Challenge accepted: Markey strives to improve access to colorectal cancer screening across Kentucky

“Challenge accepted” is a series highlighting the work the Markey Cancer Center is doing to fight cancer in Kentucky and Appalachia. To learn more about how we’re helping Kentuckians live longer, fuller and healthier lives, read the latest Markey Cancer Center Annual Report. In this entry, we celebrate Colon Cancer Awareness Month by looking at Markey’s outreach efforts to combat this disease.

Thanks to screening tests like colonoscopies, colorectal cancer can be identified at its earliest stages when it’s most treatable. Unfortunately, many Kentuckians don’t take advantage of this opportunity.

In fact, in 2001, Kentucky had the highest rate of colorectal cancer in the United States, and was ranked 49 of the 50 states for colorectal cancer screening, said Tom Tucker, PhD, MPH, associate director for cancer prevention and control at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

This startling statistic spurred several major cancer groups in Kentucky into action, leading to the launch of a program encouraging primary care physicians to recommend and schedule colorectal screening. In rural areas of the state where primary care physician care is less common, individuals from the community were recruited for screening and asked to encourage their age-eligible friends to also be screened.

By 2008, the results of these efforts were clear.

“In seven years, we went from just over one-third of the population age 50 and older ever having had a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to nearly two-thirds,” Tucker said, noting that the state also went from No. 49 in colorectal screening to No. 25, while colorectal cancer incidence rates dropped by 25 percent and mortality rates dropped by 30 percent.

But in spite of the progress, there is still much to do: A third of age-eligible Kentuckians are still not screened for colorectal cancer.

This year, Melissa Hounshell, the community outreach director for Markey, will focus her efforts on distributing FIT kits in the population centers where individuals are least likely to pursue screening. FIT kits are at-home tests that are then mailed to a lab, that screen for blood in the stool, a potential marker of colorectal cancer.

“Markey is committed more than ever to leading a comprehensive cancer screening education and prevention program,” Hounshell said. “It’s about reaching some of those people who have been unreachable and really embedding ourselves in the community.”


Next steps:

Distractions play a crucial role in car crashes, study says

Chances are you’ve let your mind wander while driving, but that’s more dangerous than you may know. Those little distractions, even if they seem harmless, often result in car accidents, according to a new study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The extensive study, published Feb. 22, assessed footage shot inside more than 3,000 vehicles over three years.  During that time, researchers observed more than 900 crashes, almost three-quarters of them caused by distractions such as texting, changing the radio or looking at a cell phone. The researchers found that drivers were “clearly distracted” in almost 70 percent of observed accidents, and not surprisingly, the findings link cell phone use to many crashes.

You can read more about the study at the NIH, but the takeaway is simple: Distracted driving leads to accidents, no matter what you’re doing or how long you’re distracted.

Understanding your bad driving habits is the first step toward being a safer driver. There are three kinds of distractions while driving: manual, visual and cognitive. Manual distractions take your hands off the wheel, visual distractions take your eyes off the road, and cognitive distractions take your mind off of driving.

Check out these six tips for avoiding distractions.

  • Turn it off. Before you get in the car, turn your cell phone off or switch to silent mode. You can wait, and so can others.
  • Be prepared. Review maps and directions before you get on the road. If you need help while driving, ask a passenger to help or pull over to a safe location to review the maps/directions again.
  • Secure pets. Pets can be a big distraction in the car. Always secure your pets properly before you drive.
  • Keep kids safe. Pull over to a safe location to address situations with your children in the car.
  • Stay focused on the task at hand. Refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, reading and any other activity that may take your eyes off the road.
  • Don’t text and drive. It’s the law.

Next steps:

  • Read the Safe Kids Fayette County guide to preventing accidents while driving and get the hard facts about texting behind the wheel.
  • Check out the NIH story for more details on how distracted driving is causing accidents.
Valentine's Day health tips from UK HealthCare

Make Valentine’s Day a healthy holiday

Valentine’s Day is Sunday, and whether you’re spending time with your loved one, your closest friends or by yourself, we have a few tips and fun facts to help make the day happy and healthy.

