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Pancreatic Cancer Not Answer Game Show Host Alex Trebek Expected

alex trebek pancreatic cancer
“Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek at the 2016 USO Gala, Washington, D.C., Oct. 20, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill)

Earlier this year, Alex Trebek, the long-standing host of “Jeopardy!,” announced he’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 79. Like his game show participants, this answer to what he assumed to be benign symptoms leaves us with a lot of questions.

What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

In an interview, Trebek mentioned he’d experienced persistent stomach pain prior to his diagnosis. Similar pain is one of the most reported symptoms among pancreatic cancer patients. 

Other symptoms include:

  • Jaundice
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • New diagnosis of diabetes (the vast majority of people with a new diabetes diagnosis do not have pancreatic cancer)

If these symptoms sound similar to the symptoms of many other illnesses, you’re right. Which is one of the reasons pancreatic cancer is rarely diagnosed during the early stages. The other obstacle to early diagnosis is that by the time these symptoms do appear, the cancer has usually grown beyond the pancreas.

Who’s at risk of pancreatic cancer?

Like many other cancers, lifestyle choices can increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The risks increase for people who:

  • Smoke
  • Are Obese
  • Have long-standing, uncontrolled diabetes
  • Have a poor diet

You can’t control all the risk factors though. Some like chronic inflammation of the pancreas, a family history of pancreatic cancer, family history of genetic syndrome such as BRCA2 gene mutation, Lynch syndrome and familial atypical mole-malignant melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome, and age can’t be changed.

How do you treat pancreatic cancer?

Alex Trebek reported success with early chemotherapy treatment of his cancer. After a short remission, however, he experienced regrowth of the tumors and has begun chemotherapy treatment again. 

While chemo is often a part of a treatment plan, other treatments may include surgery, radiation or clinical trials. Your cancer’s stage when it’s discovered determines exactly how your doctor treats your disease. 

We talk a lot about diabetes diagnosis and management here on our website and on our social media. Although the vast majority of our diabetes patients will never receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, we know this disease elevates their risk. It’s one more reason we’re determined to help all our patients live healthier, longer lives.

If you need help controlling your diabetes or discovering what’s causing you to feel bad more days than not make an appointment with one of our providers by calling (662) 282-4226.

Grief Support for Survivors of Suicide Loss

Grief Support for Survivors of Suicide Loss

The holidays prove to be difficult for anyone who has lost a loved one. For those whose loved one ended their own life, the grief and holidays can be even more difficult. Finding support for survivors of suicide loss is an important part of the healing process. This year’s International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is November 23, just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

The shock and grief following a loved one’s death by suicide can feel overwhelming. Grief, in general, can feel all-consuming, but following a suicide, it may also include confusion, anger, rejection, and shame. Some survivors may be at an increased risk of suicide or suicidal thoughts themselves. 

If someone you loved has taken their own life, remember you are not alone. It’s estimated that the 800,000 suicides that took place from 1986 to 2010 each touched at least six lives. That means more than 5-million people have been affected. Grief looks different for everyone, and it crops up in unexpected places sometimes years after the loss.

Don’t ignore your grief or allow anyone to minimize it. Find people in your life who are good listeners, and limit your time with people who try to push their own expectations on you. Many survivors of suicide loss find support groups and one-on-one counseling to be a great help. These sessions may help you work through your grief, questions, and even feelings of guilt.

For the friends and family of those affected by suicide stay close to your grieving friend. Be open to share a memory of the person they lost and say his or her name. On the flip side, be willing to sit quietly with a friend when that’s what they need. Ask for ways you help during the difficult days. Go grocery shopping. Watch their children. Drive them to appointments. Bring dinner. Wash the laundry. All the simple tasks they may be too overwhelmed to manage.

Our counselors are trained to help as you sort through the confusing maze of grief after any loss, but specifically the different type of grief that accompanies suicide. Call our office at 662-282-4359 to make an appointment.

If you’re looking for resources on how to support a friend or family member who has experienced suicide loss, we’ve listed a few valuable resources below.

Helping a Student Who Has Lost a Friend or Family Member to Suicide (Although specifically geared towards students, this resource is valuable to anyone of any age.)

