Flu cases elevated in U.S., CDC urges prevention

Jan. 8, 2015—As of late December, about half the U.S. was experiencing high rates of influenza (flu), along with elevated numbers of hospitalizations and deaths due to the illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This elevated rate of flu is not unusual—it happens every year. Nevertheless, it is a cause for concern, especially for people at high risk for complications from the flu, including children. As of Dec. 27, CDC surveillance indicated that flu was associated with the deaths of 21 children.

About influenza surveillance

Although flu season can stretch from October through May—with cases usually peaking in December through February—CDC gathers flu data all year. The data enables CDC to track flu virus activity throughout the country, including related hospitalizations and deaths.

According to CDC’s surveillance, the pattern for the 2014–2015 flu season has been typical, beginning with reports of increased influenza-related illness, followed by increases in hospitalizations, then increases in deaths linked to the illness. Over the past several weeks, rates of flu-like illness have risen to considerable levels, and as of Dec. 27, flu was considered widespread in more than 40 states. The surveillance also shows that hospitalization rates have been increasing, especially for people 65 years and older.

This season, influenza A (H3N2) virus has been prevalent. According to CDC, H3N2 is typically associated with more severe illness and deaths compared to other strains of the virus. As the 2014–2015 flu season continues, CDC anticipates a rise in both hospitalizations and deaths.
The take-home message

The flu vaccine provides the best protection from influenza. And since flu season can last through May, it’s not too late to protect yourself and your loved ones. Learn where flu shots are available in your area at www.flu.gov.

While some of this season’s flu viruses are different from what is in the vaccine, CDC states the shot can still offer protection—and might reduce severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death.

In addition to getting your flu shot, protect yourself by washing your hands frequently and avoiding sick people.

If you come down with the flu, protect others: Stay home from work or school. Also, ask your doctor about antiviral drugs. These prescription medicines can treat your illness and help prevent serious complications such as pneumonia.

Many women missing vital step to prevent cervical cancer, says CDC

Nov. 13, 2014—Many women are not getting screened for cervical cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s concerning given the importance of the screening: It can allow doctors to detect abnormal cells before they turn into cancer and give women the opportunity to take steps to potentially prevent the disease.

About the study

CDC researchers reviewed national health data to determine the number of women who hadn’t been screened for cervical cancer in the past 5 years. They also analyzed cervical cancer cases and deaths that occurred between 2007 and 2011.

While rates of cervical cancer dropped by around 2 percent, other findings were less encouraging:

  • In 2012, nearly 8 million women ages 21 to 65 reported not being screened for cervical cancer within the past 5 years.
  • The percentage of women who had not been screened was largest among those without health insurance or a regular healthcare provider.
  • Older women and women living in the southern United States were less likely to be screened.

The numbers suggest that too many women are missing opportunities for cervical cancer screenings, which can help reduce the number of cervical cancer cases and deaths. According to CDC, more than half of all new cervical cancers occur in women who have never been screened or haven’t been screened in the last 5 years. You can read CDC’s findings here.

The take-home message
All women are at risk for cervical cancer, and getting tested can save lives. It’s essential for women to learn about their screening options and get the test that’s right for them:

  • Women ages 21 to 29, including those who have had the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), should have a Pap test—a way to screen for cervical cancer by testing for abnormal cells—every 3 years.
  • Women ages 30 to 65 should have either a Pap test every 3 years or a Pap test plus HPV test every 5 years.
  • Women over age 65 should ask their doctor if they need to continue screening.
  • All women should talk with their doctors and nurses to understand their screening results.

Health insurance plans that started on or after Sept. 23, 2010, are required to cover recommended cervical cancer screening tests—usually at no cost to you. If you don’t have health insurance, you can find a plan at www.healthcare.gov. Open enrollment starts Nov. 15, 2014.

In addition to cervical cancer screening, another good way to prevent cervical cancer is to get an HPV vaccine. Giving girls and boys ages 11 and 12 an HPV vaccine offers them the best protection against the HPV virus. Doing so can also help reduce a girl’s risk for developing cervical cancer later in life.

Read on to learn more about what you can do to identify and reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer.


Diabetes prevention classes at Memorial

Diabetes Prevention Classes at Memorial

Prediabetes is a condition where the blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Memorial’s prevention program helps people lower their risk of type 2 diabetes. Participants meet in groups with a trained lifestyle coach for 16 weekly, one-hour sessions and seven monthly follow up sessions.

If you would like to register for a class or inquire about class dates, call 249-5317.

Please note:
*No referral needed to attend the prevention classes
*Classes are available in Spanish

If you would like to learn more about this program, you can attend an orientation on the last Monday of each month from 4-4:30 p.m. at Memorial’s Community Education Center at 2506 W. Nob Hill Blvd. No registration is necessary for the orientation.

