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The Magic of Ultrasound

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Although human beings can’t hear the sound waves emitted by ultrasound machines the process has revolutionized the practice of medicine since it was first developed for use on cattle and horses many decades ago.

Ultrasound is now used in many fields, typically to allow the medical world to “see inside” a body and locate a problem. However the sound waves can penetrate solid objects such as plastic as part of the welding process used in many products…

Ultrasound has been used by radiologists and sonographers to image the human body for at least 50 years and has become one of the most widely used diagnostic tools in modern medicine. Today a pregnant woman and her physician have the opportunity to use ultrasound to see the child in-utero, which is nearly always an exciting experience. Routinely pregnant women will often have an ultrasound before their twenty-fourth. One of the reasons physicians encourage an early ultrasound is because if they detect an abnormality that can prove fatal to either the baby or the mother, or both, the pregnancy can be terminated if necessary to save the mother’s life.

However, ultrasounds can also show physicians of any specialty where a problem might lie and it gives the doctor the ability to focus directly on the problem. Ultrasounds, otherwise known as medical ultrasonography, can be used to visualize muscles, tendons as well as internal organs.

One of the biggest advantages to the technology is that, comparatively speaking, it is fairly inexpensive and portable, particularly compared to much heavier and equipment such as MRI machines. Portable ultrasound machines have had a big impact on the ability of the medical world to diagnose a condition because they can be taken just about anywhere to help serve their patient’s needs.

When ultrasound machines first hit the market it revolutionized medicine in some ways and ultrasounds have become quite common not only for pregnancies but for diagnosing many different conditions. As used by skilled technicians today’s ultrasound procedures are quite safe when done properly, particularly when compared with some other procedures that have the capacity to cause cancer. Although the procedure is considered safe it should not be repeated too often because there are scientific studies that show it may have harmful side effects if done too frequently.

Ultrasound pulses can be used to break up kidney and gall stones. Procedures of this sort are referred to as “focused ultrasound surgery” because they focus on a particular problem. The devices can also be used for teeth cleaning in dental offices, for use in treating cancer, Liposuction and removing varicose veins.

Ultrasonic cleaners can sparkle your jewelry, clean lenses as well as surgical and dental equipment.

Ultrasounds are used extensively at Mountains Community Hospital and make a big difference in patient’s lives everyday.

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Benefits and Misconceptions of Mammograms

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Survival rates for early-stage breast cancer (which has not yet reached the lymph nodes) are around 98 percent and drop to around 80 percent if the cancer has spread. If the disease is found in even later stages, then the survival rates begin to plummet. Despite these statistics, many women are still hesitant to receive mammograms at all, much less annually.

Despite some possible, slight discomfort, the lifesaving potential of mammograms is worth it. Let’s review the actual procedure:

  • The patient disrobes and puts on a gown.
  • Standing in front of an x-ray machine, the patient puts their breast between two plates.  This part can be a little painful, but necessary. Some facilities offer a comfort pad which could reduce the pain.
  • After 10 to 15 minutes, the imaging is complete and the technician will scan the other breast.

One issue that women worry about is false positives. Some mammograms do come back with abnormal readings. However, only about 10 percent of those end up as actual incidences of breast cancer. Admittedly, receiving such a false positive can be traumatic. But further tests can be conducted to confirm or discount the diagnosis. Is a day or two of potential worry worth the benefit of early detection and associated treatment, which could save your life? It is exceedingly rare for a false positive to result in unwarranted treatment.

Myths and misconceptions about mammograms:

  • Should women skip mammograms if they don’t have a family history of breast cancer?

NO!

Skipping screenings procedures is inadvisable because many women develop the disease without family histories of breast cancer. So, screenings should be done on a regular basis regardless of family history.

  • Do Mammograms cause cancer because of radiation?

NO!

X-rays for mammography use radiation, but they produce about the same low-dose radiation as dental x-rays. Standards set by the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) dictate the radiation levels are set as low as possible for levels to still produce clear, useable images.

  •  If I feel fine, can I skip the procedure?

NO!

Some women might self-diagnose and believe that early-stage breast cancer will present identifiable symptoms. In most cases, examination is the only way to find a suspicious mass before symptoms are present.

  • If I’m older, can I skip my mammogram?

NO!

