Diagnosing eye cancer early preserves girl’s sight

When Kenley Overton’s parents took their infant daughter in for her four-month wellness checkup, they didn’t know much about retinoblastoma, the rare form of eye cancer that most commonly affects children. But that quickly changed.

Kenley was born Aug. 24, 2010, to Jason and Kendra Overton. When Kenley was a few weeks old, her parents noticed that her right eye would cross frequently. They brought it up to their local pediatrician during a wellness checkup and were told that it wasn’t abnormal for newborns.

However, when the Overtons brought Kenley in for her four-month wellness checkup, her right eye was still crossing. The pediatrician suggested Kenley see an eye doctor as it was likely she would need glasses to fix the issue.

In a whirlwind of appointments, Kenley first saw an optometrist who believed she had a detached retina. She was then referred to Dr. Peter J. Blackburn at UK Advanced Eye Care. After some testing, Blackburn diagnosed Kenley with retinoblastoma – a form of eye cancer that begins in the retina. Thirteen days after her wellness check, Kenley was scheduled for surgery with Blackburn to evaluate the situation and decide on a plan moving forward.

The best-case scenario

Retinoblastoma is a rare disease; only 200 to 300 children are diagnosed with it each year in the U.S. About three out of four children with retinoblastoma have a tumor in only one eye. Overall, more than 90 percent of children with retinoblastoma are cured, but the outlook is not nearly as good if the cancer has spread outside the eye.

Blackburn says that although there are no known avoidable risk factors for retinoblastoma, some gene changes that put a child at high risk for the condition can be passed on from a parent. Children born to a parent with a history of retinoblastoma should be screened for this cancer starting shortly after birth because early detection greatly improves the chance for successful treatment.

When Blackburn came out of surgery, he told the Overton family that Kenley’s cancer was only in her right eye – the best-case scenario.

He was pleasantly surprised because at Kenley’s young age, he had suspected the cancer might have been in both of her eyes. The decision was made to remove Kenley’s right eye that day.

In the years following her surgery, Kenley was regularly monitored to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread to her left eye. As Kenley continued to grow and show no signs of the retinoblastoma in her left eye, Blackburn became more confident that the cancer was limited to Kenley’s right eye.

Compassionate care at UK

Kendra Overton looks back on this difficult time in Kenley’s life and remembers how tough it was on her family. While taking care of Kenley, she and Jason also had to care for their older daughter, Jaylen, who was 4 years old at the time. But through the stress, she remembers Blackburn and the care he provided for Kenley.

“Dr. Blackburn was a very confident in the information he delivered about Kenley and her treatment plan, and he had a wonderful bedside manner,” she said.

She said Blackburn even took the time to pray with her family before Kenley’s surgery.

“At a time when we were falling apart, we really needed that and you don’t normally hear of doctors doing that,” she said.

Kenley is now a thriving 6-year-old. Kendra describes her daughter as naturally funny and someone who never meets a stranger. She just has a love for people, her mother says.

“Everyone who comes in contact with her says she is just so amazing,” Kendra said.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about UK Advanced Eye Care, which provides comprehensive care for patients of all ages  from routine eye exams to treatment for the most complex ophthalmic issues.
  • Earlier this year, UK Advanced Eye Care moved into a new state-of-the-art clinic that will allow us to provide even better care for our patients. Find out more about our new location.
Erika Carter

With cancer behind her, it’s back to school again for this teacher

Don’t miss the video at the end of this blog to see Erika talk about her treatment journey at the Markey Cancer Center.

Dealing with a classroom full of rowdy second-graders can be taxing on even the most patient, energetic individual.

But for 42-year-old Versailles schoolteacher Erika Carter, her real challenges have happened outside the classroom. In the summer of 2015, she visited her doctor for her yearly checkup and bloodwork, which yielded some bad news: an anomaly in her white blood cell count.

Months of monitoring and referrals followed, including a bone marrow biopsy. Her white blood cell count continued to drop, and on Sept. 24, 2015, she received a call telling her to immediately come to the emergency room at the UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital. She would not go back to teaching for the rest of the year.

“I was numb,” Carter said. “I just kind of didn’t have any feelings at that point. I just couldn’t believe that my world was completely rocked.”

