Everyone Needs Protection from the Sun

April 27, 2022

A problem with any of your organs is troubling. Heart, liver, kidney, or lung issues would be a cause for alarm. 

That doesn’t seem to be the case with skin. It’s the body’s largest organ but we’re often dismissive of taking better care of it. That is probably why skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. It is, however, entirely, and easily, avoided. 

Skin Cancer Basics

Skin cancer is caused by the uncontrolled growth of cells on the epidermis — the outer layer of skin. It is triggered by overexposure to ultraviolet rays from either the sun or tanning beds. 

Protecting skin with sunscreen, a hat, or covering up with clothing are among the best methods for protecting against skin cancer. Sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is recommended for everyone, no matter your complexion or how much time you expect to spend in the sun. 

Skin Cancer Women

One in five adults will develop one of the following types of skin cancer before they turn 70: 

  • Basal cell carcinoma 

  • Melanoma 

  • Nonmelanoma skin cancer 

  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin 

Basal Cell Carcinoma

This is one of the most common forms of skin cancer. It starts in a specific type of cell that produces new skin layers as the old skin layers die. 

It’s most common on the face, head, and neck since they get the most exposure to the sun. Basal cell carcinomas most often appear as: 

  • A shiny skin-colored bump 

  • A lesion that’s black, brown, or blue 

  • A flat, scaly patch 

  • A white, waxy, scar-like lesion 

See your doctor if these ever appear on your skin. 

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This is also a very common form of skin cancer. This develops from cells in the middle and outer layers of skin. It’s caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight or artificial ultraviolet (UV) radiation. 

While not usually life threatening, it can be aggressive and spread to other squamous cells which are found in multiple places on the body. This includes places NOT exposed to sunlight. 

Symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic, include: 

  • A rim, red nodule 

  • A flat sore with a scaly crust 

  • A raised area or sore on an old scar 

  • A rough, scaly patch on the lip that becomes an open sore 

  • A rough patch or red sore inside the mouth 

  • A wartlike sore on the anus or genitals 

See a doctor if you develop a sore that won’t heal after a couple of months. 

Melanomas

This is the most serious type of skin cancer and forms in the cells that create melanin or skin pigmentation. Melanoma risk is increasing for people under 40, especially women. The exact cause is unclear, but exposure to UV light from the sun or tanning lamps increases the risk. 

Melanomas can develop anywhere, including places not exposed to the sun, like the soles of the feet, palms, or fingernail beds. These “hidden” melanomas are much more common in people with darker skin. 

Symptoms include: 

  • Changes in a mole 

  • A new pigmented growth on the skin 

Dermatologists recommend using the letters “ABCDE,” to help identify moles that may be melanomas or other skin cancers. 

  • A is for asymmetrical shape 

  • B is for irregular border 

  • C is for changes in color 

  • D is for diameter 

  • E is for evolving 

Nonmelonoma Skin Cancer

This includes basal cell carcinoma and squamous along with about six others that form on other parts of the skin. 

Skin cancer can be successfully treated with surgery for removal. But patients who believe they have cancerous cells on their skin need to contact their doctors immediately. Left untreated, skin cancer can spread and be fatal. 

Protecting the skin from exposure to ultraviolet radiation is the BEST way to prevent skin cancer. 

Skin Cancer Session

Check Your Skin

Early detection of skin abnormalities is the best way to identify, then develop a treatment plan to prevent skin cancer from spreading. This improves the chances of treating or even curing it. 

The best way to stay healthy and make sure you are getting the screenings you need is to get regular health checkups. Depending on your personal and family health histories, your doctor may recommend additional screenings for you. 

Contact AltaMed at (888) 499-9303 for more information about the health screenings you need.  

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Cancer Patients Have More Hope After Years of Advancements

March 18, 2022

“You have cancer,” may be the most frightening thing a person can hear from their doctor.

However, it’s not the death sentence it might have been 30 years ago. Early screenings, advancements in treatment, and a greater emphasis on prevention have helped reduce the incidents of some cancers and increased the survival rates of cancer patients.

Cancer Control Month

Organizations focused on battling cancer take center stage in April thanks to a declaration in 1943 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He called upon doctors, universities, the media, and other organizations to raise awareness about cancer.

It’s been 79 years since that first Cancer Control Month. Incidents of cancer continue to increase as people live longer, but the number of deaths from cancer have dropped dramatically and continue to drop.

Child

By the Numbers

There were 1.8 million cancer cases diagnosed in the United States in 2021. The American Cancer Society (ACS) projects 1.9 million new cases in 2022 and 609,360 deaths from cancer. That is about 1,670 deaths per day.

That death toll is high, but those numbers have dropped dramatically over the last 28 years. The cancer rate for men and women combined has fallen 32% from 1991 to 2019, the most recent year data were available, according to the ACS.

That 32% drop means almost 3.5 million fewer people died due to cancer during that time. Much of that success is due to fewer people smoking which led to drops in lung and other smoking-related cancers.

