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  • January 14, 2022

    By Allison Larson, MD

    Whether you’re a winter sports enthusiast or spend the season curled up by the fireplace, the low humidity, bitter winds, and dry indoor heat that accompany cold weather can deplete your skin’s natural moisture. Dry skin is not only painful, uncomfortable, and irritating; it also can lead to skin conditions such as eczema, which results in itchy, red, bumpy skin patches. 

    Follow these six tips to prevent and treat skin damage caused by winter dryness.

    1. Do: Wear sunscreen all year long.

    UV rays can easily penetrate cloudy skies to dry out exposed skin. And when the sun is shining, snow and ice reflect its rays, increasing UV exposure. 

    Getting a sunburn can cause severe dryness, premature aging of the skin, and skin cancer. Snow or shine, apply sunscreen before participating in any outdoor activity during the winter—especially if you take a tropical vacation to escape the cold; your skin is less accustomed to sunlight and more likely to burn quickly.

    The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.

    That being said, if you are considering laser skin treatments to reduce wrinkles, hair, blemishes, or acne scars, winter is a better time to receive these procedures. Sun exposure shortly after a treatment increases the risk of hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin), and people are less likely to spend time outside during the winter.

    Related reading: 7 Simple Ways to Protect Your Skin in the Sun

    2. Do: Skip products with drying ingredients.

    Soaps or facial products you use in warm weather with no issues may irritate your skin during colder seasons. This is because they contain ingredients that can cause dryness, but the effects aren’t noticeable until they’re worsened by the dry winter climate.

    You may need to take a break from:

    • Anti-acne medications containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid
    • Antibacterial and detergent-based soap
    • Anything containing fragrance, from soap to hand sanitizer

    Hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer, which contains a high level of skin-drying alcohol, cannot be avoided; we need to maintain good hand hygiene to stop the spread of germs. If your job or lifestyle requires frequent hand washing or sanitizing, routinely apply hand cream throughout the day as well.

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen a lot of people develop hand dermatitis—a condition with itchy, burning skin that can swell and blister—due to constant hand washing. Sometimes the fix is as simple as changing the soap they're using. Sensitive-skin soap is the best product for dry skin; it typically foams up less but still cleans the skin efficiently.

    3. Do: Pay closer attention to thick skin.

    Areas of thin skin, such as the face and backs of your hands, are usually exposed to the wind and sun the most. It’s easy to tell when they start drying out. But the thick skin on your palms and bottoms of your feet is also prone to dryness—and tends to receive less attention.

    When thick skin gets dry, fissures form. You’ll see the surface turn white and scaly; then deep, linear cracks will appear. It isn’t as pliable as thin skin. When you’re constantly on your feet or using your hands to work, cook, and everything in between, dry thick skin cracks instead of flexing with your movements. 

    To soften cracked skin, gently massage a heavy-duty moisturizer—such as Vaseline—into the affected area once or twice a day. You can also talk with your doctor about using a skin-safe adhesive to close the fissures and help them heal faster.

    Related reading:  Follow these 5 Tips for Healthy Skin

    4. Don’t believe the myth that drinking more water will fix dry skin.

    Contrary to popular belief, the amount of water or fluids you drink does not play a major role in skin hydration—unless you’re severely dehydrated. In the winter, especially, dry skin is caused by external elements; it should be treated from the outside as well. 

    The best way to keep skin hydrated and healthy is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment—not lotion—to damp skin after a shower or bath.
    Some people need additional moisturizers for their hands, legs, or other areas prone to dryness.

    While some lotions are made better than others, most are a combination of water and powder that evaporates quickly. Creams and ointments work better because they contain ingredients that can help rebuild your skin barrier. 

    Look for products with ceramide, a fatty acid that helps rebuild the fat and protein barrier that holds your skin cells together. The AAD also recommends moisturizing ingredients such as:

    • Dimethicone
    • Glycerin
    • Jojoba oil
    • Lanolin
    • Mineral oil
    • Petrolatum
    • Shea butter

    For severely dry skin, you can try a “wet wrap” technique:

    1. Rinse a pair of tight-fitting pajamas in warm water and wring them out so they’re damp, not wet.
    2. Apply cream or ointment to your skin.
    3. Put on the damp pajamas, followed by a pair of dry pajamas, and wear the ensemble for several hours.

    Dampness makes your skin more permeable and better able to absorb hydrating products. If the wet wrap or over-the-counter products aren’t working for you, talk with a dermatologist about prescription skin hydration options. 

