West Hills Hospital & Medical Center
West Hills Hospital & Medical Center is your community resource for better health. We have the capability and expertise to perform emergency open heart procedures, perform brain and spine surgery.

How is melanoma different from other skin cancers?

Skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer in the United States, and melanoma is the most aggressive, dangerous form of the disease. If you have melanoma, getting an early diagnosis and beginning cancer care as soon as possible is critical. Melanomas are different from other forms of skin cancer—basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas—in a number of ways. Here is what you need to know.

Melanoma begins in the pigment cells.

Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that begins in the melanocytes, which are the cells in the skin that cause pigments. It develops when the DNA in these cells is damaged and not repaired by the body. This damage usually occurs as the result of UV ray exposure, such as you might get from sunlight or in a tanning bed.

Although melanoma can happen on any skin surface, in men, they are most common on the head and neck and between the shoulders and hips. Women are most likely to get melanoma on the lower legs or between the shoulders and hips.

Melanoma is dangerous because it spreads.

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas tend to grow extremely slowly and very rarely spread to other parts of the body. Melanomas, on the other hand, can spread, or metastasize, extremely quickly.

When melanoma spreads beyond the initial location, it can cause cancer in other parts of the body. After it spreads, it becomes much more difficult to treat. The reason melanoma is much more likely to be fatal than other forms of skin cancer is because it invades other parts of the body more quickly.

Melanomas usually resemble moles.

Other forms of skin cancer are more likely to look like red or white scaly spots, but melanomas frequently resemble dark moles. In some cases, a benign mole can turn into a melanoma. By being vigilant about these characteristics of your moles, you can spot melanoma in an early, treatable stage:

  • Asymmetry
  • Jagged border
  • Color variations, sometimes including red and blue
  • Diameter that is larger than a pencil eraser
  • Any change in appearance

The Cancer Care Center at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center provides cutting-edge cancer treatment for a range of different forms of the disease. If you’re concerned about your symptoms or need more information about cancer care in West Hills, please call (818) 676-4321.

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapists are specially trained to help individuals identify challenges, overcome these challenges and get back to doing the things they love. Occupational therapy can help people of all ages, backgrounds and health statuses—from the permanently disabled to the temporarily injured. Here at West Hills Hospital, we place a high priority on personalized healthcare. At our Center for Fitness and Rehabilitation, our licensed occupational therapists look forward to meeting you and getting to know your health goals.

How occupational therapy works

The goals of occupational therapists are to help their patients overcome limitations that prevent them from completing the necessary tasks in life and from enjoying the lifestyle they love. An occupational therapist’s approach is holistic in that it considers the needs of the whole person and all areas of that person’s life.

Occupational therapy is unlike other healthcare specialties. It is uniquely adaptable to each individual patient. With the help of the licensed provider, the patient decides what he or she wants to get out of occupational therapy.

Occupational therapists often practice in hospitals. However, a patient’s particular needs can vary across different settings. In some cases, it may be appropriate to evaluate the patient’s home, school or workplace in person in order to best meet the needs of that individual.

Who occupational therapy is appropriate for

Occupational therapy can be helpful for young children, teenagers, adults and senior citizens. The following medical conditions may prompt a physician to refer a patient to an occupational therapist:

  • Stroke
  • Arthritis
  • Autism
  • Work-related injuries
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Chronic pain
  • Substance abuse

Occupational therapists often work with patients who are recovering from surgeries, such as spine surgery. They may work with patients who have had cancer care or extensive burn treatments. Occupational therapists can also work with individuals who may not have specific medical conditions, but who do have concerns about their overall safety and well-being, such as aging adults.

At West Hills Hospital, we are committed to providing superior care in all that we do. We’re pleased to offer our world-class Occupational Therapy program in addition to our superior emergency care, maternity healthcare and Cancer Care. To request a referral to an occupational therapy specialist in West Hills, call (818) 676-4321 and speak with a registered nurse at our hospital.

What raises your risk for testicular cancer?

The more you know about your health, the easier it is to make your own healthcare decisions. During Testicular Cancer Awareness Month this April, consider talking to your doctor about your risk factors of testicular cancer. If you’re a woman, you can take the opportunity this April to encourage the men in your life to schedule a check-up at the hospital. Cancer is a frightening diagnosis in all of its many forms, but patients can rely on the sophisticated treatments available with Cancer Care at West Hills Hospital.

Undescended testicle

Before a male baby is born, the testicles are inside his abdomen. By the time of birth, the testicles descend into the scrotum. When one or both testicles do not descend into the scrotum in time, they are called undescended testicles.

One of the primary risk factors of testicular cancer is undescended testicles. If the testicles do not complete their descent by the first birthday, a surgeon may recommend surgical correction. Surgical correction may not necessarily lower the risk of testicular cancer, but it can make it easier to detect potentially cancerous abnormalities.

Family or personal history of testicular cancer

Testicular cancer may sometimes run in families. However, it’s important to note that most testicular cancer patients do not have a family history of the disease.

