Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: Know the Signs and Symptoms

By MINDY FACIANE | Public Information Officer
September is recognized as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of what’s often called a silent killer among women. It’s called a silent killer because its symptoms are often mistaken for other, more benign conditions. By the time it’s diagnosed, it’s often too advanced for treatment to be effective.
I was one of the lucky ones. 

I was 32 and engaged to my fiancé for just a month when I was diagnosed. I found out about it through a complete fluke, too. I’ve had severe back problems since I was 18, including two major surgeries, so I thought the low back pain I was experiencing was tied to my ongoing problems. My doctor sent me for an MRI to see if my back problems were getting worse. That’s how we found the tumor.

Being told I had cancer was incredibly frightening, especially since I had just started planning my wedding. My fiancé and I were discussing our future together and eventually starting a family. I had also lost my beloved grandpa to cancer 10 years earlier. 

Surgery revealed the cancer was caught at an early stage, giving me a good prognosis. The next five months were filled with fertility preservation so that I could try for a family someday, six rounds of chemotherapy and doctor appointments – oh, so many doctor appointments. Hair loss. Uncontrollable pain. Medications for the pain. Nausea. Medications for the nausea. Fear. Exhaustion. But I pulled through with the help of my fiancé, family, friends, co-workers and an amazing medical team. 

My hair grew back. The pain eased. I was able to eat the foods that nauseated me during chemotherapy. I married the man who stood by my side through cancer. And, best of all, despite losing an ovary and Fallopian tube to cancer, I was able to give birth to a happy, healthy son who’s now 2½.

September 10 marked the fifth year since the surgery that saved my life.
I was one of the lucky ones.
There are many women out there who aren’t nearly as lucky.
Ovarian cancer is one of the most deadly cancers to affect women. American Cancer Society statistics show ovarian cancer accounts for only 2.5 percent of all female cancer cases in the U.S. but 5 percent of cancer deaths. That’s because of its low survival rate.

It is the 14th most common cancer and eighth leading cause of cancer death in Louisiana women from 2010 to 2014, according to the American Cancer Society.

Signs and symptoms

The early stages of ovarian cancer usually display no obvious symptoms, which is why it’s often not detected until it’s at an advanced stage. Signs and symptoms include:

·         Vaginal bleeding, especially post-menopause, or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for you

·         Pelvic pain or pressure

·         Abdominal or back pain

·         Bloating

·         Feeling full too quickly, or difficulty eating

·         Change in bathroom habits, such as more frequent or urgent need to urinate and/or constipation

It’s important to listen to your body and know what is normal for you. See a doctor immediately if you are experiencing unusual vaginal bleeding. If you are experiencing any of the other signs for two weeks or longer and they are not normal for you, see a doctor. The symptoms may not mean you have ovarian cancer, but the only way to know is to consult a doctor.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers this diary to track any symptoms you may notice over a two-week timespan.
Risk factors
There is no sure way to know whether a woman will develop ovarian cancer, and most women who have it were not considered high risk before diagnosis. The CDC says these factors may increase risk:

·         Being middle-aged or older

·         Having close family members (such as a mother, sister, aunt or grandmother) who have had ovarian cancer on either your mother’s or your father’s side

·         Having a genetic mutation called BRCA1 or BRCA2, or one associated with Lynch syndrome

·         Having had breast, uterine or colorectal cancer

·         Having an Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jewish background

·         Having endometriosis, a condition in which tissue from the uterine lining grows elsewhere in the body

·         Having never given birth or having had trouble getting pregnant

Some studies have suggested taking estrogen by itself (without progesterone) for 10 years or more may lead to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Talk with your doctor about your risk factors. If you or a family member has a history of ovarian cancer, you may want to consider genetic counseling, a process that advises of the consequences and nature of a disorder, the probability of developing or transmitting it, and available options in management and family planning.
Things you can do to reduce your risk of ovarian cancer include:

·         Using birth control pills for five years or more

·         Having a tubal ligation (tubes tied), both ovaries removed or hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and sometimes the cervix)

·         Giving birth

·         Breastfeeding

These options may not be recommended for all women, so it’s best to talk with your doctor about ways to reduce your chances of ovarian cancer.
For more information, visit the CDC and American Cancer Society ovarian cancer webpages.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

When Planning for the Next Storm, Remember Your Health

Louisiana may have only had small brushes with tropical storms so far this hurricane season, but it’s not too late to take another look at your medical hurricane preparedness plan for the remainder of this hurricane season and those to come.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Addiction and Mental Illness: September is Recovery Month

Every September, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, promotes National Recovery Month. It’s a time to raise awareness and understanding of substance abuse and mental health disorders as well as celebrate people living in recovery.