    Drinking more water isn’t the answer to dry winter skin. The best solution is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment directly to damp skin. Get more cold weather #SkinCareTips from a dermatologist in this blog:
    Click to Tweet


    5. Don’t confuse skin conditions with dryness.

    Skin conditions are often mistaken for dry skin because peeling or flaking are common symptoms. Redness of the skin or itching in addition to dryness and flaking indicates a skin condition that may need more than an over-the-counter moisturizer.

    Skin cells are anchored together by a lipid and protein layer (like a brick and mortar wall). With very dry skin, the seal on this wall or barrier is not fully intact and water evaporates out of the skin’s surface. The skin will become itchy and red in addition to scaly or flaky. If you experience these symptoms, visit with a dermatologist.

    6. Don’t wait for symptoms to take care of dry skin.

    Be proactive—the best way to maintain moisture is to apply hydrating creams and ointments directly to your skin on a regular basis. Start by applying them as part of your morning routine. Once you get used to that, add a nighttime application. And carry a container of it when you’re on the go or keep it in an easily accessible location at work.


    You can’t avoid dry air, but you can take precautions to reduce its harsh effects on your skin. If over-the-counter products don’t seem to help, our dermatologists can provide an individualized treatment plan. Hydrated skin is healthy skin!

    Does your skin get drier as the air gets colder?

    Our dermatologists can help.

    Call 202-877-DOCS (3627) or Request an Appointment

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  • October 24, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    Concussion therapists like Carissa Colangelo, MS, LAT, have special treatments and specific exercises to help an athlete return to normal after an injury.

    Athletic Trainers Play a Key Role in Preventing and Managing Injuries

    Carissa Colangelo, MS, LAT, goes to work every day with hopes of making a real difference in the lives of others. Whether she is working with a high school football star who is recovering from a shoulder injury or a man in his 60s who just had knee replacement surgery and wants to get his running shoes back on, her goal is the same.

    “I’m here to help people get back to doing what they love,” she says.

    Colangelo serves as the coordinator of Athletic Training Services at MedStar National Rehabilitation Network at MedStar Harbor Hospital. She leads a team of athletic trainers who work in collaboration with sports medicine physicians to provide preventive, emergency and rehabilitative medical care. In addition to working side-by-side with the sports medicine physicians at the hospital, the team works with local high school athletes, serving as the “go-to” resource for injury prevention and management for students at six public schools located in Anne Arundel County.

    “We’re in the training room to help with stretching, taping, and anything else the athletes need to prepare for practices and games, and then we’re out there on the sidelines to respond immediately in the event an injury occurs,” Colangelo explains. “We can assess the injury on the spot and determine what the best course of action is.”

    Depending on the severity of the injury, an athletic trainer may determine a trip to the Emergency department or an urgent care center is what’s needed. Or the trainer may recommend a visit to a primary care physician or orthopaedic specialist, or perhaps even a few sessions of physical therapy. Either way, it’s the job of the athletic trainer to coordinate care and serve as the central point of contact for all providers who will be involved in managing the player’s injury. 

    “We call athletic trainers our ‘boots on the ground’ because often, they are there when the injury first happens, they work with the athlete and his or her coach and parents to make medical decisions, they stay involved throughout the entire care process, and eventually oversee that athlete’s return to the field or the game once they have recovered,” adds Colangelo.

    Another key focus for athletic trainers is education. They spend time assessing their athletes’ general health and function, with emphasis on the steps that can be taken to prevent injuries. They also talk with athletes, coaches, and parents about issues such as hydration and how to identify the signs and symptoms associated with concussions.

    “If a concussion does occur, it may not be necessary to go to the hospital for emergency care, but our athletic trainers can arrange for the athlete to see a physician who specializes in treating concussions,” explains Colangelo.

    Because concussions are one of the most common injuries that young athletes face, MedStar Harbor offers a comprehensive concussion program that applies a “whole body” approach to care. Here, athletic trainers and sports medicine physicians collaborate to develop customized treatment and recovery plans for each patient.

    “We realize players are eager to get back in the game, but when a concussion occurs, it’s important to listen to your physician and take time to rest and recover,” says Jeffrey Mayer, MD, a sports medicine physician at MedStar Harbor. “Our goal is to get people healthy and back to their prior level of function in a safe and efficient manner.”

    Colangelo, who is also a concussion-trained therapist, adds, “There are a variety of tools we can utilize in physical therapy to help alleviate symptoms that can occur as a result of a concussion and get athletes back on the field as soon as possible.”