How do I know this program is for me?
•Are you an overweight adult?
•Do you have family members with diabetes?
•Have you had gestational diabetes during pregnancy or did any of your babies weigh 9 lbs or more at birth?
•Have you ever been told you have high blood sugar, prediabetes, or borderline diabetes?

If you answered yes to any of these, you may be at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes Screening Widget


Schedule a group mammogram today!

Take care of what’s really important – your health.

A yearly mammogram could save your life!

Group Mammogram Events are being offered by ‘Ohana, Memorial’s Mammography center.    We can host groups of ladies from work, clubs/organizations, or family and friends.   Scheduling a group event will allow you to enjoy your annual screening mammogram in a fun, friendly, supportive environment.

Event guidelines:
Screening mammograms only – asymptomatic
Participants must be at least 40 years of age
Participants need to be established with a primary care provider

Door prizes and complimentary healthy snacks are provided for groups of ten (10) or more.

Appointment requirements are:
1 hour for 10 people
1.5 hours for 10-15 people
2.5 hours for 15-30 people

We welcome the opportunity to serve the mammogram needs of your group.

If you are interested in scheduling a group event, please contact Brenda at (509) 574-3874, or you can request additional information by email: brendabishop@yvmh.org.

It’s not too late to participate in the breast cancer campaign – stop by ‘Ohana or visit keepsupportlocal.org throughout the month of October to make a donation. Your donation supports breast cancer screenings for women in need and helps to ensure our community has the latest diagnostic and treatment technologies for all Yakima Valley women. Donate today!

Changes in skirt size linked to breast cancer risk

Oct. 10, 2014—Going up a skirt size might mean something worse than going shopping for new clothes—it could mean a greater risk of breast cancer.

A recent study found that going up a full skirt size every decade between age 25 and menopause increased a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer after menopause by 33 percent, compared to women whose skirt sizes didn’t change.

The study

Researchers studied almost 93,000 women in the United Kingdom between 2005 and 2010. Participants were all over 50, postmenopausal and not known to have breast cancer when they entered the study.

The women completed detailed questionnaires about their health, habits and family histories. In particular, the researchers looked at data relating to known risk factors for breast cancer, including height, weight, body mass index (BMI), use of hormone replacement therapy, treatment for infertility and a family history of breast cancer. The women also recorded their current skirt sizes and what they were in their 20s.

After three to four years, the researchers followed up with the participants and found that 1,090 women had developed breast cancer during the study period. That means the absolute risk of breast cancer for all women in the study was just over 1 percent. As expected, the researchers found increased breast cancer risk among women who had known risk factors, including infertility treatment, family history of breast or ovarian cancer, and use of hormone replacement therapy.

Eyes on the size

After accounting for known breast cancer risk factors, researchers identified skirt size increase as an additional risk factor.

At age 25, women in the study had an average skirt size of a U.K. 12 (equivalent to an 8 in the U.S.). When they entered the study, the average skirt size was U.K. 14, or U.S. 10. Skirt size increased over adulthood for 3 out of 4 participants.

Researchers found that going up one full skirt size every 10 years increased a woman’s breast cancer risk by 33 percent. They also found that an increase of two full skirt sizes within 10 years was associated with a 77 percent increase in relative risk. There are no odd-numbered sizes in the U.K., so a jump from 12 to 14 was one full size.

The researchers found that the association of skirt size increase with breast cancer risk was independent of known risk factors such as weight or BMI. They noted that comparing current and previous skirt sizes in postmenopausal women appeared to be a better predictor of breast cancer risk than BMI.

Learn more about the study in the online journal BMJ Open.

The take-home message
Risk factors are just that—factors. They don’t mean that you’ll definitely get a disease, and many women who develop breast cancer have no apparent risk factors.

However, this study suggests that the link between weight gain around the waist and breast cancer risk is real. According to the American Cancer Society, extra weight in the abdomen may affect breast cancer risk more than fat on the thighs or hips.

Keeping an eye on your skirt size can be a simple way to monitor weight gain around your waist. This information can help you make informed decisions about diet and exercise too.

Work with your physician to monitor your health, your weight and your risk factors. To learn more about what health factors may put you at greater risk for developing breast cancer, take this breast cancer risk assessment.

Take steps to reduce your risk for breast cancer

As of yet, there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in this country. Even so, there are steps women can take to reduce their risk. And October, which is nationally recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is the ideal time to take them.

One key safeguard is for women to maintain a healthy weight, especially in midlife and later. After menopause, most of the hormone estrogen in a woman’s body comes from fat cells. Estrogen can spur the growth of many breast tumors, and being overweight or obese can raise breast cancer risk. Women may be especially vulnerable to breast cancer if extra pounds settle on their waist, rather than their hips and thighs.

These additional steps may help women reduce their risk for breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS):

• Avoid alcohol. Drinking is clearly tied to a heightened risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, your risk increases the more you drink.

• Be active. A growing body of research indicates that exercise lowers breast cancer risk. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week.