Simultaneously with the national observance, Gov. John Bel Edwards has proclaimed September as Recovery Month in Louisiana. Read the proclamation here.

During Recovery Month, the Louisiana Department of Health wants the public to know that recovery is possible, to celebrate individual stories of success and to promote available resources to anyone who needs help coping with an addiction or mental illness.

This month, look for #AddictionRecoveryLA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, blogs, podcasts and more for information about Recovery Month. You’ll see messages from the Department of Health and its agencies along with national resources from SAMHSA.

Recovery is real
This year’s theme for Recovery Month is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Invest in Health, Home, Purpose and Community.” These four pillars are commonly cited among the fundamental keys to lasting recovery. 

Community, especially, is crucial for helping people find and stay on the road to recovery. Peers, friends and family providing healthy relationships form the framework for a safety net of support.

The odds can seem to be against you when you’re dealing with addiction or mental illness, but with health, home, purpose and community, there is hope.
Voices for Recovery
Sharing the inspiring stories of those living a life in recovery is a vital part of erasing the stigma surrounding addiction and mental illness.

If you have a personal story of recovery that you’d like to share, visit SAMHSA's Voices for Recovery page and create an account. You can also fax your story, written in 500 words or less, along with the authorization and release form to (240) 276-2710.

The opioid crisis

A topic of importance during Recovery Month is the opioid epidemic facing our communities. 
Opioids are a class of drugs historically used as prescription painkillers, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, codeine, methadone and fentanyl, as well as the illegal drug heroin. While such prescription drugs are useful in pain management, they also carry the potential for misuse. Repeated use greatly increases the risks of developing an addiction.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths from opioids have quadrupled since 1999. More than six out of 10 overdose deaths involve opioids and an average of 115 Americans die daily from an overdose. In Louisiana alone, more than 1,000 people died from an opioid overdose in 2016.

Many people don’t know that an opioid overdose can be treated with a medication called naloxone. When administered in a timely manner, naloxone can prevent overdose-related death.

Naloxone is available to the public under a standing order from Dr. Rebekah Gee, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health. The order allows pharmacists to dispense the medication to caregivers, family and friends of an opioid user. Anyone receiving naloxone from a pharmacy will be educated on how to recognize an overdose, how to store and administer the medication and information on emergency follow-up procedures.

To download a free toolkit on opioid overdose, click here.
Recovery resources
If you or a loved one are coping with addiction or mental illness, there are plenty of resources for those in need of help. Here are a few to get you started.
  • SAMHSA National Helpline: free, confidential information 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • Louisiana Alcohol/Drug Helpline: available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-877-664-2248
  • Recovery Month: https://www.recoverymonth.gov
  • SAMHSA Treatment: find treatment options and special services in your area at http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment
For assistance in your district, contact your local government entity. Locate yours here.
  • Acadiana Area Human Services District: 302 Dulles Drive, Lafayette, LA 70506-3008 or (337) 262-4190
  • Capital Area Human Services District: 4615 Government Street, Building 2, Baton Rouge, LA 70806 or (225) 922-2700
  • Central Louisiana Human Services District: 401 Rainbow Drive, Unit 35, Pineville, LA 71360 or (318) 487-5191
  • Florida Parishes Human Services Authority: 835 Pride Drive, Suite B, Hammond, LA 70401 or (985) 543-4333
  • Imperial Calcasieu Human Services Authority: One Lakeshore Drive, Suite 2000, Lake Charles, LA 70629 or (337) 475-3100
  • Jefferson Parish Human Services Authority: 3616 South I-10 Service Road West, Metairie, LA 70001 or (504) 838-5215
  • Metropolitan Human Services District: 3100 General de Gaulle Drive, New Orleans, LA 70114 or (504) 568-3130
  • Northeast Delta Human Services Authority: 2513 Ferrand Street, Monroe, LA 71201 or (318) 362-3270
  • Northwest Louisiana Human Services District: 1310 North Hearne Avenue, Shreveport, LA 71107 or (318) 676-5111
  • South Central Louisiana Human Services Authority: 521 Legion Avenue, Houma, LA 70364 or (985) 858-2931
For more Recovery Month information, click here.