skin cancer

Reduce Your Risk of Developing Skin Cancer

Achieving that once enviable, sun-kissed glow of summer not only speeds up the development of skin discolorations and wrinkles, it also dramatically increases your chance of skin cancer. Today, we know that there is a clear link between sun exposure and skin cancer. Yet, many are surprised to learn their risk. More than 4 million cases of basal cell carcinoma and 1 million cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed in the United States each year. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. (source: Skin Cancer Foundation)

Most of us are exposed to substantial amounts of the sun’s rays throughout our lifetime. They are present during daylight hours, even when it’s cloudy. UVA and UVB rays play a key role in skin aging, wrinkling and skin cancer. Exposure to them causes cumulative damage over time. Having had one or more blistering sunburns as a child or teenager can even increase your risk of developing skin cancer as an adult.

Make Sunscreen a Daily Habit

The good news is that you can greatly reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, as well as slow down skin aging, by using a few proven preventive strategies. This starts with applying a sunscreen daily with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 with a broad spectrum to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Anything above SPF 30 has little incremental benefit, and below 30 is not effective enough. If applied correctly, this will block up to 97 percent of damaging rays. Reapplication is important, particularly if you are in the water or sweating.

There are two different sunscreen types on the market – chemical and physical blockers. Chemical blockers work by absorbing the sun’s rays, and physical blockers deflect the rays. Chemical sunscreens typically offer more coverage but take about 20 minutes after application to be effective. Some individuals can experience irritation from the active ingredients in sunscreens with chemical blockers. Physical sunscreens contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They work immediately after application. Products containing zinc oxide are typically better for those with sensitive skin and offer protection against the entire spectrum of UVA and UVB rays. There are sunscreens on the market that contain both chemical and physical blockers.

Many women use makeup that contains sunscreen. While this can offer some level of protection, it typically is not sufficient. The safest bet is to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen under makeup. Don’t forget to use a lip balm or lipstick that also has SPF.

Other Skin Protection Strategies

While making sunscreen application a regular part of your daily routine is an important part of reducing your chance of developing skin cancer, it’s not the only way to protect your skin.

“No sunscreen is going to block 100 percent of the sun’s rays,” says Dr. Victoria Sharon, Director of Dermatologic Surgery and Dermato-Oncology at Northwell Health. “You need a multi-faceted approach that also includes wearing protective clothing and sunglasses and avoiding sun exposure during peak sunlight hours between 10am and 3pm.”

There are also new options when it comes to UV-protective products. A growing number of retailers are selling shirts, hats, pants, swimsuits and other clothing items that are made from fabric infused with chemicals that absorb UV rays. You can also create your own protective clothes by using one of the laundry detergents or laundry additives now available that distribute UV protection chemicals onto fabrics during the wash cycle.

Watch for Skin Cancer Symptoms

Most skin cancers are highly treatable when caught at an early stage. This is why it’s also important to watch for common signs of skin cancer. This means remembering the ABCDEs:

  • “A” for asymmetrical. Is a mole or spot irregular with two parts that look different?
  • “B” for border. Is the border irregular or uneven?
  • “C” for color. Is the color inconsistent?
  • “D” for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a small pencil eraser?
  • “E” for evolving. Has the mole or sot changed over a period of weeks or months?

If you have noticed a change, such as a new mole, a sore that doesn’t heal or any of the ABCDEs, get it checked out by your doctor. Learn more about the ABDEs of melanoma.

Want to learn more about preventing skin cancer? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

endometriosis

Endometriosis: Facts for Every Woman

Approximately 5 million women in North America have endometriosis. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and commonly include painful menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), pelvic pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, pain during intercourse or bowel movements and infertility.

Although endometriosis is common, it’s also widely misunderstood and often misdiagnosed. Education is important to increasing awareness. We recently joined Dr. Christine Metz, Investigator at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and Professor at the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, for a Q&A session on the topic of endometriosis. Dr. Metz shared some valuable information and insights.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is characterized by the growth of endometrial tissue or lesions outside of the uterus. These lesions can grow on the lining of the pelvis, internal organs (e.g. the outside of the uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes and rectum). In some women, lesions can grow on more distant areas of the body, including the diaphragm, lungs, kidneys and brain.

What causes endometriosis?

The cause of endometriosis is not completely understood. However, many researchers believe that it arises after abnormal menstrual flow where menstrual blood is carried through the fallopian tubes into the pelvic cavity instead of exiting through the vagina. Like the endometrium, which sheds monthly, endometriosis lesions bleed in response to monthly hormone fluctuations. Other factors that may influence endometriosis are genetics and environmental and immune system factors.

How is endometriosis diagnosed?

