Mastering Medicalese

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Betsy de Parry

Unless we happened to choose a career in the medical field, most of us gave up learning medical terminology in high school health or college biology.

Then we get cancer and come face to face with big, incomprehensible words that we’ve done just fine not knowing our whole lives. It’s like going to a foreign land without speaking the language and being unable ask for directions.

Since healing is our destination when we detour to Cancer Land, it helps to understand how to get there. And that means learning at least some Medicalese. I know it’s not easy.

Like most people, I was thoroughly dazed and confused when I was first diagnosed. Not only was I facing a life-threatening disease, but suddenly I was hearing and reading huge words that I didn’t understand. No wonder I felt unequipped to make informed decisions that needed to be made.

And there were lots of mysterious words and phrases. One of my first encounters was with “bilateral inguinal lymphadenopathy.” I figured that bilateral meant both sides and that lymphadenopathy might be swelling of some kind, but inguinal? What the heck was that? Continue reading

I found a lump in my breast, what next?

breast lumpWhether it was discovered during a breast self-exam or incidentally as you were putting on your deodorant, finding a breast lump can be terrifying. Somehow it seems human nature for us to think the worst when we find a mass or lump anywhere there should not be one. Both the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society provide some peace of mind by noting that most breast lumps are not cancer. In fact, there are a whole host of more common and benign (non-cancerous) conditions that can cause lumps in the breast including collections of fluid, deposits of fat, and deposits of calcium.

But once found, do not wait, thinking the mass will go away on its own. Make sure to notify your healthcare provider. If you are having any difficulty moving your arms or have uncontrolled pain or redness/swelling in the breast, you should contact your care Continue reading

Food safety is as simple as ABC: Always Be Careful

food safetyIt’s mid-day and you are trying to figure out what to have for dinner. You decide on meatloaf, but the ground sirloin is in the freezer. Since you have a few hours, you set it on the counter to thaw and proceed to the next thing on your to do list. Despite what your parents may think or what you have done for years, this is not the safest way to thaw meat.

World Health Day, celebrated each year in April, is focused on food safety. Increase your understanding and awareness by following the tips below.

Keep clean

  • Wash hands, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, before cooking and when switching tasks, such as cutting raw meat to cutting raw vegetables.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with cool running water and a soft brush before cutting, slicing or shredding.

Separate raw and cooked

Continue reading

Improving cancer awareness among minorities

April 5-11 is National Minority Cancer Awareness Week

minority cancerNo minority, race or culture is immune to cancer. Unfortunately, any person can develop cancer. Some groups are more likely to get or die from cancer than others.

We know:

  • African Americans are more likely to die of cancer than people of any other racial or ethnic group.*
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have risk factors that lead to a greater rate of cancer cases.*
  • Overall, 1 in 2 Hispanic men and 1 in 3 Hispanic women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.*

Continue reading

Cell hunters: the quest to diagnose pancreatic cancer early

Part 2: Sunitha Nagrath, Ph.D.

pancreatic cancerEditor’s note: Cell Hunters is a series focusing on members of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Center. One diagnostic tool they are advancing involves detecting pancreatic cancer cells in the bloodstream before any sign of cancer is obvious through current diagnostic techniques. The successful hunt for these cells would result in a tool for earlier detection, when treatment is more likely to be successful.

Most other cancers have multiple choices for both early detection tools and treatment options. In the case of pancreatic cancer, there is no early detection tool yet, but one Continue reading

Throat Cancer: More Common Than You Might Think

U-M Cancer Center to offer free throat cancer screenings April 18

throat cancerMichael Douglas, Sigmund Freud, Ulysses S. Grant, George Harrison, and Babe Ruth – what could these people possibly have in common? Throat Cancer.

Even though it’s not talked about as much as some other types of cancer, throat cancer isn’t rare – in fact it’s the sixth most common cancer in the United States.

Throat cancer can start in the soft tissues of the upper, middle or bottom portion of the throat and can include the voice box (larnyx).

Researchers have found that 85 percent Continue reading