Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dealing With Springtime Allergies

Yes, it’s that time of the year again. You’re sneezing. Your nose is runny and your eyes are watery. Springtime allergies have officially made their presence known.

“This year, springtime allergies may have caught many people off-guard,” says Alvin Sanico, MD, Director of the Asthma, Sinus, Allergy Program (ASAP) at GBMC. “Because we had such a mild winter, tree pollen counts began to rise quite early.”

The good news is that there is hope. Several treatment strategies exist for coping with allergies, from preventive, long-term measures to medications that help relieve symptoms once they’ve already started.

Common options include:

• Taking antihistamines to reduce sneezing, sniffling and itching
• Using decongestants to relieve nasal congestion and swelling
• Utilizing nasal steroid sprays to help prevent symptoms before they start or to relieve nasal congestion quickly
• Using eye drops to relieve itchy, watery eyes
• Receiving regular allergy shots as a long-term solution for severe allergies that can’t be successfully treated by other medications

Primary care physicians can help their patients decide the most appropriate treatment method. Or, they may refer patients to an allergist. Individuals should consider consulting an allergist if their symptoms are persistent or recurrent, interfere with daily activities and/or affect quality of life. Additionally, if commonly used medications are not sufficient or cause side effects or if individuals want to identify and avoid the allergens that contribute to their symptoms, seeing an allergist may be beneficial.

Depending on patient history and physical examination, diagnostic evaluation may include painless allergy skin testing without needles to identify factors that contribute to the condition, spirometry to measure lung function and nasal endoscopy to look for anatomic abnormalities such as nasal polyps that can cause congestion.

Take control of your allergy symptoms. To learn more about ASAP at GBMC, visit http://www.asapgbmc.com/.


To view all of our stories from May's Living Healthy, Living Well please click here.

What is a General Surgeon?

You’ve noticed a lump in your abdomen, followed by sharp pains. Concerned, you make an appointment with your primary care physician who, upon examination, deducts that you most likely have a hernia. What’s next? Your doctor refers you to a general surgeon to discuss your newly developed hernia and how it can be repaired.

As the name implies, general surgeons are trained to treat a broad spectrum of diseases that require surgical intervention. 

The Department of General Surgery at GBMC provides patients with evaluation and treatment of simple to complex cases. Finney Trimble Surgical Associates, located on the GBMC campus, is one of the premier surgical practices in the state.  Its surgeons see patients with a variety of ailments, but some are more common than others. Hernia repair, for example, accounts for 21 percent of the caseload.

“Hernias can be tricky,” says Laurence Ross, MD, general surgeon with Finney Trimble. “Some patients experience pain and others feel nothing. Surgery is imperative because, if left untreated, they run the risk of bowel strangulation, which is an emergency procedure.”

There are several types of hernias, including inguinal and umbilical. Umbilical hernias are generally found in women preceding childbirth. This is an outward protrusion of the abdominal lining or the abdominal organs, through the area around the belly button. Inguinal hernias, which are more prevalent in men, are a sac formed around the lining of the abdominal cavity. This sac comes through the abdominal wall.  Both hernias can be repaired with surgery using local anesthetic and IV sedation.
Thyroid surgery is another common case seen at Finney Trimble. Joel Turner, MD, Vice Chairman of the Department of Surgery at GBMC and Chief of Minimally Invasive Surgery, has performed close to 2,000 endocrine procedures since his arrival at GBMC in 1999.

“I see a high volume of patients requiring thyroid surgery for a variety of reasons,” says Dr. Turner. “Patients may have benign tumors that start to affect their swallowing and voice, or they may have cancer of the thyroid found using fine needle aspiration.”

Another cause for thyroid surgery is to treat hyperthyroidism, which occurs when the thyroid gland makes too much of the thyroid hormone. This can cause symptoms ranging from fatigue and weight loss to anxiety and muscle weakness.

Cancer patients also utilize general surgeons such as Frank Rotolo, MD, Division Head of General Surgery at GBMC. He performs a variety of procedures, from lymph node biopsies to mastectomies, and works collaboratively with the physicians of the Breast Center and GBMC’s plastic surgery team and oncologists at GBMC’s Sandra & Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute.

