Breast Cancer Awareness Month: An Insider’s Experience Caring for Breast Cancer Patients

Shannon Kahn, MDIn honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I have been given the opportunity to share my experience in caring for patients with breast cancer over these past years. I am a radiation oncologist at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital and meet with patients every day in all stages of their breast cancer experience.

During my tenure in this field, I have continued to see great strides in treatment innovations resulting in improved outcomes, less treatment related toxicities and improved prognoses. Medical advances such as targeted chemotherapy regimens, partial breast brachytherapy, 4D radiation treatment delivery with minimal cardiac dose, and improved cosmetic outcomes with plastic surgery advances are just a few.

The hope and excitement of these medical advances continue to drive the medical profession in achieving what we all await, a cure for breast cancer. However, what overwhelms and can at times outweigh these medical achievements, are the great strength, optimism and fight that we experience from our breast cancer patients.

To be a participant in the breast cancer journey accompanied by affected women, men and families is such an incredible privilege. I only hope that I can carry their strength and energy through to the next patient that I meet with a new breast cancer diagnosis and use this experience to assist with his or her transition to becoming a breast cancer survivor.

Ladies: Get Your Mammograms!

Breast CancerAs October brings renewed awareness and emphasis on breast cancer early detection and screening, an Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital patient felt compelled to share her experience as a reminder of the need to be diligent about mammograms and screenings. Here is the account from Sally of Atlanta:

Ladies: Get Your Mammograms!

In February, 1998, I had my first cancer – uterine. Surgery and radiation took care of that. But I vowed to get a mammogram every year because when women get older (I’m 82 ½), they are prone to get breast cancer and breast cancer likes to travel.

I confess that in the beginning of the 16-years that followed, I was gung-ho! I dutifully got my mammogram in the early spring each year and self-examined by breast according to the brochure every month.

As time went on, I eliminated the self examination all together and took my mammograms a little later in the year. All of a sudden, 2013 was over and I did not have a mammogram that year!

I got my mammogram in late February 2014, and with the help of ultrasound and a biopsy, I was diagnosed with cancer in my right breast.

Fortunately, it was Stage 1, very small, no lymph node involvement, but it was detected only by a mammogram. Why am I telling you this? I didn’t detect my cancer and through my carelessness, that breast cancer could have grown and spread. It is a warning. Please tell other women of my story and my ignorance.

The good new is, with help from the doctors, doctors’ team, nurses and breast health patient navigator at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, I had a lumpectomy and mammo site radiation. I am cancer free and feeling fine. But I will be sure to get a mammogram each year.

Sally of Atlanta, GA
Please pass this on to the women in your life.

The 3-Day Fight Against Breast Cancer: An Insider’s Perspective

Breast Cancer SurvivorAs October brings renewed emphasis on breast cancer detection and prevention, Emory Saint Joseph’s Laboratory Manager Eileen Stone, a 15-year veteran of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, shares a first-person account of what this event means to her and to the thousands of survivors, caregivers and loved ones she serves each year through this event. This year, the Susan G. Komen 3-Day will take place in Atlanta Oct. 17-19.

Dark early morning skies and cooler temperatures can only mean one thing. The Atlanta Breast Cancer 3-Day is around the corner. In a few short weeks, just about everything in the general vicinity will turn pink. I’ve been involved with the 3-Day since its inception. This will be my 15th Atlanta 3-Day event and yet there’s still so much to look forward to.

I’m looking forward to seeing my fellow Co-Captains. Many of us have worked together since the inception of the 3-Day so the event has become more of a family reunion than anything else. We consider this event to be a labor of love. There’s a saying “…friends are the family you choose for yourself” and these wonderful people fall into that category. They have become my family of choice.

I’m looking forward to meeting my entire pit stop crew. As in the past, there are returning members and new ones. Some of the crew members live in another state and although we’ve spoken on the phone, I’ll actually get to meet them as a group for the first time on Crew Day (the Thursday before the event). As a captain, there’s always a tiny, practically miniscule bit of trepidation as to whether or not they will come together to form a cohesive team. Will personalities mesh? Will they get along? Theoretically, people of like-mind shouldn’t have any trouble working toward a goal and if my past experiences hold true, this year shouldn’t be an exception. But, I always worry…..just a little. I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that I look forward to seeing Amanda and Karen, two of the wonderful nurses that come from out of state to crew with us year after year after year. I’ve always been blessed to have so many wonderful people come back to crew with me. More of my family of choice.