Skip the restaurant, cook at home

Instead of making reservations at a restaurant, consider cooking Valentine’s Day dinner at home this year. Not only will you save money, but chances are you’ll eat healthier, too. Cooking at home allows you to limit how much unhealthy stuff (like sugar, salt and fat) ends up in your food, and gives you a fun activity you can do no matter who you’re with.

Not only is Valentine’s Day this weekend, February is also American Heart Month and a great time to practice heart-healthy cooking at home. Check out our list of heart-healthy recipes.

Treat yourself

Nothing says Valentine’s Day like chocolate, and the good news is there is a healthy way to indulge. Research has shown that eating chocolate in moderation might lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Consider picking dark chocolate over milk or white chocolate, too. Dark chocolate is thought to be rich in flavonoids, an antioxidant that has been shown to improve blood pressure and blood flow as well as prevent blood clots and cell damage.

The benefits of love

Here’s an added bonus for those spending the holiday with someone special: research suggests being in love has a variety of health benefits for both men and women. One major survey found that married men were healthier than unmarried men, and another found that women experience an uptick in emotional health when living with someone else or getting married.

Single and happy

No date for Valentine’s Day? No problem. Another study suggests that with the right attitude, single people are just as happy as their peers who are in romantic relationships.


Next steps:

What you need to know about Zika virus

What you need to know about Zika virus

Chances are you’ve heard about the Zika virus outbreak and its potential to cause birth defects and other pregnancy issues. Should you be concerned about the risk of infection for you and your loved ones? Unless you’ve recently traveled to an area where the virus has spread, the answer is no.

While it is unlikely to become infected unless you’ve traveled to an area where Zika has been reported, here’s what you should know about Zika virus.

What is Zika virus?

Zika is a disease caused by Zika virus, which is spread to people when they are bitten by an infected mosquito. The current outbreak of Zika virus has spread through the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Mexico, Samoa and Cape Verde. The illness is usually mild, so people may not realize they have the disease. If infected, symptoms will normally last several days to a week. Human-to-human transmission is rare but sexual transmission has been reported.

Symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes).

Women and Zika virus

Women who are pregnant or who are thinking about becoming pregnant should take special precautions. Zika virus has reportedly been linked in Brazil to microcephaly, a condition that causes a baby’s head to be much smaller at birth and can also lead to intellectual disability.

If you’re pregnant, it is recommended that you not travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If travel is unavoidable, speak with your health care provider about your travel plans and discuss mosquito bite prevention methods.

What can I do to protect myself?

When traveling to countries where Zika virus has been found, practice mosquito bite prevention. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and using Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents is recommended. You should also stay in places that use air conditioners or window and door screens that keep out bugs.

Sexual transmission of Zika virus is of particular concern during pregnancy. Men who have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission who also have a pregnant partner should abstain from sexual activity or consistently and correctly use condoms during sex for the duration of the pregnancy.

If you have recently visited an area currently affected by the outbreak and have developed symptoms of Zika, please call UK HealthCare at 859-257-1000 or (toll-free) 800-333-8874.

For more information about Zika virus, watch a video featuring UK HealthCare experts.


Next steps:

Dr. Gretchen Wells talks about why awareness is so important to women’s heart health

Dr. Gretchen Wells

Dr. Gretchen Wells

Are you ready to support women’s heart health? The truth is that heart disease is a major killer of women, and some of the reason for that is women’s symptoms are different from men’s — and often go unrecognized until it’s too late, which is why raising awareness is so critical.

Dr. Gretchen Wells, director of the Gill Heart & Vascular Institute’s Women’s Heart Health Program, took time to answer some of our questions on women’s heart health.

Why is it important to raise awareness about women’s heart health?

People assume all heart attacks feel like a crushing in the chest, but often, and for women in particular, the symptoms of a heart attack can be quite different. More women are aware of this now than they were 20 years ago, but that’s still not good enough. So it’s important we take the opportunity to teach women what to look for and how to take the best care of your heart.

