October 2002 Health News Tips

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.

HELPING OTHERS HELPS BREAST CANCER SURVIVORS

Dr. Elizabeth Naftalis of UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas says breast-cancer survivors can improve their mental and emotional outlooks by helping new patients deal with the disease.

The Southwestern Center for Breast Care recruits survivors to help new patients and their families through the Coping with Breast Cancer program. Naftalis, assistant professor of surgical oncology, has several patients who have undergone surgeries and follow-up therapy and now serve as volunteers for Coping with Breast Cancer.

“Psychologically, working with new patients is very reassuring for these survivors that they’re doing well,” Naftalis says. “It reinforces a sense of well-being and survivorship.”

Naftalis says volunteers frequently talk with patients who are facing difficult decisions about their care, such as whether to have full mastectomies with or without reconstruction or less extensive surgery.

Volunteers who already have faced the same decisions say they benefit from sharing their experience.

“The volunteers all tell me that they’re grateful to be passing on their knowledge,” Naftalis says. "They feel like they’re giving something back.”

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, dedicated to increasing awareness of the disease among healthy women and survivors.

Media Contact: Wayne Carter

DON’T TRICK YOUR KIDS OUT OF AN OCCASIONAL TREAT

As Halloween approaches, many children are eagerly awaiting that fall evening to go out with family and friends and fill their bags with candy and other treats. But as children dig into those treats when they return home, parents may want to let them choose a few of their favorites and save the rest for later, says Cindy Cunningham, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Allied Health Sciences School.

“It’s OK for children to have candy, just in moderation,” says Cunningham. “Freezing the candy or placing it in snack bags allows them to have treats in the coming weeks.”

Instead of miniature chocolates and sweet tarts, Cunningham suggests giving out healthier treats, such as raisins, nuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruits, sugar-free gum, rice-cereal and marshmallow bars, granola bars, or trail mix.

“Younger children also like stickers, pictures to color, games, unsharpened pencils and erasers,” she adds.

Media Contact: Amy Shields

FORGET STOMACH FLU - THAT’S NOT WHAT IT IS

There’s no such thing as the stomach flu.

People often confuse symptoms with the wrong illness. The flu, for example, is caused by the influenza virus and hits the upper respiratory tract hard and fast, often bringing a high fever and severe body aches. Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting or nausea, are caused by a variety of other viruses or bacteria.

While the difference may seem minor, the consequences of the flu aren’t, says Dr. Paul Pepe, chairman of emergency medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“Influenza can cause serious illness or even be deadly in the elderly or those with weakened immune systems,” Pepe says. “Colds are not the same thing.”

A cold comes from different kinds of viruses and is characterized by a wide variety of symptoms, from coughing and nasal congestion to a headache and low fever.

Media Contact: Mindy Baxter

WHITE SPOTS IN EYES MEAN IT’S TIME TO SEE DOCTOR

A photograph may provide the first sign of an eye abnormality.

Flash photography is similar to an ophthalmoscope, a lighted instrument used to examine the interior of the eye, says Dr. Nick Hogan, assistant professor of ophthalmology at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“A red reflex that appears in peoples’ eyes is caused by a reflection off the retina,” Hogan said. “It appears red because of the blood.”

That is normal, says Hogan, but if a white or iridescent pupil is noticeable in a photograph, a visit to a pediatrician or ophthalmologist for evaluation may be of value.

“Leukocoria, or white pupil, is caused by something blocking the red reflex,” Hogan says. “Absence of blood in the retina would have to be extreme to reduce the red reflex, and that would be enough to kill the retina, hence no reflection.”

Media Contact: Ione Echeverria

FREQUENT URINATION IS NOTHING TO PASS OFF LIGHTLY

Frequent urination is often one of the first - and longest lasting - symptoms of pregnancy.

As the fetus grows and the uterus expands for nine months, pressure on the bladder increases, causing more trips to the bathroom.

But doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas note that while frequent urination is common during the nine months, it shouldn’t always be dismissed.

“If frequent urination becomes excessive or is associated with any burning or other new symptoms, you should see a doctor to be checked for an infection,” says Dr. Gary Lemack, assistant professor of urology. “Infections during pregnancy need to be treated aggressively.”

Media Contact: Mindy Baxter

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