One of the most frustrating problems for patients with endometriosis is delayed diagnosis, which can take up to 10 years. The diagnosis of endometriosis requires laparoscopic surgery with pathology confirmation of the biopsy specimens. Early diagnosis by a doctor who specializes in treating endometriosis patients is important because early treatment can dramatically improve patient outcomes.

Do pain and other symptoms correlate with the severity of endometriosis?

No. Pain and other symptoms do NOT always correlate with the severity of the disease.

What are the treatments for endometriosis?

While there is no cure for endometriosis, treatments include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs and other pain relievers, hormonal contraceptives (e.g. birth control pills or vaginal rings), other hormonal agents (e.g. gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists and antagonists, androgenic agents, progestins and Danazol) and surgery to remove the lesions or the uterus (in severe cases only).

What can women do?

Researchers at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell Health are looking for women with and without endometriosis to participate in the ROSE (Research OutSmarts Endometriosis) research study. Our goal is to investigate the causes of endometriosis and develop non-invasive diagnostic methods and new treatments for women suffering with endometriosis. For additional information, please contact us at ROSE@northwell.edu or call 516-562-ENDO (3636).

Katz Institute for Women’s Health is also here to answer your questions about endometriosis. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

Debunking Medical Myths

Debunking Medical Myths

Nearly every day, there are news stories about “breakthroughs,” “scientific findings” and “promising research.” There are also countless online medical resources, including many that publish unproven medical myths. With so much information out there of varying degrees of quality and accuracy, it can be very difficult to decipher the facts from fiction when it comes to women’s health and wellness. So, what’s the best way to determine the truth in medical headlines and online medical information? Here are a few tips to help guide you to the truth.

Don’t Jump to Conclusions

With increasing health-related headlines and news, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. What was once reported to be healthy can quickly be debunked and deemed downright risky. Before you make medical decisions based on a specific study or website, it’s important to consider that not all online medical information is significant or even valid.

Learn What Makes a Study Trustworthy

Not sure how to determine the validity or importance of a study? You will want to look at two key factors that can determine its reliability. First, it should be a randomized controlled trial. And, the study results should be published in an established journal such as the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association or Lancet.

Rely on Reliable Health Information Websites

The Northwell Health site is a valuable source of accurate healthcare information. As well, the National Institutes of Health website is a trustworthy source for health information. Be leery of websites that are primarily testimonials or personal stories. Not everyone experiences health-related issues the same way. In other words, one person’s experience is not as compelling as clinical research.

Talk to Your Doctor

Most importantly, discuss any health or wellness issues with your healthcare provider. Don’t stop medication or treatment just because you saw a compelling report on a news channel. It’s important to talk to your doctor to determine if the study does apply to you and if it is reliable.

Do you have medical or healthcare questions? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here with the latest information and facts. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

The Importance of Gender-Specific Research

The Importance of Gender-Specific Research

While there has been considerable publicity about the gender pay gap, it’s by no means the only inequality that women face on a widespread basis. We’ve learned that gender differences matter in all aspects of health and disease and we should not assume that study results for men are the same as for women. Historically, there has been a lack of gender-specific research which has had an impact on the ability of women to obtain accurate diagnosis and treatment. Because females have been generally excluded from research participation, they unfortunately have been overlooked in research findings.

Encouraging Researchers to Enroll More Women in Studies

There have been significant strides to encourage more gender-specific research which is enabling healthcare professionals to provide more specialized, effective care for women. More than 20 years ago, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) made a ruling that every study they funded had to state whether women and minorities were included and in what proportions. If women were not included, an explanation was required. In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Women’s Health, in partnership with the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health, launched the Diverse Women in Clinical Trials Campaign to further raise awareness about the importance of diverse women participating in clinical trials. The NIH, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to develop new policies, programs and procedures to mandate and implement the inclusion of more women, as well as racial and ethnic minorities, in research.

The Challenge of Gender Disparity in Medical Research

Despite efforts to enroll more women in studies, there continues to be an under representation of female participants. According to the NIH, only one-third of cardiovascular clinical trial participants are female. Yet, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of both men and women, and their presenting symptoms and response to treatments are different.

“Large gender gaps in research participation limit our findings on the difference between men’s and women’s health,” says Dr. Christina Brennan, MD, MBA, Vice-President, Clinical Research, Northwell Health. “Even when women are enrolled, the data is not analyzed and reported separately which can limit our understanding of findings.”

More recently, in the cases of heart disease, as well as lung cancer, there has been increased inclusion of women in research and clinical trials. This has led to greater knowledge and better tools for clinicians to provide optimal care for women.

Participating in a Clinical Trial

Although many women participate in clinical trials, there is still the need for greater involvement. Women from all ages, racial and ethnic groups can participate in trials, including those with disabilities or chronic health conditions. Through participation, women can make a difference by helping doctors learn more about women’s health.