Understanding Survivors of Suicide Loss

Suicide survivors face grief, questions, challenges

Men’s Health: A Hairy Situation

man with beard; men's health awareness; movember

Men’s Health Awareness advocates have renamed November to Movember. They encourage men to retire the razor a month and grow out their mustaches and beards in hopes of motivating conversations about men’s health. Across the world, women live longer than men, and in the United States, it averages an extra five years of life. Take a dive with us through the testosterone waters to find out why.

Who are you?

Men are twenty-percent less likely to have seen a medical provider in the last year than women. Is it because they’re healthier? Nope.

On average, men have their first heart attack around age 65, while a woman’s first heart attack happens later around age 72. (Although women are still more likely to die from a heart attack than men.)

Men are twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes at a younger age and lower BMI than women.

Men are more likely to develop, and die from, cancer than women. 

Men are three times more likely to die from suicide, although more women are diagnosed with depression than men.

All of these diseases are most easily prevented and treated in their early stages. Preventative treatment and screenings can identify risks before the illness strikes — but only if the patient seeks out that treatment. Additionally, men are less likely to follow a treatment plan than women.

Enter Movember

Raising awareness increases conversations between men about their physical and mental health. The more men talk about health screenings and their mental health, the more they realize they aren’t alone. 

Celebrate Men’s Health Awareness Month by scheduling a yearly wellness check-up with your medical provider. If you have health insurance, this wellness visit is usually covered 100%. This exam includes checking your blood pressure, a key measurement for determining heart disease.

Keep the celebration going by scheduling your necessary health screenings: 

  • Prostate cancer screening after age 40 with a family history; after age 45 for African American men; after age 50 for all men.
  • Colonoscopy at age 50.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening between ages 65-75 if you’ve ever used tobacco.

Don’t be afraid to talk to someone about your mental health, including a counselor or therapist if needed. More and more men are talking about their mental health including celebrities such as Ryan Reynolds, Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Love, Micheal Phelps, Chris Evans, and many more. If they’re not afraid to open up about depression and anxiety, you shouldn’t be either.

Finally, follow your wife/sister/daughter/friend’s example and do some self-care work. Exercise. Drink plenty of water. Find a hobby you enjoy. Try to eat a little healthier. Stop smoking. 

Your life is valuable and we need you around for many years to come.

Celebrating Mantachie’s Nurse Practitioners

nurse practitioners; Amanda Martin, FNP; Donna Cannon, FNP; and Crystal Nichols, FNP

Amanda Martin, FNP; Donna Cannon, FNP; and Crystal Nichols, FNP

The second week in November we celebrate our clinic’s Nurse Practitioners. And we’re pretty lucky to have some of the best.

These mid-level providers have become our go-to providers over the last twenty years, but the profession started in 1965. It began in response to a dearth in primary care providers. In 1989 Congress provided limited reimbursement for these nurses and the profession experienced tremendous growth in the 1990s. By 2000 Nurse Practitioners were able to practice in all 50 states.

Our NPs provide excellent primary care services for our patients, and we are fortunate to have highly trained providers in our facility.

Ethnicity Overrules Weight in Diabetes Risks

black man; Ethnicity Overrules Weight in Diabetes Risks

We’ve long associated Type 2 diabetes with being overweight. In fact, excess weight is one of the prime risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. This risk factor may not play as key a role in diabetes in some races. 

A new study published in Diabetes Care, a journal of the Americal Diabetes Association, found Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans have a higher rate of Type 2 diabetes at a lower weight.

Medical providers usually reserve diabetes screening for those overweight patients. The results of this study, however, suggests providers should look at more than a patient’s weight and BMI. Minority patients should receive diabetes testing earlier, even when they are not overweight.

Providers calculate whether or not a patient is overweight based on their BMI. A BMI of 25 is considered overweight and a BMI of 30 is considered obese.

As a patient, you know your body best. Know and recognize the symptoms of diabetes. 

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry—even though you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Weight loss—even though you are eating more (type 1)
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)

Regardless of your weight, if you have these symptoms, it’s time to see your medical provider. If you are of a minority race talk to your medical provider about diabetes testing regardless of your weight and age. 

The best way to treat diabetes is to find it early.

