Tips for Grilling Food Safely

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 3, 2015

Grilling meat can produce cancer-causing chemicals.

Though Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, many of us will continue to enjoy grilled food throughout September and early October. Follow these tips to enjoy grilled foods safely on the Labor Day weekend and beyond.

Handle Food Properly

  • Store raw meat, fish, and poultry away from other foods. All foods should be wrapped tightly to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Keep meat refrigerated until about 30 minutes before cooking.
  • Germs such as E-coli and salmonella can be present in undercooked food and cause severe illnesses. Don’t rely on external appearance: use a grill thermometer or cut into the meat to gauge if food has been cooked to the desired doneness.
  • To kill bacteria reliably, hamburgers have to be cooked until “well done” (160 degrees Fahrenheit), ground poultry to 165 degrees, and poultry parts to 180 degrees.
  • Do not return cooked poultry to a plate that held raw poultry. Bring along extra disposable dishes and containers to keep raw meats separate from cooked foods.
  • Do not use an implement (e.g., a knife) for cooked meat or any other food after using it on raw meat.

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Living with Atrial Fibrillation – Diagnosis and Treatment

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 1, 2015

It is important to treat atrial fibrillation, because the condition can worsen over time.

Are you or a family member one of the two million Americans living with atrial fibrillation? Atrial fibrillation (AFib, AF) is an abnormal heart rhythm that causes the upper chambers of the heart to beat in a rapid, irregular pattern. Seeking AFib treatment is important, as the condition can progress over time. Untreated, AFib can lead to an increased risk of stroke or heart failure.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation can include palpitations, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Although the exact cause of AFib is not completely understood, it often is associated with increased age, sleep apnea, surgery, and a number of heart ailments, including hypertension, valvular heart disease, heart failure,  or congenital heart disease. AFib treatment typically  includes medication or ablation therapy.

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Are You Overlooking the Warning Signs of a Heart Attack?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 27, 2015

Dr. Kevin Croce, interventional cardiologist

When Boston-area resident Dana Mower sat down to watch Save My Life: Boston Trauma, a medical documentary series about trauma patients treated at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and two other hospitals, he had no idea he would become part of the story about a man having a heart attack.

The program featured a man who was taken to BWH after experiencing symptoms of severe heartburn and indigestion while visiting with his daughter at nearby Boston Children’s Hospital. Diagnostic tests indicated Manny Couto’s symptoms were due to a heart attack, not indigestion. Dr. Kevin Croce, an interventional cardiologist, immediately took Manny to the cardiac catheterization laboratory, where he and his team performed a heart catheterization procedure. During this procedure, Dr. Croce used a small catheter inserted into Manny’s arm to go up to the heart to remove a clot and place a stent to open the blocked artery and restore normal heart blood flow.

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Ovarian Cancer: Risk Factors, Prevention and Early Detection

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 25, 2015

Among women with symptomatic ovarian cancer, BWH researchers determined that the fallopian tube was a starting point in 50 percent of cases.

Angelina Jolie Pitt’s decision to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed highlighted concerns about an uncommon but lethal disease – ovarian cancer. About one in every 70 women will get ovarian cancer in their lifetime, versus one in nine women who will develop breast cancer. Although ovarian cancer is less common, the odds of survival for women with the disease are much lower than for those with breast cancer. Of the 22,000 women who develop ovarian cancer each year, nearly two-thirds die from the disease.

Lower survival rates are partly due to the fact that ovarian cancer often is diagnosed much later than other cancers. Currently, there are no screening tests for early detection of ovarian cancer, and symptoms are non-specific and vague. Symptoms may include bloating, abnormal bleeding, or other abdominal symptoms. However, ongoing research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) is shedding light on who is at risk for developing ovarian cancer and what steps can be taken to reduce that risk.

Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

Women who are born with BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene mutations have a much greater risk of developing both breast and ovarian cancer in their lifetime. In women with these mutations, the risk for developing breast cancer may be as high as 80 percent and as high as 40 percent for ovarian cancer. As a result, if a woman is known to have a BRCA mutation, it is recommended that she consult her physician and genetic counselor about the advantages and disadvantages of having her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed by age 40, when the risk begins to accelerate. Removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes will reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer by about 90 percent.

Beyond genes, other factors may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. These include having multiple births, the use of oral contraceptives, and breastfeeding. Women who have undergone tubal ligation also have a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Link between Ovarian Cancer and the Fallopian Tubes

The recommendation to remove the fallopian tubes as well as ovaries in BRCA-positive women is based on research done at BWH. In 2005, a team of pathologists led by Dr. Christopher Crum, Division Chief of Women’s and Perinatal Pathology, developed a method called the SEE-FIM protocol for evaluating the end of the fallopian tube to detect the origin of ovarian cancer. Using the SEE-FIM protocol, BWH researchers evaluated the fallopian tubes of women who had BRCA mutations. They found that five to 10 percent of these women had a very early cancer in the fallopian tubes. Among women with symptomatic ovarian cancer, BWH researchers determined that the fallopian tube was a starting point in 50 percent of cases.

