Considering that she’s just undergone treatment for breast cancer, Manakin-Sabot resident Denise Graves says she’s quite lucky.
A retired critical care nurse, she went for a routine mammogram in February. Something didn’t look right. She was called back in and underwent a 3-D mammogram, then a biopsy. In March, she was told she had a Stage 2 carcinoma in her left breast.
It was a shock, of course.
“I have no history of breast cancer, no reason to think I had breast cancer,” she says.
In April, she underwent a lumpectomy.
Then came the good news: It was a Stage 1 cancer, it was contained, and doctors got it all. That was followed with radiation treatments that ended in June, and now she’s on a chemotherapy pill. That will continue through 2020.
Graves feels blessed. She sailed through the radiation treatment and didn’t lose her hair. She says there are two small scars from where the surgery was done, and that the cosmetic effect was very positive, so much so that “you don’t even know I had surgery just looking.”
Graves and other patients are benefiting from a less-is-more approach to treatment that prioritizes precision. Part of her procedure included insertion of a new device called BioZorb,
which has titanium clips to precisely mark where tissue was removed. That helps oncologists to target radiation treatment. The device is like surgical sutures and is absorbed into the body over a year or so, leaving the titanium markers, which help doctors monitor the site over the years.
“What BioZorb has done is enable us to more precisely locate where breast cancer is so we can more precisely target it,” says her surgeon, Jim Pellicane, director of Breast Oncology at Bon Secours Cancer Institute.
Doctors hope that will lead to a reduction in the number of treatments needed to treat the patient, he says.
The whole movement of precision medicine [in] breast oncology is “really helping us to better treat our patients,” Pellicane says.
The device has been found not to increase scarring in the area of surgery, so it will not confuse the mammogram, he says. It also helps cosmetically because it functions as a small implant, which reduces long-term distortion. A device is used that is large enough to show where the cancer was, but small enough so it doesn’t bother the patient, Pellicane says.
“The patients really don’t know they are in,” he says.
Walk on in
You can now get a physical with your fresh produce at the Harbour Pointe Martin’s in Midlothian, courtesy of Bon Secours.
A FastCare Clinic is in the Martin’s store at 13700 Hull Street Road in Midlothian. It opened Sept. 17. An open house to celebrate the opening will be held after a ribbon cutting at 1 p.m. Friday. FastCare serves walk-in customers and offers non-emergency medical care services including vaccines, screenings, physicals and acute care treatment, according to Bon Secours. It is staffed by two nurse practitioners.
Bon Secours also operates a FastCare clinic in the Martin’s on Charter Colony Parkway, which opened in December 2014. Clinic hours at each facility are 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
Managing sickle cell anemia
Can exercise lessen pain and fatigue in teens and young adults with sickle cell anemia?
That’s one of the questions researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Nursing hope to answer as part of a study that has earned a $250,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Researchers will look at ways to help sickle cell patients improve their fitness and ability to exercise, according to a VCU release. Sickle cell patients suffer a decline in fitness and in their ability to exercise because of the nature of the disease.
“We know exercise can help fatigue, but strenuous exercise can be potentially dangerous," according to Suzanne Ameringer, associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Health Nursing, and the recipient of the two-year grant.
"Better guidelines for safely and effectively exercising with sickle cell anemia may increase participation in exercise, which could potentially lead to better physical condition, improved pain and fatigue, and reduced obesity."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sickle cell anemia is inherited and mainly affects people whose ancestors came from sub-Saharan Africa.
About 90,000 to 100,000 people in the United States have the disease. People with this condition have red blood cells that become c-shaped like a sickle, hard and sticky, instead of the usual round shape, according to the CDC. These cells can get stuck in blood vessels, and tend to die early, causing complications including severe pain, chronic fatigue, organ damage and stroke.
"This is a horrible, painful disease and I have always wanted to make life better for (patients) if I could," says Ameringer.
A bad night’s sleep
If you’re a woman having trouble with insomnia, it could be in your genes.
That seems to be the case in a study by a VCU graduate student published in the September issue of the journal Sleep.
Mackenzie Lind is the first author in the study, which looked at data previously compiled in the Virginia Adult Twin Studies of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders. The data suggests that heritability of insomnia could be higher for women than in men, which suggests a genetic influence.
“We found evidence for these differences between the sexes, which hadn’t been formally shown before,” Lind says in a VCU release.
“I expected that we might find the sex difference because if you look in the literature, the prevalence of sleep complaints is higher for females than for males,” she says. “More women have disturbed sleep generally, but that alone would not necessarily mean that genes play more of a role. This paper shows that genes may be playing more of a role for females.”
Lind is working on a doctorate in clinical and translational sciences with a concentration in psychiatric, behavioral and statistical genetics through the VCU Center for Clinical and Translational Research.