Carter was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a subtype of acute myeloid leukemia. Dr. Gerhard Hildebrandt, a UK Markey Cancer Center blood and marrow transplantation hematologist and Carter’s physician, says the good news is that this type of cancer is usually curable with fast intervention. And in Carter’s case, the cancer was discovered very early, which boded well for her treatment.

“It’s characterized by a certain genetic change, which fortunately allows this disease to have a higher cure rate than other leukemias,” Hildebrandt said.

Getting through treatment

Over the next nine months, Carter underwent 128 chemotherapy treatments, including a 19-day stint as an inpatient at Markey. Throughout her journey, she built a good relationship with the nursing team that took care of her.

“They are always upbeat and friendly,” she said. “All across the board, the nurses were fabulous. I’ve gone back several times to see them. I really had a good experience.”

Hildebrandt agreed and said the communication between patients and his team is one of the strengths of the program at Markey.

“The team is not too big, so everybody knows the patients quite well,” Hildebrandt said. “Communication is very easy both between the patient and the care team and between the care team itself. I think it gives a level of personalized care.”

Erika and Dr. Hildebrandt

Erika Carter and Dr. Gerhard Hildebrandt.

Carter was lucky that she had minimal side effects after chemotherapy, so she tried her best to keep on with much of daily life. She took advantage of some of Markey’s integrative medicine options, including Jin Shin Jyutsu and art therapy, but says the hardest thing for her during the treatment was not being able to go outside.

“I’d look out the window and see everyone going to the UK game,” she said. “I love going to the UK games, so just watching them, I felt like this prisoner. … Luckily, I had a huge support system with my friends, family and church.”

Back to school

This time last August, Carter was just getting back to work after nearly a year off. Coming from a family of educators, she carries a love for teaching in her blood and was eager to get back to the Southside Elementary classroom she’s been teaching in for six years. She says she’s inspired by her students who motivate her to carry a positive attitude throughout the day.

“I’ll tell you what – with teaching, you just really can’t have a bad day,” Carter said. “I love the children, they make me laugh. I could have a rough day, but I’ve got to check that at the door and I’ve got to walk in and put that smile on my face for these kiddos. … I want it to be just a fun experience for them, to love learning and love education.”

Although her students are young, Carter says that many of them had some understanding of what she had gone through. She has a picture that says “We love Ms. Carter” and a banner signed by the entire school that she hung at the hospital.

“They were great, so great, in welcoming me back,” she said. “I’m just glad I had a story where I was able to come back, and [the students] are like, ‘Okay, people can have cancer, but they also survive it, too.'”

The importance of preventive care

In fact, at the end of the 2017 school year, Carter invited Hildebrandt to come visit her class and give her students a quick lesson on what cancer is and what doctors do to treat it.

“It’s a fantastic honor to be here,” Hildebrandt said. “When you have a patient who does remarkably well and then goes back to daily life, like Erika with her kids in this classroom, it’s the reward for the entire team.”

Carter describes the circumstances around her diagnosis as a “blessing,” noting that her case could have turned out very differently if she’d neglected to get her physician-recommended preventive care.

“It is very important to get preventive care,” Carter said. “Sometimes when you need to get bloodwork, it’s very easy to push that aside. But thank the Lord I did go – because had I not, I would’ve ended up in a really bad state. It would’ve been possibly too late or it would’ve been a whole other road of struggle.”

Erika Carter and her students at Southside Elementary in Versailles.

Erika Carter and her students at Southside Elementary in Versailles.



Next steps:

No. 1 hospital in Kentucky

We’re the No. 1 hospital in Ky., again

UK HealthCare Albert B. Chandler Hospital remains the No. 1 hospital in Kentucky and the Bluegrass Region, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals Rankings released today.

In addition, four major areas have achieved Top 50 national rankings, three of them for the first time. UK HealthCare rankings included: No. 37 in Diabetes and Endocrinology, No. 43 in Geriatrics, No. 44 in Neurology and Neurosurgery, and No. 50 in Cancer.

