Category Archives: Health News

Neurosurgeon Sheds Light on Former President Jimmy Carter’s Cancer Diagnosis

Posted on: August 27, 2015

Neurosurgeon Sheds Light on Former President Jimmy Carter’s Cancer Diagnosis

By Dr. Ezriel Kornel

Former President Jimmy Carter recently received his first radiation treatment targeting four Kornel, (Ezriel Kornel, MD)spots of melanoma on his brain.

Many people have only heard of melanoma on the skin. However, melanoma has a high rate of metastasizing to the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. In the case of a single metastasis, surgical removal is typically an option. In the case of Jimmy Carter, he has multiple melanoma spots on his brain, and is being treated with radiation.

At Northern Westchester Hospital, we treat many of our brain cancer patients with radiation using a Gamma Knife. Not to be confused with an actual knife or incision, it is a large helmet-shaped device which the patient slides into after having a head-frame placed under brief sedation.  It delivers high doses of radiation in one sitting that lasts  from a half hour to a couple of hours.

The primary goal of this procedure is to stop the cancer from growing, and it has a very high success rate – more than 90% – with minimal if any side effects. It is very successful in that it is so precise that it does not damage surrounding areas in the brain.

While I’m not treating Jimmy Carter, I would say that at the age of 90, if he has no new cancerous lesions elsewhere, he can continue to maintain his current schedule and activities. And if there are new lesions discovered in the future in his brain, he can repeat his radiation treatments.

The melanoma, itself, presents risks. Some patients experience seizures or neurologic symptoms such as balance issues. And melanoma has tendencies to bleed, which can have devastating neurologic consequences.

The good news is that melanoma is to a large extent preventable. Avoiding excessive exposure to sunlight is important, and wearing sunscreen is always imperative with prolonged sun exposure. If you see any questionable spots on your skin, or spots that change, make an appointment with your primary care physician or dermatologist as soon as possible. Like many cancers, if melanoma is caught early, it is treatable.

Editor’s Note: Ezriel Kornel, MD, FACS, is a Neurosurgeon and Director of Neurosciences at The Orthopedic and Spine Institute at Northern Westchester Hospital. 

Read additional blog posts about the gamma knife, melanoma and sun safety.

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Living Well with Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Posted on: August 25, 2015

Living Well with Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Not a day goes by that I don’t see vibrant and articulate patients in their 90s. The fact that Americans are living longer – much longer – also means that I’m seeing more cases of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease of the retina that is the leading cause of visual impairment in people over 65, and it’s on the rise.

This typically progressive disease involves the deterioration of the macula, a small area at the center of the retina (essentially the film of the camera which captures visual images and transfers them to the brain). The macula provides your most sensitive vision, the kind you use to look directly ahead. It is the area of the eye you are using right now, to read this article; and which enables you to look at faces. Fortunately, recent advances in treatments for AMD are offering vision-saving results, while a host of low-vision aids can boost quality of life even for those with significantly impaired sight.

Age is the main risk factor for AMD, though smoking doubles your chance of developing the illness. AMD is more common among Caucasians, and genetics also play a part. Detected through a dilated eye exam, AMD has dry and wet stages. The dry stage, involving atrophy of the macula, can cause visual impairment or produce no symptoms at all. In the wet stage, blood vessels growing abnormally below the retina leak fluid and blood that can severely impair central vision or cause central visual blindness.

In recent years, medications have been developed that “are nothing short of a miracle.” When these new drugs are injected through the white of the eye into the vitreous — the fluid-filled cavity that comprises the back of the eye – they can prevent additional visual loss in 90 percent of patients, even preventing central vision blindness. What is more, the medications restore some lost central vision to approximately 40 percent of patients. To be effective, they must be administered by a retinal specialist for the rest of a patient’s life, either monthly or bimonthly.

Recently, a national eye study showed that for people in the intermediate stage of AMD, taking certain combinations of vitamins may slow the progression of the disease, thereby decreasing the risk of the dry stage progressing to the wet.

Dr. Fern adds that there is some evidence that once a person has AMD, maintaining a healthy weight, normal blood pressure and cholesterol level, not smoking, engaging in regular exercise, and eating a diet rich in green leafy vegetables and possibly fish, can prevent or slow the development of the disease.

Boosting Quality of Life

First, remember that no one goes completely blind from AMD because you don’t lose peripheral vision. You can still live independently even with an advanced stage of the disease. In addition, certain eye professionals — usually optometrists — specialize in low-vision aids. The wide range of supportive devices includes high-powered lenses for reading, and closed-circuit monitors on which a book’s print appears much larger. The Kindle e-book reader or similar devices can now dramatically enlarge the size of a book’s text.  These devices allow you to keep reading many of the things you enjoy.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Craig Fern is an Ophthalmologist and Chief of the Division of Ophthalmology at Northern Westchester Hospital (NWH).




Summer Safety Tips

Posted on: August 5, 2015

Summer Safety Tips

By Dr. Peter Richel

Keeping children healthy and safe through the summer months takes preventive measures. ChildreYoung Family Parents and Boy Son Cyclingn should wear protective gear for whatever activity they may be engaged in—helmets for biking and skateboarding, life jackets for swimming, and so on.

However, there is safety gear for activities you may not consider dangerous. Because ticks are such a concern, I recommend children wear shoes, socks, light pants tucked into the socks, and long sleeves when hiking in the woods. Clothing can be sprayed lightly with Deep Woods Off—but it’s too strong to use directly on children’s skin. For the skin, parents can apply Skintastic or Avon Skin-So-Soft with good repellent quality and demonstrated safety. (However, don’t use these on infants less than 6 months of age.) The best prevention is in daily tick and rash checks—just line up the kids at bath time!

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Infectious Diseases Expert Explains Legionnaires’ Outbreak in the Bronx

Posted on: July 30, 2015

Infectious Diseases Expert Explains Legionnaires’ Disease

By Dr. Debra Spicehandler

With reports of cases of Legionnaires’ disease cases rising to 31 in the South Bronx, individuals should know the symptoms, and that it is treatable. I have seen one case at Northern Westchester Hopsital this month. Legionnaires’ disease is not rare. In fact, it is one of the most common causes of pneumonia. However, it can be treated with antibiotics including Erythromycin, Zithromax, or Levaquin.

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Surprising Findings for Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergies

Posted on: July 29, 2015

Does early introduction of peanut products reduce the incidence of peanut allergy?

By Dr. Craig Osleeb

Creamy Peanut Butter with PeanutsPeanut allergy is a major problem. It is currently one of the 6 most common causes of food allergy in childhood. The prevalence of peanut allergy has risen over the past decade and currently affects approximately 1.4% of the USA population. While many children will outgrow their food allergy to milk, egg, wheat and soy, 82% of those allergic to peanut will remain so for life. This is a great concern to parents, patient’s and the healthcare community at large. In February of this year the New England Journal of Medicine published a prospective placebo blinded study (Learning Early about Peanut Allergy, LEAP, study) that has far reaching implications for the prevention of peanut allergy.

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