Like most physicians, quality improvement is an integral part of the job of a general surgeon.  John Flowers, MD, Chairman of the Department of Surgery at GBMC, also serves as its Physician Director of the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program. This nationwide program of more than 250 hospitals collects data and analyzes clinical outcomes to improve patient care.

“It allows us to compare ourselves to other hospitals, so we can create performance improvement initiatives,” he says. “This program is a clear demonstration of our commitment to quality improvement.”

Learn More
For more information about general surgery at GBMC, call 443-849-GBMC (4262) or visit http://www.gbmc.org/.

To view all of our stories from May's Living Healthy, Living Well please click here.

Help Reduce Your Risk for Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world, accounting for 75 percent of all cancer diagnoses. The good news is most skin cancer can be prevented by following some simple steps to help protect yourself and your family from the sun’s harmful rays.

• Try to avoid midday (10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.) sun whenever possible. This is when the sun is at its strongest.

• If you do find yourself outside during these peak hours, find some shade and cover up with protective clothing such as a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses with UV protection and loose-fitting, light colored clothing.

• Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 or higher and apply it at least 30 minutes before heading outside.

• Be sure to apply sunscreen to all skin that will be exposed, including often forgotten areas like the scalp, lips and feet.

• Reapply every two to three hours. SPF value decreases if a person sweats a lot or swims, so reapplication is essential.

Your family can still enjoy fun in the sun without harming your skin. Be sure to follow these simple tips and tell your doctor if you find any spot that you feel is unusual.

To find a doctor at GBMC, visit http://www.gbmc.org/.

To view all of our stories from May's Living Healthy, Living Well please click here.

The Facts About the HPV Vaccine

If you have a child who is at least nine years old, you may be considering whether or not they should be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV).

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause genital warts and certain types of cancer, including cervical, vulva, vaginal, anal and head and neck cancers. In fact, 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV.

“The HPV vaccine has been around since 2006 for girls and was recently licensed for boys,” says Rachel Plotnick, MD, pediatrician at the GBMC Pediatric Group. “It can be found in a vast majority of pediatricians’ offices, including those here at GBMC, and can be given as early as age nine. However, we find the best age to start the vaccine is between ages 11 and 12.”

The vaccine is a series of three shots. The patient receives the first shot and returns to the office two months later for the second shot.  Then, four months later, he or she comes back again for the final shot.

“Side effects of this vaccine are usually minor,” says Dr. Plotnick. “The most common side effect we see is some swelling and redness at the injection site.”

For more information on GBMC or to find a pediatrician for your child, call 443-849-GBMC (4262) or visit www.gbmc.org/pediatrics.

To view all of our stories from May's Living Healthy, Living Well please click here.

Asparagus Mushroom Quiche


• 5 slices bacon
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 small onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
• 1 cup portobello mushrooms, stem and ribs removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
• 1 cup chopped fresh asparagus
• 1 (8 inch) unbaked pie shell
• 1 egg white, lightly beaten (optional)
• 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
• 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
• 2 eggs
• 3/4 cup half-and-half cream
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• Fresh ground pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
2. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until evenly brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels, crumble and set aside.
3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; cook and stir until translucent. Reduce the heat to medium and add the portobello mushrooms. Continue cooking until the mushrooms are tender. Set aside.
4. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook asparagus in boiling water until just tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately drain and run under cold water to cool.
5. Brush the pie shell with the beaten egg white, if using. Place the onion and mushroom mixture, asparagus, and bacon into the bottom of the pie shell. Sprinkle the Cheddar and feta cheeses over the vegetables. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, salt, and pepper until smooth. Pour this mixture over the vegetable and cheese filling.
6. Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes, or until firm and lightly browned on top. Let cool to room temperature before serving.

Nutritional Information  
Amount Per Serving  Calories: 368 | Total Fat: 28.3g | Cholesterol: 124mg
Recipe courtesy of AllRecipes.com.

To view all of our stories from May's Living Healthy, Living Well please click here.