So every January, determine if you are due for a PAP test, and talk with your provider at The Family Health Centers if you are unsure. We wish you a safe, happy and healthy new year!

American Cancer Society: Cervical Cancer link

Are You Protected Against the Flu? What you need to know.

By Bailey Balentine, DO

“Did you get your flu shot this year?”
Recent data shows that less than 40% of people in the United States are vaccinated against the flu this season. While the best time to get your flu vaccine is mid to late October, it is never too late to get vaccinated. The flu season runs from October through May, with the highest peaks of flu activity traditionally occurring in February. Last year, however, flu cases remained higher than average through the month of March, and it seems that the flu peaks are shifting later each year.

“Who should get vaccinated?”
EVERYONE! The CDC recommends that all people over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccine EVERY YEAR. Some people are at higher risk for complications from the flu or are more susceptible to getting the virus, and it is especially important for those folks to get vaccinated. This includes children under the age of 5 years old, adults over the age of 65, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes, and anyone with a chronic illness (including diabetes, asthma or COPD, cancers, liver or kidney disease).

“Can you get the Flu from the Vaccine?”
NO. The flu vaccine does NOT contain any live virus and cannot cause you to get the flu. Most people tolerate the vaccine very well with only a little soreness in the upper arm. Other possible side effects include a mild elevation in temperature, headache, or muscle aches.

“I heard the flu shot is only 10% effective this year”
This is FALSE information. The report of only 10% effectiveness was from a study done in Australia that estimated the effectiveness of this year’s vaccine against Flu A only. In the USA, the CDC has a specific branch that collects information from over 3,000 health care providers who voluntarily report cases of influenza and influenza-like illnesses. Current US data suggests that the effectiveness of this year’s flu vaccine is 39% for all strains of influenza and 32% for Flu A specifically. In general, the flu vaccine is between 40-60% effective each year. The CDC collects data and reports on several other important aspects of the virus, including the geographic distribution of flu cases, the severity of illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths attributed to the flu. This is reported on weekly and can be viewed at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/. The most recent map shows that flu activity in North Carolina is pretty low, but it is moderate in Georgia and high in South Carolina.

“The effectiveness seems low. Why should I get vaccinated?”
The flu is much more than just a bad cold; it is a deadly virus! Each year, there are as many 50-60 thousand deaths attributed to the flu. Getting the flu vaccine drastically reduces your chances of dying from the flu, even if you do get the flu. Those who get the flu despite vaccination have a milder illness and fewer flu-related complications. Flu complications include ear infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma attacks or COPD exacerbations, respiratory failure and death.

The bottom line is this: the flu vaccination is not perfect. But, it is just a small prick on your shoulder that might keep you from getting this powerful virus, will make your flu milder if you are unfortunate enough to get it, and can keep you from dying from an illness that claims the lives of tens of thousands of people each year. So, are you protected against the flu?

Nov. 16 is The Great American Smokeout

By Natalie Dorsey, PA-C

Thinking of quitting smoking and don’t know how? Have you tried to quit smoking, but started back? You are not alone. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of mortality. On the third Thursday of November of each year since 1977, the American Cancer Society has sponsored the “The Great American Smokeout” to help encourage people put down their cigarettes.

There are multiple ways to quit smoking that can be tailored to your needs.  They all start with picking a “quit date.” Research shows that it is best if the quit date is 2-4 weeks from the time you make the decision to quit. Here are some tried and true methods for kicking the habit:

1. Cold Turkey: This method can be done a few different ways. You can go from smoking 1 pack a day to not smoking at all. Or you can pick a date and cut back the number of cigarettes you are smoking each day until the date you stop. Others have found books such as Allen Carr’s “Easy Way to Stop Smoking” helpful.

2. Nicotine Replacement Therapy: This consists of patches (long-acting nicotine replacement) and short-acting nicotine replacement (lozenges, gum, oral inhalers, and nasal sprays). These are dosed based on how many cigarettes per day one is smoking. Research shows that a combination of the patch, with a short-term replacement hourly while awake and then as needed for cravings is the most effective use of nicotine replacement. Most of these products are available over the counter, but the oral inhalers and nasal sprays are only available through a prescription. A long-term replacement (patch) is tapered over 8-10 weeks and the short-term replacement is used regularly the first 6 weeks and tapered the next 6 weeks.

3. Medications: Chantix (varenicline) and Zyban (bupropion) are two oral medications used to help people stop smoking, When Chantix is started, a quit date is chosen 7-35 days after the medication is started. Then the medication is continued for 12 weeks after you have stopped smoking. For Zyban, a quit date is set 7-14 days after initiation. It is then continued for an extended time (sometimes up to 6 months) to help curb cravings.

4. Behavioral therapy: This can come in a range of programs, but is recommended for anyone who is wanting to quit smoking in conjunction with above methods. Programs can be web-based, via phone calls, or in person. Success rates for cessation of smoking improve dramatically with the addition of behavioral therapy. Mission Health has a Nicotine Dependence Outpatient Clinic and 1-800-QUIT-NOW is a free telephone program. Also, many employers and health insurance companies provide behavioral support with quitting smoking.

No matter which method you chose, The Family Health Centers is here to support you through the process. Don’t be discouraged if you stop and then start back. Most people will make multiple attempts to quit smoking before it “sticks.” Each time you attempt to quit is a time you learn more about what works and what doesn’t work for you. Each time you try to stop, you will be one step closer to quitting for good.