Monday, April 14, 2014


Just say “Ahhh”

All you have to do is say, “Ahhh” — it’s that simple to get checked at a screening during Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, which is observed April 20-26.

Oral, head, and neck cancer is a broad term that includes malignant tumors occurring in the mouth or oral cavity, which includes lips, tongue, gums, lining inside the lips and cheeks, and the floor or roof of the mouth; the oropharynx, which includes the back one-third of the tongue, the back of the throat, and the tonsils; the nasopharynx, the area behind the nose; the hypopharynx, lower part of the throat; and the voice box.

The sixth most common cancer in the world, oral, head, and neck cancer affects more than 100,000 people each year in the United States.

According to The National Cancer Institute, there are several risk factors:

•  Tobacco (including smokeless tobacco) and alcohol use are very important risk factors for oral, head and neck cancers, particularly those of the tongue, mouth, throat and voice box.
•  Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually-transmitted disease, has recently emerged as a leading cause of oropharyngeal (tonsil and base of tongue) cancer, particularly in non-smokers and younger age groups.
•  Family history or exposure to radiation.  While anyone can develop thyroid cancers, these are considered factors that may increase the risk.

Some early signs and symptoms may include:

•  A red or white spot in your mouth that doesn't heal or that increases in size
•  Sore throat or swollen tonsil
•  Changes in your voice
•  A lump in your neck
•  Persistent earachwe
•  Difficulty swallowing

It is important to note that the symptoms described here can occur with no cancer present, but having a thorough examination by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) physician can rule out any issues.

Speaking of that, Backus Hospital will offer a free head and neck cancer screening on Thursday, April 24, provided by ENTspecialists Gregory Lesnik, MD, Thomas Lesnik, MD, and Steven Green, MD.  Dentists also participating in the screening include Edward Yates, DDS, Richard Martin, MD, DMD, Robert Strick, DMD,  and Sami Yousuf, DDS. The screening will take place, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the hospital’s main entry level conference rooms at 326 Washington St. in Norwich. No appointments necessary; walk-ins welcome.

Last year more than 150 people were checked at the Backus screening – it’s easy, free, and might even save a life.  For more information about oral, head, and neck cancer, visit

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


Sometimes, out of tragedy, comes awareness

On Wednesday, April 2, the Fort Hood Army base in Texas was rocked by a shooting that left four dead and 16 wounded. Since then, military officials revealed that the alleged shooter, Ivan Lopez, was being assessed for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — a mental illness that has become associated with veterans of war.

PTSD is a debilitating mental disorder that can affect people who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event, such as abuse, assault, disasters, accidents, or wartime. Those suffering from PTSD may experience a wide range of symptoms including flashbacks, nightmares, sleep disturbances, or panic attacks. They may seem irritable and explosive, or detached and avoidant. Here are some more facts about PTSD:

•  We don’t know exactly who will develop PTSD. After a traumatic event, it is common to develop an acute stress reaction, but only a small percentage will go on to develop PTSD. Various factors such as genetics and a history of prior trauma seem to play a role. A traumatic brain injury, such as those experienced in battle when soldiers are exposed to explosive devices, is likely to increase the risk of developing PTSD.

•  PTSD affects men and women, children and adults. Although women are slightly more likely to suffer from PTSD, men are susceptible too. Similarly, PTSD can affect people of all ages. Children may not display classic symptoms of PTSD, but instead may show regression in behavior or other behavioral problems.

•  People with PTSD may self-medicate. What looks like a drug or alcohol problem on the outside may stem from deeper seeded issues. People with mental illnesses like PTSD often self-medicate with alcohol or prescription or street drugs. PTSD is also known to have a high degree of correlation with other mental illnesses (co-morbidity), such as major depression and anxiety disorders.

•  PTSD, like all mental illnesses, is treatable. There is often a misconception that treatment doesn’t work; on the contrary, between 70% and 90% of individuals that receive treatment for mental illness have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of therapy and medication.

Jonathan Chasen, MD, is an Associate Medical Director at Natchaug Hospital, a Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network affiliate and Eastern Connecticut’s leading provider of intensive behavioral health and substance abuse treatment. This column should not replace the advice of your provider. To watch a video on post-traumatic stress disorder, visit

Monday, April 07, 2014


The benefits of adding the “out” to your workout

As we emerge squinting and stumbling from our hibernatory caves, we get our first taste of delicious sunshine and smile. Spring is here — and not a moment too soon. We’ve officially made it through a very tough winter.

At this time of year, we are naturally drawn to the outdoors, and with good reason. Not only do we want to drink in all of that warmth and blue sky we’ve been missing, but mankind has an innate physiological need to connect with nature.

While I’m sure that most of you can appreciate how good you feel after spending time outside, you may be unaware that studies are beginning to show just how important nature is to our health. Research has demonstrated that regularly spending time outdoors can reduce stress hormone levels and release endorphins. It can enhance our immune systems and balance our moods. Amazingly, recent studies have shown that it can even boost our ability to fight cancer.

And those are just the benefits of being outside, even if it’s just to sit quietly in the grass and listen to the sound of chirping birds and swaying tree branches. Exercise itself boasts many of the same advantages as quiet time in nature, so just imagine how the bonuses multiply when you exercise outside. Cha-ching!

What’s more, researchers have observed that people who exercise outdoors perceive their level of exertion as lower and their sense of enjoyment higher than those exercising at the same intensity indoors. Imagine that. You’re working out harder (and reaping all the rewards of a more intense workout) without even feeling it, all while having more fun. Cha-ching! Cha-ching!

Yep, this one’s a no-brainer. So in the spirit of spring, re-introduce yourself to Mother Nature. She’s missed you.

Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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