Other factors contributing to the lower death rate include:

  • Chemotherapy after colon and breast cancer surgery
  • Combination treatments for more cancers
  • Early detection through improved screenings for cancers in the breast, cervix, colon, prostate, rectum, and lung

Sunscreen

Preventing Cancer

Sometimes cancer just happens. There could be hereditary factors that contribute to the development of cancers like colon, breast, prostate, pancreatic, and ovarian cancer. Doctors have identified the gene mutations and are working to address those in an attempt to control cancer development.

Other times, perfectly healthy people develop blood cancers like leukemia or lymphoma. Even nonsmokers can develop lung cancer. It just happens.

However, anywhere from 30% to 50% of cancer cases are preventable. There are now vaccines that will reduce the risk of some sexually transmitted cancers. It’s also important to practice the following to help lower your chances of developing some cancers:

  • Avoid tobacco use, including smokeless tobacco or e-cigarettes.
  • Eat a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Practice safe sex.
  • Get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B.
  • Protect your skin from ultraviolet radiation.
  • Reduce exposure to other types of radiation because of work or environment.
  • Reduce exposure to smoke from solid fuels like wood or coal.
  • Have regular medical visits.

Woman

Disparities Remain

The overall progress in the fight against cancer has been promising. However, significant disparities exist when it comes to the diagnosis, treatment, and survival rates of certain groups, according to the National Cancer Institute.

  • African Americans have higher death rates than any other ethnic group from many — though not all — cancer types.
  • African American women are more likely than white women to die of breast cancer despite having similar rates of diagnosis.
  • Black men are twice as likely to die of prostate cancer than white men. They also have the highest prostate mortality rate among all U.S. population groups despite the overall death rate dropping significantly.
  • People with more education are less likely to die from colorectal cancer before the age of 65 than those with less education, regardless of race or ethnicity.
  • Hispanic and Black women have higher rates of cervical cancer than women of other groups.

Start with Your Doctor

Having a good relationship with your primary care physician is the best way to begin your long-term health care journey. They can get you on a path that will help you avoid the risks that might lead to cancer. They can also help guide you to the right specialists, should you ever get that diagnosis.

You can find those relationships at AltaMed. Get started by contacting us today at (877) 462-2582.

Managing Stress Before It Becomes Anxiety

March 21, 2022

It feels like stress has been a frequent companion for the last two years. The pandemic has forced many of us to feel lonely and isolated. We may have lost loved ones or seen friends and relatives spend time in the hospital. Jobs have been lost and financial worries seem constant.

It’s normal, however. Stress is the body’s response to the unknown. Learning how to handle that stress can make you resilient. 

Stressed Woman

The Body and Stress

Your body releases hormones whenever you’re stressed. It is part of the fight-or-flight response that has developed over millions of years. You become more alert, your muscles get tense, and your pulse increases. The stress is meant to help you handle that situation.

Staying stressed, even after that stressful situation has passed, can lead to chronic stress which can lead to health problems like:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Menstrual problems
  • Anxiety

Anxiety happens when the stress takes over. You are in a constant state of worry. Symptoms include:

  • Changes in appetite, energy, and motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling angry, frustrated, sad, scared, or worried
  • Headaches, body aches, stomach problems, or rashes
  • Nightmares
  • Use of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco
  • Worsening physical or mental health

Family Stress

4 A’s of Stress Management

It’s important to learn productive ways to deal with stress because we deal with it nearly every day. Sometimes it’s good, like a wedding, birthday, or a new job. Sometimes it’s difficult, like a flat tire, an illness, or a pandemic. There are ways to get your body back into balance, so you’re not overwhelmed by stress.

The Mayo Clinic recommends four A’s to cope with stress: avoid, alter, accept, and adapt

  • Avoid — The news can be incredibly stressful so, avoid it. Being informed is important, but not at the expense of your health. Don’t engage with people who bother you. Learn to say “no.” If you have a “to-do” list, prioritize items on that list and forget the ones you can’t get to that day.
  • Alter — It may be worth having a talk with that bothersome person if they can’t be avoided. Communicate your feelings with “I” statements about how you feel. Tell people there are limits to your time and stick to those. Use your time more efficiently.
  • Accept — It can help to talk with a sympathetic friend. It might be time to forgive someone, which can be hard. Practice positivity. Don’t get down on yourself for mistakes. Remind yourself that mistakes happen to everyone. Learn and move on.
  • Adapt — Shift your thinking. You may want things to be “perfect.” That’s not necessary. Learn to stop gloomy thoughts. Look at situations from a different viewpoint. Find the positivity in each situation. Try to come up with at least three good things that happened each day. This will lead you to start looking for the good in your life as you look for different things to be thankful for.

Regular exercise, having a hobby, staying connected with friends, eating a healthy diet, and meditating are all ways that can help you keep the stress in check.

Get Help When You Need It

If stress is keeping you from enjoying life, it might be time to seek professional assistance. Start by talking with your primary care doctor. They may have some tips or advice for you, and they can also refer you to AltaMed Behavioral Health Services.

If you’re not sure if stress is your problem or if you should see a doctor, you can call AltaMed Behavioral Health Services directly at 855- 425-1777. We can help you find answers so you can get the care that’s right for you. Take a deep breath…together, we’ve got this.