Thursday, March 27, 2014

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month: Are You at Risk?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer of men and women in the United States, following lung cancer. It is most often found in people aged 50 and older and affects people in all racial and ethnic groups. 2010 CDC incidence rates reveal that black people had the highest rate of colorectal cancer and were also more likely to die of colorectal cancer than any other group. Ashkenazi Jews have one of the highest colorectal cancer risks of any ethnic group in the world, due to several gene mutations that lead to increased risk, the most common of which is found in 6% of American Jews. 

Holy Name Colon and Rectal Surgeon, Ronald White, MD, points out that, although deadly, colorectal cancer is, almost uniquely, one of the truly preventable cancers. Regular screening can prevent many colorectal cancers, because benign polyps that are found during the screening can be removed before they have the chance to turn into cancer. And, if cancer is found during a regular screening, it is more likely to be at an early stage when most curable.

According to Dr. White, if most adults at average risk of (with no personal or family history of colon cancer) had initial screenings at the age of 50, 75% of colorectal cancers could be eliminated. Unfortunately, fewer than 60% of Americans over the age of 50 have had a screening colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy in the past ten years, despite the recommendations of the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer and the American College of Radiology that initial screenings take place at the age of 50.

If there is a family history in a first degree relative, Dr. White recommends that the initial screening take place 10 years earlier than the index case or by age 40.  Follow-up surveillance screenings for individuals with no history should be scheduled every ten years, but for people with a history or polyps, every three to five years.

Eating a healthy, high fiber diet – low in animal fat and high in fruits, vegetables, salads - can accrue benefits over decades and help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, so it’s important to start a healthy diet in childhood.

A colonoscopy is a relatively pain-free, low-risk procedure, so eat a healthy diet, live a healthy lifestyle, reduce your alcohol intake, stop smoking and schedule a colonoscopy during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. It can save your life.

For information about programs and services or for a physician referral, please call

1-877-HOLY-NAME (1-877-465-9626) or visit

Friday, November 15, 2013

November is COPD Awareness Month

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Lung Association - surpassed only by heart disease and cancer, and COPD is not decreasing as quickly as either of those conditions. Clearly, this is a disease of which we all should be more aware. 

COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is a progressive lung disorder that makes it difficult to breathe and can eventually lead to death. Almost 13 million American adults have been diagnosed with COPD, and the American Lung Association estimates that 12 million more people may be suffering with the disease who have not been diagnosed. COPD is preventable, however, and although it cannot be cured, it can be treated through medications, exercise and other options that may help improve the patient’s quality of life - if the disease is diagnosed early enough.

Symptoms of COPD include:
    ·        Persistent cough
    ·        Shortness of breath during everyday activities
    ·        Producing a large amount of sputum
    ·        Wheezing
    ·        Feeling as if one can’t breathe or take a deep breath

The primary cause of COPD is smoking. The most important preventative measure against COPD is not to smoke, or to stop, if you are a smoker. The number of deaths among women from COPD has more than quadrupled since 1980, as smoking increased among women. Since 2000, more women than men have died from the disease. Women are also at greater risk from other causes of the disease, such as secondhand smoke, harmful workplace exposures and outdoor air pollution.

Living with chronic lung disease can be increasingly debilitating, impacting every aspect of life. If you or a family member are at risk, please see your physician and request a screening for COPD, including a spirometer breathing test. 

On Monday, November 18, Holy Name pulmonologist Brian Benoff, MD, will present an “Update on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease” through Holy Name’s Center for Healthy Living.  The program will include information about prevention and early detection as well as recommendations to help people with COPD to live more comfortably and with minimal complicating conditions. For additional information, or to register for the program, please call HNMC's Ask-a-Nurse at 1-877-HOLY-NAME (1-877-465-9626).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mammograms Save Lives

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The third Friday in October is National Mammography Day - first proclaimed by President Clinton in 1999 – when there is a special emphasis on encouraging women to make an appointment for a mammography.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. Every woman has a 12% risk of developing breast cancer during her lifetime.  The risk increases to 20-30 % if she has a family history of breast cancer and to 60-90% if she has the genetic BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. Yet, 3 out of 4 women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease and are not considered high risk. Breast cancer is clearly a disease that should concern all women.

Breast cancer becomes more common as a woman grows older, and one out of six breast cancers occur in women ages 40-49. The American College of Radiology, the American Cancer Society, and the Society for Breast Imaging recommend that women begin getting annual mammograms at age 40.

