How to recognize and avoid skin cancer

Skin cancer is, by far, the most common type of cancer. In fact, it accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States. Every year, there are more than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer diagnosed. The most serious form of skin cancer, melanoma, will account for more than 76,000 cases in 2014.

Skin cancer is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells that occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations or genetic defects.

While there are various types of skin cancer, many are caused by excess exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Fortunately, it is entirely possible to prevent and avoid this type of damaging exposure. Simple steps you can take to protect your skin include:

  • Seeking the shade, especially between 10 am and 4 pm;
  • Avoiding tanning and UV tanning booths;
  • Using a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended activity, use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher;
  • Apply 1 ounce of sunscreen to your entire body thirty minutes before going outside – then reapply every two hours, and;
  • Keep newborns out of the sun, and make sure you use sunscreen on babies over the age of six months

Avoiding sunburns is also pivotal to avoiding skin cancer, especially for children. Even one blistering sunburn can double a child’s lifetime risk of melanoma. Five or more sunburns will double the rates of melanoma even in adults.

Exposure to UV rays is not the only risk factor for skin cancer, however. Other risk factors include having a family history, multiple or unusual moles, pale skin or workplace exposure to coal tar, pitch, creosote, arsenic compounds or radium.

The signs and symptoms of skin cancer include any change on your skin, especially in the size or color of a mole. Having a sore that doesn’t heal or the spread of pigmentation (color) beyond its border, such as dark coloring that spreads past the edge of a mole or mark, are also signs.

For additional information about skin cancer, visit or

Physical therapy assistant receives APTA honor

Ryan Hickman, a physical therapy assistant (PTA) at Southern Ohio Medical Center, recently obtained Recognition of Advanced Proficiency for Physical Therapy Assistants by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

The distinction is given to PTAs who go above and beyond entry-level education in their field. In the past five years, only 15 PTAs in the state of Ohio have received this honor.

“We are very proud of Ryan for committing to becoming such a skilled and talented member of our team,” Kevin Stimpert, director of Rehabilitation at SOMC, said. “This distinction demonstrates Ryan’s dedication to providing exceptional treatment interventions and continued advancement in the profession of physical therapy.”

The minimum requirements for receiving this recognition includes:

  • Five years of experience as a PTA;
  • 2,000 total hours in one specific category (500 of which must have been in the past year);
  • 60 contact hours of continuing education – 75% of which must be in the specified area of study;
  • Above-average job performance within the PT/PTA team, and;
  • Evidence of involvement in at least three activities that demonstrate the applicant’s leadership and contributions to the community

In addition to this most recent achievement, Hickman was also voted as Shawnee State University’s Clinical Instructor of the Year.

Portsmouth Ambulance, Dr. Jessa give ambulance to Nigerian health mission

The relationship between a patient and an ambulance is a simple one. The ambulance delivers the patient to a doctor. Less common is the process for which the physician delivers the ambulance to the patients.  Nonetheless, that is part of what Dr. Jessa did on a recent trip to Nigeria.

She delivered a well-equipped ambulance, which was donated by Portsmouth Ambulance to Grace Project International, a nonprofit organization based in the USA that conducts medical missions to rural areas in Nigeria.

The donation was important because of how rare ambulance services are in the area.  In Nigeria, it is common for those in need of medical care to simply be loaded into the backseat of a car and transported to a medical facility.

“Sometimes, they are even taken in wheelbarrows, motorcycles or bicycles especially in the rural areas,” Dr. Jessa said.

Every year in Nigeria nearly one million children under the age of five die from preventable diseases. The level of need in the rural areas is remarkable and the ambulance donation will save lives – not only by transporting patients to hospitals and healthcare facilities, but also moving and delivering supplies. The ambulance can even be used as an examination room.

“I am fortunate to have had the support of so many wonderful people,” Dr. Jessa said. “I cannot express enough how much this means to me, and I am deeply grateful to Mike and Trina Adkins at Portsmouth Ambulance, Southern Ohio Medical Center, Heartland of Portsmouth, Genesis HealthCare of Portsmouth and numerous others who donated generously to make the mission trip possible.”

Dr. Peace Jessa is board certified in Occupational-Environmental Medicine. To schedule an appointment, call 740-356-7685. For more information, visit or like SOMC on Facebook at


SOMC providing free breast cancer screenings

Southern Ohio Medical Center will be providing free clinical breast exams in the months of April and May. The exams are provided for women who are uninsured or underinsured through the Hands of Hope program, which is funded by the Columbus Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

The screenings will take place at the SOMC Breast Center from 9am until noon on April 24, May 19 and May 22.