Along with the Top 50 rankings, UK HealthCare is ranked as high-performing in five other adult specialties – Gastroenterology and GI Surgery; Nephrology; Orthopaedics; Pulmonology; and Urology. Additionally, UK HealthCare was designated high-performing in eight common adult procedures and conditions: Aortic Valve Surgery, Heart Bypass Surgery, Heart Failure, Colon Cancer Surgery, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Hip Replacement, Knee Replacement, and Lung Cancer Surgery.

These recognitions cement UK HealthCare’s role as the major healthcare system best equipped to deal with our state’s unique health needs, said Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs.

“We are committed to providing the best programs and best care available in Kentucky so that no one has to travel far from home for world-class advanced specialty care,” Karpf said. “These rankings speak to the hard work and dedication of our physicians, our nurses and our entire healthcare team.”

‘We’re ready no matter the situation’

This year’s U.S. News & World Report rankings cover nearly every hospital in every community nationwide. The rankings are grounded in objective data and offer patients a rich resource on their hospital choices. More than 70 percent of the rankings are based on objective data, with U.S. News analyzing more than 2,600 metrics across 21 data-driven specialties and procedures and conditions. The result is thousands of data points on hospitals that excel at treating the most challenging cases, those that do best in more routine procedures and those that provide top local care.

“UK HealthCare is a place where you feel safe because you know we’re ready no matter the situation or illness,” said Colleen Swartz, UK HealthCare’s chief administrative officer.

“If you have someone you love who lives in Kentucky, you will need UK HealthCare at some point in time. Whether it’s someone with a newly diagnosed cancer, or a premature baby, or a critically ill or injured child, or brother or mother or sister, you want to know that a place like this is ready to go when you need us.”

Diabetes & Endocrinology

This year’s rankings included a major leap for UK’s diabetes and endocrinology program. The specialty at UK HealthCare, previously unranked, is now No. 37 in the country, a testament to both the clinical care and research at the UK Barnstable-Brown Diabetes Center.

“We are one of the few places in Kentucky where all these services are provided either under one roof or where we can engage people to help you in all these different arenas,” said Dr. John Fowlkes, director of the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center.

This collaboration and patient-centered care offered at the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center provide patients with outstanding clinical care throughout their lifespan and for all aspects of their health, said Dr. Lisa Tannock, chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Molecular Medicine.

“Our physicians, advanced practice providers, endocrinology fellows and staff, including expert-certified diabetes educators, continually seek opportunities to teach advanced patient care based on our ongoing research into the best ways to prevent and treat diabetes and endocrine diseases,” she said.

Geriatrics

UK HealthCare was ranked No. 43 in Geriatrics. The U.S. News Geriatrics rankings represent how well hospitals treat older patients across a wide range of medical issues and conditions.

Dr. Shawn Caudill, professor and chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Women’s Health, sees increasingly more geriatric patients in UK HealthCare’s outpatient clinics. He said the rankings are an indication of the high-quality care that UK HealthCare provides to a population that is living longer than before.

“We’ve had lot of success in overcoming the things that used to kill people – heart attacks, strokes, lung disease – and we’ve done interventions to help keep people going longer,” Caudill said. “And now it is important for us to continue to help take care of them.”

Neurology & Neurosurgery

For the first time, UK HealthCare is nationally ranked for its neurological care, coming in at No. 44 in Neurology and Neurosurgery.

“This is something we’ve been working on for the past two years,” said Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, the Ruth L. Works Professor and chair of the UK Department of Neurology, and co-director of the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute (KNI). “It’s wonderful to be able to have our faculty and staff receive this recognition for all the great things they’re doing.”

Fellow KNI Co-Director Linda Van Eldik, who also is director of the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, was pleased with national rankings in Neurology and Neurosurgery as well as Geriatrics.

“This is really a culmination of the work we’ve been doing for many years in the areas of brain,” Van Eldik said. “It’s recognition from the outside of what we already knew – that we were doing leading-edge work and we are continuing to enhance our excellence.”

Cancer care

Cancer care was included in the Top 50 for the first time – although it has consistently been designated as high performing for many years. Still, the move up is indicative of the Markey Cancer Center’s continued emphasis on providing exemplary care as the state’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated center.

