Monday, April 22, 2013

What to Know About STDs

A major concern I currently see in my practice is the increase rate of STDs I see on a daily basis. Although the average American feels this is a teenage disease the fact is that all ages are affected by this including children and aging adults. With the more education we have on the subject it is assumed that most people know about safe sex. I have found after educating my patients however, that a lot of patients really do not know exactly how common STDs are or the outcome an untreated STD can cause.

HPV is something we hear in the news a lot these days due to cervical cancer and the Gardasil injections. These injections are recommended between the ages of 10-26 for both boys and girls. In some instances there are parents who question the need as the vaccine is still new and they truly do not understand the virus.  What most parents do not know is that 80% of the population in America has some form of HPV.

Certain strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer, esophageal cancer, rectal cancer, or genital warts. All of these strains are transmitted via sexual contact. By receiving the vaccine it can help protect against the 4 most common forms of cervical cancer and genital warts. HPV is a very contagious virus and can be spread easily from person to person including from a parent to child by simple skin to skin contact. It is highly recommended that all children get the vaccine due to the easy transmission and the possible deadly outcome.

Another concern is Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. This is a very common STD that many take in stride since it can be treated with an antibiotic. In recent years however, there has been a recent outbreak of Gonorrhea strains that are resistant to certain forms of antibiotics. This STD can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in females if untreated. Since the majority of females do not have symptoms the disease spreads into the uterus and fallopian tubes which cause inflammation and infection. This can lead to infertility. Due to the fact this can cause serious reproduction issues for the female and has very little symptoms it is tested on routine pelvic exams for females under 25 who have changed their partner since their last pelvic exam.

Herpes is another virus that can be obtained via sexual contact. This virus can be located almost anywhere on the body and is easily transferred with touch. The virus causes painful eruption of blisters to the affected area. Some of the areas include the genitals, oral sores including inside the mouth, and hands. There is no cure for this type of STD but medication can be used to suppress the symptoms. Pregnant women who have a history of genital herpes will need to make the OB aware as the virus could spread to their child during the birthing process.

Other STDs include HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, and syphilis. The best way to prevent most STDs is condom use. If anyone questions if they have a STD they should make an appointment with their provider.

Cumberland Family Practice, a member of PinnacleHealth Medical Group

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Importance of Yearly Physicals

As a primary care provider one of the most frequent questions I get from patients is “Why do I need to come to the doctor's offce when I don’t feel bad?” My response is that one of the most important things you can do is to see the provider when you are healthy.

The goal of healthcare is not to treat illnesses but to prevent them. Prevention and early intervention is the best way to prevent patients from having diseases that can cause anything from heart disease to cancers.  Yearly tests and screenings help detect diseases that would normally go undiagnosed until the patient develops symptoms.

This is when patients feel they were “healthy” until they went to see the doctor. These are the patients that have not seen a provider for years that are then diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, etc.  Had they had physicals, some of these diseases could have been prevented with simple dietary changes.

Currently it is recommended that adults 18 and older get biannual physical exams. Along with the general physical exam at these visits most providers also order screening blood tests that look at cholesterol, thyroid level, and glucose level. Hypertension can also be detected at this time. At age 40 women are encouraged to have mammograms and at age 50 both men and women are encouraged to obtain colonoscopies. These simple screenings can detect certain cancers in early stages which can help prevent an advanced stage that could be life threatening. It is also recommend that women get a Pap test which aids in the detection of cervical cancer.

When health exams are missed and patients make a visit to their provider because they are feeling bad the disease process is already in place. It takes a lot of intervention and time to get the patient back on track. This typically costs the insurance company and patient a lot of money. With the economic times ahead of us, and the ever changing insurance coverage, it is more important now more than ever to see your primary care provider in order to maintain your health and to help prevent costly illnesses in the future.

Cumberland Family Practice, a member of PinnacleHealth Medical Group

Monday, April 8, 2013

Organ Donation

April is not only the month that we hope finally brings spring weather, but it is also Organ Donor Awareness month! This is the perfect time to remind everyone just how great the need is for organ donation in the United States and how you can help to make a difference.

There are many reasons why people do not agree to be organ donors, including fear, lack of knowledge, or they "just don't think about it." But if someone came to you today, and asked if, just by signing a piece of paper, you were able to save someone's life and leave a lasting legacy yourself; would you feel differently?

