June 2005 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.

Before whitening your teeth, brush up on appropriate treatment

Pearly white teeth are easy to achieve these days thanks to home-whitening treatments. But, before you try them, consult with your dentist to determine appropriate treatment, says Dr. Kathia Steel, a dentist and assistant professor of surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"This is especially true for patients with many fillings and crowns because those will not take the bleach," Dr. Steel says. "The natural tooth surfaces would get whiter but the fillings or crowns would not change color, and, thus, would become more obvious."

Dentists may also recommend whitening toothpastes, which have special chemicals or polishing agents that more effectively remove stains compared to regular toothpastes.

The most common side effects of bleaching teeth include tooth sensitivity and tissue irritation, which, Dr. Steel says, are usually temporary and disappear after treatment. Tooth-whitening regimens are not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing.

Media Contact: Kara Lenocker

Worth remembering: Memory loss doesn't necessarily lead to Alzheimer's 

According to doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center, cognitive memory loss doesn't always lead to Alzheimer's disease.

"Roughly one-third of those with memory loss will go on to develop Alzheimer's disease in the next few years. There are a variety of other forms of mild cognitive dysfunction," says Dr. Roger Rosenberg, head of the Alzheimer's Disease Center at UT Southwestern. "Rates of those with cognitive impairments that progress to Alzheimer's disease are highly variable, but on the average it's about 14 percent per year."

Common symptoms include loss of the ability to solve problems that have multiple steps, such as following a recipe or writing a letter. Those with the disease may also suffer loss of spatial relationships and forget how to use objects.  Dr. Rosenberg says anyone with a family member who is suffering cognitive loss should have them see a physician for diagnosis and treatment plans.

Media Contact: Katherine Morales

Uncomfortable with mouth-to-mouth CPR?  Chest compressions a viable option

People unsure of how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or are reluctant to perform mouth-to-mouth on a stranger should - instead of doing nothing at all - focus on providing chest compressions until paramedics arrive.

"People are more likely and perhaps more able to perform CPR if they only have to do chest compressions," says Dr. Lynn Roppolo, assistant professor of emergency medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

In such circumstances, 911 dispatchers are usually providing guidance to those on-scene bystanders and will often advise the same "compressions-only" approach if those rendering aid are unsure about what to do. However, if four minutes pass and help has not arrived, dispatchers may then advise the person performing chest compressions to give a couple of mouth-to-mouth breaths, followed by 100 chest compressions, then two more breaths, and so on, says Dr. Roppolo.

Media Contact: Kara Lenocker

Conquer that closed-in feeling:  Attack claustrophobia head-on, gradually and safely

Do you find yourself panicking on a crowded airplane or packed elevator?

If so, and the anxiety is debilitating enough to cause you to avoid the activity, you may suffer from claustrophobia - or a fear of enclosed places. Symptoms often include sweating, an accelerated heart rate, hyperventilation, shaking, nausea, fainting and fear of actual harm or illness.

Claustrophobia, while a psychiatric disorder, is a simple phobia that can be treated with cognitive behavior therapy, says Dr. Robin Jarrett, professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Like most phobias, claustrophobia is a learned, or conditioned, response.

"Although a person suffering from a simple phobia may not be able to describe how their fear initially developed, typically during the course of treatment the learning history emerges," Dr. Jarrett says. "Consider a person who suffered an allergic reaction and couldn't breathe while camping in a tent. A vulnerable individual might learn to associate the shortness of breath with the tent and avoid camping." 

The best way to rid oneself of claustrophobia is to approach the feared stimulus head-on and repeatedly - but in a safe environment. If an individual is exposed time after time to what he or she fears, gradually and safely, the phobia with its related anxiety and avoidance can go away. If avoidance of the stimulus persists, cognitive behavior therapy, which can change one's attitude or thinking about a problem, can help individuals in overcoming the phobia.

Media Contact: Donna Steph Hansard

Survival rate for ovarian cancer is high - if detected early 

Ovarian cancer is often called the "silent killer" because only about 10 percent of cases are found early. If potential warning signs are heeded, however, the disease can be treated effectively.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer include an unexplained change in bowel and/or bladder patterns, gastrointestinal upset, a bloated abdomen, pelvic pain, fatigue, and abnormal or postmenopausal bleeding.

"When symptoms are persistent and are not resolved through a change in diet, exercise and rest, a woman should see her gynecologist immediately," says Dr. David Miller, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. "Every woman also should undergo a regular vaginal and rectal pelvic examination."

Early treatment of ovarian cancer is the key through surgery and chemotherapy, Dr. Miller says. Five-year survival rates equal about 90 percent if the disease is caught early.

"There is yet no effective technology for the screening or early detection of ovarian cancer, but regular pelvic exams remain the best method for finding it," says Dr. Miller.

Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer in women, according to the American Cancer Society. There will be about 22,220 cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed in the United States this year, and an estimated 16,210 women will die of the disease because it was not detected early.

 Media Contact: Toni Heinzl


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