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USA Health Podcast Aims to Demystify Cancer


For many cancer patients, talking about the disease is at times as difficult as dealing with its many treatment paths, complications, side effects and risk factors.

A new podcast from USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute, called “The Cancering Show,” aims to break down barriers that confront patients and demystify the disease.

“We’re going to discuss every aspect of the cancering journey, from people trying to prevent cancer in their families all the way to families that are coping with an imminent loss,” says Jennifer Young Pierce, M.D., M.P.H., host of the podcast.

Pierce serves as a gynecologic oncologist and leader of cancer control and prevention at the Mitchell Cancer Institute.

For all those credentials, on the air she is simply known as “JYP.”

“We want the listener to think of cancer as not just a moment in time — a moment of being better than you were before, living better, turning cancer from a negative into a positive for not just the patient, but the whole community,” Pierce says.

The podcast offers interviews with cancer survivors, family members, physicians and scientists who share their stories and offer hope. Listeners are invited to share theirs.

“Cancer is just something that we all have to recognize, acknowledge, cope with, live with, struggle with, rage upon, crush, and even thrive with,” JYP tells listeners. “This show is more than knowing and fighting or beating cancer. It’s more than just relaying science, hope and technology. It’s a platform for knowledge, stories, coping advice, life tips, inspiration, humor, jokes and even smiles.”

The first three episodes of The Cancering Show Season 1 can be found on Spotify, YouTube, iTunes and wherever podcasts can be found. Listeners can subscribe to receive new episodes in their inbox and find the show on Facebook @canceringshow.

Disease Culprit Detection in 40 Seconds at USA Health

Teresa Barnett, medical technologist supervisor with USA Health, demonstrates the BD BACTEC blood culture system to Dr. Benjamin Estrada, professor of pediatrics at the USA College of Medicine and a pediatric infectious disease specialist with USA Health, and Dr. Haidee Custodio, assistant professor of pediatrics at the USA College of Medicine and a pediatric infectious disease specialist with USA Health.

USA Health University Hospital in Mobile says it is now the only healthcare system on the Gulf Coast with the technology to identify diseases-causing pathogens in as little as 40 seconds.

That’s thanks to a new microbiology system at the hospital that combines three key elements that are much more sensitive and provide rapid and highly accurate test results.

After culturing and isolating bacteria and fungi from patient specimens, the organisms are identified and tested to determine which drugs will inhibit or stop their growth. In the past, patients and physicians had to wait up to a week to identity organisms that caused infections in patients.

“This is personalized microbiology,” said James Elliot Carter Jr., M.D., director of clinical laboratories and a pathologist with USA Health. “Imagine what that means for patient care. Instead of wasting high-powered antibiotics that may not do any good and increase antibiotic resistance, the patient can now be started on the right antimicrobials or antifungals immediately.”

The critical diagnostic combo is comprised of: the BD BACTEC blood culture system, BD Phoenix automated identification and susceptibility test system and BD Bruker MALDI biotyper.

The MALDI biotyper acts as a “fingerprinting” system to identify bacteria, yeast and fungi. “Before the MALDI, we were identifying organisms by biochemicals,” explained Teresa Barnett, medical technologist supervisor with USA Health. “We had several kits that took anywhere from three to five days to identify some of these organisms.”

In contrast, the MALDI identifies organisms by the unique spectrum of the major proteins and peptides that constitute their makeup. “The MALDI takes a fingerprint, so it analyzes the peaks and valleys of the ion protein makeup and then compares it to a library in the software,” Barnett said.

The lab uses the BACTEC blood culture system to detect early positive blood cultures. It uses an automatic, vial-activated workflow that helps reduce hands-on time.

Carter, who also serves as a professor of pathology at the USA Health College of Medicine, said rapid pathogen identification saves money for patients and providers. “Patients can be more quickly discharged if they don’t need to be here,” he said. “They aren’t sitting in the hospital for three days being treated for meningitis that they don’t have. It makes a huge difference in patient turnaround.”

Carter said the new lab equipment will be able to help patients and physicians outside USA’s health system. Laboratories previously had to send hard-to-identify organisms to the Alabama Department of Health in Montgomery for identification. Now labs can send those cases to USA Health, he said.

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