Want to learn more about gender-specific research? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

Integrative Medicine: A Holistic Approach to Healthcare

Integrative Medicine: A Holistic Approach to Healthcare

What Are the Benefits of Integrative Medicine?

Integrative medicine is about teaching healthier habits and treating the whole person and not just specific symptoms. The benefits are often far-reaching and long-lasting for patients. Integrative medicine can be an excellent tool for sustaining good health, as well as for treating chronic issues and painful or debilitating diseases and injuries.

Key Principles of Integrative Medicine

Unlike alternative medicine which refers to an approach to healing that is used in place of conventional medical therapies, integrative medicine uses all appropriate therapeutic approaches to achieve optimal health and healing. The following are some of the key principles of integrative medicine:

  • A strong partnership between patient and physician
  • Use of both conventional and alternative medicines and modalities
  • A focus on non-invasive treatments when possible
  • A clear emphasis on promoting health and illness prevention through ongoing healthy living

Combining Therapies

Over the last several decades, the popularity of combining conventional treatments with complementary therapies has grown tremendously. Patients and healthcare providers who were once skeptical of alternative treatments have become believers in the benefits of an integrative approach.

Increasingly, healthcare professionals who specialize in modern medicine are incorporating integrative medicine to promote health and wellness. By combining these approaches with conventional therapies, integrative practitioners can partner with patients and their primary healthcare providers to help relieve pain, reduce stress and support overall well-being.

And, many healthcare providers themselves use integrative approaches for their own personal healthcare because of the distinct health and wellness benefits.

“All medicine is integrative,” says Lucy P. Gade, MD, MPH, Medical Director, Center for Wellness and Integrative Medicine, Northwell Health. “By shifting from being disease-oriented to health-oriented, we can identify risks and minimize them as part of a whole person approach to healthcare. This can enable individuals to live healthier and happier lives.”

Common Integrative Health Approaches Used in Integrative Medicine

  • Deep breathing
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi or qi gong
  • Meditation
  • Massage
  • Functional nutrition
  • Homeopathy
  • Guided imagery

Want to learn more about integrative medicine? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

eye exam

Protect Your Vision with a Comprehensive Eye Examination

It’s likely that you undergo regular vision screenings every year or so, particularly if you wear corrective lenses. “While vision screening is ideal for identifying vision problems,” says Dr. Anne Sara Steiner, MD, Director of the Northwell Health Ocular Service Center, “it cannot take the place of a comprehensive eye examination designed to identify even the earliest stages of eye disease.” This is why the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that adults with no signs of risk factors for eye disease, get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40 and regular follow-up exams based on your doctor’s recommendation.

Comprehensive Eye Examination

While a typical vision exam is relatively short and focused on vision correction, a comprehensive eye examination is far more detailed and thorough. During this type of exam, which can take up to two hours, you will undergo:

  • A complete health and medication history and vision history
  • An eye health evaluation
  • Visual acuity testing to determine sharpness and clarity of both near and distance vision
  • Visual field testing to determine your level of peripheral vision
  • Evaluation of pupil size and pupillary responses
  • Evaluation of eye movement

Using a device called a slit lamp, the front part of your eyes, as well as your eyelids, will be checked. Due in large part to our increasing use of electronic devices, dry eye has become a very common problem. If you experience frequent burning, itching or redness or have sensitivity to light, make sure to mention this to your doctor. Signs of dry eye will be identified during the exam, and there are effective preventive strategies and treatments for it.

You will also undergo an exam through dilated pupils which looks at the back of the eye, including the retina, macula and the optic nerve for signs of disease. During this part of the exam, drops are placed in each eye to widen the pupil and allow more light to enter the eye. Sight-threatening eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, can be identified.

With each part of the exam, your doctor will build a complete picture of your eye health and will work with you to make the best decisions on any treatment necessary, as well as preventive care and the suggested schedule for follow-up exams.

Ahead of your exam

Your comprehensive eye exam should be an important part of your ongoing healthcare maintenance. To maximize its value, schedule sufficient time for the entire exam and come prepared with questions and concerns. Your vision is incredibly important to protect, but with proactive eye exams, you can greatly increase your chances of perserving your sight for a lifetime.

Want to learn more about eye health? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

colorectal cancer

Take Action to Prevent Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer doesn’t get the same amount of attention as some high-profile cancers, but it should. Many women are surprised to learn that colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Found most often in individuals who are 50 and older, this common form of cancer is highly preventable. In fact, six out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented with regular screening.

Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives

Screening for colorectal cancer can help find cancer at an early stage and decrease your chance of dying from it. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening colonoscopy beginning at age 50 and continuing until age 75 years. Women who are at a higher risk of developing this form of cancer should be screened at a younger age and may need more frequent screening.

