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- Nurse Barb
Recently, I gave viewers a behind the scenes look at some of the innovations taking place at the Breast Health Center at El Camino Hospital.
I’m reading Atul Gawande’s book Mortality and thought I’d share a story about how I care for my patients as they continue on life’s journey.
Katherine was one of my favorite patients. I met her when she was in her early 70’s and cared for her well into her 90’s. She was a breast cancer survivor and we were monitoring her bone health because she, like 1 in ?? women after menopause had developed osteoporosis. As she aged, our conversations changed. At each visit, she not only provided updates of her medical history, all of her new medications but I also heard the latest on her kids, saw the school photos of her grandkids, and best of all, listened to some of the best travel stories and advice before Trip Advisor was ever created. She and her husband took full advantage of retirement and managed 2- 3 trips each year to exotic locations I could only dream of.
I learned from caring for Katherine to live every moment. She brought in smudged black and white photos of her family smiling in their black rubber boots about to board a sea-plane in the early 60’s in the wilds of Alaska. I remember her telling me about a trip to St. Petersburg when she was 92, and how much she loved going back to visit Paris. “I love to walk wherever I go, the only thing that stops me now, is sometimes I get out of breath as I get older.”
As many of you know, I’ve been helping care for a friend with advanced leukemia, who requires blood and platelet transfusions every 1-3 days, chemotherapy and a range of other services. The physical and emotional toll on him, his family and all of his supportive friends and loved ones has been tremendous.
One aspect that has been particularly frustrating for his family is trying to make sense of all different information they’re hearing from the 12+ doctors that are constantly rotating through the clinics. I just wish that the new Cancer Center at El Camino Hospital with its long list of patient centered amenities all designed to care for patients and families had been available to them when they began this journey.
Before the Center begins serving patient needs, El Camino Hospital invites you for a tour of the new facility at a special open house on March 7th. This is a great opportunity to meet the Cancer Center staff and physicians, and learn
more about the expanded and personalized services that will be available in one convenient location. Stop by and enjoy some light refreshments and entertainment provided by our Healing Arts program, and see how we’re building on our foundation of physician-directed, patient-centric, seamless care. (more…)
Your Family Medical History contains a treasure trove of information that could save your life. As researchers delve into the human genome and find more and more clues to what conditions we’re likely to have, how we might respond to certain medications and whether we’re at higher risk for certain cancers, there’s never been a better time to gather your own family history. It’s not hard to do, and this Free Family Medical History Tool will help.
It’s true that your family history is the first and best genetic test and it’s the first step in looking for patterns of conditions, risks of cancers and how you and your family might respond to certain medications. This video explains more.
Consider Maria Ward* who recently got over her embarrassment and reluctance to discuss a her extended family’s history of stomach and other types of cancers and discovered a pattern. She figured that there were too many people in the same family who had stomach, colon or ovarian cancer to be a random or chance event. (more…)
Women, like Angelina Jolie and me, who have a family history of breast cancer worry more about breast cancer according to a new study. One of the best things that I did was to get tested for the BRCA 1 & 2 genes, which helped me have more information and less fear.
Having information and then talking about it with my surgeon, breast specialist and gynecologist helped me feel more empowered. (more…)
I remember how difficult it was to ask my mother to be tested for the breast cancer gene. She had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer by that time and knew that her time was limited. She had breast cancer at age 32, one of her maternal aunts had died of breast cancer and she thought that her maternal grandmother died of ovarian cancer. I knew from my work in women’s health that if she carried the BRCA genetic mutation that I had a 50/50 chance of also carrying it.
What if you have a family history of breast cancer?
For women with a family history of breast cancer, there is the worry that they too will develop it. Many, like Angelina Jolie have been tested for the BRCA gene. In the past we believed that family history with or without the BRCA mutation was still a risk factor for developing breast cancer.
New evidence from Stanford
Allison Kurian is helping to provide peace of mind to millions of women. Her findings: There is no higher risk of breast cancer for women who don’t have BRCA mutation but have relatives who do. (more…)
Joseph’s brother was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 38 and is now battling a recurrence after 5 years of being cancer free. As they looked closely at the family history, there were several other aunts and uncles who had also had cancer in the stomach, pancreas or bladder. Joseph asked me about genetic testing for himself and his children. He wondered if these cancers were random events or related to a genetic disorder.
You can see the interview here.
I’m delighted to be working with El Camino Hospital to inform people about the incredible services available there, including The Genomics Institute and the Health Library. The more I learn about their programs and services, the more impressed I am with their commitment to do whatever it takes to help people live their best lives. I’m excited that they’re offering Health Perks to my readers and followers free of charge. I hope you’ll take advantage of it.
Please click here for more information.
As you do your holiday baking, wrapping and hopefully a little relaxing, there’s one more thing to add to your to do list. When you get together for any family get togethers, try to make time to ask about the family health history. (more…)