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Stroke Awareness Month

May 17th, 2018

Stroke Screenings Save Lives

Sgt. Prescott pictured left on his motorcycle and above with his daughter. 

There’s a common misconception that you can’t do anything to prevent a stroke. Strokes can seemingly come out of nowhere, yet effective screening tools are available that can predict a person’s risk and provide an opportunity to reduce that risk before it’s too late. Carotid artery ultrasound is a simple, painless, and affordable screening that clearly identifies a person’s stroke risk. It’s a test that Sgt. Terry Prescott of the East Ridge Police Department never knew he needed, but ultimately changed his life and health for the better.


Sgt. Prescott connected with the Vascular Group at University Surgical Associates (USA) for two reasons: his daughter, Janda White, the marketing director for USA, invited him to a free screening, and he’s a first responder. As a way to say thank you, The Vascular Group of USA offered a free 3-in-1 vascular screening to first responders; law enforcement,firefighters and EMS teams, on Valentine’s Weekend. The screening used ultrasound technology to check for carotid artery disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), and peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Sgt. Prescott came to the screening to support his daughter, never considering what would happen next.


“I had no idea that I had any problems, and I didn’t expect to hear that I was going to be a patient when I came in for a screening. Hearing they found an 80 percent blockage in my carotid was eye opening,”remembers Sgt. Prescott.


After the ultrasound technologist discovered the blockage, it was reviewed by Erica Clark, D.O., vascular surgeon USA. “The purpose of the ultrasound is to evaluate how blood flow passes through the arteries to identify plaque and the individuals who are at significant risk of stroke,” says Dr.Clark. “Sgt. Prescott had no other major health problems and was otherwise healthy. We were all surprised to find that he had significant carotid stenosis(or narrowing of the blood vessels), that I felt would require surgery to correct.”


Why Screening Matters

Stroke happens when one of the arteries that supplies blood to the brain becomes blocked or bursts, which causes part of the brain not to get the blood it needs to live. Some of the first symptoms of a carotid artery disease are transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) or mini strokes. Loss of speech or hand function, or numbness and tingling in one side of the body that all resolve within 24 hours are signs you should never ignore. These indicate you may have significant carotid disease. And screening is even more important because more than half of people who eventually have a clinically significant stroke don’t experience mini strokes or exhibit any outward warning signs.


“Age is always a risk factor for stroke because blood vessel walls tend to harden and develop more plaque as we grow older, but it’s not the only thing to consider,” says Dr. Clark. “Smokers, people with diabetes or end stage renal disease, those who have elevated cholesterol or poor diet control are all considered high risk for a significant narrowing of the arteries. For these individuals and especially those who have a family history, we can’t overstate the importance of screening.”


Surgical TreatmentClears Blockage

Before surgery to remove the blockage in his carotid artery, Sgt. Prescott met with Dr. Clark and her nurse, Charity Morris, RN, to more fully understand his condition and the surgical approach she would use to address it. His condition was serious enough that an open surgical procedure called carotid endarterectomy was required. The goal of the procedure was to open the artery, clean out the buildup of plaque and reestablish blood flow to the brain, effectively preventing a stroke.


Sgt. Prescott’s surgery went smoothly, as expected, and he spent one night in the hospital before recovering at home. He’s already back to work, feeling great and encouraging his friends and coworkers to make time for a simple test that likely saved his life.


“During my surgical consultation, Dr. Clark and her nurse explained everything that would happen during the procedure and took time to answer all my questions. I was just relieved to have the surgery rather than having the possibility of a stroke,” says Sgt. Prescott. “I’m very happy that I made time for the screening – especially since they found a blockage. I’ve told several of the guys I work with that they missed a great opportunity, but it’s well worth scheduling an appointment and getting checked out.”


The Vascular Group of University Surgical Associates offers a low-cost,3-in-1 vascular screening that includes the carotid artery, abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening, and peripheral artery disease (PAD) screening of the legs for just $90 or each separate screening for $35. To schedule a screening,call 423-756-1342. Learn more about USA Vascular Diagnostic Services here.

Watch part one of the interview with Sgt. Prescott and members of his USA healthcare team!

Posted by University Surgical | Topic: Health Tips

When something’s not right on your mammogram, finding timely and accurate answers to your questions is what matters most. 