Why is it important for a place like Gill to have a specialized heart health program for women?

We’re the leaders in up-to-date diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. Each year, we have new technologies that expand our abilities to prevent and treat heart disease. We also offer leading-edge research and patients can participate in trials. All of us here come to work in the morning asking “How can I push the envelope and do better?”

What are the most common concerns you hear from patients in your program?

I just had this insight this week. Many women bring their daughters to clinic. I always thought that it was for the patient to have a support person, a ride, or maybe someone to take notes. But just yesterday, I had a patient with her daughter. After the visit, as we were closing, the patient said “I don’t want my daughter to have the heart problems that I did. I want her to know her risks and get treated early. All of this is preventable.” What great insight – and a sign of motherly love.

What led you to specialize in women’s heart health?

I didn’t start out doing this, but women gravitated towards me. Several trials evaluating women’s heart disease symptoms and prevention came out, and they raised some thought-provoking questions in my mind as to how to treat women. More importantly, I saw how these women presented differently from men. My first reaction was “we need to study this.” And then family members started having cardiac events, so it became personal.


Next steps:

The Markey Cancer Center joined a national movement encouraging people to get HPV vaccines.

Get the facts about the HPV vaccine

On Wednesday, the UK Markey Cancer Center, along with 68 of the nation’s top cancer centers, issued a statement urging young people in the U.S. to get a vaccination against the human papillomavirus, or HPV.

HPV, which is sexually transmitted, is responsible for about 27,000 new cancer cases in the U.S. each year, causing nearly all cervical and anal cancers and also the majority of throat and vaginal cancers, too.

Luckily, the HPV vaccine offers substantial protection against this threat. Unfortunately, not enough people are taking advantage of this rare opportunity to prevent many types of cancer.

In Kentucky, only about 37 percent of girls and 13 percent of boys complete the vaccination schedule, leaving a significant portion of the population at risk. That’s why Markey and others are calling upon the physicians, parents and young adults to learn more about the benefit of receiving the HPV vaccine.

“Although we have made progress in the past several years, Kentucky continues to rank first in the nation for both cancer incidence and mortality,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the UK Markey Cancer Center. “We are still in the top 10 nationally for cervical cancer deaths, and increasing the HPV vaccination rates will significantly lower this grim statistic.”

The HPV vaccine offers substantial protection against various cancers but experts say not enough people are taking advantage of it.

Understanding the benefits of the HPV vaccine might convince you that it’s right for you or someone you know.

The HPV vaccine protects against more than cervical cancer.

The vaccine actually protects against several types of cancer. It does so by targeting certain strains of HPV. These infections are spread through sexual contact. They can cause genital warts. But most cause no symptoms and go away without treatment.

Some HPV infections may linger for years in your body. These viruses may damage cells, eventually causing cancer. The HPV vaccine prevents those strains responsible for the majority of cervical cancers. It may also prevent HPV infections that lead to cancers of the throat, anus, penis and vagina.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for boys, girls, young men and young women.

In 2006, health experts recommended the HPV vaccine for females ages 9 to 26. But its potential to prevent other cancers besides that of the cervix made it appropriate for boys and young men, too. Doctors now encourage males ages 9 to 26 to also receive the vaccine.

Two types of HPV vaccine are available. They are Gardasil and Cervarix. Gardasil is approved for use in both sexes. Cervarix is only for girls and young women. Ideally, three doses of either vaccine are given over a 6-month period at ages 11 or 12 before any sexual activity.

The HPV vaccine is effective.

The HPV vaccine may not protect against all HPV infections that may promote cancer. But it can substantially lower the risk. In a recent study, researchers compared the HPV history of more than 4,000 women ages 14 to 59 over two 4-year periods. Those timeframes included 2003 to 2006—before the HPV vaccine became available—and 2007 to 2010—after it was in use. They found that the vaccine cut in half the number of HPV infections in girls ages 14 to 19.

The HPV vaccine is safe.