My HealthCare Provider Isn’t Listening

My HealthCare Provider Isn't Listening

Improving your health relies on your partnership with your medical provider, especially when you suffer from a chronic illness such as diabetes, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis among others. Your provider may be an advanced practice nurse practitioner, a family doctor or a specialist with all the initials after their names, but you know your body. When something isn’t right, it’s important for you to feel comfortable explaining all your symptoms to your provider. And it’s equally important to have a provider who listens.

Patient-doctor relationships rely on both parties to fully participate in the appointment. If you’re concerned your provider isn’t listening, try these steps to get your relationship back on track.

Write Down the Details

Many health problems have similar symptoms. Write down the dates and situations when your symptoms started, improved or worsened. Bring a list of medications you take regularly. Be willing to discuss the hard truths including any illicit drug use, the amount of alcohol you regularly consume, your mental health status, and sexual symptoms. Your provider needs the full picture to make an accurate diagnosis. If you’ve written down the details, you won’t have to rely on your own memory when you may feel rushed during an appointment.

Bring Someone with You

Illness, medication, and pain can cloud our thoughts and make it hard to remember what we wanted to say or what the doctor recommended. A trusted friend or family member can help you remember what the doctor said and ask questions you may not think to ask. They can also back you up if you don’t think the doctor is listening. It’s easier to advocate for someone else than ourselves.

Make Notes

You wrote down your symptoms and information prior to your appointment. Use that same notebook to write down what the doctor says. Most offices provide a print out of instructions, tests run and diagnoses after the appointment. It’s a great reference sheet. Make your own notes about what the doctor is saying to review later. They may help you create a list of questions for your next appointment.

Ask Questions

Sometimes medical providers use big words and acronyms that don’t make sense to the rest of us. If your provider suggests a specific test, discusses your test results or prescribes a new medication, ask for details. You may also ask how to spell any words you don’t understand. Even if the provider doesn’t explain what it means well you can do your own research after the appointment.

Do Your Research

Providers do get tired of patients who self diagnose with Dr. Google. If anyone searches through the symptom checker long enough they’ll find a chronic illness or cancer diagnosis waiting to happen. In truth, most of us don’t have these rare diseases and your search on Google can cause more alarm than is needed. Once you’ve been diagnosed though, arm yourself with information especially if you have a chronic condition. Stick to websites with varified information such as Mayo Clinic, CDC, or medical research schools. National organizations focused on your health condition may also provide up-to-date research information. You can also ask your provider where you can find more information on your condition.

Complete the Patient Survey

Most medical facilities, including ours, requests patients complete a satisfaction survey. If you’re uncomfortable confronting a provider whose bedside manner isn’t what you’d hoped it would be, you can ensure clinic management knows about the problem by completing the survey. (Another note, if your provider does an excellent job tell us about that too!)

Find An Alternative Provider

We offer this as a last resort. If your medical provider repeatedly brushes off your concerns or treats your symptoms without searching for a root cause, it might be time to search for another provider. We encourage our patients to develop a relationship with their provider, especially if they have chronic conditions. This ensures you work with a provider who understands your history. Changing providers isn’t something we take lightly, but it is an option you might want to explore if your provider isn’t giving the care you expect.

Everyone has a bad day. Sometimes a provider’s less than attentive visit has more to do with an emergency situation they may have recently managed than a lack of concern for your health. If you’ve had one bad experience with any provider, we encourage you to give them another chance before looking for care elsewhere. If you feel your current provider isn’t listening, we invite you to make an appointment with one of our providers. We strive to be your patient-centered medical home.

Poor Nutrition Leads to Blindness in Teen

Poor Nutrition Leads to Blindness in Teen

The story headlined WedMD, FoxNews, and CNN this week. A British teen who ate only potato chips, French fries, cold cuts, and white bread for years went blind due to his poor nutrition.

Although the boy’s food choices consisted of high-calorie carb-heavy foods, his BMI and weight stayed in the normal range. 

“But the lack of essential vitamins and minerals took its toll. Anemia set in, his bone mineral density plummeted, and his levels of vitamin B-12, vitamin D, copper and selenium all cratered,” reported WebMD.com.

His lack of nutrition first led to tiredness. Hearing and vision problems then developed before he was diagnosed with “nutritional optic neuropathy.”

The boy’s diagnosis is a rare and extreme case. It highlights the importance of a varied diet for the sake of health, not just weight. Diets limited to a few foods, especially highly-processed foods, reduce the consumption of vitamins and nutrients our bodies need to function well.

