Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Your MRI - A Hidden Danger

The FDA recently announced that it was requiring new warnings about the use of gadolinium contrast agents (dyes) used in MRI scans. Gadolinium has been conclusively connected with a rare, potentially fatal kidney condition called NSF (Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis). The named contrast agents most often linked to NSF are: Magnevist, Omniscan, and Optimark.

NSF is a progressive thickening of the skin's connective tissue: it can eventually affect the joints, eyes, and, most seriously, the internal organs. Patients experience tightening and hardening of the skin, with dark or reddened patches. The disease can lead to joint contracture, preventing normal movement; if it affects the internal organs, it can be fatal.

Breast cancer patients routinely undergo yearly breast MRIs in addition to our regular screening mammograms. The MRI visualizes the breast tissue without using radiation, and it can detect abnormalities which a mammography cannot. Using both of these methods provides a more comprehensive evaluation.

The MRI consists of 2 phases: a non-contrast phase, which happens first; then, the contrast phase, where an IV of saline mixed with gadolinium is administered; this provides an enhanced level of imaging.

Following the MRI, patients are advised to drink a large amount of water in order to flush the gadolinium out of their body. The added fluid lessens the chemical's impact on the kidneys, as gadolinium is a toxic substance.

Patients who have kidney disease or who are at risk for reduced kidney function should have only a non-contrast MRI, or have their physician explore non-contrast-based imaging options, due to their high risk of developing NSF.

Any patient who is experiencing a lessened ability to eliminate drugs from their system should have their kidney function evaluated prior to having a MRI using contrast.

Most patients needing a contrast MRI will have the capacity to eliminate the gadolinium from their system rapidly by drinking more water for a day or so. But, if there is any question of impaired kidney function, patients should consult with their physician before undergoing this type of imaging.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

This Friday, STAND UP!!

On Friday, September 10th, at 8PM Eastern Time, Stand Up To Cancer will hold a multi-network 1-hour simulcast to raise funds for cancer research.

Celebrity actors, musicians, athletes, journalists, and others will all appear during the telecast; several were also cancer patients themselves, and have successfully journeyed through treatment to recovery.

There isn't a single person alive whose life hasn't been touched directly or indirectly by cancer. Before I became a patient, I had already lost my Father, Aunt, Uncle, and a dear childhood playmate to this dread disease. Right now, my wonderful Stepmother and a co-worker are also in treatment.

The mission of Stand Up To Cancer is to raise funds which go entirely and directly to cutting-edge cancer research, accelerating this process so that current and future cancer patients can get the greatest benefit in the shortest possible timeframe. It also celebrates the 12 million cancer survivors living every day in defiance of the disease, which gives hope to others should they ever be faced with a cancer diagnosis.

I have been a member of SUTC since the first telecast in the Fall of 2008. I donated without hesitation, and was energized by this innovative approach to funding research. At the time, I also dedicated a star in the cancer "constellation" in memory of my Father; this is a wonderful way of memorializing a loved one whose life has been taken by the disease.

SUTC invites us as cancer patients to create a profile and also make a statement about how we personally "stand up to cancer"; my Profile is available at the following Link, but I will also post it below:

It has now been 3 years since I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I am now a "Survivor"... Most days, I don't even think about cancer; even though I can clearly remember how it overwhelmed every aspect of my life for weeks and months. My life is forever changed, and some changes are for the better.

Cancer has put everything else in my life in perspective. Finding joy in each day is the most important thing to me. I now realize that life is all about "the little things". Living in the "now", and truly experiencing what is all around you, makes you feel that you are not wasting any precious minutes of your life. This attitude is one that enhances life for all of us, not just cancer patients.

Cancer has helped me realize that I am an extremely strong person. I write about my experiences on my website, in the hope that it might help others going through their journey back to health:

Cancer has robbed us of far too many friends, loved ones, and family. We must work together to make it a thing of the past. Stand up, everyone!!

me to never allow cancer to claim my spirit or take away my smile

Please watch the telecast Friday; it will touch your heart, and it will also inspire you. Donate to SUTC so that together, we will be able to make cancer "history".