“We see 50 percent of our patients coming from Eastern Kentucky, which has some of the highest rates of cancer in the country – particularly lung cancer and colon cancer. So the Markey Cancer Center is vitally important to our region,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the Markey Cancer Center.

The people behind the scenes

In acknowledging all of UK HealthCare’s national rankings and achievements, one factor is always first to be attributed to success – the people who work here.

“I’ve been here almost a year and a half, and to see what the University of Kentucky and UK HealthCare has achieved, really in a short time, is remarkable,” said UK College of Medicine Dean Dr. Robert DiPaola. “And to see the passion of the people here behind the scenes doing the things that make a difference for our patients – it is absolutely amazing. I know that going forward we will continue this trajectory.”


Hear more about this awesome recognition, including comments from some of UK HealthCare’s leaders, in the video below.


Next steps:

Owensboro Health Markey

Owensboro Health joins Markey Cancer Center Research Network

Owensboro Health has joined the UK Markey Cancer Center Research Network (MCCRN), giving patients in Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana increased access to innovative clinical research studies.

Areas of research will include epidemiology, prevention and early detection of cancer. Markey is a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, which means Owensboro Health will have access to NCI-led trials in addition to MCCRN trials.

“Owensboro Health is proud to join the Markey Cancer Center Research Network, which is a distinguished and recognized name in cancer care and clinical research,” Owensboro Health President and CEO Greg Strahan said. “Owensboro Health exists to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities we serve, and this partnership is a demonstration of our commitment to both parts of that mission.”

Owensboro Health was invited to participate in the Markey Research Network based on performance and achievements. Owensboro Health’s Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center serves the health system’s coverage area, a population of nearly 400,000 people across 14 counties in Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana. More than 1,000 patients are treated at the center annually.

“By becoming a member of the Markey Research Network, Owensboro Health is showing a commitment to helping us conquer cancer in the Commonwealth,” Markey Director Dr. Mark Evers said. “Clinical trials represent the latest, best treatment options for most patients, and being able to participate in major national and regional clinical trials right here in Owensboro means that patients are able to stay close to their own support systems at home and under the direct care of their doctors here.”

Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center also holds multiple accreditations and recognitions. These include accreditation from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and the CoC’s gold award, the highest recognition that body offers. Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center is also accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers and the American College of Radiology and is an ACR-designated lung cancer screening center.

The importance of clinical trials

Clinical trials are key to developing new methods to prevent, detect and treat cancer, and most treatments used today are the results of previous clinical studies. These may include studies in which patients who need cancer treatment receive their therapy under the observation of specially trained cancer doctors and staff. Patients who volunteer for cancer treatment studies will either receive standard therapy or a new treatment that represents the researchers’ best new ideas for how to improve cancer care.

“Cancer care is constantly improving, due in part to the groundbreaking work being done in clinical research,” said Dr. Tim Mullett, medical director of the MCCRN. “Our state has some of the worst cancer incidence and survival rates in the entire country, and we at Markey have an obligation to address this devastating disease. By increasing access to many of our current clinical trials through the Markey Research Network, we have an opportunity to make real progress in improving cancer statistics in Kentucky.”

Markey’s clinical trials focus on the prevention, early detection and treatment of cancers with the highest incidence and mortality in Kentucky. These include lung, colorectal and cervical cancers. Owensboro Health is now one of six research sites in the MCCRN, and the first site in Western Kentucky. The MCCRN includes the following sites:

  • Hardin Memorial Hospital, Elizabethtown
  • King’s Daughters Medical Center, Ashland
  • Owensboro Health
  • St. Claire Regional Medical Center, Morehead
  • St. Mary’s Regional Cancer Center, Huntington, West Virginia
  • Tri-State Regional Cancer Center, Ashland

Watch the video below to find out how the Markey Research Network is bringing the future of cancer treatment to patients all across Kentucky.


Next steps:

Dr. Patrick O'Donnell

Oncologist Patrick O’Donnell on why he has the world’s best job

Making the RoundsWe sat down with Dr. Patrick O’Donnell, an orthopaedic oncologist at the UK Markey Cancer Center, for our latest installment of Making the Rounds, a blog series that introduces you to the providers at UK HealthCare. Dr. O’Donnell specializes in treating bone cancer and also does reconstructive orthopaedic surgeries. 