I’m looking forward to this event because for three days the small world of the 3-Day will be as it should be. People will be doing little things for each other regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, political views, etc. These three days will be filled with kindness, incredible energy and love coupled with numerous and varied shades of pink, delightful creativity and smartly worded slogans. I look forward to supporting the wonderful walkers that have trained and raised funds and trained some more. Despite the Atlanta heat and humidity, they kept on walking in preparation for this event. During the 3Day, they’ll walk 60 miles in three days and will sport pictures and stories on their shirts (or signs or buttons). Some will feel the weight of the names of the people they’ve lost to breast cancer while others will be buoyed by the names of the survivors. I always hope there will be less of the former and more of the latter.

I look forward to the decorations and the myriad ways the color pink can be used – from mustaches and wigs to tattoos and boas. And there will be breasts everywhere and on everyone. There will be small ones and gargantuan ones. Men on motorcycles will wear them (proudly, I might add) and they’ll be on the front grills of cars and trucks and banners and tents and signs and balloons. Whenever I think I’ve seen every conceivable item in pink, someone taps into a wellspring of creativity and there’s something new to ooh and ah over. There’s lots of hidden talent at the event.

I’m looking forward to seeing familiar faces. Some of the walkers have participated enough times as to be recognizable to me. There’s a walker named Marge that has been calling me ‘Ellen’ for so many years that I don’t have the heart to correct her. When she walks into Pit Stop 3 and asks to see Ellen everyone knows she means me. And there’s Marsha, who I met on the second day of the 3-Day in 2005. She was having a rough time so I gently reminded her that there no shame in stopping for the day and urged her to head to camp early. I told her that if she rested up, she’d be able to walk into Piedmont Park on Sunday (which she did). She continues to walk every year and last year, Marsha’s two daughters joined her. In both instances, there’s excitement in seeing these old friends and there’s lots of picture-taking of hugging. Some people you just don’t forget. Two years ago, several women walked up to me and asked “Don’t you work at Saint Joseph’s Hospital?” This year, someone came up to me in the hospital cafeteria and asked “Aren’t you with the 3-Day?” I think I’ve become recognizable.

I’m looking forward to seeing many of the nurses that I work with at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. A group of Emory Healthcare nurses have formed a team of walkers in memory of one of their ‘own’; a nurse that lost her battle with breast cancer last year. There are three nurses in particular (Joyce, Elizabeth and Susan) that I look forward to helping support. They are care-givers extraordinaire and it’ll be a nice touch to take care of them for a change.

More importantly, I look forward to the day when we don’t have to walk or crew or raise money or train or get up early or set up tents; a day when October is the harbinger of Halloween and is known more for ghosts and pumpkins than for pink ribbons and sore feet.

I look forward to the day when no one gets that dreaded diagnosis, no one goes through chemotherapy or radiation therapy or loses a loved one and breast cancer is a thing of the past.

If we keep doing this, I know that day will come.

I look forward to it.

Eileen Stone, MT (ASCP), MS
Laboratory Information Systems Manager, Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital

Mercy Day at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital

Emory Saint Joseph's HospitalWhere did you see Mercy in action today?

Each year, Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital celebrates Mercy Day – a time to reflect on the heritage of loving service and compassionate care that has guided this hospital for more than 130 years. Mercy Day is celebrated each year on September 24. In the week leading up to Mercy Day, we invite you to pause and reflect on the question: “Where did you see Mercy in action today?”

Please take the time to  share a real time/ real life example of Mercy in action  in the comment boxes below, on Facebook at facebook.com/sjmediaroom, or on Twitter @SaintJosephsATL.

History of Mercy Day
Catherine McAuley opened the first House of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland, in the 1820’s to care for destitute women and orphans. As others joined Catherine in assisting the homeless and the hungry, serving the poor and visiting the sick, Catherine established a new religious congregation which was to be called the Sisters of Mercy. The Sisters’ mission soon included all the works of mercy and Catherine’s Sisters of Mercy rapidly spread throughout Ireland, England, North America and eventually throughout the world. In 1880, the Sisters of Mercy came from Savannah to Atlanta and opened Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

Exercise Safely for Your Heart

safe exerciseEmory Saint Joseph’s Hospital welcomes sports cardiologist Jonathan H. Kim, MD, who recently opened a sports cardiology clinic on the Emory Saint Joseph’s campus. The recently recognized sub-specialty of sports cardiology is rapidly growing worldwide. Kim is the first sports cardiologist in the Emory Healthcare system and the only specialist in Atlanta to launch this practice, which focuses on evaluating and treating cardiovascular conditions specific to athletes of all ages and levels. According to Kim, patients include both high school and college students, professional and recreational athletes, as well as older and master athletes competing in various sports and athletic activities.

Dr. Kim recently answered questions about exercising safely for your heart, whether training for a marathon or maintaining good heart health.

Q: Is running a marathon dangerous for my heart?

A: Currently, there are no definitive data that implicates marathon running as dangerous for your heart. In fact, for those healthy enough to train for and run a marathon, there are clearly both mental and physical benefits. Bottom line: If you are interested in running a marathon, first consult your doctor or sports cardiologist to ensure you are physically fit enough to embark on a training regimen, then go out and enjoy your long runs.

Q: What is considered a “safe” level of exercise intensity while I’m training for a marathon?

A: It’s hard to define a “safe” level of exercise in terms of marathon training. I would recommend before embarking on any intense exercise regimen, such as marathon training, to consult your physician or a sports cardiologist. If it is felt there are no restrictions or safety issues after reviewing your health, any intense marathon training regimen, done gradually over time, is reasonable to consider.

Q: How will I know if I’m overdoing it? What are the warning signs I should look for to tell me I’m exercising too hard?

A: Great question. Certainly symptoms of chest pressure or tightness, extreme shortness of breath out of proportion to what one would expect for themselves, lightheadedness or dizziness, passing out, or feeling your heart race are all classic “heart” symptoms to pay attention to and talk to your physician or sports cardiologist about if you experience these symptoms. Listen to your body and seek guidance anytime something is not right or out of proportion to your normal sensations after exercise.

Q: I don’t feel the need to run a marathon, but I do want to maintain a healthy heart. What is a good exercise regimen that will keep my heart in good shape?

A: Any cardiovascular-based exercise regimen is good for your heart. In fact, a very recent study showed that even just a few minutes of running a day decreases mortality. Certainly, by the guidelines, it is recommended to engage in moderate level exercise for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week at a minimum.

About Dr. Kim

Jonathan Kim, MDJonathan H. Kim, MD, is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Cardiology at Emory University. He received his Bachelor of Science in Biology at Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar, Kim earned his medical degree from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine and pediatrics at the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard University, followed by a fellowship in general cardiology at Emory University. In addition to his clinic and research interests, Kim serves as an adjunct assistant professor in the Division of Applied Physiology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Kim’s clinic is open for three half days each week at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. For more information about the sports cardiology clinic, please call 404-778-6070.

Related Resources

Emory Healthcare Establishes First Sports Cardiology Practice

National Backpack Safety Awareness Day – Take Steps Now to Help Your Children Prevent Future Back Problems

Backpack SafetyEach school year millions of children walk to, from, and around school carrying backpacks filled with books and materials. Parents and students should be aware that too much stress on the back from a heavy backpack could cause back pain and possible back issues in children.

On September 17, 2014, we’ll be celebrating the American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA) National School Backpack Awareness Day, a great day each year to learn more about taking steps to prevent future back problems in children. Join AOTA and occupational therapy practitioners, educators, and students across the country, as we help others learn to avoid the pain and injury that can come from heavy backpacks and bags.

In preparation for the day, we’re offering a few quick facts and tips to help understand the potential impact and take steps now to ensure backpack safety for your growing children.

Facts:

  • Back pain caused by backpacks is often short term — such as a muscle strain – and may be alleviated with a short period of rest or reduced activity. Any type of back pain that persists is uncommon and should be evaluated by a medical professional.
  •  Habitually carrying backpacks over one shoulder will make muscles strain to compensate for the uneven weight.
  • A heavy backpack can pull on the neck muscles, contributing to headache, shoulder pain, lower back pain and/or neck and arm pain.

 
Some tips to help:

  • Take breaks and rest if any pain is felt in the back and consider lightening the load if possible. Any pain being felt is a sign the backpack is too heavy for the body.
  • Be sure to use both straps for support to avoid the spine leaning to the opposite side and stressing the middle back, ribs, and lower back more on one side than the other.
  • Purchase a backpack with lightweight material (e.g. canvas), a padded back and hip or waist buckles for extra support. Another alternative is wheeled backpacks to completely free the back of any stress.

 
You can help others in your community by organizing local events and educating people of all ages about proper bag usage. Teach others how to properly choose, pack, lift, and carry various types of bags—including backpacks, purses, briefcases, and suitcases. Check out the event planning tips and strategies available below. Learn more about AOTA’s National School Backpack Awareness Day.

To find a physician, call 877-250-STJO(7856) or use our physician finder.

5 Foods That Can Help Keep Your Bones Strong & Healthy

strong bonesWhen it comes to building strong and healthy bones, two key nutrients are critical to success: calcium and Vitamin D. These two nutrients work with each other and play vital roles in maintaining strong and healthy bodies.

Many studies show that low calcium intake is associated with low bone mass and high fracture rates. Vitamin D plays an important role in protecting your bones because your body requires it to absorb calcium. [1] A lack of Vitamin D can lead to bone loss, lower bone density and a higher likelihood to break bones with age. Whether you’re a meat-eater, vegan, vegetarian or dairy-free, there are plenty of foods choices that can provide you with these two powerful nutrients.

So what foods can help fortify our bones to keep them strong and healthy? Here’s the list:

  1. Dark, leafy greens: Dark, leafy greens, such as kale, arugula, watercress and collard greens are perhaps the best non-dairy sources of calcium. Here is a breakdown of percentage of daily calcium value per cup of various greens: Watercress (12%) Kale (14%), Dandelion Greens (10%), Turnip Greens (10%), Arugula (6%).
  2. Salmon: A 3-ounce piece of salmon contains more than 100% of your vitamin D. Also, canned salmon includes the softer, edible bones of the fish, meaning it’s loaded with calcium.
  3. Cheese: Cheese is made from milk, which is loaded with calcium. A mere 1.5 ounces of cheese contains 30% of your daily calcium requirement, but cheese can be very fattening, so for a healthy alternative try cheese made from skim milk.
  4. Yogurt: Yogurt actually beats out milk with a whopping 42% of your daily calcium intake per eight ounce serving.
  5. Almonds: A one ounce serving of this nut provides 80 milligrams of your daily intake of calcium, and comes with other health benefits like lowering blood sugar levels and helping decrease cholesterol.

 
So there’s the list! Now make your grocery list and be sure to add some of these foods to your diet and be on your way to building strong and healthy bones!

To find a physician, call 877-250-STJO(7856) or use our physician finder.

Related Resources

Baked Kale Chips – Full of Heart-Healthy Benefits
Find an Emory Physician

References

[1] Dawson-Hughes B, Harris SS, Krall EA, Dallal GE (1997). “Effect of calcium and vitamin D supplementation on bone density in men and women 65 years of age or older”. N. Engl. J. Med. 337 (10): 670–6.

Testicular Cancer: What are the Signs and Symptoms of Testicular Cancer?

Cancer with DocTesticular cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in one or both testicles. Like many other parts of the body, testicles can be affected by certain conditions and diseases, which can lead to symptoms. Most often, testicular cancer can be detected early on, and men often find the cancer themselves while performing self-examinations. It’s recommended that men ages 15 to 55 should perform routine self-examinations to identify any possible changes. However, some testicular cancers may show no symptoms and may go undetected until they reach an advanced stage.

Symptoms may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Lumps – If detected early, a painless lump may develop that will likely be about the size of a pea, but can grow much larger if left untreated. Any lump, enlargement or tenderness of the testicle should be evaluated by a doctor immediately.
  • Pain – Pain or discomfort in the testicle that may or may not be accompanied by swelling can be a warning sign. It should be noted that pain can be caused by a variety of maladies, including injuries, infection and possibly cancer. Your physician will be able to diagnose the cause of any pain in the testicles.
  • Heaviness – A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum may be a sign of testicular cancer.
  • Pressure in abdomen – A dull pain or feeling of pressure in the lower belly, groin or lower back may be cause for concern. Testicular cancer that has spread (metastasized) beyond the testicles and lymph nodes to other organs may cause this and other symptoms like sweating, depending on the area of the body affected.
  • Fluid – A sudden buildup of fluid in the scrotum.
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts – Testicular tumors can produce hormones that cause breast growth and/or tenderness – a condition known as gynecomastia.

 
It’s important to remember that while cancer is one possible cause of testicular symptoms, more often these symptoms are caused by infection, injury or something else. Always see a doctor regarding any changes you notice in one or both testicles because even non-cancerous testicular issues can be very serious.

Learn more about urology care at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

To contact a urology navigator for more information, call 678-843-5665.

Emory Saint Joseph’s Celebrates 35th Anniversary of McAuley Awards

Emory Saint Joseph's HospitalLong known as a place providing uniquely compassionate care, Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital recently celebrated a significant milestone deeply rooted in its heritage of serving those in need – the 35th anniversary of the McAuley Awards. Named for Mother Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy, who exemplified the highest standards of compassionate care to all patients, this award represents that same standard that continues to be honored and celebrated to this day.

For patients, that means a deep commitment to meeting your needs in a manner that places you and your family at the center of everything we do – a commitment that Emory Saint Joseph’s strives to achieve for each person, every time.

Emory Saint Joseph’s has been committed to maintaining this standard of care since the hospital’s beginning in 1880, when four Sisters of Mercy traveled from Savannah to establish Saint Joseph’s, Atlanta’s first hospital.

That same commitment to compassionate care is evidenced daily through the dedication employees show to our patients, their families and to each other.

Each month, the McAuley Award is earned by an employee who exemplifies Mother McAuley’s high standards of compassion and service. The award was established in 1979 by a grateful father whose son was saved at Saint Joseph’s. Since that time, more than 420 employees have earned the honor of the McAuley Award. More than 50 of those are still employed at Emory Saint Joseph’s today.

Gamma Knife ©: What is Radiosurgery?

Shannon Kahn, MDRadiosurgery, also known as stereotactic radiosurgery and stereotactic radiation therapy, is a non-invasive, outpatient alternative to traditional brain surgery (neurosurgery). It’s performed by a machine called Gamma Knife©, which isn’t a knife in the traditional sense; rather it uses 192 precisely-focused beams of radiation to target and destroy tumors without damaging surrounding healthy tissue.

In clinical use since 1968 [1], Gamma Knife© is used largely to treat cancerous brain tumors. It is also used to treat benign brain tumors such as pituitary tumors, meningiomas and acoustic neuromas, which are tumors related to balance and hearing. Gamma Knife has also proven effective in treating functional neurologic disorders such as trigeminal neuralgia.

“Gamma Knife© is an unparalleled technology that has extensive research supporting its effectiveness and safety. Being able to offer this treatment and expertise to our patients at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital is a unique strength of our program in which we take great pride,” said Shannon Kahn, MD, radiation oncologist at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

The procedure offers an alternative for patients with tumors too small or too hard to reach surgically, patients who aren’t well enough to undergo traditional surgery, or patients who just prefer a less invasive treatment. Gamma Knife © also provides an alternative to whole-brain radiation in some cases, which can decrease the cognitive and memory problems often associated with more traditional radiation treatments.

Treatment
Patients receive brain scans to pinpoint the exact location and amount of radiation that will be administered. A lightweight frame is attached to the head with four pins. Local anesthetic is used, but the patient remains awake during the procedure, which is painless and lasts from a few minutes to several hours, depending on size and location of their tumor(s).

Radiosurgery is covered by most insurance providers as well as Medicaid and Medicare, and has a very quick recovery time.

Dr. Khan notes that side effects are usually minimal. “Some patients may experience a slight headache following the procedure, but patients go home the same day and are typically back to their normal routines by the next day.”

Results
The goal of Gamma Knife© therapy is to damage the atypical or cancerous cells and prevent them from multiplying, while preserving the healthy tissue. Malignant tumors may decrease in size over a period of a few months while the goal for benign tumors is typically tumor stabilization.

Learn more about Gamma Knife© radiosurgery at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

To contact a Gamma Knife© nurse navigator, call 678-843-5513.

References
[1] “Why Gamma Knife® surgery?”

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