    Location Information

    To schedule an appointment, please call 855-546-1828.

    MedStar NRH-MedStar Harbor Hospital Sports Medicine
    2900 South Hanover St.
    Suite 102
    Baltimore, Maryland 21225
    Fax: 410-350-3821

    Hours of Operation

    Monday, 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

    Tuesday, 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

    Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

    Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

     Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • October 23, 2017

    By Elmer E. Huerta, MD

    In 2014, we made a shocking discovery. While analyzing the data for women who came to our hospital for breast cancer treatment between 2006 and 2011, we found that nearly 22 percent of them had stage 3 or 4 breast cancers—nearly double the national average of 10.5 percent.

    Most of these women were African-American, and 54 percent of them lived in the District of Columbia. And of these D.C. residents, 40 percent of them lived in Ward 5, our hospital’s neighborhood. But what baffled us the most was that 97 percent of the Ward 5 patients with advanced breast cancer had health insurance.

    This was especially surprising to me because of my work at the Cancer Preventorium, where we see people who have no symptoms for regular physical exams and cancer screenings such as mammograms. About 95 percent of the patients I see are Latino, most of whom are poor and without health insurance. They pay out of pocket for these preventive health visits, but do so because they know how important these screenings are.

    So why were so many women who had access to preventive healthcare being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer? With help from a generous grant from the Avon Foundation for Women, we started the Get2Breast CARE (Cancer Awareness & Resource Education in Ward 5) program to find out why and to design an intervention to reverse the trend. In September 2017, we published the results of what we’ve learned so far.

    Phase 1: What’s keeping women from getting mammograms?

    Before we could do anything, we needed to find out why our female neighbors weren’t getting mammograms, the first line of defense against breast cancer. We sent community navigators out to survey 1,092 women in Ward 5.   

    The reasons we discovered included:

    • Fear: Twenty-seven percent of women were afraid of a possible breast cancer diagnosis and the accompanying side effects and costs of treatment.
    • Personal factors: Twenty-eight percent reported that they were too busy taking care of other family members or couldn’t take time off work to get a mammogram.
    • Lack of education: Thirteen percent didn’t understand breast cancer risk factors, didn’t know when they should start getting a mammogram or that they needed them at all, or were unaware that their health insurance would cover them.
    • Access: Seventeen percent said they would be more likely to get a mammogram if it were more convenient, such as being able to go before or after work, on weekends, or if screening was available closer to home.
    • Mammogram misconceptions: The remaining reasons included myths, such as getting a mammogram is painful or that radiation from a mammograms actually could cause cancer.   

    Phase 2: Getting the word out about mammograms

    Now that we were armed with the knowledge of why women weren’t getting mammograms, we developed educational materials based on that information. And our community navigators headed back out to coordinate outreach activities in the neighborhood. These materials and events focused on dispelling fear and empowering women to overcome personal barriers to receive potentially lifesaving mammograms. 

    Our amazing community navigators didn’t all have healthcare backgrounds, but they did have a passion to educate and a deep understanding and insider knowledge of the neighborhood. They knew the best places to reach their female neighbors, such as local businesses, churches and community centers. They also knew who they needed to talk to in order to make the event as successful as possible. For example, if they wanted to reach women from a certain church’s congregation, they knew to talk to the pastor’s wife, not the pastor. 

    There’s been some confusion in past years about when and who should get a mammogram. This is due to conflicting guidelines from various health organizations. We urged women in our outreach efforts to follow their doctor’s recommendations based on their unique risk factors. We also shared the American Cancer Society guidelines, which say women at average risk of breast cancer can begin having yearly mammograms at age 40 if they choose, but definitely should begin having them by age 45. At age 55, they can start having mammograms every other year.   

    Avon Get2Breast Care Community Navigators (left to right)
    Janel Diaz, Lynel S. McFadden and Volunteer Community Navigator Sybil L. Smith

    Time for your mammogram?

    Request an Appointment

    The community navigators gave a short survey before and after every educational event to ensure that women were getting the message. We found a 15 percent increase in the participants who believed that “a mammogram is the safest and most effective test available for finding early breast cancer.” Along with the educational events, we offered to schedule mammograms and to help navigate the process if the test yielded suspicious findings.

