Monday, July 25, 2011


Dealing with the financial impact of cancer can help with recovery

The physical impact of cancer is obvious. But what is not so well known, and sometimes goes unnoticed and untreated, is the psychological toll it can take on patients and their loved ones.

And it’s not always the disease itself that is so daunting. Sometimes, navigating the healthcare system, from getting the right tests in a timely fashion to even financial issues, is reason for concern.

Minimizing stress of any kind is one of the most important things we can do to proactively battle cancer.

According to a study funded by the National Cancer Institute, “patients without financial stress had significantly faster improvement rates over time in functional, emotional and physical well-being” as compared with patients who faced economic burdens because of their cancer diagnosis.

Financial stress can come in many forms – you might be out of work for a time, you might not understand your medical bills, you might just be overwhelmed with paperwork.

Backus Hospital offers a free cancer support group open to all persons with a new cancer diagnosis, survivors, family, and friends. This group focuses on the psychological and social issues people diagnosed with cancer face – and in August we will focus on finances. We will discuss strategies for easing financial stress during and after treatment.

Our “Diagnosed With Cancer, What You Need to Know” support group meets the second Tuesday of every month from 5-6 p.m. in the hospital’s entry level conference room 1 in Norwich. To register please call 860.889.8331, ext. 4239.

Other support group topics include how humor can help heal, the role of spirituality, communicating with your healthcare provider and handling fatigue. These are all issues – outside of the physical affects – that cancer patients face.

Elynor Carey is an oncology social worker in the Backus Hospital Care Management Department. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Carey or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, July 18, 2011


Everyone is responsible for motorcycle safety

The beautiful stretch of weather we are seeing has led to some ugly scenes in the Backus Hospital Trauma Center.

In the past week alone, we have seen four motorcycle crashes causing serious injuries. None of the motorcyclists were wearing helmets.

Head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes, and motorcyclists are 40% more likely to suffer a fatal head injury, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Although the debate continues over whether motorcyclists should be required to wear helmets, in Connecticut they are not. But they should be, and my advice is simple – wear a helmet. The consequences of not doing so impact not just the motorcyclist, but also his or her loved ones.

While wearing a helmet is very important, and is the best way to avoid head injuries, the fact is many of the crashes that we see are caused not by the motorcyclists, but by drivers of other motor vehicles involved.

The fact is that there are many more cars and trucks on the road than motorcycles.

More than half of all motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle, and most of the time it is the driver of the car or truck that is at fault.

Here are some things that all car and truck drivers should know, according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation:

• Motorcycles are more likely to be hidden in blind spots are harder to spot because of their small size. Take some extra time to look for them.

• Don’t follow motorcycles too closely. In fact, allow more space than you would for another care because motorcycles sometimes slow down by down shifting, not using brakes, which means the brake light is not activated.

• It isn’t easy to judge a motorcycle’s speed. For example, when turning left at an intersection, assume that a motorcycle is closer than it is

It is very important that we are all aware of the many motorcycles on the road this time of year, and what we can all do to be safe, no matter what kind of vehicle we choose.

Gillian Mosier is a registered nurse and manager of the Backus Trauma Program. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Mosier or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, July 11, 2011


Think FAST when it comes to stroke care

Time is of the essence in stroke care – and so is the type of care that you receive.

It starts with the patient or family recognizing the signs and symptoms of stroke and calling 911 without delay.

Symptoms of a stroke can be remembered through the acronym FAST:

Face: Does one side of the face droop?
Arms: Does one arm drift downward when both arms are held up?
Speech: Is speech slurred?
Time: If a person shows any of these signs, call 911 immediately.

Once in the emergency department, initial assessment must be completed in minutes to determine what kind of care a patient needs.

Admission to a designated stroke unit is vital, which is what makes Backus Hospital’s recent recertification as a Primary Stroke Center by the state Department of Public Health so important. The two-year designation is part of a statewide initative to provide consistent, quality care to stroke patients.