The objective of mammography is early detection of breast cancer, which can frequently be cured if it is found when it is small and has not spread to other parts of the body. Mammograms can detect changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them. There has been a 1/3 reduction in breast cancer deaths since mammography screening became widespread in 1990.

Modern mammography is effective and safe.  The radiation exposure from a mammogram is comparable to the exposure that adults receive from seven weeks of naturally occurring background exposure from natural sources and is considered by to provide very low additional lifetime fatal cancer risk. Mammography’s proven benefits of early detection and cure far outweigh any minimal radiation risk.  Digital mammography at Holy Name Medical Center is accredited by the American College of Radiology and certified by the Food and Drug Administration.

According to Joshua Gross, MD, Medical Director of Breast Imaging at Holy Name Medical Center, when the diagnosis is breast cancer, the first questions asked are: When was the last mammogram?  Could this cancer have been caught earlier?

Don’t wait. Schedule a mammography today!

To learn more about Holy Name Breast Health Services, call 1-877-Holy-Name (1-877-465-9626) or visit:
To request a free copy of “Coping with Breast Cancer: A Husband’s Perspective,” visit:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sukkot at Holy Name Medical Center

During the Festival of Sukkot, Jewish physicians, staff, and patients’ visitors are able to enjoy their meals in the Holy Name Medical Center sukkah.  Located in the ground floor patio area, the sukkah was first erected for Sukkot 2012 observance, with the enthusiastic support of Holy Name President/Chief Executive Officer Michael Maron and Executive Vice President/ Chief Medical Officer Adam Jarrett, MD, who joined staff members in the sukkah for lunch and celebration several times during the festival.

Sister Breda Boyle, Director of Pastoral Care at Holy Name, noted that providing a sukkah for our physicians, staff members and Jewish patients and family members is “very much in keeping with the Holy Name tradition of caring that addresses the medical, cultural and spiritual needs of every patient and our mission to serve every member of our community.”

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Time to Test Your Heart

Chest pains, also called angina, are scary, but are often triggered by non-cardiac causes such as underlying stress or anxiety. However, they can also be a symptom of life-threatening coronary artery disease, narrowing or blockages of the blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart.
            That’s why the first step your cardiologist might take to diagnose your angina is a cardiac stress test. This non-invasive examination evaluates your heart’s electrical system and how well it works when physically taxed by exercise or medications.
            The most common kind of stress test involves walking on a treadmill while your heart’s activity is monitored by an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). Your cardiologist will first study your heart while it is resting to obtain a baseline measurement. Then, every three minutes or so, the speed of the treadmill will be increased.
            When stressed during exercise, a heart beats faster and blood supply to the organ increases. Blood supply to specific parts of the heart muscle may lag due to a blockage in one of the arteries, which could lead to symptoms of chest pain or shortness of breath and/or EKG changes.
            A cumulative score called the Duke treadmill score, can be calculated from the time on the treadmill, EKG changes and symptoms of chest pain. This score will give your cardiologist the information he or she needs to determine whether or not you have a heart problem.
            Other forms of stress testing involve imaging. These include:
  • a stress echocardiogram, a non-invasive test that uses sound waves to visualize your heart’s structure and function before and after a stress test;
  • a nuclear stress test, which uses a radioisotope tracer (usually thallium) to image a specific area of the heart muscle.
            Patients who are unable to exercise on a treadmill due to other medical conditions—such a respiratory illness, hip/knee problem, or back pain—may undergo a pharmacological stress test. 
            This kind of test, explains Holy Name interventional cardiologist Tariqshah Syed, MD, requires the patient to lie down while the physician evokes the same kinds of responses from the heart with medication, as with treadmill exercise. “The patient is continuously monitored by a cardiologist and a nurse during all types of stress tests,” assures Dr. Syed.
            Dr. Syed notes that when the blood supply to the heart increases during exercise or because of medications, it should increase to every part of the heart.  “If not, then we suspect a blockage,” he says, “and portions of heart muscle might be in jeopardy.”
            If these blockages are in small arteries or are not severe, medication and lifestyle changes, such as amping up exercise or quitting smoking, might be prescribed. If a large portion of the heart muscle is not receiving adequate blood, an angiogram using cardiac catheterization would be the next step, says Dr. Syed.
            During an angiogram, a cardiologist threads thin catheters through the wrist or groin up to the heart to assess blood flow to the organ. If there is a blockage, an interventional procedure, such as angioplasty and stenting, may be used to open the blockage and keep it from recurring.
            Depending on the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis, Dr. Syed says a cardiologist may recommend a follow-up exercise stress test and outpatient cardiac rehabilitation.

