Fear Not – Knowledge is Power When It Comes to Health

Stress-test-PorterEvery day, people decide to delay or skip important health screenings because they are apprehensive. Most of the fear comes from the unknown. Porter Health System professionals are weighing in on three important diagnostic tests that can help calm your fears and maybe even save your life. To schedule any of the exams at Porter Health Care System sites, call (219) 983-8399.

Stress Test
This test helps see how your heart works during physical activity. “An exercise stress test is typically recommended if your physician suspects you have coronary artery disease. It can also help your doctor determine how well your treatment is working if you’ve already been diagnosed with a heart condition,” said Cardiologist Jay Shah, M.D.

What to Expect
A stress test usually involves walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. Electrodes will be placed on your chest, arms and legs. These are connected to an EKG (electrocardiogram) machine to show your heart rate, rhythm and electrical activity. A blood pressure cuff will be on your arm to check your blood pressure. “You will be asked to push yourself as hard as possible,” Dr. Shah said, adding that the “stress” part of a stress test usually lasts about 15 minutes or less.

Good to Know
If you are concerned about not being able to handle the physical activity, remember - the physician, nurse or technician will be in the room with you at all times. You can let them know how you’re feeling. Dr. Shah said patients are instructed to wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes for their test, and, bring your inhaler if you use one.

Mammogram
Why You Need It
Mammograms are a screening tool for breast cancer. “The American Cancer Society recommends women at average risk start having regular mammograms at age 40,” said Breast Care Patient Navigator Peggy Banks, R.N. A mammogram can detect tumors up to two years before a patient or the physician can feel them. And the American Cancer Society reports that breast cancers found during a screening mammogram tend to be small and still confined to the breast, increasing the chances they can be treated. The five-year survival rate is 98 percent for those whose cancer is detected before it spreads to the lymph nodes.

What to Expect
You will need to undress from the waist up and you will be provided a wrap. When your breast is compressed you will feel pressure for a few seconds. A screening mammogram takes about 20 minutes from start to finish and actual breast compression only lasts a few seconds.

Good to Know
To minimize any discomfort, you may wish to schedule your mammogram at a time when your breasts are less sensitive, such as the week after your period. Let the technician know that you might be sensitive. You may also take an over-the counter pain reliever before your mammogram. 3D mammography is offered at three Porter Health System locations in Valparaiso and Portage for patient convenience.

MRI
Why You Need It
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive test that uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses and a computer to produce detailed pictures used to treat, diagnose and monitor disease. An MRI can also provide more information about a problem detected on an X-ray, ultrasound or CT scan. “MRIs are useful to create images of nearly every part of the body,” said Radiologist Omar Barakat, M.D. “We use them to look at the anatomy of muscles, tendons and ligaments, and internal organs such as the liver, kidneys, heart, brain, and spine.”

What to Expect
When you have an MRI in Porter’s wide-bore (wider opening) scanner, you will be placed on a sliding table by the technologist and positioned comfortably. The technologist slides the bed into the machine and enters a different room where the scan is started. You are asked to remain very still. A tapping or knocking noise will be heard during the imaging process. Depending on the number of images necessary, the study will generally take between 15 to 20 minutes.

Good to Know
Porter’s wide bore scanner is more open so many tests are done without placing your head inside. “If you are claustrophobic or for tests requiring your head to be inside the scanner, Porter offers specially designed glasses that let you see outside the bore or hole,” said Dr. Barakat. “In addition, you will always be able to communicate with the technologist via intercom.” Porter’s wide bore scanner also has an iPod docking station, CD player and radio if you wish to listen to music to help you to relax.