Health aware

Local services can help people take charge of their health, disease prevention

Hospital offers breast, low-cost vascular screenings

By Deb Hadachek Telescope editor

Screenings are fast, inexpensive, don’t require a doctor’s orders- -and save lives.

Radiology technicians at Republic County Hospital plan to broadcast that message frequently in October and November as they encourage people to get screened for breast cancer and vascular diseases.

“Filling out the paperwork will probably take more time than the actual screenings,” says Jessica Melton, director of the radiology department.

During October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, women who schedule mammograms will be eligible for drawings for prizes ranging from massages to gym memberships to pottery painting classes.

“The American College of Radiologists recommend yearly screening for breast cancer starting at age 40,” says Melton. “Women sometimes ask when they should stop getting mammograms–but they shouldn’t stop. Risk of breast cancer increases with age.”

Mammograms are covered by Medicare and most insurances, and financial assistance programs are available to help women who cannot afford the cost, Melton says.

Mammograms do not require a doctor’s order. Anyone can call the radiology department at the hospital, 785-527-2254 to schedule a screening. Vascular screenings A new service this year offered by the radiology department are low-cost vascular screenings of carotid arteries, aortic aneurysms of the abdomen, and an ankle brachial pressure index to check for blocked arteries in the legs due to peripheral artery disease. The department will begin to promote that service the week of November 5-9, which is will also include the Republic County Hospital Health Fair and NCK Health Care Foundation Radiothon on November 8.

Screenings will be conducted by Pam Clancy, a registered vascular technician, Melton, and radiology tech Heather Gieber.

“Carotid artery blockages is a big cause of strokes,” Melton says. “Our goal is to catch problems before people start to have symptoms.”

Clancy says that recognizing signs and symptoms and understanding the benefits to lifestyle modification and risk factor management are proactive steps patients can take to reduce their risk of stroke and vascular disease.

Cost of the tests are $20 apiece, or $50 for all three. Melton says her staff recommends the screenings for all ages.

“There is no rhyme or reason to what age people might be affected by blocked arteries or an aneurysm,” she says.

The screenings are a non-diagnostic assessment, and are “very quick”, she says. Patients will receive a printout that shows whether they are in normal or abnormal ranges, with a recommendation to schedule an appointment with their physician if abnormalities are seen.

“We’re very excited to add this, and may offer other kinds of screenings, including kidney and cardiac screenings, in the future,” she says.

Appointments for the vascular screenings can be made by calling the hospital at 785-527-2254. Evening appointments may be available.

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Residents urged to get a jump on flu season

Influenza, shingles vaccine can save people misery, serious complications

By Deb Hadachek Telescope editor

Get them earlier.

Get them younger.

Make sure you know what you’re getting.

Don’t just get them to protect yourself. Get them to protect others.

That’s the information that Republic County Health Department director Danielle Swanson continues to needle area residents about when it comes to flu shots.

Flu vaccine has been in stock since September at the health department on US81 Highway in the former Rolling Hills Electric Building.

“Flu shots are good for the whole year,” she says. “The primary months when people get the flu are October, or late winter (January and February), and these vaccines are designed to cover people through both of the worst periods.”

Three vaccines are available at the health department: one for people ages six months through 49 years; another best adapted for people 50-64 years, and the Fluzone high-dose influenza vaccine for people 64 and older. The Fluzone is 1 1/2 times the strength of regular vaccines and offers the best protection for older people most at risk if they contract influenza.

Not all flu shots are made alike, Swanson stresses.

“The high-dose vaccine is not something that everyone carries,” Swanson says. “When people get an influenza vaccine, they need to ask what they’re getting.”

Health department officials say the more people who get vaccines, the better protection everyone has against diseases like influenza.

Swanson points out that influenza is a respiratory illness–not an upset stomach.

“Flu vaccines cannot cause flu illness,” she says. Side effects to the vaccine are rare, and usually mild, lasting only a day or two.

The Centers for Disease Control says vaccines are either made with inactivated (killed) viruses that are not infectious, or by using a single gene from a flu virus that produces an immune response without causing an infection.

The CDC says that the flu can be a serious disease that carries a risk of serious complications, particularly among people with chronic health conditions.

New shingles vaccine

The health department also stocks Shingrix, a new vaccine licensed in 2017 to protect against the shingles virus.

Shringrex is recommended for people age 50 and above, and Swanson recommends even people who had the older vaccine consider a Shingrix vaccine.

Shingles is a painful rash that usually develops on one side of the body, often the face or torso. The rash consists of blisters that typically scab over in 7 to 10 days and clears up within 2 to 4 weeks. Some people describe the pain as an intense burning sensation. For some people, the pain can last for months or even years after the rash goes away. Anyone who has recovered from chickenpox may develop shingles; even children can get shingles. However, the risk of shingles increases as you get older.

Medicare does not cover Shingrex, although Swanson recommends that Medicare-eligible people check to see whether their supplemental insurance will cover the cost, which is $320 for two shots taken at least two months apart.

Many private insurance carriers do cover the vaccine as a preventative measure, she said.

The health department has been offering special clinics for vaccinations for flu shots, Shingrix and Pneumovax 23, and low-cost lab services at locations around Republic County this week. Nurses will be at the Cuba Community Center Friday, October 5 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., and at the Republic County Health Department on Saturday, October 13 from 8 a.m. to noon. Services are also available during regular business hours at the health department, and until 6 p.m. on Wednesdays.