The colonoscopy procedure is painless with a low risk of complications. Written instructions, provided by your doctor, prescribe a solution required to cleanse the colon. Fortunately, colonoscopy prep has improved over the years and the days of consuming large amounts of an unpleasant tasting laxative prior to the procedure are over. During the colonoscopy, your physician looks at the interior walls of the rectum and colon with a flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope. If polyps are discovered, samples of tissue may be collected for closer examination and polyps can be removed.

“Simply put, screening colonoscopy saves lives,” says Dr. David Rivadeneira, Director of Colon and Rectal Surgery at Huntington Hospital. “Colorectal cancer is extremely prevalent, yet screening is fast and very safe with a very low complication rate.”

Colorectal Screening Tests

While colonoscopy remains the gold standard screening test for colorectal cancer, there are new tests now being introduced that use advanced DNA technology to find elevated levels of altered DNA which could be associated with cancer or pre-cancer. These tests include Cologuard, which is a single stool sample kit that patients can use at home.

Other colorectal cancer screening tests that are currently available include:

  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test – Checks for hidden blood in stool samples.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy – Looks at the interior walls of the rectum and part of the colon.

It’s important to discuss with your doctor which test is best for your specific needs.

What Else Can You Do to Prevent Colorectal Cancer?

Along with getting regular screenings for colorectal cancer, there are also lifestyle decisions you can make to lower your risk.

  • Don’t smoke
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get regular exercise
  • Drink alcohol only moderately, if not at all
  • Limit red meat, especially processed meat
  • Get the daily recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D in your diet
  • Take a multivitamin with folate

Want to learn more about colorectal cancer prevention? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist. For questions about colorectal cancer and screenings, please contact Dr. David Rivadeneira at 631-470-1450.

healthy-eating

Simple Tips for Everyday Healthy Eating

While it’s a given that we all need balanced nutrition for good health, it can sometimes be challenging to put this into daily practice. For many women, the hectic daily routine of work and family means that optimal food choices are put on the back burner. It can be overwhelming to think about making sweeping changes to your diet. The reality is that even small improvements can make a big difference. It’s also true that changes that turn into healthy eating habits are developed over time.

March is National Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme is Put Your Best Fork Forward – a reminder that every bite counts. With every meal or snack, you can choose a nutritious option. The following are some simple ideas that can help you eat better each day.

Choose a color a day for fruits and vegetables

With many healthy eating options to select from, one way to narrow down your choices is to focus on one color of produce for each day. For example, on Monday, choose from the bounty of red options, including peppers, apples, berries and potatoes. When you begin to make choices based on the amazing spectrum of colorful fruits and vegetables, you can enjoy old favorites and experiment with new options, too.

Choose more whole grains

Eating grains, particularly whole grains, is an important part of healthy eating. Grains provide important nutrients, including fiber, several B vitamins and minerals, such as iron, magnesium and selenium. By swapping out white bread, biscuits, and pasta for whole grain alternatives, you may also help reduce blood cholesterol levels and your chance of developing heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Include low-fat dairy products or dairy alternatives

When possible, choose fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese. For those who are lactose intolerant, there are lactose-free products available, as well as calcium-fortified, plant-based milk substitutes. Other beneficial sources of calcium to consider include sardines, leafy greens, and some types of beans.

Watch your portions

How much we eat is as important as what we eat. Americans are eating larger portions than ever, and this is a big contributor to the growing epidemic of obesity in the United States. Not sure how many calories you’re taking in each day? Check out the USDA’s SuperTracker. This tool can help you evaluate the foods you eat and compare them to your nutrition targets.

Keep healthy snacks on hand

You’ll reduce your risk of grabbing for a candy bar or other less-than-healthy snack if you have more nutritious options available. Easy options include nuts, protein bars and plain yogurt.

Find activities you enjoy

You don’t have to be training for a marathon to get sufficient physical activity. The key is finding activities that you like to do on a regular basis. A simple walk each day is a great place to start. Consider partnering with a buddy who can keep you “on track.”

Avoid fast weight loss diets

Fad diets may help you take off a few pounds, but it’s unlikely that the weight loss will last.

“Fad diets just don’t work,” says Marissa Licata, MS, RD, CDN, Registered Dietitian, Katz Institute for Women’s Health. “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Choose a weight loss plan that teaches you how to make long-term positive changes. Changes to behavior and the type of food you choose is where you’ll find long-term success.”

Get Expert Advice and Guidance

A licensed dietitian can help you improve your health and manage diseases. By working with you to create personalized meal planning, you gain the tools you need to make sound nutritional choices.

Want to learn more about resources to support your nutritional needs? At the Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.