• Risk factors for sudden cardiac arrest

    Sudden cardiac arrest, also called SCA, occurs when there is a malfunction in the electrical system of the heart. This causes a sudden loss of heart function. If emergency care is not given immediately, loss of life can occur in minutes. Although there are not usually any signs of SCA before it occurs, knowing your risk factors can help you take steps to prevent if from happening to you. Here is a closer look at some of the risk factors for SCA.

    Arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, are common triggers for SCA. Not every kind of arrhythmia is considered to be a significant contributor to SCA risks, but if you have ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, or severe bradycardia, your heart doctor may discuss treatment options such as an implanted defibrillator with you.

    Arrhythmias that increase the risk of SCA are called life-threatening arrhythmias. A cardiologist should closely monitor them.

    Heart tissue scarring
    Scarring of the heart tissue can happen for many different reasons, however, most people experience it after surviving a heart attack. The longer the heart attack proceeded without treatment, the more tissue is likely to be scarred.

    Heart tissue scarring often causes life-threatening arrhythmias, which in turn can cause SCA. The first six months after a heart attack are especially high risk for SCA caused by heart issue scarring.

    It may seem counterintuitive for medications that are used to treat arrhythmias to cause them, but that is exactly what happens in some cases. Anti-arrhythmic medications sometimes cause ventricular arrhythmias that increase the risk of SCA.

    Other medications can boost the risk of SCA as well, including diuretics, which can cause a change in levels of potassium and magnesium that are necessary to maintain heart function.

    The West Hills Regional Heart & Vascular Institute is committed to improving heart health in the West Hills community. We offer comprehensive heart care for a wide range of cardiac issues, plus specialized critical and emergency care. Get a referral to a heart health specialist by calling West Hills Hospital & Medical Center at (818) 676-4321.

  • Should you consider joining a clinical trial for your breast cancer treatment?

    If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, there are many different treatment options that your care team will discuss with you, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Another option for patients is taking part in a clinical trial. Clinical trials can be a way to benefit from new breast cancer treatments before they enter the market, plus, they allow people with breast cancer to be part of the process of research for a disease cure. Could a clinical trial make sense as part of your cancer treatment plan? Here is what you need to know.

    What is a clinical trial?
    During a clinical trial, new drug is tested on patients to determine its safety, effectiveness, and side effects. Once drugs reach the stage of human clinical trials, they have undergone a long process of testing in the lab setting and are considered to be safe enough for humans to take while they are being monitored.

    Clinical trials happen in four phases:

    • Phase I: Done to test the safety of different doses of a drug
    • Phase II: Done to test the effectiveness of a drug
    • Phase III: Done to compare the effectiveness of a new drug versus the current standard of care
    • Phase IV: Done to determine the side effects of long-term treatment with a new drug

    Who is eligible?
    Every clinical trial has its own set of eligibility criteria. There are usually clinical trials open to people who are currently getting treatment for breast cancer and people who had breast cancer in the past and are in remission.

    Even if you are eligible for a trial, you should consult with your cancer care team to see if it is appropriate for your needs. If you have breast cancer, you can rest assured that you will not receive a placebo during a clinical trial. You will receive either the drug being tested or your current treatment.

    What are the benefits?
    Clinical trials give you access to medications that are not currently available but that could be effective in treating your cancer. This can be especially beneficial if your current treatment plan is not as effective as you had hoped.

    The cancer care team at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center can explain the pros and cons of clinical trials to breast cancer patients and connect you with current trials for which you may be eligible. Contact our hospital in West Hills at (818) 676-4321.

  • What are some of the most common prescription drug side effects?

    Prescription drugs are necessary to control everything from acute bacterial infections to chronic diseases. However, while these drugs are essential to managing symptoms, they frequently cause side effects of their own. If the side effects of the prescription drugs that you take are so intense that you wonder if the illness or the cure is worse, talk to your physician about alternative treatments and strategies for managing the negative impacts. Here is a look at some of the most common side effects that people experience when they take prescription drugs.

    Fatigue is extremely common with prescription medications. Some fatigue symptoms are caused by ingredients in the medications themselves, while in other instances, fatigue is a sign that the immune systems is working in conjunction with the drug to fight the illness.

    Some medications are labeled to alert patients that they may cause fatigue, but even without such a label, fatigue can occur. If your medications are causing fatigue extreme enough to interfere with your activities, call your provider or pharmacist for advice.

    Prescription medications frequently cause nausea. For some people, the nausea occurs soon after taking a dose. Other people experience an increase in stomach sensitivity on a prolonged basis. Often, changing the time you take the medication in question or taking it with food can help.

    Dizziness is a scary side effect that happens with prescription drugs. Because this symptom can make it dangerous to drive or do other everyday activities, it’s important to report it to your physician right away.

    On National Check Your Meds Day on October 21, your pharmacist can review your medications and make recommendations about everything from managing costs to managing side effects, which you can then discuss with your physician at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center. Learn more about our hospital in West Hills, or get a referral to a physician who can help you better manage your prescription drugs by calling (818) 676-4321.

  • What is metastatic breast cancer?

    Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. It is also sometimes called stage IV breast cancer. Patients with metastatic breast cancer need systemic treatments that don’t just target the site of the original tumor in the breast. Although there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, treatments can improve your quality of life and delay the progression of the disease.

    Where does the cancer spread with metastatic breast cancer?
    Breast cancer that metastasizes can spread anywhere in the body. However, it is most likely to go to a few specific locations. These include:

    • Brain
    • Bones
    • Liver
    • Lungs

    The cancer spreads to these organs when cells break off from the original tumor and then move though the body in the blood or through the lymphatic system. No matter where the new site of the cancer is, the cells that make up that tumor will be breast cells. Sometimes, this process happens during the course of treating the disease after your initial diagnosis. In other cases, metastatic breast cancer appears later, after your initial breast cancer was treated.

    What are the symptoms of metastatic breast cancer?
    The symptoms vary depending on the location of the new cancer. In some cases, there are no symptoms at all. When symptoms are present, they may include:

    • Bone pain
    • Shortness of breath
    • Cough
    • Weight loss
    • Fatigue

    In some cases, metastatic breast cancer is only diagnosed after a PET scan done for preventive care purposes discovers it.

    What treatments are available?
    Multiple treatments are used for metastatic breast cancer, including chemotherapy, radiation, and targeted therapy. Surgery is also sometimes recommended. Most people with metastatic breast cancer use a combination of treatments.

    The treatments are not generally able to completely get rid of the cancer, but they can slow down the progression of the disease.

    The women’s diagnostics and cancer teams at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center help patients at every stage of their battles with breast cancer, from diagnosis to treatment and recovery. Learn more about our cutting edge treatments and multidisciplinary cancer care in West Hills by calling (818) 676-4321.