Thursday, March 20, 2008
Colon screening technology offers quicker results

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

I recently passed a major milestone. I exceeded the age that my father was when he died of his heart attack. Today's approach to treating things like blood pressure and cholesterol are different than they were back then. For that reason, I felt that I was in better condition. However, with genetics being the strongest predictive factor, it is best to know for sure. I had that opportunity last week. I had what is known as a cardiac CT. This test uses a new model fast CT scanner. This scanner is so fast that it allows you to actually get a three dimensional picture of the heart in color on the screen. The results come back in two parts. The first is a calcium score to see how much calcium you have in your heart arteries. The second part actually has a picture of the arteries. When you have both pieces of information, it gives a pretty good assessment of the status of your heart. With a history like mine, this is a test that is good to give you some peace of mind. It can do so without you having to undergo a heart catheterization. The procedure is relatively simple. It begins with going over your history. That is to make sure that you do not have any conditions that might interfere with the test. It is also to make sure that you do not have a reaction to the dye that is used for the test. The next step is to take your blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels. This ensures that you are healthy enough to go through the test. Perhaps the most difficult part of the test is getting your heart rate down. Even though the machine is fast, there must still be a low heart rate. The goal is to have the heart rate under 60 per minute. My heart rate varied between 57 and 62 before the procedure. For that reason, I had to be given an oral medication to slow down the rate and keep it below 60. An IV is started to inject the dye. The first scan is to get the calcium score. The dye is then injected and the second scan is to look at the arteries. You have to hold your breath for 15 - 20 seconds during the scan. That ensures that there is no chest motion. The cardiologist then looks at the results. That allows the results to be evaluated relatively quickly. If there is a problem that needs to be treated, it can be done. You might think that this is something that would make sense for anyone with a family history like I have. It probably does. It does for the individual. It gives them peace of mind. It does not make as much sense for the insurance companies. They see it as unnecessarily spending money on someone who is not having heart symptoms. That is fine for people who have a warning. However, in people like my father, the first warning was the fatal heart attack. Because of that for people without symptoms, the test will likely be paid for out of pocket right now. However, the price might be well worth the relief if the test is negative. It is certainly worth the price if something is found. You can get it treated before you have what might be a fatal heart attack. There are some people who currently sell total body CT scans. Those are paid for out of pocket. They are pretty worthless. They find more benign things than serious things. A lot of money is then spent chasing down benign findings. A lot of complications occur from the tests that are done to look at benign findings. If you have had any thoughts about spending money on a total body scan, save your money. If you have a strong family history of heart disease, you would have better value from a cardiac CT.

Look-In Glass Shoppe
The Look-In Glass Shoppe of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will be having a "Hop Into Spring Sale" on Thursday, March 20, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pick an egg from the Easter Basket and get a discount from 5 percent to 50 percent off entire stock of Easter and Spring merchandise. Discounts exclude books, candy, live flowers and cards. Payroll deduction available for NHS employees. All proceeds from the Look-In Glass Shoppe benefit Nanticoke Health Services.

Caregivers Diabetes Program
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, Seaford will provide a Caregivers Diabetes Education Program on Saturday, April 12 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Call JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) 302-888-1117 to register or fax 302-741-8602.

Del Tech offers first aid
Parents, teachers, coaches, and day care providers can increase their caregiving and safety skills with courses in pediatric first aid, basic first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) at Delaware Tech, Owens Campus. The course is approved by the Office of Child Care Licensing. Participants must attend both sessions to receive a three-year course completion certificate. For those whose jobs require certification of CPR and basic first aid skills, the college offers courses that teach adult (one-rescuer) CPR and relief of foreign body airway obstruction as well as hands-on skills for quick response in medical emergencies and first aid situations. Those who pass the written exam earn a two-year course completion card. The Pediatric First Aid courses will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on April 7 and 9. CPR & Basic First Aid is a one-session class and will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on March 29 and April 23. For more information, contact Delaware Tech's Corporate and Community Programs at 854-6966.

A JDRF Downstate Diabetes Forum
A JDRF Downstate Diabetes Resource Forum will be held Saturday, April 5 from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at Community Christian Church, 6400 Culver Road, Salisbury. Guest speakers will be Dr. Gerard Kuhn, M.D. and Vic Pelletier. Dr. Kuhn is a parent of a Type 1 daughter. A pediatrician, Dr. Kuhn will speak about JDRF's research. Pelletier lived for 30 years with Type 1 Diabetes and was the recipient of a new pancreas three years ago. He will speak about living with diabetes. The event is hosted by Sondra Messick of Seaford and Robyn Wilson of Ocean City. RSVP to Messick at 629-8210.

Community Health Walk planned for April
Spring into health with the second annual community walk sponsored by Nemours Health and Prevention Services and the Sussex Child Health Promotion Coalition. The walk is Saturday, April 5 at 9 a.m. and includes four locations - Seaford High School track, Woodbridge Sports Complex, Delaware Technical and Community College - Georgetown, and Laurel High School. The first 100 walkers receive a free t-shirt and there will be lots of giveaways for kids. Rain date is Sunday, April 6 at 2 p.m. For more information, contact Nancy Mears at or Dara Laws at

Mammograms offered at Greenwood library
The Women's Mobile Health Screening Van is coming to Greenwood Public Library on Wednesday, April 23. Free or low-cost mammograms will be given to women who have scheduled an appointment. Women interested in receiving a mammogram must call 888-672-9647 before April 23 to schedule an appointment. No one will receive services without an appointment. A doctor's prescription is also required. Don't delay in calling if you are interested in receiving this service at no or low cost. Mammograms can save lives by finding breast cancer as early as possible. The van is administered by the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. and offers high quality services delivered by professional medical staff. The Greenwood Public Library is located east of the railroad tracks, on the corner of Market Street (DE Rt. 16) and Mill Street. You may call 888-672-9647 or 302-349-5309 for information.