• Carefully weigh the pros and cons of hormone therapy. Hormone therapy that uses both estrogen and progesterone can increase breast cancer risk in as few as two years of use. The use of estrogen alone after menopause does not seem to raise the risk of developing breast cancer. If a woman and her doctor agree that hormone therapy is necessary to ease bothersome menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, it is best to take the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time.

Since breast cancer can develop even with these precautions, the ACS advises women to have yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as they are in good health.

Regular mammograms (breast x-rays) can detect cancer in its early stages and give women a head start on potentially lifesaving treatment. If you have a heightened risk of breast cancer—for example, if you have very dense breasts—ask your doctor if you need additional screening tests, such as an MRI scan.

Memorial’s Diabetes Prevention Program – Changing Lives

We just completed week 4 of the Diabetes Prevention Program when a participant in the class started talking about a goal that she had set for herself. Her goal was to walk up four flights of stairs as she would normally take the elevator to avoid the stairs. She told us that she had finally accomplished that goal. Everyone started applauding her and congratulating her for reaching this goal. The amount of support I felt coming from the class participants was amazing. I hope others in the class realize that no matter how big or small of a goal you have, if you just stick with it you can accomplish it! This moment in class reaffirmed why I am happy that I became a lifestyle coach. I am honored that these women have allowed me to help them lead healthier lives by giving them the tools they need to succeed in this program.

By Catherine Shepler

Diabetes Prevention Program
Prediabetes is a condition where the blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Memorial’s prevention program helps people lower their risk of type 2 diabetes. Participants meet in groups with a trained lifestyle coach for 16 weekly, one-hour sessions and seven monthly follow up sessions. If you would like to learn more about this program, you can attend an orientation on the last Monday of each month from 4-4:30 p.m. at Memorial’s Community Education Center at 2506 W. Nob Hill Blvd. No registration is necessary for the orientation.

How do I know this program is for me?
• Are you an overweight adult?
• Do you have family members with diabetes?
• Have you had gestational diabetes during pregnancy or did any of your babies weigh 9 lbs or more at birth?
• Have you ever been told you have high blood sugar, prediabetes, or borderline diabetes?

If you answered yes to any of these, you may be at risk for type 2 diabetes.
For more information about this program, please call Lori Gibbons at 509-248-7322.

Aspirin and cancer prevention: A new job for an old remedy

Aug. 22, 2014—New research suggests that taking an aspirin a day could keep cancer away. But that doesn’t mean you should rush to the drugstore and stock up.

Taking an aspirin a day for at least five years may indeed lower the risk for certain cancers, according to a review of current data published in Annals of Oncology, and it may help to reduce heart-related problems too. But since aspirin is also linked to a number of other problems, including bleeding, consumers should talk to their doctors before they start popping pills, especially if they have peptic ulcers or bleeding tendencies.

About the study

Researchers pulled data from existing studies to do their work. Some of the studies took a global view of aspirin’s benefits and drawbacks, but others were tightly focused on how aspirin either did or didn’t help in preventing specific types of cancer.

With this data in hand, researchers performed a series of analyses, attempting to determine if taking a daily aspirin helped to prevent cancer or other health problems, including heart attack and stroke. Researchers also attempted to determine the harms that might come from aspirin use.

The findings

Bleeding is always a concern for people who take aspirin for long periods of time. But the researchers found that a daily dose had a number of benefits that could offset the risk of bleeding in some people.

For example, for average-risk people aged 50 to 65 years, the research indicates there would be a reduction of between 7 percent (for women) and 9 percent (for men) in the number of heart attacks, strokes or cancers over a 15-year period in response to daily aspirin use.

The researchers looked at the effect of aspirin on specific cancers and found that aspirin may offer protection against colorectal, esophageal and stomach cancers. The benefits were smaller for breast, lung and prostate cancers.

The authors believe more research is needed to determine exactly how much aspirin people should take and how long they should take it in order to reap the potential benefits. But they summarize their work by saying that, in general, the cancer-prevention benefits of aspirin seem to outweigh its risks, especially since aspirin may also provide protection from heart disease.

Read the study here.

The take-home message
Although the benefits of aspirin may outweigh the risk of serious harm, you should talk to your doctor before starting a daily aspirin regimen. Your doctor can help you to weigh the benefits and risks based on your specific health history.

Meanwhile, scientists know for sure that you can reduce your cancer risk by making these lifestyle choices:

  • Quit tobacco
  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Protect your skin from excessive UV exposure
  • Get enough sleep
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise regularly
  • Receive regular medical care

Finally, follow your doctor’s advice about when to get vaccinated against cancer-causing diseases like human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B and when to get screened for cancers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, screening for cervical and colorectal cancer helps find precancerous lesions so they can be treated before they become cancerous. Screenings also help identify breast, cervical and colorectal cancers at an early stage—when they are highly treatable.