Screenings conducted at the SOMC Breast Center will offer same-day mammography if needed. If you are age 40 or older, or younger with a family history of breast cancer, or have an abnormal finding on a self-breast exam, you can register by calling the SOMC Volunteer Office at 740-356-8234. To learn more, visit

Minford girl scouts donate cookies to hospice

Girl Scout Troop 1217 of Minford recently donated more than 85 boxes of girl scout cookies to the patients and staff at SOMC Hospice. The troop, led by Stephanie Neu and Julie Bennett, is comprised entirely of kindergarteners from Minford Elementary. For more information on SOMC Hospice, visit or “like” SOMC on Facebook.

“Amazing Race” registration open

Fans of “The Amazing Race” have an opportunity to feel the thrill of the competition for themselves. Southern Ohio Medical Center is hosting a local “Amazing Race” competition in conjunction with several local sponsors.

The event is comprised of a series of events meant to provide both a physical and mental challenge, while also being fun and entertaining. “Amazing Race” teams will compete against one another for the chance to win up to $2,500.

Teams may consist of no more than four people, all of whom must be at least 18 years of age. If preferred, individuals are also permitted to compete on their own. Creative team names, and even costumes, are also encouraged.

Once a team has been formed, it has until April 12 to register. Registration may be completed at and costs $150 per team. All participants will also be asked to sign a waiver in order to participate.

Proceeds from the “Amazing Race” will go towards to the SOMC Development Foundation’s Community Health and Wellness Fund, which supports health and fitness opportunities in the community.

SOMC announces “Pot of Gold” winner

After two weeks of voting, the Portsmouth Area Arts Council and Children’s Theater (PAAC) has successfully won SOMC’s “Pot of Gold” Facebook contest. As a result, PAAC will be receiving a $5,000 donation from SOMC.

However, the other organizations featured in the contest will not be going home empty-handed. SOMC will also be donating $500 to the second and third place finishers as well as $250 to those who finished fourth and fifth.

The final results were as follows:

  1. Portsmouth Area Arts Council and Children’s Theater (PAAC)
  2. Simon Kenton Council, Boy Scouts of America (Tecumseh District)
  3. Portsmouth Public Library
  4. Scioto County Homeless Shelter
  5. Southern Ohio War Memorial

“We are proud to be in a position to support our community, and it’s especially fulfilling when we can let our friends and neighbors be a part of the process,” Director of Community Relations and Development Kara Redoutey said. “We’re proud of all five organizations featured for both the work they do for our community, and for having supporters who are so passionate about their cause.”

Every year, SOMC invests millions into the local community through financial contributions and charity care. This is the second time that SOMC has allowed the public to participate in a significant contribution through social media. In 2012, SOMC’s Community Valentine also allowed Facebook users to choose between five local organizations. The Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund received the most votes in that contest.

“The members of our community are wonderful and, through social media, we’ve been able to reach out to them in a variety of ways,” Redoutey said. “Their engagement and feedback means a lot to us.”

For more information, visit or like SOMC on Facebook at

Pediatric Guild donates to SOMC Maternity

The SOMC Pediatric Guild recently donated care packages with diapers and other necessities to maternity. The packages will be sent home with parents who otherwise may not be able to provide their new addition with the items. Pictured here are, from left to right, Nurse Manager of Maternity Services Jone Stone and Pediatric Guild members Taralyn Bernard, Debbie Daniels and Aubrey Roy.

Colon cancer risk factors and stages

Like many diseases, colon cancer is associated with several risk factors over which you have no control. For example, you cannot help it if you are older than 60 or have a family history of colon cancer. Being of African American or Eastern European descent can also increase your odds. Other factors to consider when evaluating your risk of colon cancer include having colorectal polyps, inflammatory bowel disease or a personal history of breast cancer.

The fact that there are so many factors which are unavoidable, however, mean it is especially important for us to pay attention to the factors we can control.

As is the case with many cancers, smoking is one risk factor that is entirely preventable. Drinking large quantities of alcohol can also increase your chances of developing colon cancer, as can eating a lot of red or processed meats.

A healthy lifestyle can improve your odds of avoiding colon cancer – and regular screenings can help you catch it early if it still develops. Finding it in the early stages is your best bet if you do develop colon cancer. In fact, the five-year survival rate if found early is 90%.

The five stages of colon cancer are:

  • Stage 0: Very early cancer on the innermost layer of the intestine
  • Stage 1: Cancer is in the inner layers of the colon
  • Stage 2: Cancer has spread through the muscle wall of the colon
  • Stage 3: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes
  • Stage 4: Cancer has spread to other organs outside the colon

The five-year survival rate drops dramatically if cancer is not detected until the later stages, so if your lifestyle includes too many colon cancer risk factors make sure you are receiving regular screenings.