Stroke centers have staff specifically trained to care for these types of patients under intense pressure. They are able to recognize medical complications that can arise in someone who has suffered a stroke, which is extremely important as stroke patients can worsen quickly within the first few hours or days after a stroke. In fact, even the mildest of strokes run a 10% risk of converting to larger ones in the first 48 hours.

Having a stroke center in your community is important to both the health and wellbeing of patients. To receive state designation you must submit data on stroke admissions, treatment plans, outcomes as well as stroke-specific staff education.

As part of being a stroke center, Backus offers its patients and staff access to multidisciplinary rounds. These provide a venue for professionals caring for stroke patients to share new information as well as to provide real-time quality review of patients currently receiving care at Backus. These rounds are often held at the patient’s bedside, with the patient playing an active role in the planning of his or her care.

Our goals are to decrease premature deaths and disabilities associated with stroke. We do everything we can to help each patient, but people can also help themselves.

Risk factors include:

• High blood pressure
• Atrial fibrillation
• Diabetes
• Smoking
• High cholesterol
• Lack of exercise
• Alcohol abuse
• Obesity.

The bad news is that 795,000 people suffer from strokes each year in the U.S. The good news is there is room for improvement, because 80 percent of them are preventable.

Cindy Arpin, is a registered nurse and Stroke Coordinator at The William W. Backus Hospital. The information in this column should not replace the advice of your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Arpin or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, July 04, 2011


Scrutinizing your sunscreen

Now that summer is upon us, it is important that we all play it safe in the sun. Sunscreen is an easy and effective way to protect ourselves from the damaging effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

The sun’s rays contain both UVA and UVB radiation. While UVB radiation causes sunburns, UVA radiation can increase one’s chances of developing skin cancer, as well as early skin aging. It is important to use a broad spectrum sunscreen to protect against both UVA and UVB radiation.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently made changes regarding the labeling of sunscreen products in an effort to provide consumers with all the information needed to select an appropriate product.

All products must specify the sun protective factor, SPF, which is measure of the sunscreen’s effectiveness. A product may only be labeled as “broad spectrum” if it provides protection against both UVA and UVB radiation, and is SPF 15 or greater. These products have been shown to not only protect against sunburn, but also against skin cancer and early skin aging.

Products that do not have “broad spectrum” labeling, as well as those with SPF values of less than 15, may only claim to protect against sunburn.

Additionally, products may no longer claim to be “waterproof” or “sweatproof.”

A product may claim to be “water resistant” provided the label states how long the sunscreen remains effective while swimming and/or sweating. If a product does not state that it is “water resistant,” it must include instructions to guide the consumer that another product will be needed if swimming or sweating is expected.

For the best protection:

• Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before sun exposure, and should be reapplied 15-30 minutes after sun exposure begins.
• Reapply every 2-3 hours at a minimum, and more often if sweating or swimming.
For full protection, the average adult should apply approximately two tablespoons of lotion to sun-exposed areas. Applying less can reduce the effectiveness.
• Wear an SPF-certified lip balm, and apply frequently.
Remember to adhere to all product expiration dates and discard once this date has passed. For sunscreens that do not have an expiration date, discard all unused portions within three years of opening. Additionally, exposure to excessive heat, such as in the car or at the beach, may decrease the effectiveness of the sunscreen.

Applying a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF of 15 or higher, along with protective clothing, anti-UV sunglasses, and SPF-certified lip balm, is the best way to protect you and your loved ones from the damaging effects of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Proper application and reapplication is essential to ensure that full protection is achieved.

Although the new FDA regulations regarding labeling of sunscreen products are not required until the summer of 2012, it is likely that these changes will be seen much sooner. It is important that we all know our sun exposure limits, and take all necessary steps to protect ourselves while in the sun.

Jillian Asselin, PharmD, is a pharmacist at The William W. Backus Hospital. The information in this column should not replace the advice of your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Asselin or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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