    What’s next: Expanding the program across the city and including other cancers

    I’ve seen firsthand the effect education and awareness can have on cancer prevention. I’ve been privileged since 1989 to host a daily one-hour radio broadcast called “El Consultorio Comunitario” (“The Community Clinic of the Air”), which gives disease prevention and health promotion messages on D.C.-area Spanish-language station Radio America WACA 1540AM, Monday through Friday, and via the Internet. The wide reach of this program likely plays a big role in why we see so many of our Latino neighbors at the Cancer Preventorium, despite the fact they may need to pay two-days’ worth of salary for the exam and screening.

    The success of our intervention program in Ward 5 left us wanting to expand it further into the city. The Avon Foundation for Women stepped up again, helping to extend the experience to women in Wards 7 and 8. Nearly 70 percent of all women treated with breast cancer at our hospital come from the three wards in which we’re now working. We’re also excited to be talking with the Department of Health in D.C. about adopting our approach and taking it city-wide. And after finding the same disparity (insured people with advanced colorectal cancer) we started a similar approach to tackle colorectal cancer from the neighborhood.

    We hope, through these intervention efforts, to see fewer women in D.C. diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in the future. Instead, we want to see more women for regular mammograms to detect breast cancer early, when the disease is easier to treat.

  • October 23, 2017

    By John Steinberg, DPM

    In most of the podiatric, or foot care, patients I see, families are very supportive, and I love that. Painful foot conditions such as bunions often affect the patient’s mobility, quality of life and pain in other parts of the body due to altered gait or uneven pressure on the joints. Family support is enormously helpful. But one group of my patients—frankly, the ones who need it most—often show up to their surgical appointments alone: people who are facing diabetic foot amputation.

    I always feel a surge of emotions when this happens. I feel upset for the patient, who must be afraid and in pain. And I feel regret for the patient’s family, whom I may never have met, for abandoning the patient in a time when family support is crucial.

    Be there for your friends and family when #diabetes patients come for surgery. They need family support. It’s so important!- Dr. John Steinberg, via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet


    When I ask patients if I can reach out to their family, they often decline and express guilt: “I’ve done this to myself, so here I am, alone.” But this couldn’t be further from the truth, and no patient should have to face amputation, or any major surgery, alone.

    Diabetes: An “invisible,” taxing illness

    Diabetes, like many other “invisible” illnesses, rages inside a patient’s body and manifests in visible problems only after the disease has progressed. This can be due to the nature of diabetes, improper care or lack of education about the disease. As a podiatrist, I care for patients who suffer from painful diabetic foot conditions such as ulcers, which are sores that won’t heal, and diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage. In severe cases, the foot cannot be saved and must be amputated to prevent further complications.

    Related reading: Saving limcs and improving lives: The Center for Limb Salvage

    Frankly, diabetes does not affect only people who don’t take care of themselves. It’s true that lifestyle choices weigh heavily on type 2 diabetes risk and outcomes, and these choices affect the health of people who have type 1 diabetes. The same is true for many serious diseases, including many types of cancer. The fact is, diabetes has a shameful reputation of being “the patient’s fault,” and it’s time to put a stop to that.

    Sometimes, family members become used to their loved one having some sort of surgery or medical complication. Diabetes can ravage the body, and in advanced cases, multiple procedures are common. Some of our patients are almost emotionally detached from surgery. “It’s just another procedure.” But I know if I were on the operating table, even though I perform surgeries regularly, I’d want someone there to hold my hand and wish me good luck–regardless of how many times I’d been in that position.

    Too many patients suffer because of their families’ emotional turmoil surrounding their disease. No one wants a loved one to be ill, and the natural human response is to look for reasons to justify why a disease developed. We do this unconsciously to free ourselves from guilt and look for a way to reconcile ourselves with the reality of the situation. And, unfortunately, it’s easier to place anger and blame solely on patients with diabetes than it is with patients who have other chronic illnesses. “If only they would watch what they eat, exercise, lose some weight, they wouldn’t have gotten sick.”

    Diabetes is more complex than “If this, then that.” While lifestyle choices can reduce a person’s risk, other physical and environmental factors affect a person’s health in ways that aren’t always obvious to family members. For example, research suggests that a person’s genes may affect their risk for type 2 diabetes. Even with preventive care and education, people in this demographic still may be at increased risk.

    How we help families support loved ones with diabetes

    I love seeing families who still take every surgery as something important and an opportunity to improve their loved one’s condition. But, as mentioned, chronic disease can drive a wedge between patients and family members. It’s important to my team to try to reconnect patients and families and bridge that gap in support. We always offer to reach out to family members on behalf of the patient, and we offer programs and support services that can help family members cope and learn to be more engaged with their loved one’s health.