How did you become interested in orthopaedic oncology?

I actually went into medicine with an interest in doing oncology, and I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. I had some interaction with cancer patients when I was a really young kid, and I just found it fascinating that your body could attack itself.

It got me interested in medicine, so I went to medical school saying, “I’m going to be an oncologist.” But then I did a surgical rotation and I loved it. I loved having a problem and then a surgery and then a solution. And then I ended up really liking the reconstruction, the big surgeries of orthopaedic oncology. I’ve got the best job in the world.

What kinds of conditions do you treat?

I specialize in orthopaedic oncology and reconstructive orthopaedics. I treat a lot of different types of cancers. I treat soft tissue sarcomas, bone sarcomas, bone tumors that are not cancerous tumors, and then I treat a lot of metastatic disease to bone – the so-called “bone cancer.”

Bone cancers that start in the bone are called sarcomas, and sarcomas are the rarest type of human cancer. They’re also one of the most aggressive types of human cancer. I treat both types of bone tumors – those that have started outside the bone and tumors that have spread inside the bone.

Tell us about your interest in rock climbing.

I’ve always really liked rock climbing, and Kentucky is like the world mecca of rock climbing. An hour away is the Red River Gorge, and there are over 3,000 documented climbing routes. Recently in Lexington, we’ve gotten a new climbing gym, which has been great.

I got reinvigorated with rock climbing when my daughter had a birthday party at the gym. I went and just got completely excited, and my kids got into it. And now it’s the way that I blow off steam when I’m not at the hospital. I’ve got a great group of friends that I climb with.

What’s your favorite food?

I really like Indian food mostly because I don’t get it very often, so when I do get it, it’s a big treat. My wife, she can’t do curry, she can’t do Indian food, so the only time I get Indian food is when I’m by myself.

What does your ideal weekend look like?

A weekend when I’m not working, I get to spend a lot of time with my family. My son and I will play baseball. My daughter is a really good swimmer, so we’ll get to go to a swim meet. And then we really like going out to dinner and trying all the different places in Lexington.

So, an ideal weekend would be a little bit of baseball, a little bit of swimming and going out to dinner at a new restaurant.


Watch our interview with Dr. O’Donnell, where he discusses how his experience treating patients with bone cancers has expanded treatment options for other patients with orthopaedic problems.


Next steps:

  • July is Sarcoma Awareness Month. Learn more about Markey’s Musculoskeletal Oncology team, which is nationally recognized for expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of bone tumors, soft tissue sarcomas and metastatic diseases of bone.
  • One of Dr. O’Donnell’s patients is a well-known member of the Big Blue Nation – former UK basketball player Todd Svoboda. When Todd was diagnosed with bone cancer, he turned to Markey and Dr. O’Donnell for help. Read Todd’s story.

Research featuring UK scientists shows promise in treating cancer

A new study published in Nature Chemical Biology featuring UK research highlights a promising new way to address lung cancer and other deadly diseases.

Lung cancer accounts for 25 percent of cancer deaths in the U.S., and one out of every two patients diagnosed with lung cancer won’t survive more than one year. The problem is at its worst in Kentucky, where the state continues to lead the nation in lung cancer incidence and death.

The new research brings together scientists from the UK College of Pharmacy, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and reveals a new way to treat lung cancer by blocking cancer-causing proteins on a cellular level. The study involves a compound developed by UK College of Pharmacy Dean Kip Guy’s lab.

The foundation for research

The groundwork for the study began more than 10 years ago when Dr. Bhuvanesh Singh, a physician-scientist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, identified that an increase of a protein called DCN1 led to more malignant lung cancers and shorter life spans for his patients. Of the patients he studied, those with high levels of DCN1 succumbed to the disease more quickly than those with normal levels.

Frustrated by their findings, Singh’s team set out to study the specifics of DCN1. While DCN1 is a normally occurring protein, his team found that too much of it leads directly to cancer formation. Simply put, a malignant tumor was formed when the amount of DCN1 in a cell was increased. Thus, patients with more DCN1 got sick more quickly and died faster than their counterparts.