Older women might feel they don’t need diagnostic scans. However, they are most at risk for breast cancer. With early detection, senior women have a great opportunity to pursue treatment and fully recover.

As with other areas of your personal health, it’s important you take control of your own body. If your physician fails to recommend a mammogram, but you feel you are in a higher risk group, be sure to speak up. You can also take preventive steps at home by regularly performing self-examinations to find lumps or suspicious changes. By being proactive, you can potentially catch breast cancer in its earliest stages and begin treatment so you can lead a long and healthy life.

Talk to a physician at Mountains Community Hospital to learn more about mammograms. Visit www.mchcares for information.

Washed Your Hands Lately?

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It's important to wash your hands to avoid disease.

Like so many other times in your life, your mother was right when she told you to wash your hands. Most children reach adulthood without having encountered lots of serious illnesses. And the reason for this why may revolve around parents’ insistence that their children wash their hands.

Because Mountains Community Hospital cares about you and your family’s health, we advise parents to teach kids how to wash their hands when they’re young. Demonstrating proper hand-washing techniques is an easy way to model responsible behavior. Children who attend preschool or other childcare facilities are particularly at risk for catching and/or spreading disease. So teaching them how to wash their hands is vital to safeguarding their health.

Unfortunately, many adults have forgotten those lessons and don’t wash their hands often enough or thoroughly. Frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick as well as spreading illnesses. Generally speaking, people are unaware how many thousands of items they touch each day, often to the detriment of good health.

We advise everyone to wash their hands before preparing food, eating, treating wounds or administering medicine to themselves or anyone else, touching a sick or injured person and before inserting or removing contact lenses. One of the main reasons people get eye infections is because they touch their eyes with unwashed hands.

So be careful to wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially while preparing food. This is particularly important when handling raw meat or poultry, after using the toilet, changing a baby’s diaper, cleaning up Fido or Fifi’s waste and toys, coughing or sneezing into hands, handling garbage or anything that could be contaminated.

While hand sanitizers are good, especially when soap and water isn’t available, they will not remove as many germs as plain old soap and water. How you wash your hands is as important as how often you wash them. And, in many cases, it may be even more important. Be sure to lather well with soap and rub your hands together vigorously for at least 20 seconds. If you or your children need a reminder about how long 20 seconds is, try humming the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Don’t forget that your wrists and the top and underside of the fingernails are where germs may hide. So be sure to rinse your hands well under running water. The old saying, “better safe than sorry” certainly applies to keeping your hands clean.

Pertussis Boosters for School Available at the Medical Office Building in Lake Arrowhead

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injection with droplet

Mountains Community Hospital is joining with the Rim of the World Unified School District to offer tDap vaccines in Lake Arrowhead.

As a service to the local mountain communities, Mountains Community Hospital and the Rim of the World Unified School District are joining together to offer Pertussis/Whooping Cough vaccines in the Medical Office Building across from the hospital in Lake Arrowhead. Here are details:

Rim of the World School District and Mountains Community Hospital are offering Tdap free vaccine for uninsured 7th-12th graders, in the Conference Room of the Medical Office Building on the following dates:
  • Mon. Aug. 8th, 5:00p-8:00p
  • Tues. Aug. 9th, 8:00a-11:00a
  • Tues. Aug. 16th, 8:00a-11:00a
Injections cannot be given without parental consent.  Consent forms can be picked up at the District Office in Blue Jay next to the Blue Jay Theater, or bring a parent to sign the consent at the time the vaccine is given.

Last year California experienced the worst epidemic of Whooping Cough, also known as pertussis, in 60 years. While most people think this disease occurred in the “olden days,” unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth. Last year’s outbreak affected almost 7,000 Californians and claimed the lives of at least 10 babies. In fact, there were 1,496 cases reported in the first six months of 2010.

This situation prompted the California Department of Public Health to determine that children entering grades 7 through 12 in all of the state’s public and private schools must show proof that they have received a pertussis booster shot. The last booster the students probably received was when they were six years old. So, by 7th grade, their original immunizations and protection originally afforded would be “wearing off.”

Pertussis can be a killer—especially for small children. Mountains Community Hospital cautions parents of children in every age group to make sure their children are immunized and/or receive booster shots. Health officials also believe parents, caregivers, nurses, teachers and other people who are around children should receive the Tdap booster. Due to their small size, babies are particularly susceptible to pertussis. So it is extremely important that they receive their series of shots.