    Of course, the need for support extends far beyond when the patient leaves the operating room. Losing a foot or a leg is a major life-changing event. Mobility changes and decreases in perceived self-worth can spiral patients into depression, and modifications may be necessary to accommodate a wheelchair or other equipment the patient needs.

    Home care nursing or care in a rehabilitation program can take an enormous load off of family members. The nurse can help with questions about the condition, recovery and wound dressing, as well as keep an eye on the patient’s emotional state. This attention and care allows the family to focus more on supporting the patient day to day. Many insurance plans cover home care nursing, and we can help guide families through the process of setting up care for loved ones. This type of care is short-term. Thinking long-term, families must pull together to increase the chance of a positive outcome for the patient.

    I can’t stress enough that education is among the most important components for families to create a safety layer around their loved one. I urge family members of diabetes patients to take a step back and process their negative emotions surrounding their loved one’s disease. Yes, it is OK and natural to feel sad and angry when a loved one is diagnosed with a chronic condition. But it is not OK to step out of the picture and leave the patient to deal with the aftermath alone.

  • October 20, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    When helping patients tackle the challenges of endocrine cancer, Sarika Rao, DO, believes that trust is often the most important element of any treatment strategy.

    “These are lifelong, complex diseases that typically require many visits, so it’s important that we bridge a connection early,” explains Dr. Rao, an attending physician in Endocrinology at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and assistant professor of medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She adds that her love of travel is frequently the key to establishing and building those all-important relationships. “I’ve been fortunate to visit many parts of the world with my family, and they’re often places where my patients are from or have visited as well.”

    Why Endocrine Cancer?

    The Jacksonville, Fla., native’s interest in the highly specialized field of Oncologic Endocrinology began with her childhood fascination with how the body’s many systems interact. After medical school at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, she completed a residency in internal medicine at the University of Massachusetts, and stayed for a fellowship with the school’s Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes.

    Dr. Rao went on to earn the sole annual Oncologic Endocrinology fellowship at the University of Texas’ prestigious MD Anderson Cancer Center. There, she focused on the treatment of conditions such as advanced thyroid and adrenal cancers, as well as endocrinopathies that arise from other cancers or chemotherapy.

    Dr. Rao's Work in D.C.

    Attracted to the Washington area by the opportunity to work with a large, diverse population, Dr. Rao is also part of the Institutional Review Board for Oncology, as well as the immunotherapy working interest group at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

    “Immunotherapy has proven successful in several types of cancers, but it’s a relatively new approach for endocrine tumors,” she says. “We’re also learning more about genetic influences in different types of endocrine cancers, why certain tumors become more aggressive and what drugs can target specific malignancies.”

    Language of Care: Establishing Meaningful Patient Connections

    Grasping such highly technical information may be a formidable task for patients and families, especially as they cope with the emotional challenges of a cancer diagnosis. That’s where the sharing of travel tales and other trust-building skills come in.

    “Knowledge really is power,” Dr. Rao says. “If I can help them understand their disease and what to expect, my patients definitely feel more at ease moving forward.”

    And what new destinations would Dr. Rao like to share with her patients? “I’d like to visit South Africa and Botswana, and go on a safari,” she says. “Antarctica also sounds so exotic, though I’d probably have to prepare myself for the rocky sea voyage!”

  • October 18, 2017

    By MedStar Health

    by Kelly Smith, PhD

    As a health services research, I often thought of the patients I worked with as a means to an end – as subjects in my research helping me to achieve greatness. As I worked with patients after open heart surgery, I learned so much from them, from their stories, and their shared experience of health and disease in a fractured healthcare system. I knew that the system needed help and found enlightenment in the field of patient safety.

    As a newly minted doctor of philosophy, I embarked on a fellowship in patient safety research at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Here, I learned the power of the patient in a completely different way. They became my partners advocating for health systems change and transforming organizations into learning healthcare systems. I wanted to share a few of those opportunities here with you all.

    First, we partnered with patients in developing a program to improve the health systems response to patient harm. This work led to the development of the Seven Pillars model for communication and resolution and in 2013, led to the development of the Communication and Optimal Resolution Program Educational Toolkit (CANDOR) in partnership with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Our patient partners continue to work with us to change the face of healthcare for patients and families harmed by medical error.