For a referral to a Holy Name Medical Center cardiologist please call 1-877-HOLY-NAME (1-877-465-9626).

Friday, June 21, 2013

Here Comes the Sun - Skin Cancer Prevention Starts Now

Anyone who spends time outdoors in the sun needs to take important steps to prevent skin cancer. Those who must work outside during 10 am to 4 pm, when the sun is highest in the sky, must be especially careful. Even when the sky is cloudy, you can sustain sunburn. An umbrella will not protect you against damaging rays that reflect off the sand, ocean, or concrete. So to protect yourself: 
  • always wear sunscreen with at least SPF 15
  • wear a hat with a brim of at least three inches
  • wear light clothing with a close weave that doesn’t allow sunlight to pass through
  • minimize sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm if you can
  • wear UV-blocking sunglasses
  • take breaks out of the sun
  • stay hydrated

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Holy Name Medical Center Establishes Headache Treatment Program for Migraine Sufferers

Holy Name Medical Center has established a Headache Treatment Program for the care of adults, adolescents and children who suffer from intractable migraine headaches, and for whom conventional methods of therapy have failed. Holy Name neurologist James Charles,  MD, FAAN, FAHS, is medical director of the Headache Treatment Program, and is certified in headache medicine by the United Council of Neurologic Subspecialties.

Under the direction of staff neurologists, intravenous medications are administered on an outpatient basis by nursing staff specially trained in the field of headache medicine to ensure maximum safety and effectiveness. Children and teens are treated on the Medical Center’s pediatric and young adult floor; adults are treated in the adult infusion center. Most patients require one visit; others may need repetitive, daily treatment for up to three days. Holy Name is the only facility in New Jersey offering infusion therapies to intractable headache patients of all ages.
Early intervention can re-set the brain’s headache mechanism

“Studies have demonstrated that, with early intervention, as soon as the patient is identified and that patient is placed onto an appropriate treatment program, the transformation to the malignant, disabling forms of migraine can be prevented,” explains Dr. Charles.  “This is a biological disease that is often genetic. A migraine attack lowers the threshold for more brain attacks. More brain attacks cause anatomic and functional alterations of the brain, setting the stage for more frequent and debilitating migraine headaches.”

According to Dr. Charles, infusion therapy is highly effective for patients with:
Ø       chronic migraines with and without medication overuse, who have failed multiple treatments to prevent or stop migraine symptoms, and who are disabled by their headaches but do not require or desire inpatient treatment

Ø       migraine headaches lasting longer than 72 hours and that do not respond to conventional medications

Ø       acute migraine attacks that last fewer than 72 hours, are debilitating, and not responsive to self-administered medications

Ø       prolonged aura

Ø       cluster headache exacerbation

Ø       new, daily persistent headache
“While most patients experience relief after an outpatient treatment, continues Dr. Charles, “there are those whose headache attack will not terminate after days and weeks, and there are some chronic migraine patients whose headaches do not respond to oral medications.  The Headache Treatment Program at Holy Name is designed for such patients. Children, teenagers, and adults are treated with the appropriate medications to break the vicious headache cycle, and leave our infusion center feeling better. The long- term goal is to reset the brain 's neurochemistry so that, in conjunction with targeted outpatient treatment, patients can go from frequent severe headaches to minimal headaches. “

“Lowering the burden of migraine starts with educating the public, especially parents and teachers,” notes Dr. Charles. “It is a misconception that an acute headache with nausea, vomiting, and the need for bed rest is due to conditions such as sinusitis, eyestrain or dental problems. “
Facts & Stats About Migraine Headache

Ø      The World Health Organization has placed migraine in the top 20 group of most disabling diseases of the world. 

Ø      In the United States, there are 28 million people over the age of 12 who suffer with migraines.

Ø      In the US, there are eight million children under the age of 12 who suffer with migraines.

Ø      Thirty percent of migraine sufferers never see a doctor because they have low-frequency intermittent headaches, experience occasional headaches, and do not require medical assistance.

Ø      Seventy percent of migraine sufferers fall into one of two categories: About 40% will have intermediate to high-frequency migraine attacks. The remaining 30% will transform to chronic migraine which is defined as more than 15 headache days per month.

Ø      Chronic migraine patients (adults and children) have decreased academic performance, impaired work productivity, and can become socially withdrawn.  
For more information about migraine headache or the Headache Treatment Program at Holy Name Medical Center, patients may contact Holy Name’s Call Center at 1-877-HOLY-NAME.