Efforts in Brenda Schulman’s lab at St. Jude, led by biochemist Daniel Scott, established how DCN1 interacts with other proteins and controls cellular processes. Their key discovery used X-ray crystallography to show that a small modification of the partner protein to DCN1, known as UBE2M, was required for DCN1 to work. This common modification, N-terminal acetylation, had not previously been shown to be critical to controlling activity of this specific protein. Recognizing the potential for targeting this modification, Shulman reached out to form a collaboration between the three laboratories.

Their goal: to develop a way to stop DCN1 from killing patients.

‘Jamming the lock’

Understanding the behavior and function of DCN1 was far more ambitious than running simple tests. It was a significant step forward in understanding how proteins within a cell work.

Building upon the science from Shulman’s team, Jared Hammill from Guy’s lab and Danny Scott from Schulman’s lab worked to stop the interactions of DCN1 altogether. If DCN1’s activity depended on this interaction, then it stood to reason they could create a compound to intervene and stop the interaction from happening.

Guy describes the interaction as a “lock and key model.” Scientists have a blank key – which is UBE2M – and a lock, which is DCN1. The key wants to fit into the lock, so it’s modified until it fits. This modification process is N-terminal acetylation.

“What’s the significance?” Guy said. “Well, we’re the first people to show that protein interaction controlled by N-terminal acetylation can be blocked. We’re essentially jamming the lock with a compound so the key won’t fit.”

The items jamming that lock are a series of small molecules created in the lab. When the molecules were tested directly in cancer cells, they worked. They effectively blocked DCN1 from binding to UB2EM. After decades of collaborative research, there was finally a barrier between lock and key.

What it means for patients

The impact of these findings for healthcare and lung cancer patients specifically could be profound.

“We are excited about the implications of this research, which offer us a meaningful solution for addressing diseases like cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and infection,” Shulman said. “It’s exciting to collaborate with so many complementary groups of expertise and to watch how Dr. Scott and Dr. Hammill led the team. This research opens many new doors for us.”

The collaboration between these three labs could mean relief to many of those suffering from a variety of diseases.

“To have spent decades on this research and have such promising results is truly exhilarating,” Singh said. “At the end of the day, what matters most is improving health outcomes for our patients. This work represents a very important step towards developing a new approach to treat the most difficult of cancers and hopefully increase cure rates.”

This research was funded in part by National Institutes of Health, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities.


Next steps:

men's health month

Men, now’s the time to fine-tune your health

June is Men’s Health Month, which means it’s the perfect time to take a look at what men of all ages can do to live a heathier lifestyle.

From keeping your heart healthy to being proactive about cancer screenings, here’s what you can do to be the healthiest version of yourself:

  • Know your family’s medical history. Knowing your family’s health story can give you insight into what preventive actions you can take in order to stay healthy. Genetics can play a role in your risk for heart disease, Alzheimer’s, some cancers and osteoporosis. Check out a blog by UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute’s Dr. Gretchen Wells for more about the benefits of knowing your family’s health history.
  • Be proactive about cancer screening. Regular cancer screenings can help catch early signs of the disease and find treatment options. The American Cancer Society recommends most men get regular screenings for prostate, lung and colon cancers at age 50. If you have a family history of cancer, talk with your healthcare provider about when you should start regular screenings.
  • Exercise regularly. Staying active will help to maintain a healthy weight, and it can also help reduce high blood pressure, high blood sugar and cholesterol. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity five times a week. Something as simple as a brisk walk or bike ride with a friend will work wonders for your overall health. Don’t know where to start? Check out our five-step guide to beginning a new exercise routine.
  • Stop smoking. Toxins in cigarettes can damage your lungs and can lead to lung cancer. Your heart takes a beating, too. If you do smoke, now’s the time to quit. Check out our guide for finally kicking your smoking addiction.
  • Talk to someone. Depression affects more than 6 million men in the U.S. Men are less likely to talk about how they are feeling, but it is important to know warning signs of depression and ways to find help and treatment. Learn more about the symptoms of depression and what you can do if you or a loved one needs help.
  • Don’t put off regular healthcare visits. You may feel perfectly healthy and not see the need to go to the doctor, but it is important to make sure you see a healthcare provider regularly. Some medical issues, like high blood sugar and high cholesterol, may not have any early symptoms, but a physician can provide diagnosis and treatment.
  • Stay social. If you’re having trouble sticking to a health regimen or just want some help in staying healthy, ask your friends and family join in on your new journey to a healthier life. You’re more likely to stick to your healthy lifestyle if you have support and others that can hold you accountable for your actions.

