National Sickle Cell Awareness Month: Do You Need To Be Screened?

As recently as 1970, the average patient with sickle cell disease died in childhood, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Today, patients with sickle cell anemia live into their mid-50s. That’s a pretty amazing improvement, but we still have a long way to go when it comes to treating sickle cell anemia and other related conditions.

September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, which is good news for the 70,000 — 100,000 Americans who are affected by the condition. Any Lab Test Now stands with those affected, to help focus attention on the need for research and treatment of this painful inherited condition

What is Sickle Cell?

Normal red blood cells are round and carry oxygen to all parts of your body. Sickle cell disease occurs when the hemoglobin in the red blood cells is abnormal. They become rigid and take on a “C” or sickle shape — the defining characteristic of the disease. That shape becomes a problem because round blood cells can pass through your body easily, while sickle-shaped blood cells can get stuck, blocking blood vessels. That means oxygen isn’t getting to parts of your body. Not only is it painful — it’s also dangerous. Some common symptoms include:

  • Long-term damage to organs, muscles and bones due to oxygen deprivation
  • Painful swelling of hands and feet, especially after exertion or getting too hot or too cold
  • Deep pain in the bones and the abdomen, which can last for days or even continue long-term
  • Stroke
  • Jaundice and weakness and fatigue (anemia)

Sickle cell disease is inherited. People with ancestry from Africa, India, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and some Latin American countries are more likely to inherit the disease. Here at home, it is estimated that 1 in every 500 African-Americans has sickle cell disease.

Testing is Key.

Since sickle cell disease is an inherited disease, testing is important. Those who carry only one sickle cell gene (known as sickle cell trait) have a 50 percent chance of passing the trait on to a baby. If both parents have the sickle cell, then each child they have has a 1 in 4 chance of being born with sickle cell disease. Some good news is that newborns are required to undergo testing in the hospital for sickle cell disease in all 50 states. This allows doctors to treat babies and children that test positive for the disease with life-saving daily antibiotics.

But, if you want to take your search for answers a step further, Any Lab Test Now can help. If you’re not sure you were tested or if you don’t know your results, we can help. Screening can be helpful for a variety of people, including:

  • Adults considering having children who want to determine the risk of passing the disease along to their newborn.
  • People who know that other family members have sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease and want to assess their own risk.
  • Competitive athletes are especially at risk. Even having just one gene (sickle cell trait) can sometimes be concerning and cause symptoms such as muscle pain. Things become even more dangerous if athletes exercise too strenuously or become overheated. Knowing where you stand can prevent complications.

Your Next Step

If you’re looking for answers, your local Any Lab Test Now can help. We offer the Sickle Cell Anemia Screen. It’s basically two tests with the same directive: to identify the presence of Hemoglobin S. You aren’t required to fast and the screening is safe and discreet. A negative result can give you the peace of mind to move forward. On the flip side, a positive result can help you and your doctor develop a definitive diagnosis.

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Knowledge Is The Key When It Comes To Prostate Cancer

It may seem like a real no-brainer: Shouldn’t every man be screened for prostate cancer once they reach a certain age? The answer to that question isn’t as simple as you might think. If you ask five different organizations, you’ll likely get five different answers. As September unfolds and brings with it National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Any Lab Test Now wants to take a stand. The key to taking control of your health is knowledge, and any important decision should be made with as much knowledge as you can gather.

Knowledge: the Facts

It’s a fact: other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. The numbers for 2018 from the American Cancer Society are sobering:

  • An estimated 164,690 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed.
  • An estimated 29,430 men will die from prostate cancer.
  • About 1 man in 41 will die of prostate cancer.

Those numbers can be frightening, but remember this: most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. This is just part of the puzzle that makes this disease so confusing.