When a man has already survived cancer in one testicle, there may be an increased risk of developing cancer in the other testicle. According to the American Cancer Society, about three to four percent of testicular cancer survivors will later go on to develop the disease again.

Underlying medical conditions

Other medical conditions can also increase the risk of testicular cancer. These include the following:

  • HIV infection
  • Mumps orchitis
  • Atrophic testicle
  • Klinefelter syndrome

Of course, having one or more risk factors of testicular cancer does not mean that you will develop it. Similarly, it’s possible to develop cancer despite being at a low risk. But knowing your risk factors can put you in control of your own healthcare decisions.

Cancer Care at West Hills Hospital brings together leading oncology specialists who are committed to giving you the personalized attention and superior care you deserve. With our Cancer Care, residents of the West Hills community can receive the sophisticated treatments they need without having to travel to another county. Call a registered nurse at (818) 676-4321 for help exploring our hospital services.

Restoring your strength after spinal surgery

When nonsurgical treatments aren’t doing enough, spine surgery may help you reclaim your health and quality of life. For the best possible outcome, it’s essential that spine surgery patients have access to a comprehensive physical rehabilitation program. At West Hills Hospital, our spine surgery patients have the full support of our specialists at our Center for Fitness and Rehabilitation.

Starting a rehabilitation program

A physical therapist may begin working with you shortly after your spine surgery. Initially, he or she will focus on helping you manage pain and get back on your feet. After any surgery, physical movement is important to prevent post-operative complications, such as blood clots in the legs.

As you recover, your physical therapist will introduce you to a customized program of stretches and exercises. Your active participation in your rehabilitation and your willingness to follow your therapist’s directions will support your recovery.

Stretching key muscle groups

Slow, careful stretching of certain muscle groups will support your physical conditioning and reduce the risk of internal scar tissue. Your physical therapist may guide you through stretches for your hamstrings and quadriceps. For example, you can perform a seated hamstring stretch as follows:

  • Sit on the edge of a chair.
  • Extend one leg in front of you.
  • Keep the heel on the floor.
  • Keep the knee straight and the toes pointed upward.

Physical therapists generally recommend performing stretches slowly and holding them for 30 seconds. Patients may do two sets of three repetitions each day.

Doing core strengthening exercises

As you progress further in your recovery, your spine surgeon may clear you to begin performing core strengthening exercises. These can help support your spine health. Watch this featured video to hear a surgeon from West Hills Hospital explain the basics of improving core strength after spine surgery. You can do core strengthening exercises without stressing the spine. For example, your physical therapist may have you do the following exercise:

  • Get on your hands and knees on the floor.
  • Extend your right arm outward.
  • Extend your left leg backward.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Extend the opposite arm and leg.

Your physical therapist will make sure you’re performing exercises properly to avoid placing strain on your spine.

At Center for Fitness and Rehabilitation at West Hills Hospital, you’ll find dedicated rehabilitation specialists who provide the compassionate care you deserve. We are a renowned spine hospital located right here in the West Hills community to give you the resources of a major medical facility without the lengthy drive. You can contact our nurse referral line at (818) 676-4321.

Recognizing National Public Health Week this April

From April 3-9 this year, West Hills Hospital joins other medical centers and healthcare organizations around the country in celebrating National Public Health Week. This year, the public awareness campaign is continuing its theme of working toward making America the “Healthiest Nation” by 2030. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to the hospital, consider making an appointment for a check-up with your family physician. Your doctor can help you understand your current health status and work toward improving it.

Vaccinating all children

Vaccines are an inextricable part of a strong public health system. Pediatricians agree that vaccinating children is one of the safest and most effective ways to save lives, prevent the discomfort of serious illnesses and build strong communities.

As part of National Public Health Week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put the spotlight on the Vaccines for Children Program. This nationwide program provides no-cost vaccines for eligible children.

Improving access to healthy food

National Public Health Week recognizes the importance of improving access to nutritious foods for all families. It highlights the necessity of building a robust food system that gives families access to affordable, nutritious foods that are free from unsafe contaminants. Organizations that recognize National Public Health Week have called for:

  • Eliminating food deserts
  • Improving school nutrition policies
  • Developing stronger nutrition policies

Stamping out cigarettes

Cigarettes are widely recognized as one of the most serious threats to public health. Smoking cigarettes doesn’t only harm the smoker. Tobacco smoke harms everyone near the smoker, and it’s thought that tobacco residue left on surfaces can cause health problems long after the cigarette has been extinguished.

If you smoke and you’re ready to quit, your family physician can give you the support and resources you need. You can also ask your loved ones for their support while you work toward a healthier you.

West Hills Hospital is an award-winning, state-of-the-art hospital with a firm commitment to uncompromising patient care and safety. We continually strive for healthcare excellence in all that we do, and we learn directly from our patients about how we can serve the West Hills community better. Call a registered nurse at (818) 676-4321 or explore our website for information about our hospital services, including Cancer Care, Grossman Burn Center and maternity healthcare.

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