October is Stroke Awareness Month. This is especially important to us because our very own Leanna Christie, Director and Owner of Health Vantis, has had personal experience with having a stroke. Read below to see her story.
At age 43, I had a stroke. To be more exact, the MRI showed that it happened three times. The scans reflect three different age lighter areas of my brain that were deprived of oxygen at different times because of blood clots.
How does that happen at this age? To be honest, it happens more often that we think. A third of strokes that happen between ages 18-45 are considered cryptogenic – the cause is not known. My story is just one of many. On May 2nd, as I was sitting in a meeting, I had one of my usual migraines that started with a visual aura, or a bright, squiggly lines in the sides of my vision. It grew into a headache, again, quite similar to migraines I had in the past, during which it is hard to read or look at any screens. In addition, this one brought a difficulty in focusing.
A day later I noticed a slight inability to see to my left. I ran over a traffic cone when backing out of a gas station. I then ran very close to the curb on a right turn. Although not the best driver in the world, I am a cautious one and was a bit alarmed. I also noticed when using my phone to text that I got the letters to the left wrong at times. I was also incredibly tired and had a hard time focusing.
After sharing the vision issues with a friend of mine, she convinced me to go see a doctor. I was able to see my family doctor quite quickly, on May 4th. After performing a basic vision test that revealed nothing, she sent me for a CT scan. I didn’t think much of all of it, and thought that the tiredness I was also experiencing was just part of getting old. On May 15th, I had a CT scan done. Next day I got a call in the morning from both my physician and the neurology clinic, and things started to unravel.
I am 5’7” and weight about 130 pounds with no history of strokes in the family. I exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet. Other than having my son, I have not been to a hospital. A stroke sure sounded like something that happens when you are over 65 or not taking care of yourself.
To fast-forward the story, the 5 days I was in the hospital and an extensive workup that followed, the reasons for my stroke still remain unclear. There are certain antibodies in my blood that are indicative of an autoimmune disease that makes my blood clot. Other symptoms speak for this as well. The positive tests do not meet the definite diagnostics requirements and therefore my diagnosis is unclear. While it is understandable to err on the side of caution, the fact that it is not 100% certain keeps me awake at night sometimes. I was put on blood thinners, as recommended in the case of someone with this autoimmune disease.
It can be unsettling at times to think of what may occur in the future. I do realize how incredibly lucky I am to have no major impact and that my family doctor listened, didn’t brush off my symptoms and requested further investigation. Although I struggled for about a year with fatigue and difficulties focusing, things are getting a lot better now. If a lesson is to be learned from my story I would say it is that you have to listen and trust yourself and your body. Pay attention and know when to seek medical help.
Know The Warning Signs and Additional Statistics About Stroke
Breast Cancer: What’s New
Research has shown that the death rate among women with breast cancer has decreased significantly each year since 1993. This is due all in part to better research and treatments now available.
Chemotherapy, a drug treatment that has many adverse side effects, is not always the first choice of treatment anymore. Many physicians are opting to use other treatments that have fewer side effects with better results. Here’s a look at a couple of new and exciting treatments being used in breast cancer patients:
No Chemotherapy for Early Stage Breast Cancer
In June of this year, it was announced that women with a particular type of early-stage breast cancer could forgo chemotherapy and be treated with just hormones and/or surgery. The study, which was the largest breast cancer treatment trial ever, showed that 70% of women may avoid chemotherapy.
In women over the age of 50 that have HR-Positive, HER2-Negative, node-negative cancer and a score of up to 25, chemotherapy can be avoided. There are 85% of women in this age category that fall into this group. In women under the age of 50 with the same type but score of 0-15, they can also forgo chemotherapy. Forty percent of women in this age range fall within this group.
Ribociclib blocks or interferes with substances that play a role in cancer cell progression. It targets the proteins in cancer cells and stops them from growing.
In March of 2017, Ribociclib (Kisqali) was approved by the U.S. FDA to treat postmenopausal women with HR-Positive, HER2-Negative advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Since that time, they have recently expanded the treatment, July 2018, for the approval of Ribociclib to be used for the treatment of advanced HR-Positive, HER2-Negative cancer in women who haven’t yet reached menopause. This would be in conjunction with another type of hormone therapy called an aromatase inhibitor. The FDA also expanded Ribociclib’s approval for use in postmenopausal women with Fulvestrant (Faslodex), a different type of hormone therapy.
When someone develops cancer, the immune system doesn’t recognize the cancer cells as foreign (bad) cells, thus, it doesn’t know how to attack them. They trick our immune system into thinking they are not harmful. Scientists and researchers have come a long way in learning how to get the immune system to recognize they are bad cells through Immunotherapy and attack them.
How immunotherapy works is that T-cells (your immune systems white blood cells) are removed from the tumor. The researchers determine which ones are fighting the growth the most. Scientists then re-engineer the genes in those cells making them stronger in order to recognize malignancies and return them to your system. The thought is that the immune system now recognizes these as foreign cells and starts fighting them off just like it would a common cold or virus.
Immunotherapy has seen major breakthroughs in the past year. Approval of 2 CAR-T treatments has paved the way for cancer attacking therapies. All cancers contain mutations so techniques could potentially be applied to any kind of tumor or cancer, not just breast cancer. It has been shown to shrink hard to treat tumors in colon and cervical cancers as well, however, it is still in the infancy stages and researchers have a long way to go.
So, very exciting break throughs for breast cancer patients. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer and would like to explore these options, please contact us! Our cancer facilities are doing these newer, advanced techniques and treat each cancer as unique to provide the best outcome for you.
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