Past research including nearly 60,000 participants has confirmed the vaccine’s safety. But like all vaccines, side effects are possible. Most are minor. They may include pain and redness at the injection site, fever, dizziness or nausea. Some people have fainted after receiving the shot. In rare cases, blood clots and Guillain-Barré syndrome — a disorder that weakens muscles — have been reported.

Women who receive the HPV vaccine should still schedule regular Pap tests.

Pap tests detect abnormal cells in the cervix. They alert your doctor to potential cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine may prevent future HPV infections, but it doesn’t treat pre-existing ones. It also doesn’t prevent all types of cervical cancer. For these reasons, women should still schedule regular Pap tests.


Next steps:

  • If you or someone you love is interested in receiving the HPV vaccine, schedule an appointment with the Markey Cancer Center online or at 859-323-5553.
  • Read a blog by Dr. Hatim Omar, chief of the Adolescent Medicine at UK HealthCare, about the importance of including the HPV vaccine in all young adults’ health care plans.
  • Learn more about the Gynecologic Oncology Team at the Markey Cancer Center
Tips for shoveling snow safely

Think about your heart before you shovel

The combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion may increase the risk of a heart attack during snow shoveling.

To help keep you safe and minimize risk, we recommend the following precautions:

  • Individuals over the age of 55, or those who are relatively inactive, should be especially careful.
  • If you have heart trouble, do not shovel without a doctor’s permission.
  • Do not shovel after eating or while smoking.
  • Pace yourself. Be sure to stretch out and warm up just like you would before any exercise.
  • Push the snow as you shovel, do not pick up too much at once. Lift with your legs bent, not your back.
  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion. If you run out of breath, take a break.

Also, it’s important to know the warnings signs of heart attack. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help. If you experience any of the warning signs below, please contact emergency medical services immediately.

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Like men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

 

UK HealthCare's tips for snow day safety

Tips for a fun, safe snow day

Snow days are a fun time for kids, but winter weather can be dangerous if the proper precautions aren’t taken. Here are some tips to make sure your child has an enjoyable day in the snow.

General safety

  • Use the buddy system. Kids should play in the snow with one or more friends, and an adult should supervise children under the age of 8.
  • Make sure kids take frequent breaks inside and that they’re staying well hydrated. Even in cold weather, it’s important to drink water after exercise and play.
  • Check kids periodically to make sure clothing and shoes are warm and dry. Wet clothing should be removed immediately.

Bundle up

  • Before kids head outside, dress them in layers. If they get too warm, they can remove one layer at a time.
  • Use mittens instead of gloves.
  • Make sure children always wear a hat and have their ears covered to prevent frostbite.
  • When kids return inside, make sure to remove all wet clothing immediately.

Sledding safely

  • Kids should wear a fitted helmet while sledding. Ski and hockey helmets provide more protection than bike helmets.
  • Ensure handles on the sled are secure before use.
  • Children should never sled on or near roads.
  • Always sit up or kneel on a sled. This helps prevent head and neck injuries.

Snow forts

  • Children should not play in snow forts or tunnels. They can collapse and cause suffocation.
  • Ensure kids stay away from snow banks near roadways. Snowplow drivers may not see children.
Snow day safety tips from UK HealthCare

Source: Safe Kids Fayette County

How to talk to your kids about terrorism

Helping kids cope with violence, terrorism

Whether it is the local evening news or a 24-hour cable news channel, images of violence and terrorism inundate our homes. These scenes can be disturbing and stressful, especially for children. It is important to manage distress and take appropriate steps in helping your children and adolescents following terrorist attacks.

Take advantage of the teachable moment by starting a dialogue about the event. 

Questions such as:  “What do you think about what you just watched on TV?” “Do you have questions about terrorism?” or “What are kids at school saying about terrorist attacks?” create the space for conversation about what the event means to the child. Avoidance of the topic may increase anxiety and send the message that the event is too horrible to talk about. As the conversation unfolds, listen carefully for what the child knows, what they believe to be true and where they are getting their information.

