Prostate cancer and early detection

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Prostate cancer is no joke. Every year, it claims the lives of thousands, reminding us of the importance of early detection. Around age 50, it is recommended that men get tested for prostate cancer. Testing and the early detection of the cancer allow for a wide array of treatment options.

The American Cancer Society lists prostate cancer as the most common cancer in men aside for skin cancer. They estimate around 248,530 new cases occurred in 2021 with 34,130 deaths.

Times have changed

Testing has evolved over the years. As a result, the days of rectal examinations are on the way out, with physicians favoring the prostate-specific antigen test. According to the National Cancer Institute, a PSA refers to a specific protein produced by malignant and normal cells found in the prostate. This test measures the level of the antigen present in a blood sample. An elevated PSA level may indicate prostate cancer.

A medical perspective

Dr. Hess has seen a sizable decline in traditional prostate examinations in recent years.

Ben Hess, M.D.

With blood testing gaining popularity, there is almost no reason to ignore the importance of screening. Chief Medical Officer Ben Hess, M.D., is a supporter of PSA testing.

“I very rarely have to do prostate exams. It is no longer recommended for asymptomatic patients. Instead I focus on how and why we use the PSA test instead.” -Dr. Hess

He commented on the hesitancy felt by men when the touchy subject is brought up. Dr. Hess reassures them that old-school rectal examinations are no longer universally recommended. The PSA blood test may be better in most cases.

Symptoms

Screening should begin around age 50 unless a family history of the cancer prompts earlier screening. Symptoms of the cancer are:PSA testing has replaced traditional prostate exams in many instances.

  • Frequent urination
  • Weak urination
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Pain in the rectum
  • Pain in the lower back

Treatment

This form of cancer can be treated in many ways, including surgery, radiation and cryotherapy. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the chances of dying from prostate cancer are fairly low with a 5-year survival rate of 99%. Most trusted sources point to early detection as the key to beating this cancer.

If you are nearing 50 or have symptoms of prostate cancer, Tri-County Health Care can help. To schedule an appointment, please call 218-631-3510.


Medical Laboratory Week: One test at a time

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Medical Laboratory Week is a great time to observe an industry that is not well understood. Medical laboratory technicians are essential in helping providers diagnose and treat you. Here’s a sneak peek at this fascinating career and why we need laboratory technicians more than ever.

Lab staff: Your first line of defense

If you were asked what the most uncomfortable part of a clinic visit is, you might say getting your blood drawn or providing a urine sample. It’s uncomfortable and pushes privacy boundaries. Have you ever considered that without that blood draw or urine sample, your provider might not be able to help you? The information provided by your blood and urine is crucial for helping your provider create a care plan. The laboratory staff responsible for these tests are on the first line of defense against diseases and other health concerns.

A challenging but worthy career

Medical laboratory technicians (MLT), medical technologists (MT), medical laboratory scientists (MLS), phlebotomists and pathologists are the professionals that make up the Tri-County Health Care laboratory team. Despite the importance of the MLT profession, there is a shortage of MLTs locally and across the United States. According to the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, the MLT workforce shortage is reaching a crisis level. An aging workforce, more demand for laboratory services, advancing laboratory technology, and a low number of MLT graduates each year contribute to the problem. Enrollment and graduation numbers are decreasing, and the workforce trend is not enough to keep up with demand. This career field typically requires an associate degree.

The lab department performs a wide variety of tests and supports hospital staff

Cindy Kube-Parks, Tri-County Health Care Medical Lab Technician

Putting the patient first

Though laboratory staff typically work behind the scenes, they do collect blood and samples from patients. They take special care to make sure patients know exactly what’s happening.

Cindy Kube-Parks, a Medical Lab Technician, has worked at Tri-County Health Care for almost 30 years. Cindy takes pride in her work and being able to give vital test results to providers. “I like the people and the customers we serve,” said Cindy when asked about her position in the laboratory.  She hopes the week-long observance will draw some much-needed attention to the profession.

Detecting COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on every sector of our country.  Laboratory staff are on the frontline fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous changes occurred to keep them protected when coming face to face with patients potentially infected with COVID-19.

When shadowing Cindy, she showed off the process of testing samples for COVID-19 on the Abbott ID Now instrument. Within 15 minutes, Cindy determined the results and entered them into the electronic medical record.  There are seven testing devices in the hospital laboratory, and the satellite laboratories each have two COVID-19 testing devices. The laboratory staff tests dozens of COVID-19 specimens daily.

Joyelle Hill, Laboratory Manager at Tri-County Health Care.

Joyelle Hill, Tri-County Health Care Laboratory Manager

COVID-19 has greatly impacted the laboratory with supply shortages.  Around the world, medical staff are suffering from a lack of resources.  Cindy and the rest of the team have made several concessions to continue providing top-tier diagnostic testing to the Tri-County Health Care system. Joyelle Hill, Laboratory Manager, commented on maintaining a high level of care under the worst possible circumstances. Joyelle praised her team for the great effort during this uncertain time.

The laboratory

Joyelle also stated just how lucky Tri-County Health Care is as an organization. The hospital lab is capable of a wide variety of testing and has some of the best and brightest laboratorians. “The laboratory staff members have become an extended family to me,” said Joyelle.

A health care system wouldn’t be possible without laboratory staff. According to Joyelle, the laboratory profession is not well known or understood. Doctors and nurses are often the ones seen but are not solely responsible for each diagnosis. Often it is a team effort requiring good science executed behind closed doors. “The laboratory department is an essential part of the healthcare system,” said Joyelle.

We need you!

Right now, there is a shortage of medical laboratory technicians. Due to vacancies, retirements and relocations, there is a need for four full-time laboratory technicians at Tri-County Health Care. Please visit our Careers page to review current vacancies. Follow Tri-County Health Care on social media for regular updates.