Although June is Men’s Health Month, it is important to remember that your health matters all year long. By making these simple lifestyle changes, you can have a lasting, positive impact on your health.


Next steps:

Markey extends cancer network to Prestonsburg

Highlands Regional Medical Center in Prestonsburg, Ky., has announced a new affiliation with the UK Markey Cancer Center, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.

By becoming a UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network member, Highlands Regional Medical Center will now be able to offer more patients in Eastern Kentucky access to additional specialty and subspecialty care, including clinical trials and advanced technology, while allowing them to stay in their region for most treatments.

The UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network supports UK HealthCare’s overall mission of ensuring no Kentuckian will have to leave the state to get access to top-of-the-line healthcare.

“UK HealthCare doesn’t just serve Lexington and Central Kentucky – our mission is to provide all Kentuckians with the best possible care right here in the state,” said Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs. “The Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network allows us to collaborate with community hospitals to provide top-notch cancer care much closer to home – saving both travel expenses and time for the patients, in addition to keeping them close to their personal support system.”

Highlands Regional Medical Center is a not-for-profit, community-owned and operated hospital established to serve Floyd, Johnson, Martin and Magoffin counties by providing high-quality health services and other community resources that will develop a healthier community.

“Affiliating with the UK Markey Cancer Center opens the door to numerous resources for our hospital and community,” said Harold C. Warman Jr., president and chief executive officer at Highlands Regional Medical Center. “Our staff will benefit from continued education opportunities, our community will benefit from health promotion and access to the most recent community-based cancer care, and our doctors will have access to the latest in cancer care professional education. Markey is a national leader in cancer research and care, and we are grateful for our association.”

The UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network was created to provide high-quality cancer care closer to home for patients across the region, and to minimize the effects of cancer through prevention and education programs, exceptional clinical care and access to research.

“Navigating cancer treatment can be challenging for patients and their families,” said Dr. Swaty Arora, medical oncologist/hematologist at Highlands Regional Medical Center. “At Highlands, our goal is to provide standard-of-care treatment in a timely and cost-effective manner. This affiliation validates our intention to provide quality care and affords access to resources to optimize patient care.”

The UK Markey Cancer Center is one of only 69 medical centers in the country to earn an NCI cancer center designation. Because of the designation, Markey patients have access to new drugs, treatment options and clinical trials offered only at NCI centers.

Moving forward, the UK Markey Cancer Center is working toward the next tier of designation – an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Currently, 45 of the 69 NCI-designated cancer centers in the country hold a comprehensive cancer center status. The UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network will play a large role in bringing that next level of cancer funding to Kentucky.

“Kentucky is home to some of the worst cancer rates in the country,” said Dr. Timothy Mullett, medical director of the UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network. “Collaborating with our affiliate hospitals across the state will enable us to make a positive impact on the dire cancer rates here in the Commonwealth.”

The UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network began in 2006 and comprises 17 hospitals across the state of Kentucky. Learn more.

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Next steps:

  • Learn more about the UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network, which gives people across Kentucky access to high-quality cancer services and programs through collaboration with community hospitals.
  • Markey is Kentucky’s only NCI-designated cancer center, providing world-class cancer care right here in the Commonwealth. Learn more about why patients choose Markey for their cancer treatment.
Expressions of Courage

Cancer survivors celebrate life at Markey’s Expressions of Courage

When Sarah Lister spent more than four months as an inpatient in the UK Markey Cancer Center Blood & Marrow Transplant Program, it was the creative endeavors Markey offered that kept her upbeat and motivated. From music therapy to yoga to narrative medicine, she participated in everything that came her way.

“All the integrative therapies they offer here are definitely worth taking up,” said Lister, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in early January 2016. “I was up for all of it.”

Last Friday, Lister came back to Markey – this time as a grateful survivor – to enjoy the artistic endeavors of others at the cancer center’s annual Expressions of Courage celebration.