By choosing to be an organ donor, you can save up to 8 lives, and enhance the quality of life of up to 75 people! There are more than 115,000 people in need of organ transplants in the United States. Of those, over 6,000 will die each year because a donor is not found. It is important to note that the need is especially high in minority groups. If you choose to be an organ donor, you may be able to donate your heart, kidney, liver, pancreas, intestines, or lungs. You can also donate tissues such as your corneas, heart valves, ligaments, veins, bone and much more. This is why so many people can be affected and helped by your decision to donate! It is also possible to become a living donor. A living individual can donate a kidney, part of the pancreas, part of a lung, part of the liver, or part of the intestine. Healthy persons of a certain age can also donate stem cells, and of course can donate blood and platelets.

There are a few myths that many people still believe that may prevent them from agreeing to organ donation. The first and probably most common, is that not all efforts will be made to save your life if you are a registered organ donor. This is simply not true. Organ donation is not even considered until you are deceased. Secondly, many feel that they will not be able to have an open casket funeral. This is also false. There will be no signs of organ or tissue donation when prepared for burial. People also believe there are extra costs incurred to your family to donate your organs. In reality, all costs for organ removal are handled by the transplant recipient. Lastly, some think that they are not in good enough of health to be an organ donor, or they are too old. However, there are no medical or age restrictions put on organ donors.

So how do you become an organ donor? It's very easy! Visit, and click on the link "become a donor." It's that simple. You can also choose to have the Organ Donor designation put on your driver's license whenever you visit a Penndot Photo License Center to have your driver's license photo taken. It is also important to be clear in your wishes to your loved ones and family. Although becoming a registered organ donor is a legal document, and your family cannot change a choice that you have made, it is important for your family to know and be comfortable with your decision. This is especially important if you are under 18, as you need parental consent to declare yourself an organ donor. Children and teenagers are in need of organs too!

Eighteen people die every day waiting for an organ. These are people that could easily be your mother, brother, wife, friend or child. With the medical and scientific advancements of today, we would be able to save these people's lives, if the organs were available. Choose to leave a lasting legacy and give the gift of life today! Please visit for more information. You can also learn more about PinnacleHealth's transplant program at

Bethany Rhoads PA-C

Friday, April 5, 2013

Why Donate Blood

What is the most important thing that you did today? Maybe you took care of your family, tried your best at work (you know we always do at Pinnacle Health!), or helped a friend. Can any of you say that you helped save a life today? And that it took only about an hour of your time? Donating blood is one of the easiest ways to truly make a difference to those who are in need.

More than 44,000 people need blood donations every day! Although science and medical management are advancing, there is NO substitute for blood that is necessary for transfusions and more. The only way to obtain the blood vital to saving people's lives, is from donators just like you. Many people associate the need for blood and transfusions with trauma victims and people who are injured or in accidents. Although this definitely accounts for a percentage of those in need, people who have chronic conditions such as sickle cell anemia or other blood clotting diseases, or who are undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer, or who require surgery are in need as well as others.

So now that we've talked about the WHY, let's talk about the WHAT. What is involved in donating blood?
You must first meet a few basic health requirements in order to be eligible. You must be in good health (you are not fighting a cold or feeling poorly that day), are at least 16 years old, and weigh at least 110 lbs. When you arrive at your donation appointment or the blood drive you may participate in, you will be put through a brief medical history, followed by a brief health screening.

You will have your pulse, blood pressure, hemoglobin, and temperature checked. So you basically get a mini-physical for free! Some tips to ensure a smooth donation are to drink extra fluids to maintain adequate hydration, about 16 ounces before the donation, and eat a healthy meal that is not high in fats. You should always try to eat an iron rich diet that includes foods such as leafy vegetables, beans, fish, poultry and red meat. If you have low iron levels in your blood, you will not be able to donate.

After the donation, which only takes about 10 minutes, you will be given a light refreshment and relax for a few minutes. Some centers also give coupons or incentives after you have donated. Eight weeks later you are able to return and do it again!

One single blood donation is separated into four different parts, and is able to help up to 3 people. Think about how many lives you can help save, if you began to donate blood onc e or twice a month now, and continue as you are able. If you have more in depth questions about whether you are able to donate, visit, or ask your health care provider.

You can also call the Pinnacle Health blood bank at (717)-782-5723, for more information or to make an appointment. Our blood bank is located in the Alex Grass Medical Sciences Building, on the corner of Second and Chestnut Streets. Someone in the United States needs blood every 2 seconds! That's about 60 people just in the time it took you to read this.

You can make a difference today!