Vitamin supplements can replace some vitamins we don’t receive from our diet. However, they’re meant to be a supplement, not our sole source of vitamins. The best way to receive vitamins and nutrients is through the foods we eat. A diet of unprocessed foods, vegetables, and fruits provides benefits beyond better-controlled weight and blood glucose levels.

Picky Eaters

For parents of picky eaters, it’s tempting to give in to their preferred foods. Nutritionists encourage parents to continue offering a variety of foods and then encourage their children to try new menu items. Some children and adults experience a heightened sensitivity to certain foods and food textures. They may benefit from a visiting a nutritionist and primary care provider as a great first step to improving the variations of foods they consume.

For most children, picky eating is a phase. Others may require a combination of physician care and mental health therapy to move past their extreme picky eating. 

If you’re looking for ways to increase the variety of nutrient-dense foods in your diet, try our Witcher’s Weight Loss Warriors. This group meets every Monday and provides information on menu planning and food education. Or if you believe your or your child’s picky eating has stretched on for years and you need additional help, contact us for an appointment with one of our providers or our registered dietician. 

Differences in Emotional Vs. Mental Health

sky; emotional vs mental health

Do you know the difference in emotional health and mental health? We often hear the terms used interchangeably, but they refer to two different areas of a person’s health. While emotional and mental health work together, it’s possible to be strong in one area and weaker in another.

Mental Health

The way our brain processes and understands information refers to our mental health. It includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Our mental health affects our relationships, how we manage stress, and how we exercise reason.

Symptoms of mental health problems affect us physically through mood changes, lack of energy, over- or under-eating, abusing drugs or alcohol, having suicidal thoughts, sleeping too much or not enough, feeling helpless, or having an inability to perform daily tasks.

Mental health disorders include bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia among others.

Emotional Health

Our emotional health dictates how we react to situations and circumstances based on how our mental health interprets that information. Expressing emotion in an age-appropriate way indicates good emotional health. It requires us to manage our emotions and determine the correct response to situations.

Better Together

While mental health and emotional health refer to two different areas of our health, they work together to help us manage everyday stress. When we can process information from a situation correctly, we’re more likely to respond in an emotionally correct way. This allows us to manage difficult and even traumatic events to find solutions, develop resiliency, and learn coping skills.

Difficulties with your mental or emotional health are not cause for shame. Statistics show 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness this year. Instability in mental or emotional health can lead to problems at work and in relationships and can lead to abuse of drugs and alcohol. 

Don’t struggle alone. Reach out for help now. Our counselors are ready to help you face your mental or emotional health struggles so you can lead a stronger, healthier life. To make an appointment call us at 662-282-4359.  

Combating Deviations in Morning Blood Sugar

woman waking up; combating deviations in your morning blood sugar

No matter how well you control your diabetes everyone has problems from time to time. One of the most common diabetes complicates is deviations in morning blood sugar. These highs or lows can cause problems throughout the day and can be caused by medications, changes in diet, exercise, or hormone levels.

Low Morning Blood Sugar

The main cause of low morning blood sugar levels (also known as hypoglycemia) in diabetic patients is an excess of background or long-acting insulin. Blood sugar levels are considered low if they dip below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Readings that reach 54 mg/dL and lower are cause for concern and immediate medical treatment.

Symptoms of low morning blood sugar include:

  • headache
  • sweating
  • dry mouth
  • nausea
  • lightheadedness
  • dizziness
  • shaking
  • hunger
  • anxiety
  • blurred vision
  • pounding heartbeat

Consistently low morning blood sugar can lead to tiredness and headaches that last throughout the day. It may also reduce your awareness of low blood sugar levels which can be dangerous if those levels drop into the severe range.

If you’re experiencing low morning blood sugar levels, your first step is to visit with your medical provider. Your provider may want to adjust your insulin dosage or timing before bed. Other causes of low blood sugar may include drinking alcohol before bed, forgetting your regular bedtime snack or changing what you eat, or exercising too late in the day.

Other ways to combat low morning blood sugar include eating a bedtime snack of carbs and protein, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, and exercising earlier in the day.