Expressions of Courage is an art exhibit showcasing original, artistic expressions connected in some way to an experience with a cancer diagnosis, or crafted by or in memory of a Markey patient whose battle has ended. Survivors and their loved ones are invited to participate in the yearly event, which is held every June in honor of National Cancer Survivorship Month.

This year’s event featured visual arts, musical performances, literary readings and more from more than 50 participants, and a record crowd of more than 375 attendees. After welcoming remarks from Markey Director Dr. Mark Evers, the celebration kicked off with a musical storytelling performance from cancer survivor and singer/songwriter Charlie Lustman, who travels the country to share stories of his battle with osteosarcoma.

“I’m here because I was left on this planet longer to do this, which is sing songs about surviving cancer at cancer centers all over America and the world,” Lustman said. “To cut the edge off the fear and the unknown for people touched by this who don’t understand it, and to bring it to them with songs, because music helps with the healing.”

Lister sat right in the front row for the performances, applauding and cheering on everyone who approached the microphone.

“This is a day I never knew existed because I didn’t have to before,” she said. “But I’m so grateful that it does and that I get to be a part of it. And you bet I’m going to cheer for everyone. It takes guts to do this!”

Though Lister didn’t submit a piece for the event this year, she says she has plans to do a literary reading from her narrative medicine journal at next year’s celebration. Her journal entailed personal anecdotes from her time as an inpatient at Markey, including the sometimes-rough process of undergoing a bone marrow transplant.

As she sat in the Markey courtyard, surrounded by friends, food, music and sunshine, Lister said the patients in isolation in Markey’s third floor BMT inpatient unit were never far from her mind.

“I kept looking up at the third floor as I listened to people singing and being joyous and celebrating,” Lister said. “I want those people to be sitting in these chairs next year. … This whole day, it’s just a miracle to be here.”

Check out the video below for highlights from this year’s Expressions of Courage event, including an interview with musician Charlie Lustman.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about the Markey Survivorship Clinic, a specialized program just for cancer survivors that offers support and resources to help navigate the often-overwhelming aspects of life after treatment.
  • Markey is Kentucky’s only NCI-designated cancer center, providing world-class cancer care right here in the Commonwealth. Learn more about why patients choose Markey for their cancer treatment.
Before heading outside this summer, make sure you and your family follow all of our sun protection tips. These steps can help prevent skin cancer.

Don’t get burned – here’s how to protect your skin in the sun

It only takes 15 minutes in the sun to damage your skin.

Before you head outside to enjoy the warm weather and sunshine, here’s what you need to know to protect your skin.

Sunscreen

Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number that rates their effectiveness in blocking ultraviolet (UV) rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. You should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15, even on cool or slightly cloudy days.

Broad-spectrum on a product’s label means the sunscreen filters out ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation exposure. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and are mostly responsible for premature aging and skin cancer. UVB rays affect the surface of the skin and cause sunburn.

Don’t forget to put a thick layer of sunscreen on all parts of exposed skin. Get help for hard-to-reach places like your back. Here are some additional things to keep in mind when using sunscreen:

  • Sunscreen wears off. Put it on again if you stay in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
  • Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures. Be sure to check your sunscreen’s expiration date.
  • Some makeup and lip balms contain some of the same chemicals used in sunscreens. If they don’t have at least SPF 15, don’t use them by themselves.

Avoid peak sun

Try not to schedule outdoor activities between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Shade

You can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree or other shelter. Even when you are in shade, be sure to protect your skin by using sunscreen or wearing protective clothing.

Clothing

Long-sleeved shirts, long pants and skirts can protect you from UV rays. Tightly woven fabrics offer the best protection. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors protect more than lighter ones. Some clothing certified under international standards is specifically manufactured to provide UV protection.

If wearing this type of clothing isn’t practical, try to wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. Keep in mind that a typical T-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so use other types of protection as well.

Hat

For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears and the back of your neck. Tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more UV protection.

If you wear a baseball cap, you should also protect your ears and the back of your neck. Wear clothing that covers those areas, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen or stay in the shade.

Sunglasses

Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.

Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from entering on the side.


Next steps: