- Created on Tuesday, March 17 2015 12:19
As a gastroenterologist at Hallmark Health System I see firsthand the effects that colon cancer can have on patients and their loved ones. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the US for both men and women, behind only lung cancer. The good news is that this is a very preventable and treatable cancer if screening guidelines are followed. According to the American Cancer Society, last year more than 50,000 Americans died from the disease and that death rate could be cut in half if all of those who were due for a screening had one.
Safe, highly effective screening is available. March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and recognition months such as these give us the opportunity for dialogue to spread the word and, hopefully will serve as an incentive to book that overdue screening.
Hallmark Health and the Boston Bruins have teamed up to fight colon cancer and have produced this public service announcement.
Colon cancer typically develops with precancerous growths called polyps inside the colon. Over time the polyps can develop into cancer. In early stages, colon cancer shows no symptoms, so we rely on finding the polyps as early as possible. A colonoscopy is the most effective way of spotting these polyps. Although other screening tools are available, none are considered more effective or offer the real-time removal and/or biopsies of polyps and other suspicious growths.
During the procedure, the vast majority of polyps that are detected are removed. Polyps that are very large or with cancerous features can be too high risk to be removed during the procedure, but biopsies can still be safely taken for analysis. All removed polyps and tissue samples are then sent to a pathologist for review. The total number of polyps removed and the final polyp pathology results will then help determine the timing of your next surveillance colonoscopy (ranging from several years up to 10 years).
When you do have a colonoscopy, be sure to follow the preparation process closely in order to get the best results. This includes avoiding solid foods the night before and taking a laxative preparation prior to the exam.
There are some misconceptions about the procedure, but it is very safe. It is a same-day procedure performed under sedation, so patients experience very little to no discomfort during or after the procedure.
We typically recommend starting colon cancer screening at age 50 for most individuals. Those considered at higher risk (family history of colon cancer or inherited forms of colorectal polyps/cancer, personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease) should be screened earlier. Studies suggest that African-Americans are also at higher risk for colon cancer compared to other ethnic groups and therefore should begin regular screenings at age 45.
Everyone should be encouraged to consult with his/her doctor to set up the appropriate screening schedule.
There are changes that you can make to your lifestyle as well to reduce your risk from developing colon cancer.
• Get screened
• Maintain a healthy weight
• Maintain an active lifestyle
• Smoking/nicotine abstinence
• Drink alcohol in moderation
• Adopt a healthy diet with lots of fiber, whole grains and 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables each day. You should also limit the amount of red meat in your diet.
Christopher Leung, MD, is a gastroenterologist at Hallmark Health System
- Created on Monday, March 16 2015 17:22
Hallmark Health Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice, Inc. is the recipient of a generous gift from the trust of Martin Stanger formerly of Reading, Mass. Mr. Stanger, who died in 2013, left the gift, which is estimated to be over $3 million, in appreciation for the care Hallmark Health Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice provided to his wife at the time of her death. Staff of the Hallmark Health hospice allowed Mrs. Stanger to fulfill her wish of dying peacefully at home. They provided care and services for only a few days while she was at home, but the extent of their compassion and excellence was not forgotten.
“We are deeply moved and honored to receive this gift,” said Diane Farraher -Smith, president of Hallmark Health Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice, and system vice president of Hallmark Health System. “The Stanger story is poignant and a reminder of the importance of compassion in health care. We were pleased to give the family the opportunity to make their wishes a reality and grant the family some peace and solace at the time of Mrs. Stanger’s passing. Every day our hospice nurses and team are entrusted and honored to care for and advocate for our patients. For Mrs. Stanger, her end-of-life wishes were met. This is what we do every day in our hospice program, caring for the patient and the family, and this is what makes the care special.”
The gift, the largest ever received by the program, will be used to further the mission for the hospice services provided by Hallmark Health Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice.
A leader in home health care
Hallmark Health Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice has been a leader in the delivery of home health and hospice services to the residents of Malden and surrounding 23 cities and towns in north suburban Boston since 1899. The agency is fully certified, licensed and accredited.
The diversity and size of Hallmark Health Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice enhances the ability to provide comprehensive and expert services based on individual needs. The knowledge of and involvement in the community has also allowed for successful advocacy for the needs of patients and families.
Whether it is providing skilled nursing care to a premature infant, medical surgical care to a patient recently discharged from the hospital, nursing teaching to a new diabetic, palliative care, or hospice care, the staff of Hallmark Health Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice never lose sight of the mission of enhancing the patient's quality of life. All of the programs are leaders in guiding and shaping the future of home care, preventative, and long term care. Each excels in providing comprehensive services that promote a healthy community, as well as individual dignity and independence. All strive to achieve the highest standards of individual and organizational excellence.
Hospice focuses on comfort
The Hospice program at Hallmark Health Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice strives to maximize the physical, emotional and spiritual comfort of patients at home or if needed, in an extended care facility. The program utilizes an integrated team approach to care, which includes the patient’s primary care physician, patient and patient’s family as part of the team. The Hospice team is comprised of experienced and caring hospice nurses, social workers, specially trained home health aides, therapists, a board certified medical director, pharmacists, clergy and volunteers.
To learn more about Hallmark Health Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice, visit www.hallmarkhealthhomecare.org or call 781-338-7800.
- Created on Tuesday, March 10 2015 12:27
The primary care practice of three well-known Wilmington physicians has joined Hallmark Health Medical Associates, a member of Hallmark Health System, the leading health provider of north suburban Boston.
Doctors Peter Botchan, Madhavi Challagulla and Natalia Yurkovetsky have been practicing primary care in Wilmington together for more than seven years. Their practice was most recently part of Lahey Health. The practice will remain in the same building at 66 Concord Street, but in newly built patient care space just down the hall in Suite L.
The new practice features many amenities and services for convenience of patients:
• Online appointment scheduling
• On-site labs
• Nearby urgent care services
• Patient portal
• Highly coordinated specialty care
• English, Hindi, Telugu and Russian spoken
"We are pleased to welcome these three very talented physicians to our growing multi-specialty physician group," said Hallmark Health Medical Associates President John O'Hara. "They are an important part of the Wilmington community, and share our commitment to providing the highest quality primary care services locally."
Peter Botchan, MD, earned his medical degree from the University of Miami in Miami, FL and completed his residency at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. He has served as president of the Internal Medicine Group at Winchester Hospital and was most recently director of Lahey Wilmington. He is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Botchan will serve as the practice director of the Wilmington practice. His clinical interests include internal medicine.
Madhavi Challagulla, MD, received her medical degree from Andhra Medical College and Osmania Medical College in India and completed her residency training at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, MA. She has served as an internist at HealthAlliance Hospital in Leominster, MA and is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Challagulla's clinical interests include weight loss and obesity.
Natalia Yurkovetsky, MD, earned her medical degree from Russian State Medical University in Moscow. She completed her residency at Mount Sinai School of Medicine/Queens Hospital Center in New York. She practiced at the Norwalk Medical Group in Norwalk, CT and is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Yurkovetsky's clinical interests include internal medicine, diabetes and women's health.
As a physician practice of Hallmark Health Medical Associates, the Wilmington primary care practice is part of the comprehensive, integrated Hallmark Health System known for the full continuum of services and clinical specialties offered throughout north suburban Boston. These services, among others include cancer care, cardiac care, orthopedic and sports medicine, obstetrics and women's health, physical and occupational therapy, visiting nurse and home care services and urgent care. The system includes two acute care hospitals – Melrose-Wakefield Hospital and Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford – as well as Hallmark Health Medical Center, offering multiple outpatient services, in nearby Reading, Mass.,
The physicians are all accepting new patients. Appointments can be made by calling 978-694-8999 or online at HHMA.org.
- Created on Wednesday, March 04 2015 14:40
After 33 years as a certified nursing assistant in the Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford Emergency Department, George Wright knows that sometimes laughter is the best medicine.
On Feb. 3 at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital in Melrose, Hallmark Health System celebrated its exemplary 2014 employees of the month and named Wright the 2014 employee of the year. Wright, a Medford resident, was chosen among an excellent pool of 11 colleagues as the employee who most strongly embodies Hallmark Health's cornerstones of achieving excellence: service, people, growth, quality, and fiscal responsibility.
"George is a real gem," said Kori Carroll, clinical manager of the emergency department and urgent care center, his direct supervisor. "He is instrumental to the flow of the emergency department, especially on high volume days. He is unbelievably reliable, knows what to do in any instance, never loses his cool, and always shows up with a smile on his face."
Prior to the announcement, Carroll was inundated with messages in support of Wright's nomination. Doctors, nurses, patients and relatives of patients all praised Wright's work and shared stories of the difference he has made.
"I was surprised that so many people wrote so many nice things," Wright said after receiving his award. "I just do my work. I didn't know people felt that way, and I'm very grateful."
Working in the emergency department can be hectic and taxing with some intense and solemn moments. "But I like to take a more lighthearted approach to things when I can," explained Wright. He jokes with patients to lighten the anxiety they may feel.
"Some patients can be serious and scared," said Wright. "They just want a light moment – something foolish, something silly." This winter he's been saying, "This beats shoveling!" which makes patients laugh.
"When you can take someone's mind off their anxiousness, they feel better," he said.
Even with his friendly sense of humor, sometimes his work is no laughing matter. He cares for many patients who are agitated and in pain. "I try to slow down and listen to their story," said Wright, "to give them an ear and not make judgments."
Wright's anticipation of when to make a joke, when to listen calmly, and how to be a step ahead of everyone is the key to his invaluable presence in the emergency department. "In 33 years you see a lot of things," Wright described, "how people act and react to certain things. You know what people are going to need and what the doctors and nurses are going to want."
For his employee of the year award, Wright received a financial gift and additional vacation days. While he appreciates the recognition, he shies away from the attention and remains focused on doing his job as he has always done it.
"The best part is to see people getting better," said Wright. "They're better when they leave; they're not nervous and they understand what's happening. That's gratifying."
Wright's eight-year old daughter, Julia, spread her dad's news to her teacher and friends and wants to bring his picture to school. "She's proud," said Wright. Julia loves to hear stories about his work.
"I'm friends with all the patients," he tells his daughter. "People are sick and sometimes confused. Even if they're mad, they're mad at the situation, not me."
Wright tries to teach his daughter the same principles he's learned in the emergency department. Slow down, listen, make a joke, help people, and give them the benefit of the doubt.
- Created on Tuesday, February 24 2015 13:40
With recent frigid temperatures and snow measured in feet instead of inches, emergency departments in cold weather areas of the country are seeing an increasing number of people with frostbite.
Most people bundle up well for winter activities, but what happens when you are unexpectedly facing the bitter cold for prolonged time periods such as if the train is running late and you are waiting for it outdoors, or if your car breaks down? In freezing weather, it is important to be prepared at all times.
Frostbite occurs when cold temperatures kill exposed skin tissue and most noticeably affects fingers, toes, ears, nose, cheeks and chin.
The signs and symptoms start with cold skin and a prickly feeling in the affected area. That may then progress to numbness. Skin may turn red, white, bluish-white, or yellowish-white in color and may become hard or waxy in appearance.
Blistering may occur after rewarming. Superficial frostbite may turn the skin blue and blister up to 24 hours after rewarming. With deep frostbite, the skin may blister up to 48 hours after rewarming. Multiple layers of skin may be damaged, and the condition can cause permanent damage. See a doctor immediately if skin is damaged, blue, or blistered, or if there is numbness after rewarming.
How to avoid frostbite:
• Limit your time outdoors. At 0 degrees Fahrenheit, frostbite can occur in 30 minutes. In -10 below temperatures, it can occur in less than 10 minutes depending on wind chill.
• Dress in loose warm clothing. Air trapped between layers of clothing acts as insulation. Mittens are better than gloves. Be sure to cover ears with a hat or headband. Wear socks and sock liners that fit properly.
• If you are going to be outdoors, don't drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. Both contribute to frostbite.
• Change out of wet clothing immediately.
• Actively rewarm yourself with a warm, not hot, bath and drink a hot beverage such as coffee, tea or hot chocolate. There may be some pain associated with rewarming as well. This should pass within 30 minutes.
• Eat well and hydrate appropriately.
• Keep moving. Exercise gets blood flow to the extremities.
• Plan well for traveling in your car. Have appropriate clothing (hats, gloves, winter coat) in your car in case you get stranded. Carry extra blankets, water and emergency supplies in the trunk.
--Angelo Pucillo, PA-C, is the assistant chief physician assistant in the emergency department at Hallmark Health System.
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