    Second, in my first project coming to MedStar Health, our team partnered with patients to design the We Want to Know program –a program aimed at detecting, addressing, and learning from patient perceived breakdowns in care. Our patient partners wanted to "empower" over "educate" and advocated for active outreach rather than simply a passive campaign completely changing our approach! Now into our fourth year, MedStar has implemented WWTK across all ten of its hospitals helping to achieve the patient's voice in healthcare transformation and improvement.

    Third, our recent work, partnering with patients and primary care clinicians to develop and field test a Guide to Improving Patient Safety in Primary Care Settings by Engaging Patients and Families has yielded a new approach to translating evidence into practice called – Co-Production! It is through our process of co-production that we have created four interventions for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to improve patient safety in primary care by engaging patients and families.

    What has been most rewarding about these experiences is that:

    • Together, we have crafted a new normal for patient safety research.
    • Together, we have found our common language to discuss difficult and delicate issues.
    • Together, we have found our voice!

    It is only together as health system leaders and patients as partners can build a safe, reliable, and supportive healthcare system to achieve the quadruple aim. I am so fortunate to work at MedStar Health that puts patients at the heart of its quality and safety journey.

  • October 17, 2017

    By Pamela Randolph-Jackson, MD

    In the United States, nearly 40 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. And while cancer is, undeniably, a life-changing experience for both patients and their loved ones, more people than ever are surviving and living well with cancer as a chronic disease for years.

    But to reach that point, you first need an accurate and timely diagnosis, along with the most effective treatment plan for your particular cancer and condition. And in about half of all cases, that plan will include some form of radiation therapy.

    Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses beams of intense energy to kill cancer cells. It’s been used safely and effectively for years, and boasts a wide variety of technologies and approaches tailored to specific types of tumors and locations. Now, recent advances in the field are making radiation treatment even faster, easier and better.

    A case in point is the emergence and continuing evolution of stereotactic radiation surgery/stereotactic body radiation therapy (SRS/SBRT) over the last decade or so.

    Speed, Comfort and Convenience

    Basically, stereotactic radiation strives to equal or even exceed the results obtained through surgery but non-invasively. It can be used to reach cancerous and non-cancerous tumors just about anywhere in the body: head and neck, lung, pancreas, prostate, liver, spine and more. SRS/SBRT works by delivering a large dose of radiation, quickly, precisely and painlessly.

    For example, a complete course of radiation therapy using conventional means takes anywhere from six to seven weeks. By contrast, that same course of therapy with the Edge™ Radiosurgery system—the SRS/SBRT technology we use at MedStar Washington Hospital Center—can be finished in one to five sessions, with each treatment lasting only 10 to 15 minutes. That’s a huge convenience for busy patients who can now spend less time lying motionless in position on the treatment table, and more time back doing their daily activities.

    Dr. Pamela Randolph-Jackson discusses stereotactic radiation therapy further on the Medical Intel podcast.

    Treatment with stereotactic radiosurgery is so quick because of its submillimeter accuracy. Its exquisite precision lets us deliver much higher dosages than traditional radiation therapy: The Edge system, for example, has the highest dose rate of any machine currently in the industry.

    Along with allowing for stronger dosing, that same precision further reduces the risk of exposing surrounding healthy tissue to unnecessary radiation.

    Finding the Best Radiation Therapy for You

    It’s important to remember that not all cancers can be treated with radiation therapy. The criteria are very specific as to the acceptable type and size of tumor, and even that can vary from one device to another.

    However, if radiation therapy is included as part of your treatment plan, you should ask whether or not you may be a candidate for stereotactic therapy versus a traditional approach.

    From my perspective, SRS/SBRT treatment is just easier, more time-effective and comfortable than any other radiation therapy in use today, from start to finish. Stereotactic therapy uses few, if any fiducials—previously placed internal markers to pinpoint the tumor. There’s little to no breath-holding with the faster SRS/SBRT, an important consideration for people with lung cancer or other tumors that move with breathing. Individual stereotactic treatments are faster, and the entire course of therapy is over much sooner.

    Regardless of the type of radiation therapy you receive, however, you will end up getting the same amount of radiation with SRS/SBRT as you would with traditional therapy, just over a shorter time.

    The bottom line? Radiation therapy is highly effective for the right cancers no matter how it’s administered. But be aware of the different options out there, and ask your radiation oncologist if SRS/SBRT might be right for you.

    To see if you are a candidate for stereotactic radiation therapy request an appointment with one of our doctors.

    Request an Appointment