In simple terms, a biopsy is a procedure where a small amount of tissue is taken from the body to be examined more closely. If your mammogram shows an area that needs to be evaluated more closely, one of the biopsy techniques available through USA Breast Services is stereotactic breast biopsy. Experienced breast surgeons use computer aided technology to guide a needle to the exact point of the abnormality that was picked up by the mammogram. Two different images are taken from slightly different angles to ensure the sample of tissue is removed from the correct location. 

The results of the procedure help physicians determine if you have breast cancer or any other breast abnormality. This form of biopsy is a less invasive alternative to surgical biopsy, requires little recovery time, and scaring is minimal to none.

After a stereotactic breast biopsy, samples taken will be sent to a pathologist for complete analysis. We understand that this can be a difficult time of waiting. That’s why results of the biopsy are available within 24-48 hours from the time it’s performed. The surgeons at USA Breast Services perform breast cancer surgery when necessary as well as coordinate breast cancer care and therapy with other specialists. We also offer unique services including facilitating referrals for specific therapies, support groups, risk counseling, breast health education, enrollment in clinical trials and much more. 

Click here for more information about University Surgical’s comprehensive breast services. Or to schedule an appointment for a breast biopsy or surgical consultation, please call (423) 267-0466. 


If there was a test that could find and effectively treat cancer in one appointment, would you take it? Across the country, 60 percent of people who should have a colonoscopy don’t follow through with their appointment. In Chattanooga, that number is 70 percent! It’s one reason why colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death, even though it can be prevented or treated 99 percent of the time with this simple screening. 

“I think people avoid or put off having a colonoscopy for several reasons. One is fear. They’re concerned about the bowel prep or have seen someone have a difficult time with it. Others are afraid that it’s painful, uncomfortable, or done without sedation,” says Benjamin Kellogg, MD, general surgeon with University Surgical Associates who practices in Dayton, TN. “Still others fear one of the few rare potential complications that they’ve heard can happen.” 

Thankfully, colonoscopies have improved in recent years. The dreaded bowel prep is now easier to complete, and patients are adequately sedated to the point where they feel no discomfort and don’t remember anything about it afterwards. It’s completely painless. During the procedure, a long, flexible tube lets the surgeon see inside the colon and rectum. Most colon cancers start as non-cancerous growths called polyps. If a polyp is discovered, it can be removed before it ever turns into cancer. Major surgery can usually be avoided as well.

“The benefits of early detection and treatment are dramatic – we know that colonoscopy works when people take advantage of it. We also know that a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer advances the older you get, and it’s impacted by family history,” says Shauna Lorenzo-Rivero, MD, colorectal surgeon with University Surgical Associates. “In the US, about 10 percent of the population has a first degree relative (mother, father, sibling) who has had colorectal cancer. When multiple family members are affected, your risk goes up even further.” 

Who should have a colonoscopy and when? 

Men and women who have no family history of polyps of colorectal cancer should start at age 50, then follow up every 10 years. It’s a little more complicated for people who have a family history of the disease. 

“The recommendations for people with a family history of colorectal cancer in a first degree relative are to begin at age 50 or 10 years younger than the age at which their affected family member was diagnosed, whichever comes first,” says Dr. Kellogg. “Genetics plays a very important role in the development of colon cancers, and people with a family history of these cancers are at much higher risk of developing colorectal cancer themselves, up to 2 to 4 times the risk of the general population. These higher-risk individuals should also go undergo screening every five years.” 

Don’t Ignore the Symptoms 

Colorectal cancers can present in many different ways. Part of why screening colonoscopies are so important is that often times people have no symptoms at all. Even if you don’t have a family history and aren’t yet 50 but are experiencing symptoms, talk to your doctor right away. These warning signs are a reason to see your doctor: 

  • Blood in your stool
  • Bowel never empties completely
  • Constipation, diarrhea or narrower stools than usual
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Persistent gas, pain, cramps or feeling bloated
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • Weakness or fatigue

Lower Your Risk 

If you’re thinking about other ways – in addition to screening colonoscopy – to help prevent colon cancer, studies have shown that a low-fat, high-fiber diet with daily exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, improve longevity and decrease cancers of all types. Increasing fiber intake to 30 grams a day by eating more fruits and vegetables or taking a fiber supplement is a good place to start. Not smoking makes the biggest difference. 

“The take away is that colonoscopies save lives. Colon cancer is 99 percent preventable if you do the test, find the polyp and prevent the cancer,” says Dr. Lorenzo. “Don’t let fear of the unknown or a busy schedule keep you from this lifesaving screening. One day out of your life to save your life is well worth it.” 

To schedule a colonoscopy with one of USA's colorectal cancer specialists, call (423) 267-0466.