Dawn Phenomenon

On the flip side of low blood sugar levels, some diabetic patients find they wake with high blood sugar levels. Our bodies are designed to release hormones that increase blood sugar levels in the morning. This blood sugar ensures we have the energy we need to wake up and get started on our day. Bodies without diabetes release insulin to manage the excess blood sugar. Diabetic patients don’t respond to insulin the say way so you may wake up with high blood sugar.

Dawn Phenomenon may not be the only reason you’re experiencing high blood sugar levels. Other causes may include not taking enough insulin the night before, other medications, or a change in your bedtime snack. 

If your blood sugar levels are high for several mornings in a row check it during the night between 2-3 a.m. and take those numbers to your medical provider. They can help you determine if the Dawn Phenomenon is the problem and how to treat it.

Somogyi effect

The other cause of high morning is the Somogyi effect. This usually has more to do with diabetes management rather than naturally occurring hormone changes like in the Dawn Phenomenon. The Somogyi effect is caused by taking too much or too little insulin before bed or skipping your bedtime snack. If your blood sugar levels drop too low at night, your body may produce more glucose in an effort to prevent dangerously low blood sugars. The effect leaves you with high morning blood sugars, also called rebound hyperglycemia.

Before making changes to your diet, insulin doses, or other routines consult with your medical provider. They can help pinpoint the cause of your low or high blood sugar and work with you to formulate a solution. If you don’t have a provider who regularly helps you manage your diabetes, our providers are ready to assist you with management for a healthier, happier lifestyle.

Miley Cyrus, Larry Bird, and Joe Biden Share This Common Medical Condition

Miley Cyrus, Larry Bird, and Joe Biden Share This Common Medical Condition: Afib; atrial fibrillation
Larry Bird Photo Credit Nick Antonini; Joe Biden Photo Credit Marc Nozell

What does Miley Cyrus have in common with a late former president, a former vice president and a member of the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team”? Not much as it turns out. But the former Disney star does have an irregular heart rhythm, a condition she shares with the late President George H.W. Bush, former Vice President Joe Biden and Larry Bird, a former NBA standout and member of the lauded 1992 U.S. Olympic Basketball team, better known as the Dream Team. 

Although Cyrus was unclear on the cause of her irregular heartbeat when she discussed the condition in her 2009 memoir Miles To Go, most speculate it’s due to atrial fibrillation, or AFib, the same condition that causes heart rhythm problems for Bush, Biden, and Bird. 

What is AFib and Who’s at Risk?

AFib is one of the most common heart conditions in the world most often characterized by an irregular heart rhythm and it affects an estimated 2.7 – 6.1 million people in the United States each year. The estimated range of people affected is wide. Many people living with AFib are unaware they have the condition because they experience little to no signs or symptoms.

 AFib is often mistaken as a mild condition due to its commonality and seemingly manageable symptoms. However, untreated AFib can lead to heart failure, stroke, blood clots, and other heat-related illnesses.

The CDC reports about 9% of people over age 65 to have AFib while just 2% of people under 65 have the condition. Although anyone is at risk for AFib, Caucasian women over 65 are more likely to have AFib than any other group. 

Signs and Symptoms

The most common sign of atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat. However, it is often accompanied by other symptoms such as:

  • General fatigue
  • Chest pressure or pain
  • Fluttering in the chest
  • Dizziness, anxiety, and shortness of breath
  • Faintness or confusion
  • Sweating

How to Treat It and Reduce Your Risk

Atrial fibrillation is a medical condition in itself, but it’s also often a sign of an underlying problem or illness. AFib could be the result of something as simple as consuming too much caffeine or as serious as a condition like high blood pressure or another more serious heart problem. Successful treatment of AFib begins with a proper diagnosis. To get this diagnosis, patients may undergo in-depth exams and a series of tests such as an echocardiogram.

In many cases, AFib can be treated with certain lifestyle changes such as saying no to a second cup of coffee in the mornings if your AFib is related to too much caffeine consumption. In other cases, treating the underlying condition stops AFib symptoms. 

The best way to reduce your risk of AFib is to visit your medical provider regularly for checkups and to contact them at the first symptoms of AFib. All cases of AFib have the potential to become serious which is why an early diagnosis is essential.

Are you concerned about your risk of developing AFib? Mantachie Rural Health Care can help ease your concerns and begin the diagnosis process. Contact us today to request an appointment. 

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