Last year’s outbreak and the state’s associated new requirement that students get a booster shot makes it very possible that  agencies may run low on the serum and, thus, unable to meet the deadline. The San Bernardino County Department of Health has a good supply of the serum. While some doctors on the mountain report that they have run out of the vaccine, they have placed it on backorder and will be prepared to immunize kids as soon as the serum is back on their shelves.

Mountains Community Hospital in Lake Arrowhead, the mountain’s healthcare center for over 50 years, encourages parents to get their children immunized or get a booster shot soon because the start of the new school year begins next month. Many parents will wait until the last minute. And, if there is a shortage, at that point they will have to wait until the serum is available before their child is permitted to start school. Anticipated shortages are expected to occur between now and the start of the new school year.

Pertussis is very contagious and is caused by bacteria which are easily spread. The disease will start with the same symptoms of the common cold. But there’s nothing common about pertussis. After one or two weeks, severe coughing begins. Victims cough so violently and so rapidly that all the air leaves their lungs and produces a “whooping” sound when they breathe. (Hence the name whooping cough)

Mountains Community Hospital cares about your health. Please visit our website for more information and/or links to information about treatments for many illness and medical conditions. For information log onto: www.mchcares.com and click on “resource center.”

MCH Caress: Test Your Sunburn IQ!

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cartoon sun wearing sunglasses

Be careful in the sun or you can get burned.

It’s that time again. The snow has melted. The kids are out of school. Vacation time has begun. Along with the fun comes a warning—particularly about sun exposure.

Most people don’t give much thought to the fact that sunburn is actually evidence that rays have killed living tissue (skin). When skin is burnt, it will peel off. Sunburns occur when people spend too much time being exposing their skin to ultraviolet (UV) rays. While getting sunburns is easy to do, those who consistently spend a lot of time in the sun (particularly without any type of sunscreen) are apt to encounter a variety of related issues: scaly skin, to peeling layers of skin, to the ultimate possibility of skin cancer or other types of skin tumors. The sun may feel good. But people who spend an inordinate amount of time enjoying it are apt, ultimately, to have skin that looks and feels like leather resulting from too many years spent basking in its rays.

In the past couple of decades, physicians have stepped up their warnings to patients to be vigilant about sun exposure, particularly if they refuse or forget to wear sunscreen. Many, but not all, skin cancers can be traced to too much time in the sun.

Sun damage doesn’t just occur to light-skinned people. It can happen to people with many skin shades. And, oddly enough, certain pharmaceuticals can affect a person’s sensitivity to UV radiation. For instance, many antibiotics, oral contraceptives and tranquilizers increase the damaging effects of the sun. A person’s family characteristics can also affect how vulnerable they are to excessive ultra-violet radiation. People who have very fair skin and/or those who easily freckle are at greater risk due to their light skin.

Using sunscreen prevents the direct DNA damage that causes sunburn and the two most common forms of skin cancer–basal-cell carcinoma and squamous-cell carcinoma. However, if the sunscreen penetrates the skin, it can promote indirect DNA damage, which can cause the most lethal form of skin cancer—malignant melanoma. This form of skin cancer causes 75 percent of the all skin cancer-related deaths.

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat is one way to help block the direct rays of the sun. It’s also important to remember that lying outside and enjoying the sun should be taken in small doses. Those who lay out on the sand all day without any protection are those who may end up in the MCH Emergency Room. When it comes to sun exposure and potential problems, the term “better safe than sorry” certainly applies.

Allergies Got You Down?

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Girl blowing a dandelion

Season allergies are more than inconvenient to those who suffer from them.

It’s that time of year again. Is your nose watering? How about those itchy eyes? Well, summer’s here and so are many allergens. Living and traveling up and down the mountain highways can affect a person’s nasal passages. And, with that, comes some problems. While many people are unaffected by the brightly colored Spanish Broom that grows along mountain highways, other people are very sensitive to its pollen.

Often, during the spring and early summer, vehicles and anything else left outdoors may be covered with a thin layer of yellow dust that travels in the wind. While the forest service has cut a lot of the “non-native species noxious weed” over the past two years along Highway 330 and Highway 18, there’s still plenty of pollen throughout the area. While the yellow flowers are beautiful and fragrant, many people are allergic to the bright yellow blooms.