In this video, Dr. Crum discusses additional steps that can be taken to reduce ovarian cancer risk and research to develop diagnostic tests that can further identify ovarian cancer risk or detect early signs of the disease.

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- Jamie R.

Understanding the Risks of Antidepressant Use during Pregnancy

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 20, 2015

New research suggests that antidepressant use in late pregnancy doesn't significantly increase risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 13 percent of pregnant women and new mothers may experience depression. Antidepressant medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are an effective treatment for depression. However, their use during late pregnancy has raised concerns, due to questions about the health impact on newborns.

A 2006 study suggested that the use of antidepressants in late pregnancy (after 20 weeks) may increase the risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). PPHN is a condition that typically occurs in term or near-term infants and presents within hours of birth. It can lead to severe respiratory failure requiring intubation and mechanical ventilation.

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Drug Allergies – When Medication Can Make You Sick

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 18, 2015

Drug allergies can lead to hives, respiratory problems, and swelling.

On October 7, 2015, the public is invited to Discover Brigham, an event that will highlight the cutting-edge biomedical investigations of more than 3,000 researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). Topics include advances in sleep medicine, trauma care, surgery, and more. Today’s blog post previews the session on drug allergies.

Most of us can successfully take medications without problems. In some cases, however, our immune system reacts as if the drug is a threat, causing symptoms that may force us to discontinue treatment or avoid certain medications.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the most frequent types of allergic reactions to medications are skin rashes (particularly hives), itching, respiratory problems, and swelling, such as in the face. Anaphylaxis, a particularly severe allergic response, can be fatal if untreated.

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Shape the Future of Medicine: Cast Your Vote

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 13, 2015

Two compelling competitions to advance medical innovation the BRIght Futures Prize and Stepping Strong Innovator Awards – are currently under way at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), and you can help determine the winner.

BRIght Futures Prize

The BRIght Futures Prize supports BWH investigators as they work to answer provocative questions or solve vexing problems in medicine. This year’s BRIght Futures Prize finalists – Christopher Fanta, MD, from the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in the BWH Lung Center; Wilfred Ngwa, PhD, from the Department of Radiation Oncology; and William Savage MD, PhD, from the Department of Pathology  are pursuing forward-thinking and inventive research to improve patient care. Each of the three finalists hopes to receive the $100,000 BRIght Futures Prize, which will be awarded at Discover Brigham on Oct. 7, 2015. Discover Brigham, highlights the cutting-edge biomedical investigations of more than 3,000 researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).

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Hybrid Operating Room – Not Your Typical Delivery Room

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 11, 2015

Chelsea Phaneuf and her family.

It’s not every day that a baby is born in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) cardiovascular hybrid operating room (OR), but that’s where a multidisciplinary cardiovascular and obstetrics team was at the ready as 29-year-old Chelsea Phaneuf delivered her daughter, Aria, this spring. Chelsea had been admitted to the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center with a failing heart valve about a month before Aria’s arrival.

At the age of 23, an echocardiogram showed that Chelsea’s bicuspid valve had suddenly deteriorated and needed to be replaced. At such a young age, Chelsea was concerned about how the surgery would impact planning for a future family. The daily blood-thinning medication required for patients who undergo a valve replacement with a mechanical device is a risk to a developing fetus. Chelsea, therefore, opted for a biological valve, even though they don’t last as long as a mechanical valve.

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Brigham and Women’s Hospital Jumps to #6 on U.S. News Honor Roll

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 6, 2015

For the twenty-third year in a row, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has been named to U.S. News & World Report’s Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals, moving up three spots to number six. The Honor Roll highlights just 15 hospitals, out of nearly 5,000 nationwide, for their breadth and depth of clinical excellence.  

In today’s post, we’ve gathered a collection of videos highlighting life-giving breakthroughs in our top-ranked clinical specialties.

#2 Gynecology

Christopher P. Crum, MD, Division Chief of Women’s and Perinatal Pathology, discusses ovarian cancer risk and techniques for detecting ovarian cancer at earlier stages of the disease.

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology supports women through all the stages of their lives, offering specialized evaluation and treatment for complex women’s health conditions, including gynecologic cancers.

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Functional Neuroimaging – Mapping Psychiatric Illness

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 4, 2015

The brightly colored areas represent brain activity in patients experiencing schizophrenic hallucinations.

Imagine being able to watch the brain in action – watching changes in brain activity when someone is thinking, feeling emotions, or performing certain tasks. Functional brain imaging (functional neuroimaging) does just that, allowing researchers to observe changes in the circuitry of a brain, non-invasively, under different conditions.

Functional brain imaging also is being used to understand which areas of brain circuitry are affected by psychiatric illnesses such as depression, anxiety, or psychosis. Researchers hope to eventually use this information to improve diagnosis and tailor treatment for patients with psychiatric illnesses. Ultimately, the aim is to personalize treatment by looking at profiles or tests in individual patients and predict how someone will respond to a particular treatment or combination of treatments. This approach could even identify new treatment targets.

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