Jack McDonough is spending his retirement traveling the world. He traveled earlier this year to Antarctica, and is often packing for the next adventure.
But when he’s home in Half Moon Bay, McDonough, 68, shows up nearly every week at Mills-Peninsula’s diabetes weight management class.
“I travel quite a bit, but when I’m here I make a point to go,” he says.
Over the years, McDonough tried everything to lose weight.
“In my lifetime I’ve been on every fad diet,” he says. “I’d lose weight and immediately regain it.” Read More about Gaining Control of Diabetes
Following a routine annual checkup, San Mateo resident Inez Alioto finally agreed to have a colonoscopy, a test to detect cancer of the colon and rectum. Like many people, she’d been putting it off for a while. “It wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered it,” she says. “The prep isn’t as harsh as it used to be and the actual procedure really only takes half an hour.”
Then came the difficult news: Alioto learned she had colon cancer. But the cloud had a silver lining. Thanks to the colonoscopy, her cancer was diagnosed at a very early, curable stage.
A Common Problem
“Colorectal cancer, that is cancer of the colon and rectum, is a malignancy of the large intestine,” says surgical oncologist Kimberly Dalal, M.D., FACS. “It affects men and women as the third most common cancer.” Last year more than 150,000 new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed in the United States. There were 50,000 deaths related to colorectal cancer.
“Despite these large numbers, we’re actually very successful at treating patients with colorectal cancer,” says Dr. Dalal. “And the death rate has decreased over the last 30 years.” That’s because colonoscopy is so effective at enabling doctors to detect colorectal cancers at an earlier, more treatable stage. Also, recent advances in surgery and chemotherapy are helping to save more lives.
Smaller Incisions, Greater Success
After her diagnosis Alioto went to see Dr. Dalal, who performed a surgical resection. In this operation, the surgeon makes an incision in the abdomen and removes the cancerous section of colon, then reconnects the two pieces so that it is restored to one continuous, healthy organ.
“Traditionally, this procedure required a 6-to-8-inch vertical incision down the middle of the abdomen,” says Dr. Dalal. This meant a long hospital stay for the patient plus a lengthy recovery process. “But now, using a technique called laparoscopic surgery – plus amazing advances in surgical staplers and other sealing devices – we can perform this exact same procedure faster and more effectively using incisions barely an inch wide,” Dr. Dalal explains.
This minimizes the patient’s pain, speeds up the healing process and also reduces the risk of infection and other complications.
“Dr. Dalal did a wonderful job,” says Alioto. “My incisions were so small, I can’t even see them anymore. I also had no problems after the surgery. I’m doing fine now and am cancer-free.”
Who’s at Risk?
“People whose diets are high in beef, lamb, pork or processed meats are associated with a significantly increased risk of developing colorectal cancer,” says Dr. Dalal. “Conversely, people whose diets are rich in vegetables and fruits are associated with a decreased risk.”
Other risk factors for colorectal cancer include personal or family history of colorectal or other cancers. Lifestyle also plays an important part. People who drink alcohol, smoke, don’t get enough exercise or are overweight may also be at increased risk for developing colorectal cancer. The disease is most common in people over the age of 50 and the chance of getting colorectal cancer increases with each decade. However, colorectal cancer can develop in younger people, too.
“If we can diagnose colorectal cancer at a very early stage, before it has a chance to spread, people can be cured and live for a very long time,” she says.
Brothers Matt and Mitch Labbie share a love of sports and a history of injuries and recoveries. They are among a growing number of young Americans who end up needing medical attention for sports-related conditions.
“I was playing pick-up basketball with friends,” recalls Matt, now a student at San Jose State University. “Another player crashed into me, I heard a big pop and the next thing I know, I’m on the ground screaming,” he continues. “I was in major pain. I found out later I had torn my ACL.”
A Growing Issue
Every year in the United States some 30 million people, primarily children and teens, participate in some form of organized sports. More than 3.5 million participants suffer sports-related injuries. While contact sports such as football, basketball and baseball result in the highest number of injuries, all sports have the potential for damage, whether from collisions or overuse of a body part.