Knowledge: the Risks

Different cancers have different risk factors. Some of those risk factors can be changed while others cannot. Consider smoking as a risk factor for lung cancer — it’s easy. Just quit. But you can’t change your family history or your age and those are at the top of the list for known risk factors associated with prostate cancer. What to know:

  • AGE – Prostate cancer is rare in men younger than 40, but the chances of developing the disease go up rapidly after the age of 50.
  • FAMILY HISTORY – There appears to be a genetic factor. Having a father or a brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing the disease.
  • RACE/ETHNICITY – African-American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer and are also twice as likely to die from it than white men. Researchers are not sure why.
  • GEOGRAPHY – Prostate cancer is most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and on Caribbean islands. The reasons for this are not clear.
  • POSSIBLE FACTORS – Diet, obesity, smoking, chemical exposures, inflammation of the prostate, sexually transmitted infections, and vasectomy have all been studied and may have a less clear link.

The thing to remember here is this: having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that you will get the disease. Likewise, having none of the risk factors is no guarantee that you will not get the disease. What is important is that you know these risks and factor them into your decision.

Knowledge: the Symptoms

Risk factors aside, are there symptoms that you should be aware of that should send you straight to your doctor’s office? Well, like so many issues associated with prostate cancer, the answer is yes — and no. Early prostate cancer usually causes no symptoms. But more advanced prostate cancers can sometimes cause symptoms, such as:

  • Problems urinating, including a slow or weak urinary stream. Also, the need to urinate more often, especially at night.
  • Blood in your urine or semen.
  • Trouble getting an erection.
  • Pain in the hips, back or chest.
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet

Each and every one of these symptoms could be caused by something else! But it’s something you should be aware of and make sure your doctor is aware of as well.

Knowledge: Taking Control of Your Health

At your local Any Lab Test Now, we offer the Prostate Specific Antigen test. It is our belief that it is important to establish a PSA baseline so that you can monitor any changes over time. It’s a decision every man must make for himself, along with his loved ones and his physician. It’s a simple test — without a simple answer. Any Lab Test Now strives to provide you with the knowledge you need to find the answer for yourself.

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Speedbump Ahead!

Every summer, I start planning for the following year at Any Lab Test Now, including setting goals and mapping out a timeline for new projects and initiatives. A yearly survey we conduct with franchisees provides valuable feedback on how we can help them grow their business. In fact, right now our franchisees are growing so fast, adding support staff has become a top priority. Once we make sure our objectives are aligned, we set the roadmap for the following year.

But then… the inevitable speedbump. There is no such thing as operating on cruise control in business, or there shouldn’t be. While hitting speedbumps might be aggravating, it also offers an opportunity to grow leadership skills and improve company-wide systems and processes.

Here are a few pit-stops I make as I navigate speedbumps at Any Lab Test Now.

Listen. To prevent a speedbump from becoming a brick wall, you need to be willing to listen. This year, we heard from franchisees that a new point-of-sale system we had implemented wasn’t performing as needed. It was cumbersome and frustrating for everyone. As a leader, you can choose to put your head in the sand and ignore the issue, or listen, and address it head-on.

Be Transparent/Accountable. When a speedbump prevents a company from meeting its objectives, a leader needs to step forward, be transparent about the issue at hand and be accountable for the problem, if warranted. It turns out we adopted the wrong platform for the job function. That simple step of taking responsibility for an issue earns respect and confidence from employees and franchisees.

Be Collaborative. The best solutions come when those affected are involved in the process. Making decisions behind closed doors without consulting our franchisees leaves our valued owners feeling disenfranchised and can breed mistrust. Conversely, collaboration builds trust and yields better results.

Take Action. Talking, listening, and meeting become meaningless if action isn’t taken. Together, we came up with an interim plan B and a long-term solution that our home office could execute so the processes and profitability would improve. That bump is now in the rearview mirror.

Bump It Up! Remember, those speedbumps can do more than slow you down. They can be catalysts to bump up your business, through a great new initiative or a fantastic new hire. Our rapid growth led to hiring Terri McCulloch, our new Vice President of Business Development, whose work elevates the entire organization.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is the value in being nimble. With planned objectives in place, but having fluidity built in, we can make adjustments and even take a risk that could drive future growth. Thanks to those speedbumps, I am a better leader and our company is stronger than ever.

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