Some signs of allergic reactions (regardless of the source) are: a runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion and sneezing. Allergy symptoms can be at their worst when people are outside enjoying the fresh air at concerts, barbecues or other outdoor events. Symptoms erupt when the patient comes into contact with an “allergy trigger.” When this occurs, the body produces higher levels of certain substances, including histamines. Medications that help relieve symptoms include anti-histamines, which are available over-the-counter or, if symptoms are severe enough, by prescription.

According to http://www.everydayhealth.com, medical specialists don’t ordinarily do skin tests for pine tree allergies because this condition is quite rare. With millions of pine trees in the inhabited San Bernardino Mountain communities, it’s good that pine tree pollen allergies are less common than those that spring from other sources. If pine tree pollen is suspected, the patient may have to search to find a physician who can perform a skin test. However, if the physician and patient believe this test would be beneficial, pine tree extract for testing can be obtained by most doctors.

Skin testing for allergies has been around for quite awhile. Tests will reveal what allergies, if any, are present. Not all runny noses, congestion and other “cold-like” symptoms mean allergies. However, when they re-occur with every spring and/or summer, chronic allergies are something to consider. While there are many allergens that affect people, some of the most well known are pollen from grasses (especially newly-mowed grass), weeds, trees, outdoor mold spores, and animal dander as well as dust mites. Summer in the mountains is an exciting time. So doesn’t let allergies slow you down. Take control of them by finding out what they are so you can enjoy the great outdoors.

Osteoarthritis: Where and Why is it Hurting?

Senior couple on bicycles

Mountains Community Hospital in Lake Arrowhead offers a variety of treatments for Osteoarthritis.

Many “baby boomers” who were born after the end of World War II when servicemen returned from the war are now literally  “knee-deep” in a type of arthritis that is caused, generally speaking, by years of wear and tear on the body’s joints.

Osteoarthritis is a condition that frequently causes patients to change their lifestyle in many different ways. According to an online article on WebMd.com there are risk factors that patients can control to a certain extent and there are factors they can’t control.

There are different types of arthritis but osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage that helps cushion the ends of bones gradually wears away. When this occurs the bones grind against each other and that can cause a great deal of pain. The pain can be so severe that our range of movement is affected because it hurts to raise your arm or walk on legs where there’s no cushioning in the knees.

Among the factors none of us have any control over is ageing. Women over 50 are more likely to have it than men. Sometimes genetic factors will play a role because if it “runs in the family” it increases the likelihood that other family members will eventually have it as well.

Some of the ways people can help “ward off” osteoarthritis is by being selective about what sports they play. Football and other sports where tackling is often part of the game are probably not the best idea for players with arthritis risk factors. Osteoarthritis usually occurs in weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips but it can also be found in fingers, the thumb, neck and big toe. In some cases patients will develop osteoarthritis as the result of some type of physical trauma, such as an automobile accident.

Obesity ramps up the possibility that people will get osteoarthritis. Losing weight, even just a few pounds, can reduce the chances for ultimately facing the challenging “osteoarthritis onslaught.”

Patients can help their physician by keeping a record on where, when and how much they feel pain. X-rays or other imaging techniques may be ordered to confirm the osteoarthritis diagnosis.

Unfortunately, there is little if anything that can be done to stop cartilage from eroding. However, there are ways to help patients deal with pain and increase their flexibility. Physical therapy is one of the best avenues because it teaches patients how to slowly strengthen the muscles surrounding the affected joint.

Web Md. Com cautions patients that, overall, studies do not show that supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin help relieve pain and stiffness and they urge patients to discuss taking chondroitin with their physician, especially if they’re taking blood-thinners.

Mountains Community Hospital makes possible essential quality medical services to the residents and visitors of the local mountains. We provide peace of mind by securing the health of the community. Patient care is guided by interdepartmental collaboration which takes into account the unique knowledge, judgment and skills of a variety of professionals and disciplines. Open communication between departments ensures the most efficient, effective patient care.

Considering the patient and his or her family valued partners in the delivery of care, we include them in each step of treatment. We administer at MCH does not stop at the physical, but incorporates developmental, emotional, social, psychological, cultural and spiritual healing, as well.  We recognize the diversity of our community and are committed to preserving the dignity of our patients and acting as advocates on their behalf. At Mountains Community Hospital, we care about your health.