It never fails, and you can probably relate. It’s Saturday morning, and you’re finally ready to tackle that simple job around the house that’s been nagging at you for weeks. But in the process of hanging that antique chandelier, you chip the drywall on the ceiling and damage the chair you were standing on. In some ways, medical treatment can be the same process. You achieve the big goal, but there are often side effects, like scarring and recovery, to consider.
That’s the beauty of newer, more targeted treatments that don’t even break the skin. One undergoing study at Sunnybrook is called MRI-guided high-intensity focused ultrasound technology, or HIFU. It’s a mouthful, but offering great promise for women with fibroids that cause symptoms, like pain and heavy bleeding. (While many women have fibroids, only those that experience discomfort from these non-cancerous tumors need treatment.) The MRI maps out where the fibroids are in and around the uterus, and then a special computer system, built right into the table where the patient lays, zaps them through the skin, destroying them. It’s like guiding hot sunrays through a magnifying glass, burning the target in a series of hits.
It’s a welcome option to surgery or more invasive treatments. Sunnybrook is currently conducting trials on patients with fibroids, but HIFU could apply to many other areas as well, like reaching hard to reach tumors in the brain. In fact, Sunnybrook is researching the potential of a special helmet to do just that. Premier Dalton McGuinty got a first hand look last week, when the establishment of The Ontario Brain Institute was announced here at Sunnybrook. The helmet looks like a new-age version of an old-fashioned beauty salon dryer (yes, the large dome you pull over your head of curlers). But this device hopes to enhance health, not hair.
For now, the small fibroid study is showing great results. I recently met with one of the study participants in her home. She compared the size of her fibroid to a four-month pregnancy, causing symptoms like bloating and discomfort. The thought of undergoing surgery was something she wanted to avoid at all costs, so was happy to hear there was another avenue to explore. She said the procedure was relatively simple, and a few hours after surgery, was enjoying dinner out with friends. She was also back to work the next day. But the cherry on top was feeling relief from her symptoms almost instantly.
Of course no approach is perfect. HIFU won’t replace surgery or other approaches, but may be a great option for many patients. Like chandelier shopping, choice is always a great thing. And if the drywall remains intact, even better.
For more information on the fibroid study, contact Linda Gargaro (Linda.email@example.com), or call 416-480-6100, extension 2363.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
Watch this week's video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i66q9BCYlOo
I know I won’t be endearing myself to anyone here at the hospital by admitting that I love the show House. If you’ve ever seen it, you know that wacky medical conditions overtake patients as rapidly as a charging bull. The most notorious location for a complete physical break down seems to be inside the 6-foot tube (known officially as the “bore”) of the MRI machine. Encapsulated within a claustrophobic space, this is when most actors-turned-patients expel an insane amount of bloody vomit, or suffer a bout of delusion laced with a violent seizure.
In reality, having an MRI is good for patients, not ratings, meaning it’s typically routine and drama-free. MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging, technology that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to scan the body and produce detailed images. It’s used for everything from back pain to sprained ankles, helping to either detect a problem or figure out the extent of an injury.
Sunnybrook’s three MRI machines scan more than 16,000 patients every year. And for the vast majority, it’s a matter of, “bring your health card, lay down here and keep still for a moment”. You’ll be screened in advance to check for any implanted devices that could inhibit the test. (Unlike certain House scenes would suggest, the MRI magnet won’t rip pacemakers out of your chest, but may in reality interfere with their functioning or placement). It’s best to come to the hospital bling-free, so leave your jewellery and zipper-ladden clothing at home. And if you are having a pelvic or abdominal scan, don’t drink for 4 to 6 hours before your MRI. That’s about it.
The length of the test itself varies, from about 15 minutes to over one hour. And while it would be nice to use this time for rest and reflection, the loud banging noise emitted by the machine makes that hard to do. You will be offered earplugs beforehand, and that definitely helps.
You may also want to talk to your family doctor before coming in about getting a prescription for oral sedation, especially if you find yourself anxious in small spaces. It won’t put you to sleep, but will relax you. Kind of like sitting down to watch your favorite TV show…
For more information, click here.
Monday, November 1, 2010
By all accounts, it looks like a group of friends gathered around the kitchen island for a casual brunch. Hands reach for ramekins filled with fresh corn and legumes, tossed (over lively conversation) into a bowl of barley and mint. The only thing missing is the wine! But on closer inspection, this small gathering is much more than it appears to be. The colorful meal created here at Wellspring, a cancer support service on the Sunnybrook campus, is actually meant to inspire health and self-empowerment.
Wellspring already offers more than 50 free programs to meet the physical and emotional needs of cancer patients and their caregivers. This newest one is called “Nourish”, and is essentially a nutrition program where participants can sample food, learn new recipes and the science behind the fuel that can help boost energy, reduce side effects and cut the risk of infection.
I met one of the participants, a breast cancer survivor who, admittedly, wasn’t a very good cook (I can relate!). A long course of chemotherapy had left her 30 pounds lighter, and her entire cancer journey, much more introspective about things she had control over. Food is a biggie. Experts at Wellspring say that nutrition is one of the most important aspects of self-care for people affected by all types of cancer. Indeed, what to the naked eye may look like mere tomato may in fact be a powerful, lycopene-powered punch against prostate cancer. And adding things like ginger to meals, and cooking low-aroma foods, can help decrease difficult side effects of treatment, like nausea.
Registered dietitian and Nourish facilitator Jean LaMantia says, the trick is loading up on plants, healthy fats and colorful fruits and vegetables (pigment is a great indicator of the antioxidant component). And learning how to pack the most nutritional bang into a small meal, especially if food has become difficult to tolerate. Following treatment, she says the right foods can go a long way in maintaining good health. Sourcing the American Institute for Cancer Research, LaMantia says one third of cancers can be prevented through lifestyle changes, including following specific dietary recommendations.
It’s certainly something to chew on, especially in the beauty of Wellspring’s new demonstration kitchen. It’s just like being at home (if your home is lucky enough to be outfitted with fabulous glass backsplash and stainless steel appliances!). Add in some great conversation and friendly faces, and you have the perfect recipe to feed the body and soul.
For more information on Nourish, visit the Wellspring website.