Correct any misconceptions or inaccurate information.

Age and stage of development can greatly impact the way situations are perceived. Children may unduly personalize the situation, or have an exaggerated sense of danger.

Tailor the amount of media exposure to the needs of the child.

A good rule of thumb is no child under age six needs to be exposed to media accounts of terrorist events. The replaying of graphic images and scenes of distress are confusing to young children who do not have the ability to keep events in temporal sequence and who may feel the event is ongoing. Even if young children do not appear to be listening, they may pick up on the sense of chaos and danger created by adult conversations and repeated media accounts. Parents should limit the amount of exposure in young children and for those who are distressed by the event.

Model good coping. 

Children take their cues on how to respond to events based on the lessons learned from their caregivers. If parents are worried, talking a lot about the event, highly anxious or over-reactive, children will mimic this behavior. It is normal and expected to have a response to tragedy, but an expression of worry or anxiety should be accompanied by solution focused language. This might include describing ways adults in the child’s life take action to keep them safe, pointing out the quick response of law enforcement, and examples of the benevolence of strangers. This sends the message to the child that while bad things happen, there are good people in this world and adults that are there to keep them safe.

Know when to refer.

If children have symptoms of anxiety, worry, sleep disturbance, sadness or preoccupation with the event that lasts beyond two weeks, a referral for a trauma assessment at a community mental health center, a faith-based organization or the UK Center on Trauma and Children is recommended.

Ginny Sprang

 

Ginny Sprang, Ph.D., is the executive director of the UK Center on Trauma and Children

Gluten intolerance requires a significant change in your diet, but doing research and asking questions can help you stay gluten-free while dining out.

11 diabetes-friendly cooking tips

November is American Diabetes Month and a great time to learn more about the disease that affects more than 500,000 Kentuckians.

If you have pre-diabetes or diabetes, a healthy diet is crucial in properly managing your symptoms. Eating well can help you stay at a desirable weight, control your blood pressure, and prevent heart disease and stroke.

Here are 11 cooking tips for healthy diabetes management:

  1. Use nonstick cooking spray instead of oil, shortening, or butter.
  2. If you do use oil, use olive, corn, peanut, sunflower, safflower, vegetable or flaxseed oil.
  3. Season foods, like meats and steamed vegetables with herbs and spices (like pepper, cinnamon, and oregano), vinegar, lemon juice or salsa instead of salt, butter or sugary sauces.
  4. Use low- or no-sugar jams instead of butter or margarine on breads.
  5. Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Try to get at least two servings a week of omega-3 rich foods, like salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, rainbow trout and albacore tuna. Walnuts, flaxseed and soy products are other omega-3 rich foods that can be added to a healthy diet.
  6. Eat whole-grain, high-fiber cereals or oatmeal with skim or 1-percent milk.
  7. Use low-fat or fat-free dairy products like milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and sour cream in place of full-fat versions.
  8. Drink 100 percent fruit juice that has no added sugar and limit your serving size.
  9. Trim excess fat off meats and eat chicken or turkey without the skin.
  10. Always buy lean cuts of meat and choose a healthy cooking method, like broiling, roasting, stir-frying or grilling.
  11. Buy whole-grain breads and cereals instead of processed, refined grains like white flour.

We’ve also compiled a list of 41 diabetes-friendly recipes. Check it out!

Support the American Diabetes Association

UK HealthCare Chief Administrative Officer Ann Smith and 10 other Lexington-area community members are campaigning to raise funds for the American Diabetes Association’s Kiss a Pig event.

Discovered in 1921, insulin was originally derived from the pancreas of pigs and is a vital tool in the treatment and care of people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association honors the pig for saving millions of lives.

The fundraising candidate who raises the most money has the honor of kissing Dolly, a 5-week-old piglet, at the Kiss a Pig Gala.

Every dollar raised helps the ADA provide diabetes advocacy, education programs, research and outreach support for the people of Kentucky. To donate to Ann’s campaign, visit www.diabetes.org/kissapigann.