Knees and Shoulders
According to Paul Abeyta, M.D., a Mills-Peninsula orthopedic surgeon, three of the most common sports injuries include damage to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee, the meniscus, also in the knee, and the labrum of the shoulder. “ACL injuries typically occur in stop-and-start type sports that require cutting and pivoting motions,” says Dr. Abeyta.
These injuries are prevalent in sports such as basketball, football, soccer, alpine skiing, martial arts, and certain forms of gymnastics and “ultimate” sports. The ACL is a major ligament stabilizer inside the knee joint. It can be torn in many ways, but is most commonly damaged when the knee is forced too much toward the back or to the side.
“When a patient comes in and says, ‘I’ve blown out my knee,’ typically they are talking about an ACL injury,” says Dr. Abeyta. Often the injury is accompanied by a “popping” sound after impact, as well as swelling and severe pain, and the affected knee usually can no longer support the person’s weight.
The Other Knee Issue
“Another common knee injury, particularly in basketball and soccer players, is a torn meniscus,” says Dr. Abeyta. The meniscus is a horseshoe-shaped section of specialized cartilage that serves as a cushion within the knee. A tear can result from squatting or twisting-type motions.
Common signs and symptoms of a meniscus injury are swelling, clicking, catching and locking. But while the joint feels painful when in use, the pain often goes away when the person is off his or her feet. “If these symptoms persist more than a few days,” says Dr. Abeyta, “you should be seen by a specialist.”
The Thrower’s Injury
“When baseball pitchers wind up to throw, they can tear the top part of the labrum ligament in the shoulder, which is often referred to as a SLAP tear,” says Dr. Abeyta. (SLAP is an acronym that stands for superior labral tear from anterior to posterior.) “Football players are often struck on the arm, and the shoulder can be levered sideways out of the socket,” he continues. “This causes a tear on the front part of the labrum.”
“I was playing football at San Mateo High School, running away from a defender,” remembers Mitch Labbie, now a sophomore at Canada College in Redwood City. “He started tackling me and I was trying to stay upright. I put my left arm down, jammed it into the ground and heard a pop.”
Two years later, Mitch was playing baseball, dove for a ball, tore the labrum in his shoulder, and had to sit out the game for a year.
Back in the Game
“We can get most people back to their sports,” says Dr. Abeyta. “But it can take time. Severe injuries requiring surgical procedures may take up to nine months to heal.”
Both Matt and Mitch have subsequently undergone surgery and physical therapy. Matt now plays shortstop in the San Jose Men’s Senior Baseball League and has also returned to his other love, snowboarding. “I went to Tahoe five times this past season,” he says. “The snow wasn’t very good this year, but my knee was completely pain-free.”
Since his injury, Matt even changed his major to kinesiology and is planning a career as a physical therapist. Mitch is back on the mound and pitched all last season for Canada College. He hopes to someday play baseball professionally.
“It’s been about two years since my surgery,” he says. “I’m back on the field playing the sport I love, and it feels great.”
National Fall Prevention week is Sept. 22-29
Age-related changes in balance, combined with other factors such as medications, can lead to an increased risk of falling as we get older.
Staying on your feet is critical to maintaining health. In California, more than one million seniors fall each year, with approximately 100,000 of those falls resulting in serious injuries or fatalities, according to the San Mateo County Fall Prevention Task Force.
“If you are concerned about your risk factors for falling, talk to your doctor,” says Kitsum Li, a Mills-Peninsula occupational therapist who specializes in fall prevention. Read More about Stay on Your Feet! Fall Prevention Critical to Good Health for Seniors
Do you work out to tone your abs or trim your thighs?
According to Mills-Peninsula exercise physiologist Brooke Benjamin, the most important muscle to exercise is your heart. “There are many benefits to giving your heart a good workout,” she says.
Cardio exercise may:
- Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Improve heart function
- Increase oxygen output
- Burn fat
Learn how to use the FITT principle (Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type) in